An interesting brief conversation with Allen appears in the current Amsterdam Review, as part of Romanian poet, Marin Sorescu (1936-1996)’s “Thoughts On The Beat Generation”,
which include transcript from a meeting that took place in Genoa in 1979 (a section from a later interview that Sorescu conducted with Lawrence Ferlinghetti in Mexico City in 1982
is also included).
from the Allen part:
“When I met Ginsberg in Genoa…he wasn’t the man shrouded in his own beard and hair, pulled out with a straw hook from the cave’s den, who preaches angrily in the town square, squinting at the light. That’s the stereotypical image of the poet. Instead I met a decent, sensible man, attentive and kind to those around him, clean-shaven, wearing a tie. But put him behind a microphone and this shorn lion raises his voice like a mane—and enters a kind of trance. He recites with his voice, with his head, which he moves from side to side, with his hands and feet, accompanied by rhythmic convulsions. The words vibrate not only in the voice, but in his whole body as in a resonance box, amplifying the sound to the maximum. The communication with the audience happens instantly. It’s huge. You can’t tell if he is reciting or shouting or singing—he’s assisted by the sounds of a small accordion, the size of a purse, which he carries around everywhere and which makes an eerie, unsettling noise, of great effect. The poet shakes his head, beats the rhythm with his foot, screams the words out—his poems have an intimate, prophetic character, sparks fly from the accordion-shaped balalaika. Everything has a high impact—whoever hasn’t heard Ginsberg recite may not understand that this poetry is written for this man, this instrument, and this way of reciting. So many shades are lost in the silent reading.
Allen, he declares, is a “true poet who’s been striving to engage and connect the public with poetry and who has accomplished a lot over the decades, not just thematically, by covering critical and unsophisticated topical issues, but also formally, twinning poetry with song. Statements regarding the attempt to resurrect the oral tradition check out indeed.”
and again, “The sincerity with which Ginsberg speaks and confesses is disarming, as is his poetry”.
from the interview:
MS: I’ll ask you the same question I asked several poets of today and, I’m hoping, of tomorrow: what do you think about your poetry?
AG: I’m the apprentice of William Carlos Williams, the modernist, in terms of pursuing the rhythms of everyday speech. I am Ezra Pound’s in the classic quantity of vowels (long and short vowels). I am Master Chögyam Trungpa’s student at the school of Tibetan Buddhism—studying the art of breathing. So, in conclusion: modernist, classicist, Buddhist, hippie, Jew.
MS: What’s the deal with breathing? Don’t we all breathe the same? I am, I must admit, incognizant of breathing. I breathe as it comes to me. Is it possible otherwise?
AG: I spent a year between 1971 and 1972 in Calcutta and Benares, living in a modest room on the banks of the Ganges. Near the vegetable market and the beggars’ center. It was a five-floor building. Each floor had a large room where a Brahmin lived. Mine was an unfurnished room, $15 a day. I met some really nice Hindu poets but didn’t come across any breathing masters at the time. This is how you breathe – sit with your legs crossed and relax. Breathe. That is, breathe the air in and out and watch how it goes, as if it were cigarette smoke. Like a thin thread breaking apart. And you don’t think about anything. But a thought comes to you. You let it come. You interrupt it when you breathe and go back into deep thought, a particular thought, or a random one, as you exhale through your nose. And you do this for an hour or two. When I’m on holiday I do it up to eight hours a day…
MS: So a day’s work of deep breathing. It must be quite tiring.
AG: Not at all. The same thought comes to you hundreds of times. To the point of boredom. When you get bored, the poetry begins.”
MS: Coming back to the private and public solitude…
AG: They’re one and the same. You must happily accept the vacuum they both create and be in tune with it, as if it were an escape, a release and by no means a problem, a sort of terror. In existential theory, there is vacuum as fear. This void, Sunyata, in Sanskrit also means open—and not a form of claustrophobia. It may sound a bit didactic, but it’s based on practice. On the practice of several days—festivals—and that of every day. Again, it is through breathing one is able to disperse the phantasms and nightmares caused by thinking. This space where we breathe here in the hotel (we are in the lobby of La Plaza Hotel in Genoa) is vacuum itself, but the path from claustrophobia to liberation is wide open.
Read more of the interview and the full article – here
A colorful figure passed away this past Wednesday, William Burroughs‘ biographer, Pulitzer-prize-winning biographer, Ted Morgan, (or Count Sanche Charles Armand Gabriel de Gramont, to give him his full aristocratic-birth name – he formally renounced his titles of nobility in 1977 when he became an American citizen. “Ted Morgan”, is an anagram of “de Gramont”, a “”name that conformed with the language and cultural norms of American society”, Morgan declared, explaining the change, “a name that telephone operators and desk clerks could hear without flinching.”)
but, as Burroughs scholar, Jed Birmingham writes, it’s a “solid biography” (albeit, “blighted by a bizarrely bad-tempered and judgmental attitude towards many of Burroughs’ friends and colleagues”).
Paul Theroux, (on the new (2012) updated version) – “It is funny, it is exhaustive, it is clear-sighted and lucidly – and elegantly – written – and it is fair”
Morgan passed away in a nursing home in Manhattan, New York City of complications from dementia. He was 91.
Material Wealth – Pat Thomas‘ extraordinary gathering, gets a deservedly rave review, (“a treasure house of riches that is sure to delight Ginsberg fans, Ginsberg scholars and historians of the Beat Generation”), from Jonah Raskin (on Simon Warner‘s Rock and The Beat Generation – see here)
AG and AI – Sasha Stiles and the VERSEverse collective offer an “After Ginsberg – Community Tribute” in The Tickle ( “the magazine for contemporary digital art and creative writing’), Tickle #89 – see here
Yesterday we spoke of the legendary Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris and its proprietor, George Whitman, today we note another Anglophone Parisian bookstore (which has/had a pretty rich history too) – the Village Voice, founded by Odile Hellier in 1982 (and, sadly, closing in 2012). She’ll be publishing her memoir in the Spring of 2024 – see here and here.