Downtown Express photo by Clayton Patterson
Taylor Mead, left, with Bob Holman at the March 6 benefit for Tuli Kupferberg at the Bowery Poetry Club.
Poetry club helps ailing writer
By Cary Abrams
The Bowery Poetry Club was crowded on Saturday evening March 6 with fans and friends celebrating Downtown legend, cultural icon Tuli Kupferberg. Kupferberg, 86, is blind after suffering two strokes, and the event raised more than $800, which will assist with his care since he requires a full-time attendant.
The benefit followed an earlier celebration at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn that focused on music. The Bowery Poetry Club event gave The Fugs co-founder’s legion of friends an opportunity to appreciate his work anew and honor him a little closer to his longtime East Village home. This article’s writer and Bob Holman, director of the Bowery Poetry Club, together organized and emceed the lengthy roster of those reading poems in English, Yiddish and other dialects, along with singing verses they created, or some of Kupferberg’s own work that he made famous while a member of the seminal group The Fugs.
As the club filled, a slide presentation showed images, including Fred McDarrah photos of the 1950s and ’60s Village, as well as many other memorable images from Kupferberg’s lengthy and illustrious career. Familar Fugs bohemian anthems rang out in the background to the crowd’s hearty approval. Kupferberg’s son Noah opened the evening by reading perhaps his father’s most well-known poem, “Greenwich Village of My Dreams,” in which Kupferberg honored earlier Village luminaries who first drew him to the neighborhood in the ’50s.
David Amram, another legendary artist, reminisced about meeting Kupferberg in the Village back in the ’50s when he played background music while Jack Kerouac recited his work. A new documentary on Amram’s life is due out soon. Amram, who played his flute at the benefit, described how it is possible for an artist to live a creative life and remain vital, as Kupferberg and he have over the past half-century.
Peter Stampfel, who helped create The Holy Modal Rounders, a group Sam Shepard played in when first coming to New York, had the club moving in their seats to his raucous songs. Stampfel joined The Fugs in the ’60s and continues to perform in various groups.
Penny Arcade added her talents to the evening as she created a song that attempted to capture Kupferberg’s essence. Many described feeling Tuli’s raucous, anarchic spirit alive in the room. Another Warhol actor, octogenarian Taylor Mead read and reflected on some of Kupferberg’s poetry.
Judith Malina of The Living Theater was out of town, though she dispatched her best wishes. Longtime Living Theater veteran Steven Ben Israel added his words and voice to the festivities.
Clayton Patterson provided the audience with a lesson in Lower East Side history and Kupferberg’s place within it, in his own inimitable style. In addition to his son Noah, Kupferberg’s wife Sylvia and daughter Samara looked on proudly throughout the show, which was streamed live on the Internet.
Be on the lookout for future events featuring those who were unable to be there and want to continue the celebration.