Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 534

Allen Ginsberg and dance – Ethan Hawke reads (convincingly and passionately) “Wichita Vortex Sutra” against a background of Philip Glass‘s music, while dancers from the Ballet Street Project from Kansas City dance, interpreting the poem, in various Kansas City locations (West Bottoms, River Market). Tempe Ostergren Elsberry, Creative Director of Ballet Street Project introduces the piece.  A moving and challenging experience.

Bob Dylan (is he tongue-in-cheek?) looking back on the Rolling Thunder tour:

“One thing people don’t know about Ginsberg is that he was an incredible dancer, who would just do these steps that were so unusual and exciting..”

and he’d always have a good dance partner too, usually somebody from the tour, somebody we’d pick up along the way. He danced a lot, Ginsberg.”

Allen Ginsberg dancing – still from Martin Scorsese’s movie, Rolling Thunder- A Bob Dylan Story

Here’s the quintessential ecstatic photo, by Lisa Law, of Allen dancing, dancing to the Grateful Dead at “A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In” in Golden Gate Park, January 14, 1967.

Allen Ginsberg at the “Human Be-In” at the Polo Fields, in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, January 14, 1967. Photo (c) Lisa Law

Hey, Bob even filmed Allen dancing, that very same year.


Andrew Schelling, long-time teacher at Naropa, and Paul E Nelson, heroic organizer of SPLAB (now Cascadia Poets Lab) got together recently to discuss the question of Allen and breath – “Beat Breath” – an interview conducted for a presentation to be given later this month at the upcoming  2021 EBSN (European Beat Studies Network) Conference

Schelling: “If you listen to some of the recordings of him in his mature years, the depth of his voice, the largeness of his lungs and the way he really has, not only brought the pitch of his voice very low but.. he’s speaking from his diaphragm, and you can hear that extraordinary difference between speaking from high up in your throat and speaking from a deep place. And I feel that.. again, of the poets that I’ve listened to, he has been among the most instructive to me to listen to, in person, to have seen him read – (He exhibited) a  command over his breath and a command over what I would call, like, in a sense, “the musicality of poetry” (which is not singing, it’s not the music of music, its the music of the full range of the vocal apparatus…”)

AH Mantra Calligraphy (for Allen Ginsberg) -Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. ca 1980

A curious piece by on 3 Quarks Daily this week by Michael Abraham- Fiallos“On No Longer Liking Allen Ginsberg” – Not the usual “hit-piece” we’d expected but, rather, a reasoned contrarian view that, “there is a kind of showmanship in the poem that does not sit well with me, a glorying in the abject that never quite reaches the eternal pronunciation of the Truth-with-a-capital-T that it explicitly declares as its intent” – “I realize about halfway through the poem’s first long section that I don’t like this poem very much. Or, I don’t like this poem very much anymore. It’s a little bit racist, a little bit whiny, a little bit full of itself. It is profound, don’t get me wrong. It is epochal, in its way. But, it is not for me anymore..” Abraham-Fiallos goes on (in a piece worth reading) to enumerate his misgivings.


Speaking of critiques, is it just us or was there something troubling and wrong in Nathan Gelgud’s  Diane Di Prima cartoon in The New York Times ? –  (a Diane Di Prima cartoon?  – in the New York Times?)?

(Here, by the way, is the latest edition of Revolutionary Letters)

Gelgud seems to be implying that there was something quaint and hypocritical about Diane’s radicalism, that it “waxed and waned”. On the contrary, she remained true to her values (heroically so), even through her last years of illness, and throughout her life.

Incidentally, in case you missed it, the Literary Hub website ran an excerpt from her recently-published posthumous City Lights volume, her memoir of the dancer Freddie Herko  Spring and Autumn Annalssee here

David S Wills takes a little look at this historical resistance to Beat Literature – Cancel Culture – “Cancelling the Beat Generation” – in this thoughtful piece in Quilette

Holly Qu on Kerouac,  on Kerouac the football-player  in the Columbia Spectator 

and that Neal Cassady photo that we featured here last week?  – went, as we expected, (as did so many items in the auction) for considerably more than the estimated price  – $3,024

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