. . describes the beginning of Towle’s career as a poet in New York City in his
early twenties in the early ‘60s. . . .
The mix of anxiety and humor here is seductive, and the whirring difficulties
of keeping afloat emotionally, romantically and financially lead the author to
many quite hilarious episodes . . . The beauty of this memoir is that
what we think of as history becomes incredibly alive, and the book is a tribute
to the substantial power of memory.
— Leo Edelstein, Jacket 25
A day or two later, I took the
train down to the city and went to the Cedar. It certified the culture shock.
The bar was brimming with the kind of assertive energy I didn’t see in Los
Angeles. I got a beer and made my way down the bar. There was Frank O’Hara,
with a dark-haired young man. O’Hara seemed genuinely pleased to see me and
introduced Frank Lima – who sized me up suspiciously. To make conversation, I
mentioned that I had just gotten back from California. O’Hara said how
marvelous and, naturally enough, asked me what I had been doing there. I
immediately realized that the briefest description of my trip would show what
an idiot I was to have taken off like that, so I fudged the details and changed
I mentioned that I
understood Kenneth Koch was conducting a poetry workshop at the New School and
I was going to attend. “Oh, really? Kenneth is right over here.” To my
astonishment, and before I could ask him please not to, O’Hara walked the few
feet to the bar and came back with Kenneth Koch. “This young man is going to
take your class at the New School.” My astonishment turned to chagrin. Koch
looked at me expectantly. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to compliment
him; I had spent many hours getting to know Thank You,
and it had been a
pleasure and a revelation to do so. “Oh, Mr. Koch, I love your work. It’s so .
. . so . . . I was floundering for a synonym for “sophisticated,” which wasn’t
quite right, but I knew the perfect word was there somewhere. He stood there
waiting for me to finish my sentence. Superficial
is what I heard myself saying. Koch stared at me in disbelief for a second or
two, then turned away and walked back to the bar. What had I done! I
was mortified beyond belief.
Memoir can be purchased from Faux Press
In Washington, D.C., c. 1960.
Classmates from the New York City Writer's Conference: Stuart Byron, Jim Brodey,
Kathleen Fraser, the author, and (in the foreground) Gerard Malanga at Andy Warhol's
"firehouse," July 18, 1963.