Retired teacher hosts poetry workshops in bookstores
'I want people to love writing,’ Anthony Vigorito says
Anthony Vigorito is on a one-man mission to increase the popularity of poetry in Brooklyn. One good way to do that, he said, is to create a whole new generation of poets.
Recalling the support he received from two of his late mentors, Brooklyn Poet Laureate Ken Siegelman and brooklynONE Theater Co-Founder Tom Kane, Vigorito said he works hard to encourage people to write poetry.
“I want people to love writing. There’s nothing better than letting your creative side out,” Vigorito told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday. Vigorito, a retired special education teacher from Windsor Terrace, is a published poet.
Vigorito hosts poetry writing workshops twice a month in Brooklyn bookstores. In doing so, he is carrying on writing workshop traditions started by Siegelman and Kane. Vigorito hosts Tom Kane’s Boulevard Bards, a workshop at Boulevard Books & Café at 7518 13th Ave. in Dyker Heights on the second Wednesday of each month. The other workshop, Ken Siegelman’s Brooklyn Poetry Outreach, takes place on the last Thursday of the month at the Park Slope Barnes & Noble at 267 Seventh Ave.
“I know it’s hard to get up in front of a lot of people, stand at a microphone and read your poetry. But we create a supportive atmosphere at our workshops. We try to make it easier for people,” Vigorito said.
The workshops have attracted people from all walks of life; from people who have spent years writing poetry to those for whom writing poems is a new passion. The crowd includes students and seniors.
The format allows for established poets and aspiring writers to share their work. “We usually have a featured poet come and read their work. And then we have an open mic. It’s a coffee house type of atmosphere,” Vigorito said.
Vigorito said he admired Siegelman and Kane a great deal and is eager to carry on the legacies both men left behind.
“Ken was a real mentor to me. He was so encouraging to me,” he said, of the former Brooklyn poet laureate who died in 2009. “He and (former borough president) Marty Markowitz started the Brooklyn Poetry Outreach to de-mystify poetry and bring it to the masses.”
Vigorito described himself as a late bloomer. “I didn’t start writing poems until about 15 years ago, when I was 50 years old,” he said.
Vigorito also speaks highly of Kane. “Tom was involved in theater, but he also loved poetry. He encouraged a lot of kids to write and perform. You could not find a person who encouraged artists more than Tom,” he said. Kane, who died in 2011, often invited Vigorito to read his poems during intermission at brooklynONE shows at Saint John’s Episcopal Church Hall in Bay Ridge. Kane was a popular Brooklyn Eagle columnist whose column “Citizen Kane,” had a huge following.
For a man who came to poetry late in life, Vigorito is sure making up for lost time. He has published four volumes of poetry in recent years. “My first three books were about my life here in Brooklyn, my parents, and about various events,” he said.
The poets that he admires include Allen Ginsburg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. “I like the Beat poets. I like them a lot,” he said.
His latest book, “Seeing at 17,” published by Four Grand Press, contains more than 250 Haiku poems in which he pays tribute to painters, sculptors, photographers and graffiti artists he admires.
“It’s a beautiful book. The cover shows a John Singer Sargent painting. And each poem is accompanied by a painting or a picture so the reader gets to see the art that inspired me and then they can read my poems,” Vigorito said.
Brooklyn’s current Poet Laureate, Tina Chang, praised the book. “Anthony Vigorito has captured the very essence of a classic form and has reinvigorated it with color, shadow, and light. These haiku brim with fierce energy, intuitive sound, and are filled with haunting ruin, fire and pure revelation,” she said.
In the book, Vigorito pays tribute to all different types of artistic styles, including abstract, impressionist, post-impressionist, cubist, expressionist, pop-art, street-art, graffiti, realist, and surrealist.
“What I want is for people to see what inspired me and then go out and take a look at the art themselves. I don’t want them to see exactly what I saw. I want them to see something different,” Vigorito said.
Vigorito grew up in Midwood in an Italian-American family. He loved hearing stories his grandfather, Antonio “Tony” Vigorito, would tell him about his youth. “My grandfather came over from Italy in steerage when he was 14 years old. He got a job that paid 49 cents. I just loved listening to him talk about his life; how he used to go looking for mushrooms in the forest. He was a great storyteller and I think he fueled my imagination,” he said.
Vigorito is a graduate of Lafayette High School in Bensonhurst and the State University of New York at Fredonia and earned a Master’s Degree from Brooklyn College. He was a special education teacher at P.S. 36 for more than 30 years. His wife Ann is also a retired special education teacher. The couple has two daughters. The family lives in Windsor Terrace.
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