Epic farewell for Steve Cannon, of A Gathering of the Tribes

steve cannon photo, memorial

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Friends and family of Steve Cannon packed the Bowery Poetry Club on Sun., July 14, for a marathon memorial for the late East Village poet and arts icon.

Cannon, 84, who was blind, died July 7 while recuperating from a broken hip he had suffered a month earlier in a fall in his Avenue D apartment.

A writer who also had an earlier career as a teacher, in his mid-50s, Cannon turned his E. Third St. apartment into A Gathering of the Tribes, a welcoming, anything-goes literary and arts salon. He was known for nurturing — and haranguing with tough love — generations of young poets and writers. He also published some of them as an independent publisher.

David Henderson, a friend of Steve Cannon’s since the 1960s, holding an offbeat photo of the late East Village poet, taken by Clayton Patterson, outside Sunday’s memorial gathering. (Photo by No Land)

“It was six hours, and it was Steve’s domain,” Bob Holman, founder of the Bowery Poetry Club, said of the memorial, which he emceed. “There was heckling. The hecklers were being heckled. There was music. There were tears.”

Writer Chavisa Woods co-organized the event with Holman.

“The place was at capacity,” Holman said. “But at the same time, we never had to turn anyone away.”

He said 10 members of Cannon’s family, mostly from Baltimore, were sitting at
“the big table in the corner.” Meanwhile, a big blown-up whacky photo of Cannon, with his glasses askew, by Clayton Patterson, was “the backdrop” for the memorial speakers and performers.

The memorials came in the form of poetry, reminiscences and music. Two Boots Pizza fittingly provided its aptly dubbed A Gathering of the Tribes pies.
“It’s got a lot of meat,” Holman noted of the pizzas named after Cannon’s famed space.

Photos of Steve Cannon in his office at A Gathering of the Tribes, on E. Third St., with the portrait of him, by Clayton Patterson, behind him. (Photos by No Land)

Summing up the eclectic mix of people, performances and pizza at the memorial, Holman said that, both literally and figuratively, “It was A Gathering of the Tribes.”

Woods put together a lineup with four groupings of memorial speakers. Danny Shot hosted the one that started at 11:30 a.m., with featured speakers Katherine Arnoldi, Luciann Berrios, Robert Gibbons, Gabriel Don, Janine Cirincione, Bonny Finberg, Ron Kolm, Freida Jones and Tsaurah Litzky.

The 1 p.m. host was Patricia Spears Jones, with featured speakers Carmen Bardiguez Brown, Valery Oisteneau, Penny Arcade, No Land (Reading for Anne Waldman), Gabrielle David, Justina Mejias, Christian Haye and Nina Kuo.

At 2 p.m., Woods took over as host, as William Parker and Daniel Carter played music in honor of Cannon, followed by speakers, including Cannon’s sister Evelyn Cannon, his daughter Melanie Best, Joseph Keckler, Danny Shot, Dora Espinoza, Nancy Mercado, Yuko Otomo, Jennifer Blowdryer, Steve Dalachinsky and Mike Tyler.

The final segment, at 3 p.m., was hosted by Sheila Maldonado, with speakers Paul Beatty, Jesus Papoleto Melendéz, Lydia Cortés, Poonam Srivastiva, Urayoán Noel and Carl Watson, with music by Lorin Roser and Billy Martin, and words by Bob Holman.

“There were also a slew of open mic’ers,” Holman noted. He added it’s hoped that a complete six-hour video of the memorial will be available for viewing by midweek.