Skip to main content

Review - An Anthology of New York Poets

Martin Stannard

NYC FROM THE INSIDE: NYC through the eyes of the poets who live there.

(George Wallace, ed.) Blue Light Press, 339pp

This anthology has one subject, as the title makes clear. It's “New York City . . . seen from the inside and through the eyes of its poets", getting on near 200 of them, which is a lot of poets. And they are poets of all shapes and sizes, metaphorically speaking: famous household names (sic), and others not-so-famous or not famous at all. But all are serious practitioners with decent track records. The book doesn't claim to be comprehensive, although the editor believes it to be “a pretty good sample of the breadth and depth of what today's living poets …. have to offer."

As for the kinds of poetry on show here, it's varied, unsurprisingly. There are some poets I happen to know personally, and who might loosely be associated with the New York School, but they make up a very small proportion of the whole. The whole is, frankly, pretty much what you might expect an anthology of so many poets to be: a mixed bag. There's work here that was surely meant for spoken-word performance rather than the page, and there's plenty of what some people might (disparagingly) describe as chopped-up prose, and often I'd be inclined to agree with them. Just like in the world of poetry outside New York, one might wonder at times where the poetry is in a so-called poem. But at the same time there are lots of pieces here where that isn't an issue, and the poetry in the poem is plain to see. It would be silly to pick out a few notable contributions from among so many, so I'm not naming names. Interestingly, there's little that one would call very innovative or experimental; most (but certainly not all) of the poems are treading fairly conventional territories.

Regarding the subject matter, well, this is poetry about New York, and the city is written about from a range of angles: the direct and sometimes intimately personal, the anecdotal, and what you might call the loosely philosophical, on top of which those categories intermingle and jiggle around and, again as might be expected, a lot of the sentiments expressed can be predictable at times.

Of course, New York can't help but sound wonderful. The A train or the D train sound great even in a rubbish poem. The Bowery always sounds good. London's Metropolitan line or Islington simply don't resonate in the same way. At the same time there is also plenty of struggling real life, tough times and the darker side of the city in these poems to go with the excitement and romance it unarguably has in bucketloads.

This is an anthology of poems about New York by New York poets, and should be simply taken as such. A more critical assessment seems rather beside the point. There's some stuff here to really like and some, frankly, not to like. With that caveat in mind, it's fair to say it's an interesting insight into what the poets in New York are doing these days.

  

Copyright © Martin Stannard, 2022


Popular posts from this blog

Review - High and Lonesome: Three Books: Crozier, Prynne, James

Andrew Duncan High and Lonesome : Three Books: John James, Striking the Pavilion of Zero, J.H. Prynne, High Pink on Chrome ; Andrew Crozier, High Zero (Shearsman, 2021; edited Ian Brinton)  The reason why these three books from 1975-6 and 1978 are being republished together is straightforward. Crozier had named a work High Zero , and when I interviewed him in 2003 he conceded that it referred to High Pink and Striking the Pavilion of Zero , and that he had used lines from those two works as keys to develop the High Zero poems from. Publication together allows one to read across and recover a part of the composition process. High Zero was published in 1978, later than the two poems it is a response to. The founding moment is The English Intelligencer , in which all three of these poets took part. This was an attempt to recapitulate the development of Charles Olson, up to about 1950; he was seen as both the continuator of Pound and as having thought profoundly about geography. T

Essay - Whatever Happened to the Poetry Manifesto?

MARTIN STANNARD WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE POETRY MANIFESTO? Recently I tried writing an essay that had the working title 'Why the Meaning of a Poem is the Last Thing You Should Think About'. I felt like I had something to say. It began like this: I can't help but remember what my old angling tutor used to say: “Be careful when you open a can of worms." Of course, he didn’t say any such thing, and I never had an angling tutor, but writers, and perhaps especially poets, can say anything and get away with it, because . . . Actually, I'm not sure why. I'm not even sure if it's true. If it is, it shouldn’t be. And I'm not sure about that, either. I think it's probably best if we accept a certain degree of uncertainty and subjectivity and other words that suggest everything is open to argument and get on with this. Just because something is open to argument doesn't mean it's wrong. Later (about 3000 words later) I decided I was on to a loser.

Review - "Bright Angel Proof" by Nick Power

Charlie Baylis Bright Angel Proof, Nick Power (£10, erbacce press) In the spring of 2016 a writer from the small Northwestern town of Hoylake, Nick Power, took a trip flying around America on budget airlines, soaking in all its big ticket tourist attractions and gaudy glories. The trip, and Power’s poems about the trip, come together to form Bright Angel Proof , a collection which evokes beat generation myths of a mystical America, but behind the lines Power knows that the beat generation era is done and perhaps was never really there to begin with. Power is too late to join the ranks of Ginsburg, Kerouac et al but at least he suggests that he might have something to say, which is more than most contemporary poets. Power attracts attention as a kind of modern Burt Lancaster, an adventurer of compelling (North) West Coast vibes and easy going company who, like Lana Del Rey, has ‘feathers in his hair...c hurning out novels like Beat poetry on Amphetamines.’ Power’s companion on the