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 »
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.”  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. 
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.”  I never tire of mentioning the exuberant text along these lines, Joe Brainard’s I Remember. Read the rest of this entry »
35 years ago today, I participated in the mass demonstration in New York City against nuclear arms. While there, I heard Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh read aloud this English translation of one of his poems.
Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow–
even today I am still arriving. Read the rest of this entry »
Books of poetry will teach you more than your mentor or professor or the well-known poet you have traveled to a conference to work with. Reading is like food to a writer; without it, the writer part of you will die—or become spindly and stunted. If you’re afraid that reading will make you less original, don’t be. Failing under the spell of—or reading against—other writers is part of what will lead you to your own work. Reading in the long tradition of poetry shows you what has lasted, and those poems are there to learn from. Reading your contemporaries shows you what everyone else is up to in your own time, so you can map the different directions of the art. There’s never one route to poetry, one style. Reading widely will help you see this…. You need to soak up as many books as you can. Even the one you don’t like can teach you something. If you were a painter, you’d spend time looking at works of art from every period in history….
–Kim Addonizio, Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within, pages 93, 95.