Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 480

The Fall of America Journals 1965-1971, edited by Michael Schumacher, are forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press this November. The Paris Review, last week posted, in full, Schumacher’s introduction, “Allen Ginsberg at the End of America”

“The Fall of America Journals, he writes, “contain some of the finest of Ginsberg’s spontaneous writing, accomplished as he pondered the best and worst that his country had to offer. The descriptive writing is breathtaking at times, and the journals offer nothing less than the essential backstory to the works published in (the subsequent 1973 collection),The Fall of America.

The Fall of America Journals and the book that followed feature extensive examples of what Allen described as “auto poesy” (poetry spoken and transcribed,  spontaneously composed, while traveling cross country in a VW bus, spoken directly into a reel-to-reel tape-recorder)

“Beginning of a Long Poem of These States,” the official opening of The Fall of America’s auto poesy, offers a sampling of Ginsberg’s most affective writing to that point: descriptive poetry in the objective tradition of William Carlos Williams, one of Ginsberg’s early mentors and influences; spontaneous writing similar to that of Jack Kerouac; and lengthy lines in the style of Walt Whitman (and like that in such early Ginsberg works as “Howl,” “Sunflower Sutra,” and “Kaddish”).”

A significant example, (excerpted from the book) “Denver to Montana, Beginning 27 May 72” appeared in the summer issue of the Paris Review and can now be accessed here

Kirkus  has an early review – “An effusive outpouring of reflections on a traumatic time..”

“.. Containing dreams, observations, political commentary, first drafts of poems, and travel writing, the journals document a turbulent period in American life – war, violent protest, assassinations – in addition to personal loss, including deaths of friends and an automobile accident that left Ginsberg hospitalized…”

We’ve already noted David S Wills’ timely observations

“This book.. is oddly relevant. Not since 1968 has America been so divided. Once again, a culture war is playing out, exposing racism at all levels of society, and resulting in horrendous acts of police violence, sanctioned by conservative politicians in front of an angry, confused, and often desperate populous..”

Its publication, we might assert, cannot come too soon.

We’ll have more, plenty more, on The Fall of America Journals in the weeks ahead.

Ginsberg’s Karma Ram Devineni‘s documentary film featuring Bob Holman, retracing Allen’s steps as he travels to India to piece together Ginsberg’s life there, is currently being refurbished  (courtesy an NEH grant) and will hopefully be released next year

How?Penny Rimbaud‘s re-interpretation of “Howl”, first performed back in 2003 and released as a CD the following year, has been re-released.
s a little excerpt from it. As the author opines:
“I think it fair to say that both ‘How?’ and ‘Howl’ remain horribly pertinent to this day. It is corporate greed and political irresponsibility which above all have led to the current climate crisis and, I believe, to the unhealthy political, social and personal psychological conditions that lead to outbreaks on the scale of Covid-19. be it pandemic or opportunist piece of social engineering, it’s we who pay the price.”


Harry Smith (1923-1991) – photo: Brian Graham

Harry Smith – Two Harry Smith films, from back in 2006, get a welcome re-release on Apple TV (airing next Tuesday) – The Old Weird America (an inspired mix of archival footage and interviews) and The Harry Smith Project Live (which chronicles a series of tribute concerts produced by the late Hal Willner). And more Harry news – The Harry Smith B-Sides, a monumental project (4 cds, 81 newly-remastered recordings – a box set, containing the flip side of 78 rpm records that Harry included on The Anthology of American Folk Music)  is out soon, real soon (official release-date, October 16) from the extraordinary folks at Dust-to-Digital


Antonin Artaud (1896-1948)

Antonin Artaud‘s birthday today

More on Artaud on the Ginsberg Project here, here, here, and here 

& check out Gérard Mordillat and Jérôme Prieur’s 1993 documentary, “La Véritable histoire d’Artaud le momo” (en français – with English subtitles) – here

One comment

  1. From Mr. Schumacher’s intro: “In most cases, Ginsberg transcribed his tapes, shortly after composition, into his notebooks. While doing so, he eliminated extraneous sounds on the tapes (conversations in the vehicle, the sounds of the radio, and so on) and he engaged in light editing.” This immediately sparked in me a desire for the audio recordings themselves … maybe hard to listen to, in their raw state, but great material for a comprehensive series of podcasts. Thinking of all those incidental non-verbal moments recorded, conversations with Snyder and others in the van maybe?

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