The art of literature can be used as a medium to beautifully illustrate places and spaces. The pleasure of texts is able to describe the settings and ambiance of a place, allowing its readers to feel the atmosphere of the time and space the writer portrayed.
Here are beautiful poems written about cities of the world and some events that occurred in a specific time and place.
I. New York
New York Poem by Terrance Hayes
In New York from a rooftop in Chinatown one can see the sci-fi bridges and aisles of buildings where there are more miles of shortcuts and alternative takes than there are Miles Davis alternative takes. There is a white girl who looks hi-
jacked with feeling in her glittering jacket
and her boots that look made of dinosaur skin and R is saying to her I love you
again and again. On a Chinatown rooftop
in New York anything can happen.
Someone says “abattoir” is such a pretty word for “slaughterhouse.” Someone says mermaids are just fish ladies. I am so
fucking vain I cannot believe anyone
is threatened by me. In New York
not everyone is forgiven. Dear New York, dear girl with a bar code tattooed
on the side of your face, and everyone
writing poems about and inside and outside the subways, dear people underground
in New York, on the sci-fi bridges and aisles of New York, on the rooftops of Chinatown where Miles Davis is pumping in,
and someone is telling me about contranyms, how “cleave” and “cleave” are the same word looking in opposite directions. I now know “bolt” is to lock and “bolt” is to run away. That’s how I think of New York. Someone jonesing for Grace Jones at the party,
and someone jonesing for grace.
Jakarta January By Sarah Kay
After Hanif Abdurraqib & Frank O’Hara
It is the last class of the day and I am teaching a classroom of sixth graders about poetry and across town a man has walked into a Starbucks and blown himself up while some other men throw grenades in the street and shoot into the crowd of civilians and I am 27 years old which means I am the only person in this room who was alive when this happened in New York City and I was in eighth grade and sitting in my classroom for the first class of the day and I made a joke about how mad everyone was going to be at the pilot who messed up and later added, how stupid do you have to be for it to happen twice? And the sixth graders are practicing listing sensory details and somebody calls out blue skies as a sight they love and nobody in this classroom knows what has happened yet and they do not know that the school is in lockdown which is a word we did not have when I was in sixth grade and the whole class is laughing because a boy has called out dog poop as a smell he does not like and what is a boy if not a glowing thing learning what he can get away with and I was once a girl in a classroom on the lucky side of town who did not know what had happened yet and electrical fire is a smell I did not know I did not like until my neighborhood smelled that way for weeks and blue skies is a sight I have never trusted again and poetry is what I reached for in the days when the ash would not stop falling and there is a sixth grade girl in this classroom whose father is in that Starbucks and she does not know what has happened yet and what is a girl if not a pulsing thing learning what the world will take from her and what if I am still a girl sitting in my classroom on the lucky side of town making a careless joke looking at the teacher for some kind of answer and what if I am also the teacher without any answers looking back at myself and what is an adult if not a terrified thing desperate to protect something you cannot save? And how lucky do you have to be for it to miss you twice? And tomorrow a sixth grade girl will come to class while her father has the shrapnel pulled from his body and maybe she will reach for poetry and the sky outside the classroom is so terribly blue and the students are quiet and looking at me and waiting for a grown-up or a poem or an answer or a bell to ring and the bell rings and they float up from their seats like tiny ghosts and are gone.
A LOVE POEM TO TOKYO by Cindy Medina
I dreamed Tomorrow yesterday or rather – yesteryear
The years rolled on sadly and increasingly drear; Then by chance discover it’s realized in Tokyo
In glass and steel magnificence everywhere you go;
Its skyscrapers and highrises noble upon plain
All so neatly networked by traffic and train;
Relaxing muted colors: Silver, gray and green
Umber, bleached bone, copper by Visionaries seen.
Watching others’ videos, the years melt away
I’m twenty again – oh hot damn! Tomorrow is today.
In Paris With You by James Fenton
Don’t talk to me of love. I’ve had an earful
And I get tearful when I’ve downed a drink or two. I’m one of your talking wounded.I
‘m a hostage. I’m maroonded.
But I’m in Paris with you.
Yes I’m angry at the way I’ve been bamboozled And resentful at the mess I’ve been through.
I admit I’m on the rebound
And I don’t care where are we bound.
I’m in Paris with you.
Do you mind if we do not go to the Louvre If we say sod off to sodding Notre Dame, If we skip the Champs Elysées
And remain here in this sleazy
Old hotel room
Doing this and that To what and whom Learning who you are, Learning what I am.
Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris, The little bit of Paris in our view.
There’s that crack across the ceiling
And the hotel walls are peeling
And I’m in Paris with you.
Venice by Arthur Symons
Water and marble and that silentness Which is not broken by a wheel or hoof; A city like a water-lily, less
Seen than reflected, palace wall and roof, In the unfruitful waters motionless, Without one living grass’s green reproof; A city without joy or weariness, Itself beholding, from itself aloof.