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 Lifshin

Lyn was interviewed by Daniel Nester for The Poetry Foundation at Caffe Lena. A PDF of the interview is included on Lyn's website.