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This article is taken from PN Review 178, Volume 34 Number 2, November - December 2007.

When Poetry Was the World M.G. Stephens


The Poetry Project at Saint Mark's in the Bowery began in the autumn of 1966. A few months earlier, I had moved down the block from the church on East 10th Street near First Avenue. By the autumn I was attending workshops given by the church at the Old Courthouse building at Second Avenue and East 2nd Street. I also read my work at the Monday Night Open Readings, usually hosted by Paul Blackburn. This was rounded out by attending and listening attentively at all the Wednesday Night Readings with well-known poets such as Robert Creeley, John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch. A drop-out from a state university earlier that same year, I was now officially an American bohemian, not a beatnik - they came from another generation - but a hippie, with my long black unruly mop of hair, a black scraggly beard, and my East Village costume, which included a pair of beat-up jeans or khakis, sneakers or work boots (depending on the season), a raggedy corduroy jacket, and cheap chambray shirts I bought from the nearby Hudson's Army and Navy store at a time when such places had reasonably priced and durable clothing. I earned enough money for food and drink and what-have-you by working as a clerk in the newly opened Music Library at Lincoln Center, by day getting copies of Mozart's operas for musicians and by night roaming the Lower East Side with my newfound poetry friends.


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