More Peter Orlovsky – (A Life In Words)

The St Marks Poetry Project tonight (8 o’clock) sees the book-launch for Peter Orlovsky’s A Life In Words (we’ve spoken already of the book here, citing some of the poems, here’s a few (just a few) of the never-before-seen journal-entries

Readers from the book, alongside editor, Bill Morgan, will include, Ed Sanders, Steven Taylor, Rosebud Felieu-Pettet and Hettie Jones

On June 18, there’ll be a celebration of the book at City Lights in San Francisco, accompanying Bill Morgan on that occasion will be Joanne Kyger and Michael McClure. 

There’ll also be a book event on June 22nd at Boulder (Naropa)

“Peter Orlovsky at James Joyce’s Grave, Zurich, Switzerland, December 198o. We climbed up to the cemetery and found Joyce’s statue snow-covered, brushed it off his head” (Ginsberg caption) c. Allen  Ginsberg Estate

Peter Orlovsky, Vermont, 1984. c Allen Ginsberg Estate

August 13 1954   “…One question I asked before I became disturbed. How does one fight or stand up for oneself when he is weak like me, when other people are weak, and because of this weakness, hostility is radiating from them onto me? How when I am weak, can I keep free???…It’s good my handwriting is so poor – so some people won’t take time to read what I say (including myself).”

November 1 1954 – “I wonder why I write: to please myself, to feel a certain order at the end of the day, to take refuge by using the face a white sheet of paper provides, to let someone say who looks at my notes: “So this is Peter?” in a friendly way – while actually I’m telling him indirectly to say this? Something (that is) accomplished by indirect methods – (I) can hide behind a bare wall, where criticisms can bounce off.“

January 11 1955 – “Conversation with Allen. Feeling Allen manipulates me. Remaining doubt. Felt the presence of my smallness. Loss of true feelings at times. A turn on the path with signs.   Allen says “No!” – Robert (LaVigne) says “Yes!” – Peter says “Both of you are pains in the ass, I am going.””

darksilenceinsuburbia: thecabinet: “Nude with onions” Portrait of Peter Orlovsky by Robert LaVigne (1954)

Nude With Onions (Portrait of Peter Orlovsky – Robert LaVigne, 1954

March 14 1955 – “Luck is like water for me, it falls out of my hands. (It’s) just as good. I would only misuse it. Instead of grinding my teeth, I keep nervously moving my toes inside my shoes. Finished a philosophy test, failed. Could hardly write enough to answer a question. All my thinking is this way, so that all my efforts (amount to a) few small sentences..”

March 31 1955 – “No dreams. Allen likes to sleep with me. He claims I help him release emotions of some nature, that he feels relieved, freed when sleeping with me. For me: I don’t like it. His body is like an octopus, always in the next moment about to rub his hand against me. Sleep is shallow, waking up in a tired state, more so than (that which) I went to bed with.”

July 16 1955 (from letter to Robert LaVigne) – “In Long Island after hitching seven days across the nine or so states on Highway US .30. Sleeping in railroad cars, under the stars, waking up damp as the early morning dawns. Luck with rides was fairly good, although I never did feel I would get through Wyoming. I baked in the hot sun for hours on end looking at my neighbors, the mountains, doing the same. Staying over in Utah, visiting the Mormons and hunting the streets for some young girl. The fireworks I saw there grew octupuses of different colors..”

August 1955 (from letter to Allen Ginsberg) – “… (I) (n)eed you Allen, you got the social “touch” (my brother) Lafcadio needs for outward life. I try myself to do this. I can’t . Your impression on him will come with a bang. It’s only sparks that turn the engine over into life – your expression of humor, your wide-open mouth, stretching to take in and give off laughter, your thinking movements, your Mississippi wideness of experience, your collection of antique thoughts like New Orleans’ hidden alleyways, your activeness in boring things, and the field of poetry you have command of. All have a glowing effect like on peyote. Me he takes too much for granted…”

Photo: Lafcadio & Peter Orlovsky, August 1995. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate

December 15, 1955 – “More self-doubt these past few days. Nothing like doubt, it cleans the soul, eats up excess fat . Doubt can be enjoyed..I’ve never thought myself so mad before. Allen says it all the time now. “How can you be so stupid?” referring to my blankness. I yell at Lafcadio what Allen yells at me. But the thing is my memory is falling to hell, I move unnecessarily about, can’t think along a line of thought without going off, ah shit this fucking world is painful, the people are all the same crying in their sleep..”

Peter Orlovsky with his sister Marie and his mother Kate, October 29, 1979 – Photograph by Cliff Fyman

February 21 1956 (from letter to Kate Orlovsky, his mother) – “Allen just came back from hiking up in Oregon and near Canada. He gave a reading of his poetry there, many were excited by his poems. Some old ladies walked out – it was too much for them. He was close to Vancouver, Canada, and saw the Indians dressed funny looking in all different strange clothes. A long poem called “Howl”  is going to be published. When it is, I’ll send you a copy.”

March 21 1956 (ibid) – “Allen did great in that reading of his poetry last Sunday. The audience response was overwhelming, people call him an ANGEL when they see him on the street now..

April 1956 – “Allen must be going through a strange experience, he seems so humble. He said he feels like a monster, “people just poke their face closer to hear what I say, when really I am just saying nothing of importance”..

May 11 1956 – “I myself am wandering up and down the milky way for I’ve lost my soul in hell somehow.

August 14 1956 (from letter to Allen Ginsberg) – “I’ve been reading (Arthur) Rimbaud, we ought to go around like Rimbaud and (Paul) Verlaine friends. It takes two minds together to straddle the sun under our saddle and ride through space and time to the stars of human workings. Gregory (Corso) says, “What is needed is (to) keep friendships like Rimbaud and Verlaine in this world, then things would start to happen”…”

August 17 1956 (ibid)  – “Your letters seem to show you know, are aware of understanding what is in the universe. (Henry) Miller is like that. (Guillaume) Apollinaire also. Your “Siesta in Mexico”  is self-revealing, it’s part of your self naked on the ‘blank white light”, showing yourself to who ever will look open the pages to read…”

Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, NYC New Years Eve, 1977.  Photograph by Gordon Ball

April 18 1957 (from Tangier – from a letter to his brother, Lafcadio) –  “..You know how strange the streets of Mexico City (are), here it’s far more stranger. The Arabs walk around in a monk like costume, there are old Berber women, dressed and wrapped up in cloth, white, covering their heads, some are black-skinned and so old that it’s a wonder that they have enough strength to come down from the mountains pushing a donkey which carries garden vegetables that they bring to the grand market (it’s called Grand Socco) and sit all day on rock roads yelling at people who pass by shopping, like me and Allen do. Lots of these old people have noses cut off and eyes that don’t work..”

June 20 1957 (from Madrid – from a letter to the Orlovsky family) – “…the bull fight is horrible, never want to see it again, the poor bull never has a chance, he dies before he knows what it’s all about: I don’t think it’s so thrilling as the Spanish make it to be – There was a moment or two when looking at the fight that I wish the kingly bull would kill the matador (which in Spanish means killer) and rip them all to pieces, but that would never happen because the matadors are protected by other matadors in ring and what not. It’s quite a spectacle, all of Spain sitting in the ring which looks like Roman amphitheater. Four blinded horses drag the dead bull away…”

September 17 1957 (from Paris – ibid) – “Here in Paris, best place in Europe…Paris is the future of the world – big black negroes sit in cafes by the dozen – all the people here live Bohemian and dress like it. Never been so excited and happy..

Peter Orlovsky and Allen Ginsberg, Paris at The Beat Hotel -Photograph by Harold Chapman

September 26 1957- “Allen and I cross the French frontier into Belgium at four in the afternoon – (Arthur) Rimbaud must have walked this road a few times – it’s all flat and heavy springy grass where Vermeer cows stand in green dew fields with clear glowing black and white colors – saw already the flower-pots and strange-shaped houses and it’s raining…

October 2 1957 – “..I had a dream last night but I forgot it now – it might have been about a wall full of snakes or a white whale on my back – but dreams are funny, like lollipops, you have them in your hand one moment and then they’re gone – but a cafeteria is a good room to live in for a while

“Peter Orlovsky, returned to New York from India, Avenue C and 5th Street, September 1963″(Ginsberg caption) c. Allen Ginsberg Estate

November 27 1957 – “There will come the time I will die and on that day I have a feeling I am going to be very happy, no one will be around me, for I will go to a forest and find a tree with a hole in its trunk so that when the pigeon in me flies away I fall ino this hole like a wolf would do. And there my eyes will look to my brains and my brains will say no more except that velvet juice will twinkle through my cavernless body and at that moment a sparkle like a dream will all turn blue on an old ambrosian decrepit hill where a shack with a witch’s voice repeats the mournful cries of a drunk wino that her sons all cracked to become wolves in mad houses. I took the sun with my left hand and flicked it into my back pocket without giving it a thought, and my boy, to this day I have no ass…”

Peter Orlovsky, St. Johnsbury, VT 2006. Photo: John Sarsgaad

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