Friday, May 1, 2015

May 1st - (May Day - Kral Majales)

Check out past May Day postings on the Allen Ginsberg Project - here, here and here
even, (last year's) here

A special May Day this year - (2015), it's the 50th anniversary of  Allen's fleeting elevation to  Kral Majales - King of May -   "And I am the King of May"


"And I am the King of May, which is the power of sexual youth,/and I am the King of May, which is industry in eloquence and action in amour,/and I am the King of May, which is long hair of Adam and the Beard of my own body/and I am the King of May which is Kral Majales in the Czechoslovakian tongue.." 

On May 1st 1965, he was crowned "King of May" by an enthusiastic crowd in Prague town square  (Výstaviště), in Communist Czechoslovakia. Soon undercover police halted the festivities and un-crowned him. Prague secret police took this photograph (below) of him (with young Czech poet Pavel Beran) on Wencislas Square. A few days later they seized his journals and summarily deported him"

     [Allen Ginsberg and Pavel Beran, May 1965 - Photograph by the Czech Secret Police] 

The Allen Ginsberg Memorial Freedom Festival, 2015, revisits 1965 - "The First of May celebrations will be launched by an amazing allegorical parade", the organizers state,  "The parade will pass by significant places reminding us of the 50th anniversary of the legendary Majales (notably, Karlově náměstí (Charles Square), where there will be a reading of Ginsberg's poetry)". 
Notable events in the coming days include a series of talks, on Tuesday the 5th, at the American Center, "focus(ing) on the famed Beat poet's visit to the Czech Republic, his political and personal views, as well as the legacy of Ginsberg's open approach to sexuality" - Josef Jařab, a Czech Anglicist, literary historian and translator, will talk about "Ginsberg's philosophy" and LGBT activist Carlton Rounds will introduce a screening of Larry Kramer's film adaptation, The Normal Heart. 
An even more Ginsberg-centric day is planned two days later (on the 7th) at the Faculty of Arts, where there'll be several papers -  Andrew Giarelli will speak on “Leaving Them Still Wondering What You Were Doing When You Got Outta Town - Ginsberg, Prague, and the Birth of the Counterculture”, Josef Rauvolf on “How This Beat Beat the System: What Really Happened When Ginsberg Came to Prague in 1965”, Justin Quinn on "Ginsberg After Prague, in Nicaragua and Further Afield",  and Gyorgy Toth on “”Howl”, Allen Ginsberg’s Obscenity Trial, and Why It Still Matters Today.". There'll also be a screening of  Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's "Howl" film.

Here's an important document - the Final Report on Allen Ginsberg's Deportation

Here's Petr Blazek's "The Deportation of the King of May - Allen Ginsberg and the State Security"

Richard Kostelanetz's contemporaneous (well, two-months later) account in the New York Times

"Allen Ginsberg and the Student Spies of Czechoslovakia"  (an excerpt from the extensive account by Andrew Lass in the valuable 1998 summer issue of the Massachusetts Review)

Here's (alongside a couple of short readings from "Kaddish"), another reading of "Kral Majales" (and of  "The Return of Kral Majales" ) in Olomouc in the Czech Republic in 1993 (with Czech renditions by Mikuláš Pánek)


  1. It says he was crowned in the "town" of Výstaviště. Výstaviště is not a town. It's a large public square and exhibition grounds in Prague.

  2. In a perfect synchronicity there´s another, much longer essay about Allen´s 1965 Prague visit and its influence on Czech society and culture by Josef Rauvolf, written earlier than Blazek´s and published in Palgrave anthology The Transnational Beat Generation, edited by Jennie Skerl and Nancy M. Grace. Strange synchronicity for both authors worked independently of each other. Rauvolf is recently working on a book about the visit and there are plans for Czech feature documentary about the whole affair.