Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Walt Whitman's Birthday (Suit)

[Walt Whitman (1819-1892) ? - photographed by Thomas Eakins c. 1885]

That the above images (from Eakins' studio) of a nude elderly man are authentic images of the "good grey bard", poet Walt Whitman, was first argued by Ed Folsom in the Spring 1994 issue of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review. Since then, there have been some fairly convincing refutations (see William Innes Homer - "Whitman, Eakins and the Naked Truth" in the Summer 1997 edition of the same journal), but, well, look again - we do know he (Walt) was a friend of Eakins (even sat for him for his portrait on one singularly memorable occasion), and that is an extraordinary resemblance - the jury is still out.
Another Whitman "find" - again remarked upon by Ed Folsom in the pages of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review , is the (re-)discovery, a few years back, of a rare (wax cylinder) tape-recording from circa 1889-90, purportedly of Whitman reading (four lines from his late poem, "America"). Again, there are the nay-sayers and the firm believers. Folsom discusses the case here. Allen Koenigsberg has some additional information in Antique Phonograph Monthly.
You can listen to it yourself and make up your own mind - An mp3 (of all 36 seconds!) is available here.
Folsom (alongside Kenneth M Price) is one of the editors/curators of the extraordinarily helpful and laudably comprehensive Walt Whitman Archives ("an electronic research and teaching tool that sets out to make Whitman's vast work, for the first time, easily and conveniently accessible to scholars, students, and general readers"). Price, incidentally, just last month, was able to announce the discovery of nearly 3,000 new Whitman documents (details on that, and a whole lot more besides, are available on the site).
Allen and Walt - well, as everyone knows, Whitman was the absolute touch-stone for Allen
"What thoughts I have of you tonight..." The famous opening lines of "A Supermarket in California". Here's Allen introducing and reading from that poem
and here's his 1976 NAROPA class on Whitman. We hear him reading from Democratic Vistas and from the 1876 Preface to Leaves of Grass. (he also reads from Leaves of Grass here in this 1981 class, and on this occasion)
oh and Allen was always proud of "The Gay Succession", explained in full detail here.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Peter Orlovsky - One Year On

[Peter Orlovsky grave marker at Shambhala Mountain Center, Red Feather Lakes, CO. Poem excerpt on marker reads: Train will tug my grave, my breath hueing gentil vapor bewteen weel & track (Snail Poem, from Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs) Peter Orlovsky - Ocean of Generosity 1933-2010]

[Peter Orlovksy, 1010 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, Spring 1955. Photo. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

Seems strange to note, today, one year since his passing. Gone but not forgotten. Dear Peter.
If you'd not seen it before, here is Steve Silberman's Shambhala Sun article, "Impossible Happiness: An Elegy for Peter Orlovsky" - and here's "Peter Orlovsky: Namaste", Tom Clark's brief memoir. The Poetry Project at St Marks Church and our own Peter Hale organized, last October, a memorial reading (edited highlights, a montage of that evening, can be accessed here), and, earlier, in the summer, Allen and Peter's ashes were interred together in the Rocky Mountains in Colarado (near the base of Marpa Point, in sight of the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya).
Here are four of Peter O's remarkable, unique, poems (and some notes on the poems) - "lest we forget".

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Harry Smith

“Harry Smith's Birthday Party” by Allen Ginsberg, 1998.
Allen Ginsberg - Harry Smith's Birthday Party, 1996-7. 2 color lithograph and screenprint, 32 1/4 x 24 1/2]

Harry Everett Smith (1923-1991), Harry Smith was born on this day.

Here's the footage of Harry accepting his Grammy, it's a touching moment. Here's more typical Harry - "Boy, Am I In Trouble! ". Here are some of the masterpieces he's justly famous for - Mirror Animations 1957 (from Early Abstractions 1946-57) and this excerpt from his Heaven and Earth Magic. Heck, why not watch the whole thing (and his remarkable Late Superimpositions too) over here on the extraordinary Ubuweb site.
Ubuweb also hosts this 1965 interview with P. Adams Sitney.
Here's Allen interviewed about Harry (in June 1993 by Hal Willner) and again (in September 1995 by Paola Igliori).
For more "interviews" with Harry (it's becoming increasingly hard to find, tho') Think of the Self Thinking is worth picking up.
American Magus is seemingly becoming quite a rare item too.
Raymond Foye's illuminating introduction to Harry is however available here and should on no account be missed.
Now to turn to some music. Clarence Ashley and Richard Rabbit Brown are great but why settle for just samples, two samples barely do justice to the incomparable Anthology of American Folk Music
- ditto here's some samples from Harry's 1973 Kiowa Peyote recording
and, of course, the work he did with Allen, First Blues.
Lionel Ziprin sets the stage for another extraordinary Harry project, the recordings of Rabbi Abulafia.
Paola Igliori made a movie and Rani Singh made a movie based on the Anthology (here's information on its soundtrack)
The Internet Archive has a number of Harry's freewheeling NAROPA lectures (from his time there as resident shaman). He lectures on "the rationality of namelessness", he lectures on "the Native American cosmos".
And for the real fetishist, come here, come underground.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

George Condo - Condo Painting

George Condo in his Paris apartment, December 1994, portrait of Ginsberg in the background was used as the cover to Ginsberg’s Selected Poems: 1947-1995.
[George Condo in his Paris apartment, December 1994, portrait of Ginsberg in the background was used as the cover to Ginsberg's Selected Poems 1947-1995. Photo: c. The Allen Ginsberg Estate]

Cover of: Selected Poems by Allen Ginsberg
[George Condo cover for Allen Ginsberg - Selected Poems 1947-1995, HarperCollins, 1996]

Mental States, George Condo's first retrospective exhibition (which took place at the New Museum in New York City) closed earlier this month. Holland Carter, writing in the New York Times, gave it a "thumbs-up", describing it as simply "sensational".
Condo, is of course the artist who drew and painted Allen on a number of occasions (most notably, creating the image that graces the cover of his Selected Poems).

Condo Painting (2010), the movie by John McNaughton (and featuring cameo appearances by Allen and William Burroughs) is now hosted, in its entirety, on Ubuweb - all 86 minutes of it. Here is their succinct report:
"Condo Painting" is not, as the title might seem to suggest, an instructional film for apartment owners but rather an 86 minute documentary on the life, work and thought of George Condo, a garrulous painter with a mischievous sense of humor and an eccentric quasi-mystical view of art and the world that it inhabits. To call the film a documentary may be a bit misleading. Directed by the Chicago filmmaker John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer, Wild Things, in close collaboration with its subject, "Condo Painting" tries not only to record the artist's aesthetic theories but also to apply them. What results is a free-form excursion, studded with abstract music-video effects (and accompanied by a soundtrack featuring music by DJ Spooky, Tom Waits and The Residents), through the sensibility of a man who is sometimes enlightening, sometimes amusing and sometimes annoying."

For more on Condo's work, see here.

& this is a beautiful thing.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday's Weekly Round-Up 27

Some up-dates and commentary.

More Lew Welch - Passing quietly, a few days back, the anniversary of Lew Welch's disappearance. Here's a thoughtful piece from the local papers.

More Ira Cohen - Here's Indra Tamang, Romy Ashby, and Nina Zivancevic, on their friend, Ira. Nina: "Ira had never liked Allen Ginsberg, whom I adored, because he acquired more fame than he (Ira) did, in many ways. Allen had fame but he had no children. The last time I saw the latter he said how much he envied Ira for having sons; I was on the verge of tears - I was expecting a baby".

More Bob Dylan (ok, just a little bit more!) - Rundangerously, on his website, unearths an old AG Dylan fan poem (Allen is also, posthumously, included in The Captain's Tower).
- and on Brittanica.com, Sean Wilentz gets to address the Dylan-Ginsberg, Ginsberg-Dylan connection explicitly: "Ginsberg helped Dylan loosen his poetic breath and his imagery; Dylan helped bring Ginsberg into the 1960s and alert him anew to the possibility of tighter, lyrical poetic modes.."

More on William Burroughs censorship (see last week's "Round-Up" for the original AP article) - Elik Shafak has further thoughts in The Guardian

Plutonian Poison (see this post). Fukushima (with all attendant nuclear horrors) seems to have dropped out of the news cycle of late - but, no, not really. Combine this story here and this story here, for example, and it's hard not to feel.. sad? angry? shamed? - all three.
Greenpeace has some specific details of the local pollution here (in the light of less than forthright information coming from the authorities). Here's a recent AP wire story on TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) mismanagement and current international intervention. Switzerland's historic decision, this past week, to phase out its nuclear program is clearly a step in the right direction, but, as James Kantor points out, in the New York Times, "The nuclear fuel meltdowns in Japan have prompted various reactions in other parts of Europe. France, which relies on nuclear power for about 80 percent of its electricity and is a major exporter of nuclear technology, has reaffirmed its commitment to the technology. Just across the border, however, the German government reversed a previous decision to extend the life of its nuclear plants and is working on a plan to accelerate the phase-out there".

Ai Weiwei (see this earlier post) remains detained by the authorities, or, rather, is presently "under residential surveillance", in anticipation of criminal prosecution - - 55 days (and still counting!) Visited by his wife Lu Qing for twenty minutes, a couple of weeks ago, but otherwise (still) hidden, intolerably hidden, from the world.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

More Zeitgeist Miscellanea (Beckham, Big Bird and the Bard)

Zeitgeist-time again. Following last week's notes (on Dustin Hoffman and Michael C Hall), here's another unlikely duo - soccer ace, David Beckham and Sesame Street hero, Big Bird.

First off, "Becks", as he's affectionately known, (one half of "Posh and Becks"). English tabloids are aghast at his recent Milanese shenanigans! Paparazzi follow him (more than ever, it seems, these days). And of late, he's been wowing them with his Nat Finkelstein 2K Allen Ginsberg t-shirt!

Would it be crass to suggest that there are other t shirts available?

There's also this (and, to give City Lights props, their Howl t-shirt), and, for a limited time, this.
We're none too sure of the plethora of products available at Cafe Press.com (which, we'd like to take this opportunity to say, we have absolutely nothing to do with!).

Turning now to Big Bird, no idea when this particular snap was taken, but, pretty hilarious, n'est-ce-pas?

We'll be back soon with more portentous matters!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Allen and Bob part 2

[Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, San Francisco, 1965, photo c. Larry Keenan]

In 1965 Allen arranged for Larry Keenan and fellow student photographer Dale Smith to photograph him and Michael McClure and Robbie Robertson and Bob Dylan in the alleyway behind City Lights Bookstore (originally for possible use on the Blonde on Blonde album cover). The images were never used (tho' some have turned up in subsequent Dylan projects).
As Keenan, on the Empty Mirror website, recalls:

[Michael McClure, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, San Francisco, 1965, photo c. Larry Keenan]

"This session was arranged the night before at a party after Bob Dylan's concert at the Berkeley Community Theater. Allen Ginsberg introduced me to Dylan and we arranged to do a photo session...the same day as the Beats' last gathering at City Lights Books. At City Lights we hid out in the basement with Dylan and when the people started to break the door down we climbed out a window and ran down the alley and took these photographs. I was in college and living at home during the Beat period. I had to mow the lawn before I could borrow the car and go to San Francisco to shoot this...event".


Robbie Robertson,Michael McClure, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, San Francisco, 1965, photo c. Larry Keenan]

Dale Smith's images of this occasion he's fancifully titled. One of them features a "lost soul" (or, half a lost soul!), Julius Orlovsky, distancing himself from the four-some - Julius and the Spirits - (everybody get the Fellini pun?):

[Julius and The Spirits - Robbie Robertson, Michael McClure, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, and (partially visible) Julius Orlovsky, San Francisco, 1965, photo c. Dale Smith]

Here's more of Dale's images - Smoking Poets (Allen would, of course, later, actively inveigh against such behavior in his "Put Down Your Cigarette Rag"):

[Smoking Poets - Robbie Robertson, Michael McClure, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, San Francisco, 1965, photo c. Dale Smith]

And here, just the three of them, sans Robbie Robertson, Alley Cats (sic), the three poets:

[Alley Cats - Michael McClure, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, San Francisco, 1965, photo c. Dale Smith]

Also on hand to record this occasion was the pre-eminent rock photographer, Jim Marshall.

Here's one of his images:

[ Robbie Robertson, Michael McClure, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, and unidentified photographer, San Francisco, 1965, photo c. Jim Marshall Photography, LLC]

Turning to another occasion. Ken Regan was the official Rolling Thunder photographer. It was Ken who shot this extraordinary picture of Allen and Bob in Lowell at Jack Kerouac's grave:

Main Photograph
[Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg at Jack Kerouac's grave, Edson Cemetery, Lowell, Mass. 1975, photo c.Ken Regan]

Ken's remarkable Rolling Thunder work is currently on exhibit at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York (it is also available in a limited edition portfolio (a mere 350 copies, signed and numbered by the photographer, and available from the gallery). Here's some other classic Regan shots

Ken Regan, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg at Jack Kerouac's grave, Lowell, MA, 1975
[Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg at Jack Kerouac's grave, Edson Cemetery Lowell, Mass. 1975, photo c.Ken Regan]

[Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan, Edson Cemetery Lowell, Mass. 1975, photo c.Ken Regan]

Here's another shot from that time (from Gerard Malanga) - taken in Allen's apartment in New York, just a few weeks prior to the beginning of the tour

[Allen Ginsberg, Roger McGuinn, Bob Dylan and friends, New York City, October 15 1975 - photo c. Gerard Malanga]

and here's two classic Elsa Dorfman images

[Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, 1975 - photo c. Elsa Dorfman (www.elsadorfman.com)]

[Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, 1975 - photo c. Elsa Dorfman (www.elsadorfman.com)]

A page featuring other Dylan photos can be accessed here (and here are some more Allen photos). Elsa's Housebook: A Woman's Photojournal, first published by David Godine in 1974 is now an integral part of Elsa's website

[more on the remarkable Elsa Dorfman here and  here 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bob Dylan's birthday

"Allen came to sanctify us", D.A.Pennebaker and Bob Neuwirth joke (no, they're serious!) in this DVD commentary on the famous opening segment of Don't Look Back, Pennebaker's 1967 cinema verite documentary of Bob Dylan's first tour through England in 1965. Shot in a nondescript alley behind the Savoy Hotel in London, Subterranean Homesick Blues is the soundtrack. Allen is far left (that figures!) on the screen, conversing (conversing about what?) with the mostly-out-of-the-frame Neuwirth.

Allen and Dylan visit Kerouac's grave in Lowell in 1975 and muse upon mortality. "Is this what's going to happen to you?, Allen asks, gazing at a stone marked simply "Husband". "No", Bob reassures him, "I won't be in an unmarked grave".

More from The Rolling Thunder tour - A brief moment from Renaldo and Clara - "I'll teach you how to meditate?"

This isn't Allen in the next clip (it's David Cross, one of a string of actors now playing him in the movies) and it's not Dylan either (it's Cate Blanchett), but still...

This is the real Bob and Allen together. "I'm going down to Puerto Rico.."

Martin Scorcese's 2005 documentary No Direction Home can (but, probably, not for very much longer now) be seen in its entirety - here and here.
(Be reminded (as if you needed to be) - via a great filmmaker - of the greatness of Bob).
[2012 update - No Direction Home is, regrettably, no longer available via these links]

"Bob Dylan, the Beat Generation, and Allen Ginsberg's America", chapter two of Sean Wilentz's book Bob Dylan in America, also gives some particular context to the Dylan-Ginsberg relationship.

Bob's seventieth birthday! Three score and ten! The entire world's press have been - and will be - chiming in. For further news and views, consult, as we do, Expecting Rain, and its daily compendium

(and, not forgetting Bob Dylan dot com, too).

Here's a link to Rolling Stone's special issue and here's more fellow musicians and friends celebrating the man.

and we at the Allen Ginsberg Project, of course, add our own wildly enthusiastic voices - Congratulations! (Have yourself a very very) Happy Birthday Bob!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Robbie Robertson reads Allen Ginsberg

Clare Ann Matz has put together an interesting tape - "Poetry of the Western World Read By Celebrities and Collected by Clare Ann Matz", a miscellaneous collection of poetry reading (and attempted poetry reading!) by an odd mix of artists, among them filmmaker Wim Wenders, The Band's Robbie Robertson, and footage of Allen himself ("Father Death Blues", mis-captioned here as "Blues For A Dead Father" - that particular reading starts about eight and a quarter minutes in - but the whole tape is worth watching).
It begins with Kiowa singer and educator, Ralph Zotigh (of the Zotigh Singers and Dancers) reading from an Ancient Native American fable - ("Today is a good day"). This is followed by Wenders reading from Walt Whitman's Inscriptions ("To A Certain Cantatrice"). Dave Stewart, erstwhile of the Eurhythmics, reads William Blake's "Sick Rose", then, the late Billy Preston (first silently, then with soundtrack) reads Dylan Thomas. Ian Astbury, of The Cult (and clearly no fan of Dylan Thomas!) also reads, from the same poem, "Should Lanterns Shine". Dario Fo, Nobel-prize-winning playwright and theater-director, reads (in Italian) Andre Breton's "Fata Morgana". Robbie Robertson, Bob Dylan's confrere, comes in next, reading a selection from Allen's "Song"" ("Allen wrote this. huh?"), and has some difficulty following the syntax ("an the soul comes.."? "and the soul comes.."?). Allen himself follows (with the aforementioned reading of "Father Death Blues"). Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire "angel", actress Solveig Dommartin, concludes the tape, returning once more to Allen's poem - "the weight of the world is...love".

Other Ginsberg-related videos by Clare Ann Matz (tho' not featuring him in them) may be found here and here. Her recording of the Glass-Ginsberg Wichita Vortex Sutra, live, can be accessed here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Robert Creeley

Our much-loved and much-missed friend, Robert Creeley was born on this date, May 21 1926. This extraordinary page - is a portal to some of his extraordinary poetry. This page is pretty comprehensive too. A video of him reading at the Cue Gallery in New York in 2005 can be accessed here, and one (of him reading for the Lannan Foundation in Los Angeles, some fifteen years earlier) may be found here. Distinctive readings of classic early poems include this ("After Lorca") and this ("The Dishonest Mailman") and this ("The Ballad of the Despairing Husband"). A reading and discussion (with Al Filreis) that took place at the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania in April of 2000 is available here (as is a reading that he gave in Buffalo six months earlier).
Speaking of video, there's also this curious "home movie"/interview by Ted Pelton, (recorded in Buffalo, dating from 2002).
Bob (Robert) was interviewed on numerous occasions (poet Kyle Schlesinger has even proposed that he might be "one of the most interviewed poets of all time"!) - most notably, in 1968, for The Paris Review.
More recently, interviews have appeared with, amongst others, Don Swain (1984), Alastair Johnston (1987), Bruce Comens (1993), Charles Bernstein (1995), Alan Riach (1995), J.M.Spalding (1998), Johnette Rodriguez (1998) Mong-Lan (1999), Al Filreis (2000), Leonard Schwartz (2003), Robert Arnold (2003), Jamelah Earle (2004), Jenni Russell (2004) and Larry Sawyer (undated).
Circa 2004, he made himself available to answer questions at SmartishPace.com.
Mention might be made in this context of the pioneering Day Book of A Virtual Poet (1998).
Mention should certainly be made of the special Robert Creeley edition of Jacket (edited by Michael Kelleher).
And is it necessary to say again how loved this man was?. Testimonials aplenty - here, here and here - here, even.

PennSound is intimidatingly up to date, but, altho' it has the audio for his May 1956 SFSU Poetry Center reading, it doesn't seem to have caught up yet with a second reading he gave there, in July of 1959 (he begins with remarks on Hart Crane, and Charles Olson, before launching into a classic Creeley "set").

We are, as you know, a big fan of the Internet Archive and there's a huge a whole slew of Creeley there.

Did you know that the entire Collected Essays of Robert Creeley is available on line?

Creeley's multiple collaborations (not only with poets, but, crucially, with a range of visual artists) needs noting but is just going to have to wait for another post.

Ginsberg on Creeley: "Robert Creeley has created a noble life body of poetry that extends the work of his predecessors Pound, Williams, Zukofsky and Olson and provides like them a method for his successors in exploring our new American poetic consciousness."

Creeley on Ginsberg: "The heroism of Allen Ginsberg in the 'fifties cannot be overemphasized: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical..." Come back into the body. We do not go 'backward' or 'forward' in the mind - we live."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday's Weekly Round-Up 26

[Cannes publicity poster for upcoming Walter Salles' movie, On The Road, 2011]

Allen's birthday is getting closer, and the various birthday-celebration projects are hotting up. We've been reporting these past weeks on CA Conrad's Jupiter 88 - Allen Ginsberg initiative - brief taped video-portraits - memories, stories, poems - sending the shout-out to Allen. Several additional participants have been added to the roster just this past week - Marc Nasdor, Stephen Boyer, Elinor Nauen, Corrine Fitzpatrick, Filip Marinovich, Erica Kaufman, Ariana Reines, Dan Machlin, Sharon Mesmer, Vincent Katz, Edwin Torres, Paolo Javier, Douglas A Martin, Nathaniel Siegel, Stacy Szymaszek (with a Presspop Ginsberg doll), Eileen Myles (with her chihauhau dog, Hank), and CA Conrad himself.
Then there is Claire Askew's Starry Rhymes. Her special anthology, Starry Rhymes: 85 Years of Allen Ginsberg is pretty much completed now and soon to go to press. There'll be a gathering in Edinburgh on June 3rd. (at the Forest Hall). More information on that particular project can be found here.
And not forgetting Atlanta Georgia, and their 2011 Atlanta Queer Literary Festival, same night, (470 Candler Park Drive), there's going to be a "Howl-a-thon". There's footage here of Franklin Abbot, (AQLF Chair) and Rupert Fike (MC for the evening) discussing and looking forward to the event.

Sobering serious news about Irfan Sanci, the Turkish publisher of Guillaume Apollinaire and William Burroughs. Here is the AP story.

and here, Allen, from a 1989 interview for the No More Censorship Factsheet. Asked who he thinks might benefit from censorship? - "The basic thing that Burroughs and Wilhelm Reich and others have pointed out", (he explains), "is that censorship of sexual discourse or public communication about sex is one way of keeping the populace under control. If you can censor the seat of one of the greater emotions, then you've got the other varieties of communication and consciousness under control. So in Russia and Nazi Germany and other authoritarian countries, one of the strongest taboos is free communications of that basic emotion, sex.."