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The 5 Spot

One of my favorite poems is Frank O'Hara's "The Day Lady Died." I've read it a thousand times & taught it in most workshops, & it still makes my heart stop every time:

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT

I knew the 5 Spot was in my neighborhood but I never knew exactly where till I happened to walk past this commemorative sign. What must have been a row of Bowery tenements and bars is now a senior citizen center.

I was watching a short video of my neighborhood 30 or 35 years ago with a friend, age 30, who asked, referring to the endless blocks of burned-out buildings & cars, the junkies & broken glass & dog shit: Was that really what it was like?

I almost can't believe it either, not when I see how entirely the East Village has transformed.

The golden age, always a little further in the past than when you were young.  Read More 
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Is a poem still good if you have to hit the listener or reader over the head with how good it is? Does every poem have to work the first time you read it? Frank O'Hara's “The Day Lady Died” has never failed before but when I read it to a couple of non–poetry lovers, they merely paused politely & went on with a different conversation. Maybe it was the way I read it? Maybe all those details are no longer evocative?  Read More 
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