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One of the early books from our press in New York City was D.H. Melhem's wonderful Notes on 94th Street, a powerful portrait of the vibrant but gritty Upper West Side of Manhattan by a long-time resident and community activist. D.H. was then embarking on her brilliant academic and creative writing career, which has included poetry, novels, and plays. Notes on 94th Street was published by The Poet's Press in 1972, and the sequel volume, Children of the House Afire/ More Notes on 94th Street, was published by Dovetail Press in 1979. We are thrilled that Syracuse University Press has issued this 184-page paperback edition combining both volumes into one, titled New York Poems.

D.H. writes about the two decades portrayed in her book: "[E]ach year and decade has shaken with its own turbulence. The 1970s ... were not halcyon days for the City. ...[W]e resided in a White, middle-class enclave on the Upper West Side, surrounded by poor Puerto Rican, Black and White neighbors. Some of them were crowded into SROs (Single Room Occupancy, city-supported hotels). We also lived with whores, pimps and crazies who were being dumped out of overcrowded mental institutions into the streets, along with angry, sometimes neglected children who occasionally preyed on others for money." The poems from Notes on 94th Street include unforgettable character portraits from the troubled years when urban renewal, gentrification, and racial and ethnic tensions played out over a rapidly-changing urban landscape. So why did New York not go the way of Detroit and Los Angeles and many other cities where black and white, rich and poor wound up in segregated, warring enclaves? Perhaps it is because people like D.H. watched, listened, and responded to their neighbors, including rather than excluding, and resisting the faceless forces that would have pushed aside a diverse population to make room only for the wealthy. They did not succeed in this, for the Upper West Side remains as diverse as ever. As the author notes, "While these poems witness another era, they celebrate the dynamics of urban change, the raucous vitality of this great City." She dedicates her book to "The City of New York, embattled, gallant, enduring."

This edition is published by Syracuse University Press. ISBN: 978-0815608134. CLICK HERE to order from Amazon.

To read a sampler of poems by D.H. Melhem, CLICK HERE.



Version 24. Updated February 24, 2024

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