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These haikus capture what it's like to live in New York City

From riding the subway to NYC's resilience, these poems are NYC in a nutshell.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

New York City has been its own character in books, had cameos in films and has been the subject of many songs. Now, it's the focus of a new book of haikus by lifelong New Yorker, Peter C. Goldmark Jr.

Haikus for New York City is a small book of 41 poems about daily life in NYC that are illustrated by Goldmark's daughter, Sandra Goldmark. The short poems range from insightful words on the city's role as a safe harbor and home for the ambitious to the frustrating and wonderful aspects of living here:

"A magic gift,
that statue of the lady in the harbor,
arm raised,
quietly telling us something
central and vital about ourselves."

"In this city of crowds,
horns, shoving, 
you can be alone." 

Haikus for new york city
Photograph: Courtesy

The book will be released on April 6.

Goldmark, a native Brooklynite who just turned 80 in December, started writing poetry at age 40 but has been crafting haikus about New York City for the past three to four years. As a lifelong New Yorker, Goldmark is tuned into the city's idiosyncrasies and details them with wit and sometimes sauciness in his work.

"New York City is a culture and a community—it has a beating heart and it is strong and multidimensional and central in our country," he told us. "It is also a place see all generations, all races's a pressure cooker of innovation."

Haikus seem to capture the spirit of NYC, too, he said.

The haiku has exactly 17 syllables and many verses have a "pivot," or a turning point, where it changes direction or surprises the reader. Usually, it's three lines containing five, seven and five syllables, but Goldmark's poems simply deliver his message through about 17 syllables.

"They require discipline because they're short and compressed," he said. "In this compressed format, they have their own kind of excitement because they have a pivot, which captures part of the spirit of New York City in that it's always more than you think it is. These are written that way. The haiku helps bring out multiple dimensions of the city with the fact that very often it operates at several levels."

When the pandemic hit, Goldmark wanted to document how the city responded to it, from the stress we all experienced to how our essential workers became heroes. 

"Police, fire, sanitation, 
bus and subway workers,
hospital staff
—they became an essential
nervous system

after New York was born.
But the city could no longer exist
if our front line
was not here."

Goldmark, who has worked as a global strategy consultant, running foundations, newspapers, and government agencies, including the Rockefeller Foundation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, hopes his book of haikus will help other New Yorkers "rediscover and celebrate this wonderful city that we all share."

"I hope it will help them see something about the depths of human resilience and innovation that a challenge like the pandemic calls for because we're going to need that again," he said.

You can pre-order the book at A portion of the proceeds supports Citizens NYC, a non-profit that helps neighborhoods work together to meet challenges like COVID.

Haikus for new york city
Photograph: Courtesy

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