Monday, January 16, 2012

Gordon Ball's Cherry Valley




[Clockwise starting from upper left: Peter Orlovsky, Denise Mercedes, Julius Orlovsky, Gordon Ball, Allen Ginsberg, Bonnie Bremser (Frazier), Ray Bremser, Gregory Corso c. 1971. photo: Allen De Loach]

East Hill Farm is out. Wanting to spread word on Gordon Ball's new book.

From the publisher's blurb:
"During the late 1960s, when peace, drugs, and free love were direct challenges to conventional society, Allen Ginsberg, treasurer of Committee on Poetry, Inc., funded what he hoped was “a haven for comrades in distress” in rural upstate New York. First described as an uninspiring, dilapidated four-bedroom house with acres of untended land, including the graves of its first residents, East Hill Farm became home to those who sought pastoral enlightenment in the presence of Ginsberg’s brilliance and generosity. A self-declared member of a “ragtag group of urban castoffs” including Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, Herbert Huncke, and the mythic Barbara Rubin, farm manager Ball tends to a non-stop flurry of guests, chores, and emotional outbursts while also making time to sit quietly with Ginsberg and discuss poetry, Kerouac, sex, and America's war in Vietnam. In honest and vivid prose, he (Ball) offers a rare intimate glimpse of the poetic pillar of the Beat Generation as a striving and accessible human being at home on the farm and in the world."
Michael Schumacher, Allen's biographer, writes:
"In writing a memoir about the time he spent managing Allen Ginsberg's farm in upstate New York, Gordon Ball has detailed an important yet often overlooked side of the poet's colorful life. Anecdotally fertile, with a memorable cast of characters, East Hill Farm is informative, entertaining, often very funny, and ultimately important. Allen Ginsberg and Friends live again in these pages."
"I couldn't stop reading East Hill Farm and learning so much of what really went down on that farm in that so crucial period in the lives of the Beats. I visited the farm just twice but wish I had Ball's innocent yet so perceptive eye"
Lesley Wheeler's review is here. Marc Olmsted's review here.

For 28 years Gordon Ball took well over a thousand photographs of Allen and of other members of the Beat Generation. A selection from those photographs may be viewed on his web-site here (a perceptive essay on them, published in Jacket magazine, in 2007, may be read here).
He's also, in addition, an accomplished film-maker (see his memoir, '66 Frames). A DVD of his work, a retrospective, came out in 2010 - sadly, not including his Cherry Valley footage, 1968-1969's "Farm Diary").

His stewardship of the farm was from 1968 to 1971. Here's Elsa Dorfman's classic shot of Allen on his new property. Here's an image of a winter-wrapped Herbert Huncke up there in 1969. Here's a shot of the farm as it looked the following year (the snow, the snow!). Long after he had left the spot, "Bearzimages" (not Gordon) provides haunting super-8 images of the location (to a Pablo Casals sound-track). Here's Allen, comfortable, indoors, ('73?) working at the kitchen table.

Here's a young Gordon (and "the early 70's Allen") working together on editorial projects in New York:

                 [Gordon Ball and Allen Ginsberg, New York City, East 10th Street, circa.1973]

Gordon Ball will be appearing with Bill Morgan at City Lights on Wednesday March 14.

6 comments:

  1. Who owns the farm these days?

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    Replies
    1. It's still belongs to the Committee on Poetry (COP), but the house is in such need of repair, it's impossible to host events or people there, for the time being anyhow.

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  2. As a die hard Whitmaniac and aquaintance of Allen's....what if Cherry Valley were to apply for or the Committee were to apply for National Historic Status for the site and heck....readings and events in more balmy weather could be held there and it could morph into a MacDowell writers colonic sort of vibe? Just saying!

    xxx The Tao Woofwow

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  3. I have been their and would love to come back. need help fix in up let me know will work for free. you walk to the river and you pick your path were you are is because you walked to the river and you pick your path
    peace mike manmuse09@yahoo.com

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  4. Together, Gordon's book and The Selected Letters of Allen and Gary Snyder present the difficult struggle the two poets had in trying to develop rural eco-communities: the problems of paying for upkeep and doing the work, relational problems and psychodramas with community members, and the need to maintain high power reading careers in order to cover costs. Eye-opening side of their careers and aspirations as poets and visionaries.
    Peace
    David Cope

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  5. I was the caretaker at the Committee on Poetry’s “farm” in Cherry Valley between 1987 and 1989. The experience was very rewarding on many levels, especially surviving the harsh winters that were life-threatening at times (temperatures falling to 24 below zero, deep snow, roads impassable, etc.). Gordon knows me.

    Allen was always gracious and kind to me, and I enjoyed our walks and talks when he visited. His deep professorial voice had a calming effect, and I considered myself very fortunate to have been there when I was.

    That was almost twenty-five years ago. I’m now going on 65, and look back on that adventure fondly.

    Will M.

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