Friday, April 30, 2010

Kral Majales

Thought we'd repost this one for May Day in case anyone missed it last time around..

Allen's Czech translator, Josef Rauvolf, happened to locate this one for us. We've seen bits of footage from that day, but none with some of the actual sound as you get here. Allen comes on as May King at around 1:30. Keep in mind this is the first traditional May Day celebration - where students elect a May King (Kral Majales) to rule over a bacchanal each May day - that the Communists allowed since their takeover in 1945. The Communists had instead used the date for huge Soviet style labor parades, but student protests & clashes with police in recent years had led the Czech president to test the original formula in 1965 in an attempt to placate them. And so, in returning to the earlier tradition, students were allowed to elect a King, nominating Allen. The exposure and high profile of the event no doubt played a huge role in Allen's expulsion from Czechoslovakia later that week. See video >>

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Vera von Kreutzbruck interviews Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman for WIP

[Howl Directors Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein. Photograph courtesy of the Berlinale.]

Interview with Howl film directors Epstein and Friedman: “Allen Ginsberg’s Poetic Prophecy”

by Vera von Kreutzbruck
- Germany -

Howl, a biopic centered on beatnik Allen Ginsberg’s seminal poem and the resulting obscenity trial, was the most moving and intellectually engaging film presented at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. Read interview >>

Monday, April 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Elsa Dorfman!

[Elsa Dorfman with her Polaroid 20x24 camera. There are only six of these cameras in the world. The image is 23"x36" and is of course in that wonderful Polaroid color. photos c. Elsa Dorfman]

Allen met Elsa Dorfman in 1959 when she was working at Grove Press and was arranging poetry readings for Grove's poets, including Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, Denise Levertov, Joel Oppenheimer, and Edward Field. She kept close with these poets, and continued to book readings when she returned to her home-town, Cambridge, where, in the late '60s, she took up photography. Her website is chock-full of genius portraits in her entirely-unique style, and tells her story much better than our little attempt above, so, bounce on over to, and explore her world >>

[Harvey Silverglate, Elsa Dorfman, Allen Ginsberg, December 21, 1995. c. Elsa Dorfman]

2012 update - A more recent (75th) birthday celebration for Elsa Dorfman can be accessed here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ronald Reagan Attacked by Beatnik James Dean, 1954

Hilarious rare video from 1954, "The Dark, Dark Hours" episode of General Electric Theater, with Ronald Reagan fighting off James Dean in character as a jazz loving, lawbreaking 'beat' hepcat.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Howl gets picked up by Oscilloscope Laboratories

It's official! Adam Yauch's Oscilloscope Laboratories has picked up Howl for distribution, which means we're looking at a September general theatrical release. Directors Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman had been holding out in hopes that "O-scope" would buy the film, since, in their words, it's 'one of the hippest distributors out there." Good catch for all we say.

Sundance Opener “HOWL” Heads To Oscilloscope

by Peter Knegt
Sundance Opener “HOWL” Heads To Oscilloscope
[A scene from "Howl." Image courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories.]

Oscilloscope Laboratories has acquired U.S. distribution rights to Academy Award winning documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s first narrative feature “HOWL.”

read full story >>

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Beats at Naropa. Edited by Anne Waldman and Laura Wright

Anne Waldman & Laura Wright's The Beats at Naropa has been on the shelves for almost a year now, but since we just recently got our hands on Marc Olmsted's review of the book, it's definitely worth mentioning again, alongside Marc's, thorough, entertaining, and anecdotal walk through the book, that gives us a little background on Naropa as well.

Beats at Naropa

(ed. Anne Waldman, Laura Wright; Coffee House Press, 2009)

Marc Olmsted

The cover photo says it all. It’s 1975. There’s Allen Ginsberg with Bell’s Palsy after an allergic reaction to antibiotics – half his face is slack and his hair and beard untrimmed – no tie yet. He looks pretty kooky to say the least– hands on knees in formal meditation pose. Gregory Corso has his arms looped around both Allen and William Burroughs. He looks like a kid who’s just kicked the other team’s ass. Burroughs is somber, yet somehow more in relaxed meditation pose than Allen. Anne Waldman, dressed down, is still ’70s post-hippie chic—boots, shawl, a long dress.

It is an astounding time at Naropa Institute (later University). Just one of these faculty at a conventional college would have been a coup. But at Naropa, these were just the core from at least 1975 through the early 80s.

Diane di Prima, Philip Whalen, Robert Duncan, Merce Cunningham, Stan Brakhage – to say nothing of ahead-of-his-time-and-culture lama Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, whose English was better than most Americans, brought together a scene unparalleled.

read full review via November 3rd Club >>

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

An update on the Roma district of Mexico City. What's it like now?

A well researched story today on the AP wire by David W Koop, tracing the footsteps of Kerouac & Burroughs through Mexico City, definitely worth a read for anyone heading down for a visit, or just interested in their history there >>

[Left to right: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso and Lafcadio Orlovksy - Mexico City's Alameda Park, in front of the Neptune Fountain, about which the article quotes Kerouac from Tristessa "a magnificent fountain and pool in a green park at a round O-turn in residential splendid shape of stone and glass and old grills and scrolly worly lovely majesties."]

Probably should qualify that 'likely' it's Plaza Luis Cabrera. Quite possibly it's not. We spoke with Bill Morgan who'd visited the parks around the Roma district and tried matching up the fountains with this photo. Seems the fountain sizes in Luis Cabrera are much larger, than in this snap, and houses and buildings outside the park are fairly visible from any given vantage point, which they are not in this photo. He's pretty certain this photo was actually taken in Alameda Central, a few miles to the north east.

Monday, April 19, 2010

New photo of Rimbaud surfaces

The Telegraph reported last week that two French booksellers discovered the photo amongst cards and bric-a-brac at a market 'somewhere in France.' This would be the first known photo of Rimbaud as an adult that wasn't blurry beyond recognition.

Read full story in the Telegraph >>

Seems unfortunately that it's possibly a hoax. Pierre Joris caught wind of a "crazy Rimbaldian forger" after posting this discovery to his blog, and seems to have sufficient info to support the claim >>

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The bard's tugboat ride

In his New Yorker story about on a family tugboat pilots, Burkhard Bilger, among other things profiles a sweet kinship between Allen, Peter Orlovsky and the boat pilot, Latham Smith. Their digital edition even features a fun little super 8 film of them taking the boat for a spin. Thanks again to Steve Silberman for catching this one! We're trying to locate Orlovsky's poem the reference, but so far no luck. Doesn't seem to be in Clean A**hole Poems.

"In a Super 8 film of the sea trial, Allen Ginsberg is along for the ride, the wind tossing his already tousled hair. He and his partner, Peter Orlovsky, had become fascinated by the tug—Orlovsky had even written a poem about it—and Latham, for all his suspicions of Eastern intellectuals, had taken to Ginsberg as well." Read more: >>

Elsewhere, on another subject, here's James Franco talking a bit about memorizing "Howl."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards Presents "I Am America" at St. Mark's Church April 14, 8pm

Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards
I Am America
St. Mark's Church (2nd Ave & East 10th St)
New York, NY 10009
8pm, Wednesday, April 14
Suggested donation $10

For those of you in the New York City area this coming Wednesday (huge apologies we still tend to be NYC centric here, tho we do vow to change that!), the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards are staging their performance based on several of Allen's poems. We've seen their other project "Electric Party," also an adaptation of Allen's poems, but, we're told, without the narrative that "I Am America" presents. "Electric Party" was stellar, and so now our expectations are quite high for this one.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Columbia University RBML Exhibit: "Naked Lunch": the First Fifty Years

[William S Burroughs: Self Portrait 1959]

Last fall the Columbia University Rare Book Manuscript Library mounted an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of Naked Lunch's publication by Maurice Girodias' Olympia Press.

The accompanying website is up indefinitely and has some rare items posted, including scanned letters to Allen Ginsberg, and original manuscript manuscript excerpts that offer another layer of insight into the hombre invisible. Also posted are clips of Burroughs reading Naked Lunch, original book covers, a video of the Gysin/Burroughs dream machine and an odd assortment of photos.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Yakov Rabinovitch: Elegy for Allen Ginsberg

Yakov Rabinovitch wrote this elegy not long after Allen passed away & he hadn't had a chance to include it in a book for quite some time after. He's included in his collection of poems Peep out of Me available through Invisible Books.

A note of preface from Yakov:

"I knew Allen Ginsberg for about 25 years, and learned from him at every phase of my life. As a foolish teenager, as a mature man who fully appreciated his artistic achievements, and finally, as a middle-aged man, I saw his nobililty in his age and decline. I was never an disciple or a meaningful part of his projects. I maintained an independence which spared me even reflected limelight, and made it possible to be in some ways more fully a friend. I enjoyed his company for the excellence of his company, and exchanged ideas with him freely to the end, as though I were his equal — though this was due more to his generous humanity than to my merits. The kindness he showed to me he showed to all.
I have no interest in relating here what small claims I may have to anyone's attention, except this one: Allen considered me his friend. There can be no higher or more appropriate validation for offering my little verse tribute than this.

Yakov Rabinovich

Elegy for Allen Ginsberg
(April, 1997)

Now the Twentieth Century’s his – none begrudge him the final three years.
All that Williams or Pound ever planned – he achieved and proved right and made clear,

bringing poetry back from the dead, made anew from the bare primal stuff,
thought’s materia prima, where Being is one with perception, the rough

elegance of spontaneous Mind, rythym’d idioms out of plain talk,
as unfussily, artlessly art as the shape of a Zen-garden rock.

This is known. I am only a witness – no judge. I recall and repeat
certain incident details of time: things he said, clothes he proudly bought cheap

from the Salvation Army; the items he clipped from the paper and saved
so’s to show how the government lied; Montblanc pen, and the full-scribbled page;

conversation sliced painfully thin by the telephone’s fame-powered ring;
and his incense and tankas and bells. All the mortal montage of his things,

a kaleidoscope twenty years wide telescopes to a moment, a lens,
to the tears that are hot in my eyes — now I see, whom I’ll not see again.

I was seventeen then, when we met, and that’s twenty years gone, and too late,
and I made him too little return on the much that he gave and forgave.

It’s no fine thing to say how I envied his fame, and a source of small pride
the cruel youth of some judgements I made – more my shame if at times I was right.

It’s a hard sight, the look of myself in the light of the life of the man,
one so good that beside him I look, as without him I feel, like the damned.

At the funeral, press was in wait, cam’ras raised as the mourners arrived;
I was angry to see them at all, and enraged because not many times

that poor number. All’s loss, nothing’s right, there’s no way you can win against death.
For the service the most had a prayer, and a few of us, scotch, on our breath.

There we stood in our socks and our grief, with the hallway floor covered with shoes,
while the Buddhist priest groaned out his chant in the ears of a great many Jews.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Buddha's Footprint

[Buddha's Footprint drafted by Harry Smith, 1982.]

[Buddha's Footprint. Hand drawn frontispiece to Indian Journals by Allen Ginsberg]

Often we get asked the meaning of that "three fish" symbol on all of Allen's Harper Collins books, as well as in the frontispiece of Indian Journals, and for the most part only had the simple answer - It's the Buddha's footprint that he saw while in Bodh Gaya in 1962 - but couldn't really say much more. Recently however we unearthed this paragraph he wrote for the Catholic Worker back in 1967, which is the most thorough and complete description we've been able to put our fingers on.

"I saw the three fish one head, carved on insole of naked Buddha Footprint stone at Bodh-Gaya under the Bo-tree. Large – 6 or 10 foot size – feet or soles made of stone are a traditional form of votive marker. Mythologically the 32 signs – stigmata, like—of the Buddha include chakaras (magic wheels symbolic of energy) on hands and feet. This is a sort of a fish chakra. So antique artists used to sculpt big feet as symbolic of the illumined man – before Greeks brought in human-face representation of Buddha. They never used to have statues of him – umbrellas, Bo-trees, or feet instead – before Alexander came to India."

(letter from Allen Ginsberg, accompanying illustration) Catholic Worker, May 1967