I’m certainly not going to complain about where I spend my Augusts these days. But I must confess to a little pang of nostalgia when one dear poet girlfriend who lives in New York wrote to tell me about hanging out in the East Village with another dear poet girlfriend who will be staying in New York for the next few months.
How I loved New York in August, especially my old, East Village stomping grounds. You know the story: the city empties out. It’s hot as hell, but the streets are relatively quiet, and you can walk in the shade. You can get a table without waiting 45 minutes. [I’ll never forget: one time my mother came to visit, and our first-choice place for dinner had a 45-minute wait. One of the group went to a nearby restaurant to check out that situation: there, it was an hour and a quarter wait. We stayed put. Mom said, “Now I really understand why you’re so tired when you come home. The hunting-and-gathering here is completely exhausting!”]
But in August, much less so. Or so it was when I lived there. Which (gulp!) I just realized, was fifteen years ago. How did that happen?
And in other news, which I’m sure you’ve heard by now, poetry has died again. Many wise, eloquent, and even snarky protestations have been made. I’m going to add my voice to the crowd averring that poetry is most emphatically still among the living. And I’m going to do it in good Creative Writing Workshop fashion: by showing, not telling.
So if you’re in (or near) New York this August, and especially if you haven’t been yet, hie thee immediately to Poets House for this year’s Poets House Showcase. By popular demand (so there must be a few more people out there who don’t believe that poetry is dead), the Showcase has been extended until August 17. If you can’t find something to your liking among the nearly 2900 books of poetry on display, well, what can I say?
I had the pleasure of seeing the Showcase, right before it opened, when I was in New York in June. I was leaving the next day to get back to Italy, so it was a rushed visit, but Executive Director Lee Briccetti graciously took me through the exhibition space – and of course, I wanted to stay all day. All week, for that matter. And yes, I admit, it’s a particular thrill when you have a book in that year’s Showcase. (Or two, if translations count!)
Here is a listing of the books that are included this year.
Just for fun, I scrolled through this list the other day and saw that Damiano and I have managed to get hold of just about two dozen of these titles. (That’s not too bad, considering that we have to add to the carbon footprint, in one way or another, any time we need to get a book!) I haven’t read every single poem in every one of the books that we have – not quite 1% of the books represented in the Showcase. But, even within such a small sample, I have to say that I have found poems that have made me cry, made me laugh out loud, made me re-examine certain ideas and, yes, even poems that have given me another perspective on Rome, the city in which I live.
And so, to conclude, though it is wonderful and interesting to live a stone’s throw from a bunch of ancient monuments, whenever I visit Poets House, I get those New York State o’ Mind pangs. If you’re lucky enough to be close enough, get down there and see for yourself. It is an embarras de richesses, and you won’t be sorry. Viva la poesia!
(Poets House photo from Poets House website)