Two summers ago I was in New England again, attending a literary conference at The University of Rhode Island, and then doing readings up and down the East Coast for my newest book. Since my rented car would take me right past New Haven, I decided to stop into the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University to look at my papers.
At my age, one begins thinking about collecting what one has carelessly left lying around for decades: at summer cottages, in notebooks, presented to old boyfriends, in hard drives all over the world. I know there are stories, reviews, essays, and poems, out there somewhere. I thought maybe someday someone would say, Hey Felice, what about a Collected Poetry? I’d only published two books of poems, The Deformity Lover, and Window Elegies, a chapbook. Another hundred had appeared in print since then, the last being “His Diagnosis” about my friend, Robert Ferro. After that, poetry was no longer possible for me. But there were earlier poems, many I’d left unfinished, hanging. They were inside spiral metal notebooks with chartreuse covers, and those notebooks were at Yale.
Just to clarify, I didn’t go to Yale; my papers went there. I was barely sixteen when I graduated high school. My folks made it clear I wasn’t going away anywhere and in fact that I was staying home and working for my father. Unknown to them, my college counselor had applied me to The City University of New York, and I’d gotten past the rigorous requirements and into Queens College, a free school; I’d even gotten a small scholarship. So that’s where I went. I moved to Alphabet City among immigrants and cockroaches, junkies and thieves, and I went to college taking two trains and a bus each way.
However thanks to scholars George Stambolian, Jonathan Katz and John Boswell, The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which collects American Writing Groups like the Transcendentalists and Gertrude Stein’s Paris circle, collected the works of the Violet Quill Club, the writing group being honored tonight.