Opening this past week, and on through April 27, at the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library – Fleeting Moments, Floating Words, and the Beat Generation – The Photography of Allen Ginsberg.
“The work of Allen Ginsberg has also provided a touchstone; Ginsberg’s elegy for his mother, ‘Kaddish’, is for Griffa ‘one of the most beautiful things that has ever been written’. He vividly remembers Ginsberg’s visit to Turin in 1967, when he read at the bookshop, at that time called Hellas, which was owned by the radical activist Angelo Pezzana: ‘He read “Howl” in this small bookshop, […] we were all in the basement – today it wouldn’t be possible because of health and safety laws – we were packed in there, and he read with this wonderful voice’. He (Griffa) shows me a City Lights Books edition of Howl, signed by Ginsberg, with petals or fronds scrawled by the poet springing from the ‘O’ on the title page.
It seems Cuban customs have still not entirely come to terms with Allen Ginsberg. Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, writing in the Havana Times, a few weeks back, on returning to Cuba from Paris, recounts her interrogation – “What do you do here in Cuba?” (“¿En qué trabajan en Cuba?”), and then, “while they flicked through an Allen Ginsberg book which I had brought to read” ( “La pregunta la hacen mientras hojean el libro de Allen Ginsberg que yo he llevado para leer“), – “What does “Howl” mean?” ( “¿Qué significa “Aullido”?) – What? you don’t know? – and, even more troubling, “Why does it say that he was prosecuted here in the prologue?”) (“Por qué dicen aquí [en el prólogo] que fue procesado?“)
Named after that classic text, Howl Arts Inc, and the Howl Happening Gallery in New York has for some years now been “dedicated to preserving the past and celebrating the contemporary culture of the East Village of the Lower East Side” (as their mission statement has it) and has been doing a pretty good job.
Some surprise, notwithstanding, at this news (nine million dollars!, that’s a sizeable sum of money!)