When I set out for New York I knew I was going to write a series of poems about the city, or rather, an idea of a city incredibly present in all pop culture and social media psyche.

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An idea I would be encountering in concrete (quite literally) for the first time meant a thousand possible entry points through which I could begin writing.

 I wondered if New York would live up to its hype.

Admittedly, I was somewhat underwhelmed.

Having known the bustling cities of Singapore, Taipei, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, New Delhi and many others besides, the words usually used to frame New York were easily out-defined in any of the other cities.

Energy? Culture? Sophistication? Atmosphere? Nightlife? Skyline? People?
There are far greater cities that display these qualities in an even more overwhelming sense.

So how did I proceed with my words, and why did I end up writing a six poem series?

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This is what I think:

The allure of a city is its ability to harness whatever one chooses to infuse into it, and reflect it back in the cityscape.

If you hunt for life, it will be found, but death will also reveal itself.

Glamour. Grit. Speed. Slack. Light. Subtlety. Noise. Silence. Community. Isolation. All are omnipresent in the lines and shadows of the city.

The essence of a city is its power, vibrancy and tension; an uncompromising picture of life in the present, encasing history in its concrete sidewalks, and building hopes for the future in steel frames.

This journey for me was not about New York the physical city, but the intersection of company, timing and location.
The poems I wrote took the city I was exploring, and bent its infrastructure to frame my heartbeat as I moved through it,
accompanied by the footsteps of people I love deeply.

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New York is painted for me with emotions that are incredibly personal, because it is my eyes at the top of the Rockefeller Observation Deck, which take in the night skyline of New York.

There is no other New York I know but the one I looked at, the one that settled into my chest, and the one I spin out into words.

New York was beautiful and empty,
busy but quiet,
sunshiny and foreboding,
and free but incredibly expensive.

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It is so to me, and no one can say otherwise because for six days I was (in) New York City.

The charm of New York is its ability to hold me, and reflect me.

Even better, the power of New York is its ability to do that for everyone.

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It is not just a city, it is meta-city, an idea we are constantly inventing and re-inventing in our heads to fit into who we are.

That, I think, is one quality New York possesses that far outdoes any other city I have met.

 

 

 

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all photos taken by me.

Posted by:jasmine

Jasmine is an editor, poet, and community arts organizer. She comes to poetry by way of Chinese music. This blog is a mapping of ways.

2 replies on “On writing about New York

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