Friday, February 29, 2008

Celebrating New Yorker Poetry

On Thursday evening, February 21, an illustrious collection of poets gathered to honor the retirement of The New Yorker's longtime Poetry Editor, with a reading and celebration at The New School's Theresa Lang Center: "Alice Quinn: Twenty Years of Poetry at The New Yorker." The event was co-sponsored by the Academy of American Poets, the New School Graduate Writing Program, and Poets House. The New Yorker poets chosen to toast Alice Quinn included Henri Cole, Deborah Garrison, Eamon Grennan, Major Jackson, D. Nurkse, Sharon Olds, Vijay Seshadri, C.K. Williams, Matthew Zapruder, recently named New York State Poet Jean Valentine—and upstreet's own Poetry Editor, Jessica Greenbaum. Each poet was asked to read a poem of his/her own that Quinn had published, then one or two by other people that she had published. Jessica read Jack Gilbert's "A Brief for the Defense," Wislawa Szymborska's "A Little Girl Tugs at the Tablecloth," and her own poem, "The Yellow Star that Goes with Me," which was requested by Alice Quinn. Here it is:

THE YELLOW STAR THAT GOES WITH ME

Sometimes when I'm thirsty, I mean really dying of thirst
For five minutes
Sometimes when I board a train
Sometimes in December when I'm absolutely freezing

For five minutes
Sometimes when I take a shower
Sometimes in December when I'm absolutely freezing
Sometimes when I reach from steam to towel, when the bed has
soft blue sheets

Sometimes when I take a shower
For twenty minutes, the white tiles dripping with water
Sometimes when I reach from steam to towel, when the bed has
soft blue sheets
Sometimes when I split an apple, or when I'm hungry, painfully
hungry

For twenty minutes, the white tiles dripping with water
As the train passes Chambers Street. We’re all crammed in like laundry
Sometimes when I split an apple, or when I'm hungry, painfully
hungry
For half an hour, sometimes when I’m on a train

As it passes Chambers Street. We’re all crammed in like laundry
It’s August. The only thing to breathe is everybody’s stains
For half an hour. Sometimes when I’m on a train
Or just stand along the empty platform

It’s August. The only thing to breathe is everybody’s stains
Sometimes when I board a train
Or just stand along the empty platform—
Sometimes when I'm thirsty, I mean really dying of thirst

—From Inventing Difficulty, by Jessica Greenbaum (Silverfish, 2000)

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