In the late 1970’s, I spent my Tuesday and Sunday evenings flinging odd collections of words around a crowded living room with the Barrow Street Poets, a twice-weekly gathering of New York City bards in the fifth-floor, Greenwich Village apartment of celebrated poet Emilie Glen.
As many as three dozen of us would fit into her one-bedroom flat to share our versions of the thematically allegorical and structurally eccentric verse that dominated American poetry in the middle of the 20th Century.
Emilie was the picture of a gracious hostess, as if a Southern belle had migrated north to trade aristocratic dinners with the Beauregard’s for lunches with the Literary Set. One of the most published poets of her time, she also provided a safe space and gracious encouragement to young newcomers on the scene.
Then in 1979, I organized an ill-fated attempt at a Neo-Pagan literary magazine called, prosaically, Pagan Press. There weren’t nearly as many professed Wiccans, Druids or Ceremonial Magicians in the Big Apple as there are today, and even fewer on Barrow Street. Funds for starving artists were as rare then as they are now. So, it never got off the ground.
Thirty-seven years later, I’m rummaging through an old box filled with even older personal papers, when I run across a small sheaf of unpublished manuscripts from the Pagan Press project. It includes two poems that Emilie had graciously submitted to me at the time, then never asked about again.
She didn’t consider herself to be a NeoPagan and knew little about that subculture, which was mostly underground at the time. So, she handed me what seemed most appropriate — verse that touched upon the mystical aspects of nature, from a decidedly urbane Manhattanite perspective.
So, here are those two poems. I’ve kept the word spacing exactly as she typed them (including the extra spaces within several lines, which are either typos or part a deliberate style) and presented them in a fixed font to imitate the look of a typewritten manuscript. I’ve also preserved her apparent misspelling of the name of the abstract artist I. Rice Pereira. As with all things Emilie, I find it charming.
mad monk moon
yellow skin stretched tight
Moon hung with skyscrapers
Soon on the moon
baying at the tourist people
Mad up there
mad monk up there
above a city between rivers
Flying a kite with my little one
Holds me to earth by a cord
While the dragon’s tail wilds up there
Chinese kite fearsome of face
We unloose the silken cord almost to forever
My flying pencil
Golden yellow pencil
I am up past the kite
Past the blue envelope of atmosphere
To a perpetual night of star suns
I Rice Pereia painter of light
Told me that whenever she left her body
For the starred dark she had trouble
Breathing her way back to earth
Guess that’s how she died
Gave me an unmounted charcoal sketch
Of her sign the gemini twins
Clod heavy arm stumps shooting sparks
When I wanted the color patterns
She translated to light
Upper windlessness lowers our Chinese dragon
To the dust of the ball field
My flying pencil returns to the page