Bisbee 1980 Promo Video

A sample roll of film today, promotional film showcasing the film archive from the 1980 Bisbee Poetry Festival, featuring Bobbie-Louise Hawkins, Michael McClure, Joanne Kyger, Diane Wakowski, Peter Orlovsky, and Allen Ginsberg. The sections featuring Allen appear at approximately twelve minutes in. The producer, Jon Freedman, is currently seeking a public institution to house his archive and put this together as a sample reel.

The Bisbee Poetry Festival, in Bisbee, Arizona, initiated the year before, flourished in the early ’80’s (and indeed, continued, successfully, under different sponsorship, well into the 90’s).

The tape begins with Bobbie Louise Hawkins (reading from Back To Texas) – “Curtis stuck his foot up in the air at me. “You don’t see that kind of boot where you come from, do ya?” He had a right to be proud, it was a handsome boot. “Sure I do if somebody can afford ’em.”. “No, I mean you don’t see these boots with pointy toes and heels like that. Those people where you…   the kind of boots they wear has them square toes and they strap across here”. “Not all of ’em”, I said.  And then I decided to get to him. “Curtis”, I said, there isn’t a hippie in the world that doesn’t wanna be a cowboy”

Bobbie-Louise Hawkins

and then (in a Q & A reflecting on how she embodies vernacular rhythms) –  “And there the question was like, like this one, where you lend yourself to an existing beat and a one, you know, it’s like, how you allow yourself to be possessed of that, because there’s a sense that, “I’ve got all the time in the world”.  I was doing things like taping particular lines that interested me, I mean, the songs. And when I’d be lying in bed at night, for instance, I’d put the tape-recorder on my chest and play just that song, right? – And the sense of it was, like, to try to get that rhythm somehow into my being in some way that would then..  And what started happening was really interesting. Somebody.. you’d be walking past somebody and, oh yeah, “I went to Santa Fe” and suddenly it would be like  da da… suddenly that phrase would..  I’d hear it in the melodic line, because it would be…it was nothing, it was all disparate, but it would all suddenly have been exactly that run and rhythm. And after that.. So I did a…  Well, I’ll just do this one and stop.  It was a.. just to use that line of hers was (Bobbie starts acapella singing). “Tell somebody to tell somebody there’s going to be a party wine.. and don’t spend all we hope rejuvenate the heart, dear. The dances are romances, the fantasy they dream is lasting love and all the extras. It’s a prime time movie theme, dear..”

Michael McClure

Next, Michael McClure reading from  Antechamber & Other Poems

“I want to read this poem last because it will prove that I have invented a completely new subject matter for poems, or I’ve discovered, I guess, a totally new subject matter for a poem – “To The Drive-In Teller at the Bank”…. What was that last line in the poem about…, the poem for the bank teller? – I said “Our minds are daubed/ with opalescent caves”. And he said, “Yes, I sometimes hear things that..that they sound true and I can’t understand why and that one eludes me (he said it in his own way) and I said, our minds are like caves that we daub with fantasies, or truths, or knowledge, whether it’s cave-paintings in Altamira or remembrances of our childhood,or fantasies of our culpability, or triumph, or whatever. So I said that’s like daubing our opalescent caves – our thoughts are daubing the opalescent caves of our consciousness. He said, well how does that tie up to the rest of the poem?  And there is quite a jump there because   what’s happening there is the bak teller has put her.. as everybody has seen, has put her daughter’s face up on the window and taped it there, so you look at her and her daughter, And she thinks that the universe is a mild beast to smile on the endless reflections of her image, And I said, “I hope you’re right”. – “YOU FACE ME WITH/THE COLOR PHOTO/ OF YOUR CHILD/taped to the window/as if she were you/and the universe/were some/mild/beast to smile on/the endless/ reflections/ of your image/  I hope you’re right/. Our minds are daubed/ with opalescent caves””


Joanne Kyger –  “Poetry, for a lot, you know, like, takes you back into time, it takes you back into, takes you back into knowledge (of..). I see poetry myself, you know, having a large difficulty about getting off the page. There are millions of small-press poetry books that are being published nowadays with a lot of assistance from the federal government, the National Endowment (for the) Arts, and it seems to me, you know, for my taste, far too many poetry books and magazines and not enough attempt for poets to actually use their own breath and their own body-shape, you know, just to project it from themselves.”

Joanne Kyger

Joanne Kyger reads her poem “Destruction”   You know, Do you remember the way a bear goes through/a cabin when nobody is home?” –  (maybe not down here too much!) – ” He goes through/the front door. I mean he really goes through it. Then/he takes the cupboard off the wall and eats a can of lard./ He eats all the apples, limes, dates, bottled decaffeinated/coffee, and 35 pounds of granola. The asparagus soup cans/fall to the floor. Yum! He chomps up Norwegian crackers/stashed for the winter. And the bouillon, salt, pepper,/paprika, garlic, onions, potatoes./   He rips the Green Tara/poster from the wall. Tries the Coleman Mustard. Spills/the ink, tracks in the flour. Goes up stairs and takes/a shit. Rips open the water bed, eats the incense and/drinks the perfume. Knocks over the Japanese tansu/and the Persian miniature of a man on horseback watching/a woman bathing./. Knocks Shelter, Whole Earth Catalogue,/ Planet Drum, Northern Mists, Truck Tracks, and/Women’s Sports into the oozing water bed mess./ He goes down stairs and out the back wall. He keeps on going/for a long way and finds a good cave to sleep it all off./Luckily he ate the whole medicine cabinet, including stash/of LSD, Peyote, Psilocybin, Amanita, Benzedrine, Valium/and aspirin.”

Peter Orlovsky

Peter Orlovsky   “Hmm. Wild apple trees are so friendly, wild apple trees give so much. Up I New York State there are a lot of wild apple trees and they’ve got a lot of wild apple juice and if you work hard you can get 145 gallons of wild apple juice. If you work hard you can get 500, if you work hard you can get 1,000, if you work hard you can get 2,000. If you really do at it you can get 5,000 gallons of apple juice!     [In one season? – In one season, yeah]”

Peter Orlovsky then reads “And the Tea Will Seem Golden”  (from the collection Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs –  “Oh mama what did you do/ what did you do with your human cry/ the wine you drank when I was 14-teen/ you beat your head on the grownd/ I stood near by watching this/ its the tears I remember most/ the yells forgotten, my age disappeared/ I wanted you to stop, I even got mad at you/ for banging your self so/  So I through you in bed but you kissed me good night/ night has made lonely dances in your head/ cigrette ashes dry up your tears/ I’m older now I could put my arm around you if you were to/ cry again So Ma cry like you used to/ lets go thro that sadness again, more agoney Ma/ & then we’ll have a long talk afterwards & the tea will seem golden/ & we’ll pat bellies again & tickle each others feet”

Diane Wakowski – “I had developed an esthetic, pretty much when I was at Berkeley, which I began to develop in my poems that.. that.. I could’ve probably given you a list of ten things  that create a good poem and definitely a list of tenth things that were bad things to do in poetry. And I began to realize.. And one of things was to be personal, in the sense of trivial, mention what you had for breakfast, and mention the people who lived next door by name, and things like that. I wanted everything… I wanted you to be able to use your life, but I wanted everything symbolic, or metaphorical, or imagistic (if a person had a name like Mr Blue it was alright to use it but if it was Mr Rosenstein, then you didn’t, because that name didn’t mean anything. And I began to realize that I was… also one of my rules was that I was going to write moralistic didactic poems because I was a very moralistic didactic person and I was going too try and let the message of the poem come through the images and all that stuff I learned in Understanding Poetry, and.. (bless Mr. Penn Warren and Mr. Brooks!). And I realized that there was a whole area of my life that I couldn’t talk about in my poems and one of my rules for good poetry was that you had to be able to use everything, (you may not be able to use it directly, but, if you ever find there’s something you can’t transform, there’s something wrong with your system, and you’re making your life in such a way that you’re going to make an inorganic poetry. So I decided, well, the thing to do is write a series of poems in which I permit myself to break all these rules.”

Diane Wakowski then reads her poem“Ode to A Lebanese Crock of Olives”. – “As some women love jewels/ and drape themselves with ropes of pearls, and stud their ears/with diamonds, band themselves with heavy gold,/have emeralds on their fingers or/opals on white bosoms,/I love the still life/of grapes whose skins frost over with the sugar forming inside,/hard apples, and delicate pears;/cheeses,/from the sharp fontina, to icy bleu,/the aromatic chèvres, boursault, boursin, a litany of/thick breads, dark wines,/pasta with garlic,/soups full of potato and onion;/and butter and cream,/like the skins of beautiful women, are on my sideboard..”

The film concludes with Allen

Allen is seen at a Q & A, on the panel at the festival

AG: ….And then I carry a whole tiny notebook around all the time, like this [points to notebook], to take down any thoughts that occur when I’m moving around during the day, and just sort of, keep it..keep it..immediate – Like, “Belvedere’s dusty thigh, round ass,/ Triton’s horns handsomeness risen wave-born,/ Eros’s twin-babe shushing her watery scream/ who’s raped by the ocean” – (being a Sapphic stanza, describing a room in the Vatican Museum, three weeks ago).

Allen is next seen hiking and reading from his notes, identifying mushrooms

AG: “Death Angel  (Amanita ocreata)   Wait a minute.. the covering and stem, cap and stems, are what look like an egg. So what we have so far is somebody’s been eating Death Angel, a fly could get under.. [the gills]  …the gills, to hold on.  An effervescent annulus, one that disappears, a veil, a beautiful veil, a universal veil, above, covering the cap and the stem, looked like an egg – Mushrooms! – Amanita muscaria – most widely distributed in the stratospheric winds – Amanita muscaria, most widely distributed of all of what? – [One of the most.. well, many mushroom species are fairly widely distributed, but Soma…] – Soma, yes, all over the world there is soma.  You take ’em and eat ’em, and you’ll get high, but you gotta make sure you’re not eating a Death Angel!”

at the end of the tape, Allen is seen reading the last section of lines of “Reflections at Lake Louise” (poem/notes, dated May 7-9, 1980):
“Trapped in the Guru’s Chateau surrounded by 300 disciples/I could go home to Cherry Valley, Manhattan, Nevada City/to be a farmer forever, die in Lower East Side slums, sit with no lightbulbs in the forest,/Return to my daily mail Secretary, Hard Times, Junk mail and love letters, get wrinkled old in Manhattan/Fly out and sing poetry, bring home windmills, grow tomatoes and Marijuana/chop wood, do Zazen, obey my friends, muse in Gary’s Maidu Territory, study acorn mush,/Here I’m destined to study the Higher Tantras and be a slave of Enlightenment./Where can I go, how choose? Either way my life stands before me,/
mountains rising over the white lake 6 A.M., mist drifting between water and sky.”
Allen is heard at the conclusion reciting the opening lines to “Love Forgiven” – “Straight and slender/ Youthful tender/ Love shows the way/ And never says nay’ ‘

One comment

  1. Hello , my name is Pat Roper and I played guitar background for Allen Ginsberg on August 23 1980 at Bisbee Az. My wife had just given birth to our son Dylan that afternoon. I was wondering if there was a video of the night?
    Thanks… Pat Roper

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