NYC from the Inside: NYC Through the Eyes of the Poets Who Live There/edited and curated by George Wallace//book review by Mike Jurkovic

from Blue Light Press

“You aren’t the first to starve with a pen in your hand” Grisel Y. Acosta warns in this grand collection’s very first poem (Meal Plan NYC, Circa 2000). From there, all the conflicting and caterwauling realities of the world’s greatest metropolis dart out at you from in between all the parked and booted cars “Held between rivers and the deep breath of ocean” Joesph Bruchac attests to in City of Dreams.

Curated by George Wallace, the prolific, multi-award-winning mainstay of NY’s never say die poetry scene, NYC: From the Inside gives us the “osmotic city” (Carol Alexander, Amoeba, My City) all wired for reprieve, redress and rebirth. Realizations come fast and furious. “Because,” as Austin Alexis points out in At Columbus Circle, “in the afterlife, the land below, where we are, is too course to pay heed to.” 

Kilned from the island’s bedrock, the poets are from every strata: Martin Espada, Quincy Troupe, Yusef Komunyakaa, Anne Waldman, Marie Howe. Kim Addonizio, Jane Hirshfield, Abiodun Oyewole, John Yau. Late legends such as Robert Bly, Diane di Prima, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, (“a wind had blown away the sun”) Steve Cannon, and Steve Dalachinsky (“NY is skeleton & frame heaven  hell  tributes and lies”) read easily alongside Beat veteran Andy Clausen as he still rails hardy (“no choice but to sleep in a field of flesh eaters”) It’s a keening collection of voices and the borough ‘tudes behind them.

With the force of a truly self-less, collective blow against the empire, 179 poets – 179 poets! – 

(Imagine the open mics they’ve all shed light on) push back against the sloth and malaise of the plague years with voices that “taste the grimsweet reality” (Matthew Hupert) and shake the ghosts that make New York the eternal city forever rising.

To purchase:


Mike Jurkovic is a frequent contributor to Lightwood with music and book reviews. He is a prolific poet and in the president of Calling All Poets, a reading series and small press. HIs new book is “mooncussers”, published by Luchador Press.

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