Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Category: Beats

Living Beats

I received an email from New Directions today and found a link to this The Washington Post profile  of Ferlinghetti, McClure, di Prima, Gold, and Snyder.  Enjoy!

Lobbyist for Tenderness

I first read Allen Ginsberg’s City Lights paperback Howl and Other Poems late one autumn night 1980 with friends at the White Castle at the corner of Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway.  A few months after Mev Puleo died, I read most of Ginsberg’s work over a couple of months. And here it is, 2017, and I recently finished with appreciation the latest publication  from the American bard (who died in 1997), interviews selected by Ginsberg biographer Michael Schumacher.  This volume, First Thought: Conversations with Allen Ginsberg, is not as large and jewel-saturated as David Carter’s Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews 1958-1996, but I  still found helpful reminders, avuncular advice, and serene encouragement.

Here are a few of the ways  interviewers and others saw Allen Ginsberg:  “poet, prophet, teacher”; “surrealist folk-hero”; “lobbyist for tenderness”; a man with a “friendly intermingling of smile and solemnity”; a lifelong learner with “a curiosity without boundaries”;  a person “seemingness fearless of the consequences of exposing his mind.”  What follows are a few samples of Ginsberg’s candor to his various interviewers over nearly four decades… Read the rest of this entry »

The Best Minds of My Generation: For Rob Trousdale and Lindsey Trout Hughes

Re: Allen Ginsberg, The Best Minds of My Generation:A Literary History  of the Beats, edited by Bill Morgan

Dear Rob and Lindsey,

I’m grateful to you both for sharing your writing  with me and through me, to others—may these poems and pieces continue to animate  “Mayahana bodhisattvic compassionate empathy” (A. Ginsberg) in the years to come, ever reverberating through world wide web.

I recently finished Allen’s personal history of  his generation of writing comrades put together from his lectures at Naropa and Brooklyn College. I particularly enjoyed the many chapters on jack Kerouac and Gregory Corso, and want to share with you some passages that may offer you stimulation/encouragement/anamnesis for your own writing practice.

As prof, his method was “to read from the texts, read my favorite fragments or things that were important to us as a group at the time. Big sentences that knocked everybody out, that turned everybody on…. [the] gists [that were] historical epiphanies for us.” [11] Lindsey, as actor, think of the tens of thousands of lines you learned for your roles—you could regale us with  so many that would knock us out.

In commenting on Kerouac’s first novel, Ginsberg observed, “I think Kerouac was reading The Brothers Karamazov at the time, and so divided himself up somewhat similarly into Dostoevsky’s characters.”  I’m currently editing 400+ pages of manuscript material and find myself doing something similar.  [93]

Maybe you both have your versions of Kerouac’s scribbling away in notebooks: “These little notebooks provided raw materials of two kinds: diaristic details, like a reporter’s notes, about events at hand and an endless retracing in memory of all the events in his life, reaching back to his earliest childhood memories in Lowell.” [266]  I never tire of mentioning the exuberant text along these lines, Joe Brainard’s I Remember. Read the rest of this entry »

Thanks, Jack

I first read this in August 2005, a seed
Dear Layla came out in 2015, fruit

That is why I want to use short chapters, each with verselike heading, and very many such chapters; slowly, deeply, moodily unfolding the moody story and its long outreaching voyage into strange space. And to run up a pace of such short chapters till they are like a string of pearls. Not a river-like novel; but a novel like poetry, or rather, a narrative poem, an epos in mosaic, a Kind of Arabesque preoccupation…free to wander from the laws of the “novel” as laid down by Austens and Fieldings into an area of greater spiritual pith (which cannot be reached without this technical device, for me, anyway) where the Wm. Blakes and Melvilles and even spotty, short-chaptered Celine, dwell.

Jack Kerouac, Windblown World:Journals 1947-1951, edited by Douglas Brinkley

How To Generate a Draft for a Book on Walking Adventures USA

Start out on a walk, with water, digital recorder, notebook and pen

G Start out on a walk, with water, digital recorder, notebook and pen

Go an hour, noticing what ever catches your eye and ear and nostril and recording on digital

Stop after an hour (or 42 minutes), and write for 20 minutes about the time peregrinating

Walk another half hour, more recording, when anything arises

Stop and write 10 minutes about the past half hour, anything goes: weather, pavements, feelings, dog threats, snatches of overheard conversation, people who detain you pleasantly or ominously for ten minutes

Make it a point (although you do this quite unthinkingly I know) of smiling or “hello”-ing 2 to 5 people while strolling

Repeat as inspired to do so  or as rigorously scheduled by you aforethought

Do variations on this in eight cities in USA over the next year

200 hours walking 200 hours writing

Type everything up over a fortnight

Reread and every ten pages recite Kerouac’s mantram–“You’re a Genius all the Time”

–from work-in-progress, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris

Let’s Not Wait Till We’re Dead

Over poetry, you didn’t gush. You read it. You read it with the tongue. You lived it. You felt how it moved you, changed you. How it contributed to giving your own life  a from, a color, a melody. You didn’t talk about it and you certainly didn’t make it into the cannon fodder of an academic career.

Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Dear Carol,

Allen Ginsberg died in 1997 and still the books keep coming. 2016 saw a volume published of his uncollected poems, Wait Till I’m Dead. Ginsberg’s devoted archivist and biographer Bill Morgan provides extensive notes, Rachel Zucker adds an introduction (his poems encourage her “to keep writing, to write longer, to write messier, to write more authentically, with more ego and more humility, with everything I have and about everything I am”), and one of Ginsberg’s photographs grace each decade of poesy.

There are plenty of these poems that deserve only one read, never to return to again (unlike, for me, poems like his “Cosmopolitan Greetings,” “Yes and It’s Hopeless,” “Improvisation in Beijing,” “Peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” “War Profit Litany,” “Plutonian Ode,” “Howl,” and “September on Jessore Road”). Still, several may provide some consolation or a goad in these times when our war-making state and corporate predators show signs of ramping up their rapacity. Read the rest of this entry »

Forty Years of Letters

Bill Morgan,  I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career:  The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg —1955-1997

I read a lot of Ferlinghetti in the 1980s, and loads of Ginsberg in the 1990s, and kept up with both in the new millennium.  Of course, their relationship was cemented by City Lights’ publication of Howl and the subsequent obscenity trial in 1956.

This volume is not as soulful, funny, or intense  as the joint Kerouac-Ginsberg collection; while they were poetic and political comrades, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg had a publisher-writer business relationship in the mix as well.  Here are some of the  recurring themes in the decades  from the 50s to the 90s:   Allen thinking all his friends’ every utterance ought to be published;  the two talking contracts, money, the NY publishing behemoths;  Allen  alternately insecure and cocksure about his place in history;  Larry wondering why Allen doesn’t give him feedback on his poems (“What am I here, chopped liver?” he must have oft wondered); ongoing melodramas involving enfant terrible, madman,  and robber Gregory Corso; Larry having to put his publisher foot down; Allen kvetching about his money woes; Larry’s burnout on the San Francisco poetry backbiting scene;  Allen’s enthused championing of Antler’s poetic merits; Larry’s regular reminders “send me MS”; and Allen’s role in The Great Naropa Poetry Wars.

Here’s a sample of their candor, criticism, and good cheer—

AG: I still admire your poetry in Pictures but I think you’re going too goofy political. Street poetry OK but what street boy sings of Ike and Senators? 77

LF: Would you point out to me a major poem by Creeley?

AG: I’m so overwhelmed with letters, people, and my own sort of gregariousness that I never seem to get much solitary work done. Read the rest of this entry »

On Ginsberg’s HOWL

It was a cri de coeur, an alarm, a vision. Its structure matched its energy which seemed the voices of many, not one. It was a rhizomic collage, just like life, a pastiche of the experience of many others, encompassing flashes of “minute particulars.”

–Anne Waldman

The Ageless Continuum

There is a notion of “passing it on,” that simple. One to one. Elder to younger perhaps. That “poetry is news,” that the inspiration for any work you do and the work you do as a writer and artist connects you to an ageless continuum. “In the mind of the poet, all times are contemporaneous.”

–Anne Waldman, co-founder of Kerouac School in Boulder

Passage to India: From a Letter by Allen Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac

May 11, 1962

I do wish you were here, only calm and peaceful and not yelling at me much, as we could take long 3rd class comfy train trips to the Himalayas and read Mahabharatas and spend a few months in the Inde, and listen to music concerts. Even the journalists are gentle and would accept you as a saint-saddhu not a mean beatnik–people even come up and kiss yr hand and stroke your hair–you’ll see how much gentleness you’re missing in Machineryland–but it don’t make difference since travel is all Maya–except this particular Indian red dust is good kicks compared to the dust of any other nation I’ve visited so far. India a great NATION — a holy Nation.

The Essential Ginsberg, edited by Michael Schumacher