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New York Poems

D. H. Melhem

Paper $16.95    |    0-8156-0813-6    |   2005

In a remarkable series of poems spanning thirty years, this long-time resident and New York poet leads us through the vanished and still-vanishing milieu of the 1970s and 1980s.

"The power in this book is explosive. It has integrity. It also reaches out in all directions with civilized vigor. . . . Phrase by phrase one can either marvel at Melhem's masterly pen-and-ink depictions of city life or be touched in a deeper way by her homage to the ritual affirmations of humanity at its most to the ritual affirmations of humanity at its most crowned, diverse, feral and feisty. One never feels any detachment in the poet about her subjects. She is close, intimate, wrestling in the mud and involutely elegant trove of a book."
—Home Planet News

"The scenarios and city portraits in New York Poems have spaces between their teeth but Melhem sounds a trumpet of humanity and compassion the sounds of which also lend us a bit of poetic street-smarts: "...this street my muse / raising rag banners / to the general will // fierce land of / desperate saints."... Reading New York Poems will give you a new appreciation for the variety of street people one might encounter and help you to understand a little better the human grace tucked inside the layers of someone wearing winter clothing on a summer day."
dash Poetrybay, read entire review http://www.poetrybay.com/Winter2006/review-mankh.htm

"Melhem's world is expansive and diverse, filled with teeming humanity, hopeful, indefatigable life. She's the "daughter of Lebanese immigrants and a native of Brooklyn [who feels she is] quintessentially American." The abundant life in her poems is mostly in the upper West Side of New York, where she now lives. It has come to her as traditional immigrant groups and newly arrived ones, and the myriad activities and behaviors of the huge population of a vibrant and crowded city. "Broadway Music" goes in part, "And the old men sing with her/they dream through the curving wood and metal/and the forms of the sounds that go out/as if the dirty newspapers and today's news/the people running up subway stairs/the dogs the pimps the hustlers...." This calls to mind Lorca's vision of New York, the eye of a newcomer. The bustle and melange of street life is not the hollow motions of idlers and the aimless, but the music of the infinite dreams and constant negotiation."
dash Midwest Book Review

"She is a poet of the city, poet of the heart, poet of the land."
dashCynthia Ozick

"D. H. Melhem is one of our brilliant contemporary talents. . . . A nimble vigor, a roomy intellect, a sanity-searcher. . . . She uses language with a canny shrewdness: she does not allow language to delay her messages. . . . She possesses one of the most remarkable minds of our time."
dashGwendolyn Brooks

"D. H. Melhem is a poet of exceptional sensibility and artistry. . . . Deeply aware of American failings, she nevertheless affirms the American Spirit as her heritage, the American language as her native tongue."
dashEdmund Pennant

"New York Poems describes the city's distinct geography over 30 years, from the decaying city of Lindsay to the current, increasingly gentrified and enlightened urban center.
    This is the seventh book of poetry by longtime West Sider D.H. Melhem, a prolific author of novels, literary criticism, essays and even a musical drama. A life-long resident of New York City, she has received numerous awards, including a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and an American Book Award. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of NYU, where she got her Ph.D., she also received a special achievement award from the university.
    A daughter of Lebanese immigrants, Melhem was born in Brooklyn in a multi-ethnic neighborhood. She developed a vision of the city as the ultimate melting pot, a vision fortified by her move to what she calls ‘her beloved West Side.’
    Poems dating from the 1970s to the present create an impressionistic history of the times, with examinations of working men and women, order boys, tough babes, drug junkies, muggers, burnouts, and mothers in city parks. They are all here, familiar images of the perpetual underclass for whom Melhem has a profound sympathy and compassion. Her poems are specific in time and place. They're also personal, as in ‘New York Times, August 15, 1976, As Lebanon Dies.’ In that poem, she writes:

my background is Lebanese
and peaceful, I said
proud of redundancy
grandmother beirut
grandfather damascus
my father tripoli
on the clear coast, a boy
diving for sea-urchins
now the tides cast
their dead blossoms
to sprawl at the roots of cedars
whose ancient tongues
weep fire in the sun

    The second half of the book includes passionately political poems that reflect the national preoccupations of the times, both celebrating and lamenting the fates of George Jackson and Angela Davis, among others. Also included: a moving poem about Sept. 11.
    The dedication page of New York Poems says it all: ‘To the City of New York--embattled, gallant, enduring.’ Melhem’s emotional response to the city creates a volume that often reads like a love story, with the object of desire both sad and ecstatic, ugly and beautiful."
dashLucia Adams, Westsider

New York Poems is dedicated to "The City of New York: embattled, gallant, enduring" by celebrated poet D. H. Melhem, who calls the Upper West Side her "muse." D. H. Melhem's sharp eye looks at neighborhood struggles with blight and urban renewal (chastised as "Negro Removal"). She examines her city from the World Trade Center disaster to the present to the city's future. New York Poems combines her seminal book of poetry, Notes on 94th Street, with her second volume about the neighborhood, Children of the House Afire, whose emblematic title poem describes a tragic fire she witnessed from her second-floor window. "Requiescant 9/11" ("let them rest"), a tribute sequence lamenting the martyrs of the World Trade Center closes Melhem's last collection, Conversation with a Stonemason. The author's preface and poem, "Prospect," survey the urban terrain. Melhem concludes with a lyrical panorama of her city's dynamic changes.

D. H. Melhem’s most notable books include Notes on 94th Street, Children of the House Afire, and the acclaimed elegy for her mother, Rest in Love. Melhem’s numerous awards include an American Book Award, three Pushcart Prize nominations, and the RAWI Lifetime Achievement Award. Her novels, Blight and Stigma and The Cave are also distributed by Syracuse University Press.

read more at www.dhmelhem.com

5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 184 pages

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