At the opening of an exhibition dedicated to the poet Emily Dickinson near the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Gardens, on the morning of Thursday, April 29, attendees waiting for Mayor Bloomberg to speak were audibly startled as large placards were knocked over by heavy gusts of wind.
The mayor, however, was unfazed. “It’s fitting that today is also the eighth annual “Poem in Your Pocket” day for New York City,” he said. “The fun of it, as you know, is to carry around your favorite poem in your pocket all day long, which I hope everyone is doing.” Oh, to be sure, sir …
The mayor added that Dickinson, the “Belle of Amherst,” was his “second-favorite woman from Massachusetts-after my mother, the Matriarch of Medford,” he said, shamelessly dropping his R’s. He then recited a N.Y.C.-themed poem of his own creation based on Dickinson’s “Hope Is the Thing With Feathers.”
“It could be our famous pigeon or fabled red-tailed hawk,” the mayor recited, having obviously rehearsed. “Hope is the thing with feathers that flies throughout New Yawk.” (Or is that socialite Olivia Palermo?)
Open through June 13, the exhibition includes a reconstruction of Dickinson’s 19th-century flower garden, with posters bearing lines from her botanically themed poetry placed near relevant plants.
Following the mayor, the actress Sigourney Weaver, present for no apparent reason other than that she played botanist Dr. Grace Augustine in Avatar, read her favorite Dickinson poem, “I’m Nobody, Who are You?”, in tandem with Gregory Long, the Botanical Garden’s CEO. The actress also introduced poet laureate Jean Valentine, who recited one of Dickinson’s earliest works, “Awake Ye Muses Nine”; and Lanasia McMillan, 10, of P.S. 46 in the Bronx, who read her own poem, based on Dickinson’s “The Skies Can’t Keep their Secret.” (“This just in! A thunderstorm will hit New York at 2 p.m.”)
After the ceremony, the mayor stood for a brief Q&A, during which he insisted that he would take questions only from “legitimate press people that have poems in their pockets.” He then insisted questions be given in poem form, resulting in several about wind farms, immigration and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s upcoming U.N. visit, all beginning with “roses are red, violets are blue.”
The Transom tried one in the form of a haiku.
“Sir, you love poems/ But flowers, too, we assume/ Which is your fav’rite?”
“Daisies,” said the mayor. “Because I love [philanthropist] Daisy Soros. She’s so generous and has done so many things for New York. I wish someone would call her and tell her that now.”
“Why did that occur to me right now?” continued the mayor, wondering out loud. “I wasn’t going to use poppies; I’m way too smart for that.”