She represents a long tradition of artists inspired by hidden urban streams. Here in New York City, there are two streams that appear in poetry which I would like to share, along with a few recent examples.
The all-but-invisible Minetta Brook was flowing in the city’s public consciousness nearly as soon as it was buried. In 1907, humorist Arthur Guiterman submitted the history of the stream in prose to the New York Times, titled Minetta Water:
A former stream used in colonial times for washing laundry, the watery past of Maiden Lane in the Financial District was committed to prose in 1906 by Louise Morgan Sill in her poetry collection titled, In Sun and Shade:
The Bronx River has its admirer in Joseph Rodman Drake, who mentions it in the first paragraph of his 1817 poem titled “Bronx.”
In the most forlorn corner of Brooklyn, where the Belt Parkway crosses into Queens above Spring Creek, where the mafia used to dump the bodies of its victims, used to be a mill dating back to 1730. Decades earlier, Howard P. Bullis wrote a visually descriptive poem to the mill and the creek, which he would not recognize today.
Jim Lampos penned a lengthy ode to the pre-gentrified Gowanus Canal in 1988. In 2011, Julian T. Brolaski authored a book of poems about the canal, which included mention of a whale who washed up on its shore and died despite an outpouring of sympathy from locals.
Nevertheless, the reigning queen of forgotten streams in poetry remains Greenwich Village’s Minetta Creek, based on having its name in the publication Minetta Review, published quarterly by students of New York University, whose campus sits atop the buried stream bed of this creek.
If you have a poem or song about a forgotten New York City waterway, let me know about it.