[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
[Allen Ginsberg reading at SFSU, November 1955. Photo c. Walter Lehrman.]
Following our news of the UND tapes, more archival gems, we are happy to report, are emerging. The poetry archive, The American Poetry Archives at The Poetry Center at the State University of San Francisco has been hard at work digitalizing its unparalleled collection (“over 4,000 hours of unique original audio and video master recordings, 1954-present”). The Poetry Center Digital Archive, as it’s so named, is now up and running and an absolute must-visit spot. You can access their growing collection here (the full Poetry Center catalog may be accessed here). Digitalized already are recordings of readings by Allen, Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, Phil Whalen, Lew Welch, John Wieners, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, William Carlos Williams (!), Robert Duncan, the list just goes on and on.
As is Allen’s April 27 1959 reading at The Poetry Center (introduced by its legendary director, Ruth Witt-Diamant). Allen reads, in its entirety, his recently-composed “Kaddish”, along with other works – “Poem Rocket”, “Message From Paris”, “Squeal”, “Wrote This Last Night”, “The Lion For Real”, “To Aunt Rose”, “Ignu” and “To Lindsay”. A singularly extraordinary moment. A truly remarkable recording.
>Here’s an interesting curio sent on to us by Micah Berul, one of Allen’s ex-students from Brooklyn College, who writes: “Going through some old things, (I) came across an essay on “Kaddish” (that) I wrote while a student of Allen’s…in 1995 or 1996, in his class, “A Literary History of the Beat Generation”” (editor’s note: Allen taught classes under this heading both at NAROPA and at Brooklyn, most notably, in 1987 in Brooklyn, along with a reading series under that title). Micah goes on: “He was kind enough to mail me my essay back after the semester ended with his handwritten comments. As you can see, he seemed to like it. It’s written to him, addressing him as “you”, which you won’t see in (very) many essays on Kaddish”. “An intelligent, sympathetic evaluation”, Allen declares, “of the theistic/non theistic split of mind (in the poem)”. Micah Berul is currently a labor lawyer living in San Francisco.
Hagiography – lives of the saints – Bill Morris’ provocative and challenging essay
, published just before the New Year, has had a lot of us (including us here at The Allen Ginsberg Project) thinking. Creativity and biography, creation and mythography, what exactly is the relationship? Joe Woodward
, an ex-student of Allen’s, writing in The Huffington Post
, has an interesting take, remembering Allen’s “student potlucks” -(and for those further interested in Allen’s culinary and entertaining skills, we suggest you click here
“Ginsberg”, Woodward writes,” beyond the fireworks of his crazed life, was actually a driven, even ambitious, writer. This drive…allowed him to sidestep oblivion; his devotion to his art-making was his ladder over the crevice.” “I’ve haven’t viewed writers, or writing, or art-making”, he declares, “the same since.”
Allen in Vancouver
[Jerry Heiserman (later Sufi “Hassan”), the late “Red” a poet, Allen Ginsberg, Bobbie Louise Hawkins Creeley, Warren Tallman, Robert Creeley above Charles Olson, left to right top rows; seated left Thomas Jackrell then student poet, Philip Whalen & Don Allen anthologist & Postmodern Poetics editor, last days of Vancouver Poetry Conference late July 1963, car parked in front of host professor Tallman’s house — he’d sent me a ticket to come back from a year and half in India for the assembly — which included Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov. (c. Allen Ginsberg Estate)]
Memories of Allen continue to be evoked by the film release (and now the DVD/BlueRay release) of Howl. Canadian poets, George Bowering
and Stan Persky
are quoted in Tom Hawthorn’s article, “Remembering Ginsberg and the Summer of Poetry
,” (that summer being 1963, date of the famous Vancouver Poetry Festival, organized by Warren Tallman –digitalized recordings by Fred Wah from that Conference are available online at the Slought Foundation
Some Recent Reviews
Paul Buhle’s review of the recently-expanded City Lights edition of Kaddish, in Zeek, A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture is worth catching. And, speaking of Ginsberg City Lights reviews, Peter Conners’ dual Ginsberg-Leary biography continues to get good reviews, here’s another one that comes via Popmatters.
Howl has quite an excellent collection of extras. A making-of featurette titled, “Holy! Holy! Holy! The Making of Howl,” is a full 40 minutes, but also viewable as individual shorts. The topics range from Ginsberg and his story to cinematography and locations to set design, production & costume design to the animation used in the film and its dual directors. Using interviews with cast, crew, and Ginsberg collaborators, it provides an in-depth overview of the movie and its many facets. It’s also a nice departure from the typical, fluffy promotional piece.
People have been asking where’s the least expensive place to buy the Archer Prewitt designed Ginsberg figurine. We’ve seen it for as high as $60 (ouch!) So far it looks like Movie Replica Direct has the best deal at $39.95, but they’re backordered.
We’ll leave you with this beautiful recording of Allen’s 1977 reading of “Mind Breaths” at the 92nd St Y. (the entire evening is also available, and listed in our links under ‘streaming audio’)
Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Bill Morris, George Bowering, Howl DVD, Joe Woodward, Kaddish, Mind Breaths, Paul Buhle, Peter Conners, Soup, Stan Persky, Steve Silberman, Timothy Leary
With perfect timing (building on the interest created by Howl, both the
reprint and the film) City Lights have just issued, in the familiar
Pocket Poets format a new (50th Anniversary Edition) of Allen’s classic
This new edition features an afterword by Bill Morgan, as well as
“previously unpublished family photographs, Naomi’s paintings, and
documents and letters relating to the composition of the poem”.
For more details click here
New York International Fringe Festival Presents:
Kaddish (or The Key in the Window)
Created and Performed by Donnie Mather
Directed by Kim Weild
August 20-29th @Here Arts Center, 145 Sixth Ave (btw Spring and Dominick) New York, NY
The performance is based on the poem Kaddish by the iconic Beat poet Allen Ginsberg who wrote it for and about his mother Naomi. She died shortly after the success of his seminal work Howl in the late ‘50s. After a long night of drinking, speed and listening to Ray Charles, Ginsberg detailed his painful memories of his mother’’s battles with mental illness. Our production takes this poetic text and personal narrative to create a multimedia memory play. Kim Weild directs. We both share a great love of poetic theatre that works on many levels, mixing text and movement with music.
There was something in the poem when I first encountered it that I found quite universal, moving and touching. We all have memories that haunt us, childhoods that have left its mark on us. His story is of course quite unique and the language he employs is as well. It will be a wonderful challenge to find staging that matches the density of the poetry. I’m thrilled to bring this great American literary work to the theatre almost 50 years after its publication.
I’m really interested in taking non-theatrical source material and turning it into a journey for the stage. Ginsberg is such an icon of the Beats, of downtown New York, and of American poetry. He was also interested in music and theatre. In fact, he assisted in a theatrical adaptation and an unpublished screenplay of the poem. I’ve wanted to adapt this for the stage for over a decade. Personally, I connected with the emotional drama in the poem. After a recent loss in my family, this story of grief took on new meaning for me.
Donnie Mather, creator/performer
Buy tickets for this show:
Thu August 20 10:15 pm
Sun August 23 2:30 pm
Wed August 26 9:45 pm
Thu August 27 4:45 pm
Fri August 28 8:00 pm
Sat August 29 5:45 pm
Oh.. and yesterday was James Baldwin’s Birthday. He would have been 85.
[James Baldwin & Allen Ginsberg, Albion Bookstore Amherst, MA. March 22, 1986. photo: Patrick Warner]