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Reviewed by Bernadette Acocella for Readers' Favorite
Poet Leslie-Anne Brill divides her collection "New York Dreaming: Poems of the City, the Suburbs, and Daily Life" into five sections: the city, the suburbs, from the editorial desk, love, and life. This division could represent stages of human development that one would expect a poet to pass through, starting with celebrations of youthful independence in New York and ending with several meditations on death. The progression of this book is very natural and though each section has its own shining moments, by far my favorite section was the one on New York. A former New Yorker myself, there was a lot I could relate to in this section. "Bronx Bummers," about the recently built Yankee stadium, was insightful and clever, and certainly echoed the way I felt when I first saw the construction from the subway platform. When the poet says, "You can't walk ghosts/ across a street, not even for a better seat" I both laughed to myself and nodded in agreement for the way that Brill indicts corporate greed for discounting the Yankees' history. "Ten Years Later" is the obligatory September 11 poem, and is divided into two long, vertical stanzas meant to visually represent the Twin Towers.
All in all, Brill writes beautiful poems that are easy to appreciate and relate to. The internal rhymes in the poems create a musical effect, and Brill uses many diverse forms throughout the book. In the poem "Clock in Grand Central" the stream-of-consciousness snapshots that Brill provides ("shoe shine newsstand violet candy/ bit o' honey good & plenty") work well in a poem about one of New York City's busiest locations, but this same technique does not translate when she writes about the suburbs, perhaps because the suburbs are notoriously quiet and peaceful compared to the city. Among the editorial poetry, "Thin Envelope," a modern take on a standard rejection letter, stands out as the best. "Snow Day," from the book's life section, is another gem, and urges adults to "bow to the weather" and enjoy snow again. However, some of the poems in the love and life section have been done before by countless other poets, so they should have a freshness which they lack. On the whole these sections seem much more limited than the poems in the city section.