Your Choice of Poetry Street Sign

Do you remember this sign?

If you remember this sign, or one like it, from 1975-1985, or if you remember seeing or hearing Poez perform at a cafe, club, or concert hall, on television or radio, in New York, Paris, London, San Francisco, or Boston, we would like to hear from you.  We are looking for recollections people have of Poez from 20 or 30 years ago, for possible publication on this website, or inclusion in his one-man show, POET BAZOOKAED ON W. 4TH STREET!

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To read what others have written, see below.


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Remembering Poez:

Weird. I never rally knew or thought about Paul
Mills since I encountered him in the late 70's when I visited NYC from
Kent State University in Ohio. My first time. I'd never imagined that
some guy would just recite poetry like that. It was like he should be
on TV or something, but there he was, completely accessible in the
middle of Washington Square, in a PARK! Then, I, too, with some
friends I don't even remember anymore though I remember Paul (Bad
Friend, I guess)sawheard him at Kenny's C's as well as Weisers tiny
awesome bookstore (is Weisers even there anymore, couldn't be....????).
Now I live here in nyc and sometimes when WSqP is near me, I miss that
performer and wonder what might've happened, probably a lawyer or
something. How cool that he's made a career with such creative talent
in a very toughly-competitive world of creatives! Rock On Paul!!

Patricia Gregory, New York City


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I remember you and your poetry menu well from thirty or more years ago.  When the subject of poetry comes up in conversation today, I often still talk about you and how you were able to infuse new meanings into well-known poems through your unique delivery of them.  My recollection is that my wife and I used to partake of your poetry on the upper west side of Manhattan (perhaps Columbus Avenue in the 70's) rather than the village.  I've been trying to recall some of the poems I asked you to recite back then.  My wife came up with Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and I came up with Yeats's The Second Coming as possibilities, but we're really not sure.  I've also been thinking of what poems I'd ask you to recite now if given the opportunity.  Perhaps something by Jane Kenyon such as "Otherwise" or John Betjeman's "A Subaltern's Love-song."  Here's a poem that I think you won't know, but which I like very much and would love to hear you do. It's by someone named Joseph Harris:
 
"This Poem
 
is for the quiet, uncelebrated
things of this world---
the road to no familiar place,
love's skill on a troubled night,
the unpublished poem and lost song,
the way of the wild drake,
and night's festival of sound;
for body's silent defeat of disease,
and mysteries that hold their secrets.
For multitudes of creatures and created
things clothed in the graceful sanctity
of their rightful natures."
 
I have wondered for all these years what had happened to you.  Your sudden disappearance from the scene saddened me then so I'm delighted that you and your poetry have resurfaced.

    -- Roger E. Bermas

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He was such a treasure.  Did you ever hear him recite "The
Raven"
  or, his own poem "Spontaneous Combustion"?

Another one of his that I remember fondly was titled "Don't
tell her you love her."

Thank you for helping to bring up the resonance on some
wonderful memories.

    -- Mitchell Simon

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I’m not a poet.  Nor do I play one on TV.
Stimulating the grey matter triggered a wave of memories that I tried crafting into a more linear format.
But it was the images that were most vivid.
If this doesn’t work, let me know.
I’ll go back to the drawing board.
An interesting exercise.
I learned that it’s hard writing for a writer.
It’s even harder writing for an artist.
Hope this works:

ODE TO A PARTICULAR SUBJECT

Memory vivid.
Indelible time.
New wife.  New child.  New house.  New life.
Walks in The Village.
...but blue skies do I see...
Listen up!
Pick a poem of stanzas.
Custom or classic chassis.
Performer and poetry. Man and words.
Precarious and sure as Phillipe Petit.
Notes dance on the staff. Precise and melodious.
The grandest stage. Paved.
Listen up!

    -- Martin Folkman

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What do I remember about POEZ?
* I remember "Spontaneous combustion. Spontaneous combustion. Spontaneous combustion." (I've still got it on a 45 somewhere around here.)
* I remember The Man Who Couldn't Stop Talking, a perfectly brilliant turn at the Ridiculous Theatrical Company (in "The Elephant Woman," if I'm not mistaken--and let me tell you, THAT memory just popped in out of nowhere!), in which you verged so close to making sense so often, it was quite remarkable that you never did.

    -- Chris Madden

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I was one of the crew members 
on Don Erickson's
public access show, "Love and Logic," a show you appeared on several 
times.

Your performances were terrific! I couldn't believe anyone could 
memorize so much
material and your original poems were brilliant. I still remember 
"The Guru of Second(?)
Avenue" and the way you delivered the line, "And then he hit me... 
with that stick."

The way you interpreted and delivered the poems made me realize that 
written work
isn't just letters and words arranged on a page - it's LANGUAGE; it 
doesn't lose nuance
and emotion just because it's recorded on paper. I'm a teacher in a 
middle school in
The Bronx (I finally had to get a real job) and anytime I get a 
chance to read aloud to
the students you're the person I try to emulate.

    -- Steve Weitzman

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I went to Stuyvesant in 1980 and used to walk across town to Washington Square to hang out with friends.  I passed by you a few times and thought you were fun and goofy and brave.

    -- Leisl Redmond

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Just being mesmerized by your incredible memory
and unique technique.  Monday nights it cheered
me up as I, a 19-yr-old songwriter waited for my
open mic number at Folk City to come up.  I don't
know if we ever actually met.  You were usually
in a rant-trance.  I also,like many
songwriters, had a run in w/crazy Mary of the
Centerfold.  Always a few degrees of separation
in NYC - a very small town. 

Thanks for the opportunity to share memories.  It
was a stupendous magical time that the yuppie
young financier wannabees know absolutely nothing
about.  I used to cry back then that I missed the
sixties, but looking back, I made the 70's and
80's.

    -- Faith Schwartz

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I have not been able to get Poez out of my head for over 25 years or so now.  I grew up in New Jersey, and used to hang out in and around Washington Square Park in the summers during high school and college.  I ran into Poez only two or three times, I think, but I have never forgotten a couple of lines from one of his own poems, the title of which I can’t even remember. 

They were:

“I am the dream that is dreaming now.

How long will the dream go on?”

 I remember him delivering those lines on the sidewalk at about one o’clock in the morning, after a friend and I ordered the poem off of his menu.  For some reason it’s still a magical moment for me. 

    -- Eric Guthey
    Associate Professor
    Intercultural Communication and Management
    The Copenhagen Business School

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Poez performed at my Sweet Sixteen party in 1977 on Long Island. Not sure where my mom found him. I remember him performing The Raven among many other poems. He signed my my scrapbook with a poem. I don't know if it was original or not, but I still have if anyone would like to see it.

Here it is...enjoy!

    -- Amy Friedman
 
Sweet Sixteen -
life passes like a dream -
a howl of strange new noises
sensations strike, a crazy whirl
melts and forms in shaken colors
once familiar world
these shapes seen flooating as
friends faces and their gifts
some are masks, some hide secrets
some are yours
accept or fight the changes that come quick
and leave you blind
the years expose you to yourself
you leave yourself behind
strength is hidden somewhere
that you can't yet know
joy whenever you can find it
courage to face sorrow that must pass between
wisdom, growth, love, honesty, old words like that
for you, for all your life
starting this day, sweet sixteen
 
                                Poez

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I was one of those people in the park in 1978 who remembers this poem called 'killer cars' ..I think.  

Yes, it was the attack of the killer taxicabs. I must say, the notion that in a park, there were those who would pay to hear a poem,  is so wonderful.   I've mentioned this memory to many a friend throughout the years.  I recall lovers paying you to recite a poem of their choice for their partners.   To be able to purchase a good feeling that does not come in a box or a bag, and can be dscussed at dinner thirty years later, is truly a purchase worth more than the dime you may or may not have been paid   Thank you . 

-- Juana LaBoy, Los Angeles
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Poez, Paul D. Mills, was a rogue poet, lone wolf, his own mission. I booked him for a reading at St. Marks, 1978?, and he still blasted me about the elitist Mafia of the Church (we’re of course talking the poetry scene here). I remember writing him from an airplane the next day -- he really got to me.

Brilliant... iconoclastic... savvy... bitter. He’d usually only show up at open mics. For a while, he brought his girlfriend around. Very quiet, shy, she stuck to it. She’d sign in in a very clear handwriting, Suzanne Vega.

    -- Bob Holman
    Proprietor, Bowery Poetry Club
    Visiting Professor of Writing, Columbia University

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In 1977, Poez played Washington Square nearly every day, his poetry menu on a rickety music stand and a homemade sandwich board sign propped beside him on the joint-littered concrete ground of the park. He wore jeans, raggedy t-shirts, a tall black stovepipe hat -- the first performance poet I had ever seen, decades before anyone coined a phrase like “spoken word.” Strict and stylized as a Shakespearean actor, he’d tip his hat, extend the list, and ask, “Would you choose something from the menu?” I always selected the same poem, not one of his, but Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” hoping (pretending?) that Poez wouldn’t remember my identical request of yesterday and the day before and the day before that. No one ever spoke that word -- “RAGE!” -- the way that he did, twisting it out like a long and angry string of taffy. He vaguely solicited his listeners for cash but never seemed to mind if we didn’t pay: a good thing for me in that fundless year. It was the summer of blackout and debt, when the lights went out in Manhattan and looting stripped the boroughs of a city nearly in default. Poetry wasn’t fashionable; hip hop was unborn. Poez did his strange formal thing in verse for spare change on the corners.

When he got a weekend gig at Kenny’s Castaways I scrounged up a few bucks for cover and drinks, dragged along a couple of my friends, and sat for ninety minutes sipping White Russians in the dark, packed house. He didn’t so much stalk the stage as swoop at it, his close-fisted red-headed body lurching like the spring bursting out of a broken click pen. As much as I loved hearing my Dylan Thomas standard in the open air of the park, Poez competing with the scrape of four-wheel roller skates and chess-playing poppies on the southwest side of the square, there was another dimension inside this staged performance.

After that sold-out reading at Kenny’s, he stopped performing in the park. But I was watching for his skinny arms and freckled face on the cover of the Village Voice, in the Broadway pages of the Times, listening for him on the radio -- certain he wasn’t around the neighborhood any more because he’d been promoted. Then I got a flyer for a reading at -- of all places -- tiny Weiser’s bookstore. Then… nothing. More than twenty years have passed, and this poet holds his own clear space in the amazement of my memory. But I have not seen or heard of him in all the years since then.

    -- Jackie Sheeler


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