Below are letters from editors of past CrossBRONX publications:
From Helen Dano, Poetry Editor:
The poems selected for the premier issue of CrossBRONX are like gifts to this borough which has been often overlooked and discounted. The poets of these works have their ears pressed to the soul of this Bronx; their hearts caressing the energies, perspectives, sounds, edginess that make this Bronx unique.
Their work are as varied, rich, robust with life as is this Bronx. The borough’s melodies and rhythms rhapsodize the work of Oscar Bermeo. While he now resides in California, the Bronx that raised him, lavishly influences the urgency of “About B-Boys in the Boogie Down” and “In the City, you can’t help but think of God.”
Between the lines of the poems of Alice S. Myerson and Nancy Haiduck, the Bronx air breathes out, and its winds and hope are renewed by the salt air of the Long Island Sound that borders the borough’s eastern edge, air whipped into the heights of Haiduck’s “Looking up at the Throgs Neck Bridge” experience, nascent air in the lilting Nature dance of Myerson’s mellifluous “Orchard Beach Soundscape.”
The warm and sensual Bronx air is also cautionary in the sardonic poem by Ken McManus, “The Women of Arroyo.” One can hear in the cadence of his work the inimitable contributions of the many cultures and peoples that continually change and define, spark this Bronx.
Gia Rae Winsryg-Ulmer commemorates the contributions of those who came before her in her “New World Symphony.” She reminds us of a reverent beauty which is to be found almost everywhere we forget to look; for many of us that can be in those who came before us, their struggles, their ambitions sculpturing their magnificence.
If many of us have taken this aspect of our life for granted, we see in “Calvary,” the work of Amy Soricelli, the results of being sensitive to our world — those moments, the people and place — can have toward calling our life worthwhile.
Henry Torres‘s “Hope Turning Inside-Out” smarts from that hard-edged Bronx influence, like that gulp of whiskey before calling it a night and turning out into the cold night air. It is like a long, sharp note of reality that this Bronx delivers daily to its residents.
And finally, Jamie A. Ross provides an anthem, the quintessence to the Bronx life, with her poem “Defiance.”
This body of poetry that helps launch an exciting chapter of Bronx literature in CrossBRONX maintains the Whitman legacy of celebration of place. While Whitman sang of Brooklyn and Manhattan, the poets here give you the relatively unsung Bronx. Come, dear reader, come hear this borough’s worthiness of your consideration, amazement, and respect.
Welcome to our second issue of CrossBronx. We are pleased to present these wonderful works which showcase our theme of home.
Our first poem, “Home,” by Bernice McWilliams, gives us a true taste of the language and rhythms of the Bronx. Lovers and defenders of the Bronx will nod in time and agreement to her anthem. It’s a celebration and personification of the place we’ve come to know and love, in spite of the troubles. I can’t wait to hear her perform this piece at our event in the fall.
And, although Sima Rabinowitz’ “Sima Rabinowitz Meets Frank O’Hara for Lunch” takes place in Manhattan; a New York attitude is shared. Sima’s Second Avenue could easily be one of our wide streets or avenues, and it puts you in the mood for a kasha varnishke.
We’ve all seen and heard the subway evangelist, as well as the countless commuters who, Bible (or other spiritual writing) in hand, use the morning commute as a moment for prayer or meditation. This has often caused me to regard the subway car as a sacred place. Elisabeth von Uhl’s “Woman with Bible on Eastchester-Dyre 5 Train” shatters our notions of piety with an original view, and we want to know more.
Also startling is Carlo Baldi’s ”ADIDAS,” which combines familiar sounds, tastes, and images (such as the conga players, front stoops and fire crackers, platanos and maltas) with sexy secrets and hilarious revelations. It’s a comic and candid glimpse of “coming of age” in the Bronx.
In a similar gritty mode, Ed Mouzon’s “Ode to the Empty Lots” brings us back to the spoken word mode largely originating on our streets, and, gives us a child’s perspective of fun and survival.
Poetry ends with a photograph. Amy Soricelli’s “Returnings” brings us to a home long ago, perhaps in another country, reminding us of places where our multinational flavors originated. We can almost see the grandfather, and the little dog. The reason? It’s because we all have that same postcard, or one much like it, ourselves at home.
The prose begins with a piece about the neighborhood from my comrade, 2008/2009 Literary Arts Fellow, Sam J. Miller. The story, “Outside the Pack”, makes home feel not quite so homey.
The three short stories, “The Bronx, Here and Now” by Stacey Engels, “Waterbury Park” by Ed Friedman and “23 Blackbirds” by Jeremy Greenfield, all play, in very different ways, with the idea of leaving the Bronx and of life-changing moments.
We sincerely hope that you will enjoy this second issue of CrossBRONX. Come visit us again soon, and keep writing!
Thank you for visiting CrossBRONX. I sincerely hope your time here is one of discovery – of a new writer, a way of seeing, an image or character or line that gets under your skin, a new or different appreciation of this intensely vibrant borough.
This inaugural issue is a testament to the risk-taking, adventurous spirit of the Bronx Council on the Arts and its fearless leader Bill Aguado. As we brainstormed ideas for my public service project – a component of the BCA’s Literary Fellowship & Residency, of which I am a grateful recipient this year – I threw out the idea of starting up an online journal. Between Bill, Deputy Director Ed Friedman, and Digital Matrix Program Director Ron Kavanaugh, there was great enthusiasm and an empowering open-handedness. Go for it, they basically said. And so, along with my talented co-Fellow and co-editor Helen Dano, we did.
We intentionally did not set a theme. We wanted Bronx artists to tell us what was on their minds and in their imaginations. We also did not ask for artist bios with submissions; we did not want to be influenced by career accomplishments (or lack thereof).
I knew the Bronx was a diverse place, but what I encountered in the nearly 200 submissions we received was truly remarkable. In addition to poetry, prose, and art work representing a dazzlingly wide range of voices, experiences, forms, and subject matter, we received heartening cheers in support of the venture. We are so glad you’re doing this, people seemed to be saying, and It’s about time!
Each work presented in the “Art Gallery” section speaks for itself — striking the eye, intellect, and emotions in its own particularly arresting way. Even so, we’ve given the artists the opportunity to include extensive bios and statements, so please do spend time getting to know them and their body of work.
In the prose department, it was only after the work had been selected that I realized the implicit emerging “theme”: in each of the four prose pieces – three fiction, and one non-fiction – narrators/main characters are confronting an acute sense of cultural, and emotional, dislocation. A Mexican American woman leaves her high-powered job in L.A. and returns to her ethnic enclave neighborhood in Chicago to care for her aging and ailing mother (Luisa Beltran, “Aguantar”). A Japanese American youth growing up a minority among African American and Latino peers in the Bronx negotiates a gang brawl and an equally traumatic over-achievers’ after-school program (where the students are all White and Asian) all in a 24-hour period (Kentaro Yoshida, “Double Vision”). A sensitive adolescent boy survives his time in a hospital for “disturbed” kids, where he knows he ultimately does not belong (Bruce Tallerman, “Gold”). And a writerly White woman befriends an Amazonian tough-girl in a Mexican women’s prison, the two bonding over the most universal of experiences: love (Mary Ellen Sanger, “Concha”).
This theme of dislocation reflects pretty accurately my editorial “stamp.” As a Korean American woman who often finds myself plunked down and living, working, and playing among people who don’t look like me… I can relate. In art, in creation, we attempt to make sense and meaning of conflicting forces, to integrate the un-integratable; to, as the composer Leonard Bernstein once wrote, “make cosmos out of chaos.”
Which brings me to the name CrossBRONX. From my writing desk, I see the Triboro Bridge and Bruckner Expressway, on-ramps and off-ramps, underpasses and overpasses, rooftops, industrial plants, billboards, high-rise projects, planes taking off and landing at LaGuardia, and the Manhattan skyline. It’s chaos. CrossBRONX is dynamism and diversity – a kind of cosmos.
Enjoy, and please come again!