Gary Shulman’s poems about a Canarsie past have often graced the pages of this publication, evoking a sweet and moving nostalgia in those who experienced it as he did, in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and now his work has been published as a collection, a book of poetry titled, Reflections from a Soul in the Winter of Life, available for purchase at poetryislifepublishing.com/reflectionfromasoul.
Brooklyn born and raised, Gary and his family moved from East New York to Canarsie in 1955, where they lived on East 104th Street, on Avenue L and later on East 95th Street. He attended P.S. 115, 272, 279, I.S. 211 and Canarsie High School and what really made growing up here in the neighborhood so special for him was the way everyone cared about one another. He has said that he “felt a sense of community was in every fiber of every neighbor,” a theme so central to his poetry that it is clearly palpable to the reader. Perhaps growing up in such an environment played a role in Gary becoming, in many ways, the very embodiment of that same kindness and caring that he so poignantly captures in his poems.
After all, Gary Shulman devoted his entire career, spanning some 50 years, to the service of others, by helping children with special needs and disabilities (and their families) in various capacities, but first as a teacher at the Breukelen Houses Head Start program where he discovered his passion for advocacy. It was there he recognized the “importance of inclusion and children learning compassion and kindness when working with kids that were different than they were.”
From there, Gary went on to become the Special Needs Coordinator at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum where he spent over a decade providing programming and outreach. Later, he served as the Program Director of Social Services and Training Coordinator for Resources for Children with Special Needs, Inc. where he dedicated more than 24 years, connecting families to the agencies and programs that would best support their children’s needs, before finally becoming a private consultant, conducting workshops and events.
It was only after retiring to Palm Springs and becoming sequestered at home when COVID-19 hit that Gary was able to fully embrace another interest – creative writing, which he has always enjoyed. Through poetry, Gary was able to capture the very essence of old Canarsie, taking readers on a very pleasant trip down memory lane, sharing happy times at places that still exist like the Canarsie Pier and Seaview Park (Canarsie Park) and others that are long gone like Grabstein’s Deli and the Canarsie Movie Theater on Avenue L. Without revealing too much, Gary Shulman’s first book is a pleasure to be enjoyed, and with his second in the works, there is likely to be something for every reader to relish in.
Although Gary lives in Arlington, Virginia now, it’s quite clear that there will always be a special place in his heart for Canarsie.