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.
More video. This surprisingly-sympathetic mainstream-media “CBS News, Sunday Morning” segment (timed to coincide with the 1995 Lisa Phillips-curated “Beat Culture and the New America” show) has Richard Threllkald, CBS correspondent, interviewing Allen alongside Michael McClure. “Beat” is, retrospectively, defined as, “an overflowing of exuberance and good will”. Beat culture “wasn’t so much a rebellion as a proposition how to live”. Of contemporaneous times (1995): “They say the new generation is alienated, slacker, apathetic, deadened of feeling when actually there is an enormous amount of feeling underneath, which needs to be invoked, empowered and appreciated”.
McClure is shown making a pilgrimage to the site of the Six Gallery (“it’s still a gallery, (but) now it’s a gallery for tribal arts”) and to City Lights, and to the spot in San Francisco where he lived in the ‘60’s and where Jay DeFeo painted/constructed her remarkable work, The Rose.
Only the hawk-eyed will be able to pick out Gregory Corso in this footage (not to mention Ted Joans and Michael Rumaker), only momentary glimpses of them, confessedly, but, we assure you, they’re there.
[Bob Kaufman 1925-1986]
April 18 is the birthday of the late great Bob Kaufman. Cranial Guitar, his Selected Poems from Coffee House Press, is certainly a good place to start – and check out in there the very useful (28-page) introduction by poet David Henderson (in fact, check out, if you can find it, Henderson’s 1991 NPR documentary (co-produced with Vic Bedoian), “Bob Kaufman, Poet”, it’s a remarkable work in and of itself). Another useful secondary source is A.D. Winans memoir, posted here. Jack Hirschman, at the “Does The Secret Mind Whisper?” celebrations, a few years back, adds his thoughts, and Harryette Mullen, both sets the scene and reads Kaufman’s immortal “All Those Ships That Never Sailed”.
Here’s Marty Matz giving a spirited reading of “The Poet” and Ian Dury (we’ve featured him here before, reading Gregory Corso), giving a quirky-but-effective reading of “Bagel Shop Jazz”, but the real treat is the voice of the man himself, buried away on this little gem, following a talk (similarly rare) by another San Francisco legend, Philip Lamantia.
The seminal Beatitude magazine was begun in 1959 with John Kelley, William Margoll and Allen. (“Kaufman was there on the mimeo machine, doing the actual work of putting out Beatitude. I think that was the first time I met him”). “We’re blessed by the ghost of Bob Kaufman who’s spirit exists ever breathing in the earth” – Mel Clay, in his “Impressionistic” biography, Jazz – Jail and God, quotes Allen’s estimation.
Happy Birthday in Eternity, Bob.
[Allen Ginsberg – photo by Art Perry]
Ten years on from the publication of Lewis Macadams’ The Birth of Cool (a cultural history of the term), and over fifty years since the first publication of such seminal Beat texts as Alan Watts’ “Beat Zen, Square Zen, Zen” and Norman Mailer’s “The White Negro”, film-maker, Zen priest, and all-around agent provocateur Noah Buschel sets the cat among the pigeons with his little essay for Hammer to Nail on-line magazine, Obliterate the New Hipster. “True mavericks like Gary Snyder and Phil Whalen and Don Cherry”, he writes, “have been replaced by little bitchy passive aggressive children who cum on their canvases and have absolutely no idea who they are..”…”(the) Williamsburg vampire squad be damned”… “I believe”, he declares, “today’s hipsters have a shitload of talent and could do things no one else has ever done—if they just let down their board game guards for a minute”.
Beat and beatnik. Authenticity and pose. The reflecting surfaces seem never to have gone away. and Buschel – writer and director of the movie Cassady incidentally – if he does nothing else, opens up the always-necessary debate. The Beats are cool. Oh yeah? But what do we actually mean by cool?
At Montreal’s Galerie Rye (from April 1 to May 3) one attempt will be made to answer that question. Vancouver-based photographer Art Perry will be exhibiting – “HIP! – Portraits of Cool by Art Perry – forty years of counterculture icons” (his portrait of Allen shown above, is, naturally, a part of the show). There will be an artist talk on April 1st , followed by a reception, and, on Sunday, the 3rd, a multi-media presentation, “The Hip Aesthetic: Beats, Beatniks, Hipsters & Authentic Cool”. Would Noah Buschel approve? Would Lewis Macadams? What are the odds the great hipster, hip semanticist, Lord Buckley, gets evoked?
Filed under Alan Watts, Art Perry, Beats, Hip, Lewis Macadams, Lord Buckley, Neal Cassady, Noah Buschel, Norman Mailer, Sociology, Zen
Bill Morgan’s new book is just out from City Lights. Rick Dale of The Daily Beat, one of the earliest reviews, gives it an enthusiastic “thumbs-up” – “I absolutely love this book.It’s quirky, interesting, and practical..Beat Atlas has my highest recommendation”.
Nancy Peters, in her introduction, writes “Bill Morgan provides a comprehensive birds-eye view of the proto-Beat presence across America, and this alone illuminates an important area of literary history and geography. But even better, he also maps the complex, ever widening nexus of poets and visionaries who, for half a century, wrote to each other, performed together, supported one another’s work, and sustained a movement that was dissident, controversial, and, ultimately dominant”.
The author himself explains: “This is the third book in a series from City Lights. The first two cover the Beat Generation in New York and San Francisco, respectively, and were organized as walking tours to those cities. This volume mentions only a few locations in those two places, but, unlike those, this one is not designed to be followed in any predetermined sequence. It is organized first by region and then by state and town within each region. No attempt has been made to put the towns in any order other than alphabetical. Within each section, one location has been selected to highlight a notable place of interest. Lowell, Massachusetts, the birthplace of Jack Kerouac, introduces the book for no other reason than its importance as a Beat site. Other towns within that state follow in alphabetical order. By working with this guidebook in one hand and a trusted map in the other, you can plot your own tour around the country, just like Jack, Neal, and Allen did more than sixty years ago. Grab your rucksack and hit the road!”
>“This year has been the perfect time for Allen Ginsberg to recite his poem “Howl” inside my mind. At times, I’ve had to scream with him “Moloch! Moloch! when watching scenes of protesters being killed in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the rest of revolting countries, seeing them opening up their chests for a ticket to the heaven of freedom. What an expensive ticket the soul is!”
(Mona Kareem, 24-year-old Kuwaiti journalist and poet, quoted this past weekend in the Toronto Star.)
“We”, she goes on to declare, “are the Arab Beat Generation, yet we have no face; we’ve already set it on fire. We have no Kerouac, no Ginsberg, no Cassady…” Read her full statement here.
The current presence of Howl the movie has summoned up a few complimentary bibliographic articles. Gilliam Orr in The Independent proposes a reading list that begins, as everybody would suggest, with the poem itself, followed by such titles as, James Campbell’s overview, This Is The Beat Generation, Ronna C Johnson & Nancy M Grace’s Girls Who Wore Black, and Harold Chapman’s photographic documentation, which, as they carefully note, is “currently out of print”
An equally maverick selection was proposed last year by Courtney Crowder in the Chicago Tribune. Taking for granted the poem itself as the starting point, she recommends Bill Morgan’s biography, I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg; the Ginsberg-Kerouac letters; Susan Edwards’ book-length memoir, The Wild West Wind: Remembering Allen Ginsberg; and Chris Felver’s photo book, The Late Great Allen Ginsberg
This, to quote our friend Michael McClure is just “scratching the.. surface”
Another Allen on Film – Ruth Du’s short, Six’55 (featuring Roger Massih as Allen) – “a historical interpretation of the first night Allen Ginsberg recited his famous “Howl” in the Six Gallery in San Francisco in 1955” – just won the prize for “best undergraduate cinematography” at NYU’s Fusion Film Festival.
Kerouac at Lowell
Yes, Lowell – don’t forget Jack Kerouac’s birthday tomorrow! (Saturday March 12th) – His home-town is once again celebrating with a birthday-bash. As acknowledgment of the 75th anniversary of the 1936 Lowell Flood, there’ll be readings from Doctor Sax, (wherein he describes the flood,
as he remembered it, still a boy, only 14 years old). There’ll be a showing of the film Whatever Happened to Kerouac?, and an evening of jazz and blues – and poetry – at The Back Pages Jazz and Blues Club,”an evening of words, music and improv”, hosted by, and featuring David Amram
“Kerouac was one of the first writers to understand the relationship of Formality and Spontaneity, and how the treasures of the Old World (the classics of Europe) had a relationship to the treasures of the New World (USA jazz, blues. Native and Latin American and Immigrant American musical forms that combined tradition with improvising. Growing up in Lowell, he had a sense of community, family, the church, the beauty of everyday life and respect for every person who crossed his path; especially people that entered the gyroscope of his life, wherever he went in his endless travels. He never lost his hometown roots or relinquished his values in order to attempt to be cutting edge or trendy. Like all great artists, he followed his heart and
remained true to himself”