Thursday, May 31, 2012

Walt Whitman's Birthday

Image 013
[Walt Whitman, circa 1863-64, Washington DC - photograph by Alexander Gardner - courtesy the Alderman Library, the University of Virginia, via The Walt Whitman Archive]

"The Good Grey Poet", the immortal Walt Whitman, lurker in supermarkets, was born on this day. Our last year's (2011) birthday-posting has been (surprisingly?) hearteningly, among our most-visited posts (we pray, given his commitment to candor and health, for scholarly pursuit, not for mere prurient interests). That posting included information about the truly remarkable Walt Whitman Archive, whose praises we continue to sing (We "sing the Body Electric"?). That site, we are pleased to report, has been considerably expanded in the past 12 months. Just in the past two months, for example, new Civil War notebooks have been added, along with nearly 450 letters from the Reconstruction years (the complete two-way correspondence from this period will be available in the Fall). The first installment of Whitman's Civil War journalism is also now on-line and available.
Here on the Allen Ginsberg Project we've featured important first-time transcriptions of Allen lecturing on Whitman (in 1975 at Naropa) here. We'll be publishing more such Ginsberg-on-Whitman in the coming months.
Guess we should also mention "the Gay Succession" once again!
Here's Allen's essay from Sulfur (1992) - "Whitman's Influence: A Mountain Too Vast to Be Seen":
"Like Poe, Whitman's breakthru from official conventional nationalist identity to personal self, to subject, subjectivity, to candor of person, sacredness of the unique eccentric curious solitary personal consciousness changed written imaginative conception of the individual around the whole world, and inspired a democratic revolution of mental nature from Leningrad and Paris to Shanghai and Tokyo.
Like Poe, who introduced modern self-consciousness to Baudelaire and Dostoevsky, so Whitman's exposure of a new self of man and woman empowered every particular soul who heard his long-breathed inspiration. "I celebrate myself, and sing myself/ And what I assume you shall assume..."
This expansive person and expanded verse line affected continental literary consciousness by the turn of the century, Emile Verhaeren in Belgian French, Paul Claudel later with extended strophic verse. The Russian Futurists adapted Whitman's bold personism - vide Mayakovsky's "Cloud in Trousers", Blok's "The Twelve", Khlebnikov's vocal experimentation. Perhaps through the French, Japanese and Chinese poets reinvented verse forms and personality of poet - Guo Moruo and Ai Qing [the father of Ai Weiwei - sic] particularly, introduced Whitmanic afflatus and expanded verse line to China by 1919. And Ezra Pound also said "I make a pact with you Walt Whitman" in introducing modernism to American English poetry by World War I - thereby catalyzing renewal of all world poetries. What was Whitman's effect on Italian Futurists? On Marinetti and Ungaretti?
In "Democratic Vistas" Whitman warned that unless American materialism were to be enlightened by some spiritual influence, the United States would turn into "the fabled damned of nations". His spiritual medicine or antidote to poisonous materialism was "adhesiveness", a generous affection between citizens. In his preface to "Leaves of Grass" he prescribed "candor" as the necessary virtue of "poets and orators to come".
The Good Grey Poet's own affections and candor led to the excellent tender erotic verse in the "Calamus" section of "Leaves of Grass", prophesying a gay liberation for American and world literature.
His "Passage to India" predicted a meeting of Eastern and Western thought in our twentieth century, a pragmatic transcendentalism that's come true with the flavor of meditation practice in American poetry as we approach the second millennium's end.
His image of universal transitoriness in "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" has transmitted itself across a century. As the Tibetan lama, the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, remarked, Whitman's writing equals Buddhist sutras in this perception.
"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd", his threnody for Lincoln, salutes Death with romantic vigor equal to his salutation to Life, "Salut au Monde".
And his "Sands at Seventy",[note - "Sands at Seventy" is actually the title of a sequence of poems in the later "Leaves of Grass"] "Good-Bye My Fancy", and "Old Age Echoes" are marvelous short poems of old age, describing with equanimity the "querilities...constipation...whimpering ennui" of body and mind approaching death, signaling farewell, waving goodbye, "garrulous to the very last". These late lesser known poems are among his most vividly appealing , and prefigure the brief clear-eyed sketches of his poetic grandchildren the Imagist and Objectivist poets William Carlos Williams and Charles Reznikoff. Such poems serve as candid models for my own verse to this day."
Happy Birthday, Walt!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Peter Orlovsky (1933-2010)


[Peter Orlovsky, San Francisco, 1955. Photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]







Thinking of Peter Orlovsky. It's been two years to the day since he passed away. Vintage Peter.
Allen's photo above catches the glee and mischievousness in him. Of the two videos that follow, the first, here is from his reading in January 1978 with Steven Hall for New York's PAP (Public Access Poetry), a few months before the publication of his City Lights book, "Clean Asshole Poems and Smiling Vegetable Songs". Following a few short poems from Steven, he begins (approximately two-and-a-half minutes in) with "Frist Poem" (sic), "New York City - Get Your Shit Together" (later, in the book, re-titled "America, Give A Shit!") "Fantasy of My Mother Who's Always on Welfare" (from "Poems from Subway to Work"), "Creedmoor State Mental Hospital Night Shift Look and Mop" and "Let the subway be our greek meeting place" (also from "Poems from Subway to Work"), following this with a brief (typically earnest) discourse on ecology ("what I'm interested in now..") - Peter recommends two books, "Tree Crops" by J.Russell Smith and "The Maple Sugar Book" by Janet Eagleson and Rosemary Hasner. For the second half of his presentation he's joined by Arthur Russell on cello and Steven Hall on guitar for a rousing rendition of "Feeding Them Raspberries To Grow" and, switching to guitar, "You are My Dildo". Two songs not penned by him, "Early in the Morning when the Sun Come up" and "If it wasn't for Dicky" complete the program. Leadbelly's version of the latter song may be accessed here
The second video needs (perhaps) a little apology for sexism (and racism), those (that language, those mores), that cultural insensitivity, was, regrettably, very much of the time - Peter's cavalier use of the term "blacks", and a drunken Gregory (no chance of (no point in) restraining a drunken Gregory!). From the Q & A following the Salem State Kerouac Conference - Gregory Corso comes on first (answering a question about Mardou Fox (Alene Lee), but the pertinent part is, following that, just under three minutes in, when Peter goes on a rant and turns against the rest of the panel - "these people here..they're not going to talk about that, they're not going to dwell on that (Kerouac's smoking and drinking as the drive for his writing), but it's so obvious..").

With that caveat and contextualization, here follows a transcription:

Audience Member (female) : What happened to Mardou Fox? We know Jack's version in the book (The Subterraneans) Could you give us your version now?

GC: Yeah, Mardou Fox is Alene Lee. When I came out of prison, I met Ginsberg and Ginsberg introduced me to Kerouac and (John Clelland) Holmes, and (William) Burroughs, right?. Right, this beautiful black chick (was) wrestling with me, and they were all so serious, because they were writing about it -and I wasn't, and I fucked her. Jack thought I was.. he put me as a sharp man..and thought (that) I did a bad turn, by balling his chick. What happened was, years later, all the girls I have, I offer to Jack, and they don't want him, they want me - so it never worked out, see? - so it was all fucked-up all the way, but I offered her (how dare a man offer a woman to another man! - see, that's where I put myself on the spot - and why shouldn't I ball anybody who wants to ball me?) - he was too moralistic, that's what the Catholicism does, it, Catholicism fucks you up, it always does.. [turns to Peter Orlovsky] - and, Pietro, I wanna tell you something...

PO: Jack really loved the blacks and he often wrote about them. He would have gone down South and lived with a black old grandmother, or a black old..

GC: Oh yeah, because there were no females here. It was that black chick, Mardou Fox..

PO: He loved them in bars, he loved to sit and watch them play musicians, musicians play, he loved them in bars where he could drink and smoke, but when it came to really loving the blacks and going down, like..er..[turns to Allen]..who was the great radical who went down?

AG: Rene, among others


GC: Rennie Davis? I found that he was running with a 14-year-old girl (that Rennie Davis was going with a 14-year-old girl, can you imagine?)

PO: Rennie Davis - and [turning to Allen again] the one, the one who just came back from Hanoi? - Hayden, Tom Hayden. They are examples of young men that went down to the South, trying to help poor black families, whereas Jack, it was just a.. everything he did was to smoke to he could drink and get some more wine, it was true, in San Francisco, when he was writing his Mexico City Blues, it was just writing it so that.. so that he could buy more wine and cigarettes! - and that's the kind of prose story you are going to learn...

GC: I don't think..

PO: You are going to learn as you read Kerouac year after year that he wrote so he could buy wine and hard liquor and cigarettes. And that's what you're going to learn. All this discussion of Kerouac is going to teach you that. And these people here [points to the Salem Jack Kerouac Conference panel] don't want you to talk about that, because some of them like (John Clellon) Holmes and..I've forgotten your name..[Stanley Twardowicz] (but) you like to smoke and drink, but, they're not going to talk about that, they're not going to dwell on this, but it's so obvious, that you people are.. you folks here... with that bottle of whisky there [pointing to (out-of-frame) audience-member(s)], you don't have any of Kerouac's writings, or the pages opened up to talk about Kerouac. You've picked up on the worst thing of Kerouac - cigarettes and alcohol! You don't have any of the writings stretched out because you're really not serious - and you won't understand this until your life has already passed away! - and it's not gonna do you no good then!)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Harry Smith (1923-1991)


[“Harry Smith at kitchen table. 437 East 12th Street. Apt 22, he lived in tiny guest room off to the side of the kitchen, suffered compression fracture of knee, bumped by car on First Avenue corner, so stayed on nine months before moving up to Cooperstown for half a year – still drank two bottles of beer in his room, taped ambient sounds on New York Lower Manhattan with a Sony Pro-Walkman microphone wrapped in towel on outside window ledge, kitchen and front room. Night, June 16, 1988, another stay for several weeks before we both moved to Boulder – Naropa for the summer. There he settled down.” (Ginsberg caption c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

Positively Unreasonable (sic) - the life and work of Harry Smith was recently saluted in Portland, Oregon.

For a fairly comprehensive list of multifarious Harry Smith's links, we'll send you to our posting on the occasion of his birthday last year

As well as this one too - on the anniversary of his death

Allen took a whole slew of pictures of Harry, reasonable enough to call him, even for Allen, something of a photographer's obsession, here are just a few of them.

Happy 89th Birthday, Harry!








Monday, May 28, 2012

Mind, Mouth and Page - Williams continued (11)


[William Carlos Williams, reclining on the roof of the Passaic Central Hospital, 1936 - photo c. Beinecke Library]

AG: We left William Carlos Williams in his kitchen, waiting for the water to freshen at the sink tap at one in the morning, and since then, I've been back to my kitchen, and, for the first time in my life, watched myself wait for the water to freshen at the sink tap, and was getting a great deal of kicks out of that. And in the last lecture (here at Naropa) by (Chogyam) Trungpa (Rinpoche), there was some advice to a fellow-poet here, saying "slow down", make yourself a cup of tea, and watch it while you're making it, don't analyze it, watch it, I mean, observe, watch, watch yourself, watch it slowly - which is what Williams is doing. All sorts of parallel perceptions. So I learned from that phrase of Williams this week to appreciate the water freshening, because I always do wait for the water to get a little colder (unless I'm speedy, and put the glass under the cold water tap and don't wait, (and then) I get a sort of luke-warm drink). So,watch. Mindfulness was producing immediate results, and Williams was affecting this little portion of my life, since I read that poem. Now it was 1 a.m. (or it was late at night) (and) he was alone in the kitchen, in the brilliant gaslight, turning on the kitchen spigot.
Still around his house - "Danse Russe" ( page 148 of the Collected Earlier Poems), one of his greatest poems, which sums up almost all of Walt Whitman in a modern suburban way, and points out how we're all crazy, and how we can accept our craziness as crazy wisdom. The poem is "Danse Russe" (Russian Dance) - So I guess it was such a homely subject that he was dealing with that he gave it a high-faultin' title. [Allen reads "Danse Russe" in its entirety] - "If when my wife is sleeping / and the baby and Kathleen/ are sleeping..." "Who shall say I'm not/ the happy genius of my household?" - It seems to me (that) when he came to a few crucial poems like this, he really went through a change of character, or a precipitation of understanding of himself, a precipitation of self-acceptance and understanding. That self-acceptance with the cranky ("grotesque" is his word here), seeing in himself, looking at himself through the mirror, seeing himself, in one part of his mind, as "grotesque", but with a more sane and broader part of his mind, as Him natural - Himself, nature (with a capital "H")

Student: Also "lonely, lonely" and "happy genius" are really... "I am lonely, lonely", and then the last line, "the happy genius"..

AG: Are what?

Student: Well, I just think it's real amazing..

AG: Yeah

Student: ..to have the transition of the one to the other with no transition.

AG: Well, no, there is a transition. See. "I am lonely.../I was born to be lonely,/ I am best so!". First, it sounds like it's self-pity..

Student: Right.

AG: Then it sounds like great philosophy - "I was born to be lonely". And then it sounds like Vajrayana happiness - "I am best so!". So in those three lines he actually goes through a transition. Of course, he's kidding with the "I am lonely, lonely" self-pity part. So there may be an element of it in there, suggested, but he begins by saying "I am lonely, lonely", and it could be goofy, but it isn't. He brings it out of goofiness by total humor. Anyone can learn from this, because this is something that everyone has done at one time or other, obviously, dance(d) around in their room naked and feel (felt) "grotesque". And he's transformed the feeling of grotesquerie into a feeling of genius. It's also funny - "the happy genius of my household" - the lares and penates, the household gods - like he's his own household god, or his own household genius, or spirit - "the happy genius of my household" - Also, at the beginning, he's still outside himself in perception - "the sun is a flame-white disc/ in silken mists/above shining trees" (which is a terrific rendering of that suburban dawn. He had to get up to go to work in the hospital, I guess, or he got up because he was lonely). Whitmania there.
Back to one of those "characters" (that (T.S.) Eliot liked) - local portraits - "Portrait of A Woman in Bed" (on page 15o, for those who are following with the book - you might as well buy the book and keep it, because it's like a little poetry bible, especially if you have a tendency to write bad poetry, it's an instant cure, if you keep it all your life by your bedside). [Allen reads "Portrait of A Woman in Bed" in its entirety - "There's my things/ drying in the corner:/ that blue skirt/ joined to the grey shirt"..."You could have closed the door/ when you came in;/ do it when you go out,/ I'm tired".

Student: That would make a great blues.

AG: Yeah, it's very near (to the blues form).
So, by this time, we see that he's found his space, found his spot in eternity in Rutherford , New Jersey, accepted his own place. The word "place" in this sense is (Robert) Creeley's. Creeley uses the word "place" to mean what around here in meditation they call "space", making friends with the space around you. Robert Creeley, a student of Williams, uses the term "place" (or used it, in the '50's and '60's) to indicate the familiarity and transformation of nightmare stuck-in-life feelings to mature settled-here-at-home (feelings), alive and at home, and observant of the detail around, not stuck in a thought in your head. So Williams has found his place - Rutherford - and he's found himself (to the extent (that) there is a self). The "grotesque" physician, dancing at night, or in the morning, waving a shirt around his head. Now he begins to consider a little deeper inside. [Allen reads "Smell" in its entirety] - "Oh strong-ridged and deeply hollowed / nose of mine! what will you not be smelling?".."Must you taste everything? Must you know everything?/Must you have a part in everything?" - What he's doing, really, is simply observing the fact that the nose smells everything and that the mind wanders everywhere, or, as he has (it) in the poem about the rain in the trees ["The Trees"], "no part of us untouched". He's sort of registering that as a natural psychological fact, or natural physiological fact, olfactory fact. But it's also, like, a symbol, you could say, for the mind and the mind's curiosity and for human curiosity. But he doesn't have to make an editorial about it. He can leave it where it is, just having said it, because the implication is there, that's clear. I mean, it's not just about his nose, it's about his entire poesy. It's about his whole heart-mind. Of course, there's a little generalization in here, but he sticks to his nose and he sticks to the smell.
And in that he's following an insight, made about maybe ten (or) twenty years earlier, by Ezra Pound. I brought some of Pound's literary criticism along, just to underline what's going on. (I found a notebook that I kept in 1953, '54, '55, when I was writing "Howl", because I was going over with Gordon Ball, a friend, typing up old notebooks) and from an essay called "A Retrospect" (page 97 of Pound's Pavannes and Divisions, his essays on the wanderer's literature, the Provencal literature) - "The natural object is always the adequate symbol" - Quote, unquote - "The natural object is always the adequate symbol" - What made me think of putting this in was when I said. "There's the nose, and the nose is symbolic of course, but it's the adequate symbol" - "The natural object is always the adequate symbol" - You don't have to make a symbol for something, just use the natural object, and the natural process, as is (and it) will convey whatever perception you have because the only way you can have a perception is through natural objects, otherwise it's a thought, otherwise you're not watching, you're analyzing. So poetry is watching the natural object. And the reason you watch the natural object is because it's already the adequate symbol, it's already the poem. You don't have to make a poem on top of it. You don't have to make a symbol on top of it. At least, in Williams' practice you don't.
And for "natural object as the adequate symbol", I thought, at this point, of introducing... (of) taking a small flyer, and comparing what Williams is doing with... We've already been through Williams, all sorts of Williams material - brief, long - but, taking off from the last poem, about the sprig of parsley - "On the grooved drain board/ to one side is/ a glass filled with parsley.."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gospel Noble Truths (more Ginsberg in Olomouc)


Courtesy of David Hrbeck, earlier this year, we featured wonderful footage of Allen reading, in 1993, in a high-school gymnasium in Olomouc, in the Czech Republic (along with an actor, Mikuláš Pánek, reading, eloquently, the Czech translations), "Sunflower Sutra", "Kral Majales", "Kaddish", "Return of Kral Majales". Here's an additional poem from that reading (first in Czech, and then in the English), the wise, profound and deeply moving "Gospel Noble Truths".

Here's another rendition (also from Allen's 1993 Czech tour, this one recorded at the American Cultural Center in Prague)

and here's Kirt Markle's video experimentation on yet another rendition.

Allen's notes (from the 1975 (released in 1983) "First Blues" version - later released on "Holy Soul Jelly Roll"):
"I had the idea of making a country and western song out of Buddhist Dharma. I'd sung it any number of times already, with (Jon) Sholle, with Arthur Russell, and I'd rehearsed it with David Mansfield on the Dylan "Rolling Thunder" tour bus. It's an outline of Three Marks of Existence: suffering, change, and no permanent soul; then the Four Noble Truths: that existence contains suffering, suffering is caused by ignorance, there is an end to ignorance, and the medicine for all that - the fourth truth - is the eightfold path. The latter is right views ("Look at the view", etc), right aspirations, right speech, right action, right labor, right energy, right mindfulness, right meditation, and right samadhi or right state of being. Followed by instructions in sitting, standing, and lying down meditation; followed by a review of the six senses, sight ("Look where you look", etc), sound, smell, taste, touch, and mind ("Think what you think"), then instructions in dying. The only thing I wonder is "Die when you die". Some Buddhists believe in reincarnation. But you still have to die to get there. So it's a short-form summary review of the nut of Buddhism, a little Dharma in pop form.

A very early version is available here (approximately ten minutes in, following an equally early version of "Guru Blues") in a 1976 Naropa reading with Michael McClure.

The poem/song is also featured on the soundtrack in the concluding moments of Costanzo Allione's 1978 "Fried Shoes and Cooked Diamonds".

and here's Anne Waldman, Steven Taylor and Tyler Burba with a posthumous version recorded in New York, at the Living Theater, in 2008)

"Born in this world/you got to suffer/Everything changes/You got no soul./ Try to be gay/Ignorant happy/You get the blues/You eat jellyroll..."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Robert Kuperberg's Le Retour de la Beat Generation


Last weekend we had an Italian contextualizing, this weekend, it's a French contextualizing (via the US), Robert Kuperberg's 2011 documentary, "Le Retour de la Beat Generation" has some (arguably) dubious "Beat" personages (Peter Fonda on Easy Rider?), it also has Gerald Nicosia (author of "Memory Babe - A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac"), Elisabeth Guigou (socialist, and author of "La Beat Generation et son influence sur la Societe Americaine" (The Beat Generation and its influence on American Society"), not to mention, Craig Detweiler (identified as "Professeur Cinema, [at the Christian-based (sic)] Université Pepperdime" (Pepperdime University in Malibu) - it's he that drives the essentially filmic focus of this doc), Jerome Savary, Lee Purcell...
"Dans l'Amérique conservatrice des années 50, entre guerre Froide, Maccarthysme et ségrégation raciale, un petit groupe de poètes, dont la figure emblématique s'appelle Jack Kerouac, donne naissance à un formidable mouvement qui va profondément bouleverser la culture et la société américaine..." (In the conservative America of the 1950's, between the Cold War, McCarthyism and racial segregation, a small group of poets, of whom the key figure was Jack Kerouac, gave birth to a powerful movement that would profoundly disturb and change American society and culture..).
Great '50's "B-movie" moments (several "A-movies" heros too - Marlon Brando, Paul Newman..)
Not a profound study of the subject, but an amusing (and well-made) divertissement.
It too cuts out just before its actual end. Enjoy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday's Weekly Round-Up 75

On The Road's Cannes debut has to be the lead news. Here's a link to a copy of the press packet. Here's the AP wire story. Here's Steve Chagollan's interesting background article for The New York Times. Joan Dupont also reports on the movie for the Times - and Manohola Dargis, on their blog, provides an early, (not entirely unsympathetic), review. Carlo Marx, Allen's character, she observes, is "played with energy and heavy glasses, by the pretty, deeply un-Ginsbergian British actor, Tom Sturridge".

The curmudgeonly British reviews, noted earlier, continue - with this one, from Kaleem Aftab in the London Independent. "Not that the film is boring. It's just very safe", he writes - and - (surely cause for rejoicing, no?) - "It's a lyrical and literal adaptation and cannot be faulted for its faithfulness to the novel" (a sentiment shared by Kerouac aficionado, Jerry Cimino, who sums it up with the headline "On The Road - Delivers!" - ("(The) On The Road movie adaptation delivers, for novices, for fans, and for those who lived it!..Rest easy, my friends. If you're like me, you're going to absolutely love this movie. These filmmakers got it right. They are kindred spirits in the story of the Beats. Kerouac fans will be proud.").

One Kerouac fan is French personality and philosophe, Bernard-Henry Levy. His piece, "Kerouac at the Cinema" may be read here.

For further Kerouac reflections, check out our postings from the first (1973) Jack Kerouac Conference here and here

Our good friends at Dangerous Minds have constructed a contest (why didn't we think of this?!). Prize is a Presspop Ginsberg figurine. All you have to do is provide a suitable caption for this photo of Allen (with Joe Strummer and Mick Jones of The Clash). The contest runs through the weekend and the winner will be announced Tuesday, May 29. To enter the contest, you must first be following Dangerous Minds on Twitter or Facebook.

William Hjortsberg's biography of Richard Brautigan (that we mentioned some weeks ago) was recently reviewed in the New York Times ("Allen Ginsberg didn't like Brautigan nicknaming him "Frood", we're informed - well, who would?)

Here's an interesting article on Timothy Leary (and Richard Alpert)'s historic shenanigans at Harvard (in the suitably local Harvard Crimson)

Tom Sturridge's Ginsberg (Carlo Marx), cinematically, takes the lions share of the news, but we haven't forgotten Daniel Radcliffe, have we. This is him discussing his Ginsberg in Maxim: "I'm playing him the youngest that anybody's ever played him before, and I think this is about a period in his life that people aren't particularly familiar with. For me, it was about capturing the essence of the man that I saw and read about. I think he was somebody who was full of life and curiosity and enthusiasm and a huge amount of pain and sadness. Really that was what I tried to bring in and also a longing to be something more than what he is. That's what I think my Ginsberg will be"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bob Dylan's Birthday





Allen Ginsberg, Roger McGuinn, Bob Dylan, and friends at Allen's East 12th Street apartment, October 15, 1975 - photo c. Gerard Malanga]

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan! Allen's hero, Bob Dylan. Revisit some of our previous Dylan posts,
starting with our last year's birthday-blast (well, of course, it just had to start with that video for Subterranean Homesick Blues!) - And check out our portfolio of these pictures of the two of them together - and then there's also the maverick compositions, composition one and composition two. Regretfully, we can no longer show you Renaldo and Clara (tho' we can tell you a few things about it).
Here's a link to Sean Wilentz's important essay, "Bob Dylan, The Beat Generation and Allen Ginsberg's America".
For all your other Dylan needs (well, at least a good many of them), we enthusiastically send you off to the incomparable Expecting Rain.
[Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, outside of Albert Grossman's house in Woodstock, 1964 - photo by Douglas Gilbert]

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On The Road (Cannes Reviews)

[Sam Riley - Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac) & Tom Sturridge - Carlo Marx (Allen Ginsberg) in Walter Salles' On The Road]

Walter Salles' On the Road movie premiered last night and the first reviews are starting to come in. The commonly-held view is that it doesn't disappoint, but then neither does it set you on fire with that transcendental "Beat" energy, (corollary how could it? how is it possible to duplicate the book?), here's Justin Chang in Variety:
"A classic novel's long journey to the big screen comes to a gratifying but not exactly triumphant end with "On the Road", a handsome visual companion to Jack Kerouac's Beat Generation touchstone that seems unlikely to occupy a place of similar resonance in the hearts and minds of those who see it. Evocatively lensed, skillfully made and duly attentive to the mercurial qualities of its daunting source material, Walter Salles' picture pulses with youthful energy but feels overly calculated in its bid for spontaneity, attesting to the difficulty and perhaps futility of trying to reproduce Kerouac's literary lightning onscreen."
"Making a screen version of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" has been an elusive fantasy for numerous filmmakers in the 55 years since the Beat classic was published. Brazilian director, Walter Salles, the man who finally got to realize the dream has done a respectable job of it, and at moments better than that, though the film rarely bursts out to provide the sort of heady pleasures it depicts." - McCarthy goes on to declare his less-than-satisfactory opinion of "the windy ramblings of the Allen Ginsberg equivalent Carlo Marx" (is he referring to the script here or the acting? - Owen Gleiberman in his review in Entertainment Weekly is a little more generous, referring to "the film's Allen Ginsberg character played by Tom Sturridge with a postwar-Walt-Whitman-in-New-York boyish sweetness").
French reviews have been mostly up-beat.
Across the pond, in England, however, the critics have been a tad more skeptical. Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian picks up a note of (unintentional?) narcissism - "a good-looking but directionless and self-adoring road movie", he calls it. Derek Malcolm, in the London Evening Standard, "damns it with faint praise" ("In many ways a pleasing film, the drama seems muted..")
Here's the review from Indiewire, from FSR (Film School Rejects)... We'll be featuring more reviews of "On the Road" in the days ahead.

A Hole In My Knee Pants - 1975 NAROPA Class Improvisation



We've featured two of these before ("Death is..." and "Marijuana makes", here's a third -compositional roll-calls, (NAROPA) class collaborations. This particular one dates from July 28, 1975.

AG: If you're not on the roll, see me after (the class). If you are on the roll, answer. Just fill out (complete) the sentence - "A hole in the pants at my knees..","A hole in the pants at my knees..", No, it's not [Allen corrects himself] - "A hole in my knee pants..." And you can fill it out any way you want. Like -"A hole in my knee pants makes my head feel it's full of oatmeal".

Student: A hole in my knee pants?

AG: A hole in your knee pants.

Student: A hole in my knee pants makes you cold.

AG: A hole in your knee pants is covered with flower print patches.

Student: Right.

Student: A hole in my knee pants makes me take a tea stance, waiting for Bonnie to patch 'em.

AG: Makes you "take a tea stance, waiting for Bonnie to patch 'em"?

Student: Right.

Student: A hole in my knee pants lets me see my pretty bony knees.

AG: So you see your pretty bony knee - that's pretty good.

Student: A hole in my knee pants is a hole..

AG: What?

Student: A hole from my knee pants is a hole from falling out of trees.

AG: "A hole from falling out of trees"? So that's pretty literal. "A hole in my knee pants fell out of trees"?

Student: A hole in my knee pants explains why I have no knees

AG: "A hole in my knee pants explains why I have no knees"

Student: A hole in my knee pants makes my pants feel like a chimney during the winter.

AG: Makes your pants feel like a chimney during the winter?

Student: A hole in my knee pants is a chance for decoration.

AG: What?

Student: A hole in my knee pants is a chance for decoration.

AG: "Is a chance for decoration"? Well, hop it up a bit, "tantric decoration", or something..

Student: A hole in my knee pants reminds me of cold Canadian air.

AG: "Reminds me of cold Canadian air"

Student: A hole in my knee pants makes a kaleidoscope of hair.

AG: "Makes a kaleidoscope of hair"?

Student: A hole in my knee pants somewhere, someplace, in the future

AG: "A hole in my knee pants somewhere, someplace, in the future". Okay.

Student: A cigarette burn, perhaps?

AG: Huh?

Student: A cigarette burn perhaps.

AG: "Somewhere someplace, in the future, a cigarette burn, perhaps?"

Student: A whole in my knee pants, rememberance of Gregory.

AG: "A whole in my knee pants, rememberance of Gregory". Incidentally, Gregory Corso is in San Francisco.

Student: A hole in my knee pants. I wonder if anyone knows this.

AG: "I wonder if anyone knows this".

Student: A hole in my knee pants is better than two in the bush.

AG: "A hole in my knee pants is better than two in the bush?" Right on. Richard B Weary [student's name?], fill in the hole.

Student: A hole in my knee pants because birds have plucked it

AG: "A hole in my knee pants"?

Student: Because birds have plucked it.

AG: Well, now. Finish a regular sentence. "A hole in my knee pants is because..

Student: Yeah

AG: You want to put an "is" in there

Student: Yes

AG: Or not?

Student: Dash?

AG; Okay. "A hole in my knee pants - birds have plucked it. Richard Waring? [calls to the student]

Student [Richard Waring]: That was me.

AG: Oh, that was you? There's a hole in my head.

Student: A hole in my knee pants is not material.

AG: "A hole in my knee pants is not material"?

Student: A hole in my knee pants is embarrassing.

AG: That's too abstract. Who does it embarrass?

Student: It embarrasses my mother.

AG: "A hole in my knee pants embarrasses my mother". "A hole in my knee pants..."

Student: A hole in my knee pants is immaterial

AG "Is immaterial"? Didn't someone say that already?

Student: - Non-material.

AG: Is non-material. Is immaterial.

Student: Okay, "A hole in my knee pants for air down there".

AG: Okay. But remember, it's like a poem. So we're trying to get each line a complete thing. "For air down there"? It might have a verb, you might throw a verb in, unless you want to put a dash - "A hole in my knee pants - for air down there". Visualize what you're doing, as if it's written on a page, too. [Allen addresses the next student] Larry Leahy, "A hole in my knee pants..."

Student [Larry Leahy]: ..means nothing at all to me.

AG: Larry Leahy, [recalling a previous class collaboration] "Marijuana makes...?"

Student [Larry Leahy]: My knee pants sprout holes.

Student: "Marijuana makes.." "Marijuana makes me broke"

AG [continuing] - Kay Waldo? - "A hole in my knee pants..."?

Student [Kay Waldo] - A hole in my knee pants like a sunflower desperado

AG: Dash? - " - like a sunflower desperado". Okay, that's not bad. "Robs banks like a sunflower desperado". Gotta get a verb in there.

Student: A hole in my knee pants is like a lost weak caboose

AG: "A lost weak caboose"?

Student: Yeah

AG [calling to student] - Tom McGee? - where are you Tom McGee?

Student: [Tom McGee] - A hole in my knee pants lets my spirit wander

Student: A hole in my knee pants begs to be detached from the whole W-H-O-L-E.

AG: Now we gotta get one (from you) that you haven't written down. Tom Savage [calls to his student] - "A hole in my knee pants...

Student: [Tom Savage] - A hole in my knee pants I got from a sniper in New York City.

AG: Okay. "- I got it from a sniper in New York City". Anybody I missed? Anybody didn't get a chance to have a hole in his knee pants?

Student: A hole in my knee pants makes me able to see.

AG: Makes you able to see? That don't make sense. You failed. Are you registered in this class? What's your name.

Student: Alex Dunne.

AG: Alex?

Student: Dunne D-U-N-N-E

AG: D-U-N-N-E - I guess I don't have it written down that's why.

Student [Alex Dunne]: I was too late.

AG: Okay, D-U-N-N-E. You passed then. If you registered - "Makes me see" - See what?
Student: Outside.

AG: Too vague. What do you see? I'm just saying to fill in the line to make it interesting - "Makes me see.. microphones"?

Student: [Alex Dunne] - Makes me see my shoes.

AG: Makes me see my shoes, Makes me see....?

Student: Makes me see other knees

AG: Okay, "The hole in my pants makes me see other knees". [Allen moves on to other matters] - Those who didn't get a questionnaire, ask for one at the next class.

Student: You've forgotten me.

AG: Oh.

Student: My knee-cap, it's ok, the microphone.. "Makes me want to (scrape?) my knee...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Allen Ginsberg at SGWU (Montreal) 1969 (Angkor Wat)

[cover of Allen Ginsberg's Angkor Wat, Fulcrum Press, London, 1968]

Yesterday, we drew your attention to Robert Creeley's 1967 reading at SGWU (Sir George Williams University, Montreal), today we spotlight Allen's 1969 reading from that location (introduced by George Bowering), notable, not the least, for a renditon of the important "middle-sized" poem (to give Allen's reductive description of it), "Angkor Wat" ("I haven't read it through but once before" (he declares). "What it is, is notations taken down in the course of one night in Cambodia, in Siem Reap, which is outside of Angkor Wat, a town outside of the ruins"). He follows this with a short poem, "Understand That This is a Dream", which he wrote in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), the week prior to that.
The remainder of the reading is a performance of Blake Songs - "Introduction (Songs of Innocence)", "The Shepherd", "The Echoing Green", "The Little Boy Lost", "The Little Boy Found", "The Blossom", "Introduction (Songs of Experience)", "The Voice of the Ancient Bard" and "The Laughing Song".
The reading begins with a Hare Krishna chant (erroneously noted on the SGWU transcript as "lead singer unknown" - that lead singer is surely Allen?).

Lars Movin's "video notebook" on the poem (with sections of the poem read by Lawrence Weiner) is also well-worth finding. A transcript from that video evocation is available here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Robert Creeley (1926-2005)


Master poet, Robert Creeley would have been 86 years old today. The above clip (from a 2005 reading in New York at the Cue Gallery) gives some brief sampling of his poignant lyric beauty (video of the entire reading can be accessed here). The gathering of Creeley materials at PennSound really is state-of-the-art (but we should also draw your attention to our own set of Creeley links here).

The Creeley papers (1950-1997) are in safe-keeping (as with Allen's) at Stanford University. The Creeley library (or, at least, a substantial section of it) was recently purchased by the University of Notre Dame (through the intervention of Stephen Fredman, co-editor (with Steve McCaffery) of Form, Power and Person in Robert Creeley's Life and Work, and, currently, a full-time professor of English there).

The Robert Creeley Award (amongst past winners, Grace Paley, John Ashbery and Gary Snyder) continues to be administered by the Robert Creeley Foundation in his home-town in Acton (Mass.) Winner for 2012 was Thomas Lux.

We leave you with a vintage Creeley recording (only recently put on-line), his 1967 reading at SGWU (Montreal) with an introduction by his long-time friend Irving Layton.

Fondly remembering you, Bob

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Beniamino Placido on The Beat Generation (Italian tv - 1980)


Beniamino Placido in Italian (non-Italian speakers be forewarned) - a t.v. presentation from 1980 (from RAI, from Italian television). The first nine minutes sociological background may seem odd, dry - the benign scholarly Placido? (Norman Rockwell? Harry Truman? "God, Mom and Apple Pie"? (he inscribes this, somewhat surreally, on a blackboard that emerges, at the opportune moment, at his side) - but wait! - from approximately nine minutes in, it livens up.
Fernanda Pivano interviews Allen on first meeting Jack Kerouac. This is followed by priceless footage of Herbert Huncke traveling through a bombed-out '70's New York, followed by Billie Holiday singing plaintively over footage of seedy bar-culture. Sixteen (approximately) sixteen minutes in, Gregory Corso (again interviewed by Fernanda Pivano) speaks about the Bomb. Cosimo Cinieri is seen enacting Corso's famous poem. Following more observations from Placido, this first segment concludes with another rare interviewee - Philip Lamantia

It continues here.
Part two takes up with Lamantia and more sociology (General MacArthur? Joseph McCarthy?) - more vintage New York footage ( in a police precinct) - Three-and-a-half minutes in (approximately three-and-a-half minutes in), Fernanda Pivano interviews Diane di Prima (followed by rousing footage of Diane reading from her "Revolutionary Letters". Approximately six minutes in, Placido turns to "Howl" (linking it to be-bop and to action painting - this time he brandishes a saxophone as another of his surreal props!) - Allen's voice is heard reading from an LP recording of the poem, before fusing into a somewhat over-the-top reading of the poem in Italian (by Cinieri?) (footage, at this point is, rather wonderfully, of the interior of the old East Village (St Marks Place) apartment of the poets Alice Notley and Ted Berrigan, plus footage of shopping malls (under the World Trade Center?) and subways) - Eleven minutes in, Fernanda Pivano returns, interviewing Allen about his literary heros (Allen cites several of them, Celine, William Carlos Williams, Burroughs, Blake, Whitman, Thomas Wolfe).

and the third and final segment of the program, (it breaks off, it's not quite the conclusion), is here.
Placido begins by displaying the Sears-Roebuck catalog - cites Arthur Miller's Death of A Salesman - Two-and-a-half minutes in, footage from "Pull My Daisy" (with Jack Kerouac voice-over) - Placido cites Herman Melville's "Bartleby The Scrivener" - Six-and-a-half minutes in, Seymour Krim filmed talking about Melville and movement - road footage (against a reading from Fernanda Pivano's "Beat Hippie Yippie" - (Approximately) eight-and-a-half minutes in, Fernanda Pivano interviews Anne Waldman and Ted Berrigan - Placido climbs a ladder and tosses books from his library - Neal Cassady (a reading, in Italian, from "Visions of Cody". (Approximately) twelve minutes in, Fernanda Pivano interviews Allen about Cassady - (At) thirteen-and-a-half minutes in, Allen gives a reading of his poem, "The Green Automobile" - morphs once again into (Cinieri's?) overly theatrical Italian (footage is classic American road imagery) - (Approximately) seventeen minutes in, Fernanda Pivano interviews Gregory Corso, (followed by neon night scenes and a reading from "On The Road", in Italian) - Placido again - Dwight Eisenhower ("I Like Ike") - Felix Guattari and Gilles Deluze - "Anti-Oedipus" ( section read against imagery of cattle and cowboys on a cattle ranch) - Fernando Pivano continues interviewing Gregory Corso - film ends suddenly and abruptly (cut short).

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday's Weekly Round-Up 74

["Howl" wrap skirt from Los Angeles designer, Debbie Talanin, 2012]

We led off a couple of weeks back with the Allen Ginsberg poster paper dress. So here, to follow it up, is the meticulously-designed "Howl" wrap skirt! Wear-able Ginsberg!
(In that case, guess we also have to also mention, the "Howl" t-shirt, "Howl" baseball cap, and "Howl" "Onesie" (sic!) from here, and Ginsberg merchandise from here and here, ("limited availability", like they say) - and we still really can't bring ourselves to countenance this site!).

The second episode of Marc Olmsted's memoirs/memories of Allen has just appeared - Marc as film-maker (the first, you recall, had him and Allen as punk rock stars). This second episode details the making of his short film, American Mutant (made at Naropa, circa 1978, and featuring guest-appearances by Allen and Burroughs and Timothy Leary). The film may be viewed in its entirety here.

Dylan-ologist Michael Grey sets his sights on Gordon Ball's book, East Hill Farm ("I enjoyed it immensely..What makes this so useful is the detail..It's essential reading")

and here's a belated review of Burroughs' Letters by Benjamin Eastham from the London
Spectator

The new (15-year anniversary) Big Bridge is just out, featuring all manner of goodies. including excerpts from Philip Whalen's Journals (compiled by Brian Unger) here.

And finally, the On The Road movie. We continue the countdown.
Et, en francais, director Walter Salles was recently interviewed about it on French television - here.

Carlo Marx? - remember Tom Sturridge dutifully prepping for the part.

Film opens this coming Wednesday


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lost and Found Series 3 (Wieners & Rumaker on Ginsberg)


CUNY's extraordinary Lost and Found series (that we've previously reported on here) has just released its third series of booklets. This new batch of titles consists of the following - Edward Dorn's Charles Olson Memorial Lectures (from 1981), Diane Di Prima's Charles Olson Memorial Lecture (from 1985), Poetry, Politics and Friendship in the Spanish Civil War - Langston Hughes, Nancy Cunard, and Louise Thompson (letters), Homemade Poems (a Lorine Niedecker facsimile), Selected Letters of Michael Rumaker, Letters To And From Joanne Kyger, and The Selected Correspondence of John Wieners and Charles Olson (the latter, in two sections, making up two small volumes).
From the second volume, this intriguingly candid appraisal of Allen and Gregory in October of 1959 (Allen deep in the heart of his post "Howl" fame, and with "Kaddish" significantly done) - John Wieners: "Yesterday dinner, spontaneous with Ginsberg and Corso on East 2nd [NYC] First time I had caviar. There the 3 of us sat. The Russian Jew, the Italian and the Irish. Spent until 5 a.m. with Ginsberg.
What to say? He wants to make it. Not only on the crest but always. Showed me 75 clippings from Chicago. I said "Is this how you treat visiting poets?" Read as far as I could into his long mother poem [sic] (60 pages) typewritten, single spaced. Interesting to me because of the paranoia of his mother. Her actions I know and have lived to some small degree. At least her terror, "The dropping of the mind on the page". This phrase I most remember. But it's this lack of the original which ultimately bars him. Bores me.
I mean all poets inhabit he instant-eous the immediate but we all we beat suffer from the lack of joy, inability to lift above ourselves.
He carries a weight with him, even tho he moves with delicate lightness, walking down the stairs. Spring. That twist which shows.
I sense none or little of the excitement I have with you [Charles Olson]. Or (Robert) Duncan say. Or Mike Rumaker even who is better. In violent ward at Bellevue
Ward 07
1st Ave & 30th St.
tho most calm himself and realizing this too must pass. The void. He will get out and be alright. On his own terms. As Allen will not. There is a challenge in him. Like Beat me or Accept me. When I would rather it was
Let's watch it
Happen between us
There is generosity and mobility in both, in their lives. But they are hooked on their own lives. I mean you said it
Personal history is a bore
Or something like that. Inability to grasp the whole situation. Or rather only to see my side of it. Rather than that other side, which is the mysterious, the unknown, and un-
conscious. How lovely it plays when it does in our lives. And juggles events. And shakes us by
the roots of our tune to the moving of the
un-
iverse.
But there's a poetry in their lives and they allow that to lead them. Corso the quickest to grasp the exotic, the weird violent. Still a slum kid being wacked on the ass for what he didn't do.
Showed us his tunnels and mansions around Wash. Square Park where he grew up. But on the wrong side of the tracks. Lower east side, I think. Ginsberg more aware both his parents school teachers. Corso The trickster. But more spontaneously kind.
Sentiment.
On my part. For the dirty undershirts. And the frenzy. And that we gotta make it somehow anyhow, anyway we can and this is it. And why not.
Ginsberg pretends a nihilism that all is nothing. And has no meaning. We live in illusion. Reality is this. We only think we exist.
And when I said
Everything has meaning
I don't think he believed it. That it's only a cartoon with a Woody WoodPecker laugh at the end. "A huge laughing bowl". His prosody which he is most concerned about, I mean his thoughts about it are all acquired...
Ginsberg can pour soup in his ear but it does not have the same power as your hand on Betty's knee.
The real vs sur-real...."
A more generous assessment comes in the Michael Rumaker volume.
[to Joanne Kyger, July 28, 1958] - "I met Allen Ginsberg last night. He came over with a friend, Peter Orlovsky, and we had a very pleasant time. He's not at all wild and is in fact a little shy. We had an agreeable good-humored talk about everything from San Francisco to Zen. He wasn't at all put out by my critique on Howl in the Black M[oun]t[ain]n Review but said it was the "only intelligent" one he'd seen and although he had differences with it he was actually very pleased. He's had kidney stones and drank about a gallon of lemonade and orange juice while he was here. (Peter and I helped). He said he liked my stories very much but informed me that Kerouac thought I "erased too much" - that's a hot one! If he only knew I barely rewrite anything and the only erasing I do is when I misspell a word. Lord, I usually write all my stories ass backwards and am not at all as "studied" as he (Kerouac) thinks".
And this from the Kyger volume (circa Christmas of 1959) - "I met Jack Kerouac and he was drunk all the time, but then so was I so we think each other beautiful and know in our hearts we are beastly and viciously egotistic."
Joanne's book is a gem, but then they are all remarkable books.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Walter Salles' On The Road (Preview)


Cannes Film Festival starts today..and Walter Salles' eagerly-anticipated On The Road movie gets its premier there, in that prestigious location, this time next week (Wednesday May 21st). For further information and regular updates see here.
Stephen Galloway's background piece on the movie for The Hollywood Reporter may be read here, Steve Chagollan's (for Variety) here.
Interestingly, one of the earliest reviews (the earliest review?) and a positive one at that (alongside an hours-minutes-and-seconds "countdown clock" ticking down to the opening!) can be seen here.

In conjunction with the movie premier, the legendary On The Road scroll will be on display, in Le Musee des Lettres et Manuscrits (the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts), in Paris, for the next three months (under the more-than-capable watch of conservator, Jim Canary (an interview with him can be seen here - and an interview with his boss, the scroll's owner, Indianapolis Colts football-team owner, Jim Irsay, can be seen here).
Here's the scroll just recently unrolled in Paris
pic.twitter.com/2zhQfWXM
[On The Road scroll at Le Musee Des Lettres et Manuscrits in Paris - photograph - Charles Gilibert]

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Richard Avedon (1923-2004)

["Richard Avedon, his studio, September 1984. Twenty years earlier he'd taken classic portrait of Peter Orlovsky and me naked, arms around each others' waists. He invited us back to pose the same, older I brought my camera too". (Ginsberg caption) c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

Richard Avedon, classic American portrait photographer, was born on this day, May 15, in 1923 (he died in October of 2004). We take the occasion of the current major select retrospective at the Gagosian Gallery to salute him and salute the Ginsberg-Avedon relationship.


(The following excerpts from Richard Avedon: Murals & Portraits Abrams/Gagosian are entirely by Bob Rubin [copyright] and used with permission.)

"(In 1969) Ginsberg recalled meeting Avedon: "Avedon photographed me when I first went over to his studio...He got interested in photographing me and Peter naked, among some other pictures...Marvin Israel, who designed some albums for Atlantic Records at the time, used one of the Avedon pictures for the cover of a recording of "Kaddish" that Jerry Wexler put out".

[The album he refers to, Allen Ginsberg Reads Kaddish, A 20th Century American Ecstatic Narrative Poem (1966) features an Avedon close-up of the poet's face.]


[Allen Ginsberg Reads Kaddish, A 20th Century American Ecstatic Narrative Poem (1966) Photograph by Richard Avedon c. The Richard Avedon Foundation ]

"A photograph of Ginsberg naked, his left hand covering his groin and arranged in a Buddhist gesture signifying contemplation, his right hand raised palm out in the abhaya mudra, a gesture of reassurance, was published in Nothing Personal, a collaboration between Avedon and James Baldwin, in 1964, opposite an image of George Lincoln Rockwell "stormtrooper" youths in Nazi salute. Another photograph of Ginsberg by Avedon - one of Ginsberg and Orlovsky, his life partner, in naked embrace - was the cover of the August 197o issue of Evergreen Review."


[Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, poets, New York, December 30, 1963. Photograph by Richard Avedon c. The Richard Avedon Foundation]


"To the extent possible in that pre-Internet age, these images, particularly the one of Ginsberg and Orlovsky - were circulated virally within The Movement, especially within the gay underground. Ginsberg would later refer to the Evergreen image as having "wide use as a sort of pinup". Avedon gave him several copies of the photograph which he distributed with missionary zeal - though he was careful always to ask the photographer's permission for any formal publication.

In 1971 Ginsberg asked Avedon if he could use the image to accompany an interview to be published in Gay Sunshine Collective, and required a new print "without the genitals darkened out" (Whether or not Avedon ever saw the cropped version of his photo from Nothing Personal on the cover of Gay Sunshine is not known). A year later Ginsberg asked Avedon for images again, for possible publication "in other papers affiliated with Gay Liberation movement". In 1980 Ginsberg asked Avedon's permission to use the photo of him and Orlovsky as the frontispiece of his forthcoming book Straight Hearts Delight, an anthology of letters and poems between the two men: "Your photo is straight. That's why it's good. It has the aura of 1890's Tennysonian or Whitman photos, so it would be appropriate as an old-fashioned frontispiece to such literary memoir book (which is) both anthology of our sexual poetries and compilation of unselfconscious letters of '50's and early '60's about love and literature". He also told Avedon he felt that the photo had been defaced on the Evergreen cover, the "dark shadowed at bottom obliterating some portions of body clearer in your prints". Ginsberg's modesty is evident, as always, when he asks for permission to use the photo for his own purposes: "I realize you've been very generous to us over the decades and I don't want to cause you anxiety of decision. If you have very clear plans for an exclusive single shape for your picture don't let my explanation dissuade you". Avedon agreed to Ginsberg's request and the poet sent him a touching bread-and-butter note in the form of a picture postcard of himself and Orlovsky with a handwritten note also scribbled on by Orlovsky..."

Rubin goes on

"Avedon was happily complicit in Ginsberg's shit-stirring. In May 1967, the image of Ginsberg from Nothing Personal figured prominently in a flap over a proposed poetry reading by Ginsberg at Portland State College. Just before the event, the student newspaper published an article claiming that "the school requested and (Ginsberg) complied with a request to behave... with some especial "propriety". The article was accompanied by Avedon's photograph, which so outraged the college's president that he seized the day's run of the paper and suspended the editor. Ginsberg defended the image to the editor of the Portland Oregonian: "There is nothing in the picture to offend, unless one is offended by the sight of a not-quite-naked person, in which case any slick magazine or local newspaper carrying bathing suit or shower soap advertisement might be found offensive but they are not...I am not one to be insulted by my own physical image, especially photographed in the act of making religious hand signs". He denied that his appearance at the school was "an un-American attempt to subvert our tender youth who should be in training to die in Vietnam rather than listen to filthy poetry-readings".

"The following August, Dick Bakken, editor of the magazine Salted Feathers, wrote to Avedon, asking for permission to use the Nothing Personal photo as well as images from the Ginsberg/Orlovsky photo shoot. A far cry from Harpers Bazaar, Salted Feathers was one of those mimeoed "little" magazines that are midwifed on a shoe-string and disappear after a few issues. Bakken decided to go out with a bang after publishing a last issue Ginsberg/Portland, in the form of a book, to include contributions by Ken Kesey (whose bus Ginsberg would shortly board) and to be distributed by poet-publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights Press. In his letter Bakken quotes Ginsberg as saying that Robert Frank thought it one of Avedon's best photos - an encomium Ginsberg would himself repeat on many later occasions. Bakken also mentioned a radio talk show on which Ginsberg and "several old ladies" had discussed the Portland incident" ["Ginsberg/Portland never came to pass. A few issues of Salted Feathers were published between 1964 and 1967, and one final issue in 1975, before the magazine expired definitively"]."

Bob Rubin [copyright] excerpts from Richard Avedon: Murals & Portraits Abrams/Gagosian [copyright] and used with permission.