Gordon Ball’s Cherry Valley

Clockwise starting from upper left: Peter Orlovsky, Denise Mercedes, Julius Orlovsky, Gordon Ball, Allen Ginsberg, Bonnie Bremser (Frazier), Ray Bremser, Gregory Corso c. 1971. photo: Allen De Loach

East Hill Farm is out. Wanting to spread word on Gordon Ball‘s new book.

From the publisher’s blurb:
“During the late 1960s, when peace, drugs, and free love were direct challenges to conventional society, Allen Ginsberg, treasurer of Committee on Poetry, Inc., funded what he hoped was “a haven for comrades in distress” in rural upstate New York. First described as an uninspiring, dilapidated four-bedroom house with acres of untended land, including the graves of its first residents, East Hill Farm became home to those who sought pastoral enlightenment in the presence of Ginsberg’s brilliance and generosity. A self-declared member of a “ragtag group of urban castoffs” including Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, Herbert Huncke, and the mythic Barbara Rubin, farm manager Ball tends to a non-stop flurry of guests, chores, and emotional outbursts while also making time to sit quietly with Ginsberg and discuss poetry, Kerouac, sex, and America’s war in Vietnam. In honest and vivid prose, he (Ball) offers a rare intimate glimpse of the poetic pillar of the Beat Generation as a striving and accessible human being at home on the farm and in the world.”

Michael Schumacher, Allen’s biographer, writes:”In writing a memoir about the time he spent managing Allen Ginsberg’s farm in upstate New York, Gordon Ball has detailed an important yet often overlooked side of the poet’s colorful life. Anecdotally fertile, with a memorable cast of characters, East Hill Farm is informative, entertaining, often very funny, and ultimately important. Allen Ginsberg and Friends live again in these pages.”
and Lawrence Ferlinghetti:
“I couldn’t stop reading East Hill Farm and learning so much of what really went down on that farm in that so crucial period in the lives of the Beats. I visited the farm just twice but wish I had Ball’s innocent yet so perceptive eye”
Lesley Wheeler’s review is here. Marc Olmsted’s review here.

For 28 years Gordon Ball took well over a thousand photographs of Allen and of other members of the Beat Generation. A selection from those photographs may be viewed on his web-site here (a perceptive essay on them, published in Jacket magazine, in 2007, may be read here).
He also edited three books with Allen – Allen Verbatim, Journals Mid-Fifties and Journals Early Fifties and Early Sixties.
He’s also, in addition, an accomplished film-maker (see his memoir, ’66 Frames). A DVD of his work, a retrospective, came out in 2010 – sadly, not including his Cherry Valley footage, 1968-1969’s “Farm Diary”).

His stewardship of the farm was from 1968 to 1971.

Here’s Elsa Dorfman’s classic shot of Allen on his new property.

Here’s an image of a winter-wrapped Herbert Huncke up there in 1969.

“Bearzimages” (not Gordon) provides haunting super-8 images of the location (to a Pablo Casals sound-track).

Here’s Allen and Gordon (photographed by Peter Orlovsky) (Allen in crutches)

Here’s a young Gordon (and “the early 70’s Allen”) working together on editorial projects in New York:

Gordon Ball and Allen Ginsberg, New York City, East 10th Street, circa.1973

Gordon Ball will be appearing with Bill Morgan at City Lights on Wednesday March 14 [2012]


  1. It's still belongs to the Committee on Poetry (COP), but the house is in such need of repair, it's impossible to host events or people there, for the time being anyhow.

  2. As a die hard Whitmaniac and aquaintance of Allen's….what if Cherry Valley were to apply for or the Committee were to apply for National Historic Status for the site and heck….readings and events in more balmy weather could be held there and it could morph into a MacDowell writers colonic sort of vibe? Just saying!

    xxx The Tao Woofwow

  3. Together, Gordon's book and The Selected Letters of Allen and Gary Snyder present the difficult struggle the two poets had in trying to develop rural eco-communities: the problems of paying for upkeep and doing the work, relational problems and psychodramas with community members, and the need to maintain high power reading careers in order to cover costs. Eye-opening side of their careers and aspirations as poets and visionaries.
    David Cope

  4. I was the caretaker at the Committee on Poetry’s “farm” in Cherry Valley between 1987 and 1989. The experience was very rewarding on many levels, especially surviving the harsh winters that were life-threatening at times (temperatures falling to 24 below zero, deep snow, roads impassable, etc.). Gordon knows me.

    Allen was always gracious and kind to me, and I enjoyed our walks and talks when he visited. His deep professorial voice had a calming effect, and I considered myself very fortunate to have been there when I was.

    That was almost twenty-five years ago. I’m now going on 65, and look back on that adventure fondly.

    Will M.

  5. Did a couple of years there in the early 80’s (following sculptor Tom Rondenelli’s year). Wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world (including the harsh secluded winters). Haven’t visited in a number of years, but manage to so anytime I make it back to Cherry Valley to visit Charlie Plymell.

  6. My cousin’s oldest son (now deceased) told me about how he lived there for a short time in the 70s. I don’t remember if he mentioned if Allen was there when he was. I lived in Dorloo, just down the hill from Cherry Valley, for many years.

  7. My “Gay Sunshine Interview” with Allen Ginsberg took place at this farm in the early 1970s. It was widely published and translated. A chapbook with that title published by Grey Fox Press can usually be found in the used book market at amazon.com and elsewhere.

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