No. 73 - From our poetry archives - Diana Poon - How to be a Native New Yorker.

October Sixth, 2019


Diana Poon's "How to be a Native New Yorker," appears within Issue No. 3 - Winter 2017-18. On a Saturday afternoon in March, 2018, we joined Poon at her house in Forrest Hill, Queens. An excerpt from the interview, wherein she describes growing up in Queens; followed by her poem, below.


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Isaac: So when people ask where you’re from, what do you tell them?


Diana: I always say Queens. Reppin’ Queens.


Isaac: Got it.


Diana: Right. So I’m from Flushing, well, I’m technically from this neighborhood called College Point, which is adjacent to Flushing, but no one has heard of it, so I just say Flushing. And I was born there and I grew up there. And I went to high school in the city, which was my first exposure to New York

at large. But from the ages of five through around fourteen, I was like, Queens is my world!


Isaac: So what was it like, growing up in Queens, what happened?


Diana: It was an interesting neighborhood. It was very working class. And most of the school district I was in was made up of Colombian immigrants, and there were definitely Latinos and Caucasians, and also Indians and Asians. It was just a very diverse group of people to grow up with. And I think it influenced my world view a lot, coming from a background where I was exposed to so many different cultures. But growing up in Queens, it was alright. Sometimes it was scary. I think my old neighborhood used to be a hot spot for where the Crips used to do some gang activity.


Isaac: You think that?


Diana: Actually I read it on Wikipedia. And so I thought, that explains a lot. At times it was like that, but all in all, it was pretty nice to grow up in the suburbs. I went outside and rode bikes with my friends. And did all of the things you do in suburbia. Went to 7/11, ate Koala crackers.

How to be a Native New Yorker.

Diana Poon

You don’t gotta be born here.

But you gotta respect that

You don’t gotta be born here.

At the local Hot Bagels & Bialys

(& heroes & lox & blintzes & pizza & potato

knishes), a genial Columbian cashier

calls out amid the amiable yammering

of Polish-American retirees.

Miss Nowicki! You look beautiful today!

She answers with silence

and a smile, demure and self-respecting.

The owner and manager, a grandfatherly 

Russo-Orthodox Jew with an iconic monobrow

just shakes his head and continues to wipe

the icebox stocked with yoohoos and fraps.

Don’t listen to him! yells Edna, thoroughly envious.

“He says that to everyone!” (he said it to her,

earlier). “Doesn’t matter who or where

or even if you look like a gutter rat after Sandy! 

He says we’re all beautiful!”

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