Carl Solomon and Jack Micheline this weekend on the Allen Ginsberg blog.
The occasion is the 1982 Jack Kerouac Conference at Naropa
These two Beat luminaries were among many notable figures gathered in attendance.
Their reading is available (with introduction by Al Aronowitz and supplementary introductions by Allen) – here
Allen Ginsberg: (approximately eighteen minutes in) – “We have the distinguished introducer, Al Aronowitz here, who introduced me to Bob Dylan and introduced Bob Dylan to The Beatles and also introduced The Beatles to grass (this is Al Aronowitz) – as well as introducing the American public to The Beat Generation, through his series of brilliant journalistic writings in the New York Post, and so I had originally intended to introduce Al Aronowitz to introduce Jack Micheline but I can introduce them both!”
Al Aronowitz (at the start of the tape) introducing Carl Solomon:
– “Through the lost exit with that intuitive Bronx Dadaist and prose-poet to whom Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” is addressed. In this book of his life, pilgrim truth speaks through straight faces” – [I don’t know how that’s how I see myself, but that’s how they saw me anyway] – “Monsieur Solomon (Monsieur Solomon) continues his epical battle of wits – all satanic forces of pure reason allayed against satantic legions of tiny thoughts emerging from his civilized unconscious A.D. post-Marxist mid-Sixties. Eternal banalities of wisdom language confront twentieth-century banalities of domesticated and foreign policy. Is it humorous? Is it serious? It’s a substance as interesting as his Bronx, a style rare in American, as it were the evolution of French pensées to consider the daily news” –
This is dated June 16 1967 and signed Allen Ginsberg – Now I’ll read from the books – I’m just opening it at random and reading from it, since I’ve lost the train of thought that was involved in the writing of it]
Carl Solomon reads from his two City Lights books, beginning, at approximately three-and-a-half minutes in, with “The Cat Soviet” and “My Henry Wallace Period” [“When I wrote these things I was just writing on anything I could think of, because I wasn’t sure just what I should write about. My experience had been so complex and so confusing…”] – and continuing – “As a boy, I was left completely cold by all forms of music, other than patriotic airs, and couldn’t stand jazz, until I began reading the Partisan Review in the late (19)40’s…”…”It was this interest that put me in contact with the Ginsberg-Kerouac crowd of the early (19)50’s” – “Memories of a Hammock” (“I did most of my summertime reading in (19)41 or (19)42 in a hammock…”…”away from the in-crowd and the out-crowd, and crowds in general..”) – “Problems” (“Two of the most important problems facing us today are those of mental stealth and excremental health..”) – “Bon Mot” (“If you lose contact with the zeitgeist, never fear..”) “On the One Hand and On The Other” (“A man’s philosphy dies with him, brother…”…”Why not die babbling of starfish?”)
Approximately seven minutes in, he declares; “Ok, I’ll read something from the first book, which was.. this stuff was much earlier, and I think a bit cruder. Here’s a play called “The Bughouse”. It’s a one-page play. Try to make something of this. I was very mixed up and confused when I wrote it, and it came out just that way” – [Carl reads his play and then continues] – “This is.. Well I used to.. we used to pick on one another all the time, and I suppose we still do, so here’s a little picking on Allen Ginsberg. It’s called “A Note on the Real Allen Ginsberg” – [He reads “A Note on the Real Allen Ginsberg” – (“I feel this clown before your eyes is really a double..”) – and follows it (at approximately ten-and-a-quarter minutes in) with “For Jack Kerouac” (“Some years ago, I yearned for pancakes in a place where there wasn’t even toilet-paper…”..”I would like to take a moment to praise this man for honesty and sharp powers of observation”)]
“Well, here’s an interesting piece of advice to young people. It’s called “Life Is A Nightmare” (“If you don’t believe that life is a nightmare, start living and see for yourself…”)
“L’Etranger” (this little short thing is called (“L’Etranger”) – “Stop your attempt to re-route me towards “reality”, I live only because I am afraid of the infinite”… “..THE ONLY IMPORTANT THING IS YOUR HEATH”),
“Behind the Times” (“Nobody Tells Me The Truth Anymore” is the sub-title of it”) – “Well, I felt very sorry for myself then”
“Now let’s see.. when you want me to stop let me know.. – “Viva La Difference” (“It must have been difficult for Chinamen and Japanese in Spain during the Civil War…”), “Utrecht” (“Utrecht was a town where nobody wore neckties..”),
“Quiz” (Do you recall Poe’s poem about mental illness..”)
Oh I’ve got something here…. I’ll read you the one for Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts (it’s not the “Mad Motherfucker” edition of Fuck You, but I think I later appeared in that – I’m not sure!) … I’m looking for the piece about the meeting with (Antonin) Artaud… [Solomon looks for the piece, but is not able to find it]
Oh well, I just haven’t found that, but here is something which, I think, ranks with it. This is a manifesto. This is the only part of the two books that were written in the wards of the Psychiatric Institute – with Allen’s co-operation. He and I actually put this manifesto together. He helped me with it, and it was his idea, but I carried through on most of it. (“At about this time, I wrote a sort of manfesto called “Manifest” which is a most pertinent artifact. Corsica is an island, situated off the coast of Sardinia..”..”Thank you for your kind attention, signed a vehement adult”)
Al Aronowitz: Thank you very much, Carl Solomon. I first met Carl Solomon in Washington Square Park with his mother. He had just got out. But he was limping pretty hard but he still smiled, and he’s still smiling now. So let’s give him a hand
The second half of the programme begins approximately seventeen-and-three-quarter minutes in
Jack Micheline: I really don’t need an introduction (unless Allen Ginsberg wants to introduce me)
AG: Was it not arranged for Al Aronowitz to introduce also?.. he didn’t want to?..ok –
Jack Michelene is the acme American (“Beat” is one of his monikers, but minstrel – jazz, blues, shout-ing street poet). When one thinks of a Beat poet as a street poet, Jack Micheline is one of the classic.. practitioners, probably with, say, covering East and West Coast. He gave readings with Jack Kerouac in the late ‘Fifties in Greenwich Village (and the famous reading’s I think, where Kerouac is pictured with his arms out, in a cross-style, (on a ladder, actually), with Howard Hart and Philip Lamantia – and, in those same days, were Jack Micheline (and Hugh Romney, incidentally, who was around then, now called Wavy Gravy, who was here the other night). Kerouac liked Jack’s sound because of the wild, swinging vocal breath, that comes from American talk and American rhythms and blues rhythms and thought that Jack was one of the greatest of the white blues poets, dug his swing, and also dug his melting-pot psyche – Jewish-Italian-New York. Jack has also developed subsequently through years of activity as a late ‘Fifties Greenwich Village MacDougal Street poet, where.. [to Jack Michelene] – did you meet..run into Bob Dylan in those days too?.. They hung around..let’s see..Ray Bremser, I guess, would be part of the company of that time, Howard Hart
Jack Micheline: Howard Hart, Steve Tropp, Taylor Mead, a whole bunch..
AG: Steve Tropp, Taylor Mead.. yeah, all begun there. (Well, (Charles) Bukowski from a different year, a different time, a different geographical location. I was trying to figure who were the personnel hanging around…)
Jack Micheline: Well, it really doesn’t matter, Allen. They just want to hear some poems.
AG: Well, ok, but you asked me to introduce you. So Jack (Kerouac) wrote a short preface to River of Red Wine, Jack Micheline’s first book and Micheline now lives in San Francisco and is a big painter – Jack Micheline.
Jack Micheline reads (starting at approximately twenty-one-and-a-quarter minutes in) –
“Well if I told you the story (of) how I got published, you guys would not believe it, but I’m not going to go into history, you guys want to hear some sounds, you people want to dance, you people want to feel good” – He leads off with “Old Howard Hart” (“It’s good to see your eyes, that fine grey coming out from behind the rocks again..”…”the twinkle in his eyes, Howard Hart”)
“I’m going to read one poem from River of Red Wine and when I had that book published, no-one knew me, see, by the name of Jack Micheline. What I did was I honored myself by naming myself “Jack” after Jack London and “Micheline” after my mother, (which was her maiden name). I had thought I could create my own destiny, which was a wrong.. not a wrong thing to do but, a very difficult thing, to come out with a new name when everyone knew me with another name, and I had some weird experiences. It doesn’t matter what my other name was, it mattered that I had to be able to accept, if I wanted to make my own destiny, accept the consequences of my past, that’s all.” – At approximately twenty-six-and- a-half minutes in, Jack Micheline begins reading “Hommage to Mickey” (“You were two years old, you fell out of the baby-carriage..”…“And you both cried together all night, you and your mother all night long”), followed by (first with an introduction) – “Night City” (“I was connected in the (19)50’s, in the mid ‘Fifties till about 1960, there was a tremendous relationship that never happened in America before – jazz musicians, poets, painters, were mingling together in a very warm atmosphere, where they were able to interchange their knowledge w ith each other, and a great renaissance took place from that period. Well, they were really able to.. somehow.. it was great, you know, to go to Zoot Sims and to jam with Zoot Sims and that crazy guy Rene, and Bobby Jaspar on flute, and Blossom Dearie coming in, and we’re all high on peyote that lasts eight hours and everybody’s having a good time (shit!, that was a great time, man, nobody was getting paid, man, we all had a ball) 0k, lets not fuck around and lets get down to it- “Night City” – What I’m about, I’m going to get down to what I’m about”) – [Micheline begins reading approximately twenty-nine minutes in] – (“Above the sounds, dark cities lie in shadows…”black tar in the night”) – “And what I think I’m about? – I’m about self-liberation. The whole reason why I create is to open myself up so that I can communicate with what I feel which is true with me and the universe, which is a huge wide place, and when Jack Kerouac put his hands out, he knew he was going to die, he knew he was like Christ, walking-dead and beat-up (and fucked-up by the p-r – what they do in America to famous men who are not equipped to handle the madness of such a crucifixion). He touched people because he was driven by some force that was unbelievably as big as the whole universe” – (“Write clear the sound..”..”Write for all so they will know your sound”)”
The reading continues at approximately thirty-one-and-three-quarter minutes in with “Hot Chicken Soup” (“Bernie.. “…”no-one enjoyed a meal better than Bernie”) –
“I want you to know that when I started out, I was like Carl Solomon, a fucked-up guy from the Bronx (no, I mean it, I came from an American family. My mother was a telephone-operator, my father was a letter-carrier. My father took me to the Polo Grounds to watch “Harry the Horse” Danning, who was a great catcher for the New York Giants. I chased girls in Harlem. I did like everyone else did in America but I never wanted to be a poet because they told me that poets were sissies. But what happens.. the weird trip about life, I end up a poet! – That doesn’t mean I’m a sissy, that means, a poet is everything.”
At approximately thirty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in, Jack Micheline reads “Conversations on A Degenerate Street” – (“Miss Babushka looked like a middle-aged housewife..”…”long live the degenerates”).
He considers reading one recent poem and then decides against it: “I’ll read (next) something I wrote in New York. It was recently, maybe last year when I was there for a short time..nah, I’ll save that for later because it’s heavy.I want to keep it loose and light and I don’t want to make it too heavy, you know, because, you know, you have enough heavy shit in the world, you know, our lives are full of.. very few sweet sounds in the world and everybody don’t.. we have to tap in. That’s too sad. I’m throwing this one away! – I’m just feeling good.”
“Okay, this is a tough one and I’ll read this – “Just Two Eyes Like Poems” (“I have no friends. It is two in the morning..”…”the lemming of Saskatchewan” (sic)…”…name? who cares, he had no name, /just two eyes, like poems, dead on arrival”)
Yeah, I know, (Paul) Krassner has been bugging me, man (to) read a race-track poem, you know, a story – “Tigers in the Sky” – I’ll read “Tigers in the Sky“ ( I haven’t read that since Santa Cruz, a long time ago) – (“The night before there was a high noon.. ” (“By the way, I’d been going to the track, since the Bronx, where I was born”)
Jack Micheline concludes his reading (at approximately forty-nine-and-a-quarter minutes in with three short pieces – “Imaginary Conversation with Jack Kerouac’ – (“Waki-waki-doo, he said/”What you say, man?, he replied..”)
and, “one more prose piece”.. “about a time..it was a great time in America in the ‘Fifties, because we used to travel quite a bit and read in many cities. I read a lot in New Orleans, St Louis, Houston, LA, San Francisco, and whatever town we could do our number in. And this is about some of the people I met on my travels – “Kenny and Ben” (“It was like it happened only yesterday…”…Magic is how sweet it is.”)
& – “alright, I’ll sing, okay, I’ll finish it off with “Rock Song” it’s getting a little late, and I want to sing it “Rock Song’ because that’s always been my favorite song (“O, the dead stalk the corridors of airports…”)