["Old friend poet-secretary Alan Ansen (who typed manuscript of Naked Lunch in Tangier over a quarter century earlier) visiting from Athens where he expatriates, Henry Geldzahler's back patio, West 9th St. New York City, the afternoon before Francesco Clemente's double vernissage Mary Boone/Leo Castelli Galleries, March 30, 1985." (Ginsberg caption) - photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]
Alan Ansen, born January 23, 1922, poet, playwright, erudite scholar, Beat associate, cosmopolitan, had he lived, would have been 90 years old today.
Allen famously declared him to be "the most delicate hippopotamus of poets".
Commenting on the 1989 Selected Poems, Contact Highs, he noted (and paid hommage to) his "monstrous classical versifications" - "he [Ansen] gets conversational fatness 'into stricter order' by use of weird echosyllabics, polyphony, strict rhymeless pindarics, self-annihilating sestinas, mono-amphisbaenic and echo rhyme, skeltonics, versicals & alcaics, coherent palindromes & such like master eccentricities - a hang up on forms, which, interestingly, pushes academic models beyond polite limits into the area of lunatic personal genius."
Contact Highs, he declared to be "an amazing book with many sad poems."
Ansen, for his part, recalling meeting Allen: "I think I first met Allen at the Chelsea loft of Bill Cannastra, a young, charming, self-destructive drunk, who'd been an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, where he'd met Chester Kallman and (W.H) Auden, and a law student at Harvard. I was Auden's secretary at the time. Allen struck me as intense but attractive in ways intense people so often are not."
More on Alan Ansen on the Empty Mirror page