Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 211

Legendary film-maker Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, The Holy Mountain, Santa Sangre, Dune etc), recalls his meeting with Allen Ginsberg (he speaks in Spanish with Italian translation) - An English translation of Jodorowsky's comments follows here:  

AJ: "I see Allen Ginsberg arriving [in Paris] in winter with a small t-shirt, ripped jeans, wearing espadrilles and with mad hair and no luggage - nothing! - He was staring, like this  [Jodorowsky imitates Allen looking around, searching] - "Hey, I know're Allen Ginsberg" - "Yes" - "What are you up to?" - [Allen] - "The thing is Fidel Castro invited me to Cuba. Well, I thought he liked poetry, and I did this interview on the Official radio, and I mentioned that I'd  dreamt that I was making love with Che Guevara, so…they put me on a plane immediately and they kicked me out!…So here I am..I'm here.". I realized he must be cold and hungry so I asked him, "What can I do for you?". "Help me find an Angel", he replied. I understood, so I took him to La Reine Blanche, a homosexual cafe, ok?. The cafe was empty and I asked someone where the customers were. (Ginsberg didn't speak (adequate) French at the time). "They are one block away from here at Le Fiacre Bar (the Carriage Bar)", he answered. I mentioned this to Ginsberg, and, still without eating or being cold, he dragged me to this bar. There were three floors at this place, packed with nowadays, men of all ages and all types, touching each other..hugging each other, the staircases were so full. He wanted to go to the top the top floor! - I helped him make his way through the crowd (men touched me everywhere) and we got to the top floor, to the window was a blind guy with polarized sunglasses..blind. Ginsberg said, "The Angel!" - He approached him [Jodorowsky to his Italian translator - "I don't want to seduce you, ok?] and whispered into his ear..poems..poems into his ears. The blind guy fell into his arms and I left them, never saw Allen after that. So I left the bar, I got out of there (they almost ripped my pants, but I got out!). So, twenty years went by and I found him again, in a train, in San Francisco, in a tram. He was sitting playing a tiny piano (harmonium?) and chanting Hindu mantra from the top of his lungs. He did it for several stops..blocks..and nobody seemed to be bothered by it."Why?", I asked the guy who sold tickets. "Everyone knows him", he said, " the same time, he goes around chanting mantra to purify the city". I was so moved. This guy went from looking for love to becoming a therapist..singing to a city to purify it! - So I got close to him and asked him. "Do you recognize me? It's me, the one that got you "The Angel" - "Ahhh", he said, "I'm going to ask you something,.. at this very moment, what is the most beautiful thing in the world?". I did not know what to answer..Now I can answer that question but couldn't at that time. Allen took a round mirror and placed it in front of my face and said, "The most beautiful thing in the world is that you are sitting at this very moment in a tram..talking to yourself". What a beauty, right?"      

et en français - see his introduction here to Gilles Farcet's Allen Ginsberg - Poète et bodhisattva Beat (Allen Ginsberg - Poet and Beat Bodhisattva) 

More Jodorowsky and Ginsberg - Ginsberg's text, his LSD poem ("Lysergic Acid"), was utilized in Jodrowsky-Arrabel-Torpor (Panic Movement) (Mouvement panique)'s groundbreaking 1965 "Happening" - Melodrama Sacramental  

(Documentation of that can be seen here - Allen's reading (on the soundtrack) begins approximately five minutes in)

and Allen's curious devotion/surprising offer to Raquel, Jodorowsky's sister. Read more about that (in an earlier posting) here 

Breaking news - a troubling freedom-of-speech/censorship story in the US -
A (so-far unnamed) South Windsor, Connecticut high-school teacher [update - David Olio] has been "placed on administrative leave" for directing students to read what school officials are calling a "highly inappropriate poem". The poem in question? - Allen's notorious sexually-explicit "Please Master".  Hear Allen reading it, in a rare recording - here

For some intelligent discussion of this brouhaha see the Comments section after the account in Raw Story, Charlie Bondhus at The Good Men Project, doubtless plenty other places..  

Dangerous Minds, one of our very favorite sites, published this week a "Dangerous Minds Exclusive" - A Previously Unpublished Interview with Allen (Michael Rectenwald, an ex-Naropa student's 1994 conversation - "as they meander from politics to the drug war to Buddhism to William S Burroughs"  - and more).  

A few of the highlights:

Allen: "The basic program is candor or honesty or frankness. So if it comes to sexual revolution or gay speech or gay liberation, you just be candid with what your experiences are, what your feelings are, so there are (is) a lot of clear or gay poetry, some of it quite frank".

[on drugs] - "I've always been interested in drugs. Mainly for artistic purposes, rather than for being hung-up. And so there are a number of poems either written on psychedelics or written on a little grass, and then there's a lot of political aspects to the whole drug thing because the drug thing is primarily (a) political problem rather than a medical problem. It should be a medical problem but they made it criminal and political…"

"Then there is the more important question of sexual politics. Sort of, the macho repression of the feminine in women. The unbalance in the military and civilian life in that way. And then there is the question of the ecological disaster that hyper-technology has visited on the planet, especially the military hyper-technology. The use of fossil fuels and the use of plastics, the use of chemicals as a source of energy.." 

"..Clean energy and renewal for us might be more, at this point, more reliable. Same thing as with the heavily government subsidized nuclear industry which is a huge mistake since they don't know how to get rid of the nuclear waste…"

" the poetry just what comes to my head. Some of it paranoia and political, some of it Eros, some of it family material, some of it realization of death, some of  it on the subject of meditation and practice, some of it on the subject of human tenderness, some of it on Buddhist and Eastern thought.."

"I think that "Father Death Blues" song is, what do you call it? -  the reference point, or the North Star for that element of quiet wisdom, tenderness and feeling. It seems to be universally accepted at poetry readings as the one poem that intersects everyone at every age (it's) very emotionally packed.."

[asked about Charles Bukowski] - "..Bukowski I didn't know very well…But I gave a reading with him, a number of years ago. About ten I think, with Gary Snyder and (Lawrence) Ferlinghetti. It was in Santa Cruz to raise money for Americans that were busted in Mexico and who were being held for ransom in Mexican jails, the corrupt system….So we did a benefit in Santa Cruz and someone made a bomb threat in the middle of the reading while I was on stage. And I was singing the blues so I started improvising that it was time to leave the hall because of the bomb threat, and since we didn't want to wind up dead we might as well get up and get out into the open air….So, it was in a sort of blues form, and Bukowski read, he had just read. And for every poem he drank a shot, so after he had read eight poems he was really out of it. Then we had a big party afterwards and he was so drunk that his pants started falling down while he was on the dance floor. But he came over to me and said, "Ginsberg, you're a good man". He was such a grumpy old man."
Michael Rectenwald: "Very grumpy and wasn't very kind to many of the Beat writers.
AG: He was to me, in person at any rate. I think earlier, before he got cured, his brothers would say, i.e. before he got much richer than me or any of the Beat writers, because he was very famous in Italy and Germany, and they made movies of his work. Before that, he was wondering why we were so popular and why he was not. And therefore he was a little bit grumpy about it. But he did meet Neal Cassady and admired him and wrote a very nice story about him."    

Jack Kerouac's birthday next week.  
Lowell Celebrates Kerouac this weekend. 
One highlight of the event - the official dedication of the Kerouac Corner at the Pollard Memorial Library - "Come see the spot where Jack sat and read books by great classical and contemporary authors. Short talks by Bill Walsh, Roger Burnelle, David Amram and Lowell Mayor Rodney Elliott in the corner area on the first floor, followed by birthday cake on the ground-floor meeting-room" 

[from Kerouac's notebooks]

Lawrence Ferlinghetti's birthday also coming up soon (he'll be 96!)
 - Last Saturday, Legends of the Bay Area - Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a major Ferlinghetti art exhibit, opened at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art. It will be up through April 5th. 
Read more (and see more - Adam Grossberg's recent documentary video on Ferlinghetti) here

Some recent web essays - Matt Phillips writes on "Punk Rock in Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" over at The Artifice. (We'd draw your attention to our 2011 (reposted 2014) series "Allen Ginsberg Was A Punk Rocker" -  here, here - and here)

& musings on Beats-ploitation - (We mused upon this several months ago). 
Jason Stoneking continues the deliberation over on Empty Mirror.
Howl merchandising - "The Howl Hat",  (courtesy of City Lights) -  "..when I wear the hat what is that I am advertising? is it Ginsberg or Ferlinghetti or their personal values? Or is it the content of the poem? or…"
- "I take the hat off, I put the hat on.."


  1. I wonder if Jodorowsky is conflating memories. When Allen was kicked out of Cuba in 1965, he was sent to Prague, not Paris.

    1. He's definitely conflating but pretty sure he means Paris since La Reine Blanche is a known gay cafe in there in Saint-Germain that both Genet and James Baldwin would frequent. Also don't think Prague would have had that kind of gay cafes in those days. There's a chance Allen visited Paris during his stay in London immediately following is expulsion from Prague.