March 18, 1956. Sixty years since the legendary Town Hall Theater Berkeley reading. Tonight in that very space (now a neighborhood cafe called “Sconehenge” (sic)), Tom Ferrell and George Killingsworth have assembled a gathering to suitably honor the reading of Allen’s great epoch-making poem (G.P.Skratz will be m-c)
As Allen himself remarked on the occasion:
“The audience (that night) was a little off-center because of the celebrity of one earlier Six Gallery reading, many in the audience had been there. Some thought it was a hoot party, which it was, but they didn’t get the non-wine sublimity or aesthetic seriousness. They wanted to encourage but were a little too familiar, too “knowing”, not yet aware of the power of Parts II and III. So the beginning of the reading is quite muted. I’m not stable on my feet and I’m worried I’m going to be interrupted if they laugh too much at the curiosity of the lines, because the phrasing is humorous, meant to be appreciated, maybe with response, but not such as would interrupt the flow of the poem. However, the reading goes on, it mounts in intensity and clarity, people begin settling in and realizing what’s happening, it’s musical as well as intellectual, it should be listened to. By the end of Part I it approaches a tearfulness or emotional power, and when the proclamation launches into Moloch and I’m with you in Rockland”…”
“All of Ginsberg’s most successful poems were attempts to capture his spontaneous thoughts and insights, what he called “ordinary mind”. Composed in that way, in the act of “catching himself thinking”, it remained for me only to select the very best examples of his mind at work”
This was achieved through careful reading and rereading of texts, whittling the mass down to those poems that best achieved that goal. If the mind was shapely, the art created by that mind would also be shapely was his creed. It also gave the editor the oppportunity to reexamine every uncollected poem and select only the best from the entire span of his life
Chris Funkhouser, in “A Personal Appendices“, notes one poem, “Nothing Personal”, the poem above (“Ginsberg’s handwritten contribution to a mimeo magazine from the 1970’s that I found on a visit to Bolinas Public Library”) that didn’t make the cut.
“Homer”, we’re reliably informed, was Lawrence Ferlinghetti‘s dog:
“Nothing personal,/ Homer’s bark rough limit of hard sound/ Hiss Crash wave comes lipping/ sand wish/Eyes fixed at Horizon, a bird floats moving/Air surface awash with sun silvery/wave glitter/Spine balanced light on immobile sand seat,/Stomach filled deep its own, exhaled its own,/breath slower than sigh,/Rocks sat Grave on ocean bottom/ What’d he see on that cliffside/ half decade ago, Faces?/I mourn my old loves, today’s love light as/white mists/ Old loves the most sweet thoughts! old forms/disappeared in earth as numberless waves by/ the hour -/Old names echoing in head, telephones ringing thru/ White House/mind dreams newspaper corpse photos. Then the/Presence Alone, waves bowing to body, Crashing/ foamy to brown sand crotch.”
Funkhouser goes on to also provide annotated typescript from transcription of two of Allen’s 1988 dreams (which appeared in limited edition in his magazine We– 12 (1989).
To see the whole note (including unequivocal praise for Wait Till I’m Dead, see here.
Tonight (this afternoon, actually) at Harvard (Cambridge,Mass.), Dr Rita Banarjee lectures on “Encountering Allen Ginsberg – The South Asian Avant-Garde Response to the Beats.”
Tomorrow in Luton, England – “Beat Day” at “Lutonia” – Jeff Towns, “the Dylan Thomas guy’, introduces Iain Sinclair (talking about American Smoke and introducing his 1967 film, Ah Sunflower!), David Shulman (sharing his film, Guerilla TV, and showing rare footage of Allen narrating the introduction), Colin Still (showing his film, No More To Say & Nothing To Weep For), “Howl“, (a live performance with Ceri Murphy as Ginsberg reading the poem, accompanied by graphic illustrative projections), and more
Starting Sunday in Milan —
Giulio Bellotto is the organizer.
– and in Thessaloniki, Greece,
The Performing Arts Research Lab AlmaKalma (under the artistic direction of Yannis Mitros) are the organizers there.