One of the gems on You Tube is a 6-part reading of Allen in 1994 at La Jolla, California, at Dennis Wills’ extraordinary bookstore, happily spotlighted.
In response to a query, Wills recently recalled:
“It was Gary Snyder who helped to make that happen. When Gary read here in 1992, he had such a good time that he gave me Allen’s telephone number in New York, told me to call him and tell him that he (Gary) recommended the venue here. When I did call, Allen himself answered and I said something like “Hi Allen, Gary Snyder gave me your number and told me to call…,” etc. Allen handed me over to his assistant [Bob Rosenthal] and we set it up. Allen clearly drew the largest crowd we’ve ever had, around 500 people. We put a big redwood plank on top of some of our bookcases, thinking it might make a campy photograph with high school kids sitting up there, “hanging from the rafters,” and indeed there is a copy of that photo on our website. Allen brought his harmonium and was also accompanied by a chap on bass. Allen was introduced by renowned poet/editor Jerome Rothenberg of UCSD. There was great electricity and chemistry in the air. Allen was very patient and signed whatever anyone wanted, books, posters, etc. Afterwards we took him to a local taco shop and he had a veggie burritio; then we took him back to his hotel”
Allen reads, principally, from his (then) new book, Cosmopolitan Greetings, but this is book-ended by both earlier poems and later poems. He begins with “A Western Ballad”, followed by a poem by his father, Louis Ginsberg, “At The Grave of My Father”, followed by Allen’s own “Father Death Blues”.
Selections from Cosmopolitan Greetings are featured in the second segment – “Prologue Visiting Father and Friends”, “Hard Labor”, “Sphincter” and “London Dream Doors”.
The third segment also features poems from that book – “Cosmopolitan Greetings” (the title poem), a spirited rendition (as always!) of “Fifth Internationale”, “Personals Ad”, and “To Jacob Rabinowitz”.
The reading continues here with part 4 ( “Grandma Earth’s Song”, “Elephant In The Meditation Hall”, and “NSA Dope Calypso”) and here, part 5 (“Yiddishe Kopf”, “Autumn Leaves”, and, subsequent to Cosmopolitan Greetings – “Peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina”, “After The Party”, “After Olav H. Hague” and “C’mon Pigs of Western Civilization, Eat More Grease” – the last four poems all published, posthumusly, in Death and Fame). Finally, part 6 (also from that book – “New Stanzas for Amazing Grace”, a clear compassionate reading of it can be heard here).