Cover to Bowery Poetry Books publication, "The Poetry Dollars" by Paul Mills aka Poez

Published by Bowery Poetry Books in 2007, featuring the poetry written out of the experience of making a living performing poetry in the streets and parks of Boston, Harvard Square, New York’s Greenwich Village and Upper Broadway. Plus some instruction on how to be a performing street poet, and memoirs. Mostly out of print, a few new and used copies are still available on Amazon. Excerpts on this page change.

The selection for this week accompanies the two updated video selections relating to an upcoming show, collaborating with Suzanne Vega at a coffeehouse north of Boston (the Greenwich Village video has details),  an episode from the included story, “My Date With Suzanne Vega at Tom’s Diner:

Without consulting anyone, not even Vinny, I decided I should ask her out. This was, on first inspection, a rash and impudent act. My best information was that she, or perhaps it was another woman with somewhat similar looks, was one of the women discreetly seeing a recording artist regularly booked at Folk City as a headline act. But if you have ever recited poetry from memory on a Manhattan street corner, you will know without having to be told how quickly the possible downside of asking someone else’s girl out was brushed aside. I mean, Byron, right?

Besides, when we had a “serious” conversation once there were three dimensions to her side of the discussion, even though she didn’t adopt all of my views the way I believed anyone with intelligence should after having them patiently explained in a crowded bar. This connection I felt conferred certain limited natural rights – in conflict even with her preferred choice of company – on me. So that tended to take care of that misgiving.

The other issue was that I was fairly clueless about putting something like this together. For example, I went on a total of I think one real date in high school and had a problem finding the car after the movie. I needed some pretty encouraging signals before I could make a “move.”  Move-making was very tricky, I tended to find. 

But there was a magazine article with “tips” for people like me, stashed in the desk of a secretary whom I replaced one day as an agency temp, which recommended for such a first date that it should be something “non-threatening” like lunch, yet a novel and, if possible, interesting experience, providing a topic about which the participants could thereafter “share their feelings.”  Which is quite a comprehensive set of criteria, but I was motivated by the C Street encounter. 

So I checked through the weekly listings in the New Yorker, and found a suitable event that was not expensive. Some museum or institute that I had heard of was having a show of writing instruments, from ancient stylus to the most modern, electric word processors. Kind of appropriate for two writers.  That was my take. We could do it on a Sunday afternoon, and it was conveniently located uptown not too far from where she lived near Barnard.  She said yes.