Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Lynne At the Foghorn Folk Club, 1964 by Lynne Viti: A Tribute to the Late Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish

The Late Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish

I recently met poet Lynne Viti at the Sam Cornish Memorial Reading at the New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton, MA. Both Viti and Cornish were both born and bred in Baltimore. Here she writes about an encounter with him back in 1964.

Lynne At the Foghorn Folk Club, 1964

Tall awkward boy, a transplant from Oregon,
always carried a beat-up paperback copy
of On the Road, strap-hanging on the # 3 bus
asks me, You like poetry? I nod,

he tells me, go hear this cat read his stuff.
Black dude, he’s real, man. Get there
before the show, before the folksingers,
down on West 22nd Street, you dig?

I want to roll my eyes at this farm kid from the west
who thinks he’s cool but I take note:
The Foghorn—I check the listings in the Baltimore Sun,
below the flicks, above the Gayety Burlesque ad.

I tell my mother I’m going to a poetry reading,
as if in a college lecture hall, on a schoolnight.
I’m the youngest there. People sit around
Drinking beer or spiked cider—

A young man, bespectacled, dressed in brown corduroys,
crewneck sweater, steps onto the stage,
cheers and foot stomping greet him—he’s here to be heard
by the faithful. He recites his poems, declaims them.

I’ve never heard a poet, not in real life—the nuns
have played records of Dylan Thomas, of Eliot
in English class but nothing like this, a real
poet, not a dead white one—standing so near

I could shake his hand—he is mesmerizing,
he looks at us through thick eyeglasses,
he speaks in the vernacular.
I came for his poetry, and when he was done

I went home to make curfew. I didn’t
come for the guitars and banjos,
the mandolins and Woody Guthrie tunes.
I came for Sam Cornish. I came for the poetry.

--Lynne Viti

**** You can find out more about Lynne and her writing at:

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