The back story to the above tattoo was recently posted on The Word Made Flesh blog."The first time I met Allen Ginsberg.."
Monday, February 28, 2011
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
but perhaps less well-known is Allen’s more-than-serviceable French. Here in this rare clip from Jean Michel Humea’s 1965 movie Viva Dada, he can be heard discussing the relationship of poetry and drugs. The interview takes place in the American Library in Paris, standing alongside him is a surprisingly quiet Gregory Corso
Gregory's delightful Italian may be sampled here
Friday, February 25, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
News has just reached us that the poet Akilah Oliver has died.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
(Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, David Amram, Allen Ginsberg, & Gregory Corso (in hat), during the filming of Pull My Daisy. c. John Cohen/Hulton Archive)
In today's Guardian, Hermione Hoby has collected some entertaining accounts from Joyce Johnson, John Allen Cassady, Steven Taylor and Anne Waldman, memories of Allen, that can be read here on the Guardian site.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The closest there was to a beat magazine (thought it could only be seen that way in retrospect) in the late 1940s and early ’50s was a slim, eccentric journal whose contributors moved among the bases of art, sex, and neuroticism…..Ginsberg’s first contribution to a magazine with a nationwide circulation appeared in Neurotica 6 (Spring 1950), by which time the magazine had adopted a furtive beat identity. Ginsberg’s brief "Song: Fie My Fum" (an early working of “Pull My Daisy”) was not likely to advance by much the editor’s avowed cause of describing "a neurotic society from the inside"; nevertheless, it was the right kind of verse for the venue, with its playful sexual content: "Say my oops, Ope my shell, Roll my bones, Ring my bell ..." The contributor’s note informed readers that "Allen Ginsberg recently recovered from a serious illness." (sic)….The longest and most serious contribution to Neurotica 6 was "Report from the Asylum: Afterthoughts of a Shock Patient" by Carl Goy, the pseudonym of Ginsberg’s new friend in the Columbia PI, Carl Solomon..
Friday, February 18, 2011
We were glancing over an old (more than 10-years-old) interview we stumbled upon with scholar/teacher/cultural historian Jacques Barzun, "The Man Who Knew Too Much". It appeared in October 2000 in the Austin Chronicle and can be read in its entirety here
In the course of the conversation, the subject turns to Allen
Interviewer: Since you were in Columbia in the Fifties, you were also at the center of the Beats, since they all went there.
Jacques Barzun: Allen Ginsberg was a student of Lionel (Trilling)’s and of mine, not in our joint course (a seminal “great books” seminar), but separately. But we joined together to save him from the penalties of the law, because he was involved in a very bad affair with an older man who seduced him sexually and used him to help dispose of the corpse of a man that this fellow had killed. Poor Allen, aged 17 or 18, helped to dump this body into the Hudson River. Well, was he in trouble there! With the help of the dean of the college (Columbia)-- who also knew Allen, the dean, Lionel, and I waited on the district attorney who fortunately was a Columbia graduate and we said, "This youth is really innocent, although he committed an awful blunder and he's also very gifted in the English Department." We didn't say he was a poet or that might have queered his chances! And that it would be a catastrophe to turn him over to a criminal court and put him in jail. We had to go again to a judge in Brooklyn, I think, because Allen came from Brooklyn or something. Anyway, the district attorney wasn't enough, so we went to a second hearing, which was much more sticky. But Allen was let off.
All sorts of bells went off when we read this, so we turned to our resident Ginsberg scholar, Bill Morgan, who provided this necessary, and interesting, corrective:
“This question about the Jacques Barzun comments is a good example of what any biographer has to be very careful about -- memory. I have no doubt that Barzun was being completely honest in his answers to the questions about Allen, but his memory here fails him badly. It does make you wonder how often something is repeated that was incorrectly remembered by someone else. That's why the voices of the last survivors becomes suspect in my mind. For example, why are the memories of Carolyn Cassady, Joyce Johnson, David Amram, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and all, considered to be the "true stories." There is no substitute for actual first-hand documents written at the time of events, and even those can be incorrect, misleading, or outright fabrications, as well. Oral histories are often entertaining, but I try not to put too much stock in them. The Barzun is a good example of the type, and, like I said, I am quite certain he wasn't trying to invent stories or gild the lily.
First of all, the question asked is misleading:
“Since you were in Columbia in the Fifties, you were also at the center of the Beats, since they all went there”.
Barzun was Allen's teacher during the ‘Forties, not the ‘fifties. By the ‘fifties, Allen had already graduated and moved on in his life. Saying Barzun was "in" Columbia makes it sound like he was a student, and saying "you were also at the center of the Beats, since they all went there" doesn't seem accurate. I don't think Barzun was at the center of the group and "all" the Beats certainly didn't go there.
Then, as to Barzun’s reply
This is a case of having many memories blend together after the passage of 50 or 60 years. Allen was a student of both Trilling and Barzun. Allen said in 1949 that he had studied History with Barzun. We could find out the names of the course or courses through his college transcript. But from here on out, Barzun's recollections are not accurate. I believe that he probably did, like Trilling, try to help whenever Allen was in trouble. Barzun saying that Allen was seduced by an older man (meaning, I assume, Lucien Carr) is not true. I think here he was thinking of the fact that Lucien was being pursued (and seduced?) by David Kammerer, who was considerably older than Lucien. At the time, Carr killed Kammerer, Allen was still a virgin and hadn't had sex with anyone. Allen did not help dispose of the corpse, Lucien did all that himself. Kerouac helped dispose of the murder weapon, but Allen wasn't involved in that, and in fact he was never charged as a material witness in the case, as both Kerouac and Burroughs were. The body did end up in the Hudson River, and Allen had just turned 18 at the time, so that part is correct. It really wasn't Allen who was in trouble at that time, but Lucien, Jack, and William, although you could certainly say that Allen was upset and worried about the situation. So it might be that Barzun helped with the district attorney on Carr's behalf, (and I recall hearing that the D.A. was a Columbia grad, but that might be my own poor memory). Barzun also seems to be mixing that 1944 story up with the later April 1949 case where Allen gets involved with Huncke, Little Jack Melody, and Vicki Russell and their burglaries. Those three were stealing and storing the stolen goods in Allen's apartment when they were all arrested after a car chase and crash in Bayside, Queens. And so, although Allen didn't "come from Brooklyn" it might have been that they had to appear in a court in Queens, or Brooklyn, on Allen's behalf in that case. It was then that Trilling, Van Doren, and probably Barzun helped by getting Allen posted to the mental hospital instead of jail, and there Allen met Carl Solomon and the rest of the history takes place. Technically Allen wasn't "let off" but instead spent much of the next year in the psychiatric hospital.
May we go on?
“You knew he was a poet even back then?”.
Allen was writing poetry in the mid-forties, but he wasn't only interested in poetry at that time, so probably Barzun wouldn't have thought of him as a poet that early.
Did he send you "Howl"?
No, I don't think he did…?
I'd be surprised if Allen didn't send a copy of Howl to Barzun. He sent copies to Van Doren, Trilling, Meyer Schapiro, who were all his teachers, too. Not to mention T.S. Eliot, Faulkner, Pound, Eberhart, W.C. Williams, and Charlie Chaplin !
He sent me a letter from India, where I think he got a fellowship to spend a year or so...
Needless to say, Allen never got a “fellowship” to go to India, he just went on his own. I don't think he ever got any type of fellowship in his life and certainly not to go to India. I've never seen the letter to Barzun that he mentions, but I'd like to. I certainly don't believe that Allen would have written to him hoping to get a job for a "wonderful guru." This was a decade before he became interested in Buddhist practice, etc., so it certainly didn't have anything to do with Trungpa...
So, I've gone on much too long, but wanted to show how memory plays tricks on honest people. Don't believe all you read in the papers (or online)!
Thursday, February 17, 2011
[Tom Sturridge at the Beat Museum, San Francisco. photo courtesy Beat Museum]
Monday, February 14, 2011
This is as good a time as any to remind everyone about the legendary Naropa Summer Writing Program and lay down this summer's list of visiting luminaries.
Week 1 (June 13–19) titled "Gender & Hybridity, and Should We Consider the Cyborg?" brings you the likes of Ana Bozicevic & Amy King, Rebecca Brown, Melissa Buzzeo, Samuel R. Delany, Rob Halpern, Bhanu Kapil, Erica Kaufman, Akilah Oliver, Maureen Owen, Vanessa Place, Max Regan, Julia Seko, giovanni singleton & others.
Week 2 (June 20–26) titled "Fictions: The Story (Narrative and Anti-Narrative)" has Anselm Berrigan, Junior Burke, Rikki Ducornet, Colin Frazer, C.S. Giscombe, Renee Gladman, Anselm Hollo, Laird Hunt, Stephen Graham Jones, David Matlin, Kabir Mohanty & Sharmistha Mohanty, Evie Shockley, Karen Weiser, Ronaldo V. Wilson, Karen Tei Yamashita & more.
Week 3 (June 27–July 3) titled "Ecology, Urgency, Dharma/Activist Poetics", we've got Jack Collom, Andrew Schelling, Marcella Durand, Lara Durback, Jennifer Foerster, Barbara Henning, Laura Mullen, Jed Rasula, Selah Saterstrom, Eleni Sikelianos, Jonathan Skinner, Eleni Stecopoulos, Tyrone Williams & more.
Week 4 (July 4–10) titled "Economics of the Counter-Culture: Performance, Publishing, Collaboration" has got some music heavy-hitters, with Hal Willner, Thurston Moore, Steven Taylor and DJ Spooky, alongside some of Naropa's long-time guard, Anne Waldman, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Lewis Warsh, Eileen Myles, not to mention, Rick Moody, Harryette Mullen, , Margaret Randall, Jane Sprague, Wesley Tanner, Ambrose Bye, & others.
Check their site for registration details >>
[Get schooled by Thurston Moore, who makes his first appearance in the Summer Writing Program's lineup, Week 4, July 4-10]
As Michael S Hennessey at PennSound Daily points out:
Creeley's scant notations on the tape indicate the location of these recordings as San Francisco's Intersection for the Arts in August 1971, and it appears, from Ginsberg's comments, that these sixteen tracks were part of two, or perhaps three, readings with the split coming between tracks 11 and 12. The final track, an excerpt from "Howl, Part I" has a different sonic character than the reset of the recordings, and is likely from a separate source. Most notably, this set includes a few short poems that do not appear in Ginsberg's Collected Poems: 1947-1997, including "At the Capri," "Sierras Hermitage" and "Nothing Personal," along with early versions of poems that would appear in his National Book Award-winning The Fall of America: Poems of These States 1965-1971: "Milarepa Taste" (appearing here as "Two Haikus"), a very early version of "Hūm Bom!" and "Opium Pedaling" (which would appear in that volume, minus its first line, as "Over Laramie"). Other poems from that volume included in the set are "Autumn Gold: New England Fall," "Elegy for Neal Cassady," "Eclogue," "Guru Om," "Have You Seen This Movie?," "Bixby Canyon Ocean Path Word Breeze," "Gary Snyder Reading Poesy at Princeton" and "An Open Window in Chicago." He begins with "Stanzas Written at Night in Radio City," a 1949 poem, to be published in his collection of early rhymed verse, The Gates of Wrath (1973). Aside from the early and variant versions of some poems, what we have here is a wonderful performance from Ginsberg, who's in fine form and comfortable with his audience, cracking jokes and providing background information.
For further Ginsberg audio (indeed, a fairly comprehensive list of available on-line Ginsberg audio) please continue to check our "Streaming Audio" in the listings on the right of this page
Friday, February 11, 2011
Ellen Pearlman's recent review of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters in the current Brooklyn Rail, reminded us again (as if we needed reminding!) of the centrality and importance of that book. We noted it here last year, both pre-publication, Publisher’s Weekly, and post-publication (a whole slew of reviews, seven in fact, including two in the New York Times!). Amplifying that link that leads you to those reviews, here’s links to a whole bunch more. Michael Dirda’s review in The Washington Post can be found here. Donald Faulkner for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, here, Paul Maher’s thoughtful piece for PopMatters here Michael H Miller writes in the New York Observer, and Kathleen Daley in the New Jersey Star Ledger. Jonah Raskin’s review (for the Beat Studies Association) may be accessed here. Granta, the English magazine, as well as featuring excerpts from the book, featured in its July 2010 coverage, a fine interview with editor, our dear friend, Bill Morgan.
Ellen Pearlman in her essay, writes:
What is clear from reading through these 450 pages of Kerouac’s and Ginsberg’s correspondence is how absolutely certain they both were of success, of the impeccability of their vision, the importance of their work, and of the snobbery and ignorance endemic in much of the publishing and literary worlds
Interestingly, that chimes in with another recent posting on Allen. Bob Ingram, writing in The Broad Street Review, about the legendary “underground newspapers”, Underground Newspapers: The First Blogs, and, in particular, his tenure, “back in the seventies”, as editor of the Philadelphia “alternative newspaper”, The Drummer:
Hell, even Andrew Wylie, now the arch-druid of today’s literary agents, wrote for The Drummer with his partner, the elfin Victor Bockris, under the byline Bockris-Wyle. I remember they did a two-part interview with the beat poet Allen Ginsberg. I was at my desk in The Drummer’s office on Germantown Avenue in Nicetown, typing Ginsberg’s name for some reason, when the phone rang and – lo and behold – it was Allen himself.
“Wow, Allen, man,” I exclaimed. “I was just typing your name.”
He replied he didn’t have time for any metaphysical bullshit; he wanted to correct some errors in Bockris-Wylie’s interviews so that literary critics 50 years later would have the right information. That’s how sure he was of his place in American poetry.
Speaking of rave reviews, here’s a nice one of Allen’s current London photo show, by a self-confessed “massive fan of the Beats”, in Lomography magazine. The title, The Photographic Genius of Allen Ginsberg, says it all.
Last week, we noted Allen’s doodles and some of his more inspired, more sophisticated, drawings and inscriptions – stumbled across this 1994 drawing this week (for the New York book-seller, Paul Rickert). Ah!
There must be a whole bunch of such mini-masterpieces out there.
Meantime, to give this whole topic some kind of context, here’s an overview, Idle Doodles by Famous Authors, by Emily Temple (“After all, John Keats”, she writes, “doodled flowers in the margins of his manuscripts..”)
Rainbow Honor Walk
As reported in The Advocate. (Will Kane in the San Francisco Chronicle breaks the story), Allen is one of the first batch of twenty people (“chosen by local residents and merchants”) to be celebrated, literally, on the streets of the Castro, on the Rainbow Honor Walk. An equivalent to the Hollywood Walk of Fame it’s proposed there be a strip along Market and Castro Street with name-plaques and everything, “that recognizes LGBT notables” - Like who?.. well, among the first twenty names, Oscar Wilde, Frida Kahlo and....Allen Ginsberg!