Joel Oppenheimer (1930-88) was an American poet and newspaper columnist. Originally from Yonkers, NY, Oppenheimer was briefly educated at Cornell University and the University of Chicago before enrolling in 1950 at Black Mountain College, where he studied with poet Charles Olson. He left Black Mountain in 1953 without having taken a degree and settled in New York to work at a print shop while continuing to write poetry. His first publications were The Dancer (1951), The Dutiful Son (1956), The Love Bit and Other Poems (1962) and the satiric Western drama The Great American Desert, which was the first production of the Judson Poets’ Theater in 1961.
Oppenheimer became the first director of the Poetry Project at St Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery in 1966. Reviewing Oppenheimer’s biography Don’t Touch the Poet in 1999, Stephan Delbos noted that “His great theme was love: requited and otherwise, domestic and wild. The poetry combines tenderness with the chatty intellectualism of the New York avant-garde, by way of Black Mountain’s Occam-sharp line breaks and diction.” The compilations In Time, The Woman Poems and New Spaces: Poems, 1975–1983 were all written when Oppenheimer was director at St Mark’s (1966-84), but he was better known for the columns that wrote for the Village Voice during that period. Oppenheimer also authored Marilyn Lives! (1981) about Marilyn Monroe, and The Wrong Season (1973) about the New York Mets. He died of lung cancer in 1988 at the age of 58.
The cassette On Occasion, the third joint release by Ragged Lion Press and Counter Culture Chronicles, contains a lively poetry reading by Oppenheimer at Allentown Community Center in 1977. The recording of this 40-minute release as well as the portraits of the poet that are included as a J-card and three laser printed inserts, come from the archive of beat documentalist Allen DeLoach. Order now →