What is Haiku? You think it can be only the traditional form of Japanese poetry consisting of three lines, the first and last having five syllables and the middle having seven? Must it focus on nature and include two contrasting images?
American renegade writer Jack Keuroac is said to have once stated, "A ‘Western Haiku’ need not concern itself with 17 syllables, since Western languages cannot adapt themselves to the fluid syllabic Japanese. I propose that the ‘Western Haiku’ simply say a lot in three short lines in any Western language.”
Peter C. Goldmark, Jr. challenges the conventional definition even more. Different pivot points in his 17-syllable sequences, human-built environment rather than just nature, yet his verse is governed by a disciplined, spare haiku soul.
Goldmark, born the son of inventor, perhaps cannot help but take a new lens to a 17th century art form. In addition to writing poetry, he works in the areas of philanthropy, environmental policy, international affairs and development, and organizational development in the social change field. Goldmark directed the Climate and Air program for Environmental Defense from 2003 until 2010. Previously, he was Chairman and CEO of the International Herald Tribune. President of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1988 through 1997, he encouraged its involvement in environmental issues, particularly as they related to energy. Earlier, he served as Budget Director for the State of New York during the 1970’s city- and state-wide fiscal crisis, where he was an architect of its rescue; and as Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey from 1977 to 1984. These experiences and passions, above all the love of New York, inform his verse.
New York Makers is proud to publish Peter C. Goldmark, Jr.’s collection, “Haiku for New York City.” With references to the Statue of Liberty and his poetry’s upstart form, it is the perfect way to celebrate America’s Revolution.
H A I K U F O R N E W Y O R K C I T Y
By Peter C. Goldmark, Jr.
Wall Street cloaked in shadows,
Bayonne Bridge arched against the red horizon.
Soft sunglints on the points of Liberty’s crown –
Sunset on the gray bay.
Four cabled bridges stand
Over the churning East River
High the Palisades, parted
From their other half in West Africa
By a river, an island, an ocean
And a million centuries.
A magic gift,
That statue of the lady
In the harbor, arm raised –
Made and sent long ago
By the French, but powerfully capturing
And telling all of us something
Central and vital about ourselves.
Remember: people came
To this brawling city
For a better life.
They fled desperation
From all over the world –
To be in New York.
Different foods, languages, cultures, faiths –
Intense shared diversity.
Like metal sleet
The harsh noises of the city
Pelt ears, head and heart.
No matter how fast you walk
In New York
Someone always strides by you.
In the park
Children’s screams and the spring sounds of new leaves
Rise on the breeze.
Our parks are the most
Democratic part of life in New York City.
Anyone can go in. Everyone comes out.
You can sleep, read, pray, play,
Dream, bike, skate, fly kites, write verse, admire flowers,
Sing, run, vegetate.
Control for the crowds,
Streets and traffic, noise and greed,
Energy and buzz,
For towers, stoops, stores, wealth, wit and waste
Encased in rectangular grids –
What do you have?
A deep elliptical rock in
In this city
Of crowds, horns, shoving, hurrying
You can be alone.
Subways grumble, sidewalks vibrate –
Just the city turning in its sleep.
You can’t rush it or chase it,
But sometimes in New York
Peace will find you.
Skiing up Fifth Avenue
On midnight snow –
Velvet moonlit magic.
A couple of million people
Squeeze themselves into steel canisters
And rumble in to high-intensity work
Every weekday morning.
Century-old hexagonal paving stones
Line the old park pathways.
Green meadows surrounded by towers
Hold trees, feed birds, and offer peace.
Rivers that oscillate without cease;
Music, drama, classic, daring.
New York City can stretch, energize,
Push, excite, teach, preach, and reveal.
New York City does not often
Gently calm you down,
Reach out and heal.
The City waits for none,
Enervates some, accelerates
So strong, so fragile, so unique –
One city, New York,
Like no other.
For nine million people?
This’ll never work.