old shul


by Pinny Bulman


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About this book

he swam way out past the shadows cast
by the steel towers of the indifferent gray bridge
shielding the traffic flowing rhythmically back and
forth, far above the little dead
lighthouse that stopped working long
ago when there was nothing left down there
that anyone still wanted to see.


Pinny Bulman’s poems chronicle his coming of age as a young religious Jewish man against the backdrop of the Dominican culture in Washington Heights – two worlds that co-exist but rarely overlap. As he moves beyond the past while holding on to it, Bulman creates the presence of people, prayers, and places long gone, in the same way “time could turn loss into patina.” Bulman’s precise language allows him to conjure up poignant moments without running the risk of becoming overtly sentimental: but in the end when things melt / what we’re left with are these carved out spaces / each with its own beauty of absence.

Advance Praise

In Pinny Bulman’s “old shul”, observance and observation entangle into a kind of personal, amused, spiritual, and at times pained, ritual of noticing and praising. Here, nostalgia gives way to a tender theology, a softly chuckling illumination from within the heart of/as a beautiful, broken sanctuary, somehow both gritty and fragile, grimy and iridescent – not unlike faith itself. 

Jake Marmer, author of Cosmic Diaspora

Pinny Bulman’s “old shul” houses his bildungsroman as he brilliantly chronicles the link between the decline of that sacred space and the emergence of his poetic voice. These memorable and deeply moving poems keep that site from “complete oblivion” as his retrospect coincides with the prospect of a past preserved through the edifice of this compelling and original volume. (…) In a section called “beyond the shul” Bulman movingly describes the wider scenes of his childhood citing the landmarks—Fort Tryon Park, the Cloisters, his family apartment—of the Washington Heights he remembers. The loss Bulman narrates creates a circle that suggests “creation lies within destruction,” “a sly ironic shift away / from end to possibilities.” In that context, Bulman documents a history that emerges visionary as only lyric poetry of the highest order can be.

Dr. Barbara Estrin, author of The American Love Lyric After Auschwitz and Hiroshima

The melancholic images in Pinny Bulman’s poems fuse together threads of place and time, revealing both whispers and thunderstorms of guilt, fear, and longing amid the backdrop of the urban streets. These cultural glimpses into the poet’s past remind the reader that trauma is another layer of skin in our epidermal narratives. Pinny calls to mind that “years later / its glass prison long shattered / in the shul’s fall / that escaped glow still catches me off-guard / stalking me like history.” The conditions of the shul and the inner self parallel one another with thoughtful treatment, disclosing the struggle between survival and impermanence. This is a collection worth your attention.

John Casquarelli, author of Lavender

About the Author

Pinny Bulman is a Bronx Council on the Arts BRIO award-winning poet. He has been winner of the Poets of NYC Contest, recipient of several ADR Poetry Awards, and a finalist for the Raynes Poetry Prize. His poems have been anthologized, including in the forthcoming The Americas Poetry Festival of New York 2022 Multilingual Anthology (artepoética press, 2022) and in Korean translation for Bridging the Waters III (Korean Expatriate Literature & Cross-Cultural Communications, 2020). Additional literary publications include San Pedro River Review, great weather for MEDIA, The London Reader, Artemis, Muddy River Poetry Review, Red Paint Hill, Jewish Currents, and Poetry Quarterly, among others.

Pinny was born and raised in Washington Heights, NYC, a neighborhood that continues to haunt his poetry. His “old shul” was the Washington Heights Congregation when it stood at 179th Street and Pinehurst Avenue, next to the entrance ramp of the George Washington Bridge. He currently lives in the Riverdale section of the Bronx with his wife and two children. When not writing poetry, Pinny works as a pediatric psychologist at a Montefiore integrated primary care clinic in the Bronx.



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