We celebrate tomorrow the actual birthday of Philip Glass, but here on the Ginsberg Project, a Philip Glass weekend.
Here’s Philip bringing in the New Year in New York earlier this month:
“Some years later when my sister Sheppie’s husband, Morton Abramowitz was the Ambassador to Turkey, Allen Ginsberg came with me and some other friends on a tour of Greek theaters on the Ionian coast. I was interested in the acoustics and how they worked, so Allen would go on the stage and recite the famous W.B.Yeats poem “Sailing to Byzantium”. The tourists who were around would sit down in the seats in the amphitheater and listen, because here’s someone with a big head of hair who looks like a professor – I don’t think anyone knew it was Allen Ginsberg – and the guards didn’t stop him. He would walk to the center of the stage and recite, and it is amazing how beautiful and clear the poem would sound in that open environment.”
“When Allen met Gelek Rimpoche soon after they immediately became close friends. From then on, he was at all the teaching sessions that would happen in New York and traveled frequently to Ann Arbor. During those years, Gelek Rimpoche’s Jewel Heart organized two retreats a year – one in the winter and one in the summer – and Allen and I went to both every year. There were usually three of us sharing a room, the third person being either Stokes Howell, another writer friend of mine, or Kathy Laritz, Gelek Rimpoche’s assistant at that time. During thr retreats, I often saw Allen wake up at night, turn on a flashlight, and begin writing poetry.”
“One summer, Allen and his lifelong friend Peter Orlovsky came to visit me in Cape Breton. I remember many evenings after dinner when Allen would recite poetry. There was no TV near us and the radio offered very little of interest, but Allen knew volumes of poetry by heart. He could recite hours of poetry by Shakespeare, Blake, and Tennyson to list just a few.”
“He told me that his father, Louis Ginsberg, himself a poet of some recognition had gotten him and his brother Eugene as children to memorize poetry. At times there were readings when both Allen and his brother read poems, a performance I found both moving and beautiful.”
“Allen was outspoken and honest to a fault up to the very end of his life. From time to time I witnessed his encounters with people who knew him only by name, but had no idea what a warm and spontaneous person he truly was. I remember a dinner in the 1990s at the house of Hank Luce the publisher of Time and Fortune magazines. Hank was a big loud guy and part of the Luces – a powerhouse family in New York and throughout the country. Hank didn’t really know Allen, but at dinner began poking around conversationally, clearly looking for trouble. But Allen, at that moment, was not interested in getting riled up. He answered Hank amiably enough. Finally Hank said, “I hear you write pornographic poetry?” – “I do” – “Let me hear some” – At that point Allen let loose with some real hair-curling pornographic poetry. Not only was it pornographic, it was really vulgar too. I could see that Hank was deeply impressed. Finally, when it looked as if Allen might be slowing down, he said, “Well, well, well…that certainly is pornographic. After that they fell into a friendly and very lively conversation . In fact Hank and Allen had a very good time together.”
to be continued