Lewis Warsh (1944-2020): “Leaning against a door frame”

Post-Script at the Start
Saturday, November 28, 2020

After I posted the entry on Lewis Warsh this past Monday, I remembered that Phoebe (MacAdams) Ozuna would probably be the only person I could ask for a personal recollection of him. She just wrote me and shared this image of him:

“The long lean figure of Lewis Warsh is gone, from the world but not from my mind. I hardly knew him, remember him with Anne when they published Angel Hair, and lived in the apartment on St. Mark’s Place, a great gathering place. I think of him leaning against a door frame. Later he was with Bernadette Mayer, publishing United Artists Magazine in Lenox, Mass. Recently I have been reading about him: writer of many books of poems, publisher, active supporter of young poets, beloved teacher at Long Island University in Brooklyn, father, grandfather.

Farewell, Lewis, lean figure of my youth, one of the people I wish I had known better.”

Phoebe added, “Strangely, the best write-up I have found about him is on Wikipedia. He deserves better than that!”

Indeed, I would love to hear from anyone who knew Lewis and would care to share their memories of him.

Monday, November 23, 2020

I’ve been waiting for the New York Times to recognize the death one of the most important literary lives on their local scene in the past half century, but nothing has yet appeared except for the standard “Legacy” column. I would urge William Grimes to write a formal article about Warsh. He is at least as important as Paul Violi, the subject of one of Grimes’s featured obituaries almost ten years ago. It’s not just all of Warsh’s accomplishments that deserve recognition. It’s also that he collaborated with writers and literary activists whose passing will most certainly be noted down the line. Even people who receive the homage of a journalist’s summary often never have their names cited in other obituaries. Eventually, though, when Anne Waldman and Bernadette Mayer make the debut of their “closing night” on the Obit page, Lewis Warsh will be once again present in those recitations.

I never met Warsh and I feel no personal loss, other than the wish that I could have spent some time up in Northern California when he lived there. Given all the work he did on behalf of other writers, it’s astonishing that he got as much writing done and published as he did. I can think of very few people who made full use so many of the impact points on Darnton’s communication circuit. His capacity to simultaneously contribute to a scene as a writer, editor, and publisher was extraordinary and demonstrated in an exemplary manner what it means to live fully committed to the imagination’s recuperative powers. I send my condolences to his family and his colleagues and all of his former students. The students, in particular, were more lucky to know him than they ever realized at the time.




Of the following poems by Lewis Warsh in POETRY magazine, my favorite is “Message,” which is in the first link.





Finally, it’s hard not to reflect on the list of male poets and playwrights born between 1941 and 1950 as it grows longer and longer.

Tom Clark (March 1, 1941 – August 18, 2018)
William Matthews (1942-1997)
Sam Shepard (November, 1943 – July, 2017)
James Tate (December 8, 1943 – July 8, 2015
Lewis Warsh (November 9, 1944 – November 15, 2020)
Leslie Scalapino (July 25, 1944 – May 28, 2010)
Paul Violi (July 20, 1944 – April 2, 2011)
Lewis MacAdams (October 12, 1944 – April 21, 2020)
Wanda Coleman (1946 – 2014)
Thomas Lux (December 10, 1946 – February 5, 2017)
Steve Dalachinsky (1946–2019)
Larry Levis (1946 – 1996)
Jerry Estin (1947-1993)
Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)
David Citino (March 13, 1947 – October 17, 2005)
Len Roberts (1947-2007)
Ai (1947-2010)
Ron Allen (1947-2010)
Frank Stanford (1948-1978)
Sekou Sundiata (1948-2007)
Jim Carroll (1949-2009)
Janice Gould (1949-2019)
Michael Gizzi (1949-2010)
Kate Braverman (February 5, 1949 – October 12, 2019)
Steven Jesse Bernstein (1950-1991)
F.A. Nettlebeck (1950-2011)
Deborah Digges (February 6, 1950 – April 10, 2009

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