Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Poetry of New York

I've been letting my New York trip simmer over the past 30 days or so. I started several different blog posts, each reflecting on the observations of the day: the crowded sidewalks, the 24 hour pizza parlors, the filth and noise of the streets, the stifling subways, the colorful tango dancers and innumerable chess games in Union Square, the eclectic musicians in Central Park (Gongs included), the Chinese man playing Jingle Bells on a Chinese violin, the Tenements, the Skyscrapers . . . the beauty that is New York.

But, through all my simmering I couldn't find the exact words without dissecting every experience I had. No one would want to read that.
The scene of the crime
(yes, my shirt and my books)

On my first day, fresh from the red-eye, sleepless flight (I was too excited…squee!), and after blurry-eyed stumbling through Brooklyn trying to figure out the subway, we had a few brief moments free and entered the New York Public Library. I wanted to rush down to the basement to see the haunted card files fly about like in Ghostbusters, but I got distracted by the bookstore—go figure.

My eyes landed on notebooks, which I always look at. I love carrying a notebook with me, just in case I’m inspired by something. Then my eyes moved sideways and found two books that I had to own: The 13 Clocks, by James Thurber and This is New York, by E. B. White.

I was introduced to James Thurber in 9th grade summer school, one of the influential classes that inspired the writer in me.

The E. B. White book I found curious. I studied White a little in my Children’s Lit class in college, but I didn't think of him as a New Yorker. Charlotte’s Web, as well as Trumpet of the Swan, found a home in the innocent places that made up my childhood. I was intrigued, so I bought it as well, unclear of what treasure I had in my possession.

If you’d like to know how I feel about New York . . .  read Here is New York. It’s a 7000 word essay, written in 1948, reflecting on how much New York had changed since E. B. White worked in the city twenty five years earlier. His words filled me completely, as true today as when they were written. I’m so glad I found this book.

While writing my fantasy novels, I often consider the world as a character. White had done just that. He painted a picture of a living, breathing metropolis, not hero nor villain, adding his enduring history to thousands of stories, movies, songs, lives, and experiences daily.

My love for New York, and the experiences I had while there, deepened after reading his work. He felt the same as I do—a mixture of missing the old and embracing the new, a poetic dance balancing the people, the architecture, many different cultures that make up our emigrate history, and the atmosphere that is Manhattan.

If you have fifteen minutes, that's all the time you need, take time and read it. I typed several quotes before I decided I should only type one. Here is New York, by E. B. White

“A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music in the accompaniment of internal engines.”

I here that music today!

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