Allen Ginsberg and Sonia Sanchez 1990 at the Miami Book Fair

This one comes with a qualifier – “What you are about to view is live footage from the 1990 Miami Bookfair International. The quality may not be pristine but it’s a glimpse of the past. It was compiled for the Fair’s 30th anniversary in 2013″. The Miami Book Fair International was produced and presented by The Center for Literature and Theatre at Miami’s Dade College

This particular reading took place in conjunction with the Beyond Columbus Foundation spotlighting the 1990 winners of their American Book Awards
Allen  & Sonia Sanchez, recipients of their 1990 American Book Awards for Lifetime Achievement

Sonia Sanchez at the Miami Book Fair, 1990

Sonia Sanchez reads first – beginning with an elegy on the death of a student  –  “that we walk upright”- “A Poem of Praise” (for Gerald Penney, who died September, 1973 Amherst College and for the Brothers of Amherst College)” (“Man/ is an alien in this world/ in spite of all the pleasures..” ), followed by a prose-poem,”Just Don’t Never Give Up On Love”, surprised and surprising confrontation with an old black woman, while feverishly writing, (attempting to write to a deadline), in the park – “Feeling tired that day, I came to the park with the children. I saw her as I rounded the corner..”…”Guess you think I ain’t never loved, huh girl?..Guess you think I’ve been old like this fo’ever, huh?”…) . Next, an elegy for her brother, an early AIDS victim – “A Poem For My Brother” (Reflections on his Death, June 8, 1981), and following this, a poem to her grandmother (“What is significant about her is that she let me be”), “Dear Mama” (“Dear Mama, it is Christmas Eve and the year is passing away with calloused feet…”) – Sanchez then concludes with two poems, the first,  (“I come from a long line of rough Mamas..”) about sexual harassment, (evoking the spirit of “Mama Dixon” – Don’t you want some of this?” – “and I saw Mama Dixon dancing on his head” – “Muthafucka, you even offend the night..”), and, finally, a long and harrowing poem-performance on torture and repression (beginning with a long litany of heroes), “Shakedown Memory”.

Allen Ginsberg at the Miami Book Fair, 1990

Allen Ginsberg then comes in, approximately thirty-nine-and-a-half minutes in

AG: “..(and) I have an old friend with me, Glenn Gant [?], who lives here  [Gant accompanies Allen, discreetely, throughout the set, alongside Allen on harmonium, playing the trumpet] … (I) ran into him this afternoon and we played music together. So we’ll begin with something of note for the locals, particularly those involved with the CIA and the National Security Agency and dope dealing Miami being one of the great centers of such activity on the part of the government, as part of its great phony “War on Drugs”. It seems to have done nothing more than provide off-the-shelf money for Contras and other unknown activities, and driven marijuana, and the soft, relatively harmless, drugs off the street, and substituted very cheap cocaine”.

[Allen then performs a version of his CIA Dope Calypso (“Now Richard Secord and Oliver North/hated Sandinistas whatever they were worth…”)]

Richard V Secord.jpg

Richard Secord

Oliver North

Well, the next war! –  [Allen now takes out his aboriginal songsticks] –  After the unsuccessful war on dope, I suppose we’ll now escalate the horror and get caught in the quicksand of the Middle East. So – Hum Bom! –  [Allen performs a rousing version of his poem, Hum Bom! (“Whom bomb?/We bomb them!.. Whom bomb?/We bomb you!)]

Then, “Spot Anger” – (“Allen, when you get angry, you got two choices -/ Konk your head on the  floor with words/ Bang the kitchen table, slam taxicab doors/, insult Hotel Omni toilets….”…”konk Mr Temper Tantrum on his green bull noodle & fly off/over Manhattan weaving silver laughter/ round skyscraper spires”)

then,  Sphincter – (“I hope my good old asshole holds out..!)
“All of these poems are from the book Cosmopolitan Greetings.  [Allen next reads the title poem to that volume” a sort of salutation to the poets of the Socialist countries of 1986  (“Stand up against governments, against God/Stay irresponsible/Say only what we know & imagine/Absolutes are coercion”.. .”Inside skull vast as outside skull/Mind is outer Space, (Mr Cape Canaveral!)”..”Subject is known by what she sees/Others can measure their vision by what we see/Candor ends paranoia”)

[Allen next reads a long ecological work] – AG: “I went out on a canoe yesterday with an old friend Steven Bornstein, an artist, who lives here, and we wrote a poem together, or, I was the secretary of our conversation which turned into a poem appropriate to the occasion of Before Columbus Foundation Awards since it concerns our.. the local pre-Columbian ecology here. We went out on the Oleta River and so this is a “Poem in the Form of a Snake That Bites its (own) Tail” (“Oleta – (Snake, formerly – River)/ Heron, Manatee, Osprey/Canopy of white red &/black Mangroves…”….”Instructors: any/indigenous populations/ Indians, Africans/Laplanders -/Chernobyl began/the question -/ How much can the/Government lie?/ (Miami Herald pervasive/ and controlling locally)/ Locally the Seminoles Gurus”)

Allen reads next “Grandma Earth’s Song “A Dream” [including song section sung accapella] (“I started down Capitol Hill side along unfamiliar black central avenues/, uncertain, warily, which way thru the Fillmore district to the City Hall center/as I passed a block or two I saw a fragile old crone marching toward me up the hill..”.. “Anything that comes to mind is the right politics to ruin the police state”)

He finishes with “one short poem and a song, two songs”. The “short poem” is “Proclamation” (“I am King of the Universe/I am the Messiah with the new (ecological) dispensation/Excuse me I stepped on a nail./ A mistake/ Perhaps I’m not the Capitalist of Heaven”… “..Don’t associate me/ w/ that Crowd/ In any case you can believe every word/ I say”). The two poems, “Father Death Blues” and “Put Down Yr Cigarette Rag”

Jesse Helms (1922-2008)

Allen’s introduction to “Put Down Yr Cigarette Rag”:

AG: you know, most of you, already know, the Senator from North Carolina, recently re-elected (Senator Jesse Helms) is also.. (as he’s obsessed with fairies, and gays, and homosexuals, and dykes, in fact, so obsessed that he’s fixated on it – in fact, it’s kind of suspicious, because he’s talking about them all the time, talking about us all the time, and has some funny kind of relationship with us, like S&M, like he wants to punish us is what it is, he’s got this sadist trip going – humiliation is his kick, actually, humiliating the homosexuals seems to be his specialist pathology). So he’s involved in it, with us too, so we can’t totally reject him. On the other hand, since he set himself up as the moral arbiter of America, we should bear in mind that he’s the chief lobbyist and purveyor for addictive drugs. As you know, he represents the tobacco interests in North Carolina, and so hardly in a position to be setting himself up as the man with the moral, ethical background to be passing judgment on his fellow fairies.

So, dedicated to him then, we’ll. .(since he’s brought so much attention to the threat of this drug, nicotine, alcohol, and (so), finally, I suspect, he’s going to become a disgrace to the cigarette industry, because he’s bringing so much attention to them that, though we used to subsidize militarily the Iraqis, the tobacco industries, now, they’re going to find this odd person in their midst, who’s drawing too much attention to the illicit drug that kills  three-hundred-and-eighty-five-thousand people a year (as distinct from alcohol which only kills a hundred thousand, as distinct from coke which only kills ten-, twenty- thousand a year.. So, a non-smoking non-commercial – “Put Down Yr Cigarette Rag”!

An alternative version of “Put Down Yr Cigarette Rag” (Don’t Smoke) is available – here

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