Magazine article The New Yorker

House of Words

Magazine article The New Yorker

House of Words

Article excerpt

Judicious use of the slash / Is all you need / To turn ordinary prose / Into a poem (Emily Dickinson). Interspersing poets' names here and there among the words / Helps with the poetic effect, / Too (Carl Sandburg). And if you're trying to describe an institution like Poets House, / An almost brand-new, eleven-thousand-square-foot poetry center/ With a library, an auditorium, exhibition space, and reading rooms, /At the Hudson River in Battery Park City, / Ordinary prose will not do (Vladimir Mayakovsky). O, for a muse of fire / To describe the windows of Poets House, / Which ascend two stories in the entirely glassed-in lobby / And sweep all along the block-long side of Poets House, / The side facing Nelson Rockefeller Park / And the Hudson River (Anonymous). Sun shines in these windows-- / The main impression a first-time visitor gets is of windows / (Light, more light! )/--As the sun in the afternoon hits the western side of the high-rise Riverhouse apartment building, / Upscale digs (condos for $1.15 million to three million and up) / Of which Poets House occupies / Part of the first / And all of the second / Floor (William Butler Yeats).

Rent-free! one might add. / Poets House pays only a dollar a year until 2070, / Because it is contributing to the cultural life of Battery Park City, / And of New York, America, and the world./ And also: Poets House / Possesses a special certification / From the United States Green Building Council (Randall Jarrell). A handout titled "Green Facts," / Available at Poets House, / Says, "The insulation in Poets House is made of recycled blue jeans" (John Greenleaf Whittier). The bookcases holding Poets House's fifty thousand volumes, / And all the furnishings that are made of wood or wood products, / Are completely free of urea-formaldehyde, / A known carcinogen (James Russell Lowell). The light-colored beechwood floors, / More beautiful than your feet in Choos, / Come from a sustainably managed forest / In Pennsylvania (Adrienne Rich). When that evening sun go down / And come shinin' right straight in, / Some special scientific glazing-type thing on the windows--oh, the glazin' on the windows-- / "Rejects solar heat gain" (Countee Cullen). As can be guessed, / The electricity in Poets House / Is partially from solar and wind power, / Provided by Con Edison's Green Solutions program (Anne Bradstreet).

(To emphasize the greenness of Poets House, repeat second stanza. …

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