All Poets Welcome: The Lower East Side Poetry Scene in the 1960s

By Daniel Kane | Go to book overview

1
Community through Poetry

An “Alternative” Poetic Community on the Lower East Side

During the early to mid-1960s, before the founding of the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in 1966, a series of poetry readings based in various coffeehouses on the Lower East Side of Manhattan began to receive growing attention from the local press and the wider literary community. These readings, the most important of which began at Les Deux Mégots (on East Seventh Street) and then at Le Metro (on Second Avenue between Ninth and Tenth Streets), were not funded by any government, foundation, or corporate grants, as most long-term reading series are today. They did not charge much, if any, admission, and they were characterized by a boisterous and literary audience. Poets attending the coffee shop readings represented an increasingly established number of often ill-defined and porous poetic “schools.” In the highly social environments of Les Deux Mégots and Le Metro, many writers could be found reading, discussing their work, and collaborating, among them, Beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky; Black Mountain poets Paul Blackburn and Joel Oppenheimer; New York School poets Ron Padgett and Ted Berrigan; “Deep Image” poets Jerome Rothenberg, Robert Kelly, and George Economou; Umbra poets David Henderson and Lorenzo Thomas; as well as Kathleen Fraser, Jackson Mac Low, Diane Wakoski, and Carol Bergé.

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