Monday, August 31, 2015

Word for Word Poetry Editions with Kundiman (Week of August 31st)

We have a collection of very talented guest bloggers to cover the Word for Word Poetry series this summer. They capture a first-hand account of the poetry readings, as well as help to interpret the work of our visiting poets who present at the Bryant Park Reading Room sponsored by HSBC

Michael Broder for Word for Word Poetry, September 1, 2015
Featuring Kundiman 

On Tuesday, September 1, the Bryant Park Reading Room presented a reading in partnership with Kundiman, an organization founded in 2004 by Sarah Gambito and Joseph O. Legaspi that serves Asian-American writers. Kundiman, in turn, partnered with Cave Canem, an organization that serves African-American writers, to assemble a diverse and vibrant program. The program was introduced by Cathy Linh Che, Managing Director at Kundiman, and included Rickey Laurentiis, Wendy Xu, Brenda Shaughnessy, and Lo Kwa Mei-En.

Rickey Laurentiis
Rickey Laurentiis read from his debut collection, Boy With Thorn, selected by Terrance Hayes for the 2014 Cave Canem Poetry Price, and just out this month from the University of Pittsburgh Press. In fact, it was the first time copies of the book were available for sale, and the first time Rickey held his own book in his own hands and read from it to a public audience.

Laurentiis’s poems circle around and return to questions, ideas about the search for meaning, of words, events, experiences, the nature and meaning of race, sexual roles, sexual acts, and intimate relationships, or the barriers to intimacy between partners. Possibilities and the limits of our potential. As in the poem “Conditions for a Southern Gothic,” in which the sky “mocked” the speaker by saying, “My freedom is possible,” but the speaker concludes “If God made us in his image, it was the first failure of the imagination.”

“Vanitas with Negro Boy” is ekphrastic poem responding to an oil painting by the 17th-century Dutch painter David Bailly that depicts a black servant hovering almost ghostlike in the background and setting out the components of a still-life arrangement on a table, of which the most arresting element is a human skull. The speaker’s meditation on the painting is interrupted, as it were, by questions in the voice of the youth, all of them beginning with “And,” as if they are part of an infinite series of questions with no discernable beginning or end: “And nearest to the worn flowers, sir, or nearer to the fruit?”; And whose boy am I, and what is my name?”; “And what is my boyhood, and where is it from?”

Wendy Xu
Wendy Xu is the author of the collection You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State, 2013), winner of a 2014 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, as well as a number of chapbooks. Xu read a single long poem in several sections called “Notes for an Opening.” The first section, “TOWARDS IN/MIGRANT,” reflected on issues of existence and continuity, beginnings, middles, endings, past, present, future, the public and the personal, how they interact, how the human condition makes reality seem unreal, how consciousness distorts the so-called objective world with which we as subjective beings interact. Some of the lines (or statements) from the first section:

“Sometimes, sitting in the room of the reading, I become lost.”
“I’m trying to have an idea that lasts a lifetime.”
“Language is defeated or graciously concedes”
“I fixate on the gate through which I assume he will reappear.”
“I approach an impasse of language.”
“How can I ever repay them for the invasion of my psychic spaces?”

In the second section, “I MUST CHANGE MY FORM,” the speaker includes an excerpt from a letter her father wrote to her about the poem itself, which reads in part, “I have been thinking a lot lately about our life journey. Nothing is better than writing it out and fully express it although it is really hard to re-experience many things.”

In another section, Xu writes about “Tank Man,” the unidentified protester who stood before a column of tanks on June 5, 1989, the morning after the Chinese military had suppressed the Tiananmen Square protests. The section, a powerful exploration of history, identity, and human migration, begins:

Question: who is “Tank Man” to you?
My what if and my thank god
My before and my after, my darkest potential
You could say: my whole life unlived
You could say: the whole life of a generation, he and not them
See Tank Man:
Lovingly consumed by western media, torn apart by my would-be friends
Tank Man dancing immortal as .gif
Tank Man as where you stop reading
Tank Man has been around the world but not back
Tank Man as my dead dad, as nobody you care to know
I left in 1989 and I admit I did not look back, how could I, I was still shitting in my diaper

Xu said in an email, “I've begun to understand the poem as a catalog of betrayals, memories, recoveries, and not least of all an ongoing tribute to my immigrant parents. The ‘opening’ is an invitation, a possibility, a wound.”

Brenda Shaughnessy
Brenda Shaughnessy
read a number of poems, including “I Have a Time Machine,” which recently appeared in The New Yorker. “In This Economy” was a whimsical poem about fantastic animals and plants that seemed to oppose imagination to the harsh reality of late capitalism. “I want to take a picture of the flowers I arranged,” the speaker says in part, continuing, “Even now, the clock we need to punch out on is too far away to plug in.” From a new book coming out in the spring, Shaughnessy read “Is There Something I Should Know,” a poem about adolescence, pubescence, desire, and sexual awakening as experienced through the medium of a crush on the 1980s English rock band Duran Duran. The poem is full of secrets and school cafeteria power struggles between boys and girls. Androgyny, femininity, insinuations of sex and sexuality at summer camp, the speaker “Thinking about my erotic awaking in the bungalow by nearly any one of Duran Duran, except Andy.” Other poems Shaughnessy read included “Gay Pride Weekend, San Francisco, 1992” (“We barely touched each other, we didn’t have to speak, the love me made leapt like a cat in the space between us”), “Never Ever” (“Maybe we’re going nowhere, but wherever I go, I see us everywhere”), and “Artless” (“Artless is my heart, a stranger berry there never was, tartless”).

Lo Kwa Mei-en
Concluding the program was Lo Kwa Mei-en, who read from her debut collection, Yearling (Alice James, 2015) winner of the 2013 Kundiman Poetry Prize. The poems she read from the book included “Ariel” (“Temper, temper, more of it, leather lashed to its own prow”), “Taxi Singapore Ohio” (“We leave mainland for traffic or fish, an island for snow”), “Addiction” (“What weather, what muscular weather domesticates a woman like a key and tin sparrow?”), “Era for Abandon” (“I am no current but a bolt, this time I will exit myself”), “Pinnochia from Pleasure Island” (“Now I think of what I’d die to forget…Now you make me dress the wound I turned myself into…Now you’d like to know my real name…Now the word for intake is that for swallow, smallest of the tongues for what’s real…Now you make me dress”), “Reader, Fauna” (For so long I’ve wanted to join you up on the treble clef…I can’t blame you for not wanting to go back…bring your own empty bottles…name the creature you saw birthing through the hell cloud”), “Man O’ War” (“You’re old, you slid into the stalls like a beloved bullet…Before the god of war, you kneel in blown Kentucky blue…The grass sweats gold…before you ghosts can see right through them”), and “Yearling and Armor” (“I am here at last dressed in plain mustard and tiger…Another year, another armor, though I was told otherwise…What if my face had been a sign so I painted it…What if I knew I would pay all for entrance”).

So concluded this moving and memorable evening of poetry by a range of voices including mid career, relatively early career, and debut poets, as well as poets nurtured by two of the premier organizations supporting emerging poets of color. (Most quotes are from the bloggers own notes and not based on written backup; the blogger assumes all responsibility for any errors in quotation.)

Michael Broder

Michael Broder is the author of This Life Now (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2014), a finalist for the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. His poems have a appeared in American Poetry Review, Assaracus, BLOOM, Columbia Poetry Review, Court Green, OCHO, and other journals and anthologies. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband, the poet Jason Schneiderman, and a backyard colony of feral cats.



Reading Room Cliffs Notes: Week of August 31

Reading Room Cliffs Notes is the essential guide to what's going on in the Reading Room for the upcoming week. "Flashback" captures a highlight from last week, while "Foreshadowing" lists the upcoming week's events. Make a visit to the Bryant Park Reading Room presented by HSBC a plot point in your week!  

Flashback to Author and Historian Don H. Doyle 
Professor Doyle giving the last Non-Fiction lecture in a packed  Bryant Park Reading Room
Over 200 history buffs gathered in the Bryant Park Reading Room last week to hear Professor Don H. Doyle speak about his new Civil War book, The Cause of All Nations. This lecture closed out the  2015 Non-Fiction Word for Word series, which features stimulating talks specifically on Civil War History and much more. These talks are made possible with the New-York Historical Society and Oxford University Press.

Foreshadowing for the Week of August 31

Tuesday:
7:00pm: Word for Word Poetry welcomes Kundiman
Featuring the Poets of Kundiman:
Rickey Laurentiis, Wendy Xu, Low Kwa Mei-en, Brenda Shaughnessy

Thursday:
7pm: Word for Word Writers Write-In
Facilitated by Melissa Petro
Gotham Writers' Workshop invites you to let go of your literary anxiety and pick up a pen. You’ll get three short writing prompts, a few minutes to write, and the chance to tell your story. Gotham instructor Melissa Petro leads this exercise for your writer brain—no pressure, no angst, just freewheeling creativity.
Pre-registration required.

Produced in partnership with Gotham Writers' Workshop

Friday, August 28, 2015

Fencing Returns Friday, September 4

Fencing fans have only one week to wait for our Bryant Park Fencing classes to resume. Instructors from Manhattan Fencing Center, some of whom are Olympians and Olympic coaches, will teach you the basics of fencing, also called "physical chess."
Returning fencers will notice one change in the program: the classes take place on the south side of the Fifth Avenue Terrace, as opposed to the north side, where they were previously. The location has changed so that fencers can take advantage of the turf on the south side, which you may recognize as a holdover from the temporary NYPL Outdoor Reading Room from earlier this summer. 
En garde!
Read this post from Julia Gelman of Manhattan Fencing Center to learn more about the class.

Bryant Park Fencing Lessons
Fridays, September 4 - October 9
1:30 - 2:30pm
Fifth Avenue Terrace

Thursday, August 27, 2015

August Putting Tournament Concludes

After three competitive qualifying rounds, the August Putting Tournament concluded in a championship round this afternoon. There are no more putting tournaments scheduled for this year, but on the flip side, you have a whole year to practice your shot. Will you be ready for the August 2016 tournament? 

At the first hole, competitors faced an obstructed hole and a surprising break to the right.

This competitor makes some decisions at the fourth hole. 

These competitors enjoyed the spoils of victory: a driver and gift certificates donated by Golfsmith

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Genesis and Evolution of Kubb in Bryant Park

At Bryant Park, we pride ourselves on always pushing our park offerings to be the best they can be. From adding yoga workshops to our extraordinarily popular yoga classes, to expanding the Square Dance each year to make it even more fun, to making incremental improvements to our activity areas, we're always looking to challenge ourselves to give the best park experience possible.

Some of our inspiration for improvements and additions come from the outside world. For example, the idea for our Kubb area was conceived when our Executive Director, Dan Biederman, went on vacation with his family in Scandinavia and saw the game being played.

Kubb is not well-known outside of Scandinavia (or areas of the United States, like the Midwest, that were settled by Scandinavians). Many park guests look curiously at the intriguing lawn game, which resembles a combination of bowling, chess, and pool. We answer the question "What is Kubb, anyway?" in this blog post.

Dan Biederman took this photo, documenting the unusual new game he thought would be a great addition to the park. 
Kubb in the park started with a low-to-the-ground experiment--just because we thought it was a good idea didn't necessarily mean the public would agree! We purchased several Kubb sets and set up Kubb fields on the lawn during select times. Though many people passing by the game were not familiar with it, the rules were easy enough and the game enjoyable enough that many stayed, played, and wanted more.

Kubb's existence in the park was formalized when The Green opened in 2013, hosting a Putting Green on one side and a Kubb field on the other, The Green was Kubb's permanent home. In 2014, the first-ever Bryant Park Kubb tournament was held on the lawn, and this summer we've scheduled three tournaments to meet the growing demand for friendly competition. The final tournament of the season is on September 30; register here.

Kubb
The Green
Daily, 11am - 7pm
April - October

Monday, August 24, 2015

Word for Word Poetry Editions with Tupelo Press (Week of August 24th)

We have a collection of very talented guest bloggers to cover the Word for Word Poetry series this summer. They capture a first-hand account of the poetry readings, as well as help to interpret the work of our visiting poets who present at the Bryant Park Reading Room sponsored by HSBC

Laura Villareal for Word for Word Poetry, August 25, 2015
Featuring Tupelo Press

Carol Frost
The highly prolific poet Carol Frost began the evening with work from her newest collection, Entwined: Three Lyric Sequences. Like the title suggestions, Frost’s work over the years has been “entwined” to create her newest book. It seems that on some unconscious level Frost’s work has been speaking to each other over the years, prompting the re-sequencing of her previous work to create this new collection. The poems found in Entwined can be found scattered among her eleven previous collections, the bulk of which have come from: The queen’s desertion, Love and Scorn, and Honeycomb. It’s fascinating to read her previous books separately. Frost’s rich motifs cross from collection to collection and many of her poems call out to poems found in other books. It’s remarkable to read them finally together in Entwined where it’s clear that they truly speak to one another.

During the reading Frost explained that the third sequence of apiary poems use “the trope of bees as if the mind were a hive itself” to grapple with the topic of dementia. She read several from this sequence, the most striking and indicative of Frost’s work was: “Abandoned bee boxes piled on each other at meadow end…” This short poem reads as:

“Like clothing taken off,
the bees alighted on hat,
gloves, shirt, have flown off somewhere.
Is it so terrible to outlive the mind?
Forget this, forget that—keys, glasses,
what it was you just said, what you meant to say.
Pseudonym. Silence:
oddball or golden or grave, a dance of signs,
sorrows passing by like shadows,
time running by like a small girl running by like a madwoman.”

The piece feels effortless, but it’s clear that Frost pays careful attention to each line, especially in the lines: “Forget this, forget that—keys, glasses, / what it was you just said, what you meant to say.” She separates the tangible and intangible; parallel lines that turn the forgetting inward simply through a line break.
 

Jeffrey Harrison
Jeffrey Harrison, followed Frost’s performance with several poems from his collection Into Daylight. Harrison’s strength as a writer comes from the straightforward language he uses in his work. The simplicity of his writing allows his emotions to be accessible without being obscured by flourishing linguistic leaps. While that may sound banal, but it isn’t, it never is with Harrison’s work. His greatest trick as a poet is how he changes anecdotes into moments of poignancy and introspection on behalf of both the speaker and the audience. For example, in his poem “Encounter With John Malkovich,” he says:

“…my first thought is I want to tell my brother,
but my brother is dead. And yet I watch him furtively,
searching for some Malkovichian quirk,
some tic that might make Andy laugh,
but he isn’t giving anything away
besides his slightly awkward stoop over the racks.
Then it comes to me that if I can’t tell my brother
about John Malkovich, I can tell John Malkovich
about my brother, and my heart starts pounding.”

In the wrong hands, this narrative could have become over-sentimentalized, but Harrison’s writing has so much control that he avoids doing that. Even so, his poetry finds a way to render the audience unable to avoid feeling some amount of sympathy/empathy for the speaker.
 

Amaud Jamaul Johnson
Next to read was Amaud Jamaul Johnson who shared work from his books, Red Summer and his newest book, Darktown Follies. Johnson opened by explaining that Darktown Follies was written in response to Black Vaudeville of the early twentieth century and the challenges that those performers faced. In his book, he confronts the intersection between humor and race. As Johnson eruditely said during his reading: “Comedy exposes our cultural moment.”

Johnson’s poem, “Pigmeat,” examines the history of Dewey Markham who was an African-American comedian that performed in blackface. Markham was one of the most popular comedians of his time although many criticized and/or were offended by his use of blackface. In a self-interview prompted by Yona Harvey, Jonhson said: “I wanted to write a series of poems that would place both speaker and reader in that moment of political and emotional ambiguity.” What better figure than to write about the polarizing, Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham.
 An excerpt from the poem:

“Come: these hands, this beat, the broad

Hiccup, a smile. Here, when all the heat
Has been washed & wrung clean from the body

When the men begin to open their leather cases
& hold their monocles a little closer to my heart

& the parable of the homegrown &
The parable of the artificial Negro

Will be told.”

This poem exemplifies Johnson’s taut, sonically pleasing lines and his attention to replicating the historical figure(s) being presented within each poem.
 

Maggie Smith
 Maggie Smith opened her reading with a poem in her first book, Lamp of the Body, called “Button.” Smith joked that her books were like her children, each demanded a bit of her time so she felt it was important to read from her first books as well. A clever decision, since“Button” is the perfect introduction to Smith’s whimsical style of writing. Here Smith writes:
“Your mother says,
 Button, it’s not the end of the world.
But the weathervane says, Button,

the end is near. It says the sky’s gone
yellow with twisters. Small white stars

are invisible all day, but you hear them
chatter like teeth.”

Smith’s imagery appeals to multiple senses in new, exciting ways; particularly in the lines: “Small white stars/ are invisible all day, but you hear them/ chatter like teeth.” Who would have ever thought to describe the stars that way? Only Maggie Smith.

The fabulist mode of storytelling in “Button” is also found in The Well Speaks of its Own Poison. Latin American fairy tales, well known fairy tales, and even everyday occurrences serve as the inspiration for Smith’s new book. The Well Speaks of its Own Poison is full of imaginative tales of transformation, danger, and wonder. She also replicates the tension found in most fairy tales through a sense of impending danger in many of her poems. An example of these qualities can be found in: “Light, Lemons.”

During the reading Smith explained that “Light, Lemons” was inspired by something her three year old daughter had said, which was: “There were lights in the lemon trees so you could see the lemons, and a whistle so you could call your friends.”
In this poem Smith cleverly transforms a comment by her daughter into the first few lines of her poem and then builds a moment of tension and a backstory to compel the reader to continue reading.
Here are the first seven lines:
“There were lights in the lemon trees
so you could see the lemons.

There were lights in the lemon trees
and a whistle for calling out.

There was a girl among the lit lemons
who blew the whistle and waited

for someone, anyone, to find her.”

The Well Speaks of its Own Poison has many gems like this one that display Smith’s one-of-a-kind whimsy and imagination.

The night concluded with parting words from Paul Romero, the curator of the event. And as always with the motto of Word for Word: “Support the author. Buy the book;” a particularly tempting suggestion after such a strong performance from the poets of Tupelo Press.

Laura Villareal
Laura Villareal  is currently pursuing an MFA at Rutgers University—Newark, where she also teaches Composition. Her work has appeared in Persona Literary Magazine and is forthcoming in Dos Gatos Press’ 2016 Texas Calendar.


Reading Room Cliffs Notes: Week of August 24

Reading Room Cliffs Notes is the essential guide to what's going on in the Reading Room for the upcoming week. "Flashback" captures a highlight from last week, while "Foreshadowing" lists the upcoming week's events. Make a visit to the Bryant Park Reading Room presented by HSBC a plot point in your week!  

Flashback to Daniel Lubetzky, Founder & CEO of KIND
Catherine Clifford and Daniel Lubetzky chat about his new book Do the Kind Thing
Last week Daniel Lubetzky stopped by the Bryant Park Reading Room to talk about his new book and what inspired him to create one of America's favorite snacks, KIND bars. Unhappy with the snacking options, Lubetzky launched KIND, snack bars that consist of whole foods and no preservatives. He wanted something that was "KIND" to your body, taste buds, and world. KIND has become more than just a delicious snack, is is an entire movement to spread and celebrate kindness. The kind movement donates money to community projects each month and allows the public to vote on which project they want to fund. Join the movement here!


Foreshadowing for the Week of August 24

Monday:
12:30am: Reel Talks- Rock Music in Film 
Lively and entertaining commentary on Rock Music in Film.
With resident film expert Scott Adlerberg and Wall Street Journal Writer and Author Jim Fusilli

Tuesday:
Don DoyleThe Cause of All Nations
Produced in partnership with New-York Historical Society

Thursday:
7pm: Word for Word Writers Write-In
Facilitated by Melissa Petro
Gotham Writers' Workshop invites you to let go of your literary anxiety and pick up a pen. You’ll get three short writing prompts, a few minutes to write, and the chance to tell your story. Gotham instructor Melissa Petro leads this exercise for your writer brain—no pressure, no angst, just freewheeling creativity.

Pre-registration required.

Produced in partnership with Gotham Writers' Workshop


Friday, August 21, 2015

Behind The Scenes: The Things They Carried

Monday's film, Back to the Future, is the final installment of the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival presented by Bank of America. That means on Monday we'll witness the final running of the lawn until next summer. Here's a little mixed-media collage by a member of the Bryant Park staff. Look, they're even following our guidelines for what can be brought onto the lawn!

If only we could go back and start the summer again. Does anyone know a mad scientist with a DeLorean?
Michael J. Fox is a teen in 1985 who time travels to 1955 and gets caught up in the courtship of his then teenaged parents-to-be to save his own existence. Christopher Lloyd is the mad scientist who makes the impossible possible with a DeLorean. Directed by Robert Zemeckis with Huey Lewis' song The Power of Love Oscar-nominated. (1985) 116 min. (PG) Universal

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Scarves that are "Found But Not Lost"

Join New York City's only beginner outdoor knitting class for the final two sessions of the season. Today and next Tuesday, stop by the Upper Terrace Gravel from 1:30pm - 3pm to enjoy free needles, wool, and instruction from Knitty City.

You'll learn to knit scarves, either starting your own or continuing work started by a fellow knitter. The end product of this community knitting effort is scarves for both adults and children that will be used in our "Found But Not Lost" initiative hosted with Knitty City. Scarves will be placed around Bryant Park during the cold winter months for a person in need to take. The goal is to create at least 70 scarves by the time winter rolls around.

This tag will be affixed to completed scarves in the Found But Not Lost program.
Though it is difficult to imagine cooler temperatures now, people will be very grateful for your gift when winter inevitably returns!

Bryant Park Knits
Through August 25
Tuesdays, 1:30 - 3pm
Upper Terrace Gravel, across from BP Cafe




Monday, August 17, 2015

Reading Room Cliffs Notes: Week of August 17

Reading Room Cliffs Notes is the essential guide to what's going on in the Reading Room for the upcoming week. The "Flashback" section captures a highlight from last week, while "Foreshadowing" gives a full list of the upcoming week's events. Make a visit to the Bryant Park Reading Room presented by HSBC a plot point in your week!  

Flashback to Weather Forecaster, TV Personality and Author Al Roker
Over 100 people gathered in the Reading Room Wednesday to hear Al Roker talk about his new book. 
Al Roker made a grand entrance last week in the Bryant Park Reading Room, becoming the first author to arrive on his fold-able bike. Roker, host and weatherman of the Today Show, discussed his new book The Storm of the Century, which recounts the Great Hurricane of 1900, the worst natural disaster to hit the United States to date. If you missed Roker's talk we still have one more author left in our Word for Word series.

Foreshadowing for the Week of August 17

Monday:
12:30am: Reel Talks- Marathon Man 
Lively and entertaining commentary on Marathon Man
With resident film expert Scott Adlerberg and Author Wallace Stroby

Tuesday:
12:30pm: HSBC Sustainability
Doing the KIND Thing
Daniel Lubetzy, Do the KIND Thing: Think Boundlessly, Work Purposefully, Live Passionately

Hosted by Catherine Clifford, Senior Writer, Entrepreneur.com

7pm: Word for Word Poetry welcomes Red Hen Press
Featuring the Poets of Red Hen Press:
Mark Doty
Dean Kostos
J.D. McClatchy
Celeste Gainey

Wednesday:
12:30pm: Word for Word Author
Dr. Ruth Westheimer, The Doctor is In: Dr. Ruth on Love, Life and Joie de Vivre

America’s most loved therapist with tips on living life to its fullest, at any age.
 
The first person to say "The Doctor is in" to the Reading Room Coordinator at the event will win a free copy of the book.

7pm: Word for Word Non-Fiction presents Eric Burns, 1920: The Year That Made the Decade Roar 
Eric Burns, 1920: The Year That Made the Decade Roar
Produced in partnership with New-York Historical Society

Thursday:
7pm: Word for Word Writers Short Story 4.0
Pen your own short story at this writers workshop guaranteed to improve and perfect.
Facilitated by Miranda McLeod, MFA, NYU


Saturday:
12:00pm: Word for Word Kids
Clifford the Big Red Dog

Produced in partnership with Scholastic 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Scott Adlerberg on "Chinatown"

Resident film expert Scott Adlerberg, who hosts the Reel Talks discussions, shares his thoughts on this week's HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival presented by Bank of America screening of Chinatown (1974).

Roman Polanski’s Chinatown opened in 1974 to great reviews.  It went on to do well at the box office and got 11 Academy Award nominations.  Robert Towne’s now legendary script won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  It's a film in which Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway work at the top of their form, the production design by Richard Sylbert brings 1940’s era Los Angeles to life, and the score by Jerry Goldsmith augments the film’s mood perfectly.  Everything clicks in Chinatown, and in the 41 years since it came out, its stature has never diminished.

Polanski and producer Robert Evans had worked together on Rosemary’s Baby in 1968.  That was when Evans was head of production at Paramount.  By 1974, he was also an independent producer for Paramount, and he produced Chinatown in this capacity.  He’d approached Towne to do an adaptation of The Great Gatsby, but Towne said he had an idea for a detective story he wanted to write.  Offered $175,000 for the Gatsby script, Towne accepted $25,000 to write his own script, and came back 18 months later with a screenplay 180 pages long.

Chinatown, 1974.

Polanski came on board because he liked the script.  He did order Towne to shorten it, however, and eliminated a voiceover Towne had included.  As the film stands, everything Nicholson’s detective Jake Gittes sees and discovers the audience sees and discovers with him; it’s a first person film, with Gittes as the “I” of hardboiled fiction in the Philip Marlowe mode, except in Polanski’s expert hands the subjectivity is all rendered visually.  We get no hearkening back to an earlier time through the creation of a 40’s sounding narrator, no sense at all, as one does often with period genre stuff, that the movie is a pastiche.  Chinatown has an immediacy that’s rare in films of any genre, and this immediacy, along with its formal perfection, is one of the things that keeps the film from dating.

Another striking aspect is how Polanski uses time.  Chinatown is gripping from start to finish, but it moves at an unhurried pace.  Whether Gittes is following a man thought to be cheating on his wife, waiting to be received at a large house, or visiting a hall of records, the film never rushes.  We see Gittes walking, telling jokes, climbing fences, driving, sitting down on a stakeout to have a cigarette.
The movie proceeds with a rhythm that feels like real life, not sped up film time, yet it never for a second feels slow or unfocused.  We sink into Chinatown, pulled along by its plot and its accretion of details, and what began as an apparent divorce job for Gittes, something run of the mill, becomes a case that has vast dimensions.  Chinatown blends personal violation with public violation in a way virtually no other film does, and because Polanski creates such a rich sense of reality, the darkness at the film's core has weight.  Though the movie occupies a space in a particular tradition – noir, the hardboiled detective story, etc – you never feel that you’re watching a film about other films.  You don’t sit there spotting references and allusions and in jokes.  Chinatown is filled with cynical humor, most of it courtesy of Gittes, but it tells its complicated story straight, its characters idiosyncratic people.      We get no types. Gittes is neither a moody, tarnished knight in the Marlowe mold nor a hard drinking private eye.  Dunaway’s Evelyn Mulray initially seems like she’ll be a standard femme fatale but turns out to be something else entirely. John Huston’s Noah Cross has a certain courtliness but seeks to dominate both in the public and the personal sphere. Even the secondary characters and the throwaway ones are memorable.  The complexity of the major players, the vividness of everyone onscreen, helps make the story unpredictable, and as the film’s climax approaches, you care completely about what will happen.

Which brings me to the ending.  It’s now well known that Towne wrote a different ending than the one eventually used and that Polanski had to argue with Towne and Evans to get the ending he wanted.  Word is that Evans and Polanski stopped talking (temporarily) over this disagreement, but that Polanski went ahead anyway with getting the ending he preferred down on the page.  He did this a few days before the finale was shot, convinced that his ending would give the film a gravitas it wouldn't have with a more conventional denouement. With a conventional denouement, he argued, the movie would be “just another thriller”. Well, Evans had hired Polanski specifically because the producer wanted a European vision of the United States.  “Europeans see America differently,” was his thought.  Do they? Maybe, yes maybe they do, and it’s safe to say that even though he expressed resistance to Polanski’s vision, Evans got what he was seeking.  Polanski delivered on the darkness and the cynicism in spades.  He also, along with Towne and the actors and the crew, delivered on the beauty. The result was a masterpiece and also, by the way, the greatest private eye film ever made.

HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival
Mondays, through August 24
Lawn opens at 5pm
Films start 30 minutes after sunset
#BPFilmFest

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Browse Art Created at the Art Cart This Summer

By now, you know that the Bryant Park Art Cart is a highlight of the Fifth Avenue Terrace, in front of the New York Public Library. Open from 11am - 7pm daily through November, this area gives the public access to professional-quality drawing materials (sourced from Materials for the Arts), all for free! In addition, the Art Cart offers classes in Structured Play (with instructors from Artist and Craftsmen Supply) and Drawing Lessons for those who would like to deepen their understanding of creative expression.

Below are some of our favorite pieces created this summer at the Art Cart. Which is your favorite? Tell us in the comments section below.

"NYC, Number 1 in my heart" by Michael Aurelie

"Woman with the patchwork face" by Katie Pfeiffer

"WHAT?" by Ellery King

"Buttefly" by Nelly Grinage 
Bryant Park Art Cart
Daily, 11am - 7pm
through November
Fifth Avenue Terrace 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

MOMS at August 21 Emerging Music Festival

Dan Fishman from our Events Department sits down with Josh Hirshfeld from Miracles of Modern Science, one of five bands slated to perform in the park on August 21 as part of the Emerging Music Festival

Dan Fishman: Thanks for talking with me today, Josh. How would you describe the sound of Miracles of Modern Science [MOMS] to folks who haven’t heard it?

Josh Hirshfeld: When we started out we called ourselves “orchestral space pop” -- at that point, we were wearing space suits on stage. Then it became “orchestral rock” – which fit better but didn’t quite give the whole picture. Nowadays we just say “chamber pop." In terms of just describing what we'd do, I would say we are trying to make pop music in unexpected ways with an unusual batch of instruments: violin, cello, double-bass, mandolin, drums as well as vocals. Hopefully it’s something that’s catchy and complex, something you could dance to but also listen to closely to pick apart the counterpoint and structural things going on.

When we first got together as a band we were just excited to hear the sounds we could get with this combination of instruments. There are some creative limitations to using classical instruments to make rock music, but it also opens up possibilities. On a violin or a cello there are no frets – it just opens up a whole new world of sounds that you can’t get on guitar or keyboard. We end up writing different sorts of songs than we might write with more traditional instruments.

DF: I definitely hear that in your music. I remember reading an old SPIN Magazine issue that said your band was composed of self-acclaimed “orchestra drop-outs and jazz band rejects.” Can you tell me a bit more about that and about the group’s background?

JH: Well, [laughs] that line is from a slightly older bio of ours that maybe undercuts the skill level I think our players have. I think what that old quote is getting at is that in the orchestras and jazz groups our members played in back in college, there was a certain rigidity. We weren't getting everything that we wanted creatively. Our various members have a lot of traditional training -- Kieran played in orchestras from a young age, for example -- but we formed the band to have the freedom to be able to go a bit crazy with our instruments and songwriting. We're always trying to challenge each other to think beyond what's traditional.

The band goes by the acronym MOMS.
DF: I remember reading somewhere that Miracles of Modern Science played a concert with Beirut while you were all still in school and I know that you’ve been to SXSW. Do you have a favorite concert you’ve played or a favorite venue?

JH: Oh man. In terms of just venues in New York: Subculture, Le Poisson Rouge, and Mercury Lounge are at the top of our list. They really seem to care about the bands that come through and make sure they sound good. In terms of specific shows, the first year we played at SXSW we played before Thomas Dolby – the musician who wrote “She Blinded Me With Science” – and that was very cool. He was one of our early inspirations for the band (take a look at our name), and it was an honor to play before him, and have a chance to chat with him backstage. Another amazing experience was opening for Bernhoft, a Norwegian pop singer/one man looping band, for a whole tour: that was just a highlight for our band in general. We got a chance to play the Bowery Ballroom and a bunch of venues that we’d dreamed of playing for a long time, and every night we got to see Bernhoft do his unbelievable looping work.

DF: Here’s one last question: I think of this festival as a little celebration of the greatness of NYC’s music culture. What is your favorite part about being in New York as a musician?

JH: For me it’s just really exciting to have this community of bands all trying to make it together. I’m sure in smaller cities there are still really great music scenes with great bands, but it’s so concentrated here – so many exciting musicians. It’s a great place to be inspired and to challenge ourselves to be better.

Emerging Music Festival
Friday, August 21
5pm - 10pm
The Lawn

Monday, August 10, 2015

Reading Room Cliffs Notes: Week of August 10

Reading Room Cliffs Notes is the essential guide to what's going on in the Reading Room for the upcoming week. The "Flashback" section captures a highlight from last week, while "Foreshadowing" gives a full list of the upcoming week's events. Make a visit to the Bryant Park Reading Room presented by HSBC a plot point in your week!  

Flashback to Bryant Park Spelling Bee
Contestants compete in the Bryant Park Spelling Bee hosted by comedians Olivia Petzy and Kevin Doyle. 
Last week the Bryant Park Reading Room hosted the first edition adult Spelling Bee. Twenty-three contestants relived their middle school glory days and competed for a chance to win an Amazon Kindle, an Oxford University Press Dictionary and the coveted title of Bryant Park Spelling Bee Champion. If you missed the last week's bee their is still T-I-M-E to register for this week's!

 
Foreshadowing for the Week of August 10

Monday:
12:30am: Reel Talks- Chinatown
Lively and entertaining commentary on Chinatown with resident film expert Scott Adlerberg and Author Wallace Stroby.

Tuesday:
10:30am: StoryTime
Cali Co Cat with tails, meowsic, and arts & crafts to boot!

12:30pm: Word for Word BookClub
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
Facilitated by Robert Repino, Morte

Stop by and pick up a free advanced copy of your book club choice while supply lasts.

Produced in partnership with New Oxford University Press, Inc.

7:00pm: Word for Word Poetry welcomes Whiting Foundation
Featuring the Poets of Whiting Foundation:
Anthony Carelli
Aracelis Girmay
Jenny Johnson
Roger Reeves

Wednesday:
12:30pm: Word for Word Author
Al Roker, The Storm of the Century: Tragedy, Heroism, Survival and the Epic True Story of America's Deadliest Natural Disaster

Beloved NBC weatherman brings the story of the Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900 to life.
 
The first person to say "Storm of the Century" to the Reading Room Coordinator at the event will win a free copy of the book.

7:00pm: Word for Word Non-Fiction presents Jonathan Horn, The Man Who Would Not Be Washington
Jonathan HornThe Man That Would Not Be Washington
Produced in partnership with New-York Historical Society

Thursday:
7pm: Word for Word Writers Short Story 3.0
Pen your own short story at this writers workshop guaranteed to improve and perfect.
Pre-registration required.
Facilitated by Miranda McLeod, MFA, NYU

Friday:
6:30pm: Word for Word Spelling Bee
Co-Hosted by Olivia Petzy & Kevin Doyle.

You must register to compete.

Produced in partnership with Oxford University Press

Saturday:
12:00pm: Word for Word Kids
Funkytown Playground with Aly Sunshine

Friday, August 7, 2015

Behind the Scenes: Pre-Movie Activities

It's no secret that the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival presented by Bank of America can be a bit of a marathon. The lawn opens at 5pm, but the film doesn't start until 30 minutes after sunset. Of course there's the Hester Street Fair and 5 new food kiosks, plus a free raffle and popcorn giveaway courtesy of Bank of America, but that still leaves 2 or 3 hours to kill. With Desk Set on the horizon, we scoped out the best ways we've seen to pass the time, and assembled them below.

Chess has long been a welcome activity in Bryant Park, and you don't have to bring your own board or pieces--we have our own Chess Tables open 11am-7pm daily. To bring a board onto your blanket, though, it has to be your own. The gentlemen below show us how it's done.


For those seeking a more physically active past-time, look no further than the eastern gravel area between the lawn and the Upper Terrace. Here you'll find two Cornhole sets, provided free for public use by Bank of America. The youngsters below took turns tossing the bean bag. The fellow in red was particularly talented.


The Film Fest is, like any NYC outing, a chance look your best. The ladies below were braiding each other's hair, ensuring that they all ended up with the perfect movie-going 'do.


Sometimes you've just got to do your taxes. It's no use putting them off, especially when the park boasts free WiFi and outlets. You, too can move one step closer towards fiscal perfection by doing your taxes in our park, especially since all our events and programs are wallet-friendly in the first place.The woman below was filing her returns as the sun began to set.


Card games are always a good option, as they're cheap, portable, versatile and entertaining. The shiny gold ones below managed to stand out in the crowd.


Finally, this gentleman spent his pre-movie hours playing Skip Bo. What is Skip Bo, you may ask? It seems very complicated, but according to that big smile below, it may just be worth the effort.


Know what's definitely worth the effort? Waiting for the movie to begin. With three great films left, you're in for a treat--as long as you can be patient for the sun to sink. We'll see you Monday for Desk Set.
Screen legends Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy do office politics and romance better than just about anyone. He's an efficiency expert who wants to update her TV research department by installing a room-sized computer. She vows to fight any attempt to replace her brain with a mechanical one. Based on a Broadway comedy, this is the eighth of their nine movie pairings. (1957) 103 min. (NR) Fox
Mondays, June 16 through August 18
Lawn opens at 5pm
Films start 30 minutes after sunset
#BPFilmFest

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Three Tips for Walking Meditation in the City

To celebrate the start or return of many Bryant Park summer programs, we asked our partners to write guest blog posts. This post comes from Qalvy Grainzvolt of the Shinnyo Center for Meditation and Well-Being, our partner for Wednesday morning's Walking Meditation.   

Walking and meditating, at the same time, is one of life’s original “multi-tasks.” The relationship between mind and body can be a peculiar one in that where our mind wanders and where our feet step can, at times, be very different places. Often we are thinking about something that happened in the past, or preparing ourselves by forecasting the future. The result being that we are not fully present to experience where we are at the present moment.

But with a little new attention and awareness, walking in the city can become a safe and rejuvenating kind of meditation that can enrich your daily life.

Below are a few tips on how to take some first steps in a walking meditation:

1. Check-in with your surroundings - put down the smart phone. Begin by simply observing where you are and what is going on around you.  Meditation has a lot to do with relationship. Taking the time to survey our surroundings, we begin to see how we relate to ourselves as well as the environment we are in at any given moment. Meditation does not encourage escape but rather a more profound way to relate and engage with the world around us.

Walking Meditators take a walk around the Lawn.

2. Cultivate a baseline of calm amidst the chaos - take a minute or more to simply be still and be aware. Try gently closing the eyes (if you are in a safe environment to do so) and have a relationship with the sounds around you for a few minutes. If there is any one overpowering sound (a car horn, a screeching bus), see if you can focus on a sound that is quieter or more distant. For example, the sound of a bird twittering overhead may be fainter than the sound of the garbage truck zooming by, but relating our full attention to the bird’s tweet can allow us to have a new relationship with the same environment. We are not escaping the sound of the truck (or anything else) but discovering calm amidst the chaos. This is one way to cultivate the baseline with which we begin walking meditation.

3. Take a walk - we tend to spend much of our lives in a destination-driven manner. With walking meditation, try to spend more time on the quality of the journey rather than focusing on the destination or predicting.

Final Tips: Feel the ground with each step. Breathe moderately-deep (unless there is a bus with fumes nearby!). Experience simply being present while walking. If the mind wanders, let the physical sensation of your breathing guide it back to the present. Be positive when your mind wanders and view this as an opportunity to see what undercurrent is flowing within and pulling at your attention. With greater awareness comes greater ability to cultivate a response, rather than surrender to a reaction in daily life. In a world of multi-tasking, being fully aware and present is a great step towards making the most of each and any given moment.

Enjoy the walk!  

Walking Meditation
with the Shinnyo Center for Meditation and Well-Being
June 3 - September 30
Wednesdays, 8:30am - 9am
Upper Terrace Gravel, across from the Bryant Park Cafe

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Dog Days Bring Back Putting Championships

We recently hosted the first of three Putting Clinics led by pros from the PGA. Now you can put your newly honed technique to use at our August Putting Championship.

Join us over your lunch hour for one of three qualifying rounds (on August 6, 13, or 20). Winners of the qualifiers advance to the Championship on August 27, where they will compete to win a driver and gift certificates donated by Golfsmith.

Competition gets fierce at the Championship Round last summer.
If you don't win (or want to tune up your technique before the Championship round), the next PGA Clinic is on August 17.

August Putting Championship
Qualifying rounds: August 6, 13, 20
Championships round: August 27
12:30 - 1:30pm
The Green 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Deepen Your Practice with Brand New BP Yoga Workshops

Our yoga series with Athleta, Yoga Journal, and Flavorpill is having its best season yet with broken attendance records on both Tuesday and Thursday sessions. In case the idea of Om-ing with 1200 fellow yogis isn't exciting enough, the series has added a series of 15-minute workshops following class to help you deepen your practice even more.

On Tuesday, August 4, join Kristen Kemp in a Plank Challenge to work those abs after class.

During the week of August 10, Alexandria Crow teaches Anatomy in Action: 15 Minute Crow.
Why can't I fly?  It's not just that your abdomen isn't strong enough, there are other reasons.  Learn what else may be limiting you from taking flight by flipping the pose on its back and taking your body weight out of the equation.

The next week, Sianna Sherman leads Goddess Inspired Mantra on Tuesday, August 18. Stay tuned for the exact date.
This Master teacher will offer a mantra, mudra and asana sequence inspired by one of her favorite goddesses. Be there to experience the divine. Learn a powerful practice to help you face your fears in life, release negative energy and call in the courage of your Authentic Self.


Imagine deepening your practice with hundreds of yogis.
Superstar teacher Dan Nevins teaches Healing Power of Yoga on Thursday, August 20.
Staff Sergeant Dan Nevins, a veteran who served in Iraq and now devotes his life to teaching ‪yoga‬ and helping other veterans find their mats. “Yoga has really changed my life. It has made me realize not only can a guy with no legs do whatever he wants, but he can inspire other people to do what they want with their life and, in the process, change the world.” Read more about Dan in this NY Post article

Kristen Kemp teaches Super Standing Balance (Ardha Extravaganza) on Tuesday, September 8.

Join Tiffany Cruikshank on Thursday, September 24, as she teaches a workshop, topic to be determined.

Stay tuned as more workshops are announced!

Bryant Park Yoga
May 19 - September 24
Tuesdays, 10am - 11am
Upper Terrace
Thursdays, 6pm - 7pm
The Lawn
#bpyoga

Workshops, on select dates, immediately follow class.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Word for Word Poetry Editions with Cave Canem (Week of August 3rd)

We have a collection of very talented guest bloggers to cover the Word for Word Poetry series this summer. They capture a first-hand account of the poetry readings, as well as help to interpret the work of our visiting poets who present at the Bryant Park Reading Room sponsored by HSBC

Michael Broder for Word for Word Poetry, August 4, 2015
Featuring Cave Canem

On Tuesday, August 4, the Bryant Park Reading Room presented a reading in partnership with Cave Canem, an organization founded in 1996 by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady to support the creative and professional growth of African American poets. Cave Canem is perhaps best known for its fellowship program. Each year, some 20 poets 15-25 Cave Canem Fellows attend the annual Cave Canem Retreat at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Most Caven Canem Fellows attend three such retreats in total, after which they become Graduate Fellows.

Reading this evening were Angel Nafis, JP Howard, and Brian Gilmore.

Angel Nafis 
Angel Nafis hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan and now lives in Brooklyn. A Cave Canem Fellow, her first book, BlackGirl Mansion, was published by Red Beard Press/New School Poetics in 2012. Her poems have appeared in a number of literary journals, and she has represented the LouderArts Poetry Project in both the Women of the World Poetry Slam and the National Poetry Slam. Nafis is an Urban World NYC Mentor and the founder, curator, and host of the Greenlight Bookstore Poetry Salon in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Much of Nafis’s work ponders questions of life, love, pain, and death. She read “Ode to Voicemail,” a new poem written this summer at the Cave Canem retreat. Voicemail is a mixed bag. It pulls us out of our daily life with messages from debt collectors and diagnostic laboratories. On the other hand, it also brings you the voice of your father. “Even the messages I don’t want tell me who I am,” the speaker says.

The poem “Open,” from her book BlackGirl Mansion, is in the voice of Celie from The Color Purple.
I tell her ‘bout my cramps,
how it hurt so much I think
there should be ash where
my womanhood be.

Nafis’s poem “Legend” wonders what it will be like to experience the death of her beloved father. “I curse and lift up every clock,” the speaker says, dreading the time when her father is gone. “Black Girl Plays the Dozens with Dr. Seuss” is a meditation on how young black women perceive themselves, and are perceived by others, for better and worse, and on the existential tension between black girls and the white world they grow up in, or against, or outside of.
JP Howard

JP Howard, a native New Yorker, is a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow. Her first book of poems, SAY/MIRROR, was published by The Operating System Press in 2015. She curates the Women Writers in Bloom Salon Series, a supportive forum for women writers. Howard is a Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA)/Voices Writers Workshop alumna, as well as a Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging LGBT Voices Fellow, among other honors and awards.

Howard’s debut collection places history in conversation with memory and juxtaposes vintage photographs of her mother, Ruth King (a prominent African-American runway model in 1940s and 1950s Harlem) with snapshots from the poet’s childhood. The book thus explores the social and cultural meanings of motherhood and daughterhood, girlhood and womanhood, and meditates on questions of beauty, beauty standards, and black feminine beauty in a predominantly white society and culture.

Other poems focused on the plight of young black men struggling to survive in the white dominant authoritarian culture that surrounds them. The poem “Chant” invokes the bodies and spirits of young black men who have died in officer involved shootings as well as a celebration of young black men who survive the culture of authoritarian violence and surveillance that targets them. “Remember their names, repeat their names, repeat after me,” the speaker intones.
Likewise, the poem “We Beautiful Black Boys” takes inspiration from the classic “We Be Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks, exploring the trials and tribulations imposed on young black men by the white majority surveillance state—being endless, disproportionately, and irrationally carded, stopped, frisked, etc., by police and other authorities.

Brian Gilmore
Brian Gilmore, poet, writer, public interest attorney, and columnist with the Progressive Media Project, teaches at Michigan State University College of Law. His latest poetry collection is We Didn’t Know Any Gangsters (Cherry Castle, 2014). Previous books include Elvis Presley Is Alive and Well and Living in Harlem (Third World Press, 1983), and Jungle Nights and Soda Fountain Rage: Poem for Duke Ellington (Karibu Books, 1999). His many honors and awards include fellowships from Cave Canem, Kimbilio, and the D.C. Commission on Arts and Humanities. Gilmore’s poems and other writing have appeared in numerous publications including The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, Newsday, and many others.

Gilmore read his poem “billy bathgate (for chico),” inspired by the award-winning E.L. Doctorow novel about a fifteen-year-old Irish-American boy who becomes the protégé of mobster Dutch Schultz. The poem is the source of the book’s title, as the speaker recounts:

we couldn’t juggle balls
didn’t know any gangsters,

all we had was ice cold michelob
and red juicy melon
holy like water.

The poem paints a haunting picture of misbegotten American male youth, with all of its innocence, possibilities, promises, struggles, and disappointments. What will become of that innocence and promise when they are challenged by the harsh realities of adult life, the poem seems to ask.

Gilmore returns again and again to this harsh urban landscape and the toll it takes on young manhood, particularly among young men of color. In poems like “King of New York” (“He was shot in the chest in the middle of the day, close range”); “2001: A Space Odyssey” (“I want to go away to college, I tell my parents”); “Jaws” (“As we cruise through the campus, their isn’t a black face in sight”); and “’Round Midnight” (“My mother and father have been gone for hours”) and others, we return again and again to versions of the poet himself, born into straightened circumstances, eager to break out, yearning to be more than what the dominant culture expects him to be, wants him to be, will allow him to be: yearning to fulfill his true potential.

Michael Broder

Michael Broder is the author of This Life Now (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2014), a finalist for the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. His poems have a appeared in American Poetry Review, Assaracus, BLOOM, Columbia Poetry Review, Court Green, OCHO, and other journals and anthologies. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband, the poet Jason Schneiderman, and a backyard colony of feral cats.