The City That Never Sleeps

Poems of New York

Edited by Shawkat M. Toorawa
Foreword by Anne Pierson Wiese

Subjects: Poetry, New York/regional
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Hardcover : 9781438456157, 185 pages, April 2015

Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Anne Pierson Wise
Shawkat M. Toorawa
New York
Valzhyna Mort
Awaking in New York
Maya Angelou
Dawn in New York
Claude McKay
New York at Sunrise
Anna Hempstead Branch
Manhattan Dawn (1945)
Donald Justice
From “A Grave for New York”
Adonis (‘Ali Ahmad Sa‘id)
New York (Office and Denunciation)
Federico García Lorca
The morning
James Schuyler
Early Morning in July
Charles Simic
Sunday Morning
Kenneth McClane

West Side Story
Sasha Skenderija
Stephanie Krueger
Sonnet XXXVI
Ted Berrigan
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
Paul Simon
The Lower East Side of Manhattan
Victor Hernández Cruz
From “The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World”
Galway Kinnell

From “As Fate Would Have It”
Mahmoud Darwish
A Step Away from Them
Frank O’Hara
Why I Hate New York
Meredith Shepard
August Walk
Luis Cabalquinto
Made in India, Immigrant Song #3
Purvi Shah
Nicanor Parra
“at the ferocious phenomenon”
e. e. cummings

I Had This Dream/the city of shadows
Shokry Eldaly
David Semanki
Central Park
Robert Lowell
From “Peacocks on Broadway”
Durs Grünbein
Summer Solstice, New York City
Sharon Olds
The Mexican Cabdriver’s Poem for His Wife, Who Has Left Him
Martín Espada

The New Yorkers
Nikki Giovanni
MacDougal Street
Edna St. Vincent Millay
From “Mugging”
Allen Ginsberg
From “New York”
John Hollander
February Evening in New York
Denise Levertov
Body Elite
Anne Pierson Wiese
Tomas Tranströmer
Wiseguy Type
Herman Spector
Latin Music in New York
Jessica Hagedorn
Carl Sandburg
A Rhyme about an Electrical Advertising Sign
Vachel Lindsay
September 1, 1939
W. H. Auden
To Brooklyn Bridge
Hart Crane
123rd Street Rap
Willie Perdomo
When I Heard at the Close at the Close of Day
Walt Whitman
Evening on Fifth Avenue
Anna Margolin
Street Lamps in Early Spring
Gwendolyn Bennett
From “New York American Spell, 2001”
Tom Sleigh
Autobiography: New York
Melanie Rehak
Fay Chiang
Season of Death
Edwin Rolfe
From the Woolworth Tower
Sara Teasdale

From “Twenty-One Love Poems”
Adrienne Rich
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Derek Walcott

Arriving in the City
Franz Wright
City Lyrics
Nathaniel Parker Willis
Maria’s Journey
Alberto O. Cappas
New York at Night
Amy Lowell

From “Desolation Row”
Bob Dylan
To New York
Léopold Sédar Senghor
Juke Box Love Song
Langston Hughes
These Ever Just So Six Million New York Hearts and Dorothy
Robert Clairmont
Further Reading
Biographical Details
Chronology of Poems
Index of First Lines
Index of Titles
Index of Poets

An eclectic collection of poems about New York City.


"New York, the city that never sleeps, contains more light than all the myriad heavens conceived of by its denizens of every possible race, religion, culture, color, and creed combined. All poets are besotted with light: it is the most transformative of all phenomena and we are permanently drunk on it—moon mad, sun blind, star struck." — from the Foreword by Anne Pierson Wiese

As Shawkat M. Toorawa writes in his preface, "Not every poet loves New York, but each and every one is mesmerized by it." Indeed, with its protean mix of cultures, languages, natives, transplants, and exiles, New York City seems to exert a special hold over the poetic imagination. The sixty-one poems, extracts of poems, and song lyrics collected here reflect a wide range of responses to New York, both positive and negative, insider and outsider. Arranged in four sections—Morning, Day, Evening, and Night—the collection not only gives the reader the opportunity to experience twenty-four hours in New York through poetry, but also puts poems and poets in conversation, debate, and even occasionally in conflict with one another.

Rather than attempting to be exhaustive or definitive, this volume juxtaposes well-known poets and lyricists such as Maya Angelou, Bob Dylan, Denise Levertov, and Walt Whitman with important and emerging voices such as Valzhyna Mort, Purvi Shah, and Melanie Rehak, as well as poets less frequently included in such anthologies, such as Mahmoud Darwish, Anna Margolin, and Nicanor Parra. The result is a collection of poems that vary in their aesthetics, tone, mood, and subject, and thereby reflect the vexed and manifold nature of their subject—New York, the city that never sleeps.

Shawkat M. Toorawa is Associate Professor of Arabic Literature at Cornell University. He has written, edited, and translated many books, including the collection of Adonis's poetry A Time Between Ashes and Roses: Poems.


"Shawkat Toorawa has selected a thrilling chorus of voices, familiar and new, formal and slangy, immigrant and native. A perfect companion for your day or night on the town." — Robyn Creswell, poetry editor of The Paris Review

"A strength of this collection is its rich mix of female and male poets, and its wide range of demographic, racial, linguistic, aesthetic, and other multicultural perspectives across a period of time ranging from the late nineteenth century to our own decade. The poems are as various and full of élan as the city itself." — Lisa Russ Spaar, editor of All That Mighty Heart: London Poems

"There are almost as many anthologies of New York poems as there are skyscrapers, but in terms of sheer reading pleasure The City That Never Sleeps towers over them all." — Don Share, Editor, Poetry magazine