We recently chatted with Gillian McCain, author of two poetry books, Tilt and Religion, co-author (with Legs McNeil) of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, and co-editor of Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose (also with Legs McNeil). She is also a collector and exhibitor of found photography. She spoke about her time at NYU and her eclectic artistic pursuits. Photo Credit: Annie Watts

Do you have a favorite NYU memory?

My friend Eric Swenson and I organized a reading by Gregory Corso at the Loeb Student Center—we got a thousand people there! It was crazy. It was free, but it was still crazy. We made flyers and went to the park all the time and gave them out. We were hanging out at this rare bookstore in the West Village, and that’s where we met Gregory Corso and the some of the other Beat writers; so they told some of their friends, and it was advertised well at NYU. They were paying Corso a thousand bucks, which was pretty significant at the time. It was an exciting event. And all the friends I made are still my best friends. I met my friend Chris Simunek first day of Expository Writing class—and he is still my one of my best friends. Up until recently he was the editor at High Times. I remember I’d hang out in Washington Square Park a lot and I remember there was this girl about my age, Corene LeMaitre, she just goes: “Nice boots.” And I go: “I like your boots, too.” And she is still a friend of mine. She ended up writing a novel for HarperCollins. So everyone did pretty well. A lot of people I have lost touch with, but I should look them up on Facebook.

You were Program Coordinator for three years at The Poetry Project. What was it like working there as a writer yourself?

It was great. They only hire writers! I loved working there—that was my dream job. I officially started working on Please Kill Me with Legs in 1994. I was burned out on The Poetry Project, and my mom just died, and they asked me to do the Newsletter which was really time consuming, and so I was freelancing for about a year. But the fun thing I did [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][at The Poetry Project] was I hosted and programmed a weekly Friday Night series, that I am still proud of, and continues to this day.

How did that venture come about?

I had some ideas, and I think in large part that was why I was hired. There was one event before I worked there, and it was all these poets standing in front of the church and they were reading from Frank O’Hara’s Second Avenue. I loved that event, and Ed Friedman [the director of the Poetry Project] was like, “Why don’t you organize more events like that?” The Poetry Project has so much clout that everyone takes your call!

Have you always been interested in doing non-fiction work?

Always. The book Edie was a big influence on me, and that was an oral history. That was about New York, the Warhol scene, and the counter culture, and it was a big influence on why I wanted to move here. I was always interested in oral history. I read a lot of non-fiction. I hadn’t interviewed yet, but I wanted to, and when I started I had a knack for it. You tend to like things you are good at.

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READ MORE AT: NYU Arts and Science Alumni Blog: Gillian McCain (GSAS ’90) reflects on NYU and her Artistic Passions[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]