Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Boardwalk under construction

Walking on Boardwalk Under Construction, November 29, 1922. Photo by E.E. Rutter via NYC Dept of Records, Municipal Archives

This Sunday, May 15, is the 93rd anniversary of the official opening of Coney Island’s Riegelmann Boardwalk. Last week, Coney poet Michael Schwartz crooned a few lines from “Under the Boardwalk” and recited poetry as part of his testimony before the City Council’s Land Use Committee. He was among about 15 people who took time out from their work day to speak at City Hall in favor of Councilman Mark Treyger’s resolution that the Landmarks Preservation Commission designate the Boardwalk a scenic landmark.

The LPC had previously said no, but is now said to be reconsidering. You may want to phone, email or write letters of encouragement to Meenakshi Srinivasan, Commissioner of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Contact information is here. Use the hashtag #LandmarkTheBoardwalk when you post on social media.

Schwartz’s eloquent testimony, printed in full below, begins with an excerpt of his poem, “The Under-Talker,” from a book-in-progress of poems, short stories and monologues set in Coney Island and called The Invisible Exhibitionist and other Attractions.

What will happen to us now that they took away under the boardwalk?
We won’t be falling in love
under the boardwalk…
I heard that pushing the sand right up under the boards like that is what causes them to erode and crack.
I wish we could have our down by the sea on a blanket with my baby under the boardwalk back.
Did you hear that when they filled it in Homeless John the Under-Talker was buried alive?
Under the boardwalk.
Yesterday I tripped on a broken board and fell on my ear
and I swear while I was there
I could still hear him talk.
If you listen closely…
you can still hear him talk.

First they came for under the boardwalk… Then they came for the boardwalk. It started already. Part of the boardwalk’s already been paved over, even though that’s not what the people wanted. And in the middle of the night before it would have been landmarked, they bulldozed our beloved original Thunderbolt. And they came under darkness in the middle of the night and destroyed our beloved West 8th Street bridge to the boardwalk that protected us from traffic, because we didn’t have the power to protect it. If we don’t have the power to protect our world famous beloved boardwalk that connects neighborhoods, businesses, and people, one day we will wake up and it won’t be there, at least not as we know it. Where’s the boardwalk? Oh my God, it’s a sidewalk. Don’t we have enough sidewalks?

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk/No Concrete. Sign on Building Facing Boardwalk East of Ocean Parkway in Brighton Beach. Photo © Bruce Handy

The historic beloved boardwalk is one of the last walkways in our world that is an oasis from the concrete that hardens our souls and hammers our joints. Also, concrete will not absorb water or heat the way wood does. In this apocalyptic time of hurricanes and floods, the walkway by the water is wood for practical as well as aesthetic reasons. Coney Island is called the people’s park because it’s different than those other sanitized corporatized parks. When Coney becomes corporatized, such as when the Republican nominee’s father Fred destroyed Steeplechase, they demolish more than just the people’s parks, they break the people’s hearts.

We’ve seen too many New York treasures wiped out by corporate greed, little by little turning the greatest city in the world into just another impersonal unaffordable clone of Anymall, USA. We lost the original Penn Station, the 8th wonder of the world, because it wasn’t landmarked. We saved Grand Central Station because it was landmarked. If we don’t landmark the boardwalk, we’ll lose it. We’ll lose ourselves.

© Michael Schwartz

Truck on Coney Island Boardwalk

The City’s routine use of trucks and cars on the Boardwalk causes wear and tear on the boards. The Parks Dept has started to build a 10-foot wide concrete ‘carriage lane’ in Brighton Beach. Photo © Anonymouse

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Deno's Wonder Wheel

Go up it’s Great. Easter Sunday at the Wonder Wheel. April 5, 2015. Photo © Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

“Go up, it’s Great!” is the joyful slogan of the Wonder Wheel painted on its vintage ticket booths. On the evening of May 8th, you could say “Go up, it’s Poetry!” Deno’s Wonder Wheel will be open special hours – 7pm-10pm – for Poem-a-Rama, a special event featuring an array of poets reciting poetry to guests as they go up in the cars, plus readings on the ground and book-inspired music by Soozie Hwang & the Relastics.

The first-ever literary soiree in the landmark ride’s 95-year history is a benefit for Parachute Literary Arts’ poetry workshops and community poetry libraries in Coney Island. Advance tickets are $20 and include general admission to the event and a ride with a poet on the Wonder Wheel.

“Coney Island has been a source of inspiration for centuries for artists and poets including Whitman and E.E. Cummings and now contemporary poets,” says Parachute’s founder and artistic director Amanda Deutch. “At the same time I am interested in site specific work.” Past events produced by Parachute have featured poets reading in front of the New York Aquarium’s jellyfish tanks and over the mic at the Eldorado Bumper car ticketbooth on Surf Avenue.

Poets reading on the ground at Poem-a-Rama include Patricia Spears Jones, Lynn Melnick and teen poets from Parachute Literary Arts’ writing workshops. Poets with whom you can ride the Wheel are Parachute Festival alum Matthea Harvey and Edwin Torres, as well as Penny Arcade, Amber Atiya, Paul Blackburn, Kurt Boone, Michael Broder, Brenda Coultas, Ian Dreiblatt, Jen Fitzgerald, Tyehimba Jess, Brenda Iijima, Lucy Ives, Amy King, Wanda Phipps and “a wandering Walt Whitman.”

Deutch’s hope for Poem-a-Rama is for poets and passengers to enjoy a truly unique experience “because of all of it–the ride, the ocean breeze, the intimate nature of such a small reading– the poetry will sink in and reverberate for days to come.”

Advance tickets for Poem-a-Rama are available online for $20 via Parachute Literary Arts. Tickets will be $25 online on May 8th, the day of the event, and at the door. Entrance to the event will be at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park‘s West 12th Street gate at 3059 West 12th between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk.

Related posts on ATZ…

October 13, 2013: Photo of the Day: Swinging on the Wonder Wheel

September 29, 2011: Coney Island Poem from the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project

September 7, 2011: Photography: Floating Above the Coney Island Boardwalk

September 27, 2009: Coney Island 1969 by Edwin Torres: Fave Poem from Parachute Festival

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Eldorado Bumper Cars

Louis Beard, Ticketseller at Eldorado Bumper Cars, Surf Avenue, Coney Island. July 22, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Actually we can’t remember precisely what Louis was saying when we snapped this humorous photo, but the Eldorado Auto Skooters and most of Coney Island’s other rides are still open weekends through the end of October. This week marks the second anniversary of the death of Scotty Fitlin, the DJ extraordinaire of Surf Avenue’s legendary disco palace of bumper cars, which is now run by arcade operator Gordon Lee.


Eldorado Auto Skooters.September 3, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Saturday, in addition to selling tickets to the famed “Bump Your Ass Off” ride, Louis will be reading Coney Island poetry into the mic at 4pm. The site-specific poetry event is part of Parachute: The Coney Island Performance Festival happening this weekend in front of the jellyfish tank at the New York Aquarium and amid the amusement park artifacts at the Coney Island History Project. The Eldorado’s last rides of 2012 — and possibly forever, though we hope not!–will be on October 26 and 27.

Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade, 1216 Surf Avenue, Coney Island. Phone 718- 946-6642

Eldorado Last Ride 2012


Related posts on ATZ…

March 20, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

October 17, 2010: Photo Album: Oct 15 Tribute in Sound & Light to Scott Fitlin

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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Terminal Hotel, Mermaid Ave and Stillwell Ave, Coney Island. May 26, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

An Unexpected Encounter

I went to Moe’s Used Books
in Coney Island to look for
The Joys of Yinglish,
long out of print
and even though
it was the last week in September
the temperature hovered
in the mid 80s
and Moe’s store lacked an air-conditioner
because all his meager profits
would have been eaten up
by the cost of electricity. Soon I was
sweating and barely able
to breathe
my throat tight and swollen
so I needed
a cool liquid quickly
and plodded along Surf Avenue
to Corn Queen
and ordered a large root beer
but in this particular establishment
they don’t give you an item
until the money has been
deposited in their cash register.
I pulled out a fifty
all I had with me
placed it on the counter
and reached for the root beer
but the guy grabbed the cup
pointing to a sign on the wall:
no bills larger than $20 accepted.
For some reason I blurted out,
“Turn on the air-conditioner,
why don’t you?
It’s like the equator in here.”
He simply smiled.
“Look, I been coming in here
for twenty years.
Lemme drink,
then I’ll get change.”
He shook his head.
“Where’s the owner, Two Ton Tony?
He knows me.”
“Deceased, ” he said.
When I heard that
my knees buckled
and I clutched the counter. Suddenly
a woman appeared
placing a dollar bill on the counter.
“For the big man,” she said.
I immediately snatched
the soda
gulping it down,
then I turned to her
saying, “Thanks.”
She was a prostitute.
The outfit
plus make-up
gave her away
and one word led to another
and soon we were
in room 11 of the Terminal Hotel.
The dear woman
larger than a twenty.

10/25/2005. Copyright © Charles Chaim Wax
via poemhunter.com


Related posts on ATZ…

September 29, 2011: Coney Island Poem from the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project

January 8, 2011: Boardwalk: Photos by Meredith Caliento, Spoken Word by Michael Schwartz

December 8, 2010: Children’s Book Tells Coney Island Carousel Carver’s Story

September 27, 2009: Coney Island 1969 by Edwin Torres: Fave Poem from Parachute Festival

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Coney Island

Coney Island 1980. Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

Coney Island

Created by Betty from the JASA poets in Coney Island, on June 15th, 2011 with Amanda Deutch and Gary Glazner of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project.

So much happened in Coney Island.
My mother never had to look for me.
Some people didn’t think much of Coney Island.
My mother said, “If you meet a good boy, don’t tell him you are from Coney Island.”
One time I had a date, I was very nervous,
I got off at Avenue U so he wouldn’t know where I was from.

I was happy to be from Coney Island.
The people are friendly and nice.
It’s a beautiful place to live.
The story of how Nathan’s began is interesting.
She made some Knishes.

I was always an outside girl.
I lived close to Neptune and Surf.
I walked on the sand.
I walked by the ocean in my boots.
On the coldest days we sat on the rocks.
On the coldest days that’s what we did.
You can even have a story about the pier.
I used to watch them fish.

When I was married on Mermaid there was a rainbow in the window.
I used to see a rainbow from my window.
Mother would say, “See that sky.”
You have to find beauty.

You can go down one of those hills.
You’ll have a long life.
When you hit the top all of sudden you couldn’t catch your heart.
It’s wow!

When Luna Park was burning I never saw such a sky in my life, a red sky.
I heard the fire trucks; I looked out the window.
The next morning, I learned Luna Park had burned.

I could see the moon from my window.
The moon was better than being on earth.
I wanted to stay up there.

*     *     *     *     *     *

The Alzheimer’s Poetry Project was founded in 2004 by Gary Glazner and has served over 9,500 people living with Alzheimer’s disease. They have also developed poetry workshop models for early stage dementia groups. For more information on this award-winning project, visit their website http://www.alzpoetry.com. Glazner is a poet and author whose books include Sparking Memories: The Alzheimer’s Poetry Project Anthology and Ears on Fire: Snapshot Essays in a World of Poets.

Amanda Deutch is a teaching artist and poet whose mother and grandparents lived in Coney Island. Her poetry is published in dozens of literary journals and her poem “30,000 City Windows” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the founder of Parachute: the Coney Island Performance Festival and recently launched a Poets Walking Tour of Coney Island.


Related posts on ATZ…

February 23, 2011: Double Exposure: Photographer Barry Yanowitz & Coney Island on BCAT TV

January 8, 2011: Boardwalk: Photos by Meredith Caliento, Spoken Word by Michael Schwartz

December 8, 2010: Children’s Book Tells Coney Island Carousel Carver’s Story

September 27, 2009: Coney Island 1969 by Edwin Torres: Fave Poem from Parachute Festival

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Today we’re taking a holiday break from news about Coney Island deconstruction and redevelopment to shine the spotlight on a new literary endeavor. Urban Haiku and More by Patricia Carragon, host of the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets, was just published by Fierce Grace Press. The poet is a member of Brevitas, a group dedicated to short poems, including haiku, senryu, hay(na)ku and other unrhymed tercet poetry.

The subject matter of Urban Haiku and More encompasses such everyday events as riding the New York City subway, thinking about one’s sex life, laughing and crying about being dateless, and –well we’re not sure this one is an everyday event—searching the Coney Island boardwalk for mermaids. The book is illustrated with Japanese-style watercolors of birds and flowers, but reading Carragon’s poems about Coney Island immediately brought to mind the rainy Mermaid Parade of 2009. Thanks to Barry Yanowitz for permission to use his evocative photos of the parade in this post.

weathermen predict
washout at Coney Island
mermaids drown in the storm

Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2009.  Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2009. Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

Brooklyn mermaids
hiding under umbrellas
rain on their parade

Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2009.  Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2009. Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

Coney Island storm
mermaids do breaststrokes
on boardwalk

Urban Haiku and More is available at BookCourt and upcoming book events:

Sunday, October 17 at 4 p.m. at The Bowery Poetry Club, – 308 Bowery, NYC 10012

Thursday, October 28 at 7 p.m. at Wyld Chyld Tattoo and Café – 1708 Sunrise Highway, Merrick, NY 11566

Tuesday, November 2 at 7 p.m. at the Perch Café – 365 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215

Urban Haiku and More
by Patricia Carragon
Illustrated by William L. Hays
saddle-stitched chapbook, 52pp, $7
Fierce Grace Press / 1515 Benton Blvd., #1727/ Pooler, GA 31322


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Poet Edwin Torres Reading at Parachute: The Coney Island Performance Festival at the New York Aquarium. Photo © Edward Hansen

Poet Edwin Torres Reading at Parachute: The Coney Island Performance Festival at the New York Aquarium. Photo © Edward Hansen

If you’re looking for something to read on this rainy, “as summer into autumn slips” kind of day, ATZ recommends this poem by Edwin Torres. The autobiographical “Coney Island 1969” was written especially for Parachute: The Coney Island Performance Festival. Torres debuted the poem on September 12, the first night of Coney’s Island’s first annual performance festival. The Alien Stingers exhibit at the New York Aquarium proved to be an inspired setting for the event as the parachute-like jellyfish danced in the water behind the human performers. Now if you’re looking for somewhere to go on a rainy day, ATZ recommends the Alien Stingers at the Aquarium, which is open year round. The adult jellyfish is called the “medusa.” How poetic is that?

CONEY ISLAND 1969       

My father was the manager of Nathan's Hot Dogs on Coney Island
A memory inside a beach ball
My cousin reaching below the surface
Water in my lungs
Blue sky
Technicolor white
Where skin should be

        My father watched me walk the cracks
	From our bedroom window
	In the Bronx
	Asking me
	What I thought I was doing
	How a line is straight when you walk it
	How a man knows exactly where to go

My father took us to Nathan's at Christmas
Company party
A thousand presents for each and every child
The boardwalk was cold
The rides empty
Coney Island winter
You had to warm your fingers
By hiding them from the ocean

	My father gave us hot dogs and fries
	Between his affairs
	He gave me animals
	To show his love
	I had a beagle, a turtle, 3 guinea pigs and 2 java rice birds
	I loved them
	So I loved my father

My father took me and my two sisters to the Statue of Liberty
He told me it was made of Limburger Cheese
I loved him
He never hit me
He never hugged me
I had to walk straight
That's what he told me

	When I visit my father
	At St. Raymond's Cemetary
	I find his gravestone
	I have a son I tell him
	Winter is our time
	When he left
	When all those presents at Nathan's were opened
	All those families

My father towered over me
Laughing in his eyes
You're my little man he'd say
From up there
The bumper cars
The mirrors
All those reflections

	a location's intuition
	will be to remain
	long enough to be found

	in a relationship with scale
	the chance to leave
	will follow its pull

	calling to catch
	what will does
	to weight

My father was never Coney Island to me
He never knocked on the door
That morning in the Bronx
My mother didn't open
No cops told her nothing
She didn't hide her face in her hands
No silent tears
	cover her mouth when she snore
No floor I play my indians on

	No roller coaster tell me no turn
	No question come from long legs
	No mean kids
	No skinny mirror
	My father had yoga thumbs
	Look what I can do I'd say
	Leaning out just far enough
	To make you catch me

        -Edwin Torres ©2009
Jellyfish in the Alien Stingers Exhibit at New York Aquarium, Coney Island. Photo © Charles Denson

Jellyfish in the Alien Stingers Exhibit at New York Aquarium, Coney Island. Photo © Charles Denson


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