Ken Siegelman, Brooklyn’s poetic voice, is dead

Brooklyn's Poet Laureate Ken Siegelman
The Brooklyn Papers / Greg

Brooklyn’s poet laureate, Ken Siegelman, died on Friday at his home in Gravesend. He was 63.

Since being named the official poetic voice by Borough President Markowitz in 2002, Siegelman, the author of more than 200 published poems, was a tireless promoter of verse throughout Brooklyn, a regular at public events, libraries and schools.

All the while, he maintained the frenetic pace of a working poet, writing new verse regularly. Indeed, his latest poem, “Stage Fright,” was published in May. And last year, Siegelman’s life and poetry became the fodder for a full-length feature film, “Fading to Zero.”

On Friday, Markowitz mourned the loss.

“Selecting Ken Siegelman as poet laureate was one of my proudest acts as borough president,” he said. “Like the borough he loved and wrote about, his life was never boring, and he captured all of it — the good, the bad, the ups and downs.

“Ken will be sorely missed, but his words will remain with us and inspire up-and-coming poets for generations to come.”

Before becoming the borough’s poet, Siegelman taught social studies at Abraham Lincoln HS for 33 years. He used poetry to break down cultural and linguistic barriers with his students, many of whom did not speak English.

“Language was the only thing that stood in their way,” Siegelman once said. “So I used my poetry to bridge the language gap.”

In his guise as the laureate, Siegelman hosted Brooklyn Poetry Outreach, a collaboration with Markowitz and the Park Slope Barnes & Noble that features readings and discussion by some of Brooklyn’s best and aspiring poets.

Siegelman is survived by his wife of 45 years, Pearl; daughters Karen and Tara; grandchildren Brooke, Matthew and Rachel; and a sister, Mona.

Siegelman’s last Brooklyn Poetry Outreach event, which was already scheduled before his death, was set for Thursday, June 25, at Barnes and Noble [267 Seventh Ave., at Sixth Street in Park Slope, (718) 832-9066]. Read his last poem at BrooklynPaper.com.

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