Allen Ginsberg at San Francisco Poetry Center, 1959

Fifty-eight years ago today, Allen read in San Francisco for Ruth Witt-Diamant at  the Poetry Center.  A reason (as if we needed one) to draw your attention to the extraordinary resources of the still active and dynamic SFSU Poetry Center.

Ruth Witt-Diamant introductory remarks:

“Our guest today is a poet for young people, of any age, But what I mean to say is that Allen Ginsberg has seemed to young people to be their voice, in many ways – and I dare say he is. Ans I think that the reason that that has seemed so is that he has made a plea for a poetry which has a direct contact with living, instead of being in some way sifted through and residually presented through the academic censorship, shall we say, or standards. His standards are sound enough. He understands exactly what he’s doing (althoug he says on this program that he doesn’t, I don’t believe him), but, in any case, rather than take any more of his time, since we have such a short time, let me introduce too you, Allen Ginsberg.

[Allen reads a number of poems including “the beginning of a long poem called Kaddish ]

AG:   … I better say in advance, obviously, I can’t represent or speak for anybody but myself  – I’m getting old!…   (The) First Poem, (is) called  “Poem Rocket“. It has an epitaph from Gregory Corso, (which is “Be a star-screwer“) , written in Amsterdam, at the time of the launching of the Sputnik – (“Moon no longer old..”…. “sleep in my dark bed on earth”) – (Next)  “Message”, from Paris” – ( “Since we had changed/rogered spun worked..”..I will be home in two months and look you in the eyes”) – (This is followed by)   “A little poem about the steel industry called “Squeal“” –  (“He rises, he stretches…”…” he dives on the market like a bomb”) – “Wrote This Last Night” – that’s the title!” – (“Listen to the tale of the sensitive car…”… “…on the last night up from from Mexicali”) – “The Lion for Real”,  (” actually an adaptation of a form of a poem by (Tristan) Corbiere called “The Rhapsody of the Deaf Man” “) –  (“I came home and found a lion in my living-room..”…”  “…O Lord I wait in my room at your Mercy”) – “To Aunt Rose” (“Aunt Rose – now- might I see you..”….”the war in Spain has ended long ago/ Aunt Rose”) – “Ignu” (which is an attempt at defining an American hero, the first line of which is, “On top of that if you know me I pronounce you an Ignu”)  (and concluding  – “and the long sword of intelligence/over which I constantly stumble like my pants at the age six – embarrassed.”) . (This is followed by a) “short poem To Vachel Lindsay, who committed suicide, 1931, an imagination.. from Paris, to Lindsay” – (“Vachel, the stars are out…”… “..your shade falls over on the floor.”) – (and, in conclusion) – “I’d like to read the beginning of a long poem called Kaddish”, which is the Hebrew mourning service, written for my mother, using some of the rhythms of the Hebrew service. The sound of it in the original is…” (“Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets  & eyes, while I walk on the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village.”)…

Kaddish – City Lights “Pocket Poets” edition

Allen with his mother, Naomi

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