The Brooklyn Rail

MARCH 2021

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MARCH 2021 Issue
Poetry A Tribute to Lewis Warsh


For Lewis Warsh

And so ended the question
Whatever it might be
Current events politics war genocide

And so began the talk
The exploration
The searching
The beginning

Of two marvelous hours
On Saturday afternoons bimonthly
In a marvelous place
Be’s place -- no Be’s Salon -- on Park Ave So.

Be’s gone too now -- a magical woman with a magical place -- since last summer

Large windows with glass beads from top to bottom
That crystallized into notes if the windows were cracked open
If we brushed up against them accidentally, Yes?

Two hours of almost magic because I don’t believe in magic
But I learned so much in those hours learned to love the poetry

My fellow poets... those we studied... those l studied with...

We were 8, 10, usually, Yes? Or more?...
Be, Ruth, Lilla, Phyllis, Michelle, Donna, KB, Dennis? Valerie, Karin,
Joe, Peter? Billy? Merry? Noam... Whom am I leaving out?

Do you consider yourself an intellectual, Yes?

No I thought
I come from the working class
Though I’d hardly done any work
To be part of the class that duly works

Not like my father toiling in cane fields
In cafeteria fields on Delancey washing pots pans
Short order cooking for Jewish delis
Or Mami working in the dixie cup factory making dixie cups

But I wasn’t an intellectual… how
Could I be if I’d not come from the class of the intellects
You have to come from a class, Yes? And stick to it, No?

Lewis that day went around the Be’s salon and asked each
One, Yes, Are you an intellectual, Yes… or No?... and why so, Yes?

Lewis went around the group always so expertly, so interested in whatever
We had, we gave, we had to say... he always called us poets

What we said could say might say was important to say to hear…
There were 8 of us… Yes?

We’d met at the
Poetry Project workshop and at the end of the 10 sessions, Phyllis Wat came
Around and asked if any of us had any interest in studying with

Lewis Warsh privately… we’d meet at Be Laroe’s apartment on Park Ave So.
And so a group out of the Poetry Project group was formed and so we met

At Be’s and we paid Lewis 3 dollars apiece...Yes? After a while, did it go up
To 5, 8 even… Yes?

So little for so much
So much kindness
So much love
So much learning

Lewis never asked for a raise… it was one of us who seriously
Knowing how little we paid how much he, Lewis, gave made a suggestion

And so l found out, Yes? after weeks, months, years, yes, I was an intellectual
And Yes, I was I am a poet...

I dedicated my second book, Whose Place,
To Mami y Papi, who started it all...

And to Lewis Warsh



Lydia Cortés

Lydia Cortés, poet, is the author of the collections of poetry, Lust For Lust and Whose Place; she has also been published in many anthologies and literary journals.


The Brooklyn Rail

MARCH 2021

All Issues