I Speak of the City: Poems of New York

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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.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Financial Times Weekend Magazine - Natalie Whittle

A rich poetic hymnal to New York, with an excellent breadth of poets.

New York Times - Sam Roberts

[ I Speak of the City] reminds jaded New Yorkers that some people can find poetry in the magnificent and the mundane.

Financial Times Weekend Magazine
A rich poetic hymnal to New York, with an excellent breadth of poets.

— Natalie Whittle

New York Post

A wonderful series of snapshots--impressions through verse--of our city.

New York Times
[ I Speak of the City] reminds jaded New Yorkers that some people can find poetry in the magnificent and the mundane.

— Sam Roberts

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231140652
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 9/18/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,241,327
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

Columbia University Press

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Read an Excerpt

Wandering through the streets of these pages, different readers will dwell variously on a historical range of sentiments and even sentimentalities, or on a variorum of tones of urban irony. There is something of the truly Urban that transcends the merely urbane. And something to remind us that cities-each one configured differently-can seem to be figures for poetry itself. -- from the foreword by John Hollander

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Table of Contents

ForewordPrefaceThe Complaint of New Amsterdam to Its Mother, by Jacob Steendam (1616-1672)On the City Encroachment on the Hudson River, 1800, by Philip Freneau (1752-1832)New York, by Samuel Woodworth (1785-1842)Song, by Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790-1867)Hymn of the City, by William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)Bronx, 1818, by Joseph Rodman Drake (1795-1820)"He Walked the Streets of Great New York", by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)City Lyrics, by Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867)Five Points, 1838, by Laughton Osborn (1809-1878)The Old Apple-Woman: A Broadway Lyric, by Christopher Pearse Cranch (1813-1892)The House-top, by Herman Melville (1819-1891)Mannahatta; from Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun; from Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)Hudson's Last Voyage, by Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933)Owed to New York, by Byron Rufus Newton (1861-1938)New York, by Richard Hovey (1864-1900)Maiden Lane, by Louise Morgan Sill (1868-1961)My City, by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)Lower New York, by George Cabot Lodge (1873-1909)New York at Night, by Amy Lowell (1874-1925)New York at Sunrise, by Anne Hempstead Branch (1875-1937)When Broadway Was a Country Road, by Charles Coleman Stoddard (1876-1961)Manhattan, by Charles Hanson Towne (1877-1949)Broadway, by Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)A Rhyme About an Electrical Advertising Sign, by Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931)New York, from a Skyscraper, by James Oppenheim (1882-1932)The Great Figure, by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)From the Woolworth Tower, by Sara TeasdaleSong: Weekend's Over, by Moishe Leib Halpern (1886-1932)Storm on Fifth Avenue, by Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)Granite and Steel; Dock Rats, by Marianne Moore (1887-1972)Here Lives the Jewish People, by H. Leyvik (1888-1962)Harlem Shadows, by Claude McKay (1889-1948)Ballad of New York, New York, by Christopher Morley (1890-1957)English Sparrows (Washington Square), by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)Brooklyn Bridge, by Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)New York City, by Maxwell Bodenheim (1893-1954)Shadow of a Vision of an Ode to New York, by Melech Ravitch (1893-1976)"at the ferocious phenomenon", by E. E. Cummings (1894-1962)from By the Well of the Living and Seeing, by Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976)The Cemetery at Chatham Square, by Naftali Gross (1896-1956)Visiting Second Avenue, by Eliezer Greenberg (1896-1977)New York, by Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936)The Tunnel, from The Bridge, by Hart Crane (1899-1932)Peter Stuyvesant, by Aaron Zeitlin (1899-1974)The Cloisters, by Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)Manhattan, by Kenneth Fearing (1902-1961)Good Morning; The Heart of Harlem, by Langston Hughes (1902-1967)I Want New York, by Ogden Nash (1902-1971)Valentine for New York, by Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978)New York, by Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906-2001)Manhattan Novelettes, by Edouard Roditi (1910-1992)America, America, by Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966)The Ballad of Orange and Grape, by Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)Riding the A, by May Swenson (1913-1989)Central Park, by Octavio Paz (1914-1998)Hymn of Not Much Praise for New York City, by Thomas Merton (1915-1968)George Washington Bridge, by John Ciardi (1916-1986)Central Park, by Robert Lowell (1917-1977)Geometries of Manhattan: Morning, by M. L. Rosenthal (1917-1996)Token, by Jane Mayhall (1918-)New York Subway, by Hilda Morley (1919-1998)Meet Miss Subways, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-)Ode to New York, by Reed Whittemore (1919-)Times Square Water Music, by Amy Clampitt (1920-1994)The Location of Things, by Barbara Guest (1920-2006)The Hyacinth Garden in Brooklyn, by Hayden Carruth (1921-)from MacDougal Street Blues, by Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)The Roof Garden, by Howard Moss (1922-1987)Manhattan Movements, by John Logan (1923-1987)Morning; Back, by James Schuyler (1923-1991)The Cabdriver's Smile, by Denise Levertov (1923-1997)Greenwich Village of My Dreams, by Tuli Kupferberg (1923-)New York; The Last Bohemians, by Edward Field (1924-)Through the Boroughs; Brooklyn Heights, by Harvey Shapiro (1925-)from A Time Zone, by Kenneth Koch (1925-2002)Manhattan Dawn (1945), by Donald Justice (1925-2004)Old as the Hills; Sheep Meadow, by Samuel Menashe (1925-)SM, by Stanley Moss (1925-)The Poem of Liberation, by Gerald Stern (1925-)Steps; A Step Away from Them, by Frank O'Hara (1926-1966)Bryant Park, by Paul Blackburn (1926-1971)From Brooklyn, by John Holmes (1926-1988)164 East 72nd Street, by James Merrill (1926-1995)from Mugging; The Charnel Ground, by Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ Into the New World, by Galway Kinnell (1927-)227 Waverly Place, by W. S. Merwin (1927-)Helpless, We Go Into This Ground, Helpless, by Leo Connellan (1928-2001)Awaking in New York, by Maya Angelou (1928-)The Handball Players at Brighton Beach, by Irving Feldman (1928-)The Village: The Seasons, by L. E. Sissman (1929-1976)from New York, by John Hollander (1929-)The Old Men Playing Boccie on Leroy Street, by Richard Howard (1929-)from Twenty-one Love Poems, by Adrienne Rich (1929-)On the Death of the Lucky Gent, by Gregory Corso (1930-2001)Walking the New York Bedrock Alive in the Sea of Information, by Gary Snyder (1930-)A Village Life, by Derek Walcott (1930-)The Spirit of 34th Street, by Peggy L. Shriver (1931-)Summer: West Side, by John Updike (1932-)New York Elegy, by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933-)XXXVI ("It's 8:45 a.m. in Brooklyn..."), by Ted Berrigan (1934-1983)New York 1970, by Audre Lorde (1934-1992)New Netherland, 1654, by Grace Schulman (1935-)47,000 Windows, by June Jordan (1936-2002)I Am New York City, by Jayne Cortez (1936-)I woke with the room cold..., by Marge Piercy (1936-)These Green-Going-to-Yellow, by Marvin Bell (1937-)Guggenheim, by William Borden (1938-)Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, by Robert Phillips (1938-)Early Morning in July, by Charles Simic (1938-)Inventory--to 100th Street, by Frank Lima (1939-)Man Listening to Disc, by Billy Collins (1941-)Looking for an Apartment in New York, by Stan Rice (1942-2002)The Empire State Building as the Moon, by Sharon Olds (1942-)Strawberries in Mexico, by Ron Padgett (1942-)Photographs of Old New York, by Alfred Corn (1943-)The New Yorkers, by Nikki Giovanni (1943-)Street Fire, by Daniel Halpern (1945-)A Lower East Side Poem, by Miguel Piñero (1946-1988)You Say You Like the Country, by Claudia Menza (1947-)Hungarian Woman on Ellis Island, by Diane Ackerman (1948-)The World Trade Center (1993), by David Lehman (1948-)Washington Heights, 1959, by Michael Blumenthal (1949-)The Old Neighborhood, by Andrea Carter Brown (1949-)Spring Street Girl Friend (#8), by C. D. Wright (1949-)The Grid, by Tom Sleigh (1953-)Generations, by Kim Addonizio (1954-)Brooklyn Bound, by Barbara Elovic (1954-)playland, by Eve Packer (1955-)The Owl and the Lightning; Day of the Dead on Wortman Avenue, by Martin Espada (1957-)Going Home Madly, by Brooke Wiese (1957-)"bella" (6 December 2002), by Tonya Bolden (1959-)Ladies' Night at the Turkish and Russian Baths, by Julia Kasdorf (1962-)New York, New York, by David Berman (1967-)Conservatory Pond, Central Park, New York, New York, by Joel Brouwer (1968-)The Cyclone, by Yvonne C. Murphy (1968-)East Seventh Street, by Mark Wunderlich (1968-)lured beneath your golden, calling lights, by Kevin Coval (1975-)Notes to the PoemsAcknowledgmentsIndex of Poets

Columbia University Press

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