Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 256

[Allen Ginsberg, photographed at Wichita State University in 1966. The Parnassus Yearbook reported that "Ginsberg caused mixed emotions on campus when he read controversial poetry to over 300 in February"] 

"Wichita Vortex Sutra"'s 50th anniversary. Wichita State University Department of History, the Ulrich Museum of Art, and local radio-station KMUW, will be celebrating this Sunday the 50th anniversary of Allen's first full reading of the poem. There will be a panel featuring Dr Jay Price, WSU Professor of History, retired Professor of Philosopy and Comparative Religion (but active participant at the time), Dr Roger Irwin, and independent curator, James W Johnson.  Following the discussion, KMUW commentator Jedd Beaudoin will present a reading of the poem.

(Following a chanted mantra, Allen can be heard (on an undated tape from the Robert Creeley collection) reading from the poem - here

and, in 1995 at the Knitting Factory, reading the entire poem, in four segments - herehere, here and here 

reading along, with the accompaniment of Philip Glass's piano - here)  

The local paper, the Wichita Eagle has a feature with video imagery of some of the locations (and lines from the poem read by videographer, John Albert) - here  

For more on the Beats and Kansas , see the content-rich "Beats in Kansas - The Beat Generation In the Heartland" page (including Lee Strieff's detailed analysis - here, Allen's comments, and comments from Paul Carroll, James F Mersmann, Cary Nelson ,Paul Breslin, and Michael Davidson - here, Charles Plymell's first-hand recollections of traveling with Ginsberg - here - and Bruce Conner's revealing note to University of Kansas, now UCSD, librarian, Robert Melton, regarding the derivation of the whole concept of "Wichita Vortex", dating back to as early as 1951) 

Rolf Potts' observations (first published in The Nation, and republished in The Believer) are now ten years old, but still well worth considering - "Howl" is turning fifty [in 2006, this is]", he writes, "to much fanfare , but the less celebrated anniversary of Allen Ginsberg's "Wichita Vortex Sutra" has more to tell about poetry and the state of America" - "Poetic language cannot properly commemorate the horrors of war, sure - but, more alarmingly, it has been diluted to the point where it has lost its effectiveness in preventing those horrors in the first place.."Wichita Vortex Sutra reads like a prophetic and final anti-war poem, an elegy for the power of language in an age of competing information."

[Allen Ginsberg ft DJ Spooky- End The Vietnam War remix]

Other news?  Allan M Jalon's piece, in the Jewish Daily Forward, "That Time Allen Ginsberg Wrote A Socialist Poem - About Bernie Sanders", that we featured in last Friday's Round-Up is now available on the Forward's web site (alongside a quirky cartoon image by Anya Ulinich) and is accessible - here

and he follows it up with a second article, "When Bernie Sanders Walked Out of Allen Ginsberg's Poetry Reading" (this new story, updates the first and, alongside quoting Phyllis Segura on her Ginsberg-Sanders photograph, quotes Allen's accompanist, Steven Taylor, (recalling an incident that may have happened in 1983 but may well have happened some years later)):

"What happened was we gave a show in some big municipal building…and Bernie got up and introduced Allen..,Bernie was proud to present Allen and Allen was then in the habit, if he had a new poem, he'd try it out on people..and he had a very graphic poem about anal sex. He had this kind of dirty streak, and he liked to talk dirty in public.It was partly gay activism and it was also something that he did."

Jalon's article goes on:  "The poem was called "What You Up To?" and it appears in the final edition of Ginsberg's Collected Poems. "Sanders", Taylor said, "stood up" from his seat as Ginsberg read, "turned and walked out. You know I thought (at the time), [Jalon quotes Taylor here]  "What a nightmare for a politician". I thought, "Oh. God, he's a socialist. Already he's got problems. But now he's got Allen up here reading about anal sex!". It was not a good thing for Allen to do. He should not have done it. He should have been more careful, but he got excited. He got excited when he performed, and he was a great performer…"

  [Steven Taylor and Allen Ginsberg performing together in Europe in 1986]

The Mondriaan String Quartet performing in Rotterdam earlier this month, from "September on Jessore Road", (Steven Taylor's setting), their "Allen Ginsberg in the Netherlands - 1983 Revisited" showThe footage was shot by Filip Feij (the original 1991 backdrop footage of Allen and company by Chask)

A trumpet-blast and anti-gentrification warning. What are they doing to (What have they done to) William Blake's grave?. London Mayor, Boris Johnson, despite local council and preservationist entreaties, this past month has given the green light to the destruction of buildings overlooking the famed graveyard, Bunhill Fields, and the construction of "four tower blocks, (architects epiction below) two of which will be 10 and 11 stories high". "Ironically", the local newspaper notes, "the Blake Society has itself spent several years trying unsuccessfully to get planning permission for its own "development"- a 1m headstone to mark the poet and artist's original burial spot, which is currently unmarked. His existing gravestone is in the wrong place."
 A petition may still be signed here 

 [Architects proposed 11-story tower block by London's Bunhill Fields]

 [William (and his wife Catherine) Blake's gravestone at Bunhill Fields]

Must-buy music collections. Dust to Digital have just announced this (for pre-order): 

"From July to December 1959, Paul Bowles crisscrossed Morocco making recordings of traditional music under the auspices of the Library of Congress. Although thr trip accupied less than six months in a long and busy career, it was the culmination of Bowles's longstanding interest in North African music. The resulting collection remained a musical touchstone for the rest of his life and an important part of his mythology". 
 More notice of the Bowles collection here and here

More Paul Bowles on the Allen Ginsberg Project - here

   [1961 - Paul Bowles -photographed by Allen Ginsberg]

  [1966 - Allen Ginsberg debates with the students & journalists in Wichita, Kansas]


  1. Nice post, folks. It's gratifying to see that Wichita State is commemorating Wichita Vortex Sutra and Allen's time in Wichita, and in Kansas in general. Kansas remains a pretty conservative place so it's uplifting to know that Allen's presence makes itself known there once more all these years later.