Organs On The Outside
It was a city that had its organs on the outside. It was just like it’s the whole sense of who was here and what they were doing was immediately available. I mean literally like we’re talking about pre-internet, so if you pick up the Village Voice, and there was no way as a certain kind of person you wouldn’t pick up the Village Voice, the back page of it was covered with listings of poetry readings.1 So, it was like the culture that I wanted was just face forward.
I was talking to somebody the other day, who is kind of more — Lynne Tillman. We’re good friends, and we’ve known each other for years. And we were just talking about what it was like to come to New York in the ’70s and ’80s, and it was just like that you would meet John Ashbery, you would meet Allen Ginsberg, that these people were accessible. There was a book party and you would — I mean not everybody knew how to get to the book party, but it wasn’t hard to figure out. And there was just the kind of a level of — because now, everything is very protected by institutions and programs.
And I even remember in the ’80s, when I was directing The Poetry Project at St. Marks, I realized that the distinction with institutions was ones that you had to — I think of how I phrased it in a fundraising letter, but it was about institutions that you had to apply for versus the institutions you just came to. And it’s like public funding meant accessible cultural institutions for people, that you could just come for free to the poetry workshop on Friday night with Alice Notley or Ted Berrigan. You didn’t have to apply six months ahead of time and wonder how you get the money. So, it really made a whole different surface of an art world.