Is that a poem I hear?

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Silence with a sound — Sound, most any sound, is out of place at the library, any library. You don’t hear pages turning. You don’t hear taps on computer keys. You don’t hear the sound of words or song from headphones. And the hushed tones coming from the library’s main desk mainly go unheard.

But there was a sound in the air at the East 79th Street library. A sound that those of a certain age would recognize. A casual look-see around the room told the tale and there it was — a man at a desk in front of the window at the library branch typing away on an old standard typewriter, one with keys that made the clicking sound heard ‘round the room.

Today’s keyboards are soundless — think texting, computers. Even the ancient (1961) electric Selectric, which eventually had its own correcting ribbon, was soundless, or at least as I remember it.

At the iconic machine sat poet Steven Alvarez, PhD, tapping out poems on the sound-making standard typewriter in recognition of National Poetry Month. The Poetry Society of New York is a Micro-Residency at the New York Public Library. During the year, the library provides the space and the typewriter and the poet provides the poem for library visitors, who pick the poem’s subject. From our “sound” conversation, came Steven’s poetry:


Listen to the sounds

of our neighbors

sharing joy dancing

even as snow continues to fall

See we hear one another

sense our differences and passions

but never had known

What brings us together is

geography and its accidents

and this city where

no one lives for the


and where the sounds of sirens

drown our laughter

we find we share

sounds in common

Taxation without explanation — Odd that Duane Reade, at least the one at East 87th and Third, adds tax to newspaper purchases. When called on it, nobody knew why (no doubt it was programmed into the register’s database), and the tax was not paid. But the question remains - why is Duane Reade adding tax to newspaper purchases?

Honoring Henry — During his lifetime, efforts were made to name a pool on the UES in honor of Henry J. Stern. However, that honor would not or could not be bestowed while Henry was still living. Now that he has passed, it is fitting and appropriate to name the pool in his honor. It’s the right, honorable thing to do for an exemplary public servant.

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