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John Wieners was asked in a 1974 interview, “For whom do you write?” He answered:

For the poetical, the people. Not for myself, merely. Or ever. Only for the better, warm, human loving, kind person. The guy on the street who might hold open a door for you, left the bumper on your car, stops to give you instructions, spares some change, lets you in his bookshop. Friends I take for granted, like the future.

Please join us for a conversation with Michael Seth Stewart, Ammiel Alcalay, and Eileen Myles about the recent publication Yours Presently: Selected Letters of John Wieners. A reclamation project ten years in the making, Yours Presently traces the life of the queer lyric poet from 1955, when he began studying with Black Mountain mentor Charles Olson, through the 1960s and 70s as he developed his writing, published along the way as classic books like The Hotel Wentley Poems (1958), Ace of Pentacles (1964), Asylum Poems (1970), and Behind the State Capitol, or the Cincinnati Pike (1975). The letters follow Wieners from his start as an aspiring poete maudit to his later life as the revered “oracle of Joy Street.” Written to a wide range of friends and peers like Olson, Robert Duncan, Diane di Prima, Ed Dorn, Denise Levertov, and James Schuyler, the letters capture Wieners in his many different voices, mapping a network of connections that could have been lost to literary history. A true Lost & Found project, Yours Presently resurrects the poet’s demimonde and opens up the beloved poet for a new generation of readers.

At this event, Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative director Ammiel Alcalay will discuss the book with its editor, Seth Stewart and Boston-born poet and writer Eileen Myles, whose preface contextualizes John Wieners as the Boston poet she knew and has long admired. “If there’s anything newer than John Wieners’s poems,” Myles writes, “ it’s the rolling body of language they come from. This is that pond.”

Free and open to the public. Please click here to Register for this event and for access to the Zoom link.

John Wieners' letter to Panna Grady, August 8, 1966. Panna Grady Collection, the Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, University of Buffalo, the State University of New York.

Four images of John Wieners with Allen Ginsberg. Photograph by Raymond Foye. Courtesy of Raymond Foye.

John Wieners, ca. 1970 by Ammiel Alcalay

This event is sponsored by Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative from the Center for the Humanities at The Graduate Center, CUNY, with generous support from Engaging the Senses Foundation.




John Wieners, 1970. Photo by Ammiel Alcalay.