Category Archives: Janine Pommy Vega

>Friday’s Weekly Round-Up 14


Howl in England

Following up from our notices last week, here’s more English press coverage related to this Friday (today’s) UK opening of Howl. Mick Brown, in The Telegraph, gives the basic background in How I Scribbled Magic Lines From My Real Mind”. Andrew Lowry, in the blog for the same paper, provocatively heads his report “The Beats Were Self-Indulgent Poseurs But The New Ginsberg Film Is Definitely Worth Seeing”. John Patterson in The Guardian points out that The Beats Have Had A Bad Rap But Howl Lets Their Words Speak For Themselves”“Howl, first the poem, now the movie, gives back all power to the words themselves; made to be spoken, scatted, screamed, intoned or sung”. And here’s Tom Huddleston in Time Out – “There’s no denying that this is a bold, inspiring piece of work, putting experimental techniques in the service of a heartfelt, insightful and surprisingly audience-friendly work of art”

Interviews with the film-makers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman about the film can be found here, here and here.

Janine Pommy Vega

We noted in passing and with sadness, this past December, the death of the great poet/bard Janine Pommy Vega and drew your attention to the Woodstock Times obit and to Anne Waldman’s memoir (and here’s a couple of other obituaries (Ken Hunt, writing in The Independent, and an unsigned one from (London’s) Daily Telegraph). This past Sunday friends gathered at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock to salute and pay respects to her, and this coming Sunday (the 27th), it will happen again, this time in New York. The Bowery Poetry Club and The St Mark’s Poetry Project are co-sponsoring “A Praise-Day for Janine Pommy Vega”. The reading/tribute (featuring Andy Clausen, Bob Holman, John Giorno, Anne Waldman, Hettie Jones and others) will take place at the Bowery Poetry Club, starting at 1 o’clock. As with last weekend, the event will also include a video presentation – a screening of Kurt Hemmer’s “As We Cover The Streets” featuring mesmerizing performance footage of Janine.

Speaking of mesmerizing footage, here’s Janine’s long-time friend and companion Andy Clausen in their home in Willow, New York, remembering her and reading her poem “Wartime Kitchen”


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Filed under Andrew Lowry, Andy Clausen, Howl, James Franco, Janine Pommy Vega, Jeffrey Friedman, John Patterson, Kurt Hemmer, Mick Brown, Rob Epstein, Tim Huddleston

>Happy Birthday Herbert Huncke


Remembering Huncke

Herbert E Huncke, “the original Beat”, “Elmer Hassel” of On The Road, who died August 1996 (despite a life of excess, he lived to the ripe old age of 81) would have been 96 today. Sadly, Ben Shafer’s 1997 compendium The Herbert Huncke Reader is out of print (tho’ second-hand copies are still available and well worth tracking down). More immediately available are a series of recordings he made towards the end of his life, reading some of his deceptively simple first-person prose recollections, From Dream to Dream (available in its entirety on Ubuweb). Among the pieces featured there are the title piece for an earlier collection, “The Evening Sun Turned Crimson”, the typically gentle, compassionate “Elsie”, and “New Orleans 1938” (a piece that can be heard in 1997, given a spirited reading by his friend Edgar Oliver). That, and, even more poignantly right now, Janine Pommy Vega reading his review of the autobiography of the legendary hobo, BoxCar Bertha (the only review Huncke ever wrote) come courtesy of our friend Laki Vazakas, who’s own full-length documentary Huncke and Louis, a distillation of many hours of footage is another gem definitely worth seeking out. Huncke was the great impromptu story-teller, as can be seen in Laki’s short video from 1994 of him holding forth at Café Nico in Manhattan’s East Village. Similarly Manhattan-local is the footage of him (and another Beat legend, Gregory Corso) shot by Francois Bernardi for his film Original Beats and featuring footage of Huncke in his room at the Chelsea Hotel. A further section from that film (Huncke discoursing) is available here. He can also be seen, some years earlier, 1983, on the Woodstock Public Access program, The Velvet Trigger, reading “Song of Self “ (the text is here), and, sitting with Allen and recalling Jack in “Whatever Happened to Kerouac” (see our link in our “streaming videos”). There’s also an interesting interview with Johnny Strike, conducted in 1982, on Reality Studio


Filed under Beat History, Beats, Edgar Oliver, Francois Bernardi, Gregory Corso, Herbert Huncke, Janine Pommy Vega, Johnny Strike, Laki Vazakas, Linda Jovin-Halback, On The Road, Reality Studio, Ubuweb

>Janine Pommy Vega: Woodstock Times Obituary


We’d mentioned the Woodstock Times obituary in our last posting, but on second thought, consider it worthy of a full post mention, since it goes into such precise detail about her life & life’s work. It also includes a small selection of tributes worth more than a second glance.

The Bard Owl takes wing

Janine Pommy Vega dies; her mighty voice soars on

Janine Pommy Vega, 68 — poet, political activist, Beat legend, world traveler, hiker and lover of the Catskills, teacher of aspiring writers in schools and prisons, and so much, much more — died on December 23 at her mountain home in Willow, in the arms of her lover and longtime companion, Andy Clausen. Over the past few years she had suffered greatly from rheumatoid arthritis (which she wryly termed the “Mean Ol’ Badger”), heart and liver trouble, and a medley of other illnesses, but she never let them stay her from teaching, writing, performing, or any of her other appointed rounds, answering their insults and humiliations with a courage that those who knew her deemed extraordinary.

Read more: Woodstock Times: The Bard Owl takes wing – Janine Pommy Vega dies; her mighty voice soars on


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>Happy New Year Catching Up

>Things got a little crazy over the holidays and among many other things we forgot to mention Patti Smith’s 64th birthday on December 30th, same day as Paul Bowles! Happy Birthday Patti! The New York Times have also given Janine Pommy Vega a decent obituary – that appeared in yesterday’s edition – we’re happy they deem her important enough to report on! The Woodstock Times however has a much better, more thorough, one. Certainly the big news on the Ginsberg front is the US January 4th (that’s tomorrow!) release of the HOWL Blu-Ray/DVD release, with heaps of extras including interviews with Peter Orlovksy, Tuli Kupferberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Steven Taylor, as well as discussions between directors Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman and cast including James Franco, Treat Williams, Bob Balaban and Jon Hamm. To order copies, click the image below. It should also be widely available in video shops around the US.

We should also mention that HOWL has received the NBR’s (National Board of Review) Freedom of Expression Award, alongside films Fair Game and Conviction. Huge congrats to everyone who worked so hard to make this film a reality!

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Filed under Freedom of Expression Award, Howl, Howl DVD, Janine Pommy Vega, NBR

>Anne Waldman: Janine Pommy Vega, Beat Sister

>Janine Pommy Vega, Beat Sister
February 5, 1942- December 23, 2010

A great sister spirit, woman extraordinaire of the Beat literary movement who left her home in Union City, New Jersey age 15 to seek out the Beats, died December 23rd at her home in Willow, New York, outside Woodstock. She was close to Gregory Corso, Herbert Huncke, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. Peter was her first lover at a tender age. They lived together and she confronted the complicated sexuality and male chauvinist ethos early on when Allen took Peter off to India, with nary a thought to her feelings. “Is this the way it is with the poets? This is my first lover and this is the way it goes? Fuck those people, man, I don’t want to know about the writers. I rather meet the painters, the musician, the magicians, let’s get to the street.” And meet them and the street she did. Janine was a populist, a street fighter, a survivor, a world traveler and hugely prolific writer many decades. Tracking The Serpent: Journeys to Four Continents is an amazing account of an adventuresome life. She spent the last 11 years with poet Andy Clausen, tending her garden when she wasn’t traveling the world performing her magnetic and politically engaged poetry, and doing the scholarly work as well, burning the midnight oil. Even after being hampered with debilitating arthritis she was out on the road, her uplifted voice and spirit cutting through anyone’s gloom.

We were together in Prague at the height of celebration right after the Velvet Revolution, dancing in the streets, and I was with Janine as she shook her egg rattle and up and down Italy on the Pullman Bus Tour, with Lawrence Ferlinghetti and others. People loved her at every turn, moved by her warmth and deep-rooted compassion. She was a guest at Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics recently, admonishing students to get active and do the work to benefit others. I count her in our band of “tattered bodhisattva” poets. At Naropa she spoke of “serving something other than the ego, serving as the glue of a civilization, serving clarity of thought, the specific vision of your truth”.

Janine was an indomitable activist on behalf of women’s rights and taught tirelessly inside the prison system, working many years for the PEN Prison Writing Committee. A poem from her collection, The Green Piano (David R. Godine, Published, 2005):

Christmas at Woodbourne

Sodden cardboard manger
at the front gate
to Woodbourne Prison
shrouded hills, lone gull’s
screech atop the searchlight

Who says we are separate
from what we love?
would call that ignorance
separate voices, separate
troubles, separate cells –
connectedness is
from the consistency
of grace

( Janine Pommy Vega
Woodbourne C.F., Woodbourne, New York
December 1996)

Janine: you continue to soar with your dignity and exquisite — yet fearless — grace.

Anne Waldman
The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics
Boulder, Colorado

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>Janine Pommy Vega: Februrary 5 1942-December 23, 2010

>We just received the sad news that poet Janine Pommy Vega passed away this morning. Her warmth & presence in the poetry world will be sorely missed.

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>Peter Orlovsky Memorial: Wednesday September 22, 8pm. St. Mark’s Church, 2nd Ave & East 10th St., New York City


There will be a memorial Reading for poet, Peter Orlovsky on Wednesday, September 22, 8pm. St. Mark’s Church. 10th St at 2nd Ave, NYC. The event is free.

Peter Orlovsky (July 8,1933-May 30, 2010) Poet, singer, farmer, yodeler, banjo-picker, Buddhist practitioner, Allen Ginsberg’s lifelong-companion, Kerouac’s Simon Darlovsky in Desolation Angels & George in The Dharma Bums, the generous & wonderfully whimsical Peter Orlovsky, was an unforgettable & hugely colorful presence in the East Village, and in and around the Poetry Project.

Please join us in a night of music, video, song and poetry, as some of his closest friends pay tribute to him including: Chuck Lief – Philip Glass – Ed Sanders – Steven Taylor – Hal Willner – Janine Pommy Vega – Andy Clausen – Patti Smith – Ambrose Bye – Miriam Sanders – Anne Waldman – Gordon Ball – Rosebud Pettet – Simon Pettet – Juanita Lieberman – Bill Morgan – Anselm Berrigan – Bob Rosenthal – Beverly Isis – John Godfrey – and others TBA

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Filed under Andy Clausen, Anne Waldman, Ed Sanders, Janine Pommy Vega, John Godfrey, Patti Smith, Peter Orlovsky, Philip Glass, Simon Pettet, Steven Taylor