The Old Beat Poet hugged the coffee bar as if he was a captain steadying the wheel of a rickety tugboat. A cigarette was dangling from his lips was that it should have been a corncob pipe.
“Whaddya think of the kid up there, doing his rewrite of HOWL?” He asked. “Ah, they all do it eventually, the kids, they all do a rewrite of HOWL. Trouble is, they saturate it with four-letter words. Come to think of it, I've always had a kind of spiritual warfare with Allen because his work is riddled with obscene language....he seems to be getting away from that now...seems almost----gentrified....in the finer sense of the word, I mean. He knows he's getting up there in years...doesn't want his legacy to be a bunch of four-letter words, you know?”
He took a long drag off his cigarette--”so, what do you like, kid? You like Bukowski? You look like a Bukowski guy...I've worked with him...he's good, but don't be fooled—he really doesn't live like he writes, he isn't always drunk, he doesn't spend all his time at the track...how about Eliot? You like Eliot? Yeah, good ole T.S....”
He went on and on. He had an illustrious resume behind him... poems, mostly, but also short stories, essays, critical pieces—he'd appeared in every damn journal with the word REVIEW tacked onto the end of it, a feat which has eluded me to this day.
“Y'know, kid, that magazine that you do...I don't know that I would ever put any of my work into it. It's too....angry. Everything you run is so angry...I guess when you get to be my age you get to see all sides of things.
“Yeah, I followed Kerouac after I got out of college....saw him read on Steve Allen and everything.
“Good reading tonight...lots of kids with talent. Yeah...when you get to be my age you really don't get excited about readings anymore....
“So, how'd you ever get Lyn Lifshin to submit to your magazine? Whose arm did you twist? I did a workshop with her back in, I think, '86 or so...and that other one...whatsername? Girl from Ohio. Redhead. Nice girl....does a poetry journal. Met her at a book fair once. Nice girl. How did you ever get her to submit to this rag?
“You're awfully angry, kid...you ought to check out Alexander Pope. There was a poet who had it all---irony, outrage, satire...and all in rhymed couplets...
“Ever read any Adrienne Rich? Yeah, I worked with her....worked with Sylvia, too---you like Sylvia? Yeah, poor Sylvia---her trouble was she never got over her father's death....”
He didn't say much after that. He sort of disturbed me...I don't know why.