FragLit

an online magazine of fragmentary writing

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Solitude

Spring 2010 :: Current Issue

How to Write Poetry in New York

Richard Jay Goldstein

(a fragment from “How to Write Poetry in New York in 10 Easy Lessons”)
Lesson 2

Every city has a flavor, a footprint, a name-tag. San Francisco is lyrical and windblown, smelling of salt and coffee and wet wood. LA is spread thin, sweet exotic jam on burned toast, Hollywood like custard in an eclair. Jerusalem is stone, and dust, and the smell of dust, and palm, and gardenia, bathed in lemon light. But New York is sandpaper and shouting, a patina of scratches in the air, remaking itself again and again every clangorous moment, a barrage of lessons. It unnerves the poet because what can you say that hasn’t been said, including this? What handle can you grasp? In New York you step out of your door, or out of someone else’s door, and then you are in it, and you are swept away by it, and it is what it is, and you are also what it is. Wind blows across stone, light falls through gigantic pickets and is bruised. Sound is sharp, water hums. The streets are thronged with beings who drive their clothes like cars. You must be prepared to stay afloat in this assault of alien specificity. You must preserve your alveolar interface at all costs, because otherwise you will disappear into erudite cacophony. Even so, you will finish other people’s conversations. You will awaken in the acrid night with someone else’s shout on your lips. You will open a door and what comes in is not what you saw through the peep-hole. You are absolutely in New York. Quick, write it down.

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