A little more than two years after releasing Hamptons, his last book of poetry with publisher Thane & Prose, Lucas Hunt is back with New York, a collection of 79 lexical snapshots of the city as described by an evolving author, from gobsmacked visitor to integrated cog in the urban machine.
Now available for preorder, New York marks Hunt’s third effort with Thane & Prose, which signed him for an unusually generous five-book deal. It was preceded by Iowa and Hamptons in 2019 and 2020, respectively, and will eventually be followed by Paris and Rome. Throughout the autobiographical series, Hunt chronicles his experiences in satisfying lyrical vignettes with adroit language and rhythm.
Early in the book, Hunt’s poem “Empire State” speaks of New York’s power to inspire as he commands his reader to, “Sing the spring chorus of muses” in a place of activity and energy, a city where “flowering avenues support a pageantry of small feet, wings fly, immerse windows in light and let fervent rain water budding parks” as “fingers of grass massage nude backs and bed the lovers” — one can almost smell the season.
Later, in “Solitude,” a more jaded voice emerges, breaking a single, painfully desolate sentence into four poignant lines, speaking volumes with just 20 well-crafted words:
I miss the elegance
of joy and hurt to be human
in public spaces,
then go to a party alone.
Hunt points out that writing New York (much of which was created concurrently with Hamptons and Iowa) began with his introduction to the city, seeing it as a Middle American expat from Grant Wood, Iowa who was making “weekend warrior” trips from the Hamptons before he eventually moved to the outer boroughs with grand ideas and meager funds.
“I started off in Brooklyn and, you’ll see it in the book, staying at a friend’s apartment on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, like kind of dirty and dark. Then I moved to Long Island City for a few years, and now I’m in FiDi (the Financial District) in downtown Manhattan,” Hunt says, describing his trajectory in the big city. He started as a literary agent with almost nothing and has since built Hunt, his eponymous company hosting auctions for 100–125 fundraising galas each year.
“I wanted to capture some of the initial amazement or wonderment that I experienced when I first came to New York in the year 2000,” he explains. “So there were first impressions that I’ve been developing over time, certain timeless elements of the city that I wanted to keep in there — the laundromats, the people on the street, the dog walkers, guys playing five-gallon buckets as drums, homeless people, and the cabs and cars and all that.” But, Hunt adds, “Then there was the introduction of an element of harsh reality. No longer could the city stand as just a romantic setting for my art to flower. Suddenly it became an all-too-real obstacle course with sheer magnitudes and hard architecture and chaotic crowds, so over time actually living here, I think I was able to dig into the material foundations of life in New York and try to further develop some of those at-first romantic ideas that come out of visiting the city. …
“Human nature became more of a character (in New York) than nature in the Hamptons. And that’s ever changing and malleable, and confusing and intoxicating,” Hunt says. “I think the perspective there is really starting at the bottom, which I did. We moved into the city from the Hamptons with just a little bit of savings and I tried to make my way.”
Hunt’s story should feel familiar to anyone who’s made a similar pilgrimage to the Big Apple, but it also aligns well with what many young, creative people experience as they age and romance gives way to responsibilities, often compounding with each passing year. Thankfully for his wellbeing, and his readers’ enjoyment, Hunt remains steadfast in his literary pursuits.
He intends to take some time promoting New York heavily before tackling the next two books in his series. “I have two manuscripts that I’ve been working on about Paris and Rome for probably about 12 years, but they’re only like a third of the way done,” Hunt says. “I have to live them to complete them.”
To do that, the poet hopes to sell 2,500 copies of New York and use the royalties to spend a couple of months writing in Paris and Rome. But all that comes later. “I’m putting everything into New York,” Hunt says, explaining that he plans to sell the book at outdoor markets in the city and do some events in the Hamptons and North Fork over the summer. “I want everybody who comes to New York to buy it.”