Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 503

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021) – photo: Allen Ginsberg, caption: “Larry Ferlinghetti, City Lights office desk, he didn’t see me come in, he was absorbed looking in book, March 18, 1985

The passing of the great Lawrence Ferlinghetti this past Monday night was obviously the main event of the past week – See our postings – here and here

More of San Francisco’s home-town mourning – here and  here – and here

The Resplendent Radicalism of Lawrence Ferlinghetti  (Ferlinghetti’s exemplary life-long activism cannot be over-stated)

More reflections, hommage, & footage of Ferlinghetti:

Democracy Now
Open Culture
Jewish Daily Forward
The Jesuit Review
Tess Taylor for CNN – Lawrence Ferlinghetti was the hive and the honey

David Ulin – The Smithy of His Soul – Remembering Laewrence Ferlinghetti
Jonah Raskin – What Lawrence Ferlinghetti Means To Me 
Julian Poirier – Remembering Lawrence Ferlinghetti  
Blaise Zerega –  Personal Scrapbook – My quest to meet the famous poet 

There’s a fine (don’t miss it!) extended interview by John Aiello with Allen’s biographer (and editor), Michael Schumacher this week in the Electric Review. A few excerpts:

On the genesis of Dharma Lion:

“I met Allen in Milwaukee in 1981. I had written a piece about him for a weekly alternative paper. Much of the piece focused on his music… When I met to interview him I found out that he had seen my piece and liked it. He was so pleased that somebody actually noticed and gave a shit about his music that he immediately opened up to me… A bond was immediately forged between us because he trusted me. I was not some wise-ass and I treated him seriously. Our trust naturally snow-balled from there.
At one point, I was working on a piece to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of On the Road. As part of the story, I was interviewing many of Jack’s contemporaries – people like Allen and John Clellon Holmes. One night while in the middle of the Kerouac article, I was eating dinner in my car at a drive-in restaurant in Wisconsin called “The Spot.” I had actually worked there when I was a teenager. And all of a sudden a storm started – with thunder and lighting and heavy rain. I pulled the tray with my food in the window and just sat there. As I was sitting there, I asked myself, “What do you know about Allen Ginsberg?” And then I tried to answer my own question, scribbling down thoughts in this Steno notebook. And those notes I wrote while I was just sitting in my car in that rain storm turned into the outline for both the proposal and the text of Dharma Lion.”

On Allen’s Journals (Michael edited three volumes of them):

“Those journals are as close to Allen’s mind as you are going to get, they’re as close to his raw thinking process as you are going to get. He really laid himself on the line in those books. Talk about courage. Ginsberg kept going back to those dark visions no matter how scary it all got…”

“(Courage) – It’s about being able to soldier on when you know things aren’t necessarily going to go so well for you. I have always been amazed by that about Allen. People don’t really understand what Allen was all about. He was about generosity. He truly gave of himself. He was also tremendously patient. And he had the courage to keep working to get his point across…”

On Family Business – Selected Letters Between A Father And A Son:

“The way to understand Allen is to understand the relationship he had with his father. Everybody immediately goes to Naomi and the relationship he had with his mother. But Louis was a published poet and very political as well.. I first saw the letters they had written to each other while researching Dharma Lion. Later I approached Allen about the idea of doing a book based on the letters. Allen didn’t see why. He didn’t get it. And he didn’t want to participate in the project, but he still trusted me to do it.”

“One time I was working on the book in the guest room in his loft when he came in to check on me. I remember he picked up a letter I was working with and said: “Hmmm – maybe you’re right. Maybe it would be useful to publish these.” The letters are remarkable because they show the passion between father and son. Allen loved his father very deeply. Allen often bounced ideas off of Louis, and Louis would do the same, asking for his son’s perspective on various ideas. One letter that Louis wrote Allen still sticks in my mind. It was a two word letter. It said: “Exorcise Neal.” Louis didn’t have a lot of use for some of the Beat characters, or for some of Kerouac’s writing. You have to understand that Louis grew up in a time of rhymed lyrical poetry, which was very different from what the Beats were doing. But if you want to really understand Allen Ginsberg, those letters are a good place to start.”

and then there’s Naomi:

“In researching Dharma Lion, I saw many of the letters Allen exchanged with his mother, and they are truly heart-breaking. You know Allen is the one who had to make the decision to go forward and consent to the lobotomy for Naomi. He was given no choice. His father and his older brother couldn’t do it. So he had to do it. He really had no choice. His mother was harming herself and something had to be done. But Allen never really came to grips with that decision. Because he knew he ended up destroying her natural consciousness. And it troubled him tremendously. In (the poem) “Black Shroud” (in the collection White Shroud) he writes about beheading his mother. Look at the symbolism – obviously, he never came to grips with the decision he made. Allen really had a difficult time with Naomi’s illness. When he was growing up, one of the two boys always had to be with her at all times in case she needed help. It’s really something that he was able to soldier on..and then share it with the world in his poetry…”

Michael McClure’s final book, Mule Kick Blues, out in April from City Lights, (Michael Schumacher has a sweet story about Michael), is wonderfully pre-viewed on this video:

Our good friend Steve Silberman‘s Thanks For Asking – The Whalen Journal, (on Philip Whalen), previously featured on Pat Nolan‘s excellent Parole blog (and excerpted here), is now available in a limited edition as a printed book – from Kevin Ring’s Beat Scene (a very limited edition – 125 copies) – Contact Contact him soon. 

Estíbaliz Encarnación-Pinedo interviews esteemed Beat scholar  Nancy M. Grace,  a founding member of the Beat Studies Association and the editor of The Journal of Beat Studies on the second of the recently-instigated EBSN (European Beat Studies Network) podcasts – see here   – The discussion includes thoughts on the future direction of Beat Studies, on Women of the Beat Generation, transnationalism in Beat Studies, and the legacy of the Beat Generation.

Have you picked up your copy of The Fall of America Tribute yet?  Just in case you haven’t, here’s a taster, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo performing a version of Allen’s Hum Bom!

“Gog Magog Gog Magog/Ginsberg says Gog & Magog/Armageddon did the job”

Geoffrey Himes’ over-view in Paste – “Allen Ginsberg Put The Beat in Rock ‘Roll (Beat Poetry, That is)”, (surveying, not only this, but also the forthcoming “Howl” recording, and his memorable involvement with The Clash), is well worth a read.  You can find it here.

& we’ll end with the voice of the 101-year-old Ferlinghetti – sweet and defiant (recorded last year)


  1. I live in Mexico & Neal Cassidy died right here in San Miguel after drinking a lot of pulque….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *