Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 453

Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, New Year’s l977, New York City – Photo by Gordon Ball

Gordon Ball on Allen Ginsberg from “Gordon Ball, Postmodern Renaissance Man” (filmmaker, photographer, author, editor).  Don’t miss poet David Cope‘s exhaustive and highly informative interview with him:

Ball: “We didn’t get to know each other that first meeting at arts patron  Panna Grady’s (depicted in ’66 Frames), largely because I was too drunk and left the room, went to lie down (I didn’t usually drink much but had been taking advantage of our hostess’s opulent generosity.).  There were one or two later encounters during that year in New York (most significantly the New Year’s Eve gathering at Shirley Clarke’s), but we didn’t really begin to know each other until we were on the farm together.  The workaday situation there did much to dispense with the stumbling block of fame.  Nevertheless, I must say Allen did little to shatter the image I had of him as profoundly spiritual, selfless, gifted—and much to intensify it far more than I imagined.  There were occasional disappointments (e.g., when I asked how he knew, as “Capitol Air” claims, that the CIA killed Kennedy), misunderstandings (I was slow to get some material together for his defense of the Living Theater imprisoned in Brazil 1971—I hadn’t known when he needed it.).  He could display a real temper, often to the good (as when, he once told me, Gregory (Corso) made him so angry he threw a table at him) but sometimes not.  Working together on books, he could be as “only human” as anyone, sometimes delaying focus on what was in front of us.  But far more commonly, he was a workhorse nonpareil for great lengths of time—an attentive, thoughtful, generous one.  Extraordinarily energetic in so many endeavors: long before his death and even continuing till his last year or so, I had a saying about this man eighteen years my senior: “Allen Ginsberg, I can’t keep up with him.”

“…the significant difference between Allen and so many others was his humor, especially perhaps his self-humor.  As I reported in the Epilogue to East Hill Farm, when we discussed some of the charges being made against him, Allen offered “Now I know how (Richard) Nixon felt!”  How many others in the realm of Bohemia would identify with our disgraced President?”

“As for Allen’s work, of which so much can be said, let me be simple about it.  By the end of the third line of “Howl” – Angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night – the game’s all over.  Never seen such power and vividness in a single line, the way this opens us up to the cosmos swelling above.  One could go on about his power as reader, his role in helping restore poetry as primarily oral art, the surprise and memorability of his verse, the elision, the juxtaposition of “hydrogen jukebox” and much else..”

Cope is a sympathetic and knowledgeable interviewer, asking just the right questions and allowing for plenty of space.  As Gordon himself pointedly notes – “Allen and his work appear significantly in other answers here”.

Marc Olmsteds review of Allen’s South American Journals is another must-read  See here:

“First I was immediately struck by how much unpublished poetry or early drafts (such as “Aether” and “Magic Psalm”) are contained in this volume – far beyond any previous journal publications of Allen Ginsberg. In fact, he mostly wrote his journal as poetry during this period. Granted much is not A-list material, as Allen correctly understood in not publishing a lot of it. But for earnest scholars and fans, it is a gold mine. There are also amazing little notations of events, such as seeing Montgomery Clift’s “Raintree County” (“he too looks sad” – in fact, Monty’s face-rearranging car crash occurred in the middle of filming that picture). Likewise a long dream about Marlon Brando, who imitates Jack Kerouac’s voice at one point(!) and (it also) includes a dream discussion of how great Orson Welles’ Magnificent Ambersons is..(and) (o)f course, thoughts of Jack Kerouac are everywhere in this journal…”

“Second, it is especially ironic that these journal entries obsess about consciousness…these journals represent our mind-hero’s pilgrim progress, warts and all.”

Lew Welch and Allen Ginsberg outside City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, October 30, 1963 – photo: John Doss

A passing note in the New Yorker this week, in a profile of musician, Huey Lewis  – “My mother (Magda Cregg) became a hippie, basically. She started hanging out at the No Name Bar in Sausalito, which was affiliated with (Lawrence) Ferlinghetti, Lenny Bruce, and the City Lights crowd. She took up with a Beat poet named Lew Welch. That was my living room when I was a teenager. Gregory Corso and Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg sitting around drinking wine and smoking dope and reading poems.”

Jerry Cimino of the Beat Museum at the Our Allen site adds a further tidbit – (about “the long- standing rumor of how he chose “Lewis” as his stage name”)  – “He..told me the “legend” of his taking his stage name of “Lewis” from Lew Welch was not true. He said it made for a great story, and Lew was his mother’s boyfriend who he knew well (though he was away at a boarding school most of the time as a teenager), but the name came from his first girlfriend’s father. He used to call him “Huey Luey” (from Huey, Dewey and Louie) which later became just “Huey Luey” and that’s where the Huey Lewis came from.”

Lewis on Lew Welch can be seen speaking at the San Francisco Public Library, on the occasion of the 2012 re-publication (new and expanded edition) of the immortal Ring of Bone – see here

this past Wednesday  – the annual benefit for Tibet House (Philip Glass, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop among those participating). Sandra Oh read a moving version of Allen’s “When The Light Appears, Boy“.

Sandra Oh performing at The Tibet House, New York benefit

Here’s Allen with UK band Cornershop in a recording of the song (from 1997)

Here’s Patti leading the group in a rousing chorus of  “People Have The Power” 

and they do

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