I Speak of the City: Poems of New York

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Stephen Wolf
Columbia University Press, 2007 - Poetry - 316 pages
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I Speak of the City is the most extensive collection of poems ever assembled about New York. Beginning with an early piece by Jacob Steendam (from when the city was called New Amsterdam) and continuing through poems written in the aftermath of 9/11, this anthology features voices from more than a dozen countries. It includes two Nobel Prize recipients, fifteen Pulitzer Prize winners, and many other recognizable names, but it also preserves the work of long-neglected poets who celebrate the wild possibilities and colossal achievements of this epic city.

Poets capture New York's major moments and transformations, writing of Hudson's arrival, Stuyvesant's prejudice, and the city's astonishing growth and gentrification. They speak of the thrills of a skyscraper's observation deck and the privations of teeming tenements. They portray the immigrant experience at Ellis Island and the decay, fear, and unexpected kindness on a subway ride. They take place on sidewalks, bridges, and docks; in taxis, buses, and ferries; and even within nature. The Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, Broadway, the Statue of Liberty, and other familiar landmarks are recast through the prism of individual experience yet still reflect the seeming invincibility of New York and its status as a cultural magnet for the freethinking and experimental.

While certain subjects and themes can be found in all urban verse, poems about New York have their own restless rhythm and ever-changing style, much like the city itself. Whether writing sonnets, epics, or experimental or imagistic verse, each of these poets has been inspired by the marvels and madness, humor and heartbreak of an enduring city.

  

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Contents

JACOB STEENDAM 16161672
1
NATHANIEL PARKER WILLIS 18061867
14
LAUGHTON OSBORN 1809 1878
15
LOUISE MORGAN SILL 18681961
28
CARL SANDBURG 18781967
36
CLAUDE MCKAY 18891948
50
MELECH RAVITCH 1893 1976
63
E E CUMMINGS 18941962
69
KENNETH KOCH 19252002
142
PAUL BLACKBURN 19261971
155
W S MERWIN 1927
182
RICHARD HOWARD 1929
198
GARY SNYDER 1930
202
AUDRE LORDE 19341992
215
ROBERT PHILLIPS 1938
229
FRANK LIMA 1939
232

FEDERICO GARCIA LORCA 18981936
75
AARON ZEITLIN 18991974
82
LANGSTON HUGHES 19021967
88
LEOPOLD SEDAR SENGHOR 19062001
95
MURIEL RUKEYSER 19131980
100
LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI 1919
113
JOHN LOGAN 1923 1987
129
DANIEL HALPERN 1945
245
TOM SLEIGH 1953
259
JULIA KASDORF 1962
275
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
305
GREGORY CORSO 19302001
307
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About the author (2007)

Born in Chicago and with a doctorate from the University of Illinois, Stephen Wolf moved to the Lower East Side in 1977, blocks from where his grandparents once lived. His fiction has appeared in Playboy, Ploughshares, and the anthology American Families, and his story cycle Intimate Articles, with illustrations by Larry Rivers, was published by Ten Speed Press. He teaches literature and the humanities at Berkeley College in New York City.

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