February 20, 1997, fifteeen years ago today, Allen gave what turned out to be his last public performance at the first-ever NYU (New York University) Poetry Slam – “Oo Bop Sh’bam/ At the poetry slam/Scream & yell/At the poetry ball/ Get in a rage/On the poetry stage…” (this poem, a little bit of doggerel that he composed, almost a month later, recollecting the event, is one of the last poems he ever wrote, and is included in the concluding pages of his posthumous collection, Death and Fame).
Bob Holman, Bowery Poetry Club m-c, recalls the evening: “Bob Rosenthal, Allen’s adroit secretary and (himself) a wonderful poet, had warned me that Allen might not show up…that he wasn’t well. But Allen was as punctual as usual, although very weak, complaining that he was doing the gig primarily because Beau Sia, an incredible and incredibly funny poet and ranter and NYU student had asked. During the sound check, cantankerous as ever, Allen demanded the lights solely function for his reading, not audience engagement, and that the sound be for amplification only. The Slam poets were all-stars from across the country, and many had never seen Allen. The event quickly sold out, with people turned away. I introduced Allen, as I had many times over the years, as “The Bard Hisself”, “and without further adon’t”, Allen settled in…“Pull My Daisy” “Ballad of the Skeletons”, “Hum Bom!“. After a somewhat slow and quiet start, he warmed, (and) the audience got into it, (and) started roaring. After “Hum Bom!” he suddenly stopped and looked at me. “How much time do I left?” he asked. Usually Allen was meticulous about how long he read, not ever wishing to take more than his allotted time, which he was now over. “One more!” I said, and he launched into “Put Down Your Cigarette Rag (Don’t Smoke)”, so perfect, and uproariously appreciated by this hip college crowd, most of whom were smokers, I’m sure. Seated but rocking, sweating, crazily cavorting, Allen Ginsberg was redefining poetry, for yet another generation. One more, Allen. That means, one more, and then one more…”