789-795 Commercial Street

 
Long Point Condominium

In contrast to the typical condo arrangement, in which multiple owners each have a small slice of a single building, the Long Point Condominium is a single tax lot with three distinct houses, each of them owned entirely by separate parties. No. 795 belonged to the poet Jason Shinder (1955-2008) and remains in his family.

Shinder, a Brooklyn native, graduated from Skidmore College and worked as an assistant to Allen Ginsberg. He founded a program called the Writer’s Voice at the West Side Y.M.C.A. in Manhattan and expanded it nationally. As described by The New York Times, the Writer’s Voice “offered high-level instruction in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and dramatic writing at far less than the cost of a graduate writing program” — instructors included Michael Cunningham, E. L. Doctorow, Adrienne Rich and Wendy Wasserstein — and also held readings by distinguished poets and authors. (Margalit Fox, “Jason Shinder, 52, Poet and Founder of Arts Program, Dies,” The New York Times, 3 May 2008.)

He was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in 1978 and his office, Roger Skillings recalled in 2012, was a booth at George’s Pizza, with an open laptop on the table. “A strange, beloved, solitary, clubbable person,” Skillings said.

Shinder’s works included Every Room We Ever Slept In (1993), Among Women (2001) and Stupid Hope: Poems (published posthumously in 2009). He also edited The Poem That Changed America: “Howl” Fifty Years Later (2006). Shinder’s evident indifference to the lymphoma and leukemia that were taking his life was a subject of great concern among his friends, Melanie Thernstrom said in a tribute for The New York Times Magazine of 24 December 2008:

“We were all maddened by his denial about his illness,” his friend the poet Marie Howe says, “but when we read the poems and his journals after his death, we saw that he had been addressing it in a way he could never say in life.” In his brief poem “Company,” he writes:

I’ve been avoiding my illness
because I’m afraid
I will die and when I do,
I’ll end up alone again.

“His poems are the evidence of his belief in the sustaining power of poetry — that if you make art, there is a sense of eternity,” Marie says. “Through this medium, he could speak to us after he was dead, like a message in a bottle.”

[Updated 2012-08-31]

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