Fried Shoes and Cooked Diamonds (ASV#30)

“Costanzo Allione and an Italian film crew completed an hour-long color movie at Jack Kerouac School of Poetics, Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado 1978 summer, a serious and spontaneously filmed account of conversations and teachings of home scenes of myself, poets Peter Orlovsky, William S Burroughs, Anne Waldman, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Diane di Prima, Timothy Leary, Daniel Ellsberg and Gregory Corso and Lama Chogyam Trungpa – including conversation, singing, nakedness, meditation, student Poets, and readings, & Nuclear Protest arrests at Rocky Flats Plutonium Bomb-trigger Facility nearby. Thanks” —  Allen Ginsberg

– also – Allen omits in this summary – Meredith Monk – and an extraordinary reading by the two “Nuyorican poets”, Miguel Pinero and Miguel Algarin – (and Fernanda Pivano, interviewing Corso, Leary, Baraka and Burroughs).

Costanzo Allione’s 1979 film of the ’78 “reunion” at Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Fried Shoes Cooked Diamonds, boasts Allen as the narrator. Here follows (in the hope that it’s helpful) transcription of his lively “voice-over” narration:

“Driving through space, New Mexico or Colorado. Vast deserts. Mountains now covered with mental smog. Poets came to America (or were born in America) with their heads full of European poetry rhythms, 19th century Longfellow rhymes. Then, beginning with Whitman, and up to the 20’s and ‘30’s, poets in America began to write in their own way. Some came out West.”

“My generation explored America and their own minds further. Sex liberation, drug experiment, Buddhist meditation, jazz practice, looking for some kind of opening of mind, moving around the world, hitching through America, discovering our own land, our own bodies. Some of these poets banded together forming the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute, Boulder Colorado.. take on another generation of younger students, transmit whatever history, information, shrewdness, emotions, rhythm, perceptions, new feelings, old ecstacies, old deaths, whatever discoveries we made, one generation to another.”

Gregory Corso kissing Costanzo Allione, come over from Italy to take his moving picture, Myself, Ginsberg, scratching his head and tickling his bardic beard, Timothy Leary, psychedelic space cadet, Peter Orlovsky, farmer, nurse, cold-water banjo-poet, William Burroughs, Invisible Man, Diane Di Prima, classicist, mother, Zen Buddhist, poet, Amiri Baraka (nee Leroi Jones from Newark, New Jersey) – poets who have known each other a long time, wrote together, slept together, loved together, from ‘fifties decade, ‘sixties decade. Some younger poets too – Anne Waldman, Queen Poetess of Naropa, co-director of the Kerouac School.”

[Anne Waldman speaks of the origins of the Kerouac School, on camera]

“I met Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa, on a street corner in New York, with my father, by accident, way back in 1970. Then I came here to Boulder, and he invited me to teach poetry and meditation, and he said that for his Buddhist meditators to be able to be able to speak about liberation of mind in America would have to be poets.”

[Chogyam Trungpa speaks on camera – on Buddhism and poetics. Gregory Corso speaks on camera]

“A lot of other arts and stars here too. We’re not here alone just a bunch of poets in the tradition of Buddhist Kerouac but in the middle of dancers and musicians. Meredith Monk , canary-voiced actress.” [Meredith Monk is shown performing]

[Timothy Leary is shown (interviewed by Nanda Pivana) – critical of Buddhism – “backwards-looking Buddhism” – “ The Bee Gees (pop group) are probably more important than Buddhism!” – Allen is moved to response: “The Buddhists are not so much concerned any longer with rejecting false models of maturity, ’cause they’ve already done that, they’ve all gone through acid, they’ve already gone through disco and rock ‘n roll, so, at that point, they’re just trying to settle in and examine their own nature, the nature of their own mind, settle long enough on what is the nature of the conditioning, rather than merely rejecting the conditioning, actually analyz(ing) it by observation of mind process. So I would say there’s more space open there for an alternative maturity, or alternative adulthood, my dear!”]

[William Burroughs – Gregory Corso and Amiri Baraka respond to Fernanda Pivano’s question about Buddhism]

“Leroi Jones /Amiri Baraka wrote us on toilet paper in Paris in 1958 asking for poems for his magazine, Yugen, now with his family, his wife, Amina, whose bright eyes open to his rhetoric.”

[Allen is seen performing “Father Death Blues” – “My father died when I was out here, so I flew back and on the way wrote “Father Death Blues”]

[William Burroughs is interviewed about Marxism and politics – “this is the space age, we are here to go” – segues into Timothy Leary…] [Leary is seen lecturing]

“Leary’s idea is that overpopulation, pollution, and insanity on the earth, all signify that we should leave the planet – that’s the natural biological evolution – go off into space and live there, in idyllic space colonies, leave this mess behind like an innocent broken-egg shell.”

[on Miguel Pinero and Miguel Algarin] – “Now there’s oratory, Miguel Pinero, Nuyorican poet from the Lower East Side – the mixture of American New York junkie been-in-jail energy street-voice, loud street-voice, that can be heard, the rhythms are so definite and Puerto-Rican (and) Miguel Algarin, Professsor of Shakespeare at Rutgers in New Jersey, proprietor of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on East 6th Street on the Lower East Side, New York.”

[Gregory Corso is interviewed about poetry and politics – which segues into section about demonstrations at Rocky Flats]

“The NAROPA poets come south, twelve miles from Boulder, to the railroad tracks on the cactus mesa near Rocky Flats plutonium plant to pronounce old and new prophetic lyrics poems in the open air under endless blue sky.”

[Footage of Rocky Flats anti-nuclear demonstration and arrests – Peter Orlovsky sings “Feeding them Rassberries to Grow” – Gregory Corso reads “Bomb” – Allen, his newly-composed “Plutonian Ode”]

“(The poem) “Bomb” turned me on to the open mind of seeing above the bomb, having been mad at it, rather than been afraid of it, just leading beyond it, in the imagination, to encompass it, and turn it around, and make it into something of beauty. I think (this was) the first time he brought that poem to the (a) site and read it publicly.”

“I wrote “Plutonian Ode” the day.. I stayed up all night and wrote it the day before I was arrested. First time, imagining it, I must have imagined the situation…

(Daniel) Ellsberg and (Allen) Ginsberg taken in the grey-haired (chariot) van – but what about Einstein? – What about Einstein? – I said, what about Einstein. Hey, Einstein!, come back here!”

[on Timothy Leary] – “Now there’s a man who created much scandal. Now Leary was in jail actually. He escaped from jail and went to Europe and came back and spent another couple of years in the custody of the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency, now out in the world.”

[on William Burroughs] – “Burroughs was like a distinguished, judicious head of the CIA. For a while was addicted to heroin, lived with me (he and I were lovers back in 1953, had an idyllic romance, writing books together, a very sentimental fellow, Bill, very sweet).”
[on Gregory Corso] “Gregory is a very pearly poet, poets’ poet, true poet, poet of mind-jumps, fast insight, flashes, intuitions, funny language, “fried shoes”.. I met Gregory in 1950. We met in a dyke bar in Greenwich Village. I always remember the opening lines of his poem, “The Stone World”, which began, “The stone world came to me and said “flesh gives you one hour’s life..”

“We’re all confronted and tryin’ to get together. Everybody’s growing old and having children. There’s a family of poets and families of families. It’s like a gang of angels….

“Leary brought some psilocybin down from Harvard to New York and gave it to Kerouac, who looked up at the ceiling and out of the window and said, “Walking on water was built in a day!””

[footage of Leary, Burroughs, et al, discussion of drugs and politics and the Cold War]

“I like Anne Waldman almost best of all the women poets because she swings most and orates most and sings most. We got to work together as equals (tho’ there’s a big age difference), and teach together, and hug and kiss, (one of the few women I wouldn’t mind sleeping with!) She also gets up like a dancing skeleton and makes wind through her bones!”

[footage of Anne Waldman reading]

“Diane Di Prima’s an old friend from the late ‘50s at the Poets Theatre in Greenwich Village . She had a bunch of funny poems, and I remember we (once) went back to the East Coast – Jack Kerouac and I, and Peter – (and) all got in bed with her, and a couple of dancer friends she had, and we had a big ol’ night-orgy. So she’s sort of Queen of Bohemia, living out on the West Coast now.”

[footage of Diane Di Prima reading]

[Peter Orlovsky is seen reading and then interviewing Allen] – “Peter and I met in San Francisco in 1954, around Christmas time. He was a young soldier, just out of the army, come from being in the mental hospital, because he told his sergeant an army is an army against love. And so, after meeting each other, we settled down, in 1955, and have been together ever since, companions, going around the world together, and writing poetry. He’s stronger physically than I, so he sort of takes care of the physical world, and I have all the hypnotic experience as a poet, so I take care of taking the money in and paying for the finances. So the relationship’s reliable. He worships me. I worship him.” [Allen sings/performs Wlliam Blake‘s “My Pretty Rose Tree”]

“The end of the summer. Dispersal of students. Packing up to go home to Eternity. Kiss once again. Jump into each others skin. Bang skulls together. This was a meal equally set from Fried Shoes to Cooked Diamonds.” [Film concludes with Allen singing/performing “Gospel Noble Truths”]

“Fried Shoes, Cooked Diamonds” – the title – as Allen suggests, surreal juxtaposition (“forked clarinets” “werewolf bathtubs”), sounds a lot like a line from a poem by Gregory Corso – and indeed very well may be so – but “Cooked Diamonds”?

Allen gives the derivation of that particular image, in a lecture given some three years earlier, as deriving (perhaps) from a poem by a poet in the lineage of the Vakari Indian saint, Nivruttinath! – “New feelings, old ecstacies” – Stretching it a bit, but, perhaps,this (Nivruttinath’s lineage) would include Gregory too!
The film has, for some time now, been available on line, in its entirety here,
but we trust we’re not bringing you old news,
Rather, in Ezra Pound‘s felicitous phrase, (fresh three decades later), “news that stays news”.

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