Paul Thiel was on his way toward a master’s degree that would set him up for a career in geology. Then he made a major life choice.
“I’d rather be a minor poet than a world-famous geologist,” he said.
Thiel sought his literary fortunes in San Francisco in 1963, where he moved into the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and discovered the burgeoning scene of Beat poets centered around Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookstore. Allen Ginsberg was a familiar face in the neighborhood, and, for a time, an unknown singer named Janis Joplin rehearsed beneath his poet’s loft.
He later relocated to New York City, where he sold poems on the streets of Greenwich Village for a quarter apiece, saw W. H. Auden hanging out in the back at poetry readings and encountered Andy Warhol as a “white ghost” always hovering silently around the literary and artistic scene. He also witnessed the Stonewall uprising, the acts of protest and civil disobedience that launched the gay liberation movement.
Thiel has been a presence on the St. Louis literary scene since moving back in the 1980s. He’s organized poetry readings, taught adult-education classes, convened writers’ groups and curated “Under the Arch,” a collection of short stories about the Gateway City.
In this episode of Cut & Paste, Thiel recounts his many memories and shares his work, including his award-winning remembrance of the Stonewall uprising as well as a selection from his wickedly satirical poetry volume “Nasty Sonnets.”
The podcast is sponsored by JEMA Architects, Planners and Designers.
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