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.
“(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.
(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
and from here (Pacific High Studio Mantras (2010 Remaster with Arthur Russell – recordings from 1971, engineered for the digital world – don’t miss out on that one)
[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]
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”.
– 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”).
[Gregory Corso, Tangier, June 1961. photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]
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.
We know we’ve focused on this a few times before but, in the context of our “Annotated Streaming Video” series (and in celebration of the Springtime), wanted to focus on it again – “Allen Ginsberg, King of May, Prague 1965” – Kral Majales – “And I am the King of May, which is the power of sexual youth,/and I am the King of May, which is industry in eloquence and action in amour,/and I am the King of May, which is long hair of Adam and the Beard of my own body/and I am the King of May which is Kral Majales in the Czechoslovakian tongue..” Czech tv shows archival footage from the day itself (May Day, May the first) – the processions, the crowds, jubilant (at least for that moment), thronging the streets and the city squares – and of Allen himself (clashing his finger cymbals, bedecked in his crown).
The “back-story”, the other side of the story, another side of the story, may be read here – “Final Report on the Activities of Allen Ginsberg, American poet-beatnik in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic” – memo addressed to “Comrade Colonel Jan Zaruba, 1st Deputy Minister of the Interior” from “Chief of Division II. Of the Ministry of Interior, Lieutenant Colonel Miloslav Kosnar”, Prague, May 13 1965 (following Allen’s expulsion from the country) – translated with footnotes by Andrew Lass (“the report”, Lass writes,”is accurate in most details pertaining to Allen..I know because I was either present at some of the situations described in the report or because Allen told me about them later”). Lass’s interview with Allen (published 1998 in the Massachusetts Review) is also highly revealing (“AG: According to accurate scientific method..it (the actual vote) was a fake! Was it a fake?…I am totally disillusioned after (learning) this. I thought I won it fair and square.”)
[Allen Ginsberg on the Yangtze River, China, November 10 1984. Allen had traveled to China with Gary and Masa Snyder, Maxine Hong Kingston, Francine & Cleve Grey and others as part of an American delegation of noted writers in exchange for hosting notable Chinese writers in the States a few years before. photo. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]
Angela Sorby’s piece in the current Chronicle of Higher Education, “Snapshots of a Semester in China” is an interesting read – “I decide to teach my students Allen Ginsberg’s famous countercultural poem, “Howl”, Sorby writes. “Before I came to China, I thought there might be restrictions on what I could teach or say, but I’ve learned that the authorities are more sophisticated than that. As a Fulbrighter, as long as I don’t try to actually organize anything I can say whatever I want”.”I worry, though, that the poem’s explicit homosexual images might alienate my students. In China, homosexuality is still barely discussed and only very recently decriminalized. So I craftily tell students: “back when “Howl” was published, many people in the United States were ignorant about homosexuality. They even thought it was a choice or a psychiatric condition! Isn’t that outrageous! My students shake their heads, assuming an air of cosmopolitan outrage, and I feel a twinge of triumph..” For more of Sorby’s article, go here.
Would you like a one-time visit to Allen’s old 13th Street East Village loft? (the one that he bought following the sale of his papers and archives to Stanford, and the one that he was, tragically, scarce able to inhabit (he died less than a month after moving in). The Allen Ginsberg Estate and The Adaptations Project are co-hosting a special “Benefit Reception and Launch Party“, a one-time-only event, this upcoming May 20, for Donnie Mather‘s “Kaddish: The Key In The Window – Based on the poem by Allen Ginsberg” – tickets are $50 and $100. “This premiere marks the 50th Anniversary of the poem’s publication and the Inaugural Production of The Adaptations Project”. The evening will feature a special “sneak preview” of the production that will debut in Manhattan in the Fall.
Beat Encounters – if you’re not making use of our “Comments” feature (and, come to think of it, why aren’t you making use of our “Comments” feature?), you might well have missed this –Jack Miller’s memories of his encounter (encounters, actually) with Allen, including (just back from India, “new Shiva trident in hand and freshly shorn of his beard”) a visit to New Orleans in October 1971.
Thanks, once again, Jack, for sharing.
“Once I asked Allen Ginsberg to autograph his “Complete Works” collection that I had borrowed from the library, and he wrote, “Please don’t steal this book from the Kanawha County Library – Allen Ginsberg”
Inside of a year, the book was missing!”
Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Angela Sorby, Beat Studies, Donnie Mather, Fred Moten, Greg Bem, Guillermo Parra, Howl, Kaddish, Michael Hennessey, Nicole Steinberg, Paul E Nelson, The Adaptation Project
Here’s the second in our series of “Annotated Streaming Video(s)” (the first, on “Pull My Daisy”, was posted Monday, and can be accessed here).“Kerouac, Ginsberg and Friends in NYC, 1959” – under such matter-of-fact description lies another rarity and treasure – a true internet treasure (over 230,000 people have viewed it since it was first put up on You Tube in June of 2007! – a particularly remarkable thing, since, all this time, it has remained something of a mystery, and is black-and-white, silent (sic) footage – Who? what? where?). The date is Spring (or early Summer), 1959, and the location? – no question at all about that – is the Harmony Bar and Restaurant, then located on Manhattan’s Third Avenue, on the corner of Third Avenue and East 9th Street. The “featured players”? – well, recognizably, Allen and Jack Kerouac – but also Lucien Carr and his wife Francesca (and their three sons, Simon, Caleb and Ethan), also, Mary Frank (wife of the filmmaker) and their two children, (Pablo and Andrea) – and behind the camera? (well, uncredited, so we’re not one-hundred percent certain, but wouldn’t that be Robert Frank himself?