[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
Staugsmas, Kadisas, Ir Kiti Eilerasciai (Howl, Kaddish, and Other Poems) translated by Kasparas Porcius and Marius Burokas for Kitos Knygos (Other Books), the first book-length Lithuanian translations of Allen’s poetry recently (belatedly) appeared (it was launched, just a couple of months back, at the Vilnius Book Fair). If you ever wondered how “America” sounded in Lithuanian (!) , check here.
There is also footage of Marius Burokas reading his translation of “A Supermarket in California”, and Rolando Rastausko recalls the time, in 1984, when Allen, as part of a PEN group, visited Vilnius. Fulbright scholar and poet-in-residence at Vilnius University, Jake Levine, rounds out the program (in English) with his presentation, “How Ginsberg Revolutionized America Through Poetry”.
Speaking of Eastern European translations, hats off also to Vladimir Levchev. A long-time translator of Allen’s work (his Krila Nad Chernata Shakhta (Wings Lifted Over The Black Pit), a selection of Ginsberg translations (this time into Bulgarian), appeared in 1983; more recently (2009), Voi, his bilingual edition of Howl, came out from Sofia-based Colibri publishers).
Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Bulgaria, Domnica Drumea, Howl, Jake Levine, Kasparas Porcius, Lithuania, Marius Burokas, Petru Illescu, Rolando Rastausko, Romania, Vladimir Levchev
In the last post, we asked you to listen to “America” and “A Supermarket in California” in Lithuanian. How about “Death to Van Gogh’s Ear” in Icelandic?!
Eirikur Orn Nieodahl‘s Maikonungirinn, (Howl), published in an edition with a format not unlike the famous City Lights book, came out in 2oo9. Eirikur, still in his early thirties, remains one of the youngest of Allen’s translators. Poet, novelist (three novels published so far!), translator, performer, his notes on Allen, “Allen Ginsberg Reference Frame” (basic biographical information) can be accessed here. His own work, leaning significantly on the performative and the experimental, may be heard here and here. Recent involvement with the American “Flarf” collective, and one member in particular, Sharon Mesmer, (a sometime student of Allen’s at Brooklyn College), led to this lively and stimulating exchange.
“Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgement! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!” – “Beat poet Allen Ginsberg had seen it all coming to an America enthralled to the idol of consumerism that he called..Moloch (after Moloch, or Molech, the all-consuming Canaanite fire god)” – The visionary litany (of “Howl part II”) continues to make sense, half a century (and more) on.
Here’s Moloch envisioned by Eric Drooker (the reading is of course by James Franco):
Here’s Moloch illustrated by Lynd Ward (an artist very much on Allen’s mind at the time of composition). “Lynd Ward’s images of the solitary artist dwarfed by the canyons of a Wall Street Megalopolis lay shadowed behind my own vision of Moloch”, he writes (in the 1996 introduction to Drooker’s edition of his Illuminated Poems). For more on Ward’s work, see Art Spiegelman’s essay on him here.
And here‘s a video of Allen reading the Moloch section (in Prague, in 1996, we think). Note him blowing his nose and wiping his glasses and then gathering up the momentum, barely missing a beat!
There are, of course, several other recordings (both audio and visual) of Allen reading this seminal poem ( and this seminal section of the poem) – to begin with this and this. For more details, check out our Howl pages on Allen Ginsberg dot org. (here, and, for a gathering of miscellaneous written materials on the poem, see 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”
This past Friday (March the 4th) in Venice, at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (in the garden of the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni ) there took place a unique presentation, orchestrated by Venetian artist Marco Nereo Rotelli, “Good Morning Beat”, an hommage to Allen and the Beats, featuring four women poets reading sections of the poem (as translated) in their own native languages. The performers were Maria Grazia Galata, reading in Italian; Roli Hope Odeka, in Nigerian; Hadamar Oudghiri in Arabic, and Loredana Pra Baldi in Ladino (Friulan). The event also included the premiere screening of a video by Clare Ann Matz about Allen. We missed it in our last Friday’s Round-Up, but here’s (catching up) the Repubblica video report (following the obligatory commercial).
[Allen Ginsberg, Peter Hale, Chris Ide at Naropa, July 4 picnic, Boulder, CO 1986. photo c. Steve Miles]
Speaking of Allen encounters, and we were. Here’s Peter Hale’s recollection of his first-meeting with Allen:
“I was a student at Naropa Institute in Boulder Colorado taking classes at their summer writing program in 1985. I was more a fan of (William) Burroughs at the time and knew very little about Allen. I was stopping by Burroughs’ summer apartment (as one could do, those days at Naropa) and had just missed him, but Allen was there cleaning up the place. We’d met a few times before, but this time I had him alone! Since he had quite a reputation around Boulder for always being on the make, I feared I might be warding him off but instead, since I’d read little poetry, he sat me down and gave me a reading list and suggested I sit in on his classes.
A few weeks later we did e (ecstacy) together. Gregory Corso had given Allen some, and it was just about to be made illegal here in the States. Allen had a little left and suggested we try it. He always started any drug, especially psychedelic/psychotropic type with 45 minutes of sitting meditation, Zen style. He definitely did not take this sort of thing lightly. Sitting next to old bard, Allen Ginsberg on the meditation cushion when the e kicks in about twenty minutes in, now that’s a life-changing moment! Allen was confused as to why it was called “ecstacy”, and insisted “empathy” more accurate.
It is also worth checking out the rest of the interview (about the Howl movie and more) at Dazed Digital