From The Fall of America Journals (forthcoming) – “October 9, 1971. In Yoko & Lennon’s Room, Syracuse Hotel – Brought Vajra, Vajra Ghanta, incense, finger cymbals, harmonium and began singing Vajra Guru Mantra – Lennon on Guitar and Spector Harmonizing; then to Om Namah Shivaya – later a local Nurses’ Song too slow which picked up at end and ended Om Mani Padme Hum – When I began Padmasambhava Mantra – Jonas Mekas there recording – Lennon jumped up and said, “Let me go get my guitar” – gave Ringo finger cymbals and Klaus Voorman later got guitar – student from Syracuse too – blood guitaring 1 room (?) – They sang Irene, I sang for him and did verse there left out – “Spector – “The Life and Death of the Party” screaming at Paul Krassner earlier (when I read U.S.Politics Wash Poem) (for K’s essay Bruce is Dead Satire) and Spector drunk almost crashed roof of plastic and glass labyrinth leading to Toilet Center shimmering clean.”
For Mekas’ recording – see here
For more on the context of the occasion (the opening of “This Is Not Here”, Yoko’s first major art exhibition at the Everson Museum, Syracuse, New York, and John’s 31st birthday celebration) – see here
Ginsberg on the big screen in Piccadilly Circus – As part of Ai Weiwei’s new CIRCA 2020 project. unfolding in two-minute sections every evening throughout the month of October, this past October 2nd – “New York Days”.
(Ai spent ten crucial years in New York’s East Village, on East 7th Street, as Allen’s friend and neighbor (they first met at a poetry reading at St Mark’s In-the-Bowery (The Poetry Project), Allen had previously come to know Ai’s father (the venerable poet Ai Qing) meeting up with him on a cultural visit he made to Beijing).
The video features (among other things), snippets of Allen’s 64th birthday party (“Will you still need me, will you still feed me”, Allen singing along). Ai Weiwei also quotes Jack Kerouac in the video – “All of life is a foreign country”.
During a brief period, from May to September of 1993, Steve was assigned, by the Hartford Street Zen Center, to help poet and roshi, Philip Whalen (whose macular degeneration was, by this time quite advanced), to perform daily tasks – answer mail, take him shopping, and act essentially as in-home support and companion.
As Steve declares in his introduction to the journal – “I will try to remember here vivid things that Whalen says in the coming weeks of historical and personal interest, anything that strikes me. I will not attempt to make a complete record, but a graph of two minds moving [echoing Whalen’s own description of his poetry as “a picture or a graph of a mind moving”] and rescue quanta of literary history that might otherwise slip away.”
A few choice takes (selections of selections):
On first meeting Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac:
PW: ….I was in Berkeley someplace, I guess, in 19 and 56.
SS: So when you came down the first time you had not yet met Allen?
PW: In 1955, I had, yeah.
SS: And you met Allen through Gary (Snyder)?
PW: Yeah. They had set up a dinner engagement. Jack was in town, and Jack and Allen were going to meet us at the Key Station at First and Mission Street where the trains would come in from Berkeley, and we came in and met ‘em down on the corner of First and Mission. And then we all went off to North Beach and had dinner. I forget whether we ate dinner in North Beach or Chinatown. Anyway, it was a very pleasant occasion.
SS: Was that the first time you had met Jack?
SS: So you met Jack and Allen the same night?
SS: What was your impression of them?
PW: That they were nervous and funny.
On the legendary October 1956 “Six Gallery” reading:
SS: Did you have a sense, that night, that it was historical?
PW: No. It was just a lot of fun. It was quite interesting that so many people were there, and everybody was all excited – we all felt happy about it. But it didn’t seem to be special at all -it just happened. There it all was, something had happened. And that was nice.
SS: Was that the first time you’d heard “Howl”?
SS: What was your first impression of that poem?
PW: That it seesawed back and forth between terrific invention and what I thought of as sentimentality at that time—that’s the word that I had wrapped around it. And that there was something of the same thing about Jack’s work, also. As much of it as I saw in those days….
SS: Do you remember a sense of the poem’s energy as an oral performance? Did it seem special in that way?
PW: Oh, yeah.
SS: Could you talk about that?
PW: I don’t remember. Oh, it was very exciting—and Allen getting excited while doing it, it was, in a way, sort of scary—you wondered was he wigging out, or what. And he was! I guess. But within certain parameters, like they say.
SS: Did it seem like a personal breakthrough for him?
PW: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And it was a breakthrough for everybody, actually, I think, because nobody had come out and said all the kinds of things that he was saying: the mixture of terrifically inventive and wild language, and what had hitherto been forbidden subject matter. And just general power, was quite impressive.
A friend of mine composed a rather savage epigram on the occasion, however. “Words of treacle, words of might, fin de siècle joys tonight.”
And on the composition of “Sunflower Sutra“:
PW: It was interesting to be with Jack and Allen in the railroad yard when Allen discovered this desiccated sunflower, and wanted to know what it was – I told him it was a sunflower. So he says, “Blake said this wonderful thing about ‘O Sunflower, weary of time, why art thou,’“ etc. He was going on about Blake and so forth. And then – I forget whether he began writing it down on the spot, but he certainly did write it down shortly thereafter. I think he says in a note on the poem in the Collected edition that I was there. Or not. It doesn’t matter…
Lawrence Ferlinghetti – (we mentioned his recent show at the New Release Gallery in New York). That show is now down but Wallace Ludel interviews “the influential 101-year old” for The Art Newspaper – here
“Six humorous plays written between 1952 and 1968 by Beat poet Gregory Corso (1930-2001), two of which have never before been published. This collection includes the following: Untitled Play (1952), Standing on a Streetcorner (1953), Sarpedon (1954), In This Hung-Up Age (1954), JFK (1960), and That Little Black Door on the Left (1968).” Two of the plays feature illustrations by Corso and there’s a valuable introduction and contextualization by Schober.