A debut collection of eccentric poetry about New York City.
Countless writers have tackled the idiosyncrasies of the island of Manhattan. In Polak’s work, however, Manhattan is a palimpsestic place of lived experience and overwhelming melancholy for days past: “A Manhattan moonrise hangs above / the skyscrapered city / like a snowball tossed by a perturbed Rip Van Winkle,” she writes. The specificity of Polak’s references, which may not be transparent to everyone, provides the text with a gentle veneer of poetic effervescence. She goes on to describe details that quintessentially capture the locale: “City blocks with donuteries, druggeries, and dry cleaners; / air temperate, as if March had rinsed it, / pounded it against the travertine on skyscrapers / until it was like a favored pair of jeans.” Polak knows the rhythms of New Yorkers’ feet on the sidewalk; she’s one of them. The juxtaposition of New York stories with the poet’s invested, compelling, and exciting voice effectively creates a self-sufficient poetic universe. Verse about Manhattan is no novelty, and it often must refer to what’s been written about the city before. But Polak’s work doesn’t need additional context; her accounts of New York as she’s experienced it are surprisingly complete on their own and have the force of their own convictions: “Sounds of the city in snowfall / muffle or grow tinny thin. / Then comes the grating noise / of the unmucking metropolis, / the Department of Sanitation’s / mechanized onslaught.” Readers who’ve lived in New York will surely recognize themselves in these poems.
A riveting look at one woman’s relationship with the city that never sleeps.