Phantoms from a disappearing center were called to St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery last Friday for the Poetry Project’s 55th anniversary gala. The organization is an enduring refuge for New York City poets, and the event brought several generations of the creative community under one tower to celebrate the spoken word.
Attendees in suits, togas, inner caps and sleeveless turtlenecks chatted during cocktail hour in the aisles. Some wondered if this quasi-formal affair, with $500 seats and a step-and-repeat, was in line with the Poetry Project’s bohemian past and association with penniless bards.
“There’s a bit of grumbling about, ‘How can poets charge money for this sort of thing?'” said Anne Waldman, who was the group’s director from 1968 to 1978. grow up and participate in the culture.”
The eclectic list of writers, musicians, actors and designers reflected that range. Daniel Lopatin, the experimental electronic music producer who performs as Oneohtrix Point Never, said his favorite poet was Clark Coolidge. “The words are almost nonsense,” said Mr. Lopatin. “It’s very rooted in his jazz practice and I adore him.”
Next to him sat Cory Kennedy, an epitome of the indie sleaze era of the mid-late aughts, who wore a mesh T-shirt and a pencil skirt, both Calvin Klein. She joked that she was a fan of a modern-day warrior poet. “Zelensky isn’t bad,” she said.
Dinner was served in the ship. At a long table near the stage were Chloë Sevigny, Zac Posen, Nate Lowman, Andrew VanWyngarden and Arden Wohl. Pre ivinaigrette arrived with mozzarella di bufala.
“I think it’s important to honor the disruptors,” said Ms. Sevigny, who wore an All-In pink, black, and gray ball gown that had the candy-like sheen of a raspberry-glazed donut. “There’s a really cool generation that’s our oldest now,” she said.
Dasha Nekrasova, actress and podcaster, sat a few tables away. Wearing a black Brock Collection dress, she ran outside to smoke with a cadre of seat mates.
Elsewhere, Paul Slovak, an editor at Penguin Books, sprinkled on roast chicken with fava beans. He was in the same room for a 1997 recital of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” and Allen Ginsberg’s live recording of “Wichita Vortex Sutra” in 1994. “I think it’s a very golden moment for poetry,” he said. “There are many, many extremely talented young poets.”
The afterparty was held in the back of the church and the guests walked out on a garden patio. Telfar Clemens, the designer, and Juliana Huxtable, the artist, were on hand for theatrical performances of poetry and a DJ spinning dance music.
Mr. Posen, the fashion designer, was asked if poetry might be a fashion moment. After all, Demna Gvasalia read a poem by Oleksandr Oles at the Balenciaga show in Paris, Loewe cited Sylvia Plath’s poetry as a source of inspiration for his latest show, and brands like Valentino and Tory Burch recently collaborated with writers.
“Clothes can be poetry if worn by the right person,” said Mr. Posen, “or the wrong one.”