Bob Rosenthal – on The Magic of Allen Ginsberg – 3

Bob Rosenthal and Allen Ginsberg in “the office” (the old office – on Union Square) c. 1986 – photo: courtesy Stanford University Libraries / Allen Ginsberg Estate

Bob Rosenthal in conversation with John Bredin for Public Voice Salon continues from here  –  We continue with a tour around Allen’s 13th Street office.

BR: Here is a picture of the poet Gregory Corso by Hank O’Neal – this is in Allen’s old apartment on 12th street at 12th and Ave. You can see the sink in the office. Now that apartment rents for over $5,000. a month!

JB:  Now what about his spiritual picture here?

BR:  This is an Hieronymus Bosch print called The Garden of Earthly Delights   You have Heaven, Earth, and Hell.  I think this print is from Allen’s childhood.  It has always been around and the odd thing is that when I was in High School I too bought this print.

JB: Oh synchronicity.

BR:  I still have it up over my bed. 

JB:  May I take (a picture of) this over here and show (it) to the public.  This is not X-rated.

 BR:  The photograph is of Allen and Gregory and it is called “Modest” and over here is “Less Modest”

JB  “Less Modest” – we can’t show that one!

BR:  You probably could.  I don’t think they’re parts of the body that haven’t been seen a lot.  

JB:  Look at this beautiful abstract over here.  Explain what this is.  (John is distracted by a painting on the wall, Bob’ll get back to it)

BR:  Look here at this Avedon of Allen’s whole family.   Here’s Louis 

JB: The English Teacher

BR:  …and lyric poet,

and lyric poet, often published in the New York Times.   Allen only got his poetry into the Times three times.  

JB: The Grey Lady rarely honored Allen.  Now I don’t feel so bad because they always reject my OpEd essays 

BR  here is Eugene,  Allen’s brother, also a poet, Edith, Allen’s stepmother, and Eugene’s wife Connie and their children 

BR:  Allen once told me that he went to dinner at his cousin’s club at the top of the World Trade Center.  He said he looked around the table and noticed that every other person was an idiot. And he means that not in derogatory way but in a Dostoyevskian way –  the Russian Idiot (and that novel by Dostoyevsky was one of Allen’s favorite books because Myshkin is like Allen.  Everybody loves Myshkin)

JB: He brings everybody together

BR: Yes but he ruins their lives 

JB:  Does he?

BR: Yeah he does, but he is unchanged at the end  Allen was, like, always nice to people but always getting into trouble too.

JB:  Stirring the pot.

BR: Yes, exactly 

JB:  Now this beautiful painting here..

BR:  This is a painting by Simon Carr,  who is the son of Lucien Carr.  This is from Simon’s abstract period, called The Abduction   Allen liked it and bought it.  

JB:  I have to show this.   This is Grove Press, very significant in my life because Grove Press published the first chapter of my book My Life As a Novel,  a nonfiction book  but Barney Rosset was around and they published it on their online edition in 2009

Grove published everybody Allen, Kerouac, Burroughs…

BR:  ..Genet..    My father had a copy of The Olympia Reader on his bedstand so I read many of  the purloined sections from the Olympia Press, an offshoot of Grove. 

JB:  And Grove had the great honor of being denounced in the halls of Congress by Jerry Ford for daring to put a picture of a nude woman next to Richard Nixon  “This is pornographic!” 

BR:  Yes and Ford grew up in a time when the female body was (perceived as) pornographic –  and now?  I don’t know 


JB:  Let’s take a look in the hallway –  We only have three minutes (left) –  and we have Mr. Jack Kerouac here. 

Now we are in the hallway and it says “Dig It”.  There is Jack, Jack Kerouac

BR:   This was in the elevator at the Walker Arts Center when they hosted a big Beat show and Allen asked for the poster when they’re done (and) they sent it to us.   This is Kerouac on East 7th Street fire escape, 1953. 

JB:  Let’s just sit down for two minutes and conclude this wonderful visit.   Wow!

BR:  Back in the ‘80’s, East 12th Street – this is what New York was looking like – garbage everywhere.  This block had a burnt-out old bus-garage then a crack haven, and Allen’s building was down the street. 

Here is Ted Berrigan  with me and my wife Shelley (Rochelle Kraut), Alice Notley and their little boy, Anselm on Waveland Avenue, Chicago.   Today is Anselm’s 47th Birthday 

JB:  What’s this up here?

BR  Oh this is Allen with..  you know, the actor..  (Dennis Hopper) …I am having a junior moment..   He was in Blue Velvet     

JB:  Who’s the blonde?

BR: Marcus Ewert

JB:  Let’s sit down.    I can’t believe how quickly this hour went. When you are with somebody who is interesting, who has cultural knowledge,  talking about these times that really mattered in our history, time just flies, ok? – Bob, we would love you to come for another show to continue this ongoing education project of learning about literature and also this incredible time in American culture (and I think it still matters, I am not so sure it went away by itself. I think there were political forces that put the kibosh). 

BR: Maybe the culture, the bohemianism is gone but Allen’s place in time is secure. I believe that he is right there with Walt Whitman.  He has been an answer on Jeopardy! for decades (they will still use Allen as a referent for a  five different time periods).

JB:  When you think Counterculture,  you think Ginsberg. On our show, whenever we mention the ‘60’s..  There’s an image of him on-line reading poetry in Washington Square Park.  It’s like this iconic image:

BR:  Yes and it is interesting that  (Martin) Scorsese in both of his films on Dylan has featured Allen.  In the Rolling Thunder movie he ends it with Allen making a wonderful improvised statement that wraps up the entire meaning of (what) their experience is, (and) that everybody can make something for themselves out of their lives.   It is so empowering and that is where Allen is just magical – I didn’t nail it down I don’t have it in front of me but what he says at the end of that movie is just incredible:

“You, who saw it all, or who saw flashes and fragments, take from us some example, try and get yourselves together, clean up your act, find your community, pick up on some kind of redemption of your own consciousness, become mindful of your own friends, your own work, your own proper meditation, your own art , your own beauty, go out and make it for your own eternity.”

 JB:  Well this has been a messy dialogue here, deliberately messy, and I am glad we could be interactive, back-and-forth. But, circling back to the beginning of our talk, when you mentioned Allen’s candor, (and) I am thinking about a time when we talk about “fake news” –  we have President Trump who lies, everything out his mouth is a lie.  Allen Ginsberg is almost like an antidote to these highly-corporatized (times).   Everybody is a sales-person, trying to sell you something.   He seems like a real antidote for our times. 

BR:  When Allen was gone I felt less safe in the world.  I felt like he had been the little Dutch Boy with his finger in the dyke.  When he dies the flood gates open  –  911 & Trump -(it’s before cellphones) – he is on the cusp of these big changes and all that he says, his observations, his acuity, are still really valid.  It doesn’t depend on technology and I think that is the lesson, and I promised Allen that I would write about him.

JB:  Is this your first book?

BR  Here is my 1977 book about cleaning houses Cleaning Up New York

 It is subject-based.  I told Allen I would write about him and make it be like this book – funny and informative.   Straight Around Allen is also subject-based – a chapter on Generosity a chapter on being a Bodhisattva, etc.

JB:  Before we close I have to give a shout-out to my wife Claudia Canasto, who’s from South America, a little town outside of Bogata. I love her dearly, and without her help the show wouldn’t exist.  Love is still the answer, as they said back in the ’60’s when Allen Ginsberg was at his peak.  And we thank you so much, Bob Rosenthal, you are doing more to keep alive the memory of Allen Ginsberg than anybody. 

BR:  Thank you.  Be well. 

Leave a Reply

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