Happy Birthday Andrei Codrescu

Andrei Codrescu, New York City, 1991 –  photo: Allen Ginsberg, courtesy Stanford University Libraries / Allen Ginsberg Estate

Andrei Codrescu‘s. birthday – The irrepressible Andrei Codrescu is 74  (76 today!) – Happy birthday, Andrei!    Here’s the trailer for Julian Semilian‘s upcoming documentary on him.

From an interview, given back in 2003, with Utahna Faith for 3.a.m magazine.

AC: “I first met Allen Ginsberg in 1967. When I went to his house on the Lower East Side. I was about 19, and I’d been here about five months. So, I went to his house and I rang the doorbell in this really shitty apartment building. I knew his address from a guy in Rome. And it said on the doorbell, “Ginsberg-Orlovsky”. And I rang the thing and it didn’t work. So I asked a bunch of Puerto Rican guys who were hanging out on the steps there, I said do you know where Allen Ginsburg lives, and they were all like, Allen…who?  So they had a little conference, and they said that’s on the fifth floor, that’s the fucking guy with the beard. So I go up, and I knock on the door for a while, and the door opens, and it’s Peter Orlovsky, naked, and he’s really skinny and dripping wet. And he said, come talk to me, I’m taking a bath. So he goes back to the bathtub where he’s spending a lot of time at the time. I sit on the toilet seat, highly uncomfortable. He doesn’t talk, and I don’t say anything. And I finally thought, well, maybe it’s time to leave. So I go out, and it’s Allen coming in. Allen is like, affable, you know, wonderful, and he said, Oh, where are you from? And he spoke in bad French because my English wasn’t very good at the time. And we had this great two-and-a-half hours just pulling books off the shelves and he told me what to read. Then these two guys come in – they’re Peter’s brothers [Julius and Lafacadio]. They were both autistic. I don’t know if they’re still living. They sit down at the kitchen table and they don’t say a word. And I was just going on and on. Peter is still in the bathtub, and these guys are fixated on the button on my shirt, and they’re looking at it. And Allen…  So, Allen made me feel totally at home in the new world. He said, where are you from?, and I said, well, I’m from Eastern Europe, I’m from Romania, and I’ve come here to present my credentials. He said, Europe comes to see our literature. So, Allen was wonderful. Then, about 4 a.m, this guy comes in, his name was Albert Fine, he’s a painter. And, Allen says, well, I’ve got to go to India tomorrow. And he said, Albert will give you a place to crash. So, I went off with Albert, who gave me a place to crash. And that was my first…and then we became good friends. Allen and I were friends forever, man.’

Allen and Andrei – Allen giving his blessing  (from his 1993 film, Road Scholar – the full film can now be viewed here)

Here’s Andrei’s obituary notice for Allen (from 1997, the year of Allen’s passing)

“Allen Ginsberg, old courage teacher, is gone. I met Allen in 1966 when I was 19 years old, fresh out of Romania. I knocked on his door in the Lower East Side in New York and brashly presented my baby-dissident credentials to the President of Poetry. Far from being startled, the poet gave generously of his time and made me welcome to the language, the country and New York. We spoke French because my English was non-existent, and he loaded me with books of poetry he thought I should read and study.
Always the teacher, always generous, Allen Ginsberg was not only the most famous poet in the world, but the kindest as well. Over the years, it was always a privilege to bask in his light, to revel in the privilege of knowing him, to follow his passions. He was beloved of four generations of American poets, beginning with the one he founded and promoted, right down to the youngest of the young _ children my son’s age, who love his work more than any other poet’s.
He inspired rebellion and backed it with the wisdom of the age and the genius of a pacifist, benign and visionary spirit. He brought us all into a family of great souls that included the Buddhist writers of the sutras, William Blake and his twin-soul Walt Whitman. Allen Ginsberg was America’s best ambassador for the kind of democracy Walt Whitman extolled, and he deplored, cursed and lamented the failings of public men to live up to that ideal. He lashed out against the wrong-headed war in Vietnam, he deplored the stupid official drug policies of the government and lobbied for sexual liberty. He defended the powerless at every turn and, at the same time, he showed us all how to live without fear, with joy and courage.
Ginsberg believed in the power of poetry and was mentor and protector of poets outside the mainstream. He founded the Jack Kerouac Institute of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado., as an antidote to the establishment that belatedly honored him but denied his comrades and his heirs. He led the charge magnificently, a warm and intimate human being who understood the deep spirituality of the everyday and the long vision of who we are.
I am sorry that he did not see the end of a century whose spirit he embodied, but his job is far from done. As long as Allen Ginsberg was alive, we were all sort of immortal. Now we can put away such foolishness and get on with the poem.”

“9/11”  – channeling the voice of Allen Ginsberg – (from September, 2002) –

and in The Poetry Lesson (2010), (where he introduces the idea of “Ghost- Companions”, chosen figures as mentors and loci for poetic lineage):

“”Professor, I read somewhere that Allen Ginsberg saw William Blake speaking to him”, said Jason Jacob [student], “so if Blake was Ginsberg’s Ghost-Companion, that would make Blake my Grand-Ghost-Companion, no?”
“Well, yes, Jason, I think you hit on something. If every poet had a G-C, you’re related to every poet when you take a G-C of your own”

Poet as prophet. Andrei here muses – “the messianic industry” (sic)

“The messianic industry was a strange tangle of roads to be sure. Prophets were tireless and scary. I thought of Allen Ginsberg, working all the time, camera in hand, dragging heavy bags of books from airport to airport and up to guru caves looking for the big OK, and then OK or no, playing sage of rock ‘n roll, king of the underground, antiwar chief, voice for legal Poland psychedelics, importer of Buddhism and Hare Krishna to America, a gay liberator, member of the Mattachine and the Man-Boy Love Society, Blake, Whitman, Ginsberg all possessed G-C’s of each other’s big agendas of universal and  androgynous freedom, stopped by no articulate power except perverse and inarticulate reality..”

“who.. were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality”

but who were prophets and so, nonetheless, remain eternal. and alive.

More, much more, on Andrei Codrescu – here

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