[Allen Ginsberg recording session at the Record Plant Studio, New York, November 13, 1971 - from left to right - David Amram,Bob Dylan, Happy Traum, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky (kneeling), Denise Mercedes, Allen Ginsberg, Sadi Kaze, John Sholle, Arthur Russell, and Ed Sanders - Photograph by Fred W McDarrah © The Estate of Fred W McDarrah]
Big news! - the release next month of a three-CD box set - The Last Word on First Blues, on Omnivore Recordings - "the first box set of Allen Ginsberg as a singer-songwriter". The collection will include a re-release of the classic 1983 John Hammond-produced double album, First Blues (in its entirety - featuring collaborations with Bob Dylan, Arthur Russell, amongst others), plus "eleven previously-unreleased songs from 1971 and 1981 sessions, and demos and live recordings.. " - "The release (also) includes a full-color twenty-eight page booklet of rare photos, writings and drawings from Ginsberg's archives and an essay from set producer Pat Thomas featuring interviews with original participants." Thomas, "was given full access to the poet's tape archive at Stanford University and spent several years pouring over hundreds of hours of recordings".
"Mastering and restoration was handled by Grammy-winning engineer, Michael Graves."
Thomas will be on hand at the Beats and Beyond Festival, mentioned here last week, early June in New York. For that occasion he'll be hosting a round-table discussion about the recordings with the musicians who played on it (including David Amram and David Mansfield), followed by a one-off reunion of these musicians performing this material. Further details to be announced.
For a"sneak preview" of the collection - see here
Marc Olmsted reviews "Wait Till I'm Dead", the posthumous poems, for Empty Mirror - see here - "What we come away with is wanting more, and wishing we knew what Allen would say about these complicated times. His Buddhist name translated was Dharma Lion Peace Heart. I miss his lion's roar and purr."
Guest-critic for The Brooklyn Rail this month - Anne Waldman features Joanne Kyger ("Dharma Committee Rules"), Bernadette Mayer ("After Rilke") and Alice Notley's ("How We Cause The Universe To Exist"), alongside much else.
"WHAT imMORtal HAND or EYE dare FRAME thy FEARful SYMMETRY?" - Alice helpfully maps Allen's singing rhythms
Excerpts from Bill Morgan's recent City Lights book, The Beats Abroad, on the City Lights blog ( a book noted on the Ginsberg blog previously) - available here
"I guess it all came back to Allen. Allen was definitely my big break" - Elsa Dorfman on Allen, featured on NPR - "And I wasn't such a bad break for Allen - because, after all, we were friends for almost fifty years."
[Elsa Dorfman and Allen Ginsberg - "October 15, 1988 - The morning after our receptoon at Vision" - Photograph by Elsa Dorfman]
Elsa Dorfman is currently the subject of a documentary by Errol Morris. More about that collaboration here
More Ginsberg memories:
Reverend Billy recalls being led off the stage by Allen Ginsberg - here
and, in another old posting, here's Matthew Dickman (one half of Michael and Matthew, the Oregon poetry twins) in a 2009 profile in the New Yorker - Rebecca Mead:
"One of the more artful dodges in Matthew’s career happened at the age of eighteen, when he met Allen Ginsberg, who was appearing at Powell’s. “He is signing this pile of books, and he looks up at me and he says, ‘How’s your love life?’ ” Matthew recalls. Matthew fled in embarrassment, only to return a little later. “I went right up to him and I said, ‘I’m sorry, how’s your love life?’ And he sort of smiles and he says, ‘I’m really old; my love life is what it is.’ I said, ‘Well, I can’t promise you anything, but would you like to meet my twin brother?’ And of course this poor man says, ‘Yes, I would love to meet your twin brother.’ ” Ginsberg joined the brothers for tea, and the next evening took Matthew to dinner. “After dinner, I decided the game was sort of up, and I said, ‘I just want you to know that I am not going to sleep with you, but it’s early enough in the evening that if you want to find someone else I don’t mind leaving,’ ” Matthew recalls. “He laughed and said, ‘No, I am having a good time. Why don’t we just go to my hotel room and visit.’ So we went up to his hotel room, and he orders a gin-and-tonic for me, and I am sitting there smoking Export ‘A’ cigarettes and eating chocolates that have been left on his pillow, and he and I have this incredible conversation about poetry.”
Eventually, Ginsberg said that it was time to go to sleep. “He wrote down his address in New York, and he gave me a couple of poems that he had been writing drafts of, and he sat down on his bed,” Matthew told me. “And I sat down on his bed next to him and just told him how wonderful it had been, and thanked him. And then I thought, This is ridiculous, and I turned in and kissed him, and we kissed for probably fifteen minutes. And it was so sweet and wonderful, like kissing a mushy orange.”