John Wieners in 'Tenzone'
Tenzone was a highly optimistic attempt to bring free poetry, writing, and art to the masses and publish unknown writers not for money or fame but, well, the hell of it. Tenzone existed in the ’90s around New England and its high water mark was the issue with John Wieners. Wiener’s work was introduced to Tenzone founder Steve Prygoda as an undergrad at UMass by Bill Wellington, with whom Steve became friends with at the campus library. Wellington was well on in years and lived a fascinating life as a jazz horn session man and backed all the greats when they came though Boston — Billie Holliday and Charlie Parker, to name a couple. Steve and Bill became good friends and passed many evenings listening to Bill’s fascinating stories. As was customary at the time, writers like Wieners and musicians like Wellington ran in packs, and Wellington’s fond friendship with Wieners (who at the time was writing The Hotel Wentley Poems) produced “A Poem For Bill Wellington,” which he was kind enough to share. The poem was reprinted in Tenzone #2 as a front piece to the Wieners interview, conducted by Tenzone staffer and New Bedford poet Lew Hammond Stone. Stone and Prygoda, along with Tenzone cofounder Jonathan Maxwell and Stone Soup spirit guide Jack Powers, conducted the meeting with Wieners at Jack’s apartment on Joy Street. The rest of the story unfolds in the interview itself and while the words are verbatim, the night is blurred by a high quantity of cheap beer consumed by all involved. Tenzone disbanded one issue later, and Stone moved on to conduct a series of successful readings at the Roche-Duff Jones House in New Bedford, and as with Wieners and Powers, has since passed away. Maxwell dissipated into the Florida sunshine and Prygoda has remained in the Boston area and by day is a corporate slag, but by night is one-third of the high-energy, low-frills indie rock outfit called my own worst enemy. Since 2000, they have self-released their own records in addition to regularly playing the area clubs not for money or fame but for, well, the hell of it.