The new (and frankly exceedingly elegant) Japanese edition of “Howl”, beautifully translated by Motoyuki Shibata (the title poem translated by Haruki Marukami and Motoyuki Shibata) is now out and available.
Here, a sample page (from the “Footnote to Howl” section
Please Kill Me published last week an essential read – musician-writer John Kruth‘s interview with Allen, conducted in 1997, just a few months before his death. We noted, a few weeks back, the strained relationship with John Giorno, Kruth reveals another – his relationship with Brion Gysin.
AG: “Brion was a monster. I was a little afraid of him when I first met him, and a little repelled by him. Partly because he was so cynical, annihilative and anti-romantic! Where… I am a sentient… liberal, a pushover. [laughs]…Brion was a little bit jealous of Bill (Burroughs)’s friends, and other’s fame. Bill’s… mine… He wasn’t a good businessman. He was disdainful of (art) dealers…but not hostile. There are a lot great painters who can’t deal with being charming. He was very proud and disdainful of dealers. You need to be charming to have a successful public career. He made fun of people’s feelings. Brion was suspicious, and he hated women, and influenced Burroughs in that way..”
Allen famously visited his mother – “Gysin’s mother was very fond of her son, a nice, affectionate mother who was proud of her son. (When) I called her up and said I knew him she was so delighted to hear from a friend of his. She’d invited me over when I did a concert with Phil Ochs – sometime in the late 60’s. But at the same time, Brion had (by this time) pushed Bill away from his old friends, made him more isolated. So, I was a little upset. Later on, I went to visit him on the Seine and he’d changed. Before he died, he wrote me and asked to make sure his book (The Process) was published. I think he had an over-exaggerated idea of my power. I mean, he could have gotten it published himself, but I think he was suspicious of agents. So, we finally got reconciled. And he couldn’t believe it. He was so grateful that I went to see his mother!”
Allen has intriguing things to say about the “cut-up” –
There were many kinds of cut ups, other than stroboscopes and newspapers… There were also photographs… taking a photo of the sky and then taking a photo of the photo of the sky, to get to the alchemical essence of blue. There was a photo of Bill (Burroughs) in his room, sitting at his desk, looking at a photo of himself in his room, sitting at his desk, looking at a photo of himself. But the point of the cut up was a way for Bill to liberate himself from his own sentiments and feelings… in sort of a Zen way. In Buddhism you don’t kill your ego, you make a pet of it. You live with it. You wouldn’t kill a pet! Killing your ego is (akin to) killing your body, your self, the phenomena that is you. The idea of killing your ego is a weird Marxist/ Catholic/ascetic thing…Bill was going through that from another point of view, trying to purify his consciousness by specifically cutting up his own emotional nostalgic attachments…to music, history….Gregory (Corso) said that poetry was a natural cut-up! Which was true! The mind is a cut-up already! To be cutting up your mind, would be like cutting out the organic, spontaneous part of the mind. But Bill wanted to go beyond that, to a vibrating open space, where there was no personality and nobody there – like John Cage with his aleatoric (chance) method. I always found it to be so impersonal as to be somewhat not human, But I think that’s what they were looking for.”
Allen, as Kruth noted, was laudably honest in the interview, not holding anything back (Timothy Leary was “a horse’s ass”, Burroughs, regrettably, regarding music, had “a tin ear”)
These brief quotes, like we say, give only a flavor of the piece. It’s a must-read. For the full interview – see here
Loren Glass’s review of Steve Belletto’s The Beats – A Literary History in the current LA Review of Books is another must-read.
“Who and what should we call “Beat”, and how do we set the historical parameters of the Beat Generation’s emergence and decline?” – This, Glass observes, is “the challenge taken up by Belletto” in his “magisterial and encyclopedic” new book. “A Literary History” – The subtitle, he points out, is key, “as Belletto deliberately disavows the biographical focus of so much scholarship on the Beat Generation, determined instead to affirm it as a literary movement, not just a group of friends.”
“This account of Beat’s cultural narrative”, Lee writes,”will assuredly rank among the best. It brings to bear a full and stirring shelf of interpretation buttressed by quite enviable fluency. In unthreading any assumption that, in his own phrase, Beat’s “republic of letters” serendipitously erupted as though some ready-made Big Bang, Belletto seizes upon the intricacies of gallery and chronicle with genuine stride. It invites admiration, a hurrah”
Looking back on the Burroughs-Ginsberg Flower Power x Fire Power show at the Gonzo Gallery in Aspen last month. Here‘s a recording of a panel discussion featuring Peter Hale of the Ginsberg Trust, Curator Yuri Zupancic, and Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky: