The Poetry Project

Lewis Warsh: Memories

Donna Cartelli

I entered the dimly lit vestibule of St. Mark’s Church for the first time one fall night in 1995 for a Poetry Project workshop to co-edit the literary journal, The World, which was being edited by Lewis Warsh. I knocked on the metal Parish Hall door and moments later heard the turn of the handle. The door creaked open and a tall man with wispy long salt and pepper hair and crooked glasses emerged, his eyes widened and in his warm, welcoming voice introduced himself and we went inside.

Lewis and I worked together with a team of co-editors for two years, producing issues 46-49 of The World. Lewis was a stellar editor. Instinctual. His knowledge broad and deep. I was a young poet but Lewis made me feel my thoughts and opinions mattered as much as the more seasoned poets in the room. He encouraged. His methods often Socratic. He may have led the group, but he was of the group. Our conversations were illuminating and heated and profound and there was lots of laughter. I sat in a think tank every Friday night and had never been happier.

I worked with Lewis on and off for 6 years with some fine poets including Peter Bushyeager, Phyllis Wat, Merry Fortune, Dennis Moritz, Lydia Cortes. During those periods, my work grew by leaps and bounds. Because Lewis and I lived near each other in Park Slope, he’d drive me home from Manhattan after our workshops. Going over the bridge with Lewis was an experience as he tended to turn to me to talk. I can’t say he was the best driver but a great conversationalist, curious, invested in those he chose to be with.

Donna Cartelli
18 November 2020

In Memoriam: Lewis Warsh (1944–2020)