Allen Ginsberg in Australia – Check out this illuminating article by Barnaby Smith for the State Library of New South Wales on the 50th anniversary of Allen Ginsberg’s one and only trip to Australia, in 1972, for the Library’s Openbook magazine
An invaluable information-source – “A conversation with Gary Snyder on how work, folk music and poetry communities influenced his poetry, and how poetry kept him going as a survival source”
(Steve Dickison, director of The Poetry Center at SFSU, serving time behind the camera, also joins in at the end in this conversation).
GS: “…and then Allen Ginsberg came in with all of his energy, which was wonderful, and his ability to really give a good reading (you know, like Kenneth Rexroth couldn’t give a good reading.. Rexroth was never going to be successful as a public poet)…but Allen was the public voice.
WP: His “Howl” had a huge influence.
GS: Well he was already an interesting poet, but when he started doing “Howl'”, you know, then it became nation-wide, and he really knew how to read it.
WP: I remember Allen Ginsberg and also the so – called “Beat Generation” poets, Beat poetry was extremely influential in changing society.
GS: Well, It started in a small way…
WP: How did it become so big?
GS: Probably because of Allen’s reputation, it got, (it) became big.
WP: I had the good fortune to read together with him at The Poetry Project..and he performed “Howl” and I could feel the entire.. like the St Mark’s Church was on fire! I remember it was just.. like I could feel how he moved the whole crowd – and it was a big big crowd…
and bonus footage – here
Jack Kerouac news – We wanted to clear up one item that appeared here on Jack’s Centennial weekend. We were noting the sourness of the English press (not all the English press, but some – and some headline-writers (notably this – on Alex Diggins piece for the Daily Telegraph – “He was light, funny – and hated women” – a comment by Gary Snyder, which should be abundantly clear is taken completely out of context)
We’re happy to point you to Diggins’ text (unfortunately, under a firewall), headlined “My friend, Jack Kerouac” (sic) – “Gary Snyder on his old roommate – and fellow Beat”.
Among Gary’s observations:
“He (Kerouac) was always light, funny and unpredictable (sic). He was interesting to be around.”
“Jack hated women and he was probably gay”, Snyder says, before going on to clarify, “he didn’t have timely relationships with women that lasted..Talking about his affairs was difficult for him. And, of course, he ended up living with his mother”
regarding political inappropriateness – “Jack was like everybody in the working class. He liked people for who they were, regardless of their race.”
regarding the presentation of Snyder in The Dharma Bums – “He fluffed me up a bit too much. But he was very pleased by getting out into the woods and the mountains.It was all new to him, especially the Sierra Nevada. It’s a great place to walk around in and get sunburnt and hungry”
“He had a very soft heart and was very compassionate towards animals – He never chopped a chicken’s head off. Have you?”
“Sometimes I think he was just using me to write about”
And does he resent that? – “No, I’m an artist and I know half of what people do is for art”
On hearing of Kerouac’s death, he “wasn’t all that sad – It was to be expected – he over-drank. But when he was with me he didn’t drink that much. He was too busy running around”
“He really picked up the street play of American English. Consequently a younger generation learned how much fun they could have with their own language. But who knows if it will still be read in another 30 or 40 years? It reads like the language of the 1950s”
“He got into the hearts of people, he touched them somehow.”, he concludes, and concludes optimistically, “People will keep reading Jack Kerouac and keep laughing and saying, “Gee, that was dated. But boy was it a lot of fun!”
Gary on Jack (from the Wang Ping interview above) : “See, Kerouac drank too much, and that’s really “Beat”, and then he died. Jack was not.. Jack got embarrassed by his own fame. He didn’t know how to handle it and went home to his mother, and just drank till he died”
Here’s an interesting little clip – “Why Jack Sent His Friends Away”
More Beat news next week