(Globe staff file photo/1987)
Stone Soup was a lot of things, chief among them a series of poetry readings that Jack Powers launched on May Day in 1971. It also was a bookstore, a publisher, and a place for poets to read silently or aloud -- "a secular chapel," he told the Globe in 1979.
Mr. Powers, who died Oct. 14 and will be remembered during the weekly Stone Soup reading tonight at 8 in the Out of the Blue gallery in Cambridge, got an inkling of the kind of welcoming place he wanted to create for poets when he visited City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, run by the legendary poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
"I met Jack when he still had Stone Soup bookstore," Ferlinghetti said by phone from San Francisco, where at 91 he is recovering from his second surgery to install a pacemaker -- an infection after the first prompted a return to the hospital. "It was on the back side of Beacon Hill, a small bookstore. City Lights was a small bookstore in those days, we were a one-room bookstore for many years, so naturally I gravitated toward a place like that and I met a lot of Jack's friends and hung out with a lot of them."
Mr. Powers "was a big guy, well over 6 feet, and he had a head of coal black hair," Ferlinghetti said. "I think he said he considered himself what they call black Irish."
Ferlinghetti is tall, too, and both poets also shared the belief that poetry should be spoken aloud to be fully appreciated.
"Poetry without poetry readings is half an animal," Mr. Powers told the Globe in 1981.
"He put on a big reading for me in a big beautiful church there," Ferlinghetti said, "and that wasn't the only time I had one-man readings for him."
In the early years of the Stone Soup readings, Ferlinghetti was a regular visitor.
"I used to hang out in Boston in the '70s and '80s," Ferlinghetti said. "I went to Mount Hermon School, 100 miles west of Boston, but that was long before that. Boston's always been my favorite city after San Francisco."
Spending time with Mr. Powers, Ferlinghetti "used to go to Gloucester a lot and we knew Vincent Ferrini, the poet-conscience of Gloucester."
Ferlinghetti remembered Mr. Powers as a poet who "had a very strong voice and was very populist. He definitely wrote working-class poetry about peace and justice."
His greater role, however, was as "a facilitator for other poets," Ferlinghetti said. "He published broadsides for poets. That means a lot because sometimes it's their first publication or their only publication. Poets especially appreciate it if they have a reading, because they have something to hand out."
Among the broadsides Mr. Powers published, Ferlinghetti said, was one "for a poem of mine called 'Jack of Hearts,' which was about Bob Dylan."
Beginning by asking, "Who are we now, who are we ever," the poem describes the title character as:
the black-eyed one who sees all ways
the one with the eye of a horse
the one with the light in his eye
the one with his eye on the star named Nova
the one for the ones with no one to lead them
"I had a lot of great times with him," Ferlinghetti said of Mr. Powers. "Jack was a great yea-sayer. He was a great friend and promoter of poets, and he was very proud of having kept his Stone Soup poetry readings series going."
Mr. Powers "had many friends in North Beach, San Francisco, among the poets here, and especially poets of his generation, including the Beat generation," Ferlinghetti said. "He's going to be missed by many poets, especially in the North Beach part of San Francisco, where everyone considers him a brother."
E-mail Bryan Marquard at firstname.lastname@example.org
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