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Old 09-24-2017, 05:13 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Default Washington Square Park

JJJJJMy verse-novel “Mr. Either/Or” opens in New York City’s Washington Square. Like any good urban retreat, the real, non-fictional park instantly sets me at ease. All sorts of buskers—one-man-bands, banjo-girls, ukulele-dudes—provide free entertainment and, ubiquitous in New York City parks, the dollar-a-game speed-chess players are always earning their livelihood. Surrounded now by buildings owned by NYU, the park serves as a de facto quad where students enjoy what seems an idyllic student-life—reading, working on projects together, chatting amongst themselves. Collegial paradise.

JJJJJOn the north side of the park there is, of course, the Washington Square Arch, monumental terminus of Fifth Avenue. Modelled on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris (which was in turn modelled on the Arch of Titus in Rome), it symbolizes, to me, what my verse-novel “Mr. Either/Or” is about—bringing the tradition of Classical Epic down through the ages to the New World and twenty-first century America. The Arch also resonates for me because it is a holy site for Bohemian artists. On January 24th, 1917 the Dadaist writer Marcel Duchamp, along with a gang of other artists, accessed the top of the Arch through an internal staircase (to which the door is now kept locked). With lantern light, balloons and song, they proclaimed themselves an independent nation, “The New Republic of Bohemia.” On the same date one hundred years later, just four days after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, devotees gathered to commemorate Duchamp’s Declaration of Independence. I like to consider myself a citizen of this borderless polity of artists.

JJJJJOn the north side I also admire, from a safe distance, the legendary “Hangman’s Elm.” Over three hundred years old, it allegedly served as a many-armed gallows for traitors during the American Revolution. (Yankee Doodle Dandy.) Oh, but there are lots of trees, roughly three hundred of them: Sugar Maples and Sycamores, Birches and Basswoods—classic trees, Americana. Equally prominent, however, are the immigrants, mostly from Japan: Ginkgos and Katsuras, Zelkovas and Pagodas.

JJJJJSouth of the Arch and roughly in the middle of the park I always pause before the large fountain and round pool which tempt scofflaws both tourist and native to strip down and bathe until the cops come and bust them. I also can only admire, nearby and twenty feet tall, the Great Garibaldi. No, not a giant magician, but a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian nationalist and one of the greatest generals of the 19th century. A brisk walk then brings me to the buildings at 51-55 Washington Square South, where the celebrated Judson Hotel once provided extended-stay rooms for artists. Legend has it that the poet E. A. Robinson lodged in the Hotel’s bell-tower overlooking the park. Henry James, author of the novella “Washington Square,” also stayed there.

JJJJJMost powerful, however, is my awareness that the park now lies on what was a potter’s field. Estimates claim that as many as 20,000 impoverished bodies were interred here. The land was then turned, in the early 19th century, into a military parade ground, and history records soldiers’ tales of cannon wheels rolling over the skulls of the shallowly buried. The land became a park in 1850 and was redesigned under the aegis of the New York City Department of Parks in 1871.

JJJJJI hope that I have given some rough sense of how this little patch of ground went from graveyard of Greenwich, to base of operations for three generations of rebellious artists (Avant-Garde, Beatnik and Hippie), to the tourist attraction and college gathering place that it is today. I hope as well that my novel evokes much of all that the park means to me when it opens with “you,” the reader, the hero, shoeless, sockless, lying on the grass:

Washington Square, playground of NYU,
and you are in the grass, your shoes and socks
like sloughed snakeskin around you. Speed-chess players
at concrete tables cuss and slap their clocks
as cops with nothing nine-one-one to do
roust dormant derelicts from greenhouse layers
of coats and trash. Nearby, a Ginkgo tree,
and under it a blonde in horn-rimmed glasses
eating up The Stranger by Camus.

. . . . .

Bare-legged girls are laughing in the sun
as bearded buskers noodle on a nicked-up
cello, bouzouki, and accordion
beneath the arch that Frenchifies the quad.
Laissez les bons temps rule. You should have picked up
trombone, you should have mastered being chill. . .

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 09-24-2017 at 10:01 PM.
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Old 09-24-2017, 05:17 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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I have been asked to write out my impressions of Washington Square Park as part of the promotion of "Mr. Either/Or" (the verse-novel opens in the park). Though non-fiction, this little essay is conjunct with a work of fiction, so I felt I could post it here. Besides, this space may as well be used for something.

I have never thought of myself as an artist in prose but I hope to make something of this piece if I can.
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Old 09-25-2017, 10:44 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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Hi Aaron,
Will this be used as an intro to the book? Your characteristic wit and imagination are in prosaic full bloom here. I know Washington Square Park well but not like you. Now I can. The narrative gives me a new paradigm -- One that nicely overlays my own personal vision of the space.
I will have another read later to see if anything else pops up worthy of mentioning, but for now nothing but admiration.

I personally think, based on this small sample, you could master the essay as you've done the poem.

"Besides, this space may as well be used for something."

I had wanted (and still might) use this board to post a 1-act play. I’ve been working on it for over a year. One act. One year.
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Old 09-25-2017, 01:43 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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Yes, beautifully written!
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Ralph
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Old 09-25-2017, 02:26 PM
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Edward Zuk Edward Zuk is offline
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Whoa. This board is actually being used for something.

I think this is fine and filled with fascinating esoterica. It just needs a bit of light editing. A few things I spotted:

Paragraph 1:

All sorts of buskers—one-man-bands, banjo-girls, ukulele-dudes—provide free entertainment and, ubiquitous in New York City parks, the dollar-a-game speed-chess players are always earning their livelihood.

You use "park" in three sentences in a row.

Paragraph 2:

On the north side of the park there is, of course, the Washington Square Arch, monumental terminus of Fifth Avenue.

Same reason as above.

Paragraph 3:

Equally prominent[, however,] are the immigrants, mostly from Japan: Ginkgos and Katsuras, Zelkovas and Pagodas.

It's fine without the transition.

Paragraph 4:

South of the Arch and roughly in the middle of the park[,] I always pause before the large fountain and round pool which tempt scofflaws[,] both tourist and native[,] to strip down and bathe until the cops come and bust them. I also can only admire the nearby Great Garibaldi, twenty feet tall.

A few missed commas and straightening out the last sentence.

Paragraph 5:

The land was then turned into a military parade ground in the early 19th century, and history records soldiers’ tales of cannon wheels rolling over the skulls of the shallowly buried.

I changed the place of one modifier for clarity.
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Old 09-30-2017, 06:39 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Thank you, gentlemen.

I was pulled away for a few days, and I apologize for the delay in responding.

Thank you, Jim. I think you should post your play here. To reinvigorate this space, we should rename it the all-purpose "Prose" Board.

Ralph, thank you for your enthusiasm.

Edward, thank you digging into prose style. I accepted all of your suggestions and submitted the piece. It should be out in a few days.

Thanks again, all,

Aaron
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Old 10-16-2017, 11:39 AM
Rob Wright Rob Wright is offline
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Aaron,

Thanks for keeping things alive around here. Not for me to critique you technically, and forgive me for doing a drive-by and saying I enjoyed your piece and look forward to reading the narrative described. By the way, I applaud your suggestion of changing the title of the board to simply Prose and will make a point of running it by Alex. Once again thanks for stopping by and let me add how much I always enjoy your work.
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