Happy Birthday Larry Fagin
The late poet Larry Fagin was born on this day in 1937, and would have turned 80. Well known in the East Village and poetry circles, sadly Larry passed away in May, 2017. He was a contributor to GVSHP’s book, Greenwich Village Stories, author of numerous books of his own, taught at The New School, was an assistant director at the Poetry Project, and founded Adventures in Poetry. His legacy lives on, as he was a teacher and editor to hundreds of poetry students spanning generations.
When I stopped into The Source Unltd earlier this week to pick up some supplies and mentioned to owners Santo and Margaret Mollica I would be writing about Fagin (a recent New Yorker article noted The Source Unltd. was the last place he shopped before he died), Santo handed me a stack of poetry chapbooks printed by the shop and written by his current and former students, some of which were dedicated to him.
The New Yorker article noted Fagin’s advice: “create simple ideas in complex relationships; use ellipses; beware of airplane poems and writing about dreams; beauty gets in the way; keep the reader off balance; kill modifiers and metaphors (unless they’re really good); strive for strangeness…write every day, but only a little bit; to “be more in the world”; to look up when we walk down the street; to avoid distraction; to never talk about real estate.” I don’t know how you can live in NYC without discussing real estate, especially if you live in a $150 per month rent stabilized East Village apartment, like Fagin did for the past 45 years.
In a 2011 NY Times article, Fagin expressed excitement about a 1975 dinner party invitation, “But when we got there, all anyone talked about was real estate…they’d all just bought lofts in what was later to be called SoHo. We left and I said to Peter, ‘Well, that’s the end of civilization.’”
Not everyone agreed with Larry or his sometimes stinging evaluations. In the Times article, he took a “blighted view of the current generation of aspiring artists, whom he likened to “pod people…They are so inundated by information, they have no way to sort all this stuff out — it’s like being perpetually electrocuted but not realizing it,”. But whether you agree, disagree, or reserve judgement, no one can deny the contributions Larry Fagin made to the field of poetry over the past 50 years.