Janine Pommy Vega Poetry Festival this Saturday in Woodstock

Janine Pommy Vega

The Beats were mostly a fraternity of guys: getting laid, getting high, hanging out with ex-cons, drinking up life with Whitmanlike exuberance and bonding with each other in New York, San Francisco, in the California wilderness and in Mexico City. Women tended to be accessories more than major players – but there were a very few exceptions, one of whom was Janine Pommy Vega. A world traveler who resided in Willow until her untimely death in 2010, Pommy Vega was the first woman poet published in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Pocket Poet series for City Lights. She subsequently published more than a dozen books of poetry and a collection of travel essays, Tracking the Serpent: Journeys to Four Continents. She wrote in Spanish and English and was an intimate of Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso.

To commemorate Pommy Vega’s life and work, as well as to raise funds for Incision Arts, an organization founded by Pommy Vega that works with poets in prisons, the second annual Janine Pommy Vega Poetry Festival will be held at the Woodstock Artists’ Association and Museum (WAAM) this Saturday, July 7 starting at 7:30 p.m. Incorrigible humorist and accomplished writer and performer Mikhail Horowitz will incarnate Vega for the evening, reading from a broad selection of her poems. A lineup of Beat-affiliated writers, performers and Pommy Vega friends will also take the stage.

This year’s poets all live in the area, though their work resonates far beyond the borders of the Hudson Valley, noted Andy Clausen, who founded the Festival. He himself will perform onstage. Author of 40th-Century Man, The Merciless Chill and Ginsberg, Corso & Me, among other books, Clausen will perform his spoken-word poetry accompanied by Sylvie Diegez on piano and Wayne Lopes on guitar. Horowitz once described Clausen, who was Pommy Vega’s lover and longtime caretaker, in a local newspaper as follows: “Andy Clausen erupts like Mount St. Helens.”


Also appearing is Peter Lamborn Wilson, a historian, poet, political theorist/activist and metaphysician who “delivers erudite and esoteric readings in an easily accessible style,” according to Clausen. Wilson is the author of Ec(o)logues and dozens of other books; he taught at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute and produced a radio show on WBAI. He’ll be followed by Pamela Twining, author of i have been a river…, “a dynamic Cosmic Warrior Woman and a Sun Moon Dancer” whose “work unites the erotic, the political, the Cosmic, with imagery from the natural world,” said Clausen.

Jazz pianist and vocalist Nina Sheldon will perform a tribute to Pommy Vega, whom she accompanied on her hit CD Across the Table. The evening will end with a performance by Victoria Sullivan, a theater artist who creates alter egos in her readings of poems.


The second annual Janine Pommy Vega Poetry Festival will be held at the Woodstock Artists’ Association and Museum (WAAM) this Saturday, July 7, starting at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $15, $8 for WAAM members. The Woodstock Artists’ Association is located on Tinker Street. Contact andyclausen@hotmail.com for more information on the festival.