Allen Ginsberg in Louisville, 1992

We’re immensely grateful to Ron Whitehead and  Storm Generation Films for putting up on You Tube last month, three remarkable recordings – vintage performances in Louisville, Kentucky by Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Diane Di Prima..

We’ll feature the 1992 Ginsberg today.  Allen, it should be noted, is unusually expansive in the introductions to several of the poems (pay attention to him here). He reads a selection of work, chronologically arranged, most of it from the collection, Cosmopolitan Greetings  (bracketing it with the presentation of two classic William Blake poems)


He is introduced, (at approximately four-and-a-quarter minutes in) by a young Ron Whitehead. Whitehead quotes William Carlos Williams“Say what you will, he proves to us, in spite of the most debasing experiences that life can offer a man, the spirit of love survives to ennoble our lives if we have the wit and the courage and the faith – and the art! to persist It is the belief in the art of poetry that has gone hand in hand with this man into his Golgotha…We are blind and live our blind lives out in blindness. Poets are damned but they are not blind, they see with the eyes of the angels” – and Allen’s early biographer, Barry Miles – “The one continuous thread throughout his (Ginsberg’s) life has been to fulfill the vow he made as a teenager, standing on the windswept prow of the Hoboken ferry on his way to take the Columbia University entrance examinations – to devote his life to helping human kind. He became the poet-advocate of the underdog and this has always been his greatest theme”.

Allen begins reading (at approximately eight-and-three-quarter minutes in) the following works –  William Blake’s “The Tyger”,  “NSA Dope CalypsoPut Down Your Cigarette Rag”, “Sunflower Sutra” (preceded by Blake’s  “Ah! Sunflower”), “Kral Majales”, “First Party at Ken Kesey’s..” , “Don’t Grow Old” (including “Father Death Blues“), “Gospel Noble Truths” – and then, (from Cosmpolitan Greetings), “Sphincter”, “Cosmopolitan Greetings”, “Graphic Winces”, “Proclamation”, “To Jacob Rabinowitz”, “Return of Kral Majales”, “After the Big Parade” “Yiddishe Kopf”, “A Thief Stole This Poem”, and  “American Sentences”, concluding with a rousing version of William Blake’s “Nurse’s Song”(“And all the hills echo-ed”), a grand finale,  with all the audience joyfully joining in)

More on this – and the Corso and di Prima recordings – in the weeks ahead. Real treasures.

One comment

  1. Was that Put down your cigarette rag track on the local Louisville Omphalos CD? Lots of great tracks from poets and local bands.

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