A Bronx Tale in Verse
“A lot of people write about New York City, but some other places are often forgotten, and I think the Bronx is one of them,” said Ariel Francisco, a graduate student and poet studying at Queens College. His new poem, “Along the East River and in the Bronx Young Men Were Singing,” portrays what he calls the borough’s vibrant “lyric texture.” It was published in The New Yorker’s March 18, 2019 issue.
“Along the East River” expounds upon the borough’s vernacular beauty. “[A]bove mothers calling those children / to come in for dinner, to come in / before it gets dark, to get your ass inside,” Francisco writes. The inspiration came from Federico García Lorca’s “Ode to Walt Whitman.” Francisco explained, “It’s actually Whitman filtered through Lorca.”
Even though Francisco was raised in Miami, he was born in the Bronx, and maintains strong familial ties to the area. “[The Bronx] has always been an incredibly important place to me, so to be able to bring some attention to it, I’m very happy about that,” he said.
After earning his M.F.A. at Florida International University, he returned to New York to get his M.A. in literary translation at Queens College, where he translates from Spanish to English. “They’re one of the few programs that offers the translation track,” he said. One of his current projects involves translating the writing of his Dominican Republic-born father Francisco Henriquez Rosa. “He’s actually a poet as well,” Francisco said. “I have a book of his put together now that I’ve been sending out.”
In 2017, Francisco published his own book of poems All My Heroes Are Broke, and the follow-up, A Sinking Ship Is Still a Ship, is due out next spring via the small Orlando-based Burrow Press. “It’s a lot of poems about how much I hate Florida in a kind of tongue-in-cheek kind of way,” he said. “Things about climate change, how it’s this weird place where it’s sinking and nobody seems to care.” He clarified, “I only hate it hyperbolically, so it was a fun book to write.”
As for landing his “dream publication” in The New Yorker, that didn’t come easily. “I’ve been sending to them since I started writing poetry,” Francisco said. A little persistence — in poetry and in life — pays off.