CUNY’s extraordinary Lost and Found series (that we’ve previously reported on here) has just released its third series of booklets. This new batch of titles consists of the following – Edward Dorn‘s Charles Olson Memorial Lectures (from 1981), Diane Di Prima‘s Charles Olson Memorial Lecture (from 1985), Poetry, Politics and Friendship in the Spanish Civil War – Langston Hughes, Nancy Cunard, and Louise Thompson (letters), Homemade Poems (a Lorine Niedecker facsimile), Selected Letters of Michael Rumaker, Letters To And From Joanne Kyger, and The Selected Correspondence of John Wieners and Charles Olson (the latter, in two sections, making up two small volumes).
From the second volume, this intriguingly candid appraisal of Allen and Gregory
in October of 1959 (Allen deep in the heart of his post “Howl” fame, and with “Kaddish” significantly done)
John Wieners: “Yesterday dinner, spontaneous with Ginsberg and Corso on East 2nd [NYC] First time I had caviar. There the 3 of us sat. The Russian Jew, the Italian and the Irish. Spent until 5 a.m. with Ginsberg.
What to say? He wants to make it. Not only on the crest but always. Showed me 75 clippings from Chicago. I said “Is this how you treat visiting poets?” Read as far as I could into his long mother poem [sic] (60 pages) typewritten, single spaced. Interesting to me because of the paranoia of his mother. Her actions I know and have lived to some small degree. At least her terror, “The dropping of the mind on the page”. This phrase I most remember. But it’s this lack of the original which ultimately bars him. Bores me.
I mean all poets inhabit he instant-eous the immediate but we all we beat suffer from the lack of joy, inability to lift above ourselves.
He carries a weight with him, even tho he moves with delicate lightness, walking down the stairs. Spring. That twist which shows.
I sense none or little of the excitement I have with you [Charles Olson]. Or (Robert) Duncan
say. Or Mike Rumaker even who is better. In violent ward at Bellevue
1st Ave & 30th St.
tho most calm himself and realizing this too must pass. The void. He will get out and be alright. On his own terms. As Allen will not. There is a challenge in him. Like Beat me or Accept me. When I would rather it was
Let’s watch it
Happen between us
There is generosity and mobility in both, in their lives. But they are hooked on their own lives. I mean you said it
Personal history is a bore
Or something like that. Inability to grasp the whole situation. Or rather only to see my side of it. Rather than that other side, which is the mysterious, the unknown, and un-
conscious. How lovely it plays when it does in our lives. And juggles events. And shakes us by
the roots of our tune to the moving of the
But there’s a poetry in their lives and they allow that to lead them. Corso the quickest to grasp the exotic, the weird violent. Still a slum kid being wacked on the ass for what he didn’t do.
Showed us his tunnels and mansions around Wash. Square Park where he grew up. But on the wrong side of the tracks. Lower east side, I think. Ginsberg more aware both his parents school teachers. Corso The trickster. But more spontaneously kind.
On my part. For the dirty undershirts. And the frenzy. And that we gotta make it somehow anyhow, anyway we can and this is it. And why not.
Ginsberg pretends a nihilism that all is nothing. And has no meaning. We live in illusion. Reality is this. We only think we exist.
And when I said
Everything has meaning
I don’t think he believed it. That it’s only a cartoon with a Woody WoodPecker laugh at the end. “A huge laughing bowl”. His prosody which he is most concerned about, I mean his thoughts about it are all acquired…
Ginsberg can pour soup in his ear but it does not have the same power as your hand on Betty’s knee.
A more generous assessment comes in the Michael Rumaker volume.
[to Joanne Kyger, July 28, 1958] – “I met Allen Ginsberg last night. He came over with a friend, Peter Orlovsky, and we had a very pleasant time. He’s not at all wild and is in fact a little shy. We had an agreeable good-humored talk about everything from San Francisco to Zen. He wasn’t at all put out by my critique on Howl in the Black M[oun]t[ain]n Review but said it was the “only intelligent” one he’d seen and although he had differences with it he was actually very pleased. He’s had kidney stones and drank about a gallon of lemonade and orange juice while he was here. (Peter and I helped). He said he liked my stories very much but informed me that Kerouac thought I “erased too much” – that’s a hot one! If he only knew I barely rewrite anything and the only erasing I do is when I misspell a word. Lord, I usually write all my stories ass backwards and am not at all as “studied” as he (Kerouac) thinks”.
And this from the Kyger volume (circa Christmas of 1959) – “I met Jack Kerouac and he was drunk all the time, but then so was I so we think each other beautiful and know in our hearts we are beastly and viciously egotistic.”
Joanne’s book is a gem, but then they are all remarkable books.