Needles, knives, past and present lives

Puma Perl, seen here at Manitoba’s (99 Ave. B), celebrates the launch of “Retrograde” on June 3, at Parkside Lounge.  Photo by Len DeLessio (

Puma Perl, seen here at Manitoba’s (99 Ave. B), celebrates the launch of “Retrograde” on June 3, at Parkside Lounge. Photo by Len DeLessio (

BY SCOTT STIFFLER   |  Clean and sharply focused when it really should be scratched and cloudy, considering everything it’s been through, Puma Perl’s mirror has two equally unforgiving settings: rear view, and front and center.

‘Retrograde’ is a true rush

“20 years since I shot my last speedball & I’m still losing teeth,” she says, in the first line of “& I’m Still Losing.” It’s a wry observation that comes early and hits hard, in “Retrograde” — Perl’s 76-item collection of poetry and short prose that finds her no longer using heroin, but still in firm possession of a temperament that makes the take-no-crap author an extremely light touch, nonetheless, for the temptation to get lost in contemplating old haunts, habits and patterns. For the Brooklyn native and longtime Lower East Side resident, every turn of the corner or look out the window comes with a reminder of the hellish lows and high times of an addict’s life.

Tues., June 3
8 to 10 p.m.
At Parkside Lounge
317 E. Houston St. (btw. Clinton & Attorney Sts.)
“Retrograde” will be released on June 1, by great weather for MEDIA
Visit and

That sort of sobriety’s not an easy road to travel — but it makes for an extremely authentic and unsentimental look at the gritty and dangerous New York that has since been glamourized, mourned and burnt beyond recognition into the realm of cultural mythology. Puma Perl was there, though — apparently keeping at least one eye open for keen observation, even when nodding off. “Retrograde” takes you on past and present trips to Brooklyn, Coney Island and all points below Delancey. Both deeply connected and uncomfortably detached, it’s a world of nicotine patches, faked orgasms, thwarted hook-up text messages, comparative lists of arrests and addictions, creature comforts stolen from rehab stints and the knowledge that Perl’s ill-advised lean out the window to get that perfect photo would surely be mistaken for a suicide attempt if she were to fall. No matter. The chance to greet each new day with an “Oh shit” is reward enough for Perl — who seems both capable and content to live in a world where people often assume the worst, for no good reason other than the fact that it happens to be the easy way out.

Find out if that assessment is way off, dead on or somewhere in the muddy middle — when you join Puma Perl for the “Retrograde” release party. “Over the last few years,” says the author, “performing with musicians has shaped my work, providing new rhythms and keeping it fresh each time. Many of the poems in this book are a result of these collaborations.” This is great weather for MEDIA’s first single author poetry collection, and its launch event will feature spoken word and music from Perl, Joff Wilson, Danny Ray, Walter Steding and Angello Olivieri — plus special guests Verless Doran, Aimee Herman and The Bowery Boys. Later in the month (June 27), Perl’s quarterly “Pandemonium” live music and spoken word event takes place at Bowery Electric’s Map Room.

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