Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 311

Hal Chase, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, Morningside Heights, next to Columbia College, New York City, Winter 1944-45. photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate

The Best Minds of My Generation – A Literary History of the Beats – Bill Morgan’s masterly collection of Allen’s teaching wisdom   (from Naropa and Brooklyn College) appears today (official publication-day) from Grove Press (Grove Atlantic).

Here’s a few lines from Anne Waldman‘s lucid introduction:

“Allen Ginsberg devotedly, and with a loving perseverance, incubated these lectures on his primary literary Beat colleagues during his first teaching job at Naropa Institute, the first Buddhist-inspired university in the west, which was founded in the summer of 1974. It is a remarkable delineation, focused on the writing of his colleagues, their lives and their intricate relationships…”

“Allen was inspired to create the Poetics Program at Naropa, with its Buddhist ambience, as an extraordinary opportunity to bring his “best minds” together, to gather his people to a safe haven where they could continue the sacra coversazione and emotional dynamics and literary work. All that messy imbricated history would find rest and purpose here. (Jack) Kerouac’s ghostly consciousness hovered over the premises. Allen would create a Beat Literary canon while most of his compadres were still alive. Where it all began who met whom when, under what circumstances. His own unique eye-witnessed version….”

“In these lectures, the primary focus is on the heart buddies and the generative years and writing in New York: Jack, William (Burroughs), Gregory (Corso), with minor appearances by Neal Cassady, John Clellon Holmes, Peter Orlovsky,  West Coasters, Philip Whalen and Gary Snyder, coming later into Allen’s sphere, are absent. There are lectures on Allen’s own writing methods as well. The book includes chunks of the core texts interspersed with Allen’s personal insider exegesis. His intellectual psychological scrying. I can’t think of any other contemporary writer so generous with his peers…..”

“Editor Bill Morgan has done an admirable, heroic, and exhaustive job of winnowing down and siphoning many pages from the Naropa classes, the ur-classes, but much more substantively from the Brooklyn College lectures, which is this book’s core, covering additional texts and Allen’s commentary…”

“…Professor Ginsberg will capture and hold our attention for many semesters to come. There is something still radically prescient, deeply personal, and riveting in this luminous textbook.”

Anne doesn’t flinch from addressing the sexism issue – “(One criticism). The women are missing here unless as mothers, lovers, wives, sometimes victims, hamstrung by ignorance, societal prejudice, a patriarchical dominance yet to fully crumble. But many were outstanding poets and writers and their story is unfolding with impressive research and investigation. The Beats were culpable bystanders..”

Tho’, she goes on:  “I never felt personally excluded by the mid-sixties. There is palpable fluidity in these men. They are essentially softies, The female principle of cultivating atmosphere, of providing nourishment, emotional depth, and ambiguity drives so much of Ginsberg’s writing and brotherly love. Love is at the heart of the narrative. Allen often quoted Ezra Pound‘s “What thou lovest well remains”…”

Dwight Garner in the New York Times, a few weeks back,  on Joyce Johnson’s 1983 memoir, Minor Characters – “Minor Characters is better than all but a handful of books the boy-Beats themselves wrote. [sic] – It’s a book about a so-called minor character who, in the process of writing her life, became a major one.”

And a shout-out (from us) on her 2012 Jack Kerouac biography – The Voice Is All  (more about that book – here)

And somehow we keep finding ourselves mentioning Brenda Knight‘s groundbreaking !996 collection,   Women of The Beat Generation

Martin Torgoffhere – (in an excerpt from his Bop Apocalypse book) writes about Allen and marijuana.

Rusty Aceves, at SF Jazz, writes of the Bebop and Beat Generation connection – here.

(See also some of our earlier postings (notably Sam Charters 1982 Naropa lecture on that subject –  here, here, and here),

Incidentally, Naropa Summer Session 2017“The New Weathers” – is fast approaching  (classes begin June 11 – “Reckoning This Fleeting World”))

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