When I enrolled for his ’97 workshop, Marcella Durand told me with a smile that Lewis truly connects with his students.
Lewis lets us know we’re all pillars the importance of being part of the architecture.
He questions every letter in my name—questions every word line stanza every aspect of the critique the thinking necessary before the thought of writing of listening of engaging.
The first workshop assignment is to list items in our medicine cabinet—which surprisingly makes sense since we’re all part of the architecture.
We take turns pulling out our medicine cabinets—with no punctuation Miss B Phyllis Dennis Peter Merry Lydia Lilla Noam Ruth Michele Donna George then it’s my turn.
I pull out my Let’s Jam! hair gel which the Duane Reade cashier reminds me breathlessly is for black people. I pull out Bermuda bay rum and steel drums and my father’s voice splashing on aftershave.
I pull the balms the tinctures the splints the tongues—the tapes the tan braces and tangled bandages—the insoles the metatarsal supports the heel cups.
Half the group is mad at me. Strangers defend my body’s way of yelling at me that my legs can’t run any further the consensus shaking their heads at Western medicine.
We pause to breathe. Peter looks down at the page and says—“This is a poem.”
With a graceful waving of his hand as if describing the moment, Lewis says—“This is a poem.”
After class I ask Miss B if we’d just been inside a poem?_______________________________________
In all its configurations, Ten Pell writing group lasted six years. Poets such as Bill Kushner, Karin Randolph, Valerie Fox, Susan Mills, and others filtered into the group.
Phyllis Wat started her own press, Straw Gate Books, which Jim Feast called “tiny but noble.”
Lewis downplayed any notoriety, he said he’s just publishing his friends. Lewis and I became neighbors. He mentored to the very end.
He gave medical advice on my stomach issues—insisted on my getting back into creating art—he suggested what adhesives (Lineco) to use for cut-ups—I’m currently collaborating on a punk Calder-like mobile with text excerpts from my book Early Exits that Lewis published in 2018.
What a thrill of opening up that first box of Early Exits with Lewis and Katt—the anarchy of anticipation—the joy.
How many books do you think Lewis brought into the world? I sense I’ll always be in the present tense of Lewis.
(http://www.greetingsreadings.org/Greetings_Readings/KB_Nemcosky.html) is the author of three books of poems: Drift (Ten Pell Books), dear friend (Straw Gate Books), and Early Exits (United Artists).