Our feature today, another of the unedited videos from the Howl Happening Gallery (see yesterday’s post). This one, from back in February of last year, the book-launch by Bob Rosenthal for his wonderful (and essential) memoir, Straight Around Allen (full title: “Straight Around Allen – On The Business of Being Allen Ginsberg“) – Bob reads selections from the book (“I’m going to read a bunch of the commentaries”, he announces, “and I’m going to skip through the book and just read these little anecdotes”) and is interviewed by his editor (and mentee), and important contributor to the project, poet Emily Claman.
There then follows a ramshackle (but informative) Q & A session.
Among Bob’s observations:
“..Allen’s influences are an invisible education..”
“..Allen feels safe inside a miasma that he creates. There are parallel universes for his loved ones to inhabit. He is the epicenter of each, He leaves in order to return with fresh winds as fresh as the wild apples and the dirt in Peter (Orlovsky)‘‘s mane. Allen breathes unfettered only by caring for all humanity. He lives five lifetimes in one, not five consecutive lives..”
“..Allen uses his razor-like poetic acumen to focus on a single tenet – how the world could be a better place. By the way, the answer is, always, yes..”
“He (Allen) didn’t want to be a saint..but he wanted to save the world, I think..”
“…Allen was a courage teacher.. he gave lots of people permission… He gave people permission, he gave people courage, to do what they want, It’s like “Howl”, “Howl” itself, is a liberation document, you know. It’s taught in schools. And out of thirty kids in the classroom, two are going to get turned on (that’s a high percentage, actually). And they’re not going to be turned on to become a Beat poet and live in an East Village dump, they’re getting turned on to become who they really want to become – So if they want to become a massage therapist and their parents want them to be a doctor, they might become that massage therapist and be best at it, you know. And I think that’s..that’s… I wish I knew the trick. Like, that’s the genius of Allen Ginsberg – how do you write a liberation? – a poem that’s actually liberating, Not many people, you know, have or could do it. I think.. I actually think, Allen is….he’s like (Walt) Whitman, he’s not really in a class of… he’s in another class of poetry, I think.”
“At the Mee Noodle (shop, in the East Village)… they knew him as “No salt”. He would go in and get the chicken and he would say,”No salt, No salt”. And, yeah, right, they would give him the saltiest chicken soup in the world!”
In response to a question about Allen and Bob and their friendship:
“It’s interesting, I didn’t feel that way, because I was working for him, but I did.. I felt very protective of him, more than he was of himself, so that when his friends would steal from him I would get angry – and he wouldn’t. And I think he actually liked that, you know that… But, still. he would defend Gregory (Corso) or..(you know, I had to give in on Gregory too, but..). I think in the end, I think yes, we were friends.”
“…..I was the home base, you know, the.. I was family. So Allen would call at 5.30, and say, “I’m coming home now”, and I would say, “Great!”, and I realized he needed.. he needed people to be… he wanted family.. he did. So I think you’re one hundred percent right, It wasn’t even, like, friendship, it was family.”