Two Fingers for Walt Whitman

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The April 21st edition of The Long-Islander newspaper slipped through my mail slot today. In “Walt’s Corner”, a column dedicated to poetry since the paper was founded by Walt Whitman in 1838, appears my poem praising various uses of two fingers.

with-two
(Click to enlarge)

I have had two poems in The Long-Islander previously, both times listing my location as “Ojai, California”. But this is a poem that could only have been written in the UK.

Previous Poems in The Long-Islander

[Note: George Wallace informs me that, while the newspaper was founded in 1838, he actually started publishing “Walt’s Corner” in 1988]

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So Long, Mannahatta!

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“New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town! / The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down.”
-“On The Town”, sung by Frank Sinatra

So a book tour that began in the medieval English village of Much Wenlock ends in New York.

We capped off a feasting-our-senses-through-Manhattan city break with a trip to Walt Whitman’s birthplace on Long Island. I gave my “Tactics for Sneaky Poets” workshop to a receptive and talented local group, and was given a private tour of the house and very room where Uncle Walt was born, before taking to the stage.

What a pleasure and privilege it was to read with Peter Cole, who drew parallels between Whitman’s transcendentalist philosophy and ancient Jewish mysticism. He read poems from the depths of his own multitudes as well. Afterward, we answered questions from the audience about translation, displacement, and the necessity of the creative act.

I also marked the fourth anniversary of moving to England while here, surrounded by New Yorkers and ancient Egyptian artefacts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York feels in many ways like a midpoint — both geographically and culturally — between my native rural California and adopted London. Yet it is entirely its own place as well. I will be sorry to say goodbye.

I won’t be sorry to get back to a radiator I can control, however, as all the apartment buildings seem to keep them on full-tilt until the end of May. As the street below is waking up, the cast-iron pipes beside my bed are banging furiously, transforming our tiny West Village apartment into a dry sauna.

Val and I have stripped off completely, lounging around like Adam and Eve. We have tasted The Big Apple. I have a feeling we will be back for more.

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“Double Agent” (Poem in The Long-Islander)

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I came home tonight to a strange package from New York. In it was a copy of the August 11th issue of The Long Islander, bearing one of my poems. Regarding this historic American newspaper from England, it seems curious to note that its founding by Walt Whitman in 1838 was in the Victorian era, when our North London flat was built. And the location of “Ojai, Ca” beneath my name, once second nature, is finally beginning to feel remote.

I wrote this poem long before I dreamed I’d end up here. My relocation gives the title a new shade of meaning for me, as I seek to blend in with strange surroundings. Sometimes I am unsure myself just whose side I really am on.

Many thanks again to George Wallace for publishing this poem. Click here to read the clipping.

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