Side-swipes. Time magazine. The voice of “the establishment”. Allen memorably excoriated its pomposity and hauteur in 1956 in his poem, “America” – “Are you going to let your emotional life be run by Time Magazine?/ I’m obsessed by Time Magazine/I read it every week/Its cover stares at me as I slink past the corner candy-store/I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library/It’s always telling me about responsibility..”
Plus ça change, over fifty years later, the snarky caption to a photo juxtaposing Allen andDaniel Radcliffe (early warning, early promo’, on the up-coming Kill Your Darlings) – “It’s more fun to watch Radcliffe play Ginsberg than it is to read anything by Ginsberg” – anything?Still on the topic of monumental Ginsberg put-down’s, there’s this – John Hollander‘s Spring 1957 review of Howl & Other Poems for Partisan Review – “It’s only fair to Allen Ginsberg…to remark on the utter lack of decorum of any kind in his dreadful little volume. I believe the title of his long poem Howl is meant to be a noun, but I can’t help taking it as an imperative..” (and that was just the beginning!) – But Allen, famously rose to the occasion, with what Bill Morganin The Letters of Allen Ginsberg refers to as “an epic-length letter in which he tried to set the record straight” – “..(Y)ou’ve just got to drop it, (John), and take me seriously, and listen to what I have to say. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, or change your career or writing, or anything hideous. It just means you’ve got to have the heart and decency to take people seriously and not depend only on your own university experience for arbitrary standard of value to judge others by…” Hollander, Ginsberg’s sometime Columbia class-mate, did indeed “listen and take Ginsberg seriously” (would that the junior sub-editors at Time would do the same!) – From his Fall 1985 interview with J.D.McClatchy in the Paris Review: McClatchy: Allen Ginsberg was a close friend of yours in the late (19)40’s. How did he influence you? Hollander: Ginsberg was my poetic mentor, very generous and considerate of my early work. At college he was my closepoetic, rather than literary friend. That is, we talked about the minute particulars of form as if mythological weight depended on them, and about the realms of the imagination. Not about style, or about “the artist in society” – those were literary matters.”
Two very different poetic careers, but a mutual respect.
Hollander died this past weekend, aged 83. The New York Times, among other things, featuredlines from “Helicon” (from his 1965 volume Visions From The Ramble) – “Allen said, I am searching for the true cadence.Gray/Stony light had flashed over Morningside Drive since noon..”…”Allen said, They still give you five dollars a pint at St Luke’s,/No kickback to the intern either, and I leaned out/Over the parapet and dug my heel in the hard,/Unyielding concrete below…”
Hollander was the Sterling Professor Emeritus of English at Yale.
Laudably a long way from the academy (she declares so in the interview herself) the extraordinary Joanne Kyger can be seen here (Marin Poets Live!) on local cable tv, being interviewed by a fawning (if well-meaning) Neshama Franklin and reading from the essentialAbout Now.
The Collected Philip Lamantia – any day now. Here‘s Garrett Caples note on the editing process.
Here’s a Japanese version of Allen’s “Hadda be Playing On The Jukebox”. (Rage Against the Machine’s (live) version (perhaps a little more recognizable) can be heard here).