Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 29

Allen Ginsberg & Ted Berrigan – Collaborative Postcard, February 11, 1982

Trawling through E-bay, this past week, we came across this, Ted Berrigan and Allen Ginsberg’s collaborative poem, ‘”Reds”:


There isn’t much to say to Marxists in Nicaragua
with .45’s
afraid of the U.S. Secretary of State, eating celery.

Back in New York, “we went to see a beautiful movie”,
said Allen Ginsberg. “It made me cry.”
“I hadda loan him my big green handkerchief,
to blow his nose on!” Peter Orlovsky laughed.

Some background. This is clearly an “out-take” from Berrigan’s 500 postcards project (a 1982 commission from Ken & Ann Mikolowski’s Alternative Press ). Berrigan (along with several other artists) was presented with 500 ready-made postcards to do with as he pleased. As Alice Notley, in her preface to The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan , points out:
“There were five hundred cards to work with, one side left blank for a poem and/or image, and the other side incorporating space for a message and address. “Postcard by Ted Berrigan” was printed at the top of the message space, and running sideways, “The Alternative Press, Grindstone City”. Many other artists and writers participated in the Mikolowski’s project, producing original art or text for the blank sides of their own five hundred postcards, the finished cards were always sent out singly, along with other Alternative Press items – broadsides, bumper-stickers, etc. – in the Press’s standard free packets. Ted, so far as I know, was the only participant who turned the postcards into a full-scale writing project and then a book.” (that book, A Certain Slant of Sunlight, published by Leslie Scalapino’s O Books, she discusses in more detail here ).
Allen’s allusions to “Marxists in Nicaragua” interacting with “the U.S. Secretary of State” clearly dates and links the jottings to the Sandinista revolution (and, more specifically, his visit there in 1982).
We can only speculate on the “beautiful movie” that he was watching.

More Ginsberg encounters? – here’s a touching piece by Clark Knowles – Allen Ginsberg and Me – “I met Allen Ginsberg and he changed my life”, Knowles declares – but then goes on to tell of belatedly-recognized missed-opportunities (the result of misplaced youthful fears and foolish pride?) – “(He) asked (one time, visiting the University of Charleston, West Virginia) to keep some of my poems to look at and comment on. It’s hard to believe (that) I said no, but I did.”

One person who didn’t reject Allen’s advances was sometime-lover, wandering guitar-player, Mark Israel . His first feature-length documentary hitch-hiking-on-the-road movie, 1997’s How I Spent My Summer Vacation, (including cameos by Anne Waldman , amongst others) has recently been transfered to DVD. The trailer for the film can be accessed here .

More film news. James Franco’s Hart Crane pic, that we’ve spoken of earlier, has its premiere in the coming week at the Los Angeles Film Festival. A Q-and-A with Franco about the project (yes, we’ve been relatively silent on our Franco news of late!) can be found here .

A shout-out to our English readers. Have we gotten around to mentioning Mark Ford’s Faber and Faber selection of Allen’s poems ? We think not. (Ford’s extensive 2007 New York Review of Books piece on Allen is certainly, also, well worth revisiting). Next Tuesday (June 21) at Rough Trade East at 7pm, along with poet Heather Phillipson, he’ll be reading from his own poems, but also reading selections from that book.

And, finally, the big story (well, at any rate, yesterday’s big story) – the New York Public Library has just acquired Timothy Leary’s archives. The Library announced that it had paid the sum of $900,000 for the collection (335 boxes of papers, videotapes, photographs, letters, and other items). Patricia Cohen’s story in The New York Times seems to re-iterate Peter Conners’ thesis – “The meeting between Ginsberg and Leary marked an anchor point in the history of the 1960’s drug-soaked counter-culture”, she writes. “Leary, the credentialed purveyor of hallucinatory drugs, was suddenly invited into the center of the artistic, social and sexual avant-garde. It was Ginsberg who helped convince Leary that he should bring the psychedelic revolution to the masses, rather than keep it among an elite group.”. Scott Staton has a useful follow-up piece in The New Yorker – and Boris Kachika’s piece in New York magazine presents a few choice selections – “acid commentaries from Timothy Leary’s just revealed archive”. We leave you with Allen’s unique personal account:

“After an hour…I withdrew into visual introspection…I lay down on a large comfortable couch next to my companion Peter Orlovsky and drifted off into a reverie about the origins of the universe which involved the visualization of a sort of octopus (sic) of darkness breaking through out of the primal void…(I) envisioned various people I knew…as Seraphs or Fiendish Angels with fangs of Judgement rushing thru the void over Atlantic Blakean spaces to make meet with each other to take Conference over the future of Life.”

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