Remembering Huncke

Twenty years on [twenty-four years on now, 2020]. It’s scarcely imaginable. Herbert Huncke, “Beat Godfather” died on this day.  In memoriam, our good friend Laki Vazakas has provided us with this new Huncke footage – Huncke reading three poems in the Chelsea Hotel, New York, February 7, 1994.

February 4th 1994 – “Long am I overdue It doesn’t matter..”…”A perfection rare of exquisite beauty”
“Comments vague threats broken noses..”….”reading their brand of sentiment on and on”
“There are other things I could do..”….”something of the energy flow remains, to encourage”

Remembering Huncke

Here’s an accompanying note from Laki:

Today, August 8th, marks the 20th anniversary of Herbert Huncke’s passing.
He lived a hard, jagged, full life.
He was honest about his dark side.
But those of us who were fortunate to know Herbert as a friend also experienced his gentle wisdom, his wry wit, and his eternal cool.
For someone who had lost almost a decade of his life to incarceration, Huncke was remarkably generous with his time, his stories, his candor.
I think of Herbert quite often, envisioning him sitting at his desk in room 828 of the Chelsea, looking out the window as the sky morphed from azure to taxi yellow and finally to his beloved crimson.
I think of the community of friends who looked after Herbert in his final years.  Jerome Poynton, Raymond Foye, Tim Moran and other folks in the Chelsea did all they could to care for Huncke as his health began to fail.I think of Dimitri Mugianis, James Rasin, Wylie Nash, Jeremiah Newton, Edgar and Helen Oliver, Jack Walls, Paul Romero, Anna Lee Simpson and others who visited and spent substantial time with Herbert.
I think of Ben Schafer’s stellar work to edit and compile much of Herbert’s writing in The Herbert Huncke Reader.
I also recall visiting Herbert in Beth Israel the night before he died.  His breathing had become laborious, but over the lull of morphine, he raised his voice to share these words: “Tomorrow night, we’re gonna have a pow-wow.  Talk among ourselves.”
I remember the way he enunciated and elongated the words.
Anyone who was touched by Huncke’s unpretentious, nonchalant charisma understands the significance of those two syllables.  Herbert valued the company of his friends, the fine art of conversation, the small details and chance connections that illuminated his midnight stories.
I thought I’d share this video of Herbert reading three of his poems at the Chelsea in 1994.   He was recovering from a broken shoulder, and pneumonia, after falling on the ice.  He reveals his battle scar at the end of the clip.
Huncke wasn’t afraid to show his scars.

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