Numinosity of Place – (Allen Ginsberg to John J Dorfner)

Here’s an extraordinary item that we’ve been meaning to post, to gently remind readers about – Allen’s note to Jack Kerouac scholar, John J Dorfner, from November, 1992  (it became the foreword to his 1993 volume, Kerouac-Visions of Lowell)

For John J Dorfner

Kerouac made Lowell sacred
by his attention to it, as Homer did the walls
of Troy, as Dante his Florence, as Blake his
London as Pound his Venice, as W.C.Williams
his Paterson, as Thos. Wolfe his
Asheville – so any later illumination of the site flashes
with sacred fascination

Allen Ginsberg 11/25/92

A simple, succinct testimony by Allen to the numinosity of place.

The House Where Gerard Died, Beaulieu Street, Lowell, Mass. 1989 © John Suiter – “From a photographic standpoint, the present day house with its bland plastic siding and cyclone fence around its tiny front-yard parcel seems far too nondescript to carry the weight of associations that Kerouac the writer had for the place. Though Gerard died in the light of a summer afternoon, I knew that to approach Kerouac’s tone at all, I would need to photograph the house at night. When I arrived and saw the street lamp burning out front of the house, I knew its sodium-vapor light would be my friend, shifting the color of my film to greenish-gray, the sickly cast of death that Jack ascribed to the faces of the assembled adults at Gerard’s front-porch wake.”

A road that Heinrich Schliemann thought was the entrance to Homeric Troy but which is in fact about a thousand years older. The wall beside it is another thousand years older still. The main gap of a trench  dug by Schliemann and his party is on the left. The road continues straight on for a long way downhill at the same slope, until its lost under unexcavated ground

La Divina Commedia di Dante (Dante and the Divine Comedy) – fresco painted on the wall in the dome of the church of Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence’s cathedral) in 1465 by Domenico di Michelino (1417-1491)

William Blake “London” (composed in London in 1794, this particular etching printed 1826) – from Songs of Innocence and Experience – “I wander thro’ each chartered street,/Near where the charter’d Thames does flow/And mark in every face I meet/Marks of weakness, marks of woe./ In every cry of every Man, in every Infants cry of fear,/ In every voice: in every ban/ The mind-forg’d manacles I hear./How the Chimney sweepers cry/ Every blackning Church appalls,/And the hapless Soldiers sigh/ Runs in blood down Palace walls/ But most through midnight streets I hear/ How the youthful Harlot’s curse/Blasts the new-born Infants tear/And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.”

Ezra Pound – from  In Venice and in the Veneto with Ezra Pound  – Rosella Mamoli Zorzi, John Gery, Massimo Bacigalupo & Stefano M Casella – Supernova Edizioni, 2007 – “Venice’s Dorsoduro, the area of the city around Accademia and San Trovaso, and back along the Zattere to the Salute Church, is Ezra Pound.”


William Carlos Williams in Paterson, New Jersey, 1955 – Photograph by Elliott Erwitt – printed postcard – courtesy the William Carlos Williams Collection in the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
From Cradle to Grave – Walking In Thomas Wolfe’s Shoes” – A “Walking Tour Guide” to Thomas Wolfe’s Ashville, North Carolina

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