Archive | April, 2016

January 22, 2016:

25 Apr

John Farris RIP

by Susan L. Yung

 John Farris @ Wilma Jennings Gallery

Photo by Robert Watlington

John Farris at Wilma Jennings Gallery

John Farris died quietly in his sleep last night as the bright full moon brightened the 2016 fury blizzard trail that left 25 inches of snow. Snow flurried madly & gently downed on NYC. John quietly faded into the background, while many sympathizers slowly realized that he had passed on.


That night, after videoing Larry Roland, Ras Moshe, Bill Cole and Charles Downs, I left the Clemente De Soto music event and shopped at Whole Foods on Houston St to replenish my food pantry. It was very crowded as many others were preparing for that big snow blizzard. By the time I got out of the subway in Brooklyn, it started to snow. The next morning, I got up around 12:57 pm and the Blizzard was in full blast. A friend, text ms me on FB that John Farris had died.


John Farris was an E. Vill. codger & icon. He & Steve Cannon. Both had no direction to go but to successfully be, in the tradition of “great writers”, notoriously arrogant, rebellious, angry, macho intellectual Black men in the Lower East Side. As anarchists by divide & rule among ethnics, they fought their way to become numero uno Black writers in the 60’s to the present history of LES. They claimed their stake as homeless, alcoholic, poets, critics and writers and like the Bowery bums of the 60s–70s, patronize any cheap bar. John constantly wore a beret or his pork pie straw hat as a member of the LES art scene. He had a spinal problem that caused him to limp and eventually walk with a cane. He usta ride his bike to Williamsburg to get some nice second hand dudes. John was the best looking Black writer from the day he was born. I try to see the good side of him and supported his works as much as possible.


There was a time, my first (“rich”) boyfriend, Elia, would escort me to the John Farris vs Lester Afflick “Best Poet Showdown”. Even though Lester was a better poet, John would egregariously announce he was the winner and due to age differences, Lester would concede.


The first time I met JF was in the 80s, when Kevin Jordan brought me to Bullet Space’ squat. At that time, I had began to attend several poetry readings in LES with a group of Asian writers i.e. Charas, NYU, Basement Workshop, Fez, Nuyorican Poets Café. This was my first time hanging out with a writer outside of my ethnic group. JF was living in a small apt with no heat or running water: lonely & old but the sparkle in his eyes was the most appealing. He read his latest short story, “Devil in a Blue/Red Dress” interspersed with attempting to steal a kiss or two. I was too shy to reciprocate & besides I was dating KJ. JF had a face full of expressions & I loved that immemorial face … what a case study.


I am having a brain organism, meaning I am having cabin fever during this 2016 Blizzard … the first snow blizzard of the year. This 2015’s weather was so mild and warm that lasted a long time, to a point of spoiling us NYers.


RIP John,


Dinner tonight for JF: cold noodles, cognac, weed and wine. For dessert chocolates & cognac … a hotty totty … a great buzz to wake up with a hangover, my heady–achey self.



In 1995, I attended Steve Cannon’s writing/poetry workshop with John Farris’ participation. There were about 50 participants that John had whittled down to about 15 hard core poets. I had written this poem “Asian American Rap” for him to check the lines he preferred in the poem. He liked it so much as is that he told Steve to print it in the next Tribes Magazine.


The Asian American Rap





Victim of gentrification



Exotic/erotic stereee–

                  oh type

Makes me type

the words

Yes      No

☐         ☐         B U D D H A





☐         ☐         Makin’ Doves

                                    Makin’ a role model

                                    to be

girl friend


& charity woman


☐         ☐         Her jobs





                                    salesclerk &

                                    garment worker


☐         ☐         War wounds from ugly

white old men with houses, cars,

jobs, trust funds and art hangin’ their walls.


☐         ☐         War wounds from ugly

black old men with apts, drugs,

jobs and dreams.


☐         ☐         War wounds from ugly

yellow old men with houses, cars,

jobs, white/yellow wives with

children and trust funds


☐         ☐         H E Y MA

                                    stop stoopin’


                                    with a touch

                                    of nothin’


                                    she laughs

                                    and laughs …


☐         ☐         … My job is

                                    A R T.


☐         ☐         35 years is a rude,


                                    other, a



☐         ☐         Reckon,

there are mor’ to say about than there are

days when mama


“Nothin’ ”



☐         ☐         The beauty of uglinesses.


JF & Lois Elaine GriffithPhoto by Robert Watlington

John Farris and Lois Elaine Griffin at A Gathering of the Tribes

JF in streetPhoto by Robert Watlington

John Farris in LES street