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In 1967, Nancy Haiduck came from Ohio to New York City and moved in next door to the Judson Church in the West Village. “I was really young, brand new. Green, green, green.” She enrolled in Brooklyn College, which was tuition-free at the time. At Judson Church she saw plays by the playwright and poet, Bill Kushner, and became friends with him. She also met Bernadette Mayer, whose poetry workshop she attended at Saint Mark’s Church in 1971.

When Nancy got a fellowship to the University of Iowa Writers’s Workshop, Bernadette encouraged her to go. But also—wouldn’t you know it?—Nancy met her future husband and fell in love. “I am probably the only person in the world to quit the Writer’s Workshop, but I did, and I came back to the city, and ended up with the guy I’m still with fifty years later. We had a family, and moved to the Bronx—You know raising a family is full time and I was really out of the poetry scene for a while.”

In 2006, Nancy took a class with Marilyn Hacker at the CCNY MFA program. Out of that, she wrote a chapbook she called, Selling the Classifieds. It’s a dozen sonnets about when she worked selling classifieds for the New York Observer in the 1990s, a really great NY newspaper that is now defunct.

Nancy Haiduck sent me Selling the Classifieds not too long ago, and I enjoyed the sonnets a lot. Nancy lives in Vermont. When I asked if I could record her reading them, we did a Zoom. The video of the reading is below. Enjoy.

By the way, Nancy will send a copy of Selling the Classifieds to anyone who asks. For free. Just email her and let her know at her address below:






With phones, pens, papers, calculators, files –
glum Ann, a publicist, recently fired,
down-sized Hal, marketing man in the aisle,
dapper Stewart, garment salesman, retired,
Manny, ex-Miami radio star,
California Larry who just blew in,
bossy Maria with her candy jar,
and hip, young rocking guitarist Brian –
sell the classifieds for a New York weekly
snuggled behind an East Side basement door.
The manager, Keith, a voice, oversees
through speakers piped from the sunny third floor.
He collects the orders and sets the goals,
assigns territories to seven souls.


A white silk blouse preserving pride, Ann gets
Real Estate territory Stewart passes
on. He doesn’t want Downtown, admits
Uptown is an easier sell. He has
Residential; she has Commercial Lofts.
Seventy-one-years old and six-foot-two
in loafers, Dior sweaters, matching socks,
Stewart loves to sell, but “They don’t want you
in the garment trade after you’re fifty.”
“I know the feeling,” Ann sighs. She commutes
by bus from the Bronx; he walks from his city
condo. Opera is his outside pursuit.
“Be a nudge,” he says. “Persistence is the key;
give an extra inch, but never lower the fee.”


Stewart racked up sixteen K in Real Estate ads
last week. His commission: twenty percent.
Still, he can’t beat Hal, selling redheaded
escorts, private masseuse, young blondes, brunettes.
“Say, Ingrid, did the advertisement work?
Did you get a lot of customers?” Hal coos,
loosening his tie. Ann studies brokers’
listings. “Were they nice to you?” he mews.
Manny, a Catholic, scowls. “Sex sells!” brags
Hal. “Cheapens the paper,” Manny glowers.
Hal once worked for Manny at a rival rag.
“My clients don’t want to be seen with your
cheap ads.” “You’re not the manager in this shop!
I’ll get the bonus! I’ll be the one on top!”


Handsome wearing a yellow shirt tucked neat,
Manny, four kids and “one in the oven,”
lives in a five-room West Side flat. His beat:
Professional Services. Advises Ann:
“Selling is a numbers game, so send out
piles of media kits each day — no less
than fifty — send ‘em, send ’em, send ’em out.”
He groans for each rejected pitch, shouts “Yes!”
for each success. “Let’s see if they renew!”
Hal sneers. A guffaw erupts from Brian
like a fountain in hot air. He shares a few
jokes on the phone with his Jenny (or Karen
or Krista). Blue jeans torn, his blue-suit voice
sells Business Opportunities (his choice).



“Brian, dear, I need your help to move this
file.” “I’m on the phone, Maria.” “Silly
me!” She giggles, dropping a Hershey’s kiss
smack on his notebook. “Ann, dear, you really
shouldn’t wear white; cream is more flattering
to older women.” Irritates the guys:
“You know, part of my job is assisting
Keith.” When she’s not rearranging supplies,
yells on the phone, “I am not yelling!” (She’s
suing her landlord.) “I beg to differ
with you!” Clicks off the phone, unwraps a Hershey,
cries, “”Why is money so tight?” Her meager
assignment: Dog Walking, Dog Grooming, Pets –
will never pay off her credit card debts.


“How ya doin’today?” Larry sells Weekend
Escapes, hunched like a snail inside a worn
coat. “Promote Le Spa with an ad, my friend.”
L.A. baseball cap twisted on backward,
he leaves early for lunch, nonchalantly
pushing papers off his desk onto other
peoples’ precious spaces. “Is this how he
keeps his apartment?” “He lives with his mother
in Jersey.” “He smells,” the women agree,
thumbing trade magazines for leads. “Voilá!”
Back from lunch, he calls out to Hal, “Buddy,
how much does Ingrid charge? “Depends.” “Ha! Ha!
Will Ingrid accept a classified ad?”
“Never took her offer. Sure wish I had.”


Hal works late each night, expanding his niche
to models, female and male, ear to the phone.
Divorced, two sons in college. His pitch:
“Try us, we’re discreet.” Takes the subway home
to Queens. In the morning, Manny looks grim,
slaps down the paper: “Who placed this psycho-
therapist ad?” Hal swivels to face him.
“It’s my ad under my banner . . .” “Oh, no!”
“Fitness and Health!” “Professional Services!”
“My slot – not yours!” “What is the policy?”
“I get the call, I take the ad.” “Who says?”
“I say!” “Is that the policy?” “Pardon me,
what policy?” “Guys! Hey, guys!” Brian implores,
“We’re in this together; we don’t want wars.”


“Hey, Cindy, upstairs, can make a mistake,
so transfer the call if it’s not meant for you.”
Stewart agrees, “Let’s have peace, for Christ’s sake.”
Ann hugs the phone; Maria picks up, too.
“Dynamics changed when you came, Manny.” “Tough!”
“Used to be classy.” “Hey, guys, here’s the deal.
Be fair and don’t poach on each other’s turf.”
“Don’t tell me, tell him!” Chides Stewart, “Get real —
it’s only a two-inch classified ad.”
Maria shrieks, “I will see you in court!”
Ann turns away, her voice lowers a tad.
“Yes, I’m looking for a job of that sort.
Yes, I can . . . come in tomorrow at two.
(Ah . . . Keith will think I’m in bed with the flu.)”


“Today’s orders are due at 6 p.m.”
Keith pleasantly intones. Quiet shuffling
ensues – adding, subtracting, scribbling, stam-
ping, stapling, stuffing envelopes. Phones ring.
“Have you seen our paper? Oh, what a shame!
We’re a broadsheet, just like The New York Times.
Our readers? Manhattan’s wealthiest names.”
“Manny here! Can I speak to the doc? I’m
giving the doc a free subscription! You’re
getting one, too! Let me tell him myself.”
“Hi! Hey, are you selling a business or
something? Yeah, I might be able to help.”
“My dear, surveys show that eighty percent
of our readers own pets. This is money well spent.”



“It’s Larry, from New York. How’s the weather
down there? My friend, I’ll make you a decent
offer, one you cannot refuse, yessir!”
“Big breasts? Honey, my manager doesn’t
like to mention body parts. We can do
‘curvaceous.’ Hon, does that describe you? ‘Soft
hair’? Are you ‘ sensitive’ and’ caring’ too?”
“Headline in bold caps: ‘Sunny, Spacious Loft.’
Run the ad three weeks, get the fourth week free.
Ah . . . never ask a lady her age. Quite
right. Is that an invitation? For coffee?
Another time. I’m busy Friday night.
Sir! I am a woman – not your baby.
But, if you run for thirteen weeks – maybe.”


The week is almost over and Brian
can’t make a sale. “I need leads! Maybe I’ll
get lucky with the yellow pages.” “Lesson
Number One,” says Stewart. “Smile when you dial.”
“I smile! I smile!” “Don’t get mad, I’m trying
to get you out of this!” “Not to worry,”
says Ann. “It’s Spring; now the rich start thinking
boats.” She hands Brian a directory
of yacht brokers, sail makers, slips, marinas.
“Hey, I worked the boat yards in Connecticut,
played guitar at night, from the time I was
12, in the rock clubs along the shore, but
I was just a kid playing my guitar
with real old guys. They thought I’d be a star.”


“I first saw Kate,” Stewart sighs, “in New Haven,
forty years ago, sitting at the end
of the bar, her long, long hair hanging down.
‘Introduce me!’ I pleaded with my friend.”
“Does she still have long hair?” “Oh yes, she wears
it up in a chignon.” “A what?” Hal snickers.
“A promotion!” cries Maria. “My dears,
Keith gave me Pianos! And Pets – two banners!”
“God lives,” drones Larry, “Pray for us, sister”
(a bottle of whiskey in one pocket,
a bottle of mouthwash in the other).
Manny strolls in. Pinned to his suede jacket,
a boutonniere of white lespedeza.
His wife gave birth. They named her Promesa.


Nancy Haiduck with her daughter and granddaughter





  1. brilliance abounds!!! shared at word pond

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