A nice little hat-tipping to Allen from Danny Goldberg, in an interview with Rob Couteau. in Rain Taxi, regarding his new book, In Search of the Lost Chord – 1967 and the Hippie Idea
“My favorite poem by Allen is “Wichita Vortex Sutra.” That, to me, is his quintessential ’60s poem. It’s a fully mature commentary on what was happening in America at that time. I recently wrote a review of the Ken Burns documentary of the Vietnam War, and I said: “If you want to know what was actually happening, you’re better off reading ‘Wichita Vortex Sutra.’”
“Wichita Vortex Sutra” – we draw your attention to our posting on the occasion of the poem’s 50th anniversary – here (and more recently, Allen reading from it at a benefit in Manhattan for the New York Workshop in Nonviolence – here)
From another Rob Couteau interview (this time with Whitman biographer, Justin Kaplan):
RC: He (Allen) was quite a character!
JK: Yes. He and I were part of a crew doing a documentary on Whitman. I don’t know what happened to it. [Editorial note – it got made and premiered on PBS, public television, in 1988, and can be seen in its entirety – here] Anyhow, the first day of shooting, we were going to open with a scene from “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” And so, we were all lined up in the back of a ferryboat. The cinematographer was ready, and his camera focuses on Allen. This is to be the opening line of speeches. And he says, “Walt Whitman was America’s first mind-blowing poet.” – [Laughs] – And I said, “You just can’t do that! Not at the beginning, anyhow….”
“He once got rather annoyed at me when I failed to recognize him because he had just shaved off his beard. And without the beard, he looked a lot like a butter-and-eggs salesman. Whereas with a beard, he was Allen Ginsberg….”
RC: I think Ginsberg’s best poem is his homage to Walt Whitman, “A Supermarket in California.”
JK: Yes. RC: You agree? JK: Yeah. RC: Why do you think so?
JK: It just is very powerful, and even moving, when Walt addresses the boy. He calls him “my angel.”
The full interview (Kaplan’s insights into Whitman, including his curious doubting of the physical nature of Whitman’s homosexuality/homoeroticism) may be read here )
Don’t miss Bobbie Louise Hawkins’ glorious. if acerbic, obituary notice (penned by Sam Roberts) for the New York Times
– and Philip Roth gone (lesser known facts: another smart New Jersey Jewish boy – Roth skipped a grade in grammar school and took English at Newark’s predominantly-Jewish Weequahic High – from Allen Ginsberg’s aunt!)
More passings (always passings) – Chicago poet (and long-time New York City poet), Barbara Barg, passed away on Tuesday – multiple myeloma was the culprit. That’s her on the inside-sleeve of John Giorno’s 1980 Sugar, Alcohol & Meat album (listen to her cuts on that album here and here). Also, check out her contribution to Poems for the Nation (edited by Allen Ginsberg with Andy Clausen and Eliot Katz) – “Temporary America” (I’m so tired of living/In Temporary America/In temporary contemporary/ Contempt, contempt, contempt/For Temporary America” ). We miss you, Barb.
and while we’re on a thredony, sad to report too, (another cancer death!) Jon Sholle. Jon was a crucial musician-contributor on both of Allen’s Blake recordings. Master guitarist (multi-instrumentalist!) , accomplished Zen practitioner, he can be seen (and heard) playing in Japan in 2014 (with Yoshihiro Arita and Brent Nussey on bass) – here