Lisa Phillips 1995 Beat Culture and the New America show at the Whitney Museum in New York has already been spotlighted here but it was an important show and a significant moment – “the scroll” (on display to the public for the first time), Jay Defeo’s “The Rose” (in all its immensity) – an important contextualizing of both a West Coast and an East Coast cultural explosion and avant-garde.
Allen was alive then and more than happy to participate in the publicity surrounding the event, guesting on Charlie Rose’s PBS talk show. His appearance is announced thus:
“(Tonight), a conversation with Allen Ginsberg, the poet who helped to shape The Beat Generation. He is joined by Steven Watson, author of “The Birth of The Beat Generation”, Nat Hentoff , a columnist at The Village Voice and George Herms, the California artist whose art exemplified the Beat aesthetic. The group reflects on the importance of the Beat Generation in American History.”
Unfortunately, this lively conversation has been sandwiched in between two absolutely unrelated segments – a (relatively) long opening segment on contemporaneous child welfare scandals in New York City and an interview with former NBC and PBS executive, Larry Grossman. Allen and company come in approximately 22 minutes in, if you’re willing to wait -or fast forward – and the discussion lasts for about twenty minutes.
Sit back and enjoy ten minutes of Allen and Peter’s haunting chants – from the legendary ESP record, “The East Village Other’s Electric Newspaper“. It was released in the summer of 1966, “an electric newspaper collage”
(this record also featured contributions by various members of The Fugs (Ed Sanders, Tuli Kupferberg, Steve Weber), alongside contributions by various “Factory” denizens (Andy Warhol, Gerard Malanga, Ingrid Superstar), not to mention, poet and novelist Ishmael Reed (reading from his novel), jazz saxophonist/instrumentalist, Marion Brown, and – the very first “noise” recordings of The Velvet Underground (featuring Angus MacLise)).
It was recorded August 6 – to commemorate the twenty-first anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing and (same day!) the wedding of Miss Luci Baines (President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s daughter)
More chanting from Allen and Peter can be heard here
Natalie Goldberg’s “Talk When You Talk, Cry When You Cry: Thoughts On My Teacher” is old news (it was written in 2006) but, in that felicitous phrase of Ezra Pound’s, it’s “news that stays news”. “He’s been dead for nine years”, she writes (it’s fourteen now) “and I miss him..”..All over again I want to honor him..” Well, honor him we will/honor him we do. His 85th birthday is coming up. The Bob Holman-inspired “Ginsberg Turn On‘s” have begun (an initiative we noted here earlier) – Sophia Holman dons glasses to read, flawlessly, Allen’s poem, “The End”, Hettie Jones, earlier in the week, kicked off the series. There will be regular Tuesday-night Ginsberg promotions at New York’s Bowery Poetry Club – and on the weekend of Allen’s birthday (June 3,4,5), in New York’s East Village, not unintentionally timed – the annual HOWL! Festival (the recently-launched HOWL! Festival blog can be accessed here).
Meanwhile, as an adjunct to this, CA Conrad continues to build up his video side-show – Jupiter 88 – Allen Ginsberg Edition. David Wolach, Frank Sherlock, Trisha Low, Dorothea Lasky, Jason Zuzga, Julia Bloch and Sarah Dowling, are the most recent contributors. Stay tuned for more.
If you happen to be in the vicinity of Boulder, Colorado, this weekend, don’t miss two important screenings of a special double-feature at the recently-opened Boedecker Theater – Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s “Howl” and Jerry Aronson’s “The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg“. This will mark the first time these two films have been shown together, as well as the first time that the Boedecker has hosted a filmmaker to discuss his work (Aronson will be on hand to answer questions after both the Sunday the 15th, and Monday the 16th, 6 o’clock showings)
and next Tuesday (the 17th) if you’re in New York, don’t miss Bill Morgan and Hettie Jones in conversation at the St Marks Bookshop (31 Third Avenue (at 9th Street). The two will be discussing Beat Atlas, Bill’s most recent book.
[Angus MacLise in Katmandu, Nepal c.1978 – photo by Ira Cohen]
Angus MacLise (1938-1979) was, as cultural historian/curator, Johan Kugelberg puts it, in an informative interactive feature, last week in the New York Times, on the occasion of a pioneering exhibition and series of events that he and Will Swofford Cameron have co-curated,
“a major poet, (a) major visual artist, legendary drummer, (a) composer, and one of those odd human-link documents who link different eras and different streams of thought and streams of art”.
Often remembered solely on the grounds of being the original drummer for The Velvet Underground, MacLise was (as is increasingly becoming evident) so much more.
Kugelberg, in a presentation, entitled (by the paper, not by him, we’re guessing), “Artist, Musician, Zelig” (“Zelig”, after the Woody Allen ubiquitous chameleon character), attempts to break it all down – or, at least, attempts, (via an extraordinary “time-capsule”, a suitcase that was left with composers LaMonte Young and Marian Zazeela over thirty years ago, containing recordings, artwork, publications and manuscripts, and which forms the basis of the show), to preliminarily explore the terrain.
Kugelberg’s multimedia talk and walk through the exhibit nicely compliments what remains essential reading, the main print article – Ben Sisario’s piece, The Velvet Unknown, Now Emerging.
(For another, earlier, but still useful, over-view of MacLise’s life and work, see Rene van der Voort’s article, here)
Boo-Hooray/Dreamweapon have released a useful promo video for the show that may be viewed here. They’ve also released two limited edition LP’s, previews of which can be viewed here and here
More MacLise recordings (including the soundtrack for Ira Cohen’s 1968 “Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda”) can be found here
[Lew Welch and Allen Ginsberg outside City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, October 30, 1963, (the day of the Madame Nhu protest) – photo c. John Doss]
The recordings of the San Francisco State University Poetry Archives are, as we have dubbed them, “More Beat Treasures“. We’ve been featuring them this week. Here’s another – from that seemingly-inexhaustible trove – their 1959 recording of the legendary Lew Welch, reading and commenting on his work.
He reads “Chicago Poem” (speaks about his time spent in Chicago), and reads his famous “Wobbly Rock”, and his virtuoso musical engagement, “A Round of English for Philip Whalen”.
(Philip Whalen‘s own Poetry Center reading, which took place a few years before, (alongside Lawrence Ferlinghetti), can, incidentally, be easily accessed here).
More recordings of Lew Welch are available – both on this site (via City Lights) – “He Remains: Lew Welch Reads From His Work, 1968” – audio of a “raucous evening at San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Church, June 1968”
– and here, (courtesy Robert Creeley), on the incomparable PennSound – two tapes, the first, the most substantial, an extensive reading at the Magic Lantern, Santa Barbara, April 1967, (“luxuriously long..the poet reads practically all of his major works”, notes the curator for PennSound), the second, a brief recording from Spring 1969 at San Francisco’s Renaissance Corner (Welch reads, in its entirety, the poem “Courses”).
Yesterday’s posting of a reading by the young John Wieners from the San Francisco Poetry Center Archives (The Poetry Center Digital Archive) inspires us to post another from the same source – Gregory Corso – a relatively subdued Gregory Corso, it has to be said, but then he’s only 26, it’s 1956, the world is still about to open, he’s yet to publish his ground-breaking City Lights book, Gasoline. He has published his first book, The Vestal Lady on Brattle (1955), where several of the poems he reads on this occasion have just recently appeared. The highlight of this reading (the”message poem”, “it’s actually a message poem, but it gets straightened out”, Gregory declares), is the 12-minute meditation/invocation/litany/observation “Power”. Among the other poems he reads are such classics as “Greenwich Village Suicide”, “Coney Island”, “Sea Chanty”, “Mad Yak”, “Vision Epizootic”, “In the Early Morning”, and his elegy, “Requiem for (Charlie) “Bird” Parker” (“I hate to write any kind of requiems or any kind of elegy because it’s phony, but this one’s not phony and it’s true and I’m sure that he would have liked it”).
Two decades on (June 5, 1975) and Gregory’s at the recently-established NAROPA, conducting a class, substituting for Allen. “Ask me anything”, he invites his students, “I know all there is to know because there ain’t that much to know”. He begins with “three shots” – Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Missing Link, and…Assholes! This recording consists of an amalgam of two classes. As the Internet Archive note alongside the recording explains: “Corso holds the class(es) in a “Socratic” format, allowing the students to ask him questions about anything they wish. He describes his process of shaping and editing a poem..(he) also talks about his family and relations with members of the Beat generation”.
The Internet Archive also contains other Corso NAROPA audio, from ’77, from ’81 (we’ll be getting back to all that in the months to come).
There’s also great Gregory participation in the following: a (1997) KCRW memorial recording for Allen, lovingly produced and presented by Liza Richardson. From the program notes: “This show features a conversation between Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. Together they philosophize about the nature of life, death, beauty and poetry..”). Gregory remains a one-of-a-kind, unforgotten.
John Wieners, spotlighted here, (“pure poet”, as Allen Ginsberg lauded him), was among those featured in that SFSU trove (of recent releases from the Poetry Center’s Digital Archive) that we mentioned in this space just a few weeks back. Click here for extraordinary audio from a June 21 1959 (Summer Solstice) reading – A twenty-five-year-old Wieners reads from the then still-unpublished Hotel Wentley Poems.
Over four decades later, courtesy of his publisher, Derek Fenner of Bootstrap Press, we have this video document of Wieners last public reading (he passed away, 8 days later, on March 1 2oo2). Following a typically-provocative and informative introduction by his friend Charley Shiveley (publisher of Behind the State Capitol (1975) – Shiveley speaks briefly of the circumstances of that book), Wieners (coming in about four-and-a-half minutes in) reads “Looking For Women”, “Supplication”, “The Eagle Bar”, “The Garbos and Dietrichs”, “This Love That Moves the World, the Sun and Stars”, and “Ode On A Common Fountain”. Unalloyed through the ages. “This was stuff I wrote when I was younger”, he ruefully remarks,”you know, when you think of different things.”