The Beat Scene – Photographs by Burt Glenn – edited by Tony Nourmand and Michael Shulman (with an essay by Jack Kerouac), a dazzling portfolio of images shot between 1957 and 1960, both in New York and San Francisco – close up, contemporaneous, and at the heart of the Beat phenomenon – has just recently (just this month) been published by Reel Art Press.
From the publishers’ notice:
“This magnificent volume features a remarkable collection of largely unseen photographs of the Beat Generation by renowned Magnum photographer Burt Glinn. This amazing, untouched treasure trove of images was discovered when Reel Art Press was working with Burt Glinn’s widow, Elena, on a larger retrospective of Glinn’s work. Archived with the negatives was a short essay by Jack Kerouac entitled “And This Is The Beat Nightlife of New York,” which is published here alongside the photographs. The book features black-and-white shots, and also—uniquely, for images of this era—more than 70 in color. An extremely rare find, these photographs capture the raw energy of the Beat Generation in a way that has never been seen before in print.”
The New York Times presented a scattering (three color, and nine black-and-white) at the end of last month – here.
The Guardian, this week, presented its brief selection, “Nightcrawling with Kerouac, Ginsberg and the Beatniks in Pictures” – here
Yesterday at The Beat Museum in San Francisco saw the opening of an exhibition dedicated to the book, which will remain up until November 19.
and still in San Francisco
“Must-reads”? – “Must hears“? – “Broadcasting Howl” – Lisa Hollenbach‘s exhaustive and provocative exploration, in Modernism/modernity, of the first radio broadcast of “Howl” (on the West Coast Pacifica station KPFA) expertly places it in its context, and examines it in full, proposing hitherto-neglected wider cultural implications.
“My aim in this article”, she writes, “is, in part, to argue for the value of listening to “Howl” as a radio text. While scholars have documented the complexity of the poem’s manuscript and publication history across multiple printed forms, live performances, and audio recordings—all of which destabilize the notion of an original, authoritative, printed text— KPFA’s recordings [sic – plural] and broadcasts of the poem have so far eluded serious study. Recovering this broadcasting history, however, does more than fill a gap in the textual history of “Howl.” It documents a moment of crisis and change in the cultural meanings ascribed to radio that resonates in Ginsberg’s early poetry and the oral poetics of the San Francisco Renaissance more generally…”
She goes on:
“It will be my contention here that censorship, surveillance, and silence are formally central to “Howl”—not only to the poem’s publication history or to its representation of a repressive postwar society, but to the most utopian and transcendental aspirations of Ginsberg’s poetics of presence. Listening to the recorded broadcasts of “Howl” on KPFA thus calls for a reconsideration of the phonocentrism of Ginsberg’s early work, but it also draws our attention to the rich connections between literary and radio culture that were sustained and reinvented in the postwar era.”
The full article (extensively footnoted, and complete with original promo materials and archival sound clips) may be accessed – here
“You know there’s that line in Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” – “I saw the best minds of my generation.” And that was part of the marching orders of my group in the ’60s, to find the best minds and cross-pollinate with them. Find the best dancers. Find the best guitarists. Find the best artists. Find the best writers. Find the best leaders. Find the best activists. Find the best technicians, sound recording people, recording studio people, movie people. Find those and cross-pollinate and see what you can come up with…”
and, again (less optimistically):
“Look, kids don’t know Allen Ginsberg now. I gave a talk at the University of Michigan a couple years ago, before 200 people … and I talked about 1968, and I talked about the Yippies and the riots in Chicago and this and that. I talked about the revolution in France. And this guy comes up to me after my presentation, he says, “Professor Sanders, Allen Ginsberg, he was one of the lawyers at the O. J. Simpson trial, right?” And I say, no, wrong, and I explained who Allen was. He was a young kid from the Midwest and he had not been taught about it. We lost the battle of the textbook, I guess that’s what I’ll say. Allen Ginsburg and the Beats, they are a presence in American education, but they’re not featured in the expensive textbooks that high school kids buy.”
The interview (with Jennifer Seaman Cook), another “must-read”, can be found in its entirety – here
“…I don’t have answers or any kind of ideology because my perspective is very personal and visceral, but at the same time I’ve been involved with the (feminist) movement from early on. In any case, it seemed that this book was the way to address what I was feeling—the best way to address the root cause and problems with our current political dynamic, the chaos leading up to today’s dystopia, the 2016 presidential elections, and now, the post-election period where we’re seeing a lot of the social order being unraveled, from the Paris climate agreements to the situation in Iran.
In the 1970s, I was involved in political protests against the Rocky Flats nuclear plant in Colorado, near Naropa University, with the poet Allen Ginsberg and activist Daniel Ellsberg. We protested the plutonium pits that sites like Rocky Flats and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina create. We helped shut down Rocky Flats, but as I watch this issue circling back today, it makes me think of the old Zen adage about how you have to keep sweeping the temple over and over again. You clean it, and it looks fine for a day, but then you have to go back in the morning and do it all again. There’s a Sisyphean effort in any kind of activism, and it seemed an urgent time for calling to address these things in a new and immediate way.”
Anne can also be heard speaking at length in the most recent episode of Rachel Zucker’s “Commonplace Podcast”, discoursing about “archives, Naropa University, Allen Ginsberg, her books, her writing life, and much more”
On Allen: “…I don’t feel I have to correct the record or defend him, or …. I have a larger, I would say, more macroscopic view of the man, his intensities, his concerns, his deep..empathy and generosity, his curiosity, of his being really like a.. well, he was such an activist, so he was coming in with.. whether it was to legalize marijuana, or expose issues of the Vietnam War, he was researching all the time, he kept voluminous files on these trouble-spots and (was) trying to understand the (schemers), the shadow-wars, and the plots- behind-the -plots, the sub-sub-, the things that were not easily ascertained. So that kind of field poet, constantly on, restlessly, urgently, pursuing the truth. So in terms of now, I just wish he were around..”
“He brought mantra into political activism. I find that really fascinating, It’s not to say that mantra hasn’t been used in that way with people, you know, in that culture (India), in different ways, but that he picked up on that so voraciously, and it became part of his sound, part of, you know, these seed-syllables in him, and he understood that there were different ways to pacify, different ways to magnetize, different ways to calm a crowd by chanting OM. So..And at the time, yeah, I think he was probably ridiculed , I don’t remember, I remember in the occasions when this was happening, people seemed grateful. But that was curious. You know, it seems almost surreal..”
“…the way he brought these worlds together is fascinating…The way he embodied all these things..so it wasn’t the disembodied school it was the embodied..”
To listen to the full show – click here
Check out also, indeed, earlier conversations – with Bernadette Mayer, and Alice Notley – (indeed, all of her podcasts – the conversation with Anne is episode 55, and the series is still very much on-going!)
With a heavy heart we note the current turmoil at Shambhala International & the Kagyü and Nyingma lineages (Allen’s lineages, of Tibetan Buddhism, via his teacher, Chogyam Trungpa). There is not much we can say right now (or perhaps there is, too much). For those interested in understanding and learning more, we would draw your attention to the wise and compassionate counsel of Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo & Lama Tsultrim Allione expressed early on, pretty much at the unfolding of (these on-going) events – see here