Poetry Tattoo


[Photo via The Word Made Flesh]

The first time I met Allen Ginsberg was around 1991, when I was an undergrad at Carnegie Mellon. We had been studying Howl and he came to read. I was young and awestruck while standing in a small auditorium watching this crazy old guy with a big beard chanting “ohhhh, suck tit, suck tit, suck cock suck cock, suck clit, suck prick but don’t smoke nicotine.” He was dancing around like a loon and banging two sticks together. I remember giggling and thinking, “so THIS is higher education”. Afterwards he signed a book … Read More

James Franco/Allen Ginsberg

Regina Weinreich in the Huffington Post has it right, speaking of the zeitgeist, Allen is pretty ubiquitous at the moment. Who would have thought?, Allen at the Oscars!. Well, not Allen exactly, but James Franco, who so remarkably “has him down” in the film role and is co-hosting the Oscar ceremonies tonight. Here’s he and Jon Hamm talking about the (Howl) film last year at the Sundance Film Festival. [2015 update – regrettably this video is no longer available] Franco was, interestingly, interviewed, not only about this role, but also about his upcoming role as another great modernist poet, Hart Read More

Allen Parle En Francais

Most people are aware of Jack Kerouac’s French-speaking background. In 1967, he appeared on the French service of the Canadian Broadcasting Service on the program Le Sel de la Semaine,interviewed by Fernand Seguin,

but perhaps less well-known is Allen’s more-than-serviceable French. Here in this rare clip from Jean Michel Humea’s 1965 movie Viva Dada, he can be heard discussing the relationship of poetry and drugs. The interview takes place at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris, standing alongside him is a surprisingly quiet Gregory Corso.

Gregory’s delightful Italian may be sampled here Read More

Friday’s Weekly Round-Up 14

Howl in England

Following up from our notices last week, here’s more English press coverage related to this Friday (today’s) UK opening of Howl. Mick Brown, in The Telegraph, gives the basic background in How I Scribbled Magic Lines From My Real Mind”. Andrew Lowry, in the blog for the same paper, provocatively heads his report “The Beats Were Self-Indulgent Poseurs But The New Ginsberg Film Is Definitely Worth Seeing”

John Patterson in The Guardian points out that The Beats Have Had A Bad Rap But Howl Lets Their Words Speak For Themselves” “Howl, first the poem, now … Read More

Jay Landesman (1920-2011)

Jay Landesman died this past week in London, aged 91. Here’s James Campbell, writing in The Boston Review about Landesman’s seminal (sic) magazine, Neurotica:

“The closest there was to a beat magazine (thought it could only be seen that way in retrospect) in the late 1940s and early ’50s was a slim, eccentric journal whose contributors moved among the bases of art, sex, and neuroticism… Ginsberg’s first contribution to a magazine with a nationwide circulation appeared in Neurotica 6 (Spring 1950), by which time the magazine had adopted a furtive beat identity. Ginsberg’s brief “Song: Fie My Fum” (an early … Read More

Faulty Memory Syndrome – A Note on an Interview with Jacques Barzun

Jacques Barzun, man of letters, fixer.

We were glancing over an old (more than 10-years-old) interview we stumbled upon with scholar/teacher/cultural historian Jacques Barzun The Man Who Knew Too Much. It appeared in October 2000 in the Austin Chronicle and can be read in its entirety here.

Interviewer: Since you were in Columbia in the Fifties, you were also at the center of the Beats, since they all went there.

Jacques Barzun:

Allen Ginsberg was a student of Lionel (Trilling)’s 
and of mine, not in our joint course (a seminal “great books” 
seminar), but separately. But we joined together to save him
 from the penalties of … Read More

Friday’s Weekly Round-Up 13


[Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 1957, after winning the Howl trial – photo by Bob Campbell]

Howl Movie Opening in England

In advance of  next week’s UK opening at London’s Curzon cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue, James Campbell has a review in The Guardian – “Howl At The Movies – Is the new film about Allen Ginsberg and the Howl obscenity trial a little too sane?” (Well, we, of course, would say no!). “I once filmed the middle-aged Ginsberg reading “Howl” to an audience of professors at a literary conference in New York. It was about as wild as a Women’s Institute evening.”, writes … Read More

Researching, Prepping…

[Tom Sturridge at the Beat Museum, San Francisco. photo courtesy Beat Museum]

Tom Sturridge, the young actor, on playing the part of Allen in the up-coming On The Road movie: 

Yeah, it was one of the most.., I mean it was the most, challenging thing I’ve ever done, it was extraordinary, but fortunately he, unlike a lot of the rest of them (sic), had a lot of recently-published material, so, for example, there is the Book of Martyrdom (and Artifice), which is his childhood poetry and diaries, and his letters to Jack, and his letters to Neal, and

Read More