Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ai Weiwei at Asia Society, New York City

[Robert Frank & Allen Ginsberg. 1989. Inkjet on Fantac Innova Ultra Smooth Gloss. Printed on 20 x 24-inch paper. Courtesy of Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and Chambers Fine Art. ]

More Ai Weiwei news. All four of his associates (
reported on last week) have now officially been freed - Wen Tao, Hu Mingfen, Liu Zhenggang and Zhang Jinsong. All four, like Ai, still face significant charges. Ai has been slapped with a $1.85 million tax bill (5 million yuan in back taxes and 7 million yuan in fines). He plans to challenge this.

Meanwhile, his show of photographs opens in New York. Melissa Chiu of The Asia Society has this video report. Above, his image of Allen, together with photographer, Robert Frank, is one of 227 photographs on view through August 14th. There are quite a few others of Allen, around his East 12th Street apartment, but more broadly the photos document a gritty but culturally vibrant East Village and Lower East Side that, sadly, no longer exists.

Due to timing complications, the catalog is back-ordered, but will be available in mid July. It reproduces every image in the show, and includes an interview with Alison Klayman.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Conscience Says Tell The Truth in Finland

Footage has just emerged of Allen in Finland in 1983 (and of Burroughs too, for that matter) - both snatches of interview(s) and brief glimpses of readings. The footage is from Finnish YLE tv. Allen is seen reading, spiritedly, from "America"- a line at a time, followed by Finnish translation (Burroughs is glimpsed reading sections from A Place of Dead Roads - "and swear to me that you will never wear a policeman's badge"). The video accompanies an article on the Beats in Finland in that nation's newspaper and can be accessed here 

AG: My conscience says “tell the truth in Finland”
Interviewer (Karri Kokko): What is the greatest danger?
AG: Greatest danger is lying to Finland
Interviewer: What do you call worthless?
AG: Worthless? – Looking at other people with your own idea and insisting that they live up to your idea, rather than simply accepting and recognizing them for being themselves..
..Life is not pure entertainment. We are born in bodies. We suffer old age and sickness and death. We have sexual lives. We all go to the bathroom every day We all smell flowers every day. We all eat everyday. We weep every day, (or laugh every day). If a poet is going to actually write about real life you will have to include everything that people do everyday and understand everyday. Otherwise, it will be some kind of baby-fiction for little children, and fiction for insensitive people is what builds up police state. When you avoid the truth of life, when you avoid the facts of how we relate to each other , what our real life is, we wind up lying to each other and building a state which is a lie, building a society which is a lie.Unless people are truthful, not forcing it, not pushing it, but simply truthful to their own minds, we’ll always live in a state of paranoia because there’ll always be some missing suspicious element that we don’t understand.
Interviewer: What do you find ugly?
AG: Nothing living is completely ugly if it’s really there.

Meanwhile, a couple of years earlier, in Hungary, Allen has a cameo at the very beginning of Gyorgy Szomjas' rock n roll odyssey film, Kopasckutya (the movie in its entirety can be viewed here)

"The universe is down. So..the universe contains suffering. So you look around at the rain and you look around at the down and you begin to appreciate the down, what can you do with the down by accepting the down and working with the down because the down passes away anyway. And anyway, it turns out to be an empty dream, so the only thing you can do is be gentle to the down and gentle to the rain coming down in the leaves of the trees in the rainy night in the middle of (the) Hungary."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Allen and Peter and Julius San Francisco footage (ASV8)

[2014 update - unfortunately this rare "home footage" has been taken down and is no longer available on You Tube - Notwithstanding, we retain here our 2011 annotation]

Rare "(at) home footage" of Allen, and Peter Orlovsky, with his brother, Julius, and momentary glimpses of Neal Cassady (that's him in the striped shirt), and who's the woman? - we're really not sure. Of the location, however, we can be sure. It's 1965 San Francisco, Allen's apartment, at 1360 Fell Street, near the panhandle district, east of Golden Gate Park. The source of the footage? Clearly, out-takes from Richard O Moore's groundbreaking WNET Ginsberg-Ferlinghetti program (USA Poetry). The soundtrack (both Allen's comments and the reading from Kral Majales) is from that, from what we've elsewhere referred to as the City Lights footage (Allen reading and in discussion in City Lights bookstore).
He begins with the heart sutra (gate gate paragate parasamgate, bodhi, svaha), finger cymbals, in synch, as the camera pans over the "pad" (domestic interior). A laughing Buddha, a figurine of Ganesh. Who is the portrait of on the wall, framed by a tambourine?, an Indian saint? a holy man? - anyone have any ideas? - Peter's locks against his naked back almost fetishistically observed - the notice pinned upon the door (by Allen? by Peter? for Julius?) - "Yes, I am somewhere in this room" - heartbreaking glimpses ("moments in eternity") - Julius obliges - Allen gets Julius to zip up his fly! - Peter (wool cap) bare torso, putting on his shirt, gathering his hair, tucking it back, brushing long hair in the mirror - Allen and Neal "getting ready" (with cigarettes dangling in their mouths!).
Finally, outdoors and onto the streets of San Francisco - Peter carrying a guitar - Allen carrying a shoulder bag - Julius ("who came out of a bug-house, who was living in a bug-house for 11 years") carrying an over-sized suitcase, faithfully trailing behind.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Stonewall Anniversary

[2011] - Forty-two years on (forty-two years tomorrow? - according to various news reports and historical accounts, the police raided the New York City West Village bar a little after midnight (1.20 in the morning?), so that technically makes the official starting date of the uprising (Saturday) June 28 1969).

We are indebted for a comprehensive account of this pivotal event to the historian David Carter.

Allen wasn’t around on those first two days but, famously, accompanied by actor Taylor Mead was there on the third day, as depicted in Lucien K Truscott IV’s controversial Village Voice account:
“Allen Ginsberg and Taylor Mead walked by to see what was happening and were filled in on the previous evening’s activities by some of the gay activists. “Gay power. Isn’t that great!” Allen said. “We’re one of the largest minorities in the country – 10 percent, you know. It’s about time we did something to assert ourselves”.
Ginsberg expressed a desire to visit the Stonewall - "You know, I've never been in there” and ambled on down the street, flashing peace signs and helloing the TPF. It was a relief and a kind of a joy to see him on the street. He lent an extra umbrella of serenity to the scene with his laughter and quiet commentary on consciousness, “gay power” as a new movement, and the various implications of what had happened. I followed him into the Stonewall where rock music blared from speakers all around a room that might have come from a Hollywood set of a gay bar. He was immediately bouncing and dancing wherever he moved.
He left, and I walked east with him. Along the way he described how things used to be. “You know, the guys there were so beautiful – they’ve lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago. It was the first time I had heard that crowd described as beautiful.
We reached Cooper Square, and as Ginsberg turned to head toward home, he waved and yelled “Defend the fairies!” and bounced on across the square. He enjoyed the prospect of “gay power” and is probably working on a manifesto for the movement right now. Watch out. The liberation is underway.”

As David Carter has pointed out: "Ginsberg's characterization of the change that the Stonewall Uprising had brought about was so trenchant that when the early gay activist Allen Young interviewed (him) for the literary magazine, Gay Sunshine, the only question that (he) asked him about Stonewall was the circumstances behind Allen's statement." Allen's reply:
"I wasn't there at the riot. I heard about it, and I went down the next night to the Stonewall to show the colors. A crowd was there, and the place was open. So I said, the best thing I can do is go in; the worst that can happen is I'll calm the scene. They're not going to attack them while I'm there. I"ll just start a big "Om". I didn't relate to the violent part. The trashing part I thought was bitchy, unnecessary, hysterical. But, on the other hand, there was this image that everybody wanted to make that they could beat up the police, which apparently they managed to do. It was so funny as an image that it was hard to disapprove of , even though it involved a little violence."

The PBS documentary (for which David Carter was a consultant) Stonewall Uprising may be viewed in its entirety here. It’s essential viewing.
David also speaks in Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now 40th anniversary program.

Allen speaks (and even reads a couple of poems) on the DVD of 1984’s Before Stonewall: The Making of A Gay and Lesbian Community, (packaged along with 1999’s After Stonewall). Here's Allen's observation(s) from that film:
"All of a sudden at the height of the anti-war movement, at the height of the black liberation movement, after the triumph of liberation of the word [the end of print censorship], all of a sudden the cops were in there again trying to bust some guys..right in the center of Sheridan Square, the most bohemian traditional place in Greenwich Village!"
Irony - and irony and triumph forty-two years later.

***** 2016 update - And further triumph forty-seven years on! - President Barack Obama, this past Friday (June 24) designated Stonewall, a new national monument "to honor the broad LGBT equality movement"  - see CNN's report here - and NPR's report here 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gay Pride 2011

[Peter Orlovsky and Allen Ginsberg - Richard Avedon, 1963 - Photograph c. The Richard Avedon Foundation]

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday's Weekly Round-Up 30

[Ai Weiwei - Books on a table/Allen on the phone - contact-sheet photographs from the exhibition, Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs 1983-1993. via SlamXhype]

This week's big story? Well, that would have to be the "release", on Wednesday, after 60 days of detention of noted Chinese dissident, Ai Weiwei (We'd draw your attention to our original coverage here). Once again, are doing a pretty good job of keeping track of all the breaking news. Edward Wong's Wednesday New York Times article can be found here.
"I'm released, I'm home, I'm fine", the artist is quoted as saying (in English). "In legal terms, I'm - how do you say - on bail. So I cannot give any interviews. But I'm fine." Wong quotes Jerome A Cohen, "a scholar of the Chinese legal system", on the legal concept of qubao houshen" "(which) usually mean(s) that the detainee had agreed to limitations on his or her behavior, and that the case could be quietly dropped if the detainee adheres to that agreement and other compromises made. Legally, the police can continue to pursue the case for up to one year. During that time, the suspect is allowed freedom of movement, but the police generally hold on to the person's travel documents."
Here's Tania Branigan's initial report in The Guardian.
and here's Alexa Olesen's AP story, the following day, pointedly titled: "Chinese artist Ai Weiwei: Free in body, not voice".
As Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Asia Pacific, Catherine Baber, importantly observes, Ai Weiwei's is by no means an isolated case:
"Ai Weiwei is one of over 130 activists, lawyers, bloggers and tweeters detained since February in a sweeping crackdown on dissent prompted by government fears of a "Jasmine Revolution" inspired by the Middle East and North Africa". "It is vital that the international outcry over Ai Weiwei be extended to those activists still languishing in secret detention or charged with inciting subversion".
Baber notes that four of Ai Weiwei's associates - his friend Wen Tao, the accountant Hu Mingfen, the designer Liu Zhenggang, and his (Ai Weiwei's) cousin and driver Zhang Jinsong, all still remain in custody (Zhang Jinsong, it has subsequently been learnt, has been freed).
"While Ai Weiwei's release is an important step", the organization declares, he must now be granted his full liberty, and not be held in illegal house arrest, as has been the pattern with so many others recently released from arbitrary detention."

Interestingly, next week, in New York, an exhibition of Ai Weiwei's New York photos (including the above image with Allen - note William Burroughs image on the books) had been scheduled to open, and will be opening, at the Asia Society, "over 200 photos on view for the first time outside China". The exhibition is accompanied by a 316-page comprehensive catalogue with plates of all the photographs, along with essays and interviews, published by Three Shadows Photography Art Center in Beijing, co-sponsors of the show with the Asia Society.

Other news. Well, it's Friday, so it's a miscellanea. More New York activities. Bob Holman's GTO's (Ginsberg Turn On's), which we've mentioned before, continue to take place at the Bowery Poetry Club. Allen's secretary, Bob Rosenthal, was a recent participant. His'll be added to the archive of GTO videos available here.

Here comes the future. Viking/Penguin introduced this week the "amplified edition" of On The Road - the Kerouac "app" - a truly portable format with innumerable "bells and whistles". David Ulin in the LA Times has more on it and its technological implications here - "There's a certain poetic justice", he writes, "in the fact that (it) is (almost immediately) one of Apple's top-grossing book-apps. Released on Saturday..(and) featuring a variety of enriched content, including commentary, maps, audio recordings, and other ephemera, (it) hit number 4 on Apple's list on Tuesday, ahead of the Bible and T.S.Eliot's "The Waste Land". That's a testament to the power of the digital project, but also to the novel which has occupied a visionary place in the culture..".

That Ted Berrigan/Allen Ginsberg postcard, by the way, that graced last week's Friday Round-Up, sold for the curiously specific price of $493.98 (following 12 bids), a "steal" (even at that price, we believe, just under 500 dollars).

Here's an odd note - students at a Washington State Funeral Service Education program have been practicing on a wax model of Allen's skull! ("crafting the elongated ears"!). See here for more on this bizarre, but actually inspiring, story.

Gay pride month (LGBTQ History Month) - we'll have more on this next week - but here's one diarist on the influential political blog, The Daily Kos - "honor(ing) and pay(ing) tribute to Allen Ginsberg" - "Thank you Allen Ginsberg. Thank you for being openly out and gay and thank you for your poetry and activism".

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Allen Ginsberg Punk Rocker (part two)

[Allen Ginsberg and Joe Strummer, backstage at Bonds International Casino, Times Square, New York, June 10 1981 - photo c. Hank O'Neal.]

As Allen recounts it: " (In 1981) I was listening to a lot of punk, and I'd heard about The Clash from Steven Taylor. I went backstage once at their 17-night gig at Bonds Club on Times Square and Joe Strummer said, "We've had somebody say a few words about Nicaragua and (El) Salvador and Central America [they were promoting their album Sandinista at the time], but the kids are throwing eggs and tomatoes at 'im. Would you like to try?". I said, "I don't know about making a speech, but I've got a punk song about that." Simple chords, we rehearsed it five minutes and got it together".. "They led me onstage at the beginning of their second set, and we launched right into the guitar clang. It's punk in ethos and rhythmic style for abrupt pogo-dancing, jumping up and down, but elegant in the sense of having specific political details. First stanza drags a little, but there's one point where we all get together for two verses, an anthem-like punk song. Only one tape exists [not entirely true, actually] taken off the board. They gave me a copy and it's been sitting around all these years like a little toy."
- and again: "So, we rehearsed it for about five minutes during the intermission break and then they took me out on stage. "Allen Ginsberg is going to sing". And so we improvised it. I gave them the chord changes.".."It gets kind of Clash-like, good anthem-like music about the middle. but (then) they trail off again. The guy, who was my friend (Charlie Martin?) on the soundboard, mixed my voice real loud so the kids could hear, and so there was a nice reaction, because they could hear common sense being said in the song. You can hear the cheers on the record..."Capitol Air" was written (in 1980) coming back from Yugoslavia, oddly enough, from a tour of Eastern Europe, realizing that police bureaucracies in America and in Eastern Europe were the same, mirror images of each other finally. The climactic stanza - "No Hope Communism, No Hope Capitalism, Yeah. Everybody is lying on both sides.." We didn't play the whole cut because we didn't have enough time, but they built up a kind of crescendo, which was nice, when the whole band came in".

Joe Strummer: "Yeah, we have something never before seen - and never likely to again either. May I welcome President Ginsberg, come on (out) Ginsberg!"

This recording appeared, a decade and more later, on the 1993 CD box-set, Holy Soul Jelly Roll: Poems and Songs 1949-1993, and can be listened to here.

The upshot of this Bonds gig was further involvement with The Clash. When the band came back through New York six months later, Allen visited them in the studio and was invited to tighten up the lyrics, and indeed to perform, on one of the tracks, Ghetto Defendant, (subsequently included on their fifth studio album, 1982's Combat Rock).

Yes, listen carefully, at the end, that is Allen - gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi, svaha - voicing the Heart Sutra.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More Punk Notes (Hardcore)

Following on from recent postings, here's Allen and Steven Taylor in Allen's kitchen (437 East 12th Street) in New York, discussing "hardcore", the music immediately following punk.

Here below is a transcript:

"AG: ...(which) leaves it open to any kind of polymorphous perverse, at best, and is a kind of declaration of independence from social identity, or reassertion of a personal stamp of their own social identity, also there’s a political implication of subversion and rebellion against the rigid moral (morale) of the financial, sexual, commercial, rules and regulations imposed by the American government, or the Russian government, or the Czechoslovakian government, or whatever government is trying to repress individual intelligence, (and) delightfulness (?). So it seems to be, like, a way that almost anybody educated, or not educated, can propose their own genius, and, I think, evading all the social demands of education and of reading and of...
ST: ...bourgeois virtuosity?
AG: well no, social accomplishment, but going back to some natural state of genius where unobstructed delight, or unobstructed feeling, can be expressed and recognized, so (somewhere) where people (otherwise thwarted) where kids... that are otherwise thwarted, can actually find intellectual expression of their highest feelings, their, most extreme feelings, and sometimes, sometimes their highest feelings, or recognize, sometimes, their lowest feelings... And for those of us who are already hyper-intellectualized, and hyper-socialized, it also gives them a way of getting out of the straitjacket of their rigid discipline, and joining in with the hoi-polloi, and joining in with the lower classes, in some kind of Dionysian abandon, awakening the otherwise-sleeping spirit of (the) middle-class kids who come out to hear..or encouraging the ecstatic emotions of people already kind of aware of their channels of expression(s).."
But still it’s a little bit too noisy
ST: too loud?
AG: yeah, for my ears, yeah….
We once again draw your attention to Steven's book, False Prophet: Field Notes From The Punk Underground, published in 2003 from Wesleyan University Press.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jonas Mekas - Hare Krishna (ASV 7)

Jonas Mekas' 1966 four-minute short documentary film featuring a kaleidoscope of images, anchored, to some degree, by Allen and Peter chanting Hare Krishna, is the next (seventh) in our series of Annotated Streaming Videos. Here's Mekas' note from the catalog of the Film-Makers' Cooperative: "A "documentary" - one Sunday afternoon in New York - beautiful new generation - dancing in the streets of New York - singing "Hare Hare" - filling the streets and the air with love - in the very beginning of the New Age - Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky (on soundtrack) singing "Hare Hare". Mekas incorporated this footage into his diary film, Walden, three years later - "Filmed 1964-68. Edited in 1968-69. Since 1950, I have been keeping a film diary. I have been walking around with my Bolex and reacting to the immediate reality: situations, friends, New York, seasons of the year...Walden contains materials from the years 1965-69 strung together in chronological order. For the soundtrack I used some of the sounds that I collected during the same period: voices, subways, much street noise, bits of Chopin (I am a romantic) and other significant and insignificant sounds.."

Walden Reel 2 (from his "Diaries Notes and Sketches") with the Hare Krishna footage and with more fleeting images of Allen and Peter (and Tuli Kupfefberg, Gerard Malanga, Ed Sanders, Andy Warhol, Barbara Rubin, etc, etc ) can be viewed uninterrupted (courtesy the remarkable Virtual Circuit site) here. (Mekas' Scenes From Allen's Last Three Days on Earth as a Spirit (1997) can also be viewed here - as well as on - we cannot praise it enough - the nonpareil of avant-garde film sites, Ubu Web).

Jonas Mekas' filmed observations on Allen ("Allen's beard") can also be noted here.

"Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare" - the Hare Krishna mantra.
Interviewed in 1968 by Peter Barry Chowka in the New Age Journal, Allen clarified the lineage:
AG: Since '66 I had known Swami Bhaktivedanta (leader of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness) and was somewhat guided by him, although not formally - spiritual friend. I practiced the hare krishna chant, practiced it with him, sometimes in mass auditoriums and parks in the Lower East Side of New York.
PBC: You really did a lot to popularize that chant. Probably the first place I heard it was when I saw you read in '68.
AG: Actually, I'd been chanting it since '63, after coming back from India. I began chanting it,in Vancouver at a great poetry conference, for the first time in '63, with (Robert) Duncan and (Charles) Olson and everybody around, and then continued. When Bhaktivedanta arrived on the Lower East Side in '66 it was reinforcement for me, like "the reinforcements had arrived" from India.
Richard (& Susan) Witty's historic footage ("Matchless Gifts") of Swami Srila Prabhupada (A.C.Bhaktivedanta) chanting in Tompkins Square Park, New York, in those early days, may be viewed here.
Allen's popular involvement with/dissemination of the chant can, to some degree, be traced to the recording he made of it for The Fugs 1968 album, Tenderness Junction. Even more famous, perhaps, is this, Allen on national tv, chanting Hare Krishna to William Buckley:

The Ginsberg-Prabhupada connection has been documented not only in New York in 1966 and San Francisco in 1967, but also a gathering in Columbus, Ohio, in 1969.
Hayagriva Dass (Howard Wheeler) has a first-hand account in his The Hare Krishna Explosion: The Birth of Krishna Consciousness in America 1966-69.
Detailed transcription of the interaction can be found here and here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Poetry and Meditation

[Allen Ginsberg, Boulder Colorado, June 1994. photo c. Steve Miles]

In the upcoming months we're hoping to publish, here on The Allen Ginsberg Project, a number of transcriptions of, previously-unpublished, lectures and talks given by Allen. Let's begin this week with a 1993 class given at the Schule Fur Dichtung (Vienna Poetry School), initially transcribed by Christian M Katt, with further revisions by Ide Hintze and Juergen Berlalovich - Allen on Meditation and Poetics.

The talk is given prior to a showing of two classic "Beat" movies - Pull My Daisy and Renaldo and Clara (Renaldo and Clara is a Beat movie? - most certainly!) Allen comments briefly, at the end of the piece, on both films).

He attempts here "an about three or four minute description of the practice of sitting meditation". "(If) you can be patient for those five minutes or so", he tells his students, "then, when you leave this theater, you will have a trick that you can take home and use for the rest of your life". Furthermore, "in the course of (this) you might find out that you become more and more familiar with your own thought-productions, and so this turns out to be useful in poetry".

These were lessons that he learnt, of course, from his own teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Here is rare footage of Trungpa lecturing on meditation at NAROPA in 1974.
A transcription (made by Allen) of a visit by Trungpa to his "Meditation and Poetics" class in 1978 can be found here.
And here is Allen at NAROPA in the '80's (1987, to be exact) lecturing on Charles Reznikoff and William Carlos Williams, and others, in the context of the mind in operation - meditation practice and "ordinary mind".

Perhaps best, and most distilled, however, is this - "If you want to know how to meditate/I'll tell you now 'cause it's never too late".."If you can't think straight and you don't know who to call/it's never too late to do nothing at all."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

John Sinclair

Ten for two. – Steve Gebhart’s 1971 Ten for Two: The John Sinclair Freedom Rally is a documentary record of the historic concert that took place, in December 1971, at Ann Arbor’s Crisler arena, organized by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, to protest the politically-motivated jailing of poet and activist "White Panther", John Sinclair. Ten years imprisonment for two joints? . Among the performers that night, Phil Ochs, Stevie Wonder, Archie Shepp (and Lennon himself, of course)... It’s, aside from anything else, an important, and revealing, time-capsule.

The footage begins in media res (after approximately fifteen seconds), , with the angry insistent J.Geils, before a sudden cut (at one minute- fifteen) to Allen on stage chanting, quite beautifully, with his harmonium, and with a single guitarist accompanist.

“O dear john Sinclair we pray you leave your jail house/ o dear John Sinclair we celebrate your liberty tonight/ o dear John Sinclair in your name we are having a paarty/fourteen thousand people here – with no fear..” - Allen sweetly improvises.

Ed Sanders follows, more harshly, “If John Sinclair were a thug, selling heroin to grade-school children and paying bribes to police and public officials, he’d be a free man today…If John Sinclair were..”

The rest of this tape consists of Bob Segar and his band performing Chuck Berry’s ”Oh Carol”, some somewhat incendiary rhetoric from Father James Groppi, music from the rock band, The Up, (uh?) Bobby Seale (escorted on to stage and surrounded by his retinue of Black Panthers), Phil Ochs (rare fooage of the late Phil Ochs singing “Here’s to the State of Richard Nixon”), anti-war activists Rennie Davis and David Dellinger, exhorting and inspiring the crowds, Archie Shepp on saxophone and Roswell Rudd on trombone (stunning free jazz improvisation),– then, (approximately twenty seven-and-a-half minutes in), a live phone-call from Sinclair himself - from jail – then, after that, Commander Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen (now there’s a name from the past,!) singing “down to seeds and stems again” (sic), Elsie and Leni Sinclair (family members showing solidarity), Stevie Wonder, sending out a song to all the “undercover agents that might be out in the audience” (sic) - and Jerry Rubin (yep, Yippie spokesman, Jerry Rubin).

A second tape features David Peel and John and Yoko’s set that included “John Sinclair” and concluded the evening

Lennon’s “(Free) John Sinclair” later appeared on his Some Time In New York City album and can be heard here

Sinclair’s own pretty extraordinary past forty years (they freed him soon after the concert), as poet, blues scholar, radio d-j, legend, and marijuana activist, can be fruitfully explored here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday's Weekly Round-Up 29

[Allen Ginsberg & Ted Berrigan - Collaborative Postcard, February 11, 1982]

Trawling through E-bay, this past week, we came across this, Ted Berrigan and Allen Ginsberg's collaborative poem, Reds:


There isn't much to say to Marxists in Nicaragua
with .45's
afraid of the U.S. Secretary of State, eating celery.

Back in New York, "we went to see a beautiful movie",
said Allen Ginsberg. "It made me cry."
"I hadda loan him my big green handkerchief,
to blow his nose on!" Peter Orlovsky laughed.

Some background. This is clearly an "out-take" from Berrigan's 500 postcards project (a 1982 commission from Ken & Ann Mikolowski's Alternative Press). Berrigan (along with several other artists) was presented with 500 ready-made postcards to do with as he pleased. As Alice Notley, in her preface to The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan, points out:
"There were five hundred cards to work with, one side left blank for a poem and/or image, and the other side incorporating space for a message and address. "Postcard by Ted Berrigan" was printed at the top of the message space, and running sideways, "The Alternative Press, Grindstone City". Many other artists and writers participated in the Mikolowski's project, producing original art or text for the blank sides of their own five hundred postcards, the finished cards were always sent out singly, along with other Alternative Press items - broadsides, bumper-stickers, etc. - in the Press's standard free packets. Ted, so far as I know, was the only participant who turned the postcards into a full-scale writing project and then a book." (that book, A Certain Slant of Sunlight, published by Leslie Scalapino's O Books, she discusses in more detail here).
Allen's allusions to "Marxists in Nicaragua" interacting with "the U.S. Secretary of State" clearly dates and links the jottings to the Sandinista revolution (and, more specifically, his visit there in 1982).
We can only speculate on the "beautiful movie" that he was watching.

More Ginsberg encounters? - here's a touching piece by Clark Knowles - Allen Ginsberg and Me - "I met Allen Ginsberg and he changed my life", Knowles declares - but then goes on to tell of belatedly-recognized missed-opportunities (the result of misplaced youthful fears and foolish pride?) - "(He) asked (one time, visiting the University of Charleston, West Virginia) to keep some of my poems to look at and comment on. It's hard to believe (that) I said no, but I did."

Another rejection is recounted in Chris Clarke's account - A Long Time Ago - "Allen, I think I owe you an apology. (I declared), I treated you as a celebrity, "Allen Ginsberg", instead of, you know, you. I'm sorry". Ginsberg smiled. "Well, to tell you the truth, I was actually going to ask you if you wanted to come home with me." I hadn't seen that coming. Was I wearing a sign today or something?"

One person who didn't reject Allen's advances was sometime-lover, wandering guitar-player, Mark Israel. His first feature-length documentary hitch-hiking-on-the-road movie, 1997's How I Spent My Summer Vacation, (including cameos by Anne Waldman, amongst others) has recently been transfered to DVD. The trailer for the film can be accessed here.

More film news. James Franco's Hart Crane pic, that we've spoken of earlier, has its premiere in the coming week at the Los Angeles Film Festival. A Q-and-A with Franco about the project (yes, we've been relatively silent on our Franco news of late!) can be found here.

A shout-out to our English readers. Have we gotten around to mentioning Mark Ford's Faber and Faber selection of Allen's poems? We think not. (Ford's extensive 2007 New York Review of Books piece on Allen is certainly, also, well worth revisiting). Next Tuesday (June 21) at Rough Trade East at 7pm, along with poet Heather Phillipson, he'll be reading from his own poems, but also reading selections from that book.

And, finally, the big story (well, at any rate, yesterday's big story) - the New York Public Library has just acquired Timothy Leary's archives. The Library announced that it had paid the sum of $900,000 for the collection (335 boxes of papers, videotapes, photographs, letters, and other items). Patricia Cohen's story in The New York Times seems to re-iterate Peter Conners' thesis - "The meeting between Ginsberg and Leary marked an anchor point in the history of the 1960's drug-soaked counter-culture", she writes. "Leary, the credentialed purveyor of hallucinatory drugs, was suddenly invited into the center of the artistic, social and sexual avant-garde. It was Ginsberg who helped convince Leary that he should bring the psychedelic revolution to the masses, rather than keep it among an elite group.". Scott Staton has a useful follow-up piece in The New Yorker - and Boris Kachika's piece in New York magazine presents a few choice selections - "acid commentaries from Timothy Leary's just revealed archive". We leave you with Allen's unique personal account:

"After an hour...I withdrew into visual introspection...I lay down on a large comfortable couch next to my companion Peter Orlovsky and drifted off into a reverie about the origins of the universe which involved the visualization of a sort of octipus (sic) of darkness breaking through out of the primal void...(I) envisioned various people I Seraphs or Fiendish Angels with fangs of Judgement rushing thru the void over Atlantic Blakean spaces to make meet with each other to take Conference over the future of Life."