Bowery Blues

Cooper Union seen from Cooper Square

The mesh-clad building on the right is the new Cooper Union building

Views down the Bowery in the next few photos

This post was inspired by the reading of Kerouac’s poem ‘Bowery Blues’ on the ‘Poetry For The Beat Generation’ album he recorded with Steve Allen in 1958/’59. In what has been one of my favourite of his poems for a long time, he evocatively and beautifully describes the scenery he encounters sitting in a cafeteria in or around Cooper Union on a late March afternoon. I did visit the area on a March afternoon, but contrary to the poem it wasn’t cold, and not especially desolate, although it was a Sunday so it was much quieter than it would be on a weekday afternoon. No ‘cobbled streets’ and ‘trolley tracks’ to be found either. So the contrast between what he’s describing and the way the area looks nowadays (e.g. that new  Cooper Union building) is stark in some respects but as the building in the last photo shows maybe it isn’t so different after all. Certainly the climate is much changed, I don’t live in New York, but I assume there’s not many ‘cold afternoons’ in late March nowadays, it was unseasonably warm when I visited.

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Comments
6 Responses to “Bowery Blues”
  1. looking at that old Cooper Union building compared with the newer ones, also noting the lack of cbbled streets and trolley tracks, is saying to me that it would be easier to write beautifully of everyday life 50 years ago – eveything modern now is just too … modern?

  2. You may be interested in the Friends of Cooper Union: http://friendsofcooperunion.org

    As well as the efforts to save the old buildings in the Bowery:
    http://www.boweryalliance.org/home
    If you scroll through, you’ll find Hettie Jones out on the sidewalk, standing up for preservation of history.

    PS: Pulino’s is so good!

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