David Bjoerling Jensen

Tag: NYC

Subway Libraries

Here again, another post regarding literary enrichment while riding the rails of the New York City subway.  As the rise of electronic reading devices has begun to change the way we consume literature, three students from the Miami Ad School have come up with an ingenious idea to encourage readers to visit NYPL branch libraries to check out books.  That is, utilizing near field communication (NFC) technology, information portals are placed on certain metro cars that allow commuters to freely download the first ten pages of selected titles to their smartphone or tablet.  If further interested, the device will provide information on which nearest branch currently holds the title upon surfacing above ground.

This is a concept in the making, yet to be endorsed by the NYPL…


Poetry in Motion


So I was riding the New York City subway the other day and a certain poster caught my eye.  I read through a poem (but not the one below), simple and elegant in language and structure–as most of his are–written by Billy Collins.  The poster is part of the recently relaunched Poetry in Motion series sponsored by the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Poetry Society of America.  It got me thinking that I own a copy Sailing Alone Around the Room, a collection of selected poems by Collins, which was given to me by one of my favorite people (you know who you are!).  I thumbed through the book on this uneventful Sunday, reading a few poems here and there, and found this one, which I felt inclined to share.

“Marginalia”…taken from Sailing Alone Around the Room, by Billy Collins.

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,

skirmishes against the author

raging along the borders of every page

in tiny black script.

If I could just get my hands on you,

Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O’Brien,

they seem to say,

I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.


Other comments are more offhand, dismissive–

“Nonsense.” “Please!” “HA!!”–

that kind of thing.

I remember once looking up from my reading,

my thumb as a bookmark,

trying to imagine what the person must look like

who wrote “Don’t be a ninny”

alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.


Students are more modest

needing to leave only their splayed footprints

along the shore of the page.

One scrawls “Metaphor” next to a stanza of Eliot’s.

Another notes the presence of “Irony”

fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.


Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleechers,

hands cupped around their mouths.

“Absolutely,” they shout

to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.

“Yes.” “Bull’s-eye.” “My man!”

Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points

rain down along the sidelines.


And if you have managed to graduate from college

without ever having written “Man vs. Nature”

in a margin, perhaps now is the time to step forward.


We have all seized the white perimeter as our own

and reached for a pen only to show

we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;

we pressed a thought into the wayside,

planted an impression along the verge.


Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria

jotted along the borders of the Gospels

brief asides about the pains of copying,

a bird singing near their window,

or the sunlight that illuminated their page–

anonymous men catching a ride into the future

on a vessel more lasting than themselves.


And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,

they say, until you have read him

enwreathed with Blake’s furious scribbling.


Yet the one I think of most often,

the one that dangles from me like a locket,

was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye

I borrowed from the local library

one slow, hot summer.

I was just beginning high school then,

reading books on a davenport in my parents’ living room,

and I cannot tell you

how vastly my loneliness was deepened,

how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed

when I found on one page


a few greasy looking smears

and next to them, written in soft pencil–

by a beautiful girl, I could tell,

whom I would never meet–

“Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”

Billy Collins is the author of six collections of poetry, as well as a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York.  He was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States for 2001-2003.


It’s Like Magic!

ABRACADABRA!  As the mission statement reflects, the Conjuring Arts Research Center is a “not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of magic and its allied arts, which include psychic phenomenon, hypnosis, deceptive gambling, mentalism, ventriloquism, juggling, and sleight of hand techniques.”

Based in the heart of New York City, the center appeals to practitioners and performers of the conjuring arts, academic historians, collectors, writers, and general enthusiasts; which serves to fill the gap between private collections of magic related history and information, and the public.

Accordingly, the crown jewel of this cultural institution is its magical library, housing over 12,000 volumes on the subject–over 500 of which are early printed works predating the year 1700.  In addition to monographs, a variety of magic-related periodicals are also a part of the collection, some published as early as the 18th century.  Included among the holdings, as well, is an extensive collection of unpublished manuscripts on magic methods, some dating back to the 15th century.

Additionally, the Conjuring Arts Research Center fosters and facilitates an outreach program directed toward disadvantaged youth and adults called Hocus Pocus.  The focus of Hocus Pocus is not magic entertainment, but rather, magic education…the intended audience: patients at children’s hospitals, veteran’s hospitals, and at-risk youth.  The goal of the program is to empower participants by introducing them to fun and accessible magic effects that, with some effort, they will master and be able to share in other settings.  Among the desired outcomes aimed at by this program are relief from boredom and monotony, distraction from physical pain, emotional support, inspired curiosity, increased self-esteem, and FUN!

After all, who doesn’t like magic?!?

Brooklyn’s Ringmasters of Monochrome Woodcut Follies

Their mission at Cannonball Press is a simple recipe:

  • 1 lurking artist
  • 1 one-eyed master printer
  • 1 idea
  • 5 cups backwater goo
  • 6 spoonfuls of jumpstart and holler
  • 9 lbs. mess with your face
  • 1 bottle Tickle-My-Fancy
  • 6 smatterings of kick-ass juice
  • 1 handful of Fine Art

Preheat idea in Oven of Rock.  Make sure color is off!  Allow images to gestate and contort at will.  When mysterious, funny, or twisted, remove and slap on table.  Add all ingredients, and beat and cut until smooth and hot.  Do not add Fine Art at this point.  Add master printer, work him into a steady boil, edition.  Throw Fine Art in trash.

Sign and serve.

Reviving a centuries-old craft of artistic reproduction in printmaking–relief woodcuts–this Brooklyn-based artist collective is actively churning out visually stimulating works of art with astonishing skill, craftsmanship, and originality.  Their output is high quality, black-and-white prints such as these:


"Overheard in NYC III" by Mike Houston

"Speakers" by Mike Houston

The founders of this funky printing press were awarded a USA Ford Fellowship in 2009.  Prints are available for sale at a very reasonable price on their website.

Payphone Booths, Re-purposed

A payphone booth?  What’s that?  Who uses those anymore?

So there’s this guy, a Columbia architecture grad, going around town with some crazy idea, i.e., fostering community involvement through the love of books…and the love of sharing them.  He’s setting up renegade mini-libraries in phone booths around Manhattan.  It’s kind of like the “take a penny, leave a penny” thingies you see on convenience store counters.  The patrons:  NYC passers by.  The only problem so far is the ambiguity regarding proper usage conduct.  The founder, however, has plans to place subtle instructions for procedure, which are pretty straight forward–borrow or share.

View this article for an interview with the creator of this novel (no pun intended), urban betterment concept.

YES, he has plans for future proliferation.  And NO, the city has not officially approved of this project.