NYU Trades Poetic Jabs with Expansion Critic

By DNAinfo Staff on April 7, 2011 4:44pm  | Updated on April 8, 2011 10:40am

A writer, who only identified himself as Woody, posted a poem in the Village outlining his anger for NYU's expansion plans.
A writer, who only identified himself as Woody, posted a poem in the Village outlining his anger for NYU's expansion plans.
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DNAinfo/Elizabeth Ladzinski

By Elizabeth Ladzinski

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

GREENWICH VILLAGE — NYU is showing a poetic flair that goes beyond its English department, using rhyming verse to respond to an unusual neighborhood attack on its expansion plan.

After a critical poem entitled "This is Our Village" sprung up on lamp posts and restaurant windows around the neighborhood this week, NYU spokesman John Beckman responded with poetry of his own. It was unclear whether the Dartmouth graduate — a classical languages major — wrote the poem himself, or if he consulted with the likes of NYU educators Sharon Olds, John Ashberry or Galway Kinnell.

"Roses are red, Violets are blue," Beckman wrote in a statement to DNAinfo. "The stuff you read on lamp posts. Shouldn't be taken as true."

The normally straight forward Beckman didn't stop there, adding:

"Forsythia are yellow, Fir trees are green,

Shouldn't people who say they love the Village

Want to keep the lamp posts clean?"

The poem he was responding to, "This is Our Village," was penned by a man who asked to be identified as "Woody."

Woody, who is 62 years old and went to Woodstock, believes that John Lennon and Bob Dylan were two of the most socially-conscious songwriters — both of which are inspirations to him.

"Both Dylan and Lennon were both folk singers in very different ways," he said.

Woody has written two other songs, one of which was inspired by a waiter he saw in a restaurant on Macdougal Street who had a master's degree but no career because of crippling debt from his college loans. However, songwriting isn't his day job, rather just a hobby.

Ninety-nine copies of the poem were posted around the Village, and Woody said he hopes people will adopt his poem and sing it to the tune of Bob Dylan's song "My Back Pages."

"I thought this protest needed a folk song, just like back in the old days," Woody said, referring to the 1960s when college students would write folk songs about political issues.

The poem begins:

"NYU is planning to,

Tear down Bleecker Street.

A copy of Woody's poem ended up on a discarded mail box on Macdougal Street.
A copy of Woody's poem ended up on a discarded mail box on Macdougal Street.
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DNAinfo/Elizabeth Ladzinski

Replace it all with faceless walls,

Nice and straight and neat."

The poet later says Village mainstays, like Cafe Reggio and Bitter End, will disappear because the university has a "master plan" to buy them and tear them down.



"The President [of NYU] will promise,

To preserve, protect, restore.

But everyone who lives here,

Has heard it all before," the poem reads.

Woody said that he hopes people will sing it at an upcoming rally to landmark the South Village on Sunday at 1 p.m. on Sullivan Street between Bleecker and West 3rd Streets.

"There should be a band with a guitar and drums, and they should just blast it through the neighborhood," Woody said.

As for Woody's reaction to Beckman's handiwork?

"That's bad poetry," he said.

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