I met Lewis in Boulder at Naropa as an undergrad during their Summer Writing Program and went on to study at Long Island University. We’d smoke cigarettes out on the balcony of the Humanities Building and talk about poetry or life or whatever for hours. He would find an American Spirit and mostly just hold it taking a puff here and there. There was a part of him that fit in any social space because he was passive, he listened.
Anyways, this one morning we’re at his storage space and it’s like a warehouse and he’s showing me all these great mint old mimeos and back titles for United Artists and Angel Hair. We grab some books and start rolling through traffic. Find a spot to park on the other side of Chinatown and jump out and we’re headed to the Boog Small, Small Press Fair. We walk in and see David, who’s worked and ran it for years, and we’re hanging out, talking, and these small press publishers and poets are walking up, introducing themselves to Lewis, kind of in awe.
We’re there for like an hour with a great audience, checking out the books, beautiful afternoon. So we’re walking out, down the street and he said something about his shirt, looking down was a pen mark and for a moment I thought he might have felt self-conscious. I glanced behind us and out the doorway were the poets and publishers we had just seen. They knew United Artists and Angel Hair and had a huge amount of love for Lewis and his work.
He was an NYC poetics personified, a figure, someone who lived it, breathed the written word and did the work for more than 50 years. He was the walking proof that poetry could endure.
GARY PARRISH, LIU Class of ’09, is the cofounder of Farfalla Press/McMillan & Parrish Books and owner of the Thin King Archive Collection, seller of Modern Street Art and Rare Books. He is a prose writer, poet, and artist living in the Pacific Northwest.