Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Last Night's Tenement Talk

Our third annual Poetry evening with Stephen Wolf was a tremendous success. Many thanks to Stephen and to his co-performers: Kevin Coval, (who read one of his own poems featured in the collection) and Christopher Hurt. It was a perfect tribute to the city and a great way to usher in Poetry Month. These talented readers treated the audience to samples from several poets including Derek Walcott, Diane Ackerman and E. E. Cummings.

At the end of the night, Stephen shared one of Tenement Talks Director Amanda's favorite poems by the founder of the Nuyorican Poets Café.

And in case you've gotten too nostalgic about the New York of bygone eras, we thought we'd wrap up our poetry series with a piece by a contemporary author. This excerpt from Kevin Coval's Lured Beneath Your Golden, Calling Lights captures the city's frenetic and ever-changing nature, while showing that some things (like New York's role as a melting pot) have stayed the same.

The all night diner
Where you ordered rice pudding
In Union Square, is a Sports Club
For people who can afford one.

You have changed,
Always been changing.
Damn! You look good,
new york
You court me,
(again?, new york)

At 3rd and Mercer
We felt like tea, and I knew you
Would suggest Café Reggio,
Though I had not been there
Since ’94 and couldn’t remember
Its location or name but felt its windows
Would open to the street and be perfect
After-dinner in spring, sitting
In metal-wire chairs, blackberry supreme
Pot steeping on the two-top wooden table,
I knew I could love you again, (though I know you are not
Mine alone & chicago would not want to hear this, but…)

Your civilized all-hour tomatoes!
Your fresh flower fields littering the fronts of bodegas!
Your subway lines: vast and democratic!
Your bootlegs sleeping on blankets like dominoes!
Your two model per train car city ordinance!
All those mixed babies blurring neighborhood lines!
Your gold space pharaohs slanging veg patties on 125th St.!
Your corner kids up late blaring Biggie out 6th floor apartment
My grandfather’s anglicized name tucked in a book on your
Ellis Island!
Your Grandmaster Flash mash-ups! Your Grandwizrad Theodore
Scratch bombs!
Your afro-diasporic puerto rican borough global exports!
Your shtick, new york, each one of you sounds like a jew
And even italians know how to make good bagels!
You are the ultimate reality / check! The last bastion
Of schmer and empire. The american ideal gone
And perfect

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