Coney Island, the New York neighborhood famous for its beaches, boardwalks, resorts, and amusement parks, has been a fixture of our national cultural imagination for a century. Once known as “America’s Playground,” Coney Island has hosted, during its long history, world-famous circus performers, magicians, and sideshow freaks, among so many other fantastical attractions. Images of Coney Island have appeared on magazine covers, inspired painters and film directors, and influenced the worldwide development of modern entertainment. It is a cultural, social and economic melting pot, and has been a hotspot for technological innovation. However, notorious for its “flexible morals,” it has also acted as a breeding ground for corruption, such as prostitution and gambling.
The stunning new book, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008, edited by Robin Jaffee Frank (who also curated the exhibition of the same title currently on view at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, which the book accompanies), chronicles the history of this colorful venue through its periods of debauchery, depression, and revitalization. Capturing “the voice, the smell, the color of Coney Island,” this lavishly illustrated volume includes rare prints and drawings, movie stills, photographs, carousel animals, and architectural artifacts.
We think that if Coney Island, with its bawdy humor and spirit of play, were a poem, it would be a limerick. Here’s one we dreamed up aspirationally, as we sit here in New Haven in the middle of the umpteenth snowstorm of the winter:
It’s a Saturday, sizzling and sunny;
To the subway! We’ll need token money.
All the rides are exciting
The mermaids most inviting
On the Island that’s named after bunnies.
For a chance to win a copy of Coney Island, submit a limerick inspired by Coney Island – we’ll send the first two respondents a book, and post the poems here on the blog. Email your poetry to firstname.lastname@example.org*.