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A Tribute to Janine Pommey Vega - The Local East Village Blog - NYTimes.com


A Tribute to Janine Pommey Vega


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Vega_memorial2Cary Abrams The poet Bob Holman performs at a tribute to Janine Pommy Vega at the Bowery Poetry Club Sunday.

Friends of poet and teacher Janine Pommy Vega, who died in December, gathered at a reading tribute Sunday at The Bowery Poetry Club to remember her.

Poet and author Hettie Jones, a Bowery resident of over 40 years who helped organize the event reminisced about their first meeting at a 1960’s party.

Ms. Vega moved to the Lower East Side from Union City, N.J. after graduating high school at 16, having read ‘On The Road,’ and been inspired by the Beat lifestyle. She met the poet Gregory Corso at The Cedar Tavern, a fabled Village artists’ haunt, who introduced her to Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, with whom she later shared an apartment on Avenue B.

Ms. Vega began teaching writing in prisons in the 1970’s through Incision/Arts, a group that brings writers into prisons; she became the group’s director in 1987. She first introduced Ms. Jones to teaching writing in prisons and they served on the Prison Writing Committee for PEN, the association of poets, essayists, novelists and other writers, and co-authored “Word Over Walls,” a guide on starting writings program in prisons.

Andy Clausen, Ms Vega’s companion, shared reflections and anecdotes about Ms. Vega’s dedication to her writing, work in prisons and indomitable spirit. He described the memorial held recently in Woodstock, N.Y., near their home in Willow, N.Y., and plans for an annual Janine Pommy Vega Poetry Festival to be held there.

Anne Waldman remembered their readings and travels in Italy, reading from “Tracking The Serpent,” Ms. Vega’s account of her extensive travels over four continents exploring what she described as matriarchal power sites. From the outpouring of those who spoke and read, a common theme emerged: how Ms. Vega had touched and inspired many through her writing and teaching.