Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ego and A Dream (A Leap Year Posting)


Leap Year, 1958, all those years ago, 31-year-old Allen had been dreaming, the night before, about.. T S Eliot. "What's my motive dreaming his/ manna? What English Department/would that impress? What failure/ to be a perfect prophet's made up here?" - (an) "overambitious dream of (an) eccentric boy". All through his life Allen wrote down his dreams, looked for their portents and signs - "God forbid (that) my evil dreams come true"! - and, in so many ways, they did, didn't they?

Last nite I dreamed of T.S.Eliot
welcoming me to the land of dream
Sofas couches fog in England
Tea in his digs Chelsea rainbows
curtains on his windows, fog seeping in
the chimney but a nice warm house
and an incredibly sweet hooknosed
Eliot he loved me, put me up,
gave me a couch to sleep on,
conversed kindly, took me serious
asked my opinion on Mayakovsky
I read him Corso, Creeley, Kerouac
the bearded lady in the Zoo, the
intelligent puma in Mexico City
6 chorus boys from Zanzibar
who chanted in wornout polyglot
Swahili, and the rippling rhythms
On the Isle of the Queen
we had a long evening's conversation
Then he tucked me in my long
red underwear under a silken
blanket by the fire on the sofa
gave me English Hottie
and went off sadly to his bed,
Saying ah Ginsberg I am glad
to have met a fine young man like you.
At last, I woke ashamed of myself
Is he that good and kind? Am I that great?
What's my motive dreaming his
manna? What English Department
would that impress? What failure
to be perfect prophet's made up here?
I dream my kindness to T.S.Eliot
wanting to be a historical poet
and share in his finance of Imagery-
overambitious dream of eccentric boy
God forbid my evil dreams come true.
Last nite I dreamed of Allen Ginsberg
T.S.Eliot would have been ashamed of me.

Feb 29, 1958

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's Birthday


["The Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche drove down from his favorite spot on Bear Mountain for rendezvous with me at his secretary Beverly Webster's house in Boulder. He'd been ill, rumor'd to've been ""Visiting the Dakinis."" I asked him where the Dakinis were, once we'd got in the living room, he said ""Right there"" pointing to the window-sill above the sofa. ""What do they say?"" I asked, he replied, ""Sometimes they criticize me for teaching too much Vajrayana, too many secrets. Sometimes they tell me to teach more."" We looked at my photographs, he gave me wise advice on domestic crisis. Uniform'd as head of ideal Shambhala kingdom. April 12, 1985" (Ginsberg caption, slightly expanded from written one above) photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate ]




February 28, 1939, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's birthday.

From Johanna Demetrakas' movie Crazy Wisdom
Trungpa, to Allen: "Why do you need a piece of paper? Don't you trust your own mind?"

From Costanzo Allione's Fried Shoes, Cooked Diamonds
Trungpa, on poetic creation: "..poetry comes from the expression of one's own phenomenal world in the written form. It could be (in) either prose or poetry (form). It's not so much, from (the) Buddhist point of view, that you write good poetry, particularly, but how you.. how your thought patterns become.. elegant.."



Here's Trungpa reading some of his poems, "with a little help from his friends", (vintage footage here and here - and the full audio of the event (at Naropa Institute in August in 1975, only the third time that he'd ever given a public poetry recital) here.

Trungpa acknowledges his immense debt to - "our friends on the left (of me, on the podium)" - Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman - and to David Rome, his translator, and reader of the poems in English (or, to be more accurate, American) translation. David Rome reads "June 5 1972" and "Love's Fool", and ""May 22, 1972 - A Cynical Letter". These and other poems can be found in the two Shambhala editions that he edited - First Thought, Best Thought (1983) and Timely Rain (1998), (both containing a long and lucid introduction by Allen):
"This book [First Thought, Best Thought] is evidence of a Buddha-natured child taking first verbal steps aged 35, in totally other language direction than he spoke aged 10, talking side-of-mouth slang: redneck, hippie, chamber of commerce, good citizen, Oxfordian aesthete slang, like a dream bodhisattva with thousand eyes and mouths talking turkey."

Further Trungpa-on-poetics can be found by the intrepid in this poetry-compilation tape here (starting approximately 27 minutes in, and returning later).

Trungpa's wider legacy can be explored here (Shambhala), here (The Chronicles Project) and here (The Chogyam Trungpa Legacy Project) - as well as elsewhere.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Kenneth Koch (1925-2002)


[Kenneth Koch and Allen Ginsberg, St Mark's Church, NYC, 1977. Photo courtesy the Poetry Project]

Kenneth Koch's birthday gives us an excuse to reprint this wonderful interview with Allen. It appeared in October 1977 in The New York Times.
Allen paid back the compliment, interviewing Kenneth the following year - (on "Writing For The Stage" - on the occasion of a 3-week run of his play, "The Red Robins", at New York's St. Clemens Theater). It (that interview) is included in Koch's collection The Art of Poetry. It's also, happily, available on line here.
Some years back we featured their spontaneous collaboration at The Poetry Project.
Making It Up was the book that transcribes that, complete with introduction by Ron Padgett and a bold Larry Rivers cover.


Of course, there's also Allen's wonderful hommage poem, "Homework" - "If I were doing my Laundry I'd wash my dirty Iran/ I'd throw in my United States and pour on the Ivory soap/ scrub up Africa, put all the birds and elephants back in/ the jungle...."
There's also the Columbia (academic, or rather counter-academic) connection. Interesting to think that Kenneth's landmark poem, "Fresh Air" was published the very same year as "Howl".
Kenneth Koch lecturing at Naropa (he was, of course, the consummate teacher), can be accessed here and here, a 1981 reading at Naropa is available here.
Further audio material is available here.
Knopf have published The Collected Poems (2005) and On the Edge: Collected Long Poems (2009), Coffee House Press, the Collected Fiction (2005) and The Collected Plays and Other Dramatic Works ( forthcoming, 2012).
Interviews with him can be read here (1989) and here (1993), and here (1996 - on the occasion of him being awarded the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, supervised by the Library of Congress (the previous year, he'd won the highly prestigious Bollingen award)).
Here's him reading "The Study of Happiness" from 1969, and here's him reading the title poem from "One Train", his 1994 collection, and here's footage from a 2001 Danish documentary ("Something Wonderful May Happen") featuring the final section from the, indeed wonderful, "Pleasures of Peace".

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Gang of Souls


Gang Of Souls: A Generation of Beat Poets

Maria Beatty's 1989 documentary, Gang of Souls: A Generation of Beat Poets, is our film focus this weekend. It, as Clint Weiler explains on the IMDB site, "explores the insights and influences of the American Beat poets..(and)..conveys their consciousness and sensibility through (simple unadorned) interviews". It also "weaves in additional commentary from contemporary musicians, poets and writers" (four of them - Marianne Faithfull, Henry Rollins, Richard Hell and Lydia Lunch), and "expands upon how the poets reached new levels of creativity and inspired social change".
Among the poets interviewed (in order of appearance) William S Burroughs (well, a prose-writer, but he's a poet), Gregory Corso, Diane di Prima, John Giorno, Anne Waldman, Jim Carroll, Ed Sanders (seen in the screeb-grab above) - and Allen.
Here are the Allen sound-bytes:
"My name is Allen Ginsberg. I am a poet, and on this rainy night in Lower Manhattan [the film was shot in New York's Downtown Community Television Center], I am 61 years old."
"The community circle we had.. I spent a lot of time on Times Square with the lumpenproletariat in the all-night cafeterias, looking at the transient, floating, Beat population."
"It [Beat] had something to do with the explosion of the (Atom) Bomb and some alteration of the earth's atmosphere. The absoluteness of the Bomb, it being absolute power, invoked an inquiry into the nature of consciousness, because, after all, that year, (19)45, was the same year Dr.Hoffman discovered LSD (an equally important scientific opening-up, in fact, maybe more important than the Bomb, in terms that it's the Mind-Bomb, the Bomb that opens up the Mind)."
"The main communion was New Vision, Supreme Reality, New Consciousness.. "
"It was not quite a community, so much as a Gang of Souls, that liked each other (adored each other, actually) and saw a kind of star in each other's forehead."
"No more Attachment's chains shall bind us/ Mind's Aggression no more rules/ The Earth shall rise on new foundations/ We have been jerks we shall be Fools [from "Fifth Internationale"]'
"Majesty and rhythm" - [on influences] - "I have behind me the whole ear of English lyric poetry and Milton and Shakespeare and Shelley and Wordsworth. Majesty and rhythm. That's an advantage that most of the younger poets don't have."
"The thing that was amazing about (William) Burroughs, he had this exquisite eye for detail."
"Kerouac came back with me to my room, to get.. to pick up my last valise or something (everything had been moved). And then I closed the door, and looked at it, and said, "goodbye door", and then we started downstairs, and I said, "goodbye step number one, goodbye step number two.." (I lived several stories up, so it was quite a long series of goodbyes), and he said, "oh, do you do that too?". Every time I leave, I say goodbye. Every time I leave a home, I say goodbye (I become conscious of where I am and recognize the fleeting nature of existence, and realize that we're only here in the flower-ness of the moment for that brief poignant farewell."
[on grass, marijuana] - "But I used grass mainly for aesthetic study. I didn't use it for just..er..dopey kicks, and I think it's best used as part of mediative study or aesthetic study - then you have something going with it, but just to get high and get zonked out and wander around paranoid doesn't seem to be heaven-on-earth!"
"[what is art?] - So we took the argument to Burroughs and he said, again, [quoting Shakespeare] "'Tis too starved an argument for my sword", again, it's the most nonsensical argument I ever heard. Art is a three-letter word. It's whatever you want to agree the word A-R-T means, however you choose to want to use it. It doesn't have any built-in intrinsic meaning from heaven. God didn't proclaim that art had to be one thing or another.It's only three letters."
"I took it for granted as a kid, now I realize what a great treasure it was to have all that in my bones, all that rhythm, and how lucky I was to have poetry as a family business (it was a family business) instead of plumbing, instead of coats and suits, I got poetry as a family business - good deal!"
"How many more nights (to) go in under the covers, and stroke my cock, and read Charles Fourier, or Dostoyevsky, or Kenneth Koch, and scribble in my book."
"How many more times (to) pull up the Venetian..the wooden Venetian blinds slats, and let in the morning light."
"How many more times go downtown and stare into a television camera, and tell my tale, like Ahab, or the old buffoon who began "The Rime of The Ancient Mariner""
Marc Calderaro's review of the film on PopMatters can be accessed here.
Richard Marcus (for Blogcritics) here.

"not quite a community, so much as a Gang of Souls, that liked each other (adored each other, actually) and saw a kind of star in each other's forehead."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday's Weekly Round-Up 62


[Anton Corbijn - Allen Ginsberg, New York, 1996 - via Philips de Pury]

Barney Rosset's passing, on Tuesday, continues to seem like a watershed moment in the history, certainly in America, of literary censorship (see our posting here and Rosset's New York Times obituary here). Louisa Thomas' 2008 Newsweek profile of him can be found here and Loren Glass's two-part piece for the Los Angeles Review of Books here.

Emeritus professor at the University of Massachusetts, Jules Chametzky, in Jewish Currents, honors Allen as a "pioneering poet and activist", and concludes with a personal testament, saluting (his) "candor yes, courage, yes, and most assuredly, heart".

The Boo-Hooray Gallery in New York City, we've spoken of before, in the context of their rich miscellaneous Angus MacLise show. Time to do so again - this time focusing on another plethora of artifacts, having to do with Ed Sanders, author of the recently-published memoir, Fug You. Video of Ed reading at the opening may be viewed here. The show closes March 8.

Steve Miles’ bunker. The noted Boulder, Colorado based photographer, Steve Miles (see here for one of his many iconic Ginsberg shots) gives a quick video-tour of his darkroom.

East Hill Farm - Marc Olmsted reviews Gordon Ball's new book.

Ai Weiwei's new show at Jeu de Paume, Paris, opened on Tuesday (it'll be up until the 29th of April). Interviewed (by phone) by Le Monde, he had this to say:
"..Grâce à Allen Ginsberg. Il était venu dans mon appartement lire un poème, ça m'avait beaucoup touché. Je lui ai montré mon portfolio, ce que j'avais fait. Il a regardé, il m'a dit qu'il aimait bien. Mais il ajouté : Weiwei, je n'arrive pas a imaginer qu'aucune galerie puisse jamais montrer a New York un artiste chinois, ou l'art chinois."
(Thanks Allen Ginsberg. He came to my apartment to read a poem, that greatly moved me. I showed him my portfolio, that I'd compiled. He looked, he told me that he liked (my work) very much. But he added: Weiwei, I can't imagine that any gallery in New York could ever show a Chinese artist, or Chinese art.)
Fast forward to June 2011!

Finally, a sound-byte from Michael C Hall (that's right, t.v.'s Dexter) slated for the David Kammerer role alongside Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter)'s Allen, in the soon-to-begin-shooting Kill Your Darlings:


"While living in the East Village during the early 90s, I had the honor of meeting and visiting with Allen. To be counted among the actors charged with breathing life into this story gives me a gratifying sense of serendipity. His life and work are a continuing inspiration to me."


- and to prove he's not fibbing, there's a snap of the two together here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hal Willner's Kaddish


Tonight is the world-premiere of the Hal Willner-produced "Allen Ginsberg's Kaddish (for Naomi Ginsberg (1894-1956)"), commissioned by the Park Avenue Armory in New York and featuring a score by Grammy Award-winning jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, (a) visual design by "Gonzo" artist Ralph Steadman, and the unique idiosyncratic "conceptual energy" of Willner. It's part of the on-going "Tune-In Music Festival" for Philip Glass. "Philip Glass' affinity, reverence and collaborations with the great Allen Ginsberg", the organizers note, "make for a deeply personal achievement for this work..".
Tomorrow, Patti Smith and her band join Glass for "The Poet Speaks", "performing music and readings celebrating their favorite poets, including Ginsberg and William Blake.."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Barney Rosset (1922-2012)


[Barney Rosset, New York City, June 21, 1991. Photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

Barney Rosset, heroic and maverick publisher, founder of the legendary Grove Press (he paid $3000 for the nascent press in 1951), champion at the forefront of the key battles in the 20th Century against literary censorship, died at a hospital in New York last night. He was 89 (he had been undergoing a double heart-valve replacement procedure). Here is the AP notice. Here's Becky Krystal in The Washington Post.

From his testimony in the "Howl" trial (alongside fellow Evergreen Review publisher, Don Allen): “The second issue of Evergreen Review, which was devoted to the work of writers in the San Francisco Bay Area, attempted in large part to show the kinds of serious writing being done by the postwar generation. We published Allen Ginsberg’s poem "Howl" in that issue because we believe that it is a significant modern poem, and that Allen Ginsberg’s intention was to sincerely and honestly present a portion of his own experience of the life of his generation…”.

Allen (from a letter to Gary Snyder, December 18 1991): "I've nominated (for third time) Barney Rosset for American Academy's "Distinguished Services to the Arts" for his long and successful 1958-65 + battle against censorship in books - and later, film."
(In 1988, largely on Allen's instigation, the PEN American Center awarded him with its Publisher Citation, for "distinctive and continuous service to international letters, to the freedom and dignity of writers, and to the free transmission of the printed word across the barriers of poverty, ignorance, censorship, and repression").

Ken Jordan's 1997 Paris Review interview is essential reading. As is (essential viewing) Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O'Connor's "Obscene: A Portrait of Barney Rosset and Grove Press" (a review of the latter, from New York magazine, can be found here).
Al Silverman's "The Time Of Their Lives" was recently published, surveying Grove's "golden" years. Rosset's own account, an autobiography, "The Subject Was Left-Handed", has been in the works, and will hopefully be available "within the year".

Ray Bremser (1934-1998)



Ray Bremser (1934-1998) was one of the great neglected figures of the Beat Generation.

Ray Bremser (from The Beat Generation soundtrack): "I was corresponding with Allen before I got out of jail, about a year before I got out of jail, and that's how I came on the scene. Allen arranged it all. He asked me in a letter, "send me some poems, kid" (the kid in jail, you know, in the reform school), and, sure, I sent him some poems, and he sent them to other people, and they published them, you know (I had no idea that I was going to be publishing anything). Well, they had a party for my release, my publisher, the first person who published me, LeRoi Jones [Amiri Baraka]. I met a lot of people the second I was out of jail."
Amiri Baraka: "Well he was in jail, you know, a young dude locked up for..I think it was armed robbery, or something like that. He was over here in Jersey...he was born in Jersey City, so we could discuss that, and, you know, it was a lively poetry, and it seemed like he had that healthy disrespect, you know, for the powers that were, and are, and I guess that's how we got hooked up".
and later [approximately a minute and thirty-five seconds in] -
Ray Bremser: "All the black musicians that were yelling (sic) at that time were doing the same thing we were. So they influenced us with their glib tongues, done melodiously, rather than verbally, rather than with words, (and) with their body English, (it was a very very very nice marriage)...
[approximately four-and-three-quarter minutes in']: "I'm Kerouac's disciple and I'm jazz's disciple and I'm a jazz poet, and Jack was the first jazz poet".
[at approximately seven minutes in]: "You see, the Beats weren't so organized that they plotted out, "well, let's go change the morals of the country, or the world (because it became world-wide, it started out just national), but, nonetheless, we were fighting against the inhibition type thing that was forced on this country after the Second World War. Well Jack.., the Beats, started early, you see. I'm on the fringes of the Beats, I came in 1958, just when they were beginning to hit the top (which was my fortune, I suppose, my good fortune), but the morals was something that had to be changed, and the only way that it could be done was by protesting it (and), by protesting it in such a manner that it would cause some sort of wild and angry.. You see, a great artist is a provocateur, he has to be a provocateur in order to change what he's rebelling against, or yelling at, and that's what the Beat Generation was about at the beginning, but it was all really not that conscious - we were just having a good fuckin' time!"

From Czech tv, from a later, "death-bed", "no regrets" documentary:


"Beat? I don't know. I've always considered myself a jazz poet. I only knew Jack Kerouac for, like, sixty hours? We talked a lot, you know, and... we didn't speak about poetry, it was about girls, and wine (Jack likes his wine. I liked my vodka and my beer and everything else but.. I used to go to poetry readings and drink a bottle of Thunderbird before I really felt like I was ready to read. I was always kind of nervous, but the alcohol, you know settles you a little bit." [footage, then, of Bremser reading]

"A lot of poets they'll write a poem, and they're just writing a poem, and the poem will suggest a title to them. With me, it's the reverse entirely. A theme.. like a jazz musician, a theme will come in, you know. Maybe I'll go out and say a theme and the theme will say - "electronic typewriter" - ok, if it works, and I can build on it, I'll build on it, I'll call the poem "Electronic Typewriter". The words'll come from that and they'll draw on the theme, the improvisation will draw on the theme." - [further Bremser reading footage]

"There's a thing called ego in some poets, and sometimes it's tremendous. I don't think I have one big as some other poets, but it's there. I felt really nice when really fine poets have told me they admired my work, and..some of the thrills of my life were...not so much when Allen Ginsberg told me I was better than him, and he says, "this man is a poet that is so far under-rated it's ridiculous, and I've always thought it was, well not ridiculous but I know that I'm under-rated, under-rated, under-appreciated, and under-paid (when I do get paid)." - [reading footage returns]

"Yeah, I learned to roll with the.. like Sinatra, I took the blows. I did play it my way, pretty much, you know. I wouldn't let myself get gloomy. Melancholy? no, that's not for me, you know.
I can be happy. I was the Chairman of the (Honor Committee in the Honor dormitory) in the Bordentown Reformatory, for almost six years before they shipped me to prison to finish my time. And if anyone was having a good time in jail. it was me. I just made it mine, that's all. Whatever pain came, it's. (it was).. to convert it into something that's not painful, or much less painful than it ordinarily is, or would be." [Bremser reading footage again]

"Well, that's where all the struggle is, I believe. My trouble(s) started, really, when I felt the loss of Allen Ginsberg..[Allen died April 5 1997, Ray died November 3, 1998] (because) I just let everything go, I multiplied my drinking and stuff, you know. I stopped drinking three months ago, a little over three months ago,[the footage dates from 1997] because I realized it was not only causing me too much..in my life, in my condition, but, economically, I stopped too, even beer I couldn't afford anymore (oh, I'd pay (for) it, but I couldn't afford it). And me, I like to eat good, and I like good good coffee (I like it in the bean, I don't like it ground up, I ground my own) - that's better than a good woman - actually a good cup of coffee and a good woman would kill me, I'm pretty sure of that - that'd be one toke over the line!"

Here's Allen on Bremser's poetry - "..In Bremser's poetry we have powerful curious Hoboken language, crank-blat phrasing, rhythmic motion that moves forward in sections to climaxes of feeling. Imagination shifts in and out of heard-about places in space and rime. American primitive, jailhouse primitive, and dramatizes key ideas - personal empathy with Egypt and a Pop Art approach to Platonic archetypes. Where is the truth in this. The truth here is the realized expression of emotional awareness. Poesy a rhythmic articulation of feeling, emotional physiology vocalized.."

"Poem of Holy Madness, Part IV" and "Blood" appeared in Donald Allen's groundbreaking anthology "The New American Poetry 1945-1960" (1960). This is Bremser's short note there: "Born Jersey City, 1934, educated at Bordentown Reformatory, I dug Billie Holiday at 15 and Wayne Shorter at 25. Best poets alive are me, Ginsberg, Jones (sic), Kerouac, Orlovsky and Corso. Have read at Vassar, Princeton, Lehigh, etc"

Here's Al Aronowitz's "Ray Bremser Memorial" (including notably the memories of Bonnie Bremser (nee Bonnie Frazer). Further notes on Troia: Mexican Memoirs (published in 1971 in England as "For Love of Ray") are available here.


[Ray Bremser master poet returned to New York after 8 years’ absence wrinkle-faced as before, to attend my “Rainbow Body Reading Series” at Brooklyn College & same night read at St. Mark’s Church Poetry Project. Next evening we did two poetry readings shows together for jazz-club Village Vanguard anniversary week celebrations. He left early next morning by bus, for safety from drink, to his upstate New York Utica apartment. Saw him this way the night before all these poetry scenes, at my house, February 21, 1995. (Ginsberg Caption) photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Father Death Blues in Brussels, 1984


More footage of Allen and Steven Taylor in Europe in 1984. This from the fourth “Nacht van de Poezie” (Night of Poetry) at the Vorst Nationaal performance space in Brussels, organized by Guido Lauwaert and Francois Beukelaers and featuring the Belgian poets, Herman De Coninck and Hugo Claus, the Dutch poets Remco Campert and Jules Deelder, the Russian poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Allen, and several others. Allen and Steven appear approximately five-and-a-half minutes into the film, seen performing the always-moving “Father Death Blues”.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Oo Bop Sh'bam At The Poetry Slam 1997

February 20, 1997, fifteeen years ago today, Allen gave what turned out to be his last public performance at the first-ever NYU (New York University) Poetry Slam - "Oo Bop Sh'bam/ At the poetry slam/Scream & yell/At the poetry ball/ Get in a rage/On the poetry stage..." (this poem, a little bit of doggerel that he composed, almost a month later, recollecting the event, is one of the last poems he ever wrote, and is included in the concluding pages of his posthumous collection, Death and Fame).

Bob Holman, Bowery Poetry Club m-c, recalls the evening: "Bob Rosenthal, Allen's adroit secretary and (himself) a wonderful poet, had warned me that Allen might not show up...that he wasn't well. But Allen was as punctual as usual, although very weak, complaining that he was doing the gig primarily because Beau Sia, an incredible and incredibly funny poet and ranter and NYU student had asked. During the sound check, cantankerous as ever, Allen demanded the lights solely function for his reading, not audience engagement, and that the sound be for amplification only. The Slam poets were all-stars from across the country, and many had never seen Allen. The event quickly sold out, with people turned away. I introduced Allen, as I had many times over the years, as "The Bard Hisself", and without further adon't, Allen settled in..."Pull My Daisy" "Ballad of the Skeletons", "Hum Bom!". After a somewhat slow and quiet start, he warmed, (and) the audience got into it, (and) started roaring. After "Hum Bom!" he suddenly stopped and looked at me. "How much time do I left?" he asked. Usually Allen was meticulous about how long he read, not ever wishing to take more than his allotted time, which he was now over. "One more!" I said, and he launched into "Put Down Your Cigarette Rag (Don't Smoke)", so perfect, and uproariously appreciated by this hip college crowd, most of whom were smokers, I'm sure. Seated but rocking, sweating, crazily cavorting, Allen Ginsberg was redefining poetry, for yet another generation. One more, Allen. That means, one more, and then one more...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

West Coast Beat and Beyond



West Coast Beat & Beyond

Of all the films coming out of the 1982 Naropa "On The Road" 25th Anniversary Celebrations (notably Costanzo Allione's Fried Shoes and Cooked Diamonds, and Robert Frank's freewheeling documentary footage, This Song For Jack (1983)), Chris Felver's West Coast Beat and Beyond (1984), (filmed also in the Bay Area too, as its title might suggest), may be the most passed-over, most unfairly neglected. Rare footage, not just of Ginsberg-Corso-Ferlinghetti et al, but also, Philip Lamantia, Howard Hart, Harold Norse, Bob Kaufman, Jack Michelene, Jan Kerouac, Joanne Kyger, Bobbie-Louise Hawkins, Ken Kesey.. (the sight of (a) country 'n western Kesey on guitar, with Allen, shaking the tambourine, backing him up, is indeed a sight to behold!) The narration is by Kerouac biographer, Gerald Nicosia (who, incidentally, and not unrelatedly, has a new book [on Lu Anne Henderson] just out)

Chris Felver is, of course, the noted filmmaker and photographer, (and author of the book-length photo-collection, The Late Great Allen Ginsberg). Other notable collections include a similar book of portraits of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the 1986 collection, The Poet Exposed, 1996's Angels, Anarchists and Gods, and, more recently, 2007, Beat.

Mention should also be made of his 2009 full-length feature film, Ferlinghetti - the trailer for which can be seen here.

West Coast Beat And Beyond begins with the always-intelligent Bobbie Louise Hawkins.

"Beat Era Writers Are Lively Survivors" - Diana Ketcham's review for the Oakland Tribune may be accessed here



Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday's Weekly Round-Up 61



Leading off with the sad news, this week, of the untimely death of Christian Ide Hintze, poetic and multi-media experimentalist and founder and director of the remarkable Schule fur Dichter (Vienna Poetry School). Here's the obituary notice (in German) in derStandard. Here's another local (Viennese) report. Pierre Joris, on his always admirable Nomadics blog, quotes Anne Waldman's fond remembrance of him - "I remember Ide's visit to the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa University in the 1980's with other brilliant poets and thinkers, [fellow Austrian poets] Christian Loidl and Christina Huber, how (he) sat at the feet of Allen Ginsberg to receive "transmission" for his work and creation..." (the full text of her memorial note, alongside footage of Hintze in performance, may be viewed and perused here).

His 1995 Naropa lecture on the founding of the school can be read here.

His "poe:tik revolu:son" (poetic revolution) - for Allen (alongside Sappho, most probably, his favorite poet?), we featured a few months back - "One subject between us is this sense of messianic poetic revolution.."

We'll have more on it next week, but Feb. 23rd (as part of the Tune-in Music Festival) is the world premiere of Bill Frisell (or rather, Hal Willner)'s "Kaddish" - a "multi-media extravaganza" (based on the poem), produced by Willner, and featuring him and director Chloe Webb reading the text, short films by Webb, art by Ralph Steadman, and a unique original score by Frisell.
Here's a short preview.

And a heads-up - opening March 30, Alan Govenar's feature-length documentary, "The Beat Hotel" - "1957. The Latin Quarter, Paris. A cheap no-name hotel at 9 rue Git le Coeur became a haven for a new breed of artists fleeing the conformity and censorship of America. The hotel soon turned into an epicenter of Beat writing that produced some of the most important works of the Beat Generation..". We'll have more on that in the coming weeks too.

We'll second Jerry Cimino's recommendation over on Kerouac.com, check out, Last Man Standing, Al Hinkle's self-published memoir.

Michael Sloan's piece in Slate this week had us chuckling (how will you score?)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Keith Haring (1958-1990)


["Long Skulled Keith Haring Lawrence Kansas September 9, 1987 Passing thru Burroughs Fiesta" (Ginsberg caption) Photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

[Keith Haring 'untitled, figures representing the aids virus' May 13, 1989. Water color and ink on paper.]

Twenty-two years ago today, the artist Keith Haring passed away. We send you, of course, to the Keith Haring Foundation - "The Keith Haring Foundation was established in 1989 to assist AIDS-related and children's charities, and maintains the largest resource of archives on the late artist..". Check out also their blog here for further updated information.
In March, "Keith Haring: 1978-1982" - "the first large scale exhibition to explore (his) early career", will take place at the Brooklyn Museum.
"Timothy Leary. Andy Warhol. Allen Ginsberg. Grace Jones. Jean-Michel Basquiat. William Burroughs. These, Keith told me one evening, were the persons in his pantheon" (Robert Farris Thompson, in his obituary for Keith Haring in Artforum)

Allen was the proud owner of a number of works by Keith (he can be seen jokingly displaying one of them, the coyly-named "Pals", to Taylor Mead, in this video). ...

[ Keith Haring, 'Pals', black felt tip pen on photograph. AG acquired from Keith Haring, 1989]

A further AG image:


[Keith Haring, half-finished chalk drawing sidewalk outside Kale's Gallery, Lawrence, KS 9/11/1987. Spectra commercial print. (note: Spectra was the commercial photo printer down the block from Allen, so he's stating this was printed there, and not by his regular printers Brian Graham or Sid Kaplan)]

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hadda Be Playing On The Jukebox



Zack de la Rocha and Rage Against the Machine's version of Allen's "Hadda Be Playing On The Jukebox", recorded live at the Reading Festival, August 27, 1993, Berkshire, England.
Can't think why we've never featured it before.

[2o15 up-date - that version's no longer available so here's Rage Against the Machine, October 15th the same year at the Hollywood Palladium:]

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Green Valentine





















I went in the forest to look for a sign
Fortune to tell and thought to refine;
My green valentine, my green valentine,
What do I know of my green valentine?

I found a strange wild leaf on a vine
Shaped like a heart and as green as was mine,
My green valentine, my green valentine,
How did I use my green valentine?

Bodies I've known and visions I've seen,
Leaves that I gathered as I gather this green
Valentine, valentine, valentine, valentine
Thus did I use my green valentine.

Madhouses and jailhouses where I shined
Empty apartment beds where I pined,
O desolate rooms! My green valentine,
Where is the heart in which you were outlined?

Souls and nights and dollars and wine,
Old love and remembrance - I resign
All cities, all jazz, all echoes of Time,
But what shall I do with my green valentine?

Much have I seen and much am I blind,
But none other than I has a leaf of this kind.
Where shall I send you, to what knowing mind,
My green valentine, my green valentine?

Yesterday's love, tomorrow's more fine?
All tonight's sadness in your design.
What does this mean, my green valentine?
Regret, O regret, my green valentine.

Chiapas, 1954


from Collected Poems 1947-1997, Harper Collins, 2006. Used with permission.


Allen: "In Mexico, I'd lived on a cacao plantation for three months in Chiapas rain forest, solitary wondering where I'd ever find love, amid insect-eating blossoms and giant palms, caoba (mahogany) trees and one plant with a huge heart-shaped leaf. "Green Valentine" echoes some old Tin Pan Alley, music hall barbershop, almost vaudeville number, sentimental like "My Yiddishe Mama", the kind of thing you sing to yourself in bed.."

An early recording (chez Cassady's) can be found on Holy Soul, Jelly Roll and also on this 2010 curiosity, The Beat Generation Music and Poetry.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Patti Smith's Howl Spells


Dave L Stevens of Stevens Internet Productions has generously uploaded to You Tube this stunning performance of "Spell" a.k.a."Footnote to Howl" by Patti Smith and her band, with Philip Glass on piano, and back-up "vocals" by saffron-robed Buddhist monks (the recitation was in honor of a visit by His Holiness the Dalai Lama). As Stevens himself notes, "Not seen for more than a decade. I directed and produced this interactive webcast. When Patti Smith begins "howling" on her clarinet, it's sublime."
Contrast for production values, this next rendition, recorded in Florence, Italy, in 2009 (hence the Fernanda Pivano reference!), the shakey hand-held camera, the straight-from-the-audience
placement, the decidedly amateur "bootleg" quality, and yet, and maybe even because of all that, the power of the invocation comes through


The 1997 version that appeared on her album, Peace and Noise, may be listened to here.
The version she performed at the New York St John the Divine Ginsberg Memorial (beginning approximately 19 minutes in to the recording) here
A spirited live version (recorded 2000 in Seattle) here
From Steven Sebring's 2008 documentary, Patti Smith:Dream of Life - here (along with German sub-titles!):


and here's Allen himself reading it (with on-screen translation in Spanish !)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Renaldo and Clara


Remarkable what you find on the Internet these days, isn't it? If you've got a spare three-and-a-half hours plus, here's Bob Dylan's epic legendary Rolling Thunder Review movie, Renaldo and Clara, in, as Marc Campbell on Dangerous Minds puts it, all "its uncut shambolic glory".
Allen is, of course, all over this (notably, on the famous trip, accompanying Dylan to Jack Kerouac's grave in Lowell, Massachusetts). We've featured some sections of it on this blog before (notably, here), and even reported on its checkered and complicated distribution. So much more we could say, but, hey, why don't we all just sit down and watch the film.

May 2012 update - Well, it's down, been taken down (understandably - unauthorized distribution). Like Dangerous Minds, we'll leave you instead, then, with the poster and with the hopes that maybe you will get to see it some day.

[see also comments on this re a previous posting about the movie here]

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Weekly Round-Up 60



We at The Allen Ginsberg Project, we love our "Ginsberg tattoos" - they're among the most popular posts, curiously - or maybe not so curiously. So here's another - "I wake to see the world go wild" - the line is from "An Eastern Ballad". "Lauralemon" explains: "My obsession with and love for Allen Ginsberg began when I was thirteen years old and picked up an anthology of modern American poetry from a garage sale. I read "America" and immediately became obsessed...and here I am six years later, finally bearing a small tribute to my favorite poet... Getting this line (tattoo-ed) made sense to me in so many ways, but mostly I like the idea of young Allen Ginsberg writing this beautiful poem with absolute(ly) no idea who he was
and who he would become...just a young kid, basically."

"Citylightslover" (so what's all this with nom de plumes?!), over on The Daily Kos, writes about "Books That Changed My Life: "Howl by Allen Ginsberg" - "(T)hemes from "Howl" and the battle of (for) free artistic and academic expression", she notes, "still resonate 57 years after its ground-breaking first public reading... Every once in a while, when I need a spiritual and mental pick-me-up, I'll read "Howl" out loud to myself. Allen Ginsberg left this life in April 1997, but "Howl" still is, & will always be, with us to, hopefully, educate and inspire..."

Another encomium for Allen - Jenn Weinshenker's delightful story of his re-imagination of the game,"Risk" -"Why don't we play it so nobody takes over the world, and nobody loses?"

NAROPA memories from Boulder, here's some more recent ones, not of Allen this time, but Thurston Moore (he'll be back and teaching in the Summer Writing Program this year), a student remembers his last year's classes.

Flavorpill recently posted a portfolio of Gordon Ball Beat photos - Intimate Photos of Allen Ginsberg and Other Beat Fellows. Here he is (Allen), rather strangely, observing his painted image (the portrait is by Mary Beach).

["Allen studies his portrait by Mary Beach, Varsity Apartments, NAROPA Institute, August 1984" - photo c. Gordon Ball]

On The Road news - Well, have we mentioned before Gerald Nicosia's important new book, One and Only: The Untold Story of On The Road (re-evaluating "Marylou" (real name, Lu Anne Henderson), the glue between Jack and Neal, and, arguably, the real inspiration of the book). Seems like before we've always seen that relationship through Carolyn Cassady's eyes, this time, in the film, it's going to be more from a Lu Anne Henderson perspective.

Kill Your Darlings news, more news - and not Daniel Radcliffe-related this time. Internet Movie Database (IMBD) has "Dexter", Michael C Hall, listed and up for a part in the movie. That would surely be the David Kammerer part? So Michael gets to play another "psycho-killer"? (all you Beat-o-philes, tho' it's "loosely-based on", a screenplay, etc, it behooves you to check out, if you're not familiar with it already, the "true story").

Thursday, February 9, 2012

(More) Perfect Wisdom Sutra (for Arthur Russell)


The Perfect Wisdom Sutra, the Heart Sutra, the Pranaparamita Sutra - "Form is not different from emptiness, emptiness, not different from form" - We posted, last year, a post spotlighting several readings of this by Allen (notably, this one, at a memorial gathering for Carl Solomon) - along with reproduction of the text (Allen's own pioneering translation, authorized and validated by Shunryu Suzuki).

We now add another one. This is Allen, at a memorial for Arthur Russell (sic), succinctly and clearly, and compassionately, reciting the sutra ("It's one that Arthur and I performed, touring, very often, with him on cello", he points out) - A touching Buddhist farewell, from one bodhisattva to another diligent Buddhist practitioner.

The source is DVD extras from Matt Wolf's enthralling (and definitely-worth-purchasing) DVD Wild Combination. See more about the movie here.
Here's that film's trailer:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Neal Cassady (1926-1968)


[Neal Cassady ... young & vigorous age 29.... surveying North Beach used car lot, he needed new wheels. Bay area Johnny Appleseed of pot from early 1950’s, he worked as conductor on Southern-Pacific Railroad, averted train crash as brakeman years earlier, breaking his ankle, collected insurance, bought his family a ranch-house in Los Gatos down the peninsula, gambled madly & disastrously at horse racetrack, wrote painfully in pencil on his “The First Third” autobiographical manuscript, visited me overnight in rooms on Polk and Montgomery Streets, San Francisco. Sometime March 1955. (Ginsberg Caption for similar image) photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]


[Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady, used car lot, San Francisco, 1955. photo probably snapped by Natalie Jackson. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]


[Peter Du Peru, Neal Cassady & Natalie Jackson horsing around maybe Sunday walk above Broadway Tunnel, Neal playing hookey from his wife Caroline & kids in Los Gatos to stay with Natalie at my place. Du Peru eccentric North Beach remittance man was writ by Kerouac as “Richard de Chili, the Mysterious...with his low-spoken incomprehensible remarks,” (Desolation Angels.) Natalie bewildered by amphetamine police jitters jumped off her roof to death a year later. San Francisco, March 1955. photo c.
Allen Ginsberg Estate]



[Korean War Vet Ken Babbs, captain of Ken Kesey’s “Trips Festival” bus, co piloting Neal Cassady on amphetamine at wheel rolling up highway to Millbrook estate near Poughkeepsie [sic] N.Y. where Dr. Tim Leary’s Castalia Foundation was then experimenting with D.M.T. on half-hour psychedelic trip useful for psychiatric sessions. Burglar Gordon Liddy, then assistant D.A. in Poughkeepsie raided the Foundation a number of times illegally lacking search warrants during that season, so Castalia folk were jittery on arrival of honking Day-glo graffiti’d “Merry Prankster” Further bus which’d been driven crosscountry S.F. to N.Y. via Texas before Fall 1964 Presidentiad, “A Vote For Goldwater is a vote for fun” logo painted above bus side windows, L.S.D. Kool-aid in pitcher in icebox. Kesey & Pranksters’d met with Jack Kerouac a day before, & set out to visit hero Leary first time, I went along, late summer 1964. (Ginsberg Caption) photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

Neal Cassady's 3rd Annual Denver Birthday Bash took place this past Friday, but today, Wednesday, is the actual birthday. Curious thought - Neal Cassady, had he lived, would have been 86 years old today!

The First Third remains - and has remained, consistently - in print, (as does Collected Letters 1944-1967). Various Cassady biographies have appeared, starting with The Holy Goof, William Plummer's 1981 biography (for a curious tale of what happened to one copy, see here), Tom Christopher's extensively-researched two volumes (see more on this here and here), and David Sandison and Graham Vickers' Neal Cassady: The Fast Life of A Beat Hero (2006) (the opening chapter of which may be read here).

Cassady secondary materials? - A list would have to include Carolyn Cassady's wonderful memoir, Off The Road (not to mention, Heartbeat (both the book and the movie), an earlier incarnation) - a later film, Noah Buschel's Neal Cassady, dealing "primarily with Neal's relationship to his fictional alter-ego, Dean Moriarty", is perhaps - in fact, it has to be said, is - considerably less successful).

Neal, the real Neal also appears in the Carolyn Cassady documentary, Love Always, Carolyn, and the Merry Pranksters documentary, Magic Trip, both of which came out last year.

Plenty of insights too into Cassady in Gerald Nicosia's new biography (of his first wife, Lu Anne Henderson), published a few months ago.

The Beat, does indeed go on.

A further essential resource, of course, is the Cassady Estate.
(and John Allen Cassady is a living, breathing treasure and font of Neal-lore).


Watch Neal Cassady: The Denver Years on PBS. See more from Colorado Public Television.