Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pony Stable Inn

150 West Fourth Street today
Pony Stable Inn

Location: 150 West Fourth Street at Sixth Avenue, New York, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: late 1940s, 1960s?

The Pony Stable Inn was one of the first openly lesbian bars in New York City.

Somehow, it also became a focal point for the Beat Generation poetry scene. Back in 1949, the young poet Gregory Corso (1930-2001), having just been released from prison, was adopted as an "artist-in-residence" by the women at the Pony Stable. (How or why this happened I'm not entirely sure.) By day, Corso worked as a day laborer in New York's garment district. But by night, he wrote poetry at a table the ladies had thoughtfully provided for him at the Pony Stable.

Corso's reputation somehow attracted the attention of young Columbia College student named Allen Ginsberg, who decided to seek him out.

Corso was writing poetry there the night Ginsberg arrived. Ginsberg, cruising bars, was immediately attracted sexually to Corso. Ginsberg later said, "The Pony Stable was I think a dyke bar... I just wandered in and I remember he was sitted at a table, and he was a very nice looking kid. Alone... So I thought, was he gay or what was it? Maybe not." Ginsberg was even more struck by reading Corso's poems, immediately realizing Corso’s talent. "One he showed me...blew my mind instantly...and it struck me instantly that he was... spiritually gifted." Eventually Ginsberg introduced Corso to the rest of his inner circle.

In their first meeting at the Pony Stable, Corso showed Ginsberg a poem about a woman who lived across the street from him, and sunbathed naked in the window. The woman turned out to have been Ginsberg's girlfriend during one of his forays into heterosexuality. Ginsberg introduced the young and virginal Corso to the sunbathing woman, and in a panic, Corso ran from her apartment. Ginsberg and Corso remained life-long friends and collaborators.

There is something of a painful irony here. Though many of the Beats were gay men, they were well known for their dismissive attitudes towards women, and their particularly condescending attitudes towards women writers, even within the "movement." As Ronna C. Johnson and Nancy M. Grace have demonstrated, there were many accomplished Beat women writers who also broke "the rule of cool" such as Diane di Prima, ruth weiss, Joyce Johnson, Hettie Jones, Joanne Kyger, Brenda Frazer (Bonnie Bremser), Janine Pommy Vega, Anne Waldman, and the critic Ann Charters. But their contributions were totally overlooked until comparatively recently.

And it didn't help, I'm sure, that none of these women got their own writing table at a lesbian bar.

Photo: the old Pony Stable Inn today

2 comments:

  1. Joyce Johnson refers to this as the "Pony Bar" on page 40 of her book, "Minor Characters"

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