It all began at the Chock Full o' Nuts across
the street from New York University in Greenwich
Village. I was sitting there one day eating
a sandwich chock full o' nuts when the idea
came to me: why not? If others could do it,
why couldn't I? I slowly stopped my chewing.
I left the sandwich half full o' nuts on my
seat and went out into the swirling traffic.
And wrote my very first piece of fiction--
my doctoral dissertation.
Some of the greats I studied with or knew
personally in New York or did not know at
all: Professor Margaret Schlauch, who shortly
after seeing me through the MA program re-
signed from NYU, left the USA forever, and went
to live and work in Warsaw, Poland. Then
there was Professor Burgum, who was fired from
NYU shortly after I finished his graduate
course in Modern Poetry. I once saw Professor
Lionel Trilling. He was on a BMT train going
downtown. He did not speak to me because he
did not know me. But I did see him. He still
teaches at Columbia University.
It was in New York that Eva Rachel Butow,
Betty, Louise, and a very mean nurse from
Bellevue Hospital had the opportunity of making
my acquaintance. My second future wife
was able to meet me in New York to get things
started there at the Chock Full o' Nuts.
It was at this time that I did not publish
the novels I had written. Or the poems. Or
the letter to the editor of the New York
Times. Several letters to my mother from that
period of my life are extant.
When I left New York for Penn State, things
changed. There was, for one thing, no Chock
Full o' Nuts. But there was a bookstore
called Keeler's. "You can get it at Keeler's,"
we were told. Over and over again. When I
tried, I was slapped vigorously about the
face and neck.
Later I had a poem published in American
Poetry Review. It went out of business
shortly thereafter. I had poems in Poet and
Critic, Descant, Western Humanities Review,
College English, Penny Papers. Like that.
In almost every case the price of these
publications has gone up since publishing the
works of Richard E. Lee. As a matter of
historical fact, Penny Papers are now going
for about a nickel each. Cash.
And sometime after I moved to California,
Ronald Reagan was elected Governor.
I will, of course, be remembered as a Full--
very--Professor at CSULB, whose tenure as
Co-ordinator of Creative Writing is still
being talked about. "What did he do in all
that time?" people are heard to ask. Well,
he moved his desk from near the door to near
the window. For one thing. And he was largely
responsible for hiring John Wayne. For
A thin pamphlet of poems, The Circumstances
of Birds, was published by the Goosetree
Press some time in the sixties. It also issued
a famous poem of mine, Chant for the Beat
Generation, a few copies of which are no
longer available anywhere. As If, a black
book containing many of the same poems,
was published by John Martin and his Increase
Oh, yes, and I was in several juried shows
at the Long Beach Art Museum. Shortly after
my last acceptance, they changed their jury
I am also deep into photography in a big
way and will be quite successful (see above)
just as soon as I learn what f/ stop means.
What's in the works? I am thinking of
opening a Chock Full o' Nuts out here in
Long Beach and calling it simply Chock Full o'
Nuts. Who knows?
From PEOMS by relee
© 1974 Richard E. Lee
[This book was presented to me on March 22, 1979.]
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Poets' Tree: A Celebration of Poetry. All rights reserved.