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Friday, October 07, 2011
The Coolness Of Poetry In New York

Seamus Heaney at 92Y on September 26

As if you didn’t know, the “poetry scene” in New York City is legendary. And the establishments fostering this scene stretch from the Lower East Side to the Upper East Side, and beyond. From The New York Times today:

When you imagine a poetry reading, the scene that comes to mind probably doesn’t involve battalions of underwear-slinging admirers. Poetry is supposed to be dusty stuff, the reading of which can inspire even a hyperactive 4-year-old to go gentle into that good nap. And yet here is Dylan Thomas’s wife, Caitlin, describing her husband’s famous 1953 performances at the Poetry Center in New York, now part of the 92nd Street Y, “I used to come in late and hear, through the mikes, the breath-strained panting ... booming blue thunder into the teenagers’ delighted bras and briefs.”

As signs of performative triumph go, happy underwear surely beats a standing ovation.

Not that Thomas’s success should be surprising. Poetry has a long tradition of being not only read but also performed vigorously and well, and 50 years after Thomas, New York is still one of the best places in America to hear poetry out loud, whether it’s being declaimed from a stage, whispered in an auditorium or shouted in a bar. All of which is in keeping with the history of poetry as an oral art.

Read the article in full here, and be sure to check out the photo gallery.

As The Times noted in the article, Seamus Heaney was here on September 26, to kick-off the 92Y Poetry Main Reading Series. We’ll share a video clip from that evening soon, here on the 92Y Blog. Check back next week!

Next in the Main Reading Series: Chinese/US Poetry Exchange with Xi Chuan, Zhou Zan, Marilyn Chin and Li-Young Lee on October 10.

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