Over the weekend, Michael and I met up in front of St. Mark’s Church, the first stop in “Passing Stranger”, our sound walk of choice. It began as a trying exercise of constant pauses and plays in order to stay in sync with each other. After the third time my “smart” phone decided to recommence from the very beginning, we decided to share a pair of ear buds and walk about the East Village as part of some artsy three-legged race. A woman passing out flyers smiled at us and said, “I do that with my son sometimes too.”
“Passing Stranger” weaves together a chronicle of the exuberant East Village poetry scene during the 1950’s with a collection of poetry readings, interviews, and historical recordings of prominent poets such as Allen Ginsburg, Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara, Walt Whitman, E.E Cummings, and more. Truth be told, my main motivation for choosing this particular sound walk was its close proximity to my apartment in the Lower East Side. I’ve strolled through St. Marks, Tompkins Square Park, and Alphabet City countless times, but it never occurred to me that Loisaida Avenue is spanglish for the Lower East Side. I never knew about its rich Latin culture, identity, and history prior to gentrification. I never bothered to look up at murals and pay attention to all that’s left—small plaques mounted outside the former residences of poets, and the cafes/bars/restaurants they frequented. The walk didn’t spark my interest in poetry by any stretch, but it was a good reminder to slow down from time to time and appreciate my environment.