Yesterday marked the 14th anniversary of Allen Ginsberg’s death and in my inbox this morning (thanks to the lovely Kate Eltham) was this link to an issue of the American Book Review featuring an amazing article by Rosebud Pettet on Ginsberg’s last day. It also features articles by Joyce Johnson, John Surgal and Ginsberg’s poem, Police State Blues. You can read the issue here and believe me, it is well worth it.
So in remembering Allen, I dusted off my copy of Holy Soul Jelly Roll and listened to Allen and Bob Dylan riding The Vomit Express. Why not get on board… it’s a hell of a ride:
The Brisbane International Film Festival program has now been released and it features two of the films I have been hotly anticipating for some time.
Howl, starring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg, which has been receiving rave reviews worldwide and William S. Burroughs: A Man Within, a feature length documentary featuring never before seen footage of Burroughs and interviews with Laurie Anderson, John Waters, David Cronenberg, Amiri Baraka, Anne Waldman, Diane DiPrima and a soundtrack by Patti Smith and Sonci Youth.
Definitely two great reasons to get along to this year’s festival… sadly, I will be away for the duration of the festival, so if like me, you can’t get along and catch these films, here’s a treat for you…
I recently came across the film Wholly Communion, Peter Whitehead’s documentary of the legendary Beat reading at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 1965. It was described as an evening of near-hallucinatory revelry and featured readings by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Alexander Trocchi, Adrian Mitchell & many others.
Here are the links to watch (the majority of) the film, so get yourself comfortable (drinks, nibbles, whatever takes you…) and take in a slice of literary history!
Beat Poet, Bohemian, Activist, Founding Fug and self-confessed ‘Worlds Oldest Rock Star’, Tuli Kupferberg passed away on July 12 aged 86, tearing another hole in the Beat Fabric… With the recent deaths of artists such as Peter Orlovsky and Lenore Kandel, members of the sprawling group, immortalised as ‘The Beats’ are getting thin on the ground.
Kupferberg himself was immortalised in Ginsberg’s groundbreaking poem, ‘Howl’ as the man who threw himself off the Brooklyn Bridge and was one of the driving forces behind incendiary underground act The Fugs, alongside Ed Sanders. His work as a poet/artist and with The Fugs was staunchly anti-war. Songs such as Kill For Peace & CIA Man and his legendary publication, 1001 Ways to Beat the Draft published by Grove Press are classic examples.
As a publisher he was also at the cutting edge, releasing 9 issues of Yeah in the early 60’s and contributing to the periodical Birth, Swing.
His work remained vibrant until the very end, railing against the decay of literature (check out Tuli sticking it to the literary elite with his dozen little known anti-literary facts) and recording his daily Perverbs (check out two of Tuli’s Perverbs – They Who Go Down To The Sea & He Who Fights and Runs Away).
Artists like Tuli are once in a lifetime…
So to send you on your Friday night, here’s The Fugs ripping through I Couldn’t Get High. Float on Tuli, float on…
Letter writing is defintely a fading art… I know, I know, email is ‘like’ letter writing, but from my perspective, it doesn’t even come close. Finding the right pen, or pulling out the trusty typewriter; getting a few crisp sheets of paper; sitting down with your thoughts and really connecting with someone, wherever they may be… these are just some of the intense pleasures of writing a letter.
Two men who knew a great deal of these pleasures were Kerouac & Ginsberg and thankfully for us, 200 of their leters have been gathered together in a sweet little tome by Bill Morgan and David Stanford.
As Michael Miller wrote in the New York Observer, “the collection reads like a Dostoyevsky novel: It begins with a murder and ends, essentially, with a suicide (Kerouac’s death from cirrhosis of the liver in 1969). The authors are wild and unguarded, real-life protagonists that never quite made it into the Beat literature: Kerouac, stubborn, paranoid, hot-tempered, but in love with every person he meets; Ginsberg, the horny kid prone to hallucinations and consumed by poetry.”
Definitely a must have for this Lost Shark’s shelves.
And if like me you are kicking back enjoying the Sunday morning sun, you might just like to take in a bit of Kerouac & Ginsberg. So, for all you Allen lovers here’s a link to a short film (around an hour) – Allen’s Last Three Days on Earth as Spirit, a video diary of Ginsberg in the days immediately before and after his death by Jonas Mekas. And thanks to the good people at Ubuweb, on the same page there is also a great interview with Ginsberg from 1995 with Jeremy Isaacs.
And for the Jack lovers, why not kick back and listen to Clark Coolidge and Michael Gizzi read from Old Angel Midnight.
Or like me… why not take it all in.
I was sad to read yesterday that Beat legend, Peter Orlovsky had passed away on May 30. Orlovsky, who was Allen Ginsberg’s life-long partner, died in Vermont as fellow Beat legend Anne Waldman writes, “with “trach” in throat in orange sheets at the kind Vt Respite Center in Williston, Vermont (but no extra tubes/ heroic measures for this advanced cancer on his lung!), a copy of the Songs of Saraha by his pillow, photo of beloved Allen Ginsberg companion of many years on the wall, other Buddhist images, iPod of music he loved including chants by Buddhist nuns, cards from friends and out the window a bird feeder with finch and red-winged blackbirds landing/taking off.” (Read Waldman’s full tribute here)
Orlovsky’s poetry was overshadowed by Ginsbergs for many years, but his work has since earned the deep respect of readers, writers and critics. His writings were collected by City Lights Books in 1977 and William Carlos Williams described his work as having, “the kind of natural voice America would one day sound.”
Orlovsky was a true original and his presence in the world will continue to have a lasting impact on all that come into contact with his words.
His ‘Snail Poem’, has long been a favourite of mine… Here it is, along with a link to 3 other fine poems.
Make my grave shape of heart so like a flower be free aired
& handsome felt,
Grave root pillow, tung up from grave & wigle at
blown up clowd.
Ear turnes close to underlayer of green felt moss & sound
of rain dribble thru this layer
down to the roots that will tickle my ear.
Hay grave, my toes need cutting so file away
in sound curve or
Garbage grave, way above my head, blood will soon
trickle in my ear –
no choise but the grave, so cat & sheep are daisey
Train will tug my grave, my breath hueing gentil vapor
between weel & track.
So kitten string & ball, jumpe over this mound so
gently & cutely
So my toe can curl & become a snail & go curiousely
on its way.
Peter Orlovsky, 1958 NYC
I was over at the Outlaw Poetry and Free Jazz Network this evening and came across this absolute gem… they have posted the complete audio of the first dial-a-poem-poets album (complete with that warm vinyl crackle) released by John Giorno in 1972. The album features poetry and experimental writing by legends such as Frank O’Hara, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, John Cage, Jim Carroll, Robert Creeley, Diane Di Prima and Philip Whalen. This is seriously transcendental stuff and very hard to get your hands/ears on the actual item, so it is great to be able to hear this amazing body of work.
This post also lead me to the UbuWeb Sound page, where you can download the complete Giorno Poetry Systems catalogue. For me this was like finding pirate treasure… all 12 albums waiting for you to unlock their mysteries…
I hope this provides you all with hours of literary kicks.
The weekend is nearly here… time to give the mind back to the body. And what better way to begin the process, than dipping into the Mind Writing Slogans of Allen Ginsberg. So if you are in need of rebalancing the engine, here’s a few words to live by:
Notice what you notice
Catch yourself thinking
Observe what’s vivid
Vividness is self-selecting
— Allen Ginsberg