“I smoked a lot of weed with him [Harry Smith], on the streets even. We met in bars. We once were together in the great jazz place that closed very quickly, Birdland. He was always haunted by jazz. He knew a great deal of jazz, though he didn’t play any instrument. And then I saw him many times at the [Hotel] Chelsea, and I saw the great paintings before they were destroyed. He rented, somehow, this apartment on Madison Avenue that was absolutely bare except for magical symbols. He would say, ‘Don’t cross that line, or you might get paralyzed.’ Magical things on the floor that he wrote and painted. He was thrown out of that apartment, but he never paid for it anyway.”—Gerrit Lansing (pictured above), poet of Gloucester, Mass., remembering hanging around with Harry Smith in New York City in the 1950s.
An excerpt from Gerrit Lansing’s interview with Patrick Doud in third issue of “Let the Bucket Down: A Magazine of Boston Area Writing,” edited by Joe Torra, which was published in late 2015. Check out the whole interview, it’s an amazing window into magic, mysticism, secret societies, poetry, midcentury Manhattan, Boston, Gloucester, drinking, Charles Olson, John Ashbury, and much more.
Many of the writers featured in “Let the Bucket Down” read at the Gloucester Writers Center on Feb. 27, 2016. Here’s audio of the whole reading.