Friday, April 23, 2021

 Writing the Apocalypse

In 2014, I began writing a cultural column for The Villager (an umbrella for all of its subsidiary papers.) When it was sold to a corporation whose views I did not share, I followed my editor, Scott Stiffler, to a new venture,, and continued to cover events, interview people, etc. The only difference is that it was Chelsea based, rather than a general downtown paper.

Then, the pandemic. No events, no people to meet with. On March 25th, 2020, I began my column, Writing the Apocalypse, with a poem titled "In the Apocalypse." I also included my photos, and, eventually, some photos by others, turning it into a sort of poem/photo essay, for a lack of a new term.

I've written a new poem every week since, and, since 9/2020, have also been able to write a few articles. This is a listing of everything to date, followed by a few photos.

November Morning, 2020

Man Singing on East River, August, 2020

View from Window, September, 2020


Over one year has passed since my last post on this blog.

The pandemic year.

Our last pre-pandemic show as Puma Perl and Friends was at the historic CafĂ© Bohemia, located at 15 Barrow Street.  From 1955-60, the club hosted jazz legends and poets. Charlie Parker lived across the street at the time, with poet Ted Joans, and had offered to play in order to attract other musicians and patrons.  The club was closed until 2019, and then reopened with the same intimate venue.

Puma Perl and Friends were honored to kick off what was to be a new series, West Village Word, hosted and curated by John Pietaro. We played to a full house on Wednesday, 02/26/21, joined by guest saxophonist Seaton Hancock. The second featured act was Lindsay Wilson $ Human Hearts.

Photo by Sherry Rubel. L-R, Joe Sztabnik, Dave Donen, Puma Perl,  Joff Wilson, and Danny Ray.

Friday, January 31, 2020

  • WEDNESDAY, 2/19/2020
  • 11TH Street Bar
  • 510 East 11th St
  • NY NY 10009

Join us for a night of great music and some poetry at the legendary 11th Street Bar! Never a cover or admission, but buy drinks and tip well the bar and in the tip jar! Keep live music alive and support our neighborhood businesses!

10:15: SoulCake - JOff Wilson, SaraFe, Laura Sativa and the occasional special guest or two play sweet and sultry songs about this crazy thing called life.

9:00: Puma Perl and Friends - merges spoken word with rock and roll and original music. Friends are Joff Wilson, Joe Sztabnik, Dave Donen, and Danny Ray. “Puma Perl & Friends is art at its best; collaborative, thrilling, and authentic. There is no posturing; it’s poetry & music & its own divine experience.” Elizabeth Grey, Writer

8:00: Mike Edison's Dirty Valentine - Mike Edison reads and performs stories and songs from his books and beyond, with his micro arkestra, the Space Liberation Army, featuring Mickey Finn (piano) and Dee Pop (drums).

PLUS Eric Seftel, adding his psychedelic visuals to the performances.


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

 Check out this great review of "Birthdays Before and After" by George Wallace.
Originally published on the POETRYBAY site on Facebook, link below.

To raise the shades, to look out into the New York City day
by George Wallace
Birthdays Before And After, Puma Perl
Beyond Baroque Books 2019
For countless authors, New York City is a metaphor -- the overwhelming city, with its charms and caresses, its turn-ons and turn-offs, its nooks and crannies, its sheer titanic girth. Its opportunities and dangers, its callous and dismissive disinterest in anything but itself, the pure expression of itself, myriad, unassailable, New York.

But for Puma Perl, in her new collection Birthdays Before and After, New York City is more than a metaphor. It is a life itself – told from the inside out.

Intersectional New York City, with all its contradictions, and with all its scales pitched in perfectly cacophonous array. The New York City of railroad apartments and Coney Island chicken coops, where you grow up afraid to get a dog because they killed your cat. The New York City of speedballs and rainbow cookies, where love is ‘waiting on the corner in the drug dealer’s boots.’ Streets ‘smelling of blood, death, car wrecks and maybe a little bit of hope.’ The contradance of junkies and bill-paying American thieves, and beautiful lost poets who have lived so long writing poems for a gig in neat handscript (and then throwing them out) that life itself has killed them.

Old men playing dominoes in the park. Tattoo’ed girls proud of their shoulders. Vampire cups of coffee brewed at sunset. New York City -- where taxi vomit is for amateurs, where being homeless is ‘not the same as a bottle of Wild Irish and a doorway,’ and where vacancy is an art unto itself.
A city that lives above and below the radar, carrying on multiple simultaneous existences most of which are invisible to visitors and passers through.

Today is a New York holiday

The transplants are gone

Streets are deserted and promise nothing

Neither do we.

In her new collection Perl offers us a kaleidoscopic glimpse of it all. She prowls the streets of Gotham with the elusive skill of a tried and true ‘denizen’ of the city, and does not even bother asking if you want to tag along -- because obviously you do, or you wouldn’t be here. Living in a city like this, as she has, there are simply too many small matters in ordinary human existence to tally it all up like a waitress presenting the bill. Terrible and delicious matters, intrinsic to an overwhelmingly brutal and specific city, a city as uncertain as it is bold, a city as tantalizingly flirtatious as it is unforgiving.

Puma Perl’s poems possess a devotion to the discoverable in the ‘off-moment,’ a quest for aperture, a la Frank O’Hara, who knew how to find a revelation in a doorway, on one or another of his lunchtime strolls through midtown.

They also possess the gritty insistence on the possibility of hope in a seemingly hopeless city, a la Lou Reed, who claimed there’s a book on magic at the bottom of the garbage can, and if you can get hold of it and count to three you can disappear.

Birthdays Before and After, by contrast, is no disappearing act. What we have here are moments of clarity in an overilluminated world, approximating insight.
Drop a five dollar bill on a homeless girl if you want to, it ‘may or may not be her birthday,’ and it ought to make you feel good to do it. But know this -- the gesture carries in itself the very seeds of doubt and disappointment, and anyhow is little more than ‘a shot of dope/lasting a minute and then you’re back where you were//sitting on cardboard. ‘

Give away all your stuff – band shirts, tight skirts, silk dress, workout gear – to people more virtuous than you, and they’ll just worry and think you’re going to kill yourself. Of course you’re not going to do that:

It’s been done

and 4 am phone calls and railroad

stations will haunt me forever.’

Though they do not attempt to shock or tease, these poems succeed as well as they do in part because they don’t have to go that route. There is a wry believability in these poems, a street-weariness told with survivor aplomb, and with an undertone of unextinguished resolve that makes it possible to believe that a person can swallow the indigestible and keep on going, can keep asking the unanswerable questions.

What does it mean to open your eyes in the morning to ‘bridges and rivers, trees hurting more than the ugly,’

What does it mean to ask ‘when do you cry? When do you stop?’

What does it mean to declare I’m not afraid of my city, and ask us to believe that the sheer pluck of saying so can make it true.
Here in 80-something pages is a life revealed with as much honesty as the facts themselves allow. Half a dozen lives really, rolled up into one, so far. Lived way beyond the punk thing -- an oversimplification of the author’s wide-ranging aims and attitudes -- that help to give dimension and full human context to the label ‘New Yorker.’

Though for those seeking a glimpse into ‘that’ scene, they’ll find much that is satisfying in this book. Deglamorized though, not your standard anti-glam punk chic. Punk made real. I have no doubt Perl could do a whole chapbook name-dropping punk celebrities -- but that would be doing it on the cheap and easy, and if this collection is any evidence, this is a poet who decidedly aims higher than that. And anyhow, if you hang around in New York long enough, brushes with celebrities are not the point.

is the point is the way the human drama reveals itself, teetering on stilettos and dirty martinis, leaning against incoherent walls, doing shots with the girls, sprawled out blind in the middle of a party, spiked on LSD on some stranger’s couch. Shouldering onto some stage for a moment of tinsel glory before all the souls around you break into jagged pieces.

“We were all born broken,” observes Perl in an understated inner city drawl. “I was born broken too…

I break soft in hard places

I break quiet on rooftops and subways…

…Men slit their throats for me

Each time I break.
This is neither bravura nor the stuff of leather femme fatale. It is cold, hard, authentic. Human. The kind of poetry that is only possible to write if you have lived it, been a citizen to it, part victim and part perpetrator, part instigator and part accomplice.

A world that offers a kind of transcendence to have simply survived another night of it, woken up with the eyes still in your head and a willingness to open them up and take a chance on another day -- the silences and the sighs, the curses and blessings littered among the sirens, the smacktalk and sidewalk lies.

Every morning I raise these shades and it’s still too beautiful not to hurt a little more.’

To write poems like these is to raise the shades and look out into the New York City day. And no matter the conditions of society or the weather, have the resolve to either plunge yourself back into it, or shut your eyes and save yourself for another day.

And along the way, put some of it to pen to paper.

“It isn’t depression,” writes Puma Perl “It’s August.

like a bad play that never ends...

Why bother to talk at all?

People’s intelligence rises

As temperatures fall

Look for me in February

I’ll be wearing boots and black jeans

Just like August but smarter.

George Wallace is the author of 36 collections of poetry in the US, UK and Europe. He is Writer in Residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace and a fixture on the NYC performance scene. Wallace is the winner of numerous international awards for poetry, and he travels internationally to perform, lead writing workshops, and lecture on literary topics.

Photo of George Wallace by Robert L Harrison
"Birthdays Before and After" cover art by Chelle Mayer
Graphics by Dennis Doyle


A mid-January pick-me-up! We all need something to look forward to right about then. Here's an idea!
FRIDAY, January 17, 7:00 PM

Presented by Wham Bam Raff and Sam!

Bowery Electric Map Room (@ Joey Ramone Place)
327 Bowery
New York, NY 10003
212 -228 -0228

Another great evening of Poetry and Rock n Roll!

Live Music + Spoken Word Hosted by Puma Perl
and Featuring:

Featured Guests:
Poets Jon Sands & Bob Holman
Downtown Pidgeons (Lisa & Billy)
Arthur Stevenson of Sea Monster

Plus Puma Perl and Friends, Joff Wilson and SoulCake,
Dave Donen, Walter Steding, Joe Sztabnik, & Rick Eckerle

Special Surprise Guests!
Sam Hariss spins the tunes, Raff slings the booze

Never any cover or minimum
21 and over
Doors Open 5pm for bar, Showtime at 7:00
Drink Specials until 8pm
DJ before and after the show

Poster courtesy of Dennis Doyle
Artwork, Chelle Mayer

FB Invite:

Monday, December 9, 2019

Book Release Party

My book release party for "Birthdays Before and After" was held December 3, 2019, at Lady Stardust, 25 Avenue A.

Artwork, Chelle Mayer, Cover design Dennis Doyle

Birthdays Before and After

My fifth solo collection, "Birthdays Before and After," was published by Beyond Baroque Books in 2019. Edited by Iris Berry, founder of Punk Hostage Press and noted writer and LA punk icon. Introduction by Kat Georges, co-founder of Three Rooms Press, writer/poet/playwright.

Artwork Chelle Mayer, Cover Design, Dennis Doyle

It’s Puma Perl’s New York City, the street stoops and Coney Island, the heartbreaks, the heroin, the ghosts of Haring and the Chelsea Hotel. Like Jim Carroll born a woman, maybe, or Lou Reed with a keener grasp of the written word, her writing is as skillful as it is scary and wonderful. Makes startling poetics of the day-to-day, the big beats and saxophones and rush of subways. All the themes—isolation, sobriety, death, self-reflection, weddings and birthdays—are inescapable and ferocious in her hands. They’re earned words, so beautifully bent you could wear them as jewelry. —Brian Smith, author of Spent Saints and Tucson Salvage-Tales and Recollections of La Frontera

To the edgy, illustrious ranks of poets like Diane DiPrima and Charles Bukowski, let us now add the fearless, delirious genius of Puma Perl. Long a cult legend and staple of the Lower East Side poetry scene, with “Birthdays Before and After,” she steps forward and cements her place as 21st Century visionary and unsparing chronicler of the human condition. Anyone who cares about phenomenal writing and one-of-a-kind breathtaking lines on the page needs to read this book. Puma Perl is nothing short of a national treasure living in our midst. And “Birthdays” is a jewel. 
Jerry Stahl, Novelist, Memoirist, Screenwriter

According to William Carlos Williams there are “no ideas but in things;” Puma Perl’s “Birthdays Before and After” is filled with things, objects and places that deliver profound ideas through her New York voice, glowing like the moon and streetlight ricocheting across the bright surfaces of the dark city. Her lively characters fashion vignettes in these often-narrative poems, so that reading this book feels like a glitch in the universe, similar to the one in “Being John Malkovich”; the book is a portal that invites you right into the head of the author to see, feel, hear and touch through her body, this body of work. You can taste the asphalt and see the stars in these poems that are slices of an extraordinary, ordinary life. Her words deliver to the senses her unique sense, a grit and wisdom that informs her expert eye. The book leaves you on the floor with a memory box spilled around you, describing snapshots of how humanity endures through loss and chaos.
-Jane LeCroy, Poet and Educator

 Available from Beyond Baroque Books, from the author (contact me at for direct orders to individuals) and Amazon.