Martin Scorsese’s Bob Dylan Rolling Thunder movie premiered this week (Wednesday). Allen is a part of it, one of the featured players.
From his narrative in the introduction:
“Summer 1975 it was a very odd scene in New York, unusual, a, sort of.. the folk era had died out – or did it? …Rumor came around that the inspired Dylan was back, a-gathering all his forces. And pretty soon they were all jamming together, as if they were young musicians, having fun, actually, in direct contact with each other..”
“October-November, Dylan might have some idea to do something, sort of like a con-man carny medicine show of old, where you just get in a bus, or carriage, and go from town to town. It is like Dylan is taking us out to try and give us each… he’s presenting us.. I mean, that’s his conception. I mean, it hasn’t been made overt. His idea is to show how beautiful he is by showing how beautiful we are by showing how beautiful the ensemble is. So it is to show the actual community, which is the way life is, the way the life of poets is..”
and to jump ahead to the conclusion:
“We phantoms are assembled at the end of the Rolling Thunder tour. We started out trying to recover America. We discovered a certain amount of truth about ourselves. Old friends who thought their loves had been lost were able to get together and face each other eye-to-eye and sing over an electrical microphone to please the desires of a myriad of young yearners who had been seeking some kind of union and community and saw there an image of that community.”
and an inspired farewell:
“You, who saw it all, or who saw flashes and fragments, take from us some example, try and get yourselves together, clean up your act, find your community, pick up on some kind of redemption of your own consciousness, become mindful of your own friends, your own work, your own proper meditation, your own art , your own beauty, go out and make it for your own eternity.”
So much to say about this film. There’ll be more posts in the days ahead.
“My favorite scene comes when the tour alights on the Seacrest Hotel, in Falmouth, Massachusetts, where hundreds of women are engaged in a furiously contested, multi-table mah-jongg tournament. To the surprise of the players, who are intent on their game, someone gets up and announces that “one of America’s foremost poets, Mr. Allen Ginsberg,” will read. Ginsberg reads from “Kaddish,” his great elegy to his mother, Naomi Ginsberg. The women seem cheerful enough for a while, but, when the poem reaches Naomi’s fatal decline, with all the gruesome particulars, it is all too close to the bone. The women wince almost as one. It’s only when Dylan gets up to play a solo version of “Simple Twist of Fate” on the piano, his fingers mashing the chords, his heel whacking the stage to keep time, that the mah-jongg ladies come alive..”
Ronnee Blakely on Allen’s participation – “Allen Ginsberg was a saint-like figure” –
and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – “It was like.. kind of like having a father-figure, he was always very sober”
Bob Dylan, pointedly disagrees: “No, Allen Ginsberg was anything but a father figure. He was definitely not a father figure.”
and deftly adds:
“One thing people don’t know about Ginsberg is that he was an incredible dancer, who would just do these steps that were so unusual and exciting, and he’d always have a good dance partner too, usually somebody from the tour, somebody we’d pick up along the way. He danced a lot, Ginsberg.”
Yes, more on Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan and the Martin Scorsese movie (Rolling Thunder – A Bob Dylan Story) tomorrow.
William Blake and Allen Ginsberg, (a topic we’ve been somewhat focused on of late) – “Visions, Symbols and Intertextuality – An Overview of William Blake’s Influence on Allen Ginsberg” by Alexandre Ferrere, on the Empty Mirror website is well worth perusing.
Luke Walker, author of the forthcoming William Blake and Allen Ginsberg – Romanticism, Counterculture and Radical Reception, will be speaking, at the 7th Biannual Conference of the European Society of Western Esotericism (ESSWE), on “Allen Ginsberg as (a) student of Western Esotericism”, July 2-4
More Beat academia and academic news – the European Beat Studies Network (EBSN) (as previously announced) will be hosting their Eighth Annual Conference, October 9-12. This year the location is the University of Nicosia, Nicosia, Cyprus. The theme this year? (a timely one) – “Moving Geographies – Literatures of Travel and Migration” (“..The Beat Generation, and those that were influenced by them, fetishized the idea of perpetual travel, and their depictions of changing landscapes merge geography with the characters’ psychology….Often the lives depicted are transgressive as the boundaries between travel, tourism and migration become blurred..”)
Ronald K L Collins and David M Skover‘s new book, The People v Ferlinghetti – The Fight to Publish Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (if you’ve not read this succinct and forcefully argued account, you should). Collins is interviewed by Nick Gillespie for the Reason podcast – here (we have previously noted his podcast with Nico Perrino – here)
Another new book, Casey Rae’s William S Burroughs & The Cult of Rock’n’ Roll. Rae is interviewed for Billboard magazine – here (see an excerpt from the book – Burroughs meets Dylan – here)