Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On Charles Reznikoff's Birthday

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[Charles Reznikoff reads a William Carlos Williams poem on a Brooklyn bus, "sometime in the mid '60's" - photo c. Modern American Poetry - photo uncredited]

Allen's great modern master hero, "Objectivist" poet Charles Reznikoff, (1894-1976), was born on this day, August 31st, in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Here are the extraordinary resources of PennSounds and its Charles Reznikoff page to help you celebrate this fact (readings from 1967 in New York, and 1974 in San Francisco, interviews with Reinhold Schiffer, and with Susan Howe (on Poetry Today, her 1975 radio show), Abraham Ravetts' recordings, made in 1975, of him reading from Holocaust (more on that particular project can be found here)).

Here is a memorial reading for Reznikoff that took place in New York at the Poetry Project (St Marks Church) in 1976, shortly after his death. Eighteen poets (among them Allen) get to read from his work and fondly eulogize him (Allen, reading from "Five Groups of Verse" (1927), can be heard, approximately 34 minutes in - he's followed by Peter Orlovsky reading a section from Holocaust, followed by Susan Howe. Other readers that evening included David Ignatow, Stanley Kunitz, Ron Padgett and Anne Waldman).

Allen presents here his "Suggestions for Readings in Charles Reznikoff..according to hardness, objectivity, vividness - selected epiphanies":
These, as he notes, are page-references to the old two-volume Black Sparrow editions of Reznikoff's Collected Poems. A new single volume edition has now for some time been available.

Both Modern American Poetry here and the EPC (Buffalo) provide further links - such appraisals as this and this by the novelist Paul Auster, Charles Bernstein's review of the Collected in The Brooklyn Rail, and notes and reviews on Testimony: The United States, 1885-1890 (along with Holocaust, Reznikoff's other long documentary poem).

Stephen Fredman's A Menorah For Athena is also worth looking at (a full-length study of Reznikoff that includes a section on Allen), from the University of Chicago.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Steve Silberman's HotWired Interview

Ginsberg sees the Web for the first time
[Allen Ginsberg sees the World Wide Web for the first time - Allen Ginsberg with Steve Silberman, San Francisco, December 1996]

We've been quoting these past few days from Steve Silberman's December 1996 interview with Allen for HotWired, a brief exchange about Allen and some of the jazz greats (Lester Young, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker), but all that was only a tiny sliver, and we figured we should spotlight and draw your attention to the whole thing. The interview (included also in Spontaneous Mind - Selected Interviews 1958-1996) took place on December 16, in the HotWired offices in San Francisco. Steve, on his website adds this interesting "additional note" - "Following our conversation, I showed Allen The World Wide Web for the first time. I'd been telling him about the self-publishing samizdat aspect of the Web, knowing that he'd make a point of donating his work to small labor-of-love 'zines even after he was the best-known poet in America. I took Allen immediately to the page on his work at Levi Asher's Literary Kicks site, clicking through Jack Kerouac's and Neal Cassady's names to demonstrate hypertext to him. Allen didn't say much, and then I took him to a search engine, where a search on the phrase "allen ginsberg" called out 2,000 hits - probably the maximum. He looked at all the pages built in his name. "Thank God I don't know how to work this," Allen sighed."

An earlier (1987) interview conducted by Steve with Allen (No More Bagels) is available here.
That interview appeared in September 1987 in The Whole Earth Review.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Charlie Parker's Birthday

[Charlie Parker 1920-1955]

August 29, it's Charlie Parker's birthday. We continue our jazz salutes.

Steve Silberman: Yeah, and that poem (Kerouac's "Mexico City Blues" [not to mention, your own work]) was very much influenced by Charlie Parker who you knew, or saw.

Allen Ginsberg: I saw him a number of times, yeah. In those days - meaning the early '50s and early '60s - the musicians, though, they were barred from playing in the clubs under the cabaret licensing laws, which were quite fascist. Anybody who had been busted couldn't play in a cabaret, and if you couldn't play in a cabaret, you couldn't make money in New York, simple as that. So they had to play wherever they could - in lofts, in scenes. There was a place on Sunday, The Open Door, some impresario - no alcohol. You'd contribute what you could, and Charlie Parker played. I used to go Saturday or Sunday afternoons.."

Charlie Parker feeling no pain.

Image:Cement bird lives.jpg

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thelonious Monk

[Allen Ginsberg regards Thelonious Monk - photo c. Jim Marshall Photography LLC]

[Allen Ginsberg with Thelonious Monk at Baroness Pannonica ("Nica") Koenigswarter's apartment, New York City, 1961 - Allen's note on the back reads: "After playing at Five Spot (4 AM?) & Shooting-up. Tompkins Square East, at the Baroness', a friend of hers, a lady" - Photographer unknown]

Allen Ginsberg: Then in the early '60s, Thelonious Monk spent maybe half a year at the Five Spot. I used to go as often as I could. He'd play four or five nights a week and I'd go.
Steve Silberman: I think that was after he wasn't allowed to play  because of the cabaret card problem and then once he got back in, he  played a lot.   
Allen Ginsberg: Yeah, he was great.

from Bill Morgan's I Celebrate Myself - The (Somewhat) Private Life of Allen Ginsberg:
When Thelonious Monk performed for a few weeks, Allen listened to him almost every night after Peter left for work. On one night Allen handed Monk a copy of Howl and Other Poems, then a week later asked him what he thought. Monk said he was almost finished with it but Allen continued to press him; "Well, what do you think? "It makes sense", was Monk's funny, spur-of-the-moment answer, which delighted Allen so much that he repeated it countless times.
It's not Monk's birthday (that's October 10), but we thought we'd run these pictures anyway

Here's Monk performing "Blue Monk" in 1958
Here's Monk performing "Hackensack" in England in 1965
Here's Monk in Scandinavia (a whole hour!) from 1966

And for those of you who've not seen it, see if you can track it down, Charlotte Zwerin's 1988 documentary, Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser is absolutely essential viewing.

Here's a bizarre curio - Monk being reluctantly interviewed on French tv

Oh and did we mention Robin Kelley's recent Thelonious Monk - The Life And Times of An American Original? We don't believe we did.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lester Young's Birthday

[Lester Young 1909-1959]

Allen in conversation with Steve Silberman, (interviewed for Wired, December 1996):

"Then I saw Lester Young play at The Five Spot. I remember I went in to say hello to him in the kitchen, and I got down on my knees, and recited the really musical language of Hart Crane's "Atlantis", the last poem of The Bridge, his epic. And Lester said, "What was that guy on?" And I asked him what he'd do if an atom bomb blew up and he said, "Well, I'd rush uptown to Fifth Avenue, to Cartier's, and I'd smash into a window and I'd grab all the jewels I could and run away".

..and Allen, in 1968, (to interviewer Michael Aldrich) crediting Lester Young:
"Lester Young was what I was thinking about..."Howl" is all "Lester Leaps In""

It's August 27, 102 years later - Happy Birthday Prez!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday's Weekly Round-Up 38

[Philip Glass - with Gelek Rinpoche and Allen Ginsberg c.1990's - photographer unknown]

Old news - we've been reporting on this before - but the final death-knoll, now, it would seem, for New York's legendary Chelsea Hotel (sold, earlier this month, to real-estate mogul Joseph Chetrit, in a reportedly $77 million dollar deal). Mick Brown's obituary note (first published in London's Daily Telegraph) may be read here.. Here's the obligatory New York Times article.

One of its many denizens Patti Smith (permit us our segue!) has just announced her movie options. After the National Book Award for Just Kids - Just Kids, the movie? She will be collaborating on a film adaptation with her friend, the playwright and screenwriter, John Logan (he of "Red", the Tony-winning play about Mark Rothko). So, possibilities of another cameo Allen? Who will play him in the (surely obligatory) Automat scene? ("Are you a girl?" he asked. "Yeah", I said. "Is that a problem?" He (Allen) just laughed. "I'm sorry. I took you for a very pretty boy!")

More memoirs. Philip Glass's memoirs have just been sold. His publisher, W.W.Norton have announced that contracts have been signed and that the book will be published (on a so-far unannounced date) under their Liveright division. Looking forward to stories about Ravi Shankar, John Cage, and the nuts-and-bolts of working with, and collaborating with, Allen. What will he say? Well, remarks in yesterday's LA Times, give a tantalizing taste - "I knew him very well", Glass declares, "we did a lot of concerts together. Like Cage, he understood the function of art and the function of society in a very integrated way. More than any other person, he understood ethics and morality. The thing about Allen, he really believed in what (Pharoah) Ahkenaten called 'walking in truth'"

Another consummate truth-teller was sociologist, author, Paul Goodman (1911-1972). Jonathan Lee's documentary, "Paul Goodman Changed My Life" (featuring, among others, Allen) has just been released. A short trailer for the movie can be seen here. Lee and UC grad student Michael Fisher can be seen (some years back) talking about the project here. Variety's review ("(it) will awaken interest in a fascinating multifaceted figure") begins to spread the word. Goodman, you'll recall, participated, along with Allen, in 1967, in the Conference on the Dialectics of Liberation (and his contribution, along with those by Herbert Marcuse and others, notably "Black Power" spokesman, Stokely Carmichael, may be accessed here).

Another earlier post (on the famous February 1967 "Houseboat Sessions") also deserves an up-date. Here's news of Mark Watts (Alan Watts' son)'s movie about his father, Why Not Now?, featuring "animation, as well as vintage footage, recordings, photos, art.." The unlikely collaborator, cartoonist (and fan!) Mark Stone of (t.v's "South Park"), along with his partner, Trey Parker, as well as "The Simpsons" animator, Eddie Rosas, are among those involved in the project. Here is an example of a Stone-Parker animated Watts (of which Paul Goodman would most surely approve!).

Guillaume Apollinaire

Apollinaire fejsérülése után.
[Guillaume Apollinaire 1880-1918]

Today marks the birthday of the great French poet, Guillaume Apollinaire.
"Guillaume, Guillaume how I envy your fame, your accomplishment for American letters/ your Zone with its long crazy line of bullshit about death/come out of the grave and talk through the door of my mind/issue new series of images oceanic haikus blue taxi-cabs in Moscow negro statues of Buddha/pray for me on the phonograph record of your former existence/ with a long sad voice and strophes of deep sweet music sad and scratchy as World War 1."
These words are from Allen's great 1958 poem, "At Apollinaire's Grave" (available in Kaddish & Other Poems 1958-1960
Apollinaire is buried (famously) at Pere Lachaise in Paris ("Peter Orlovsky and I walked softly through Pere Lachaise we both knew we would die/ and so held temporary hands tenderly in a citylike miniature eternity")

"Came back sat on a tomb and stared at your rough menhir/ a piece of thin granite like an unfinished phallus/ a cross fading into the rock 2 poems fading into the stone one Couer Renversee/ other Habituez-vous comme moi A ces prodiges que j'annonce/ Guillaume Apollinaire de Kostrowitsky"
"Does anybody know who Apollinaire was at all? [this is Allen, August 1981, lecturing at NAROPA, a course he gave that year on "Expansive Poetics"] - Has anybody got some idea?" - "He was a friend of (Pablo) Picasso, friend of the painter Douanier Rousseau, the primitive painter. He wrote a book on Cubist painters. He operated in Paris as a great impresario, and editor, and writer of pornographic anonymous novels to make a living. He visited Le Bateau-Lavoir, which is the place in Montmartre where Picasso lived with (Georges) Braque and where there was painting experiments with Cubism, a totally modern means of visual representation..."
He goes on, in the course of this talk, to read, comment on, and further examine the classic, "Zone" (in this case, primarily, in Roger Shattuck's translation) - 'the first great example in European regular poetry of that collage method" - as well as his (Apollinaire's) "Poem Read At The Marriage of Andre Salmon" ('a great vigorous affirmation that actually comes out of Walt Whitman") - and even, the less-expansive (but considerably better-known), "Le Pont Mirabeau")
(A recording of this lecture is available here - alongside an earlier (1975), perhaps-even-more-illuminating, Ginsberg-on-Apollinaire-at-NAROPA discourse here).
Also, from the 1981 talk:
"Incidentally, there is a recording of Apollinaire's voice as well. I don't have it. The only place I ever heard it was in the Musee de Sonore, the Sound Museum [perhaps Archive de Parole?].." -
"the phonograph record of your former existence"
Allen is, of course, referring here to Apollinaire's own, historic, 1913 reading of "Le Pont Mirabeau". (Here's Le Pont Mirabeau, set to music, sung by Serge Reggiani)
There is also, magically, film, or perhaps the flicker-book illusion of movement, in this wonderful archive piece here (Apollinaire, seemingly, caught in conversation with his friend, Roland Dorgeles):

His extraordinary Calligrammes, we've commented on before. Here's an animated calligram.
Here are several further examples of the form.
And Alcools, not only one of the most important books in French, but a key volume in 2oth century poetry ("the printed poems, Alcools, in my pocket, his voice, in the museum").
We reported earlier on Nic Saunders' short feature film, At Apollinaire's Grave (a filmed evocation of Allen's poem)
Guillaume, we salute you.
"...voici le temps/ou l'on connaitra l'avenir/ Sans mourir de connaissance"

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Louis Bardel Interview

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

Following on from the 1974 (Duncan Campbell) interview with Allen that we published last week, here's another (from the '90's this time) that seems to have somehow slipped under our radar. The interviewer is Louis Bardel (for It was taped at the radio station WSIA (located on the campus of the College of Staten Island). A side-bar provides details on "How I Scored The Allen Ginsberg Interview".

Monday, August 22, 2011

David Dellinger (1915-2004)

[David Dellinger, at Karmê Chöling, Barnet, VT, where he and Allen had given a talk with David Rome and others, Labor Day weekend, 1984. Photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

Perhaps best remembered for his role as one of the defendants (the senior defendant) in the Chicago Conspiracy Trial, David Dellinger was an exemplary human being, a towering figure on the American Left over several decades, a Gandhi-like, life-time, radical pacifist, passionately committed to an activist struggle (through non-violent action) against all manifestations of war and oppression. As Noam Chomsky wrote: "Before reading (his autobiography, From Yale to Jail), I knew and greatly admired Dave Dellinger. Or so I thought. After reading his remarkable story, my admiration changed to something more like awe. There can be few people in the world who have crafted their lives into something truly inspiring. This autobiography introduces us to one of them". In addition to his autobiography, mention should also be made of Andrew Hunt's 2006 biography, David Dellinger - The Life and Times of A Nonviolent Revolutionary. Here's Howard Zinn, Father Daniel Berrigan, Tom Hayden, Jeremy Scahill, Leonard Weinglass, Ralph DiGia and David McReynolds, memorializing him on Democracy Now! at the time of his death. Here's Michael Carlson's obituary in The Guardian, Greg Guma's thoughtful notes in Toward Freedom, and Ron Jacobs in Counterpunch.
Here's the man himself in a 1981 interview, and again, the following year (for the Boston public television station, WGBH)

Dellinger participated in Allen's memorial in 1998 in New York, at the Cathedral of St John, the Divine. Here's a transcription of his remarks on that occasion:

Thank you Ed, it’s an honor to be here and an honor to be introduced by Ed Sanders, and the first thing I want to say is that Allen Ginsberg combined the personal and the political in a wonderful way. He did it in his life, in his poetry and in his action. And I think of one action, a very early one - and don’t ask me when, since I’m over 45, I can’t remember dates and things like that, but anyway - one of the first times Allen and I talked about an action was at the United Nations, or leading up to, the United Nations on Disarmament Week, and I asked him if we would walk with us (because we were marching first), and he said no, and so I walked with Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie and people like that – and I mentioned that Allen would be at the last place we were going to, the place we were heading towards, (and) they all said, “oh you have to have him to speak”, and so when we got there he was in his usual position, doing his “OM”’s ,and I said “Allen, everyone wants you to speak”, and he said, “no it’s much more important what I’m doing here”. So that was an example of the personal, but I also saw it in the farm that Peter Orlovsky and he had, and in just all kinds of places, and I remember one time when he and I and David Rome were speaking together at Karme Choling ,and they kept having us speak, so, after the third or fourth time, I said, “I think that it would be better if my wife spoke now”, and the woman in charge of the program said “oh no, you can’t do it that way”. And so I talked with Allen, and we set up a situation where my wife sat right in front of me and, after I said a few words , I said “oh and now I’d like to ask my wife”, and Allen thoroughly approved of it. But, also, in his honesty, he was never self-righteous or sectarian, and he even spoke a few times about the problems he was having with Chogyam Trungpa, and he told me that he was thinking about stopping the command that Trungpa had made - that he should do a hundred thousand prostrations. But he knew, in the end, he decided, that he got so much from Trungpa’s teachings that he would go and do the things that he didn’t even, in many ways, believe in, or (necessarily) want to do, Now I want to say, also, Allen was so smart that he came to me one time , when Abbie Hoffman had just come up from Mississippi, and he said, “you know I want to take you over and introduce you to Abbie Hoffman, because you two have so much in common” – and it was true! But let me tell you that a lot of the older, better-established peace organizations and their leaders didn’t approve of that, and one time in Central Park when we had finished all the announced speakers and people still didn’t want to leave, I saw Abbie, right down in front, and I said, “Abbie I want you to speak”, and he did and to me he was wonderful – but then someone made the suggestion that I should be removed as Chair for the Mobilization Committee to End the War because I had used this smart young kid, who had a sense of humor. Well, Allen had a sense of humor too, and he also understood that everybody couldn’t be the same, everybody had to be true to his (or her) own personality (which didn’t mean he didn’t exchange ideas, but he never did it in a self-righteous manner). Now I will conclude by saying that in this same cathedral (St John The Divine), I and Allen Ginsberg, (amongst many others), took part in the ceremony after Bill Kunstler’s death – and I was up in that one [points to one part of the cathedral] and he was up in another (points to another] so we had to sit on opposite sides, but afterwards he came down and he crossed over to where I was sitting and we took in the rest (of the program) together. And it was that time that he told me that he did not have long to live – and it hit me, you know, Kunstler’s death, and now Allen’s, so you put them together, and it was really quite a transforming, emotional experience. But after that, I did see him a few times when he spoke at a college, or when he read his poetry, and I was amazed at how well he did, considering he knew that he only had a short time to live. So I’m so glad that we’re all here to honor and praise Allen Ginsberg who was such a wonderful example for all of us including me, thank you

To conclude with a poem/testament by Dellinger (quoted by Greg Guma):

I love everyone,
even those who
disagree with me.
I love everyone,
even those who
agree with me.
I love everyone,
rich and poor,
and I love everyone
of different races,
including people
who are indigenous,
wherever they live,
in this country
or elsewhere.
I love everyone,
whatever religion they are,
and atheists too.
People who contemplate,
wherever it leads them.
I love everyone,
both in my heart
and in my daily life.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday's Weekly Round-Up 37

[photo from The Garden of Forking Paths Outdoor Sculpture Project. Part 2.
series - by Didier ]

International edition. Images of Allen, right now, adorn a patch of bucolic woodland in rural Switzerland - The Garden of Forking Paths (the title is, of course, a Borges-ian steal) - an outdoor sculpture project, instigated by the Migros Museum, on the Blum family estate, in Samstagern, near Zurich, which features Canadian artist, Geoffrey Farmer, and his Ginsberg piece - "The Invisible Worm That Flies In The Night" (the line from Blake, of course). Various photographs of Allen are framed and displayed, mounted on trees in this unlikely setting.

Meanwhile, last weekend, in Trujillo, Peru - "Aullidos; poesia y narrativa" (presented as an hommage to "poeta norteamericano Allen Ginsberg". The event we hear went well. Here is the poster:

Next weekend he's celebrated in Romania

And here's Howl in a distinctive Hungarian (Lazio Foldes, "Hobo", from the Hobo Blues Band's 1987 recording of "Uvoltes")

Did we tell you that a Howl Turkish movie exists? You can watch the whole thing
here, (complete with English sub-titles).

Today, it behooves us to say, marks the 75th anniversary of the poet Federico Garcia Lorca's murder, at the hands of a fascist death squad, 1936, in the early days of the Spanish Civil War.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Deborah Baker - Allen in India

Deborah Baker's A Blue Hand - The Beats in India remains the most comprehensive and most evocative exploration of those times. Here's highlights from the symposium held in New York in 2008 at the Asia Society to celebrate the publication of that book.
And here's an excerpt from a gathering that took place in Mumbai that same year (Deborah Baker speaks on a panel alongside Prabo Parikh, Adil Jussawalla and Jerry Pinto)

 Two reviews from The Hindustan Times may be read here and here. The Calcutta Telegraph reviews the book here. (and interviews the author). IBN (Indian Broadcasting Network) gives a brief video-profile of the book here.
As for American reviews, here's Celia McGee in the New York Times - and here's Wendy Smith in The Chicago Tribune.

Allen's Indian Journals remain, of course, the primary text, but Baker supplemented this, drawing from letters, journals, and memoirs, extensively researching her subject.

A more recent piece of Baker's also comes highly-recommended - For The Sake of The Song ("A tangled tale of Bauls, Beat Poets, Bob Dylan and one woman's effort to preserve the music and stories of West Bengal's wandering minstrels").

Bill Morgan at the end of the Asia Society symposium notes the importance of a later work of Allen's, his poem, September On Jessore Road, written in 1971, after visiting the war-zone and witnessing first-hand the horror of the refugee camps. In many ways (particularly through a moving rendition/interpretation by Bengali singer Moushumi Bhoumik) the piece has become something of an anthem now (a historicized anthem) for Bangladeshi Liberation.

Deborah Baker here provides "the back-story" (one back-story): "It (I have to say) is a terrible poem. (!) Partly because Allen wrote it (not as a poem but) as song lyrics. I heard a number of renditions on cassettes and even his fellow musicians groaned in frustration at his inability to carry a simple tune. Of course, he was completely unfazed. As to the motivation behind it...His intention was to write a song that would make (Bob) Dylan cry. I don't think Allen ever recovered from hearing Dylan the first time he returned from India, he realized immediately that he'd been superseded, that the Beat thing, which he was both haunted and sustained by, was over. In the Scorcese Dylan documentary, he actually bursts into tears describing the moment, and he was in his seventies then. So I have serious questions about his motives in writing that poem. Since Dylan never showed up at the $7000 recording session, I don't think he liked it either, or he saw what Allen was up to. Allen's brother (Eugene) ended up picking up the tab. So that is the backstory" - Baker also goes on to offer some sharp critical comments about John Giorno's "September On Jessore Road" film (footage), picking up on some similarly-voiced concerns by Peter Trachtenberg.

Btw, not sure what $7000 session Deb's referring to, but Dylan did end up playing piano, electric and acoustic guitar on the 1971 Record Plant recording of SoJR. Deb if you're out there, maybe you can clarify.

Baker's web-site provides a remarkable gallery of images of Allen and the Beats in India. That can be accessed here

[Feeding monkey, roof of Brahmin's house wherein we had room overlooking Dasasumedh Ghat for six months December-May 1962-3 (see Indian Journals) -- Temple tops, Ganges river and futher shore below, our balconies 3'd floor below hung over vegatable market on one side, sacred street to Ganges bathing steps other side, monkeys visited and snatched our bananas. (Ginsberg caption.) c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

1961, '62, time goes by, so, pretty much half-a-century ago. Fifty years on and it's an itinerary for the tourist. Those of you planning a "Beat tour" (of India) will be assisted, I guess, by this.