Greenwich House Joins with Poets House
By Joseph Salas
The New Country
By Edith Merle
cold and unwelcoming
as unrelenting as the falling snow
blaring fire engine sirens
unfamiliar sounds—the foreign language
unheated apartments devoid of hot water
year round summers—a distant memory
sounds or ripened mangoes beckoning the children
falling to the ground while quickly recused
the melodious song “El Coqui”
Puerto Rico’s petite frog
our lyrical Spanish our Christmas
of waves slapping the sandy beach
weaving these memories
into a tapestry of unrealized dreams and hopes
Edith Merle was raised in Upper Manhattan’s “El Barrio,” an area populated by the city’s new immigrants, reflecting the melting pot that was America after her parents migrated from Puerto Rico in search of a better life. Today, Edith writes about her childhood, her college days and everyday life. She has been published in the UFT’s magazine, Reflections.
Her poem “The New Country” is the result of a partnership between Greenwich House, a settlement house providing arts education and social service programs to Lower Manhattan, and Poets House, a national poetry library and literary center based in Battery Park City.
This past year, Poets House led an intimate workshop for a group of aspiring poets at Greenwich House’s Independence Plaza Senior Center. The goal of the program was to help seniors develop their inner artistic voice while learning different poetic styles and techniques. Over the course of eight months, seniors were asked to recall their earliest memories of New York and to use those memories as a critical lens to structure a poetic discourse on the New York they experience today. The workshop culminated in a reception and reading at Poets House, where their work was debuted.
At the reading, center member Amy Seidman lamented the rise in popularity of oversized doughy bagels, complete with their oversized price in her poem “The Real Schmeer.” “I yearn for the days of the nickel bagel. A bakers-dozen for sixty cents.” she recited; meanwhile, fellow member Marie Soffer embraced the new group of “exuberant teenagers of every ethnic background” who now share her commute on the Q60 bus in her poem “My Q60 Bus Ride.” Explaining the difference when school is not in session, she read “The same trip in July and August. Deadly Silence. Too much time to meditate. I miss them.”
Starting in the fall, the workshop will continue with the hope that more burgeoning poets will join in the free program. For more information or to join contact Nicole Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 212-267-0499.