Friday, December 29, 2006

East Side Melody: Introduction to Ed Galing.


A Poet whose roots are in the Lower East Side of New York City.

Some thoughts from Ed about his late wife:

"one month after she has left me to lie in the cemetery, and the many friends and good relatives have disappeared, it's just me and her all over again, and I tell you, she is not dead...and today she and i are going for a long ride, into the Pocono mountains, she always liked that ride into hills and valleys; and perhaps we will find a shady spot somewhere, and talk about life and how lucky we are to have each other." ( Excerpt from: "Gently in the Night"- a poem by Ed Galing")


1 Galing, Ed. Buying a suit on Essex Street / 2006 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS( 1/ 0)
2 Galing, Ed. Buying a suit on Essex Street / 2006 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS( 1/ 0)
3 Galing, Ed. Adventures of Sadie the psychic.Vol. 2 / 2006 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS( 1/
4 Galing, Ed. Cuff links and poetry / 2006 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS( 1/ 0) SPECIAL
5 Galing, Ed. Goldfish follies : 2006 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS( 1/ 0)
6 Galing, Ed. Confessions of a white hat / 2005 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS SPECIAL
7 Galing, Ed. Posthumous letters of Ed Galing. 2005 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS( 1/ 0)
10 Galing, Ed. Catch a falling star / 2005 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS SPECIAL
12 Galing, Ed. Mail call : 2004 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS SPECIAL COLLECTIONS / Poet
14 Galing, Ed. "Dear editor" : 2004 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS SPECIAL COLLECTIONS /
15 Galing, Ed Soul food / 2004 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS
16 Galing, Ed. Where do we go from here? / 2004 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS SPECIAL
17 Galing, Ed. The violinist (and) other selected poems / 2003 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS
18 Galing, Ed. A fine kettle of fish / 2003 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
19 Galing, Ed. The Tower of Babel / 2003 Book SPECIAL-COLLECTIONS SPECIAL


* for my late wife

My mother used

to say

"Ich gay tantzen."

(I am going dancing)

In the Jewish


it sounds so

honey clear,



"ich gay tantzen"



I am going


all my life

it seems as if

I have always

been dancing,

sometimes a

slow waltz,

other times a


sometimes a Fox Trot

and when my

wife and I were


together we

did the Jitterbug,

"ich gay tantzen,


Look at me

in my old age

my wife has

departed before


my tears spill on

my pillow each night,

where has everyone


"ich gay tantzen.
"ich gay tantzen."

A Note From Ed Galing

I often try to remember my past; most often my past on the Lower East Side of New York City.

I Keep going back to it from time to time. New York in the 1920's was a fascinating city in which to live.

Our ancestors all came from the old world, and Jews seemed to be always persecuted. I am 89, I have grown old, but I still wonder why the world is the way it is. The Holocaust. Never to be forgotten.

I was born in 1917 and my first home as a young Jewish kid was the Lower East Side of New York City. I sooned learned I was different in many ways. We followed the Torah and God's commandments. We worshipped our own way. We never harmed anyone.

Sometimes its good to take a look back. Follow me please...

Ed Galing/ Hatboro, Pa./Dec. 2006


By Doug Holder

I wrote more than a few poems for my friend Ed Galing after getting the many letters he has sent me over the years. Ed letters are probably as good as his poems. They are alive, spirited, like a scrappy street urchin, that Ed was in his early years. Ed can be needy, infuriating, hilariously funny, but most of all loveable. And that’s the way I characterize his poetry. Like Ed, it shoots from the hip, giving you it straight with no chaser. I find that in contrast, a lot of the poetry I read today has a calculated ironic distance, almost as if the poet is afraid to display some honest sentiment or emotion. Ed Galing, at 89 is a poet who knows his allotted time is too short for posturing, a cool detachment, and obtuse and inaccessible verse. After long years of writing, and submitting his work Galing has joined the ranks of the major small press poets that includes: A.D. Winans, Hugh Fox, Lyn Lifshin, Alan Catlin, Lynne Savitt, and others. Like the poets just mentioned Galing’s poetry, stories, and essays have appeared in the most obscure and the most well-known journals across the country. Whenever I pick up a little magazine like the Chiron Review, Rattle, Lummox Journal, Poesy, Brevities, The Small Press Review, Pegasus and hundreds of others, I am not surprised to find Ed Galing’s name there.

I first encountered Ed Galing’s poetry in a defunct magazine founded by the late Ralph Haselmann Jr. “Lucid Moon.” Ed Galing was described as the “harmonica-playing poet-laureate of Hatboro, Pa.” (His hometown) I later found out that Galing’s work was liberally spread out over a wide-swath of small press magazines, journals, newspapers, and the whole spectrum of publications. What came through in Ed’s poetry was his no-bullshit; call a spade-a- spade style. He reminded me a lot of my wisecracking, Jewish uncles from boyhood, always busting chops and spinning stories. He is what they would call a “mensch” A Yiddish word; it means someone of consequence, someone to emulate. That’s Ed.

In a number of interviews that I conducted with Ed, I became aware of his hardscrabble life, as it was reflected in his poetry. Ed told me that he started to write poetry as a young person during the Depression era. Galing’s family was on general relief, and they lived in very Spartan conditions on the Lower East Side of New York City, and the gone-to seed environs of South Philadelphia.

Galing remembered his high school English teacher Dr. Ginsberg who was supportive of his work and pushed him to read the classics. Galing told me he took to poetry early on. As to why, he related: “Poetry could say something in a few words that prose could only do in the thousands. Poetry allowed me to pour out my heart and soul...” Later Galing mined his early years as fodder for his large body of work. In his most recent collection “Buying a Suit on Essex Street” (Iniquity Press) Galing writes about his boyhood urban retreat—the fires cape on his tenement building over the bustling immigrant filled streets of the Lower East Side.

Fire Escape

Mine was on the
fifth floor

A small iron

Outside the front

Looking down on
Essex Street

Lower East Side:

Down below I
could see pushcarts:

Crowded streets,
people pushing and

Screams and mutterings:
shouts of despair:

Up here, when I sat
outside the window
in my fire escape

I was six years old:
and already I knew
what it felt like

To be caged in
some wild animal.

Ed remembers vividly the cornucopia of sights and sounds the Lower east Side had to offer: “There were the cries of the merchants and the hundred of people pushing and shoving . There was a flavor to those streets I won’t forget. I think it shaped my life. There were the rooftops, the wash on the lines, the garbage on the streets, and the gang fights.”

Galing also had the bitter taste of in-your-face anti-semitism . He learned from the predominately Christian world that the Jews killed Christ, and that Santa Claus wanted no part of him. All this left an indelible impression on the man.

Galing has written many poems concerning anti-semitism, as he experienced it. As an occupation solider in Europe shortly after World War 2 he was a witness to the death camps at Dachau. Galing told me: “All of these events shaped my sensibility and my poetry. I found anti-semitism everywhere…the Army, the Navy. Galing saw the horrific ovens of the camps, and was enraged at the denial of the atrocities by many Germans he encountered. Galing, through the Lucid Moon Press, published a small book of his war time experiences, complete with photos. In spite of these experiences he did not become misanthropic. Galing told me “ This affected me as a man. I wanted to use my words to benefit mankind. I wanted to show that love is important to life.”

To this day Ed Galing visits Jack’s Deli in his old stomping grounds of South Phillie, and entertains the patrons with his harmonica playing. Now that his wife is a resident in a nursing home, he visits her daily, and shares his poetry and music with the other residents as well. Ed makes no concessions to the computer age and still corresponds with fellow poets by hand written letter. He types his poems out on an old typewriter. Ed and I talk on the phone regularly, and he expresses his frustration with the infirmities of old age, his wife’s declining health, the capriciousness of editors, you name it. Yet, overall, Galing keeps a positive attitude, and still has eagle eye out for the next poem. Galing has experienced a lot, but like many of his rapidly diminishing peers he is able to grasp what is important from what is not. Ed has no time to worry about the latest trend, engage in navel gazing, or morbid introspection. What matters to Galing are the people in his life that he touched and who touched him. Ed Reflected: I have two grandsons, three grandchildren, and I am married to a wonderful woman. What is there to know about Ed Galing? Just a simple man, trying to write poetry, and perhaps trying to hear a good word about my work.”

Day’s Work

if my father taught
me anything,
it was how to exist
where existence
was hard to do.
and where every
breath of air
in our lower
east side building
was filled with
the acrid order
of rotten vegetables
that most of us
tenants ate, when
we could afford
to buy the left—
overs, from the
pushcarts on orchard
oh, the rabble, oh
the stench
oh, the jostling
and pushing of
so many of us
as we walked along
pavements so crowded
that we had to almost
walk out into the middle
of the street…
my father made life
as endurable as possible,
by wearing the same clothes
all year round, and when they
his needle and thread would mend them,
he ate little, mostly potatoes,
which gave him that round little
belly, and portly gait,
and he busied himself around
the apartment we had,
my mother in the kitchen,
making food on the coal stove,
learning how to squeeze beets
to make borscht,
and me in my six year old wisdom,
learning how to steal an
occasional apple from the
pushcart outside…
all in a day’s work in
those days.

And just like his old man before him Ed keeps working, at his craft, a craft which has been his life.

--Doug Holder Doug Holder is the founder of the “Ibbetson Street Press, and the Arts/Editor of “The Somerville News,” in Somerville, Mass. His poetry and prose has appeared in: “The Boston Globe,” “CafĂ© Review, “Facets,” “the new renaissance,” and many others.

Ed Galing Interviewed by Doug HolderLucid Moon Interview #6

Doug Holder of Ibbetson St. Press interviewed Hatboro, Pennsylvania Poet Laureate and cartoonist Ed Galing in the fall of 1999.


I first encountered Ed Galing's poetry on the pages of the small press journal Lucid Moon. He was described as "the harmonica playing Poet Laureate of Hatboro, PA". His poetry appealed to me because of its simplicity, its unadorned eloquence. Galing, now in his 80's, has been writing for at least sixty years. His work is liberally spread over a wide variety of small press literary magazines, journals, newspapers, the whole spectrum of venues. His writing is a lyrical exploration of his experiences as a Jewish kid on the streets of the Lower East Side of New York, an occupation soldier shortly after WW2, a young husband trying to make a go of it, and as a wise, elderly man, with enough distance to laugh at what we younger folks call "life". Ed did not have the advantage of a college education, the extended adolescence of the early Baby Boomers, or the self absorbed angst of Generation X. What comes through in Ed's poetry is his no nonsense approach to life. He calls a "spade" a "spade" in the best sense of the word. He reminds me of any number of Jewish uncles I had, cracking jokes, "busting chops", and spinning stories. Ed is unapologetically corny, obscene, sentimental…in short he is what I call a Mensch (Leo Rosten, in his book "Hooray For Yiddish" defines "Mensch" as someone of consequence, someone to emulate, of noble character.)

DH: Ed, you have been a writer for many years now. I understand that you've written for newspapers, magazines…you name it. Now you are known as the Poet Laureate of Hatboro, PA. What turned you on to poetry as a genre of expression?

EG: I began to write short stories and poetry when I was still a young person going to high school. I think it had to do with the foolish idea that being a writer was the road to riches and fame. I lived with my mother and father during the Depression. We were on general relief and were very poor. We lived in three spartan rooms…this was very tough for a kid growing up. These conditions left an impression on me. I suppose that I wanted to get us out of this type of existence. I began to write. My English teacher, Dr. Glicsberg, was supportive of my work and nurtured me. Under him, I studied all the great poets, Frost, Longfellow, Dryden, Shakespeare, and others. I found that writing poetry, as opposed to short stories, allowed me more room to express myself in lyrical and metaphorical ways. Poetry could say something in a few words, that prose could only do in the thousands. Poetry allowed me to pour out my heart and soul. As a result of this, my poetry began to appear in lots of magazines and newspapers. I didn't dare call myself a poet until I felt I deserved that title. There are so many poets in the world today, writing in so many styles and modes. Somehow I found myself writing nostalgic material of my early years in New York. Most recently, I was elected Poet Laureate of Hatboro, PA, at 79 years of age. I also have received numerous citations and awards from the Pennsylvania House and Senate, for literary excellence. Poetry at least for me is the gateway to the soul. In a few words a poet can restore hope, show his faith, make you weep and smile, or laugh out loud.

DH: Ed, as a Jewish kid, your stomping grounds were the Lower East Side of New York City. This is the same milieu that Henry Roth, author of Call It Sleep, called his boyhood home. How did this background shape you a s a writer and a poet?

EG: I was born in 1917 on the Lower East Side of New York, in a big tenement building. My father was the janitor of the building. My mother was a housewife. The only life I knew as a child consisted of running around the pushcarts on Orchard St. and Delancey Street. I listened to the cries of the merchants and the hundreds of people pushing and shoving on the streets of NYC. There was a flavor to those streets that I won't forget. I think it shaped my feelings for the rest of my life. I learned of poverty, and how to exist, running on those streets, chased by Gentiles. There is no question that those days were hard ones. I lived in the Jewish part of the Lower East Side, but there were also other sections, dominated by Italians, etc. This was a time of many gang wars. As a Jewish boy I had to learn to run pretty fast. Henry Roth put it correctly, "No one could possibly write everything about those early days, and get it all down on paper." I still remember the rooftops, the wash on the lines, the garbage on the streets, the way we played on the pavement, the gang fights…which thank God I was not part of. I learned at an early age that it wasn't such a good thing to be a Jew. I learned that I killed Christ, although I didn't even know who he was then. I also learned that Santa Claus wanted no part of me, because he never brought me presents as a kid. I remember how hard my mother worked, and all the holidays. In spite of all the hardships, it left an indelible impression on me. Henry Roth is not the only Jewish writer who lived and wrote about the Lower East Side. I would recommend reading Harry Golden's wonderful books, especially about those early East Side days.

DH: The Depression, hard times, poverty, often appear in your work. Is your poetry a sort of catharsis to the deprivation you felt during the early years?

ED: Absolutely. Everyone of us who has lived a life, certainly writes poetry from their own experiences. The best poetry written come form the heart. No flowery words are necessary. Just the music of the soul. Yes, I always seem to write about the Depression, poverty, and hard times. My father left my mother, and we were left on our own in a bad section of Philly. South Philly was famous for some of the finest actors, singers…it may have not been bad for people not on welfare. My poor mother had no means of support, wound up on welfare, and I was a kid of only nine. I used to see the welfare worker coming, asking questions, and how hard my mother worked to keep me with her. She always had a hard life. When she died, she had no formal ceremony. I remember the hearse driver and I riding together on a stormy day, to put her to rest. You can't help but remember such things, and use them in prose and poetry. I find that poetry takes the bitterness out of me, a sort of catharsis. Yet, it crops up again and again. I've tried to write lighter poetry, more amusing material, just to get away from these sad thoughts. I find that many poets write "confessional" poetry, perhaps overdoing it. I have tried to concentrate on better moments in my life. I must confess…it does me good to write about those other times also. A.D. Winans, another excellent poet, writes a great deal of poetry about the hard life…I think we all do that. Some of the best poetry springs out of this experience. I have been deprived of some things, but I had a wonderful understanding mother, who gave her life for me, so that I could grow up.

DH: As I mentioned before, Henry Roth is a big interest of mine. In his Mercy Of A Rude Stream trilogy, he followed the life and times of Ira Stigman, a semi-autobiographical fictional character, from childhood to young manhood. Has your writing been influenced by Roth? Did you experience any of the Jewish self-hatred that Stigman suffered as he tried to fit into Gentile America?

EG: No, I can honestly say that Roth has not influenced my life or writing. Nor can I say that I experienced self-hatred because I was a Jew. I am not an Orthodox Jew. As for the Jewish self hatred that Ira Stigman faced in Roth's book, I can understand it, sympathize deeply with it, but it really did not influence my work. One must face the fact that Anti-Semitism is an evil that must be eradicated. I spent as year in Germany after WW2, as an occupation soldier, and saw the death camps at Dachau. All of these events have shaped my sensibility, and probably has come out in my poetry. I have found Anti-Semitism everywhere…the Army, Navy … everywhere! I have tried, in my own way, to overcome it. I was lucky, and I always try to understand that there are more good things in this world than evil. I am proud to be a Jew, and always will be.

DH: Ed, you were an occupation soldier shortly after WW2. You saw the aftermath of the Holocaust, the carnage, the human tragedy. What lasting impact did this have on your poetry?

EG: Funny, about the war, I was 28 years old when I was drafted into the army in 1945. I had been exempt until then because I worked in an arsenal for the government, helping the war industry…(imagine calling that industry)…well, when the Germans surrendered, and the Japanese continued to fight, the government called up all able-bodied men, the older guys, to help defeat the Japanese. I left my wife and children and went to Camp Blanding, Florida, for basic infantry training, then shipped overseas. By the time the Japanese had surrendered I was sent to Germany with the first occupation force. Here, they were punishing the war criminals. The country was in turmoil, and the Germans lived among the ruins. I really felt strange, a Jew working among them…in a countryside that was picturesque…but where all these horrors took place. During my stint, I saw the Nazi death camps of Dachau. I saw the ovens, all those horrible moments of war. It sickened me, and I found it difficult not to yell at the German people, "Why did you kill my people?!" I was full of hatred then, and the fact that the Germans denied knowledge of this slaughter, made things worse. It certainly made a deep Impression on me. This visceral experience compelled me to write about it. I finally wrote a small novelette that the journal Lucid Moon published, with photos, of my time in Germany as a soldier. Army life, while in training was brutal, rougher on anyone Jewish. I was in camp with a preponderance of Southern boys. There were very few Jews in camp. I remember one, Greenberg, he was a rebel. They rode him hard. To his credit he took it all in. The Nazi death camps shoved a stark reality in my face. Walking around the site, with all these walking skeletons…half dead men and women, made a powerful impact. I saw the ovens, and I went into the room where they told people they were to be given showers, only to be gassed. I could almost hear them scream, see the agonized scratches on the walls, as they died. These impressions stay with me even today. Had I been afforded combat duty, I probably would have killed without pity. This has affected me as a man and a writer this way; I want to be able to use my words to benefit mankind. To show that love, instead of hate is the key to life. Who am I to declare all this? Still, I hope my voice means something. My experiences with poverty, tragedy, rough times, the Depression, has no doubt affected my writing.

DH: I suppose one reason we write is to satisfy the primal urge to have something of ourselves, to mark our territory, to say, "Hey, I was here." What's the message you want to leave your readers with? What do you want to stand out in the readers' mind about Ed Galing, the poet, writer, and fellow traveler?

EG: This is a profound question. I really don't know how to answer it fully. In spite of all the tough breaks I had, I also had a lot of wonderful things happen to me. I have been married for 61 years to a wonderful woman, I have two grown sons, three grandchildren, and one great granddaughter, Through the good times and bad times we stuck together. This doesn't explain the primal urge, does it? I suppose I just want to be remembered as a human being who wanted to bring joy and understanding to a world that sorely needs it. I don't need riches and fame to accomplish this. I only need folks to publish my work, understand me, not necessarily agree with me, and if something I wrote isn't up to par, give me a chance to do it better. I have some books in the University Of Buffalo Poetry/Rare Books Collection. My local library has eight of my books on their shelves. Anyone can go read my work, long after I'm gone. At age 82, I have had a long writing career. What is there to know about Ed Galing? Just a simple man, trying to understand the world, and perhaps hear a good word about my work. If I have accomplished this, I have done well. What else could any poet want?

Reprinted from Ibbetson St. Press issue #4. This article also appeared in Spare Change News.


So Long Ago

not to many around today

who will remember

as I do

the lower east side

of new york.

today at my age

they call me ancient

you have been

around a long time,

they tell me

with a chuckle.

You know things

we never heard of before

they say with a wonder,

but so what? i was born

in 1917, the

time of World War1

but today no one

ever heard of general pershing

or woodrow wilson,

it's like I live

on a different planet...

and I wonder

if I belong

here anymore.


it's the sounds

you hear

while you bolt

up those steps...

a tenement

in the lower east side.

each floor

a different sound,

a baby crying...

another floor


a slap,

or the next

a victrola,

a wafting

yiddish melody.

behind that door

a meal of borscht

perhaps a potato

and then the roof--

the sounds...

wind and torrents of rain

like a slap in the face.

Sounds of the ghetto

none like you

ever heard before.


when you heard the ice man

comin' up the stairs

he'd have his ice pick

around a big chunk of ice

walk up the three flights

right into our kitchen

and plunk the ice

into the wooden box

never missin a beat...

the horse and wagon was

always waiting outside

with ice chopped into


covered with a burlap bag...

and lots of times

i'd eat a sliver of ice

watchin the droplets

as it hit my tongue

enjoyin the

sharpness of cold.

( From: "Tales of South Philly" -- four sep publications)

1 comment:

marc widershien said...

Great to see a website for my good friend and colleague Ed Galing. I admire his craft, inspiration, and humanity