Via Harriet, here is an interesting little piece from the Wall Street Journal on the East Village apartment where poet and musician Richard Hell has lived since the 1970s. One of the founders of the iconic 70s New York band Television and author of the seminal punk anthem “Blank Generation,” Hell gave up music for literature in the 1980s and has been a longtime fixture around the Poetry Project at St. Marks. As such, he’s a key point of connection between the New York School of poets and the punk lineage, a phenomenon that I discussed briefly here. (If you’re intrigued, check out his recently published and well-reviewed memoir, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp).
In the piece, Hell talks with a reporter about his ramshackle, book-filled, two-bedroom home (just a floor above the apartment where Allen Ginsberg once lived): “The landlord doesn’t maintain it very well, but to a certain extent I don’t mind. I like things that are worn, decayed and going to pieces … it has a funkiness that you don’t find in Manhattan much anymore—worn unvarnished wood floors that groan when you walk on them, cracks in the plaster walls, sagging original moldings.”
The East Village of Ted Berrigan and the Velvet Underground, Allen Ginsberg and CBGBs, has dramatically changed and gentrified around him and his rent-stabilized apartment over the past few decades, as Hell readily acknowledges.
In that sense, Hell’s small, funky apartment could be seen as one of the last vestiges of the old bohemian, punk, second-generation New York School poetry East Village scene.