If you remember this sign,
or one like
it, from 1975-1985, or if you remember seeing or hearing Poez perform
at a cafe, club, or concert hall, on television or radio, in New York,
Paris, London, San Francisco, or Boston, we would like to hear from
you. We are looking for recollections people have of Poez
or 30 years ago, for possible publication on this website, or inclusion
in his one-man show, POET BAZOOKAED ON W. 4TH
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Weird. I never rally knew or thought about Paul
Mills since I encountered him in the late 70's when I visited NYC from
Kent State University in Ohio. My first time. I'd never imagined that
some guy would just recite poetry like that. It was like he should be
on TV or something, but there he was, completely accessible in the
middle of Washington Square, in a PARK! Then, I, too, with some
friends I don't even remember anymore though I remember Paul (Bad
Friend, I guess)sawheard him at Kenny's C's as well as Weisers tiny
awesome bookstore (is Weisers even there anymore, couldn't be....????).
Now I live here in nyc and sometimes when WSqP is near me, I miss that
performer and wonder what might've happened, probably a lawyer or
something. How cool that he's made a career with such creative talent
in a very toughly-competitive world of creatives! Rock On Paul!!
Patricia Gregory, New York City
I remember you and your poetry menu well from thirty or more years
ago. When the subject of poetry comes up in conversation today, I
often still talk about you and how you were able to infuse new meanings
into well-known poems through your unique delivery of them. My
recollection is that my wife and I used to partake of your poetry on
the upper west side of Manhattan (perhaps Columbus Avenue in the 70's)
rather than the village. I've been trying to recall some of the
poems I asked you to recite back then. My wife came up with
Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and I came up with Yeats's
The Second Coming as possibilities, but we're really not sure.
I've also been thinking of what poems I'd ask you to recite now if
given the opportunity. Perhaps something by Jane Kenyon such as
"Otherwise" or John Betjeman's "A Subaltern's Love-song." Here's
a poem that I think you won't know, but which I like very much and
would love to hear you do. It's by someone named Joseph Harris:
is for the quiet, uncelebrated
things of this world---
the road to no familiar place,
love's skill on a troubled night,
the unpublished poem and lost song,
the way of the wild drake,
and night's festival of sound;
for body's silent defeat of disease,
and mysteries that hold their secrets.
For multitudes of creatures and created
things clothed in the graceful sanctity
of their rightful natures."
I have wondered for all these years what had happened to you.
Your sudden disappearance from the scene saddened me then so I'm
delighted that you and your poetry have resurfaced.
-- Roger E. Bermas
He was such a treasure. Did you ever hear him recite "The
his own poem "Spontaneous Combustion"?
Another one of his that I remember
fondly was titled "Don't
tell her you love her."
Thank you for helping
to bring up the resonance on some
I’m not a poet. Nor do I play one on TV.
Stimulating the grey matter
triggered a wave of memories that I tried crafting into a more linear
But it was the images that were most vivid.
If this doesn’t work,
let me know.
I’ll go back to the drawing board.
I learned that it’s hard writing for a writer.
It’s even harder
writing for an artist.
Hope this works:
ODE TO A PARTICULAR
New wife. New child. New
house. New life.
Walks in The Village.
...but blue skies do I
Pick a poem of stanzas.
Custom or classic
Performer and poetry. Man and words.
Precarious and sure as
Notes dance on the staff. Precise and melodious.
grandest stage. Paved.
-- Martin Folkman
What do I remember about POEZ?
* I remember "Spontaneous combustion.
Spontaneous combustion. Spontaneous combustion." (I've still got it on a 45
somewhere around here.)
* I remember The Man Who Couldn't Stop Talking, a
perfectly brilliant turn at the Ridiculous Theatrical Company (in "The Elephant
Woman," if I'm not mistaken--and let me tell you, THAT memory just popped in out
of nowhere!), in which you verged so close to making sense so often, it was
quite remarkable that you never did.
-- Chris Madden
I was one of the crew members
on Don Erickson's
public access show,
"Love and Logic," a show you appeared on several
performances were terrific! I couldn't believe anyone could
material and your original poems were brilliant. I still remember
"The Guru of Second(?)
Avenue" and the way you delivered the line, "And
then he hit me...
with that stick."
The way you interpreted and
delivered the poems made me realize that
isn't just letters
and words arranged on a page - it's LANGUAGE; it
doesn't lose nuance
emotion just because it's recorded on paper. I'm a teacher in a
The Bronx (I finally had to get a real job) and anytime I get a
chance to read aloud to
the students you're the person I try to
-- Steve Weitzman
I went to Stuyvesant in 1980 and used to walk across town to Washington
Square to hang out with friends. I passed by you a few times and thought you
were fun and goofy and brave.
-- Leisl Redmond
Just being mesmerized by your incredible memory
and unique technique. Monday
nights it cheered
me up as I, a 19-yr-old songwriter waited for my
mic number at Folk City to come up. I don't
know if we ever actually met.
You were usually
in a rant-trance. I
songwriters, had a run in w/crazy Mary of the
Always a few degrees of separation
in NYC - a very small town.
Thanks for the opportunity to share memories. It
was a stupendous
magical time that the yuppie
young financier wannabees know absolutely
about. I used to cry back then that I missed the
looking back, I made the 70's and
-- Faith Schwartz
I have not been able to get Poez out of my head for over 25 years or so now.
I grew up in
Jersey, and used to hang out in and around
WashingtonSquarePark in the
summers during high school and college.I ran into Poez only two or three times, I think, but I have never
forgotten a couple of lines from one of his own poems, the title of which I
can’t even remember.
“I am the dream that is dreaming
How long will the dream go
I remember him delivering those
lines on the sidewalk at about in the morning, after a friend and
I ordered the poem off of his menu.For
some reason it’s still a magical moment for me.
-- Eric Guthey Associate Professor
Intercultural Communication and Management
The Copenhagen Business School
Poez performed at my Sweet Sixteen party in 1977 on Long Island. Not
sure where my mom found him. I remember him performing The Raven among
many other poems. He signed my my scrapbook with a poem. I don't know
if it was original or not, but I still have if anyone would like to see
Here it is...enjoy!
-- Amy Friedman
Sweet Sixteen -
life passes like a dream -
a howl of strange new noises
sensations strike, a crazy whirl
melts and forms in shaken colors
once familiar world
these shapes seen flooating as
friends faces and their gifts
some are masks, some hide secrets
some are yours
accept or fight the changes that come quick
and leave you blind
the years expose you to yourself
you leave yourself behind
strength is hidden somewhere
that you can't yet know
joy whenever you can find it
courage to face sorrow that must pass between
wisdom, growth, love, honesty, old words like that
for you, for all your life
starting this day, sweet sixteen
I was one of those people in the park in 1978 who remembers this poem called 'killer cars' ..I think.
Yes, it was the attack of the killer
taxicabs. I must say, the notion that in a park, there were those who
would pay to hear a poem, is so wonderful. I've mentioned this
memory to many a friend throughout the years. I recall lovers paying
you to recite a poem of their choice for their partners. To be able
to purchase a good feeling that does not come in a box or a bag, and
can be dscussed at dinner thirty years later, is truly a purchase worth
more than the dime you may or may not have been paid Thank you .
-- Juana LaBoy, Los Angeles
Poez, Paul D. Mills, was a rogue poet, lone wolf, his own mission. I
booked him for a reading at St. Marks, 1978?, and he still blasted me
about the elitist Mafia of the Church (we’re of course talking
the poetry scene here). I remember writing him from an airplane the
next day -- he really got to me.
Brilliant... iconoclastic... savvy... bitter. He’d usually only
show up at open mics. For a while, he brought his girlfriend around.
Very quiet, shy, she stuck to it. She’d sign in in a very clear
handwriting, Suzanne Vega.
-- Bob Holman
Proprietor, Bowery Poetry Club
Visiting Professor of Writing, Columbia University
In 1977, Poez played Washington Square nearly every day, his poetry
menu on a rickety music stand and a homemade sandwich board sign
propped beside him on the joint-littered concrete ground of the park.
He wore jeans, raggedy t-shirts, a tall black stovepipe hat -- the
first performance poet I had ever seen, decades before anyone coined a
phrase like “spoken word.” Strict and stylized as a
Shakespearean actor, he’d tip his hat, extend the list, and ask,
“Would you choose something from the menu?” I always
selected the same poem, not one of his, but Dylan Thomas’
“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” hoping
(pretending?) that Poez wouldn’t remember my identical request of
yesterday and the day before and the day before that. No one ever spoke
that word -- “RAGE!” -- the way that he did, twisting it
out like a long and angry string of taffy. He vaguely solicited his
listeners for cash but never seemed to mind if we didn’t pay: a
good thing for me in that fundless year. It was the summer of blackout
and debt, when the lights went out in Manhattan and looting stripped
the boroughs of a city nearly in default. Poetry wasn’t
fashionable; hip hop was unborn. Poez did his strange formal thing in
verse for spare change on the corners.
When he got a weekend gig at Kenny’s Castaways I scrounged up a
few bucks for cover and drinks, dragged along a couple of my friends,
and sat for ninety minutes sipping White Russians in the dark, packed
house. He didn’t so much stalk the stage as swoop at it, his
close-fisted red-headed body lurching like the spring bursting out of a
broken click pen. As much as I loved hearing my Dylan Thomas standard
in the open air of the park, Poez competing with the scrape of
four-wheel roller skates and chess-playing poppies on the southwest
side of the square, there was another dimension inside this staged
After that sold-out reading at Kenny’s, he stopped performing in
the park. But I was watching for his skinny arms and freckled face on
the cover of the Village Voice, in the Broadway pages of the Times,
listening for him on the radio -- certain he wasn’t around the
neighborhood any more because he’d been promoted. Then I got a
flyer for a reading at -- of all places -- tiny Weiser’s
bookstore. Then… nothing. More than twenty years have passed,
and this poet holds his own clear space in the amazement of my memory.
But I have not seen or heard of him in all the years since then.