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About the Author
Hometown:New York, New York
Date of Birth:1949
Place of Birth:Newark, New Jersey
Read an Excerpt
I was eighteen or nineteen years old, working days at the Lovable Underwear Company, when I came to know the poet Ed Sanders. Ed, who twenty years later would win an American Book Award for his poetry, was then the ringleader of the notorious band The Fugs, and he also ran the Peace Eye bookstore, which at that time was on Avenue A.
Ed had a degree in classical languages, and could read fluently in their own Greek and Latin those ancient poets that I could only understand through the gauze of translation. I had tried to teach myself Greek from the two volumes of A Reading Course in Homeric Greek that I had robbed from a divinity student a few years before, and I had taken Latin in high school; but it was beyond me to truly delve the beauties and powers of the poetry of those tongues, as Ed could. He had even studied Egyptian hieroglyphics.
We shared, he in his erudite way and I in my unlettered fashion, a love for those ancient fragments that were the wisps of the source, the wisps of origin, the wisps of the first and truest expression of all that since had been said. And we both had dirty minds, given as much to the gutter as to the gods.
The Lower East Side was a different place back then. It was still a neighborhood. East Thirteenth Street was still known as the Street of Silence, a name I would bestow on another Mafia stronghold, Sullivan Street, in my novel Cut Numbers. The joints were still joints. We drank a lot in those joints.
Ed was a great guy. He was about ten years older than I, and was the first real poet to whom I showed my poetry. "Hell, man," he told me, "you're a fucking poet." As I doubt he ever realized he was my first mentor, so I doubt he ever realized what a shove forward, what a turning point, this was for me.
That poem, which bore the title "Still/Life," and which I later invoked in my novel Trinities, is long gone. Fragments of it follow.
A blunt shock to find your life in episodes on a Mochican vase
& the cool white tile
emergency room, 3 AM
Excerpted from THE NICK TOSCHES READER by Nick Tosches. Copyright © 2000 by Nick Tosches, Inc.. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.