Allen Ginsberg Back to Wuppertal 1983
Back to Wuppertal” is the title of the poem Allen Ginsberg scribbled into the guest-book of the Forum for International Poetry one hour after his arrival in Wuppertal, Germany, on February 16, 1983, where the final performance of a three-month tour through Northern Europe was to take place. Joachim Ortmanns & Wolfgang Mohrhenn’s video records a few select moments from that visit.
“Back to Wuppertal in a car through snowy forest, Belgium to Köln / and the highway filled with trans-European trucks,/ Peter bare-footed, toes on the dashboard/ I was humming bass thump part for “Airplane Blues”,/Steven reading Lennon’s last conversation in a book,/Jurgen Schmidt in his silk foulard sparkled with sequins, driving/ and thinking “Netherland fields pass by, I stay/I pass by, and Netherland fields remain” – and threw up his right hand, remembering – “I just thought that!”
Allen (on harmonium, accompanied by Steven Taylor on guitar, with Peter Orlovsky on back-up vocals) performs “Gospel Noble Truths” (“Born in this world/You got to suffer…”..”Die when you die”) and, a little later on, “Father Death Blues” (“Hey, Father Death, I’m flying home”…”My heart is still, as time will tell”) and William Blake’s “Nurse’s Song” (“When the voices of children are heard on the green”…” And all the hills echoèd.”)
Following on from “Gospel Noble Truths”, Allen recites his celebrated poem, “America”, in its entirety, tweaking it occasionally, as was his practice, to include topical or geographically-resonant references (hence “German Trotskyites”, “Lutheran Lord’s Prayer”, “Hamburg is the next to go..”). Allen here camps up the famous last line – “America, I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel”
Footage of Allen and Peter and Steven in the streets (Allen eating cake) – audio (and eventually video) of Allen reading (again locally-resonant) “Ruhr Gebiet” (“Zu viel industry/zu veil essen/zu viel bier/zu viele zigaretten..” – “Too much industry/too much eats/too much beer/too much cigarettes”…”All the German gold/will save the nation/Build a gold house/ to bury the Devil”)
Peter performs his poem, “Good Fuck With Denise” accompanying himself with a variety of theatrical gestures (and likewise slips in a little local acknowledgement – “Good Fuck Mit Denise”..”schlafen“..
Also footage here of entry and exit. The film begins with chanted mantra (against a backdrop of photos) and Allen (cigarette in mouth) signing the book, and ends with a crazy and spirited drive, post-performance, back to the airport.