Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gone Travelling and John Lennon doc teaser

A few of us here are gone traveling across the country and globe for the next few weeks and likely we won't be able to keep this up as regularly as we usually do. We should be back up 'n' running full speed ahead after December 14th. In the meantime, we'll leave you with this trailer for the PBS American Masters John Lennon documentary. In case you missed it, and are in the US, they're airing it a few more times next week.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crazy Wisdom: A Film about the Life and Times of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

Johanna Demetrakas' film Crazy Wisdom, on Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, looks just about done. It still needs some final tweaking, and she's got a Kickstarter to raise the last bit of money to do it. The trailer has been posted on Chronicle Project, along with more info on their fundraising efforts.

(more on Crazy Wisdom, including the trailer for the film can be seen here)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Joanne Kyger

[Joanne Kyger, hills leading to Himalayan Peaks, studying guidebook on wall in Amora, we were on Pilgrimage to Buddhist sites, here visiting Lama Govinda, March 1962. (c. Allen Ginsberg Estate)]

[Joanne Kyger, Allen's kitchen, 437 East 12th St.NYC, November 1989]

Here's Joanne reading for UC Berkeley's Lunch Poems series a few years back. (a fantastic series, if you're unaware of it - definitely worth checking out also, when you get time, all the other readers).
After a bit of an extended intro (by Robert Hass), she finally starts reading, beginning her set approximately 6 minutes in.

And another more recent photo by John Sarsgard, taken last summer at Joanne's home in Bolinas.

[Joanne Kyger, Bolinas, CA 2010. c. John Sarsgard]

Friday's Weekly Round-Up 2

Thai Allen Ginsberg

Beat inspired Thai poet Zakariya Amataya, the first ever Muslim recipient of the prestigious South East Asian Writers Award gets a good profiling this week. Interesting character, we look forward to hearing more about him. "Maybe we call Walt Whitman the father of new American poets, but I think the second [father] is Allen Ginsberg", he proudly declares.

Kerouac in Persian

Elsewhere from around the globe (from IBNA - the Iran Book News Agency), Jack Kerouac's 'Book of Haikus', we've just heard, has just been translated into Persian by the Iranian-born,
English-based poet, writer, broadcaster, Alireza Hassani (pen-name Alireza Abiz), and is to be published in that country, so they say, "in the next two months".

[Lawrence Ferlinghetti in his office with pooch, Whitman photo, files, coatracks, bookbags, posters at City Lights, up on balcony, B'way and Columbus Ave, San Francisco 1984. Allen Ginsberg (c. Allen Ginsberg Estate)]

Speaking of cultural ambassadors, “Allen Ginsberg was a great cultural ambassador. He spoke taxi-cab Spanish. He stayed up all night in Chile translating “Howl” into Spanish with other poets.” Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s illuminating memories of the Latin American poets, and of the Russian poets, and of much else besides, appears in Jesse Tangen-Mills interview in the current issue of Guernica – A Magazine of Art and Politics. Well worth a read. The 91-year-old Ferlinghetti remains, as Tangen-Mills points out , “revolutionary” and “unrepentant.”

Patti Smith - Congratulations

Our friend Patti Smith was just awarded the National Book Award for her book, Just Kids, an autobiographical memoir of her long-time friendship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Here's her on NPR (on Terri Gross' Fresh Air) including her reading from the section where she recounts her first (confusing? amusing?) meeting with Allen

and, finally..

John Fluevog and the Beats?

Allen's cousin caught this one and brought it to our attention. Not quite sure how we feel about this!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

William S Burroughs: A Man Within Oscilloscope Trailer

While posting the announcement earlier this week on US Theater dates for Yony Leyser's William S. Burroughs: A Man Within we neglected to include the most recent trailer for the film, which is leaps and bounds more interesting than the last few. So, without further ado....

Why We Love the Internets part 73: Fixing the Poem Transcription for Allen Ginsberg's Poem "Things I'll Not Do"

This was one of the last poems Allen wrote. You'll see the date is March 30, 1997, he passed away just five days later. Although many of his poems' first drafts looked like this, for the most part, if anything was unclear, we could just ask. That, obviously, wasn't an option after April 5 that year. Pretty much all of us - some ten of us - who'd worked with him, examined it, handing it around, vainly trying to decipher some of the references, place-names we'd never heard of. "Tibet Templed Baluchistan"? or "Caves of Dunhuang"? (which went incorrectly transcribed for the first edition as "cares of Dunhuang", since none of us were aware these were caves!). Looking back, that's a bit embarrassing. We were without Google then, but there was Encyclopedia Britannica, and, if that didn't work, there was the library information line. Yes, you could call directly to the NY Public Library, and were allowed two queries. The researcher would put you on hold and go look, for however long it took, five minutes, ten, or thirty. Obviously, some things they couldn't answer. So when we got to the "antique lands of Hades Necromanteion," we couldn't find a single reference to it - anywhere, and in the end simply stated "Hades Gates". That's how it's published today - still. Till the next edition that is. The other week we decided to look up that pesky word with today's modern research tools, and bam! we found it, where else but in Wikipedia! - Necromanteion - I think we can trust this entry now to be a pretty accurate transcription of Allen's poem.

["Things I'll Not Do" Allen Ginsberg Collected Poems 1947-1997. New York, Harper Perennial. 2007

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Dharmic Dirty Old Man: Jim Edwards Interviews Allen Ginsberg

[Allen Ginsberg (left) with James Edwards (University of Tulsa)]

A fantastic interview digest that offers a snapshot of Allen in the late 1970s. Originally published in The Collegian in 1977, it's reprinted here online in Oklahoma's This Land In case you might end up wondering, the "Cotten-clad-One" (sic) referenced is Tibetan yogi Milarepa.

November 15, 2010

The following is an interview with Allen Ginsberg originally published by the University of Tulsa’s student newspaper The Collegian in 1977. It is reprinted here with permission from the Collegian’s publication board and TU’s University Relations office.

GINSBERG WAS HERE. Dharmic Dirty Old Man, gay libber, chronicler of one generation’s nightmares, Allen Ginsberg to some’s delight came Monday, October ten. For,

Monday noon lunch in the diner. Featuring: vegetables, name-swapping, Tulsa gay bar review. Then, Monday afternoon discourse and reading in the Sharp Chapel Lounge. Featuring: questions from the gallery, the death of Hippie idealism, spontaneous snoring, the lineage of American poetry, and much, much more. Then,

Later Monday afternoon interview with cub reporter in the new wing of McFarlin Library (hardhats required). Featuring: interruptions and sidetracks, loaded questions, wind.

And, Monday evening reading and music in the Great Hall. Featuring: Ginsberg, Live!

Continue to full story >>

Friday, November 12, 2010

US Theater Dates Announced for: William S Burroughs: A Man Within

In Theaters

11/17/10 - New York, NY - IFC Center
11/25/10 - Los Angeles, CA - Downtown Independent
12/03/10 - Detroit, MI - Burton
12/04/10 - Lawrence, KS - Liberty Hall
12/10/10 - Dallas, TX - Texas Theater
12/13/10 - Albuquerque, NM - The Guild
12/13/10 - Greensboro, NC - Circus Cinema
12/17/10 - Eugene, OR - Bijou

for more info, check the Oscilloscope website.

Friday's Weekly Round-Up 1

[Allen Ginsberg & Steven Taylor, Passaic Falls, Paterson, NJ, May 1978. photo: c. Terry Sanders]


Allen was always proud of – and rightly so – his New Jersey roots. This past weekend, several young poets from that State gathered together at The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College for the annual Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, “honoring Allen Ginsberg’s Contribution to American Literature.”

In a related story, Allen is - and, perhaps surprisingly, given the company - among those nominated for the 2011 New Jersey Hall of Fame in what appears to be a spirited local boostering enterprise. Curiously under the “General” not the “Arts and Entertainment” category (movie stars like John Travolta and Bruce Willis are among the latter, not to mention Queen Latifah and singer Tony Bennett!). Voters are encouraged to vote on-line and the top vote-getters will be officially inducted in the Spring. Seems tho’, you have to vote for someone in each of the categories, you can’t just vote for Allen – oh well, he’s already a de facto New Jersey hall-of-famer, as far as we’re concerned!


Seems the current omnipresence of Howl has summoned up all sorts of feelings and nostalgia and memories. One tiny annotation that you might well have missed (it appeared buried in another blog's Comments section) is from New Yorker Stefan Jones who writes:

""who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to...".My grandparents owned Fugazzis, and ran it at the time Howl was written. My father tended bar there for a short time, while in grad school.It was on 6th, a few doors down from the Waverly theater. The building was torn down and a fast food place installed. According to my parents, the clientele were old Italian guys who came for the polenta and bacala special, and beatniks.I have vague toddler memories of the place, and my grandparents' apartment up above".

Anybody else out there got any site-specific Howl memories?

[Bill Katz & James Schuyler, November 7, 1987. photo. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]


Someone kindly pointed out in our comments that November 9 was Jimmy Schuyler's birthday as well as Anne Sexton's. We're particularly keen on Schuyler here, and it just so happens one of our frequent contributors, Simon Pettet, was editor on a number of his books, the most recent being Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems published earlier this year.

The photo find of the week is this one by Douglas Gilbert of Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg oustside Albert Grossman's house house in Woodstock, NY 1964. That's the same house the cover of Bringing it All Back Home was shot in a year later, where Dylan's pictured sitting with Sally Grossman. We found if off Jody's When you Awake page, but the full book Forever Young published by DaCapo Press is available and has plenty more interesting images.

أغنيــــــة (قصيدة مترجمة)

Last but not least, we came across this Arabic translation of "Song" posted by London based Libyan, Ghazi Gheblawi on his blog. Anyone with better Arabic skills than us have any take on the translation?

أغنيــــــة (قصيدة مترجمة)

الحب هو
عبء العالم.
تحت وطأة
تحت وطأة
اللا اكتفاء

العبء الذي نحمله
هو الحب.

من يستطيع أن ينكر؟
أنه في الاحلام
في الفكر
في الخيال
حتى يولد
في إنسان –

يطل من القلب
مشتعلاً بنقاء –
لأن الحب،
هو عبء الحياة،
لكننا نواصل بارهاق
حمل العبء،
لذا فإننا يجب أن نسترح
في احضان الحب،
يجب أن نسترح في احضان

لا راحة
بلا حب،
لا نوم
بلا احلام
عن الحب –
سواء أكنت طائشاً أو هادئاً
مهووساً بالملائكة
أو الآلات،
فإن الامنية الاخيرة
هي الحب
ــ لن تكون مرةً،
لا تستطيع انكارها،
لا تستطيع كبتها
إن انكرتها:

العبء ثقيلٌ جداً

ــ يجب أن تمنح
بلا مقابل
كما تُمنح الفكرة
في العزلة
بكل اسرافها الباذخ.

الاجساد الدافئة
تلمع في الظلمة
تتحرك الكف
إلى مركز
ترتعش البشرة
وتصل الروح
مبتهجة إلى العين –

نعم، نعم،
ذلك ما اردته،
اردت دائماً،
اردت دائماً،
أن اعود
إلى الجسد
حيث ولدت.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Birthday David Amram

A bit late notice, but for those of you in the New York City area, he's celebrating his 80th at Symphony Space tonight, in the form of a benefit for Clearwater (founded by Pete Seeger) and The Woody Guthrie Foundation, titled: David Amram, The First 80 Years. Some things you can expect, above and beyond Mr. Amram's ebullient good nature & music:

  • the New York premiere of Amram's Symphonic Variations on A Song By Woody Guthrie
  • the first ever concert performance of excerpts from Amram's classic film scores Splendor In The Grass & The Manchurian Candidate
  • a screening of the finale of the recent production of 12th Night -- his 1968 opera, with a libretto by Joe Papp
  • filmed birthday greetings from Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Willie Nelson and members of the New York Philharmonic
  • live appearances by Keir Dullea, John Ventimiglia, Malachy McCourt and members of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting
  • the Queen's College Orchestra, conducted by Maurice Peress and David Amram
  • the Brooklyn Conservatory Jazz Ensemble, directed by Earl McIntyre and the Jazz & Gospel Choirs, directed by Renee Manning
  • Candido, Bobby Sanabria, David Broza, John McEuen (of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), Josh White Jr., Larry Kerwin & The Imani Winds

The curtain rises at 7:30 pm on Nov. 11 at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th St., 212-864-5400. For more details on the concert, click here. For more about David Amram, here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happy Birthday Robert Frank

Actually we're a day late.. he turned 86 yesterday, November 9.

[Robert and Pablo Frank visiting from Bronx State Hospital, my living room on East 12th Street, New York, October 1984. Same noses. Allen Ginsberg. (c. Allen Ginsberg Estate)]

Read: NPR "'Americans': The Book That Changed Photography"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

James Wright & Howl

In case any of you diligent poetryblog followers missed this one a couple days ago, Issa's Untidy Hut blog for "The Lilliput Review" posted some fascinating background to James Wright's two poems "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota" and "Depressed by a Book of Bad Poetry, I Walk Toward an Unused Pasture and Invite the Insects to Join me."

Monday, November 8, 2010

John Sinclair

Some excellent footage of John Sinclair in Massachusetts last week shot by Laki Vazakas. He opens with his poem for Marion Brown who passed away October 18 this year.

Allen wrote of Sinclair in his "Outline of Un-American Activities: A PEN American Center Report." (The complete essay, first published in The Writer and Human Rights, Anchor/Doubleday1983, is now available in Deliberate Prose: Selected Essays 1952-1995 ed Bill Morgan. Harper Perennial. )

"In Detroit there is a rock and jazz impresario named John Sinclair, who was a poet much beloved of Charles Olson. In 1965 we had a big poetry meeting in Berkeley, and Ed Sanders, Anne Waldman, and John Sinclair were invited specifically by Olson to represent the younger generation. Sinclair had an organization in Detroit called the Artists' Workshop, which published huge mimeographed volumes of local poetry, as well as pamphlets by correspondents. He put out a long anticommunist manifesto (Prose Contribution to Cuban Revolution) that I wrote in 1960 about the Cuban Revolution, a sort of challenge to the spiritual foundations of it saying that it was too materialist. So he wasn't exactly a riotous red. His main thing though, his main "shtick," so to speak, was uniting black and white in the otherwise tense, riot-torn areas of Detroit, through the Artists' Workshop, because there was collaboration between black jazz musicians and white jazz musicians, black writers and white writers, black poets and white poets. It was a kind of heroic effort, actually. He had a newspaper, and after a while he had a thing called the White Panther party, sort of in collaboration with the Black Panthers, or in defense of the Black Panthers, who were also being subjected to this kind of double-dealing and harassment by the government.

So the narcotics police sent in a young married couple to hang around with John Sinclair and wash his dishes and do mimeographing and distribute papers, and they were constantly harassing him: would he please give them a joint, would he give them some grass? Which he didn't do, fortunately, for a long long while. Finally, one late night, they were really on his back to give them some grass, so he gave them a stick of marijuana. He was busted several weeks later, set up for a long trial, had to pay a lot of money for that, was convicted of peddling marijuana, and sentenced to nine and a half to ten years. Of which he spent several years in the federal penitentiary in Marquette. That was an FBI attempt to silence a dissenter and a poet. In jail he wrote a really interesting poem. He said, "My books wait for me on the shelf, myself, my typewriter sits empty, urging me onward. Nine and a half to ten years is not enough!" So actually, he was a sharp poet. And a worthy citizen. He's now the chief impresario of black and white jazz in Detroit, and has rock 'n' roll, jazz, and old blues concerts."

Gary Snyder: The Practice of the Wild

John Healy's film on Gary Snyder & Jim Harrison, The Practice of the Wild has been popping up at festivals here and there, but hasn't had a proper release till now, starting November 11 at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY and then in New York City's Quad Cinemas on November 12. Check the film's Facebook page for possible screenings in your area.

While we're on Snyder, this seems a good time to repost the Steve Heilig's Counterpunch interview with him that was done around the publication of Snyder & Tom Killion's Tamalpais Walking book last year.

An Interview With Gary Snyder

Walking Mount Tam


Mount Tamalpais is Marin's Mount Everest. Although only 2,574 feet high at the summit, it dominates the county; to get to or from West Marin from almost anywhere else, you have to go over or around it.

Much has been written about "Tam" and countless photographs taken and published featuring its image. However, what may prove to be the ultimate book about Tam does not feature a single photograph. Tamalpais Walking: Poetry, History, and Prints, published by visionary Berkeley publisher Heyday Books, is a labor of love by West Marin artist Tom Killion and the poet Gary Snyder. Full interview >>

Sunday, November 7, 2010

On the Bro'd: Every sentence of Jack Kerouac's On The Road, retold for bros.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pop Culture Roundup

[Garrett Hedlund (Neal Cassady/Dean Moriarty in the book), Tom Sturridge (Allen Ginsberg/Carlo Marx), John Allen Cassady, Sam Riley ( Jack Kerouac/Sal Paradise) during the On the Road shoot in Montreal, August 2010. photo via]

"I worked with my friend Tom Sturridge, and he plays Carlo Marx, who's Allen Ginsberg," Stewart says, excitement creeping into her voice. "And I would look over at him, and he's doing this fucking full-on Allen Ginsberg crazy monologue in the corner of some thumping, raving party, and I'm dancing to bebop jazz, and I'd be like, 'Tom, we're doing "On the Road." Just so you know? "On the Road."'"

- Kristen Stewart, who plays Marylou (Carolyn Cassady) in Walter Salles' upcoming film of Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road in Backstage magazine, reminding us another celluloid evocation of Allen is forthcoming in 2011. The boyish Tom Sturridge as Allen. Really??

On The Road began filming began last August in Montreal and continued filming in Argentina. We’ll keep you posted.

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Allen Ginsberg was “an old gasbag” according to Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards in his just-published autobiography, Life. Gasbag /Ginsberg – We know ol’ Keith was just being poetic!

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Howl , in case you’re unaware, is getting the Twitter treatment– one line at a time.

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Remember Yelp? – Tiffany Shlain and Ken Goldberg’s wonderful parody, that you might recall us alerting you to in March. Well, it continues to get noticed. It's currently being projected on the walls of the venerable Guggenheim Museum in NYC as part of their ground-breaking You Tube Play. A Biennial of Creative Video presentation.

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Beyond Howl: Kcappy, an ESL instructor in Japan, reads the collected works of Allen Ginsberg–One day, One Poem. He's posting these on his podbean page "State of Queer," and is now up to "Long Live The Spiderweb", Spring. 1950, so he's really just getting started. It's also available via I-tunes.

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Hey, we don’t know if anyone noticed but we just got our 100th Google “Follower”! So hop on board if you're not following us publicly yet!

Amnesty International/A Prophecy

A couple of months back, Amnesty International chose for their advertising video a poem by Allen, his May 1968 poem (from Fall of America), A Prophecy. "O Future bards/chant from skull to heart to ass/as long as language lasts.." A variety of voices in a variety of settings sound out the lines. We certainly support Amnesty International's essential cause, and if poetry has to be co-opted by advertising, better this than anything else! If you've not seen it yet, here's the video (with music by Aphex Twin, directed by Fernando Vallejo). Vallejo, Colombian born, a biologist and a writer, as well as a filmmaker, renounced his citizenship and took up Mexican nationality in 2007.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ginsberg Apolitical? - I don't think so!

[Allen Ginsberg protesting Madame Nhu's visit in San Francisco, October 30, 1963. Placard reads: Man is naked without secrets (?) Armed Men Lack this/how many million person without names/what do we know of their suffering?/"Oh how wounded How wounded!" Says the Guru/Thine own heart says the Swami/Within you says the Christ/Till his humanity Awake says Blake/I am here saying seek mutual surrender tears/That there be no more hell in Vietnam/That I not be in hell here in the street. (photographer unknown)]

A couple of better-late-than-never responses to Lee Siegel's [October 10, 2010]  New York Times Book Review article (first noted here) that made some loose and somewhat bizarre parallels between the Beat Generation and the right-wing political phenomenon, the "Tea Party". We include Eliot Katz's in its entirety below. Ishmael Reed's we've excerpted below that, but you can get the whole piece at Counterpunch.

Dear Friends (who were also friends of Allen’s):

In the October 10th New York Times Book Review, there was an article by Lee Siegel comparing the views of Beat Generation writers, including Allen’s, to the right-wing Tea Party movement. I wrote a letter to the Book Review editor in response because I thought it was important to challenge Siegel’s misrepresentations, particularly with the elections coming up and so many crazy Tea Party candidates running. Of course, it’s difficult to get letters to the editor published in the NY Times (although I have managed to get in a few in the past) because they receive so many more letters than they can publish. Since I just found out that this one isn’t going to get in there, I thought I would at least send it around to friends who were also friends of Allen’s in the hope that some of you might appreciate it. With all best wishes,
Eliot Katz.

[Unpublished letter to the NY Times Book Review Editor by Eliot Katz:]

To the Editor:

As a poet, activist, and longtime friend of the late Allen Ginsberg, I wanted to challenge the characterization of Ginsberg’s political views and work in Lee Siegel’s provocative article, “The Beat Generation and the Tea Party” (Oct. 10). Introducing his piece with the claim that the Beat Generation writers were driven mainly by a desire for individual freedom, Siegel writes that they were “essentially apolitical” and that “insofar as they had sociopolitical ambitions, their goals…were the stuff of poetry, not organized politics.” After portraying Ginsberg as uninterested in working practically to improve government policies, Siegel then proceeds to link the ideas of Ginsberg and other Beat Generation writers to the right-wing Tea Party’s project of downsizing government’s role in ensuring people’s social and economic needs and rights.

Siegel’s portrayal of Ginsberg as uninterested in organized politics could hardly be more misleading. In both his poetry and his life, Ginsberg was one of the most politically engaged writers of his era. Influenced by such literary predecessors as William Blake and Walt Whitman, and raised by his communist mother Naomi, and his Debsian-socialist father Louis, Allen Ginsberg learned how to turn his political ideas and observations into some of the most memorable and widely read poetry of the second half of the 20th century. And in his personal life, he actively supported and participated in a wide range of organized political movements, beginning with the movement to end the Vietnam War and, in ensuing years, movements for such progressive causes as gay rights, civil rights, environmental protection, nuclear disarmament, and avoidance of the first Gulf War in 1990-91. He served on the advisory board of numerous organizations, including the progressive media watch group, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), and a national student activist group that I worked with during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Student Action Union. In the years that I knew Ginsberg, from 1980 until his death in 1997, he was constantly writing or calling government offices to advocate for improved social policies and urging younger writers like myself to do the same. Most of the policies for which Ginsberg advocated—such as stronger social safety nets for homeless persons; deep cuts in military spending; and a more active government role in protecting civil rights, human rights, and the environment—do not at all resemble the right-wing policy calls that we have been hearing from Tea Party circles and candidates.

As Siegel notes, Ginsberg certainly believed strongly in individual freedoms, including freedom of expression; and he was a hard-working member of PEN’s Freedom to Write Committee, protesting literary censorship and working for the release of imprisoned writers in both the East and West. But contrary to Siegel’s narrow portrayal, Ginsberg also believed deeply in the importance of solidarity and well understood the reality of human interdependence. In his most well-known poem, note for example the key third section of “Howl” with its repeated assertion to fellow writer, Carl Solomon, who was at the time in a psychiatric hospital, that “I’m with you in Rockland”--an expression of interpersonal solidarity that works in the poem as a tonic to the sense of alienation decried in the poem’s previous and politically charged “Moloch” section, and that, beyond the poem itself, prefigures the kind of collective effort and movement building that is necessary to create meaningful social change. Throughout his life, Ginsberg was a Great Introducer, consistently trying to bring writers and activists together for the benefit of social-justice causes. For just one interesting example, it was Ginsberg who introduced Abbie Hoffman and Dave Dellinger to each other, an introduction that would help lead to the historic Chicago 1968 protests outside the Democratic Party convention and the subsequent Chicago 8 trial, in which Hoffman and Dellinger were defendants. Ginsberg kept a comprehensive rolodex of writers, political organizers, and journalists working for both the mainstream and the alternative press, a rolodex which was incredibly helpful in the pre-Internet days to those of us who needed difficult-to-find phone numbers or addresses in order to help organize or publicize upcoming meetings, events, and rallies. In recent years, many of Ginsberg’s old friends and colleagues have been working with coalitions like United for Peace & Justice to call—first from the Bush administration and now from the Obama administration—for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for a renewed respect for civil liberties and human rights. Again, we have not yet heard such calls coming from the Tea Party.

In looking at Ginsberg’s body of poems over five-plus decades, I have written elsewhere that his political philosophy was flexible and pragmatic, not rigidly ideological, but that his political views were always within a broad spectrum of democratic-left traditions—including a consistent belief in values like civic participation, economic fairness, peace and international cooperation, accountable institutions, ecological protection, and civil liberties and other human rights. Right up until the end of his life, Allen Ginsberg never wavered from his dedication to progressive causes, which is why I think it is so important to challenge this article by Lee Siegel, whose work I have previously read and enjoyed. While it is true that not all of the Beat Generation writers shared the same politics, in the case of Ginsberg (and many of the other writers associated with the Beat Generation), Siegel would have been fairer and more accurate if he had shown how Ginsberg’s legacy continues to be seen in the contemporary and international anti-war movement; in recently increased efforts to urge the government to play a stronger role in halting the questionable bank-driven housing foreclosures that have led to vastly increasing homelessness in America; and in the global justice movement (as seen most visibly in the Seattle 1999 WTO protests and most recently at the September 2010 G-20 protests in Pittsburgh), with this movement’s effective and theatrical demonstrations and its poetically phrased insistence that “another world is possible.”

Eliot Katz

Astoria, NY

Eliot Katz is the author of six poetry books, including Unlocking the Exits, and, most recently, Love, War, Fire, Wind: Looking Out from North America’s Skull. He has published several essays on Allen Ginsberg’s poetry and is a coeditor, with Ginsberg and Andy Clausen, of Poems for the Nation, a collection of contemporary political poems that Ginsberg was compiling in the year and a half before his death. Katz currently works as a writer for the Center for Constitutional Rights. [2015 update - He is also the author of the recently-published The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg from Beatdom]

Ishmael Reed:Voting With Hard Hats Brown Shirts, Black Shirts, T-Shirts
(via Counterpunch)

... I was surprised when Lee Siegel, writing in The New York Times Book Review, made a bizarre attempt to link The Beats to the T-Shirts. He wrote “The Beats, though pacifist, were essentially apolitical.”

Apolitical? He hasn’t read Ted Joans, Bob Kaufman, Amiri Baraka, Allen Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti. Ginsberg’s “Wichita Vortex Sutra,” which condemns war politicians by name, is one of the best antiwar poems. I asked Kerouac biographer Gerry Nicosia his opinion of the Siegel claim.

“It is absurd to say the Beats were apolitical. The Beats—speaking now of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, John Clellon Holmes, among others—were deeply shaped by World War II. They understood the necessity of fighting evil – Kerouac volunteered for the merchant marine—but they also believed that militarism for its own sake was a highly dangerous path and likely to become addictive to those in power. The Beats were, to a man and woman, appalled by the use of the atomic bomb against the Japanese, and they felt that the rapidly escalating buildup of American military armaments after World War II and the concomitant Cold War—with its threat of mutual destruction—was absolutely insane. Kerouac comments on the show of empty-headed military might in On The Road as Kerouac and Cassady drive through Washington, D.C. at the time of Truman’s inauguration and Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) wonders why a good “man from Missouri” like Truman had “fallen asleep at the wheel.” When Kerouac defined Beat Generation for John Clellon Holmes, he also talked about the need to transform America into a kinder and gentler nation (long before George H.W. Bush used it as a political catch-phrase)—a nation that would welcome and try to understand other cultures and religions, not bomb them. Ginsberg’s poem “Hum Bomb!” is of course the most obvious satire and condemnation of America’s propensity to bomb rather than love and understand peoples who are different from us, but Ginsberg’s whole career twined with antiwar activism—culminating with his great poem against the madness of the Vietnam War, “Wichita Vortex Sutra.” As for Burroughs, almost his entire oeuvre is about the misuse and abuse of power, the continual institution of control systems which limit human growth and fulfillment, and an exploration of the destructive effects of government on the course of human cultural evolution. If Naked Lunch were not so threatening to the established system of government, and to the constrainment of natural human behavior that government seeks to enforce, the U.S. government’s strenuous efforts to suppress it would be almost incomprehensible.”

Moreover, while the T-Shirts seek to cut off knowledge from the world by banning Ethnic Studies in Arizona, and banning the teaching Islam in Texas (in the name of Western civilization about which they also lack knowledge), Allen Ginsberg, a Buddhist, and his followers were always known for their cosmopolitanism. A few years before his death, Ginsberg taught Black Literature at Brooklyn College; I was one of his guest lecturers.

All one has to do is read the ads for writing workshops, conferences, retreats, etc. carried in Poets and Writers, The American Poetry Review, and AWP, to see that Naropa University, founded by Ginsberg and now run by poet Anne Waldman, is one of a handful that appreciates diversity beyond tokenism. The American literary scene is as white separatist as the Tea Party.

While the man who occupied the White House at the time enthralled the majority of Americans, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s document ends with Eisenhower’s resignation. Continue reading at Counterpunch >>