The Bronx Trilogy: three books of poetry about The Bronx
From the Banks of Brook Avenue
“Poet Rodriguez . . . brings his Bronx Trilogy to a resounding, satisfying conclusion. . . . Rodriguez makes room for a strand of social commentary that not only lends his writing weight and force, but also makes the collection a compelling read for New Yorkers and non–New Yorkers alike.”
Concrete Pastures of the Beautiful Bronx
“Concrete Pastures of the Beautiful Bronx is a sustained poetic meditation on the Bronx of Rodriguez’s childhood and youth. . . . He expresses a patience with America, ‘nation of immigrants,’ as rare as the beauty his poetry uncovers in the slums of the Bronx.”
The Shoe Shine Parlor Poems et al
“No, his poetry is not at all pretty, but it is very beautiful. I think you will find it well worth reading, even if you don’t like poetry.”
—Mary Ilario, The Bronx County Historical Society Journal
W. R. Rodriguez: A Brief Biography
W.R. Rodriguez grew up in the South Bronx. A graduate of DeWitt Clinton H.S. and Fordham University, he moved to Wisconsin, earned an M.A. in English, and began writing poetry about his experience as a bootblack in the family shoe shine parlor.
After the 1984 publication by Ghost Pony Press of the shoe shine parlor poems et al, he continued to explore his memories of The Bronx. His second book, concrete pastures of the beautiful bronx, had a couple of near misses with literary presses. In 2008 he revised the manuscript, did his own layout and design, and published it under the Zeugpress imprint.
He planned to follow up with another book to complete what he calls The Bronx Trilogy. Upon his retirement from a thirty-three year career as a high school teacher, he completed from the banks of brook avenue. The electronic version was released in the fall of 2015. After months of revision, the print edition and the updated e-book were released in early 2016.
This was followed by the e-publication of The Bronx: Three Memoirs, a compilation of three articles written for The Bronx County Historical Society Journal.
why are they not immortal
whose lives are an everyday occurrence
those lost navigators adrift upon
the fantastic sidewalks of the landlocked bronx
-- from nightmare off bruckner boulevard
“Although I left The Bronx decades ago, it has not left me. To give ironic tribute to the Romantics, I regard the streets and tenements as worthy subjects of art. I enjoy creating poetry from my memories of people, places, and events, as well as from research and imagination. I want my poems to work on the page and to have a strong voice if read aloud.”
w r rodriguez
Publication in Anthologies:
Connections: New York City Bridges in Poetry (P & Q Press, 2012)
You Are Here: New York City Streets in Poetry (P & Q Press, 2006)
Tokens: Contemporary Poetry of the Subways (P & Q Press, 2003)
A Multicultural Reader II (Perfection Learning Company, 2000)
Welcome to Your Life (Milkweed Editions, 1998)
The Party Train (New Rivers Press, 1996)
Publication in Journals:
Abraxas, Bellingham Review, Croton Review, Dusty Dog, Epoch, Negative Capability, North Coast Review, The Critic, The Spirit That Moves Us, Turnstile, Wormwood Review, Z Miscellaneous.
See Bibliography for a more complete list.
From the Banks of Brook Avenue offers a humorous, ironic, passionate, and vivid exploration of the cityscape.
Subways, bridges, streets, public schools, parking meters, sewers, buses, baseball: these are some of the subjects explored by W. R. Rodriguez who has both a sense of history and a keen perception of the ordinary.
A large threatening man tapping knees on the IRT, a bus running over a pigeon, a dog chasing a broken car which is being pushed by a man, a woman dropping a flower pot on a mugger’s head, and other strange but true events combine with tributes to the Triborough Bridge, the Third Avenue El, and George Washington.
Concrete Pastures of the Beautiful Bronx explores the beauty, wonder, and harsh reality of the urban environment. The imagery is vivid and abundant; the reader will get a sense of being there.
“My little red fire engine” combines the memory of childhood play with the observation of a tenement fire. “Democracy” tells the story of an ethnic fire cracker war on the Fourth of July. “Roosevelt’s bust” recalls Bronx history from the Depression to the Kennedy assassination. The “saint mary’s park” sequence begins with his playing in the park and ends with a nostalgic look at his mother in her youth.
His vision is unique; it transcends the stereotype many have about those who write about the inner city.
The Shoe Shine Parlor Poems et al: Second Edition has the same poems as the first edition, but it includes a preface written by the author and a bibliography.
A limited number of print copies were released to complement the completion of The Bronx Trilogy: three books of poetry about The Bronx and its environs. It is also available as an e-publication.
The Shoe Shine Parlor Poems et al: A Teacher’s Guide is designed to help teachers use The Shoe Shine Parlor Poems et al as a classroom text.
W. R. Rodriguez, who is a poet and teacher, offers an author’s introduction, a vocabulary list, and several pre-reading and post-reading questions and activities for each poem. It is only available as an e-publication.
The Shoe Shine Parlor Poems et al is W. R. Rodriguez’s first book; this is the original Ghost Pony Edition.
These narrative and lyric poems derive from the author’s youth in the South Bronx and his work as a bootblack in the family shoe shine parlor during the 1960s.
The first section, “the shoe shine parlor poems,” contains narratives and character sketches of neighborhood personalities: the man who pretended to be a policeman, the golden glove boxer beaten senseless by the police in a case of mistaken identity, the local bully receiving an ironic comeuppance, the seventh son whose luck ran out in the Vietnam War.
The second section, “et al,” is a more lyrical view of the Bronx: a tribute to a goldfish imprisoned in the heel of a woman’s shoe, Thoreau thrown off a rooftop, the old accordion player’s swan song, a celebration of the weeds which even the Bronx cannot kill.
The Bronx: Three Memoirs is a compilation of articles written for The Bronx County Historical Society Journal.
The memoirs cover a family’s life in The Bronx from 1922-2013.
In 1997, 2001, and 2017, Rodriguez received the Carl M. & Nettie M. Halpern Memorial Award “for the best reminiscence article published in The Bronx County Historical Society Journal each year.”
From the Banks of Brook Avenue was awarded First Prize: Poetry in the 2018 North Street Book Prize, a contest for self-published books that is sponsored by Winning Writers!
To read Jendi Reiter's critique:
This is the original
Ghost Pony Press
The Bronx Trilogy contains all three books of the Trilogy:
The Shoe Shine Parlor Poems et al (second edition)
Concrete Pastures of the Beautiful Bronx
From the Banks of Brook Avenue.
Original pagination and type fonts!
Black and white snapshots of the covers.
From the Banks of Brook Avenue: Annotated Edition is unique. The author shares the creative process. Each poem has a commentary that discusses the images or experiences that led to its creation. Early drafts are included, as well as comments on the revision process.
The electronic version allows the reader to jump from the poem and commentary in the main section to the early draft and revision notes in the appendix.