Thursday, October 31, 2013

Poe In Dust (Halloween)


From a new year's, 1977 visit to Baltimore, Maryland. Allen's ruminations on Poe, fittingly published today, on Halloween. 


Bones groan maliciously under Baltimore sidewalk

Poe hides his hideous skeleton under churchyard.
Equinoctial worms peep thru his mummy ear
The slug rides his skull, black hair twisted in roots of threadbare grass
Blind mole at heart, caterpillars shudder in his ribcage,
Intestines wound with garter-snakes
midst dry dust, snake eye & gut sifting thru his pelvis
Slimed moss green on his phosphor'd toenails, sole toeing black tombstone -
O prophet Poe well writ! your catacomb cranium chambered
eyeless, secret-hid too in bright-eyed moonlight ev'n under corpse-rich ground
where tread priest, passerby, and poet
staring white-eyed thru barred spiked gates
at viaducts heavy-bound and manacled upon city's heart.
                                                                                                January 10, 1977

[Allen Ginsberg, Fractured Skull. September 22, 1990. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate] 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ezra Pound's Birthday

Above, courtesy the singular trove at Yale's Beinecke Library, a five-dollar cheque written by Ezra Pound to Louis Zukofsky. Today is Ezra Pound's birthday. Our extensive (and popular) 2011 Pound Birthday posting can be accessed here (our last year's, 2012, update can be found here) - "To have gathered from the air a live tradition/or from a fine old eye the unconquered flame/This is not vanity" - "What thou lov'st well, shall not be reft from thee" 

[Lawrence Ferlinghetti on Ezra Pound at Spoleto]

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Made Up in Texas - 2 - (The Garland Symphony Orchestra)

A second cut from Michael Minzer's debut recording on Paris Records, Made Up In Texas. Allen with The Garland Symphony Orchestra, scored and conducted by Steven Taylor, recorded in the Fall of 1985 in Dallas, Texas. "(This) was Allen's test, Minzer has been quoted as saying, "I think he decided that he was going to test see if I was legitimate enough, or had the resources enough to do this thing. I get a phone-call from the music arranger, Steven Taylor. He tells me Allen has agreed to record. Okay..But on one condition. We need thirteen symphony musicians" - A pretty tall order! - But Minzer came up with the goods, was, astonishingly, able to fulfill the request. 
The result is a small masterpiece, a lost gem, an exquisite recording and setting of William Blake's "Nurses Song". 

33 26 Nurse's Song
[Allen's handwritten transcription of "Nurses Song" - Collection of Randy Roark]

Also on the album was Anne Waldman, who's unaccompanied poem, Stereo Place, and whose poem with guitar accompaniment, Bardo Corridor, may be heard here and here.
(A later version of "Bardo Corridor" may be heard here)

Alternative versions of Allen singing the "Nurses Song" may be heard here, here and here

Also on Made Up In Texas - The Reverend Buck Naked with the Farlow Brothers - The Wirehead Conspiracy and Watching Bob on TV  - & Spazbot and Los Mineros.

Ethan Persoff on this extraordinary record - "the LP [it was released as an LP] is essentially a private press outburst from a completely unknown company. The sound is a blend of yokel punk, Mexican love ballads, one goth track, some Church of Bob screaming, and poetry. Listeners at the time likely found it an entertaining but completely incongruous selection"

We're happy to re-present selections from it here. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Made Up in Texas - 1

Here's yet another version of Allen's delightful bitter-sweet Airplane Blues (see our earlier posting about that particular composition here). This one, with Bugs Henderson and Friends, recorded in Dallas, Texas in the Fall of 1985, is one of two cuts by Allen featured on the extraordinary (and extraordinarily hard-to-find!) compilation album, Made Up In Texas, the very first release on Michael Minzer's remarkable and visionary Paris Records
For a later Paris Records project posting (Minzer now in collaboration with producer Hal Willner) see here   
For more on Paris Records see here

Tomorrow, the second Ginsberg track on "Made Up in Texas", a collaboration with the Garland Symphony Orchestra, a setting of Blake, arranged by Steven Taylor,
what one critic has described as "one of the more memorable and distinctive tracks of music (Allen) Ginsberg would ever record"

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed (1942-2013)

[Lou Reed 1942-2013]

The news just reaches us that Lou Reed (only recently featured on these pages), has died, aged 71, from, what the AP wire service is reporting as, "a liver-related ailment" (Reed underwent a liver transplant in May at the Cleveland Clinic . "I am a triumph of modern medicine, physics and chemistry", he confidently boasted on his web-site, following surgery, on June the 1st. "I look forward to being on stage, performing, and writing more songs to connect with your hearts and your spirits and the universe well into the future."
But, as the AP story notes, quoting his literary agent, Andrew Wylie, recovery wasn't easy, prior to his passing this weekend, "Reed had been in frail health for months". Rolling Stone first broke the story late this morning and you can read their report here. Here's the notice from The New York Times, The LA Times , NPR, The Guardian, The Independent the BBC.  More news, of course, to follow.  

Is There A Beat Generation? (Brandeis/NYC 1958)

Jack Kerouac, Lucien Carr and Allen Ginsberg
[Jack Kerouac, Lucien Carr, Allen Ginsberg]

Our thanks to the wonderful Open Culture for alerting us/reminding us of this one, the legendary 1958 discussion at the Brandeis University Club in New York City on the subject  "Is There a Beat Generation?". Joseph Kauffman, Dean of Students at Brandeis University serves as a moderator to a panel consisting of authors, Jack Kerouac and Kingsley Amis, New York Post editor, James Wechsler, and anthropologist, Dr Ashley Montagu.

Kerouac's heart-felt, erratic, passionate drunken talk is, quite simply, priceless. ("The question [Is There a Beat Generation?] is very silly because we should be wondering tonight, Is there a world? - But I could go and talk for five, ten, twenty minutes about Is there a world?, because there is, really, no world, because sometimes I'm walking on the ground and  I can see right through the ground, and there is no world...but you'll find out")

Kerouac goes on, first, reading from a prepared essay on "my relationship to the Beat Generation and all that stuff" ("This article, necessarily, has to be about myself. I'm going all out.."), tells the story of how Gregory Corso provided him with "a silver crucifix" for a now famous photo-op [it's, interestingly, often air-brushed out], days spent "walking talking poetry in the streets, walking talking God in the streets".."Why don't you come back in a million years and tell me all about it, angel?"
Kerouac: "Recently, Ben Hecht said to me on tv, "Why are you afraid to speak out your mind?, What's wrong with this country? What is everybody afraid of?". Was he talking to me? And all he wanted me to do was speak out my mind against people, he sneeringly brought up (John Foster) Dulles, Eisenhower, the Pope, all kinds of people like that, habitually that he would sneer at..against the world, he wanted... this is his idea of freedom, he calls it freedom - but who knows my god that the universe is one vast sea of compassion, actually? a veritable holy honey? beneath all this show of personality and cruelty?.." .. "Why should I attack what I love out of life?  This is deep. Live your lives out? - nah, Love your lives out! - and when they come and stone you, at least you won't have a glass house, just your glassy flesh"
Kerouac recalls early conversations with John Clellon Holmes (author of Go and The Horn - "good book, The Horn"), ("Maybe, since I'm supposed to be "the spokesman for the Beat Generation", I am only the originator of the term.."), speaks of his Breton and mixed ancestry, and traces cultural and personal antecedents - "There is no doubt about the Beat Generation, at least the core of it - being a swinging group of new American men intent on joy. Irresponsibility? Who wouldn't help a dying man on an empty road?"
Towards the end, he recites a poem to Harpo Marx ("Harpo, I'll always love you.."). 
Kerouac: "Since this is a university, we're here to teach, right? Now I don't think I can teach anything to any of you any more than you can teach me because the Lord said that the attainment of Enlightenment is neither to be considered a high state nor a low state, everybody equally attains it, because everybody equally knows, as Allen Ginsberg says, that 'lightning strikes in the blue sky" - see everybody knows that!"
"Anyway, you're all out of your minds, and  I'm out of my mind, and your out of your minds and I'm out of my mind, and doesn't that make it equal, like doesn't that make it void?"
He concludes with "one final poem" ("this poem I dedicate to human suffering and human salvation") -  he reads the 230th Chorus from Mexico City Blues  ("Love's multitudinous boneyard/ of decay/The spilled milk of heroes..")

The other three speakers are, by definition, something of an anti-climax, though all have interesting, if somewhat self-satisfied responses to the topic at hand. Amis -"There may conceivably be a Beat Generation, but I very much doubt it" - The term, he believes, was coined by "literary middlemen", who use a "journalistic approach (to literature) to put people in pigeon-holes and save the reader trouble and exertion". Wechsler famously summons up Kerouac's wrath by declaring, "with due respect to Mr Kerouac", that "I see no really major point in the kind of organized confusion-ism (that he's presented), "life is complicated enough without trying to make it a poem" - "The issue is not whether there is a Beat Generation but whether there is a civilization that will survive the next decade". Wechsler presents his abiding belief in a basic humanism, but provocations like that are going to get him in trouble

[James Wechsler]

Kerouac: ..James Wechsler..who's James Wechsler? Right over there..James Wechsler, you believe in the destruction of America don't you?
Wechsler: No
Kerouac: What do you believe in? Come here, come here and tell me what you believe in. You told me what you don't believe in, I want to know what you do believe in...This is a university, we've got to learn... I believe in love. I vote for love..
Wechsler: I believe in the capacity of the human intelligence to create a world in which there is love, compassion, justice and freedom. I believe in fighting for that kind of world. I think that what you're doing is to try to destroy anybody's instinct to care about this world.
Kerouac: I believe.. I believe in the dove of peace.
Wechsler: So do I.
Kerouac: No you don't. You're fighting with me for the dove of peace. You came here prepared to attack me.
Wechsler's own recollections of the evening can be read here

Ashley Montagu, the final speaker, is in agreement with Wechsler about the dangers of alienated revolt ("too great concern with oneself") but, significantly, more sympathetic to the existence of an actual Beat culture. ("It is not condemnation or contempt that is called for but compassion and understanding..") Beat writing, he sees as a "signal of distress" - "We owe a debt of gratitude to the Beat writers for so forcefully articulating what the less vocal members of this generation feel and think"

from his November 1958 letter to his friend John Montgomery - Jack Kerouac:
"..the other night I finally made my Brandeis University appearance which I didn't want to do but they cried and sent telegrams and said I was letting the university down, so I had to go, but I was angry because it was a mess of communists [sic] and after reading my prepared article about Beat which was very good and funny (Ginsberg said I was "magnificent" which I doubt) I started to call them a bunch of communist shits over the microphone and warning them that if they get what they want, Sovietization of America, they will no longer be able to attend such meetings as we were at. There were boos and cheers. I tangled with James Wechsler and wore his hat and went off the stage and played the piano in the back and insulted photographers and generally acted like a mad drunken fool just off a freight train, which is precisely the way I am and precisely what I think of universities. I even pushed the Dean aside [Dean Kauffman] to yell shit over the mike. A lot of people were shocked. The title of the forum was "Is There A Beat Generation?" and the next day a press dispatch said that I had proved it."

A few months later to Philip Whalen 
"..I've become so decadent and drunk and dontgiveashit. I pulled a big Zen Lunatic shot at Brandeis University that got everybody gabbing and scared, only Allen thought it was great and Dody [Muller], everybody else is screaming at me for undignifying my position, whatever that is. They all think writing is a "profession" that's their trouble. To me it's the day..

This Kerouac talk/performance/reading can also be accessed here (along with a host of other equally-illuminating digitalized recordings).

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Gelek Rinpoche's Birthday

Happy (74th) Birthday Gelek Rinpoche! Allen's guru, Jewel Heart's great teacher. Nikki Appino's film documentary (with music by Philip Glass) is an illuminating introduction (a longer version of the trailer is available here - and more video is available here). 

                                  Jewel Heart Store

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 149

[Allen Ginsberg, Eastside Highshool Paterson NJ 1942 or 43. Ginsberg family photo/c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

[Allen Ginsberg, Mexico, 1954. c Allen Ginsberg Estate]

Jordan Larson in The Atlantic last week on that Beats-on-the-silver-screen phenomenon - “What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Jack Kerouac and The Beat Generation”. Nice to see critical eyes returning to Walter Salles’ labor of love “On The Road” - and Michael Polish’s equally reverential “Big Sur” (not to mention Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s “Howl”, with James Franco’s unforgettable performance). Larson’s primary thesis - “The current Beat revival arguably goes too far with its re-imagination of the Beat writers’ livelihoods as simple adolescent goofing around - its most prominent writers were, after all, well into their grown-up years when they wrote many of their most notable writings. This crop of films diminishes what was so radical about the Beat Generation in the first place: their iconoclastic approach to life, which extended far beyond their twenties and into adulthood proper.…In casting the authors as eternally and fundamentally adolescent, the recent revival tones down their behavior - both revolutionary and repulsive - as a sort of passing teenage phase, something that young people just sort of do. And in that way, the latest cultural reincarnation both nullifies and excuses the behavior of its leaders”. 
For the full text of Larson’s article – see here.

John Krokidas’Kill Your Darlings (there’s just no getting away from it!) continues to get rave reviews (tho' some have argued that it's not getting reviewed enough!) - Cast and crew continue to give interviews. (For just two examples - see here and here)

We don't know how we missed this one (with Krokidas and screenwriter Austin Bunn) for the Poetry Foundation. Herewith some excerpts: 

John Krokidas: "We attacked the research side from all angles. I went out to Stanford University to the Allen Ginsberg archives. What was interesting to me was an account by one of David Kammerer's friends who said Kammerer had been maligned by history and that his relationship with Lucien Carr was much more reciprocal than history had portrayed...What struck me in our research was finding from several sources that David Kammerer gave (W.B.) Yeats to Lucien. He gave Lucien all the books that Lucien in turn passed on to Allen and Jack (Kerouac) and Bill (Burroughs) as the ethos of the "New Vision", the founding principles of what would later become the Beat movement".
Austin Bunn: "In terms of the poetry, we worked hard to create what I think of as seedlings of the writing they'll do. For example, "first thought, best thought". That's very much a Kerouac credo and a Beat credo, and in the film it comes from Lucien Carr" [editor's note, it's original source is, of course, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and the dating comes, significantly, considerably later, tho,' "poetic license" (sic), the film isn't pretending to be a strict factual biography]

Interviewer Andrea Lawlor asks - "Were any poems particularly central to the development of the project?"
Austin Bunn:  Hmmm.. I love talking about this. In high school, my best friend Mac,, the Lucien Carr in my life, gave me a copy of Ginsberg's journals from the 1940's and 1950's. Ginsberg, as many poets are, was a terrific diarist. The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice is really rich and fascinating. You're watching his mind at work. I can remember reading Allen Ginsberg's poetry like a shameful secret I was sharing with this great writer about what it was like to be gay and what it was like to want to be an artist so badly. That poetry got me through my freshman year.

Bunn and Krokidas also speak of constructing a Ginsberg poem
Austin Bunn: "..In the dead center of this film is a first-draft poem by Allen. It's his first yawp in the universe. And it was a challenge? What was the poem going to be? We knew we needed to see him clear his throat and prove that he had the talent Lucien had been looking for. Because that was fact: this Lucien Carr character convinced Ginsberg he had it in him..The first thing we did was to take a real poem, you could say, the first finished poem of Ginsberg's, called "Hymn to the Virgin" ["Thou who art afraid to have me, lest thou lose me"]. We had that in the script, and when it came time for the actors to read it, and for us to really get behind that dramatically, we realized it's just really dense. And it's Ginsberg trying to ape the lyric poets of the 19th Century [of the 17th Century and earlier? - Ed], almost trying to impress [Louis] his dad. Literary accuracy or having the right footnote is a very different thing from cinematic an dramatic power".
John Krokidas: And then the task we had before us, (and I think Austin did a fantastic job on this), was in keeping true to the style of an adolescent Ginsberg poem.
Austin Bunn: You think about Ginsberg, who he became, why we admire him, and it's these confessional aesthetics, it's the American vernacular imported into poetry. It's raw and it's direct. I found myself - and I have to say I really did think to myself, Art gods, forgive me for doing this - putting poetic language into Allen Ginsberg's mouth. Like, my hero. I am writing an Allen Ginsberg poem. Now, to be totally fair, the language that you're hearing in the film is from the early poems of Allen Ginsberg in Martyrdom and Artifice. We combed over those poems and looked for language and perspective and aesthetics for the language that ends up in the poem in the film. You're looking at a pastiche. But we hope, and I believe, that it's more dramatically effective and clear. And emotional." 

Speaking of juvenile poems, Daniel Radcliffe (in case you have forgotten) was (is?) a sincere poetic dabbler himself. He, apparently, scribbled "as many as a hundred poems", while on the Harry Potter set, "an endeavor he now regards, "with a mixture of slight embarrassment and the occasional pride" - "There were lots of romantic poems, not that I showed them to any of my girlfriends. I wouldn't have dared". His reticence extended to their publication. He did let out a few (interestingly, published under the pen name "Jacob Gershon", "cobbled together from his middle name and the Anglicized version of his Jewish mother's maiden name"). Here's one of them.

The above information, from one of the more insightful Radcliffe profiles, in the Jewish Journal
Radcliffe: "The mother relationship is always such a very important one for men, and particularly, it must be said, for Jewish men. The mother was such a strong figurehead in Jewish homes at the time and presumably must have been in the homes of Ginsberg's friends".
Krokidas, in the same article, takes up the point: "Ginsberg, at the time, was the dutiful son taking care of his emotionally ill mother, Naomi, and he was always he good boy. And yet in his journals and inside his own head, he believed he had so much more to offer the world than people assumed. I thought that Daniel Radcliffe the person might identify with that".

Dane DeHaan - "Yeah, also guilty of teenage poems, of trying to achieve naked self-expression". DeHaan, following comments by Radcliffe, takes up the theme of the challenges in playing a "real life" character:
" Yeah, Lucien's a tricky one, because, I think Lucien worked so hard to make sure that this story was never told, and to make sure nobody ever found out about this story at least while he was living, the best he could. So, my responsibility is to honor this person by trying to figure out truthfully who they were at this point in their life, not necessarily how Lucien himself would want himself to be portrayed  in the film but, trying to actually dig to the truth and the facts. And there is.. what's great about playing a real person, like they [the rest of the cast] have already said, like, there's real stuff out there. A lot of the work is kind of done for you, you just have to read it." 
Time, perhaps, once again, to provide a link to Bob Rosenthal's dissenting voice - "Kill Your Darlings purports to be sensitive to the characters but falls into reductive cliches and hurts those who knew and loved these characters. Friends tell me this cannot be helped..but just as art is not allowed to depict boredom in a boring manner, it cannot depict callousness with boxing gloves on."
Speaking of personal memories, here's Randy Roark, from his extensive memories spotlighted here:
"One time I asked Allen about a scroll he had hanging outside his kitchen in Boulder. He told me it's the Prajnaparamitra Sutra - it's known as the Diamond Sutra in English. Then he recited a piece of it in Sanskrit which he then translated, his hands in the air in front of his, as if he is conjuring from a text - "All composed things are like a dream/a phantom/a drop of dew, a flash of lightning". Then to make sure I got it, he acted it out for me. "You know that passage in Kerouac where he's staring into the bakery window, and he's starving and he doesn't have any money? He can see the pastries - they're only separated by a thin sheet of glass he could break if he tried to - but he knows that he will never know those pastries, no matter how hungry or deserving he is. And yet their scent has woken in him a hunger for what he cannot have. The Prajnaparamitra Sutra is a warning to us that that's what human life is like".
"One day I was driving him back from a doctor's appointment and he told me he was going to buy a bike and use it to get around Boulder. His Chinese doctor had encouraged him to get some exercise to rein in his high blood pressure. I laughed out loud. "You don't think I will? You just wait! One day I'll be riding around town and I'll stop by and say hello!". I never saw him ride it but there's a self-portrait he took with his camera attached to that bicycle rack, I think."
"He was very protective and supportive of his stepmother.[Edith] He would call her every weekend, even when he was traveling, and tell her all of the things he'd been up to lately - some international honor, a new book, that he was interviewed in New York magazine or Rolling Stone. And he would ask her about her life and make sure all her needs were taken care of - was she eating well, had she been out, who visited, who wrote, who called? Then he'd catch up on all the family and neighborhood gossip. He would put his feet up on the coffee table and pick at his teeth and talk to her at great length and laugh and joke with her - there was no sense of rush on Allen's part at all, The call would last as long as she wanted it to, and during that time she had his complete attention."
"I loved to watch Allen cook. He would wear a bib that went over his neck and tied around his middle. (Gregory) Corso used to call him "Granny Ginsberg". He made a great baked chicken with whole quartered onions and chopped carrots and celery and whole medium-sized unpeeled potatoes and rosemary and garlic. When he took it out of the oven, it was an entire meal, everything ready at the same time, everything savory from the juices mixing together. And then after dinner he'd make chicken soup with the carcass and whatever was left over. But when Peter (Orlovsky) was there, the kitchen was his. Peter did the shopping, he did the cooking, he did the cleaning, he answered the phone and the door. Allen paid the bills."

[Allen Ginsberg 1996 - Photograph by Giacomo De Stefano from the PCCC Contemporary Art Collection] 

Maria Mazziotti Gillan's memory of Allen Ginsberg's first appearance, "around 1980" at the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College - "I got a note from his agent", Gillan recalls [that would be Bob Rosenthal]. "He wanted a modest bunch of flowers, a "regal chair", a small table next to the chair with a teapot, a certain kind of tea, a certain kind of honey and a cup. And on the other side, a little table for his harmonium (he always played music while he was reading)". When he arrived (in a three-piece charcoal suit instead of the expected dungarees, "He started screaming. The chair was no good for him. He can't sit there. It's bad for his kidneys.. I started trying to make the tea. He started screaming, "You're going to spill it on me!" He was a little bit of a hypochondriac." - But he was "Sharp. Really, very, very intelligent" - "The reason for (his) genius is that he's off-the-wall. He had that Whitman-esque energy. What he did was throw out all the rules". After that first disturbing encounter, he and Gillian made up. He returned to the Poetry Center many times in the ensuing decades.

Late breaking - Austin Rhodes films Dane DeHaan (with stylists and back-beats) reading from "A Footnote To Howl" - here  
("who digs Los Angeles IS Los Angeles")

Thursday, October 24, 2013

1984 Pat Thomas Interview

[Allen Ginsberg with Pat Thomas, Rochester, New York Interview, 1984]

Pat Thomas' interview with Allen, published in 1984, in a little magazine he edited himself called "the Notebook", out of Rochester, New York, deserves an unearthing and a dissemination. Rock n roll Allen. The piece was headed "Allen Ginsberg Speaks on The Clash, King Crimson, Kerouac, The Grateful Dead"

We'll draw your attention also to three early posts on The Allen Ginsberg Project - "Allen Ginsberg Was A Punk Rocker" (parts 1 and 2) here and here, and "More Punk Notes (Hardcore)" - Not forgetting, Simon Warner's magisterial over-view, (500 plus pages!) "Text and Drugs and Rock 'N' Roll". 

Pat Thomas: How did you get together with The Clash?

AG: I went to hear The Clash at Bonds when they had that seventeen-night run, and the guy who used to be sound man at CBGB's [Charlie Martin] was a friend of mine and was their sound man and got me in and invited me back stage and then Joe Strummer said, "Ah, Ginsberg, when are you going to run for President?". I said, "Never. I don't wanna go to diamond hell [vajra hell]". And then he said, "You got a poem to read on-stage?. We had somebody talking lectures about Vietnam and about El Salvador, people threw eggs at him, tomatoes." So I said, "No, (but) I got a song with three chords, you wanna try it here in the dressing room, and then we can do it?". And he said, "Sure".

PT: And that song was?

AG: "Capitol Air", that I sung tonight. We went out and did it, an eleven-stanza version and we knocked that out right and the sound man turned my voice above the instruments, so it was the first thing that was heard that night with real words and so the crowd dug it, and so when they were at Electric Lady (studios) a year later, doing their Combat Rock (album), they invited me to come down, and then when I came in Strummer said, gave me the lyric to "Ghetto Defendant" and said, "You're the greatest poet in America. Can you improve this?" I said, "Gregory Corso is the greatest but I can try"

PT: Did you improvise on Combat Rock?

AG: Yeah, they asked me to get on the mike and sing basso profundo (they wanted the voice of God), and then I started singing Sanskrit, and Mick Jones said, "More Sanskrit!, More Sanskrit!  Then I ran into them again at Red Rocks (in Morrison, Colorado) and sang with them again at Pier 84 (in New York) and sang with them one night there. We're supposed to make a single together, sooner or later, if they stick together [editorial note - this never took place] 

PT: What do you think of their political views?

AG: They're fine. They're alert and active and they're interested. And that's why they were interested in that song.

PT: People have been accusing them of selling out.

AG: Well, what does that mean? It doesn't mean anything. It's like an empty accusation. The wider spread they can get their message the better, I think.

PT: How does the new wave/punk movement relate to (Jack) Kerouac and the Beats  ? 

AG: We were a continuation of the old Bohemian movement - the 'twenties and all that. I think the hippies and then punk and new wave and all that is just a continuation of the old Bohemian movement. Every generation is a little bit wrong, but it's mostly right in trying to break out and start over again, and start at the ground and build something new and just not get smothered by the last generation's solidification of a fresh idea. I think it's great, that's why I was happy to work with them (The Clash)  - [Allen notices the recording-device] - What kind of a machine is that?

PT: It's a recording Walkman, it's about eighty-nine bucks, it's got a really nice sound.

AG: It's nice.

PT: It records in stereo

AG: Records in stereo?

PT: Yeah. Are you familiar with.. have you heard  the King Crimson album, Beat.

AG: Yeah, I did. I didn't think too much of the words,

PT: "Neal and Jack and Me"

AG: Yeah, I didn't think the words were very inspired. I think The Clash's words were. Strummer's a better poet . I thought it was nice King Crimson cared, but on the other hand..who was it?

PT: Adrian Belew actually wrote the lyrics

AG: I didn't think the lyrics were that accurate or inspired. Did you?

PT: I did. I think he's genuinely into Kerouac.

AG: Yeah, but I don't think he got the magical rhetoric. He didn't get the Nazi milk of Kerouac. He didn't get the outrageous purple hippopotamus or something

PT: I was really disappointed by Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band - "Kerouac". Now to me that was really uninspired

AG: I know him (Willie Alexander) from Gloucester. Yeah, it's a littler group. They didn't have a big deal to do. I don't know who did...well, Ramblin' Jack Elliott has a song or two, and so does David Amram

PT: What do you think of the song "Cassady" by Bob Weir?

AG: It's alright, they knew him. Actually, I never heard that until about a year ago. I went to a (Grateful) Dead concert and heard it. I hadn't been to any of their concerts since (19)67, till 1982 or so.

PT: What do you think about the Grateful Dead, the "Deadhead" movement ?

AG: They obviously have a solid communal basis..[pause]..They('ve) last(ed) so long, like a good marriage. That takes stability and sensibility to do.  The bands that I listen to at the moment, X, Dead Kennedys, I heard Black Flag

PT: Are you familiar with The Dream Syndicate?

AG: No, I haven't heard of them.. A little band called Start in Lawrence, Kansas, I sang with.  I recorded with a band called Still Life and (with) The Glu-ons

PT: And you worked with The Black Holes

AG: I worked with The Black Holes and The CD's in Toronto. I worked with The Job in San Francisco, wherever I can I work with somebody. I did meet this guy tonight [his accompanist on acoustic guitar at his Rochester performance], he was great.

PT: He was excellent.

AG: Yes.

PT: Thank you.

AG: Yeah, okay.

PT: Thank you very much.

AG: Yeah, I got to get my coat...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


[Allen Ginsberg photographs Bono at the Cuirt International Festival of Literature in Galway in 1995 - Photograph by Joe O'Shaughnessy, copyright Joe O'Shaugnessy]

from the Vox Interview, (conducted at Slane Castle, Dublin)  July 8 1984: 

Bono: I just bought Woody Guthrie's Bound For Glory. I'm just a beginner when it comes to America. I mean, it's changed me. When you go to the US coming from this country, it's more than a different continent...

Van Morrison: It's shell-shock.

Bono: Yeah, coming from troubled Ireland, it's the real shell-shock! I'm just getting acquainted with American music and literature. Do you still see Allen Ginsberg?

Bob Dylan: I run across Allen from time to time, yeah, Gregory Corso's back now, he's doing some readings. I think he just published a new book.

Bono: I've just been reading this book Howl

Bob Dylan: Oh, that's very powerful. That's another book that changed me. Howl, On The Road, Dharma Bums..

Van Morrison (to Bono): Have you read On The Road?

Bono: Yes I have. I'm just starting that. You have a reference in one of your songs to John Donne, "Rave On John Donne". Have you read his poetry?

Van Morrison: I was reading it at the time

Bob Dylan (to Bono): You heard the songs - Brendan Behan songs?

Bono: Yeah

Bob Dylan: "Royal Canal".  You know the "Royal Canal"?  

Van Morrison: His brother wrote it. His name is Dominic 

Bob Dylan: Oh, Dominic wrote "Royal Canal"?

Bono: You know, Brendan's son hangs around here in Dublin. He's a good guy, I believe.

[Peter Orlovsky, Allen Ginsberg, Brendan Behan & Beatrice ffrench-Salkeld, New York, September 28, 1960  - Photograph by Richard Avedon  c.The Richard Avedon Foundation]

Fast forward 20 years later, June 15, 2004, Dublin

Bono on Allen  (from his remarks on Jerry Aronson's The Life And Times of Allen Ginsberg DVD set)

I fell in love with Allen Ginsberg's poetry round about the time, I suppose that I fell in love with America, and, you know, it was such a new world for me - going to America and the band and U2, you know, we were, we were starting to have some success, you know, we were like twenty, twenty-one years old, and it seemed like this was just so different to Europe, and it made sense to me that, in the way that America needed a new music to describe it, like jazz, it also needed a new language to describe it, and I think Allen Ginsberg and the Beats created a necessary language to describe the place they lived in, not just the physical landscape but the sort of psychological one.

I started on a journey to discover America, not just he cities and the towns but the  writers, and I started to read Whitman and I started to read Ginsberg, you know. I discovered Howl. I read Jack Kerouac, I read On The Road, you know, all the classic Beat stuff, but "Howl" was more where I lived, you know, in terms of my own pilgrimage, if you like. And then (The) Fall of America was a real influence on me as I was writing the lyrics for The Joshua Tree. Again, The Joshua Tree was our kind of portrait of America, as, you know, the promised land - and the broken promises. And, coming from Ireland, I just knew that..   I just recognized that - a voice that saw the possibilities of America and howled at watching them squandered. 

I remember seeing a film of Bob Dylan ("Don't Look Back", I think it was called) and he starred in it for a minute, Allen Ginsberg, and, there was a lot of sneering in that film, and I felt he was kind of the hippie kind of guy in the middle of all of these punks, really, and I kind of related. I liked that about him. I mean he was.. he led Bob Dylan into that sort of dizzy, drunk, language of those, you know, incredible Bob Dylan songs from the 'Sixties (with) the sort of fractured language, the sense of seeing around objects, that's part of his, you know, getting inside the mind of the thought, as it's being expressed. That's got to have been influenced by (James) Joyce, not just Whitman (who always gets credit) and the jazz people who were, obvious, host to him and his talent. I think there is a Joycean aspect to Ginsberg's view of the world

[James Joyce (1882-1941)] 

I think he was a kind of a Muse, and it's a strange thing to be both artist and Muse, but I think.. One of his kicks was setting fire to people's imaginations, that he met along the way, whether they were his students, or whether they were people like Joe Strummer, from music, or Bob Dylan - or, indeed, me. I think that was his.. his kind of.. you know, he got kicks out of just setting fire to you, and just.. you saw the world differently after you spent some time with him.. and he just had this very..this still child-like view of the world, where everything was possible - if approached in love. So it's hard not to be around that and pick up on that.

I think he was also very aware of lineage, you know, and the people that had influenced him, and the people who he might influence, and I think he put himself out of his way to be a tutor, and.. I mean, I certainly needed one. I never went to college, and I never.. I was, you know, self-educated and I learned everything out of books and a lot out of his books. I think he kind of knew that, tho' he never patronized me, and he encouraged me.

He turned up in the studio once in Dublin and we made a drum-loop from "Bullet The Blue Sky", our song about Central America, from the 'Eighties, and he rapped "Hum Bom!" over it. (I don't know where these things.. I don't know if they ever came out (I'd love to see them!) but I know they exist - somewhere). He was a rapper in the end, you know, and it was the way..not just the way the words described the world, but how they actually rubbed up against the world, and bumped into the world, and nutted the world, and kicked the world, and kissed the world. That was really..that was..that was what he wanted out of art. He didn't like art in a box. He didn't like.. He liked art to stray out of its boundaries into real life, and, you know, he was.. I think he was saying, you know - poetry is.. is the private thoughts made public, there where you are when you're asleep and your head is moving through waves of different thoughts that crash into each other. This is.. it's the language of the unconscious about to be made conscious and I love those ideas.

When he died, I remember Sotheby's (I think it was Sotheby's or Christie's?) [editor's note it was Sotheby's] sold all his belongings. Some of his friends were appalled - "Oh my God, they're selling everything belonging to Allen, they're selling his pens, his ties, his suits!" - "how shocking!" - and I thought it wasn't. I thought it made perfect sense, because, I'd been in his apartment before he died, and he put everything, packed everything, away, he was meticulous about recording, every photograph he'd taken, every shoe-lace!, every shoe was in a box, marked. So I think he would have been well up for being auctioned off in pieces. And I went through the catalog and I said, "Wow, I think I'd like this copy of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windemere's Fan. I thought I used to have a copy of that. I think I lost it somewhere. I'm going to get it back. Wouldn't it be sweet if I could buy it out of his..out of his library, out of Ginsberg's library. So I bid for it - and I got it!  Thrilled to get it, it arrived in the post and I went ,"Wow! I got this back, from Allen Ginsberg", and I opened it up,  and written it in was "to Allen from Bono". And I then realized that I had given him the book that I was then buying back! - I could hear him laughing at that.

[Allen reading "Miami" on the set of the U2 video shoot - from the MTV documentary U2- A Year In Pop - see here]

I think the last time I met Allen was in New York City. It was snowing. We were staying in a hotel (Soho Grand, down in the Village), and we were filming something or other, related to "Zoo TV", and Allen started to..reading "Miami" (no, it was from the "Pop" album), a song called "Miami", he started reading the lyrics. And then we said, "Do you want to be in the film?". He said, "Yeah, of course I do, I'll be in the film"..and (you know, he was such a ham!) and so he sat, he put himself, in one of the deck-chairs, outside on the balcony in the snow, got a blanket, like one of those old-age-pensioners that you'd see in Miami, and recited "Miami, my Mammy, Miami", and turning these..turning these words into poetry, actually. This was a great gift to me.

What made America great in the twenty-first century was started in the twentieth century by risky people, risky lives, Beat Generation inspired, West Coast, lateral thinkers. At the very top of that tree has got to have been Allen Ginsberg. Allen gave me a way of seeing America, a language to describe America that felt as sexy as the place was, as dizzy as the place was, as high on itself as the place was, and he was to words what Charlie Parker was to music and the twentieth century needed those characters to describe itself.

Bono's introduction to Allen in 1995 (at the Cuirt International Festival of Literature), more early-expressed enthusiasm, may be found here.