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Saturday, September 27, 2014

For Myself and Strangers

“The crowd snakes and weaves
Like the Great Wall of China
On a cab ride
Out on a Saturday
Sunny with arms and chins
All moving at eye level and they all
Have a Somewhere as they go.”
--Ruby Tabeata, "Sunny Saturday" from The Beat on Ruby's Street

Greenwich Village, 1958

YOU’RE telling me there are no ladies writing poetry that come anywhere near the level of Allen Ginsberg? You’re asking for ONE, just one poet who’s a woman who comes near?

One. Denise Levertov. Here and Now.

the roses in the gypsy's window in a blue 
vase, look real, as unreal
as real roses.

Two: Elise Cowan and yeah, she’s Allen G’s girlfriend kinda sorta, or was, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t write her own poems and a lot of people are reading them.

Someone I could kiss
Has left his, her
             A memory
            Heavy as winter breathing
            in the snow

1.       Diane di Prima, This Kind of Bird Flies Backward, published THIS year, 1958.

There’s also Joyce Johnson who pals around with Jack Kerouac and other women I see reading their work in the park or at Les and Bo’s parties.

And what about Edna St. Vincent Millay whose house is right here in the neighborhood? And then all those long-ago poets like Sappho and Emily D and George E and hey, I almost forgot. Gertrude Stein.

I think she’s my pretty-much favorite because of what she said in The Making of Americans. “I write for myself and strangers.”

Which is exactly right because who ho else would you possibly write for? Like she said, your friends and neighbors don’t want to know how much they’re like themselves (and everyone else.) But strangers, you can trust to read you… without worrying about who you are and what you might be saying about them.

Sometimes reading her makes me think Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso and all the Beat poet guys must have read her too, because it’s like they’re little mirrors of what she’s saying. And if they haven’t read her, they should.

So now I told you not one, but a lot more. And those cats, those poet cats on the streets of the Village here, they’d agree with me. The ladies are writing for themselves and strangers. Writing here.

--Ruby T.

Illustration: Scott Rolfs