ABOUT THE BOOK

THE McSORLEY POEMS is not just a collection of poems about the oldest bar in New York City. As the book’s subtitle suggests (Voices From New York City’s Oldest Pub), the book is a triptych of poems, divided into three sections. The voices of artifacts are heard in the first section, IF WALLS COULD SPEAK. Americans and immigrants are heard from in the book’s second section, aptly titled UNSORTED REGULARS, MISFITS, LIARS, HEROES & PSYCHOS. And in the final section, McSORLEY PHANTASMA, the voices of McSorley family members, long deceased, are given ghostly presence in their individual tales.


The first section of the book, IF WALLS COULD SPEAK, allows the artifacts, the things in McSorley’s, to speak. They voice the essence of their respective meaning, some in haiku, others in longer free verse poems. Whether it’s McKinley’s Funeral, Lindbergh’s life, Waterloo, Andersonville Prison Shackles, Houdini’s Handcuffs, or the famous photo of Babe Ruth’s Farewell, the poems bring life to the artifacts. The reader is transported into an artistic and historical realm, an imaginative universe based in the reality of McSorley’s Old Ale House.

The second section, UNSORTED REGULARS, MISFITS, LIARS, HEROES & PSYCHOS, is a platform for voices long gone, yet curiously alive, for such characters can be heard in every ginmill across America. McSorley’s is unique because it has survived amidst the ebb and flow of constant change in New York City. I have tried to give creative voice to the kinds of denizens that have inhabited pubs throughout our history. While not always in the mainstream, they certainly are recognizable, whether they be WWII and Vietnam veterans, alcoholics, cops, artists, laborers, lunatics, cabdrivers, even famous psychologists.

The final section is called McSORLEY PHANTASMA, and the McSorley family ghosts speak for themselves, telling their family history as imagined by the poet. As in most families, love and courage, hope and illusion, tragedy and despair, all are part of the tangled mix that makes family life so real and fascinating.

THE McSORLEY POEMS is a celebration of the bar itself: its physical presence which envelops the new patron immediately; the varied, motley clientele, which makes you realize you’re in one of the most public and democratic places in America; and finally, that ethereal sense of Time, past and present, that only a very old place can offer.

THE McSORLEY POEMS captures the voices and realities that make McSorley’s not just a local, but a national experience.