Dangerous Minds pal Steve Silberman says, “A goofy and touching video of the late poet Allen Ginsberg, author of “Howl” and “Kaddish,” doing t’ai chi in his pajamas in his small kitchen on the Lower East Side. The voiceover is a poem he wrote for Bataan Faigao (http://atlas.csd.net/~bfaigao/teachers/bataan.html), t’ai chi instructor at Naropa University.”
This is a fine interview with Allen Ginsberg taken from the BBC series Face to Face, in which Ginsberg opens up about his family, loves, identity, drugs and even sings.
The series, Face to Face originally started in 1959, and was hosted by John Freeman, whose skill and forthright questioning cut through the usual mindless chatter of such interview shows. Freeman, a former editor of the New Statesman was often considered brusque and rude, but his style of questioning fitted the form of the program, which was more akin to an interview between psychiatrist and patient. The original series included, now legendary, interviews with Martin Luther King, Tony Hancock, Professor Carl Jung, Evelyn Waugh and Gilbert Harding.
In 1989, the BBC revived the series, this time with the excellent Jeremy Isaacs as questioner, who interviewed Allen Ginsberg for this program, first broadcast on 9th January 1995.
Watching this now, makes me wonder what has happened to poetry? Where are our revolutionary poets? Where are our poets who speak out, demonstrate, make the front page, and tell it like it is? And why are our bookstores cluttered with the greeting card verse of 100 Great Love Poems, 101 Even Greater Love Poems, and Honest to God, These Are the Greatest Fucking Love Poems, You’ll Ever Fucking Read. O, for a Ginsebrg now.
What do rich people do when they have too much money? Get pissed. So, it was for Conrad Rooks, who by the age of 15 was a full-blown alcoholic. Money may give you many things, but apparently not self-control or a conscience.
Rooks’ pappy owned Avon. Ding Dong, no need to worry about quitting the booze or getting a job, instead Rooks started a new hobby - drugs. He jumped from booze to dope, to coke, to LSD, to peyote, to heroin, then decided to get clean. Off to Switzerland, where he was given a new treatment - the sleep cure.
This is what happened to Rooks, and his story formed the basis for a 1966 movie Chappaqua, which Rooks produced, directed, wrote, and starred in. It is a mess of a film, though it picked up a Silver Medal at the Venice Film Festival, and became a “legendary” underground hit due to its association with drugs and the Beat Generation. And this is where its importance lies today: in the appearance of William S. Burroughs as Opium Jones, the brief cameos from Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovksy, and the beautiful, quite stunning cinematography by Beat film-maker, Robert Frank, who made Pull My Daisy and went on to make Cocksucker Blues for The Rolling Stones. Add to this performances by Ravi Shankar, Ornette Coleman, The Fugs, and a score by Philip Glass, there is enough going on to keep interest, and the finger only occasionally on Fast Forward.
The whole of ‘Chappaqua’ with Rooks, Burroughs and Ginsberg, after the jump…
These are just stunning! Stunning! I certainly wouldn’t mind owning one of those fantastic Zappas. From the artist Lisa Brawn:
I have been experimenting with figurative woodcuts for almost twenty years since being introduced to the medium by printmakers at the Alberta College of Art and Design. Recently, I have been wrestling with a new challenge: five truckloads of salvaged century-old rough Douglas fir beams from the restoration of the Alberta Block in Calgary and from the dismantling of grain elevators. This wood is very interesting in its history and also in that it is oddly shaped. Unlike traditional woodcut material such as cherry or walnut, the material is ornery. There are holes and knots and gouges and rusty nails sticking out the sides.
To find suitably rustic and rugged subjects, I have been referencing popular culture personas and archetypes from 1920s silent film cowboys to 1970s tough guys. I have also been through the Glenbow Museum archives for horse rustlers, bootleggers, informants, and loiterers in turn-of-the-century RCMP mug shots for my Quién es más macho series. Cowgirl trick riders and cowboy yodelers in their spectacular ensembles from the 1940s led to my Honky-Tonkin, Honey, Baby series. Inspired by a recent trip to Coney Island, I have been exploring vintage circus culture and am currently working on a series of sideshow portraits including Zip the Pinhead and JoJo the Dog-faced Boy. There is also an ongoing series of iconic gender archetypes, antiheroes and divas, which includes such portraits as Sophia Loren, Maria Callas, Edith Piaf, Jackie Onassis, Steve McQueen, and Clint Eastwood.
In February 1967, just a few weeks after the first Human Be-In, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Alan Watts discussed how to “drop out” and radically change society in an hour-an-half interview recorded on Watts’ houseboat. In amongst the naive hippie shit, there are parts of this that are as relevant today as they were back then.
I lived in Manhattan’s East Village from 1984 to 1991 and the sight of the great poet Allen Ginsberg around the neighborhood was a pretty common one, although it was still cool to see him each and every time, I must admit. Now the apartment where Ginsberg lived until the mid-90s has been renovated and come on the rental market. There is a link to the listing today—$1700 for the one-bedroom—on Gothamist:
Left to right: Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Louis Cartwright, Herbert Huncke, William Burroughs, Allen & Peter’s new apartment, 437 East 12th Street, New York City, December 1975. Photographer unknown. (Via)
Above: Allen Ginsberg on William F. Buckley’s Firing Line TV program in 1968.
Photo of Peter Orlovsky and Allen Ginsberg by Richard Avedon.
I was saddened today, to hear of Beat poet Peter Orlovsky’s death. The longtime companion of Allen Ginsberg passed away on Sunday at the age of 77 from lung cancer. Wired’s Steve Silberman wrote a sweet, beautiful elegy for Peter that was published at Shambhala Sun titled Impossible Happiness, here’s an excerpt:
The night I met Allen Ginsberg in 1976, his lifelong companion Peter Orlovsky raised a handkerchief to Allen’s nose a fraction of a second before he sneezed. We were in a basement club in Greenwich Village commemorating the death of Neal Cassady, one of Allen’s great loves, and the muse of Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road. The poet had a bad cold, and it was his second reading of the night.
Anticipating Allen’s need for a handkerchief was just one way Peter manifested what photographer Elsa Dorfman called his “unearthly sensitivity and caring” in an email to a friend after Peter died last Sunday. Kids, animals, and growing things adored Peter. Just before writing “Howl,” Allen pledged his love to him, recognizing in him a character out of a Russian novel: the saintly shepherd, a holy innocent. In Foster’s cafeteria in San Francisco in 1955, the two men grasped hands and vowed never to go to heaven unless the other could get in — a true marriage of souls. “At that instant we looked into each other’s eyes,” Allen wrote, “and there was a kind of celestial cold fire that crept over us and blazed up and illuminated the entire cafeteria and made it an eternal place.”
At Allen’s urging, Peter also became a poet. In 1978, City Lights published a collection of his work with the memorable title Clean Asshole Poems and Smiling Vegetable Songs. (The vegetables were those Peter grew with tireless enthusiasm on the couple’s organic farm in Cherry Valley, New York, bought as a respite from the grit and druggy temptations of their neighborhood on the Lower East Side.) While no one would have compared Peter’s creative output to Allen’s, his poems – sometimes only a single line – could be remarkably pure and surprising, even luminous.
Impossible Happiness: An Elegy for Peter Orlovsky by Steve Silberman (Shambhala Sun)
The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the passing of poet Lenore Kandel, a SF beat and anarchist who provoked censorship furor with her graphic poetry compilation The Love Book:
Lenore Kandel hung out with Beat poets and was immortalized by Jack Kerouac, wrote a book of love poetry banned as obscene and seized by police, and believed in communal living, anarchic street theater, belly dancing, and all things beautiful.
Ms. Kandel, a lyric poet and one of the shining lights of San Francisco’s famous counterculture of the ‘60s, died on Oct. 18 in San Francisco. She was 77 and had been diagnosed with lung cancer two weeks earlier.
“I met Lenore in 1965 at a citywide meeting of artists opposed to the war in Vietnam,” said actor Peter Coyote. “Lenore was physically beautiful and physically commanding. She had this voluptuous plumpness about her and an absolute serenity.”
Mr. Finkelstein created spontaneous portraits not only of Factory regulars like Edie Sedgwick and Gerard Malanga but also of the artists and celebrities who drifted in and out of the Warhol orbit. He was on hand when Warhol presented Bob Dylan with one of his Elvis ?
In 1963, City Lights published The Yage Letters, the correspondence between William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, which charts, among other things, the former’s efforts to score the possibly “soul-rebooting” hallucinogenic, Ayahuasca (Yage), in Mexico and Brazil. The footage below is culled from Ayahuasca, a Burroughs-narrated documentary which I think—until someone corrects me—exists only in fragments. Even so, it’s always great to hear Burroughs’ voice. It’s up there with Werner Herzog’s!