Omnivore Recordings upcoming release of the earliest recorded “Howl” reading (the Reed College Howl recording), that we noted here last month just got an extensive review (preview) from Kieron Tyler at the arts desk. It’s well worth reading. In it, she writes:
“”At Reed College” (the Omnivore Recording) is an important release. What’s here is pre-publication, pre-trial and from only four months after the first public reading. Nonetheless, in response to an audience member who says he can’t hear the poet after “Over Kansas”,(after Ginsberg’s reading of his poem, “Over Kansas”), Ginsberg responds, “I don’t want to corrupt the youth.”
It was an academic, safe and tuned-in setting, but Ginsberg already knew the power of his words.”
“The recording quality is uncannily clear and sharp. There is little audience or background noise. The pages in Ginsberg’s hand can be heard while being rifled. During “Over Kansas”, a door opens in the distance. Twice, during “A Supermarket In America” and just before “Howl”, what sounds likes small plane passes. When the audience is perceptible, it’s mostly when they laugh – during “Howl’, the word “jism” induces giggles. It’s a fair bet no one there had experienced anything like this before.”
“Ginsberg himself comes across as genial, personable. There are few introductions to the poems. Usually, the title is enough. He does explain his punctuation. Saying that “A Dream Record” uses colons prompts laughter. Four poems in, during “A Dream Record”, his intonation becomes more urgent. “Howl” is ninth up, and just before reaching it there’s a brief exchange with the (inaudible) audience as he asks the time and whether anyone was there the previous evening. He also explains the nature of the line lengths – like a “bop refrain,” like Lester Young’s music in 1938. After “Howl” he says “jazz stuff” and begins “Howl (Part II)”, then breaks off saying he doesn’t feel like reading any more – “I haven’t got any kind of steam, so I’d like to cut. Do you mind?” And that’s it.”
The full review may be read – here
Gerd Stern, the man whom Allen accused of being responsible for losing the legendary Neal Cassady-Jack Kerouac Joan Anderson Letter (he didn’t!) – is a key source for Gabby Kiser’s revealing essay, “Ping Pong of the Abysss – Gerd Stern, the Beats And The Psychiatric Institution” that appears on the website of the Beat Museum this week (likewise, very much worth a read).
The title, of course, references Allen’s ‘Howl” – “I’m with you in Rockland/where you scream in a straitjacket that you’re losing the game of the actual pingpong if the abyss.” “The game itself”, Kiser notes, “pops up three times in the poem, twice in Part I and once in Part III, specifically in lines that refer to Carl Solomon.” Stern, Allen and Solomon, it transpires, all met up in the Psychiatric Institution.
She references Stern’s interview, from earlier this year, with New York gallerist, Jim Kempner and “Three Poets”, a piece that he sent her about that time in his life/their lives (1947)
(we would also note his recollections made for the University of California’s oral archives – see here)
She recalls him being told (by a psychiatrist no less!) to “tell them (you’re) a poet, homeless, desperate, and that (you’re) contemplating suicide. They want interesting patients, so with a good story they’ll take you in.. ” (This advice came after a diagnosis of Stern being malnourished rather than exhibiting any particular psychiatric diagnosis – In his words to Jim Kempner, “I didn’t think I belonged there, but they didn’t mind”)
Solomon and Ginsberg, however, it was believed, belonged there. (“They were considered crazy. I was just kind of stupid”, Stern makes the distinction). While the three men were all on the same ward, Stern was allowed to go out on the weekends, whereas Solomon and Ginsberg weren’t, and Solomon and Ginsberg were recommended different treatments than him, (mercifully not enacted on Allen, tho’ tragically enacted on Carl), such as electric and insulin shock therapy.
Stern also informs Kiser that Solomon was far from happy being immortalized by “Howl ” “For so much of the poem to discuss and make insinuations about Solomon’s mental health shows a choice on Ginsberg’s part to make the private public”, she writes, “Not only that, but a sensitive private situation that was not necessarily his to build upon in this manner.” – True? – but “Candor ends paranoia“?
Kiser’s piece is preparation for on-going dissertation work – read it in its entirety – here
Legendary underground comix artist S. Clay Wilson passed away this week – (“the most influential artist of his generation”, in Comics Journal account – see here)
Sam Whiting’s obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle can be read – here
J.Hoberman’s obituary notice in the New York Times may be read – here
Here’s Harrison Smith in the Washington Post
Look out for a fleeting appearance by Allen in this brief review of S. Clay Wilson’s work (from back in 2014):
“Mr. Wilson also contributed to Arcade, the ambitious if short-lived comic-book quarterly edited in the mid-1970s by Bill Griffith and Art Spiegelman. The fourth issue featured a story by William S. Burroughs that was illustrated by Mr. Wilson and that led to a long association with him
Mr. Burroughs wrote introductions for the catalog to Mr. Wilson’s 1982 show at the Museum of the Surreal and Fantastique in New York and to an anthology of Mr. Wilson’s comics, The Collected Checkered Demon, in 1996. Mr. Wilson subsequently drew illustrations for German editions of two Burroughs novels, Cities of the Red Night and The Wild Boys.
Our own recently-departed poet-friends – New York School poets Lewis Warsh and Dick Gallup are remembered – Warsh by Granary Books’ Steve Clay in The Brooklyn Rail, and in the Poetry Project Newsletter, Gallup in an eloquent and comprehensive piece by Nick Sturm in The Brooklyn Rail .
More poets passing – Clayton Eshleman, maverick poet, translator, and editor (most notably of the influential Caterpillar & Sulfur magazines), died at the tail end of last month (January 29-30), it has been belatedly reported. He was 85. The ending of an extraordinary, incendiary, engaging and prolific, career. Here’s Eshleman in an extensive conversation with Ian Irvine, back in 2007-2008.