The Caffe Lena Reading
"When I read in July 2006 at Caffe Lena, I was reminded how
magical this place, the oldest, continuously running coffee house
in America, is and how for so long it has been a part of my life.
In May of 1960, Lena and Bill Spencer first opened the doors to
a small café on Phila Street in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Neither had ever done anything like this before. But they figured
it was a good place to open a caffe, make enough money to travel
and do what they wanted to. She was an actress, he a sculptor.
"While nothing quite went as planned, and Bill left, Lena
stayed, said she had to stay to pay the bills. From then on, Lena
created a legend. She has been called "The Mother Teresa of
folk music. The Caffe has had some of the most famous musicians
and poets, many like Bob Dylan, Bernice Reagan, Arlo Guthrie doing
some of their first performances there. Skip James, John Hurt and
Rev Gary David played some of their final shows at Lena's.
"Though Lena is gone, she died after falling down the steps
on a way to see a performance of Spalding Grey, the café
has continued. I still remember driving from Middlebury, Vermont
down to hear Hedy West or Dave Van Ronk and driving back late the
same night. Later when I lived closer, no weekend was complete without
one weekend night at the café. I performed in several of
the plays put on there and Lena offered me my first show of watercolors.
In Mary Ann Lynch's documentary on me, LYN LIFSHIN: NOT MADE OF
GLASS, a section is shot in the café and I was so happy to
go back and read again recently, see how beautiful it has stayed,
how full of memories."
Lyn was interviewed by Daniel Nester for The
Poetry Foundation at Caffe Lena. A PDF
of the interview is included on Lyn's website.