Native New Yorker by Bibi Deizt: Part 3

I walked by my childhood apartment the other day. It’s on the corner of 12th Street and 3rd Avenue in Manhattan, above a newly out-of-business home goods store that was called Surprise, Surprise (insert any number of dry-humored jokes about the “surprise, surprise” of another long-standing business going defunct here) and catty-corner from a brand-new gourmet emporium. When I was a kid, the three neighboring corners were parking lots. Then we were woken at first light by jackhammers and the birdlike squawks of machinery in the making of NYU dorms. The campus expanded before our eyes. The corner across the street, where I learned how to ride a bike, became a place where undergrads in woolen hats congregated to smoke Camels in the cold, sheltered somewhat by the dorm’s red-bricked facade.

Gourmet markets are no longer relegated to the snootier neighborhoods, places of pastry reverence and salmon worship, but instead live like denigrated gods among men, often finding unlikely homes in bodegas in Brooklyn of late. When we lived on 12th Street, my mother and I frequently took the fifteen-minute walk to Balducci’s on 9th Street and 6th Avenue to buy De Cecco rotelle and farfalle (wheels and bowties to me), fragrant cheese and delicate cuts of Dover sole. There were often tiny cut samples of raisin cake or crumbles of crunchy chocolate chip cookies at eye-level on tall glass counters, and my mother would sometimes let me have a bitesize snack. 

Back then, our neighborhood was sketchy. There was nothing posh about the punks on St. Mark’s four blocks down or the bums lining the Bowery farther south. Tompkins Square Park was a tent city and Union Square was just a slight notch more refined. We would have been hard-pressed to find a water cracker or petit-four within a ten-block radius. Perhaps I exaggerate a bit—Open Pantry, one of the sole remaining businesses that existed back then, carried soy milk and soft ur-granola bars full of chewy raisins back when “vegan” was still pronounced “vay-gan” and no one had even heard of gluten, much less considered going without it. 

The other lasting mainstay is Angelica’s Kitchen, which is still tucked in the next block over, on 12th just east of 2nd Avenue. Their dragon bowls are still on offer, but their price has quadrupled, from $4-ish to now $16. According to a friend who frequents the place, the menu has recently become even more expensive because of raised rents, and the restaurant’s lease is in jeopardy. 

It’s understandable that prime real estate that used to house parking lots has been guzzled by NYU, and that one no longer needs to trek west (or north) to find lox or quinoa or whatever rarefied food one’s heart desires, but the idea of the disappearance of a perennial commodity like Angelica’s is hard to fathom. I have accepted that the East Village of yore is no longer the neighborhood in which I grew up. I’ve said goodbye to the Carnegie Deli and Ben & Jerry’s, tiny thrift shops full of old silk dresses and a particularly special camera store on 3rd Avenue that used to be our supplier of high-speed film and flash bars, which came in foil packaging and provided ten satisfying pops of light.

I am not sure, however, if I am ready to bid adieu to Angelica’s, or Open Pantry, or the two movie theaters of my childhood that have survived: Village East and Cinema Village, or “Cin Vil,” as my family called it, where I saw countless films both mainstream and independent over the course of my youth. 

As a native city dweller who now lives in Brooklyn, I’ve embraced the culture of what my family once considered an outer borough. The pace of Prospect Heights, my neighborhood, is akin to that of the East Village in the ‘90s. In the summer, I am often lulled to sleep by marimba and the smell of pot fills my block, corner to corner. People are always out on the street, yelling to each other and grilling pork on charcoal grills, their kids playing basketball in the street or racing up and down like tiny sprinters or splashing in the gush of an open hydrant. 

When I was young enough to run shrieking through sprinklers (I was never allowed to roll up my jeans and play in the hydrants, though I would have liked to do so), Prospect Heights was dangerous. I doubt there were many kids running free back then. The one time my mother accidentally took my brother and me to this part of Brooklyn on the subway, after a missed stop, she acted like she’d taken our lives in her hands (and she may well have). So, then, the circle of neighborhood life: The vibe of what was once the artsy and dangerous East Village has now traveled southeast to Brooklyn—first Williamsburg and Bushwick, trickling down to places like Crown Heights, Fort Greene, Bed-Stuy and other parts of my area. In another twenty years, it’s possible that these places will be too fancy. Maybe Queens will be the place then. Maybe father uptown. 

Or maybe—ashes to ashes, dust to dust—the East Village will have another time to shine. I don’t think so, though—there’s a magic hour to neighborhoods in the city, a gloaming in the years before heavy gentrification when artists move in to nest and procreate—as my parents did in the late ‘70s—before developers get on the bandwagon and build towers of glass and steel. 

***
To read more, click here.

Writing on The Wall

More rambles around Santa Fe Community College:IMG_1106

IMG_1105

Posted in Poetry. Tags: , . Leave a Comment »

3 Questions on Poetry for Meg Eden

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
I think a fluid/natural relationship—I try to not think about it too much. I draw a lot of inspiration from the biblical psalms in this way I think, and the idea of a selah, or pause. When I want to breathe in a poem, where there needs to be some break between ideas or a pause for processing, that’s part of how I know to end a line. So I guess that’s to say that for me, lines are more for practical than aesthetic use. 

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
This is a super interesting idea—and I’ve had to really sit on this question because I’m not actually sure for myself. Yes, there is a relationship between words, writing and the body, but I”m not sure fully how to describe my own connection. I definitely know people where this is more true for them than others—and the human body is an obsession for all of us as poets. I think the closest way I can answer this is that writing has become a bodily function for me—like breathing, peeing, and crying—it’s a natural reaction to circumstances. This was much truer when I was younger. I was very easily overstimulated and wouldn’t understand what was causing it—and especially when I was in a group I would feel an urgent need to get away from everyone, to pull out my notebook and write. It was very therapeutic for processing what I was thinking and feeling. I was delayed with learning to speak—I was about three when I started to speak. For the longest time since then, speech felt like an unnatural form of expression to me. Writing came much more naturally. So writing is certainly a way that I figure out what’s going on in my body, that my body can translate its experiences and try to better understand them. And if I don’t write for a long time, it’s a similar feeling to a leg cramping from sitting to long, it’s something that I feel physically compelled to do. 

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
When I have tables at book fairs, I feel like I have to apologize for being a poet! I think my only dislike about being a poet is that our culture doesn’t read poetry naturally. And on my own, I can’t fully explain that my poetry is narrative, that it really isn’t that scary, that I’m a novelist as well so I understand writing in a way that’s attainable for anyone—and I think that’s what aggravates me so much in being a poet! People judge the work before they even look at it! People will say, “Oh sorry I’m not smart enough for poetry” and bullcrap like that. What does that even mean? Not smart enough for poetry? If anything, I’d think poetry would be more popular in our technology, immediacy time. Poems are short. You can go through a book of poems much faster than novels. Yes, there might be arguably more digesting in poetry, but it’s like anything—you get out of it what you put into it. I’d think there’d be lots of skimmers of poetry like there’s so many skimmers of novels. But we live in weird times. So I think if I could change anything about being a poet, I’d want to change what it means culturally to be a poet—if that counts :)

Meg Eden’s work has been published in various magazines, including Rattle, Drunken Boat, Eleven Eleven, and Rock & Sling. Her work received second place in the 2014 Ian MacMillan Fiction contest. Her collections include  “Your Son” (The Florence Kahn Memorial Award), “Rotary Phones and Facebook” (Dancing Girl Press) and “The Girl Who Came Back” (Red Bird Chapbooks). She teaches at the University of Maryland. Check out her work at: https://www.facebook.com/megedenwritespoems 

How To Give A Hug by Do Mi Stauber

Mmm. Let’s see.

Context: you see someone you care about!
Instructional steps: Hee hee, funny to do this for a hug.
1. Make sure the person wants to have a hug with you. If they come towards you with their arms wide open, you’re good. Otherwise ask: “Do you want a hug?” “Can I hug you?”
2. Open arms wide.
3. One arm over the shoulder, the other arm around the waist.
4. During the hug, be exquisitely sensitive to signals. People like to hug in different ways; follow their lead.
5. If your person is an enthusiastic close hugger, enfold them close, sink into them a little.
6. Take at least one good breath while you’re hugging.
7. Feel how you care for them.
8. Pat them on the back while you’re still hugging.
9. If at any moment they start to release you, let go.
10. Release with a big smile and maybe a cheek kiss if they’re that kind of person.

Just Walking Around SFCC Campus

IMG_1101

IMG_1102

IMG_1103

IMG_1104

Mini interview re: Leonard Cohen with Karla Linn Merrifield

Here is the first in the “What I Know How To Do” series–and what a fun topic!
If you want to participate, check it out.
Karla Linn Merrifield originally wrote me: I’m an expert on poet/singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen. I’m a Cohen mega-fan, a junkie, a scholar, divinely be-Mused by him.

***

Mini interview for Miriam Sagan re: Leonard Cohen
with Karla Linn Merrifield

1. What was the start of this fascination?

Back in the ’60s, when Leonard Cohen’s song “Suzanne” was a big hit, I was your typical angst-ridden teenager living in a household with estranged parents. As I entered puberty, my mother became menopausal while my Methodist minister dallied with a parishioner and punished me for dating Jewish boys. Cohen was one of them in a way. His intimate voice, his seductive but sad lyrics, his older-man sexiness fed the emerging poet in me. I’ve remained passionate about “my” Canadian poet-singer-songwriter ever since, scribbling poems to or about him.

2. How did you become an expert?

Going on three years ago, I finally got to see Leonard in person. Swoon, swoon. Rapture, rapture. I decided that night to assemble the Cohen poems I had in manila folders and computer files to see what I might have. The task became something much bigger. Being a compulsive researcher, I began reading or rereading everything he’d written and anything about him I could get my hands on. From those books of his and others’ biographies and philosophical and literary explorations of the man and his work, and from listening ad nauseum to his music, a Krakatoa of poems erupted. They’re now a completed manuscript under consideration with two publishers. But, as Cohen has emerged at the ripe age of 80 as a superstar, a flood of new books about him have come out just this year, so I’m still reading, still writing him poems, and learning. Just yesterday I found out all of Cohen’s songs are composed from a combination of only six chords from the flamenco tradition, taught to him by a Spanish guitarist. It’s fun, but certainly exposes my compulsive streak.

3. What have you learned about yourself?

Until I was immersed in “the Cohen poems,” I hadn’t realized just how important – vital – a role music plays in our human lives. Cohen’s songs (along with his poetry) kept me more or less sane during those tumultuous teen years. He and his music have been constant companions through other dark times, and, yes, times of joy as well. When I need to smile, I just turn on his “Tower of Song” and instantaneously the knitted-brow of anxiety vanishes and I’m grinning widely. And I now know with absolute certainty that his poetry has informed my poems again and again.

4. Any general words of wisdom on having a muse?

Give thanks to the Universe for your muse. Always leave the door open for him or her or it. Trust that your muse(s) will be there for you. And remember: “There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in” (from L.C.’s “Anthem).

***

To read more on Cohen, see what some other contributors say.

When You Died by Martin Willitts Jr.

When You Died

Although you were dead after ten days,
you went to the church not far from your farm.
Although not Christian, you knelt in the pew.
The one with red plush carpet to protect
old knees from feeling Penance. You prayed
like a bowl needing to empty its self.
You could hear the wagon nearing. The one
drawn by horses you could not see.
You were praying like falling apples
and a goat was nibbling the worst of them.

Although you could not see the horses,
you could tell how their hooves
clicked on the groves of the ground
following the same trail it always had
with the same purpose
of sending its contents to a final resting place
where death had no control anymore.
You could hear the small colt alongside
its mother, following instinct, like farming
the same crops and falling into more debt.
You could hear inside the wagon,
your own coffin shifting side to side.
It was then you had a type of belief.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 713 other followers