May 7, 2020
Very sad news yesterday of Michael McClure dying at the age of 87. Even though I was aware that it was a year since he’d suffered a heart attack and a stroke, followed by Sepsis, I hoped he would recover enough to go on. Will recall being with him a number of times, especially one good day at his home, shared with wife Amy, in Oakland. It seemed to me a secluded kind of space. He was kind, gentle natured. Totally dedicated to poetry. Very serious about it. A student of poetic history, aware of the lineage of it all. Proud to be one of that little band of poets at the 6 Gallery reading in 1955 with Gary Snyder, Philip Lamantia, Philip Whalen and Allen Ginsberg. All putting their toes across the line, as I recall him saying of that night. Along with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Neal Cassady, Kenneth Rexroth and Jack Kerouac, all there together joyously. A string of books over the years. Controversy over his play THE BEARD. Many other plays in his locker. Friend of rock musicians like Janis Joplin and The Doors. Joplin famously recreating his words OH LORD WON’T YOU BUY ME A MERCEDES BENZ. A midlife career in tandem with the brilliant Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek. Their ACTION PHILOSOPHY is a favourite here. Other collaborations with musicians such as Terry Riley. Plenty of observers have spoken of his poetry and vision of us humans as animals, mammals, all part of some great connectedness. In letters to me he spoke of the birds and other creatures he encountered on hikes near his home. Trips to Africa. His friendship with filmmaker Stan Brakhage way back. Recall him reading in Ledbury in England to a packed hall. He seemed nervous. Told me he had great moments of self doubt. He seemed shy to me. A serious man with a warm smile. I like serious. And he came to England a good few times. The London Review Bookshop readings with Iain Sinclair compering and Colin Still filming. Hushed, attentive crowds. He was a big draw. I hoped these readings here sustained him. And he was generous. Only last year allowing me publication of an essay on Bob Dylan from way back in the mid 1960s. You’ll no doubt have seen those photos by his friend Larry Keenan Jr. of Michael with Allen Ginsberg, Robbie Robertson and Allen Ginsberg in the alley beside City Lights Bookstore. Now renamed Kerouac Alley. He experimented. Who can forget his ‘beast language?’ All part of his take on our place on this planet. He was, along with Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and others, known as the environmental wing of the Beat Generation. Of course that Beat Generation thing was the work of arch promoter Allen Ginsberg. And Michael McClure, like Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, transcended that label to go on into the future. He didn’t diminish its importance by any means, instead valued what he felt they had achieved. He was an important poet. I suspect his reputation will grow. For a young student who initially came to San Francisco to study art, he painted quite dazzling exploratory images with his poetry. His physical presence will be sorely missed around these parts but his work will endure. A life lived to the full.
Want to see City Lights Bookstore? Jack Kerouac Alley beside it? Remember Bob Dylan, Michael McClure, Robbie Robertson and a camera shy Lawrence Ferlinghetti gathered in the alley to be photographed by Larry Keenan Jr. in 1965? Go here to have a look courtesy of Google Maps. Just over the street is Jerry Cimino’s Beat Museum. In these days of no travel, it’s a bonus to digitally walk these streets. Thanks to Gary Raine. https://email@example.com,-122.4065593,3a,75y,278.98h,85.73t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sZVIRtzMl-Tihi-ctDro2Fw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656
Here’s a link to the pages of Granta magazine where Andrew O’Hagan goes to visit Carolyn Cassady in England. If you want to read the long article in its entirety you’ll need to have a subscription to the site. Nevertheless it is a good read.
A link to a short film about an exhibit of the photos of William Burroughs a few years ago at the Photographer’s Gallery in London.
Being this is the year that marks 100 since the birth of Charles Bukowski in 1920 – it seems only right that Black Sparrow Press (the version under the David Godine umbrella) will republish Neeli Cherkovski’s biography of the man. Neeli was a friend, a good friend of Bukowski. They collaborated on a short lived magazine together. Neeli, a well respected San Francisco poet, also published an excellent volume WHITMAN’S WILD CHILDREN which should also surely be ripe for republication. Buk thought that Neeli’s biography went too easy on him, he wanted Neeli to dig deeper, tell the world about how really awful this man Charles Bukowski was – Neeli couldn’t quite do it but his substantial book has got to be a must for anyone at all curious about how this ‘underground’ figure got to be the writer he became. Thanks to Al Berlinski for telling me about this.
Back in 2006 Beat Scene did a special unnumbered issue which was a revised and extended edition of Iain Sinclair’s THE KODAK MANTRA DIARIES. Originally published by Albion Press in 1971 it had long been quite scarce. We thought Iain’s book about attempting to interview and film Allen Ginsberg in London in the mid 1960s – amongst other things – deserved to find a new audience. The Dialectics of Liberation conference was on at The Roundhouse in London’s Camden Town district. Ginsberg was a big presence at the conference and his discussions, sometimes very heated, with Stokeley Carmiichael were big crowd pleasers. There is a classic photo of Ginsberg, Emmett Grogan and Carmichael in full rant mode in the issue. Included in this new issue were photos of Ginsberg in discussion with Sinclair in the garden of Panna Grady’s house (where Charles Olson was hiding out at). William Burroughs floats in and out. There is Ginsberg out in the parks, talking, being interviewed by a young Iain Sinclair. Running alongside this is the tale of Iain Sinclair and his gang of friends, filmmakers, their struggles to finance things, film as they got to understand the techniques of filming. The setbacks, there was a major setback, but with tenacity Sinclair, in what seems to me a major turning point in his life, grits his teeth and overcomes near disaster to get the film, in glorious 1960s colour, over the line. It’s London, so called ‘Swinging London’, and ‘Ah, Sunflower.’ A beautiful film of its time.
It was a lot of fun to do, with Iain playing his part in getting things right. A learning curve for me.
Ginsberg resplendent in a bright red silk type shirt on the covers, given to him by Paul McCartney. The text was expanded with a new introduction by poet Tom Clark and an afterword from Iain. Lots of new photographs were introduced. The interview with Ginsberg really stands the test of time.
I’m proud of it in a humble way – if that doesn’t sound Double Dutch.
BEAT SCENE number 96 is out shortly. Allen Ginsberg in the early 1970s, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, Arthur Knight, John Giorno and more. Orders being taken now. Single copies in the UK are £8. Single copies in Europe are 15 Euros and outside is $20 USA. Includes postage.Please contact by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
IAIN SINCLAIR and GARY SNYDER – TWO BIOREGIONALISTS
Early exploratory notes
Gary Snyder has often spoken of the idea of ‘bioregionalism’ – if you look back into his collection of essays and interviews – THE REAL WORK: INTERVIEWS & TALKS 1964-1979 (published by New Directions Press back in 1980) you’ll find an interview where he talks with Richard Grossinger, the editor of IO magazine, about this idea of place. The interview took place in 1971 and appeared in Grossinger’s IO, (issue 12) a serious literary magazine of its time (see the Charles Olson issues they published). In this interview Snyder, in my reading of it, appears to tackle the idea or concept of ‘Biogregionalism’ head on. Remember we’ve barely left the 1960s, those years – at least the later 1960s – where the idea of communes, ‘getting back to the country’ were taking firm hold. An era of The Diggers and copycat believers. In my reading of it all Snyder is keen for people to find a place, it often seems rural, pastoral, not always a bucolic idyll and understand that place. To care for it, be in it, immerse yourself, tend it in a benign way, don’t impose on it too much, respect it and live in it. It sounds like a great idea. Ambitious but an aim worth pursuing. Snyder has expanded on his ideas over the next fifty years. Rereading AUSTERLTZ & AFTER: TRACKING SEBALD by Iain Sinclair, published by Test Centre in 2013 reminded me of Snyder’s concept immediately, as so much of Iain Sinclair’s London focused writing does. Sinclair the indomitable walker, going around the boundaries of his Hackney world on a daily basis, that’s on the days when he’s not sailing in a plastic swan boat or venturing to remote Scottish islands or on an overseas trip visiting Post War American poets as in his AMERICAN SMOKE: JOURNEYS TO THE END OF THE LIGHT (published by Hamish Hamilton in 2013) – or even to Peru in the footsteps of his grandfather. Those Hackney and environs walks remind me so much of Snyder’s idea of bioregionalism. Instead of Manzanita and bear Sinclair’s domain includes neglected canals and austerity ridden urban streets. He’s walking the boundaries, seeing what’s up in his neighbourhood. He doesn’t build a home, Kitkitdizze, as Snyder did, yet he’s no less proprietorial about his place than Gary Snyder is about his place in Northern California. His diaries of the state of the place he occupies are as valid as the area Gary Snyder cherishes. In AUSTERLITZ & AFTER:TRACKING SEBALD, Iain Sinclair, in part recalls W.G. Sebald – the name – for me – conjures up English cricketers from about 1930, it’s up there with ‘The Nawab of Pataudi’ who represented Sussex and India as recently as the early 1960s, an era of Fred Truman, Colin Cowdrey, Peter May and others. But initially Sinclair is proceeding along the canal on his morning walk. Part of a body has been discovered in the water. It transpires that it is a soap opera actress. Sinclair notes down his observations and follows the case as it unfolds, he walks alone on these daily trips, a passive observer you might imagine. Yet he’s charting the daily life of his home streets. He’s achieved a measure of ‘success’ with this approach and well merited it is – yet it’s true worth may only be fully appreciated in the decades to come. Such is the accelerating pace of life today that people will uncover his works many decades into the future and rediscover how we lived then. In his own way Sinclair makes his own clarion call for place, digging the powers that be in the shins and the ribs to the state of his nation.
The W.G. Sebald section in the company of friend and co writer Stephen Watts is equally ‘bioregional’ in tone. Watts is steeped in Sebald, they walked together, collaborated in research. You’ll recall Sebald, the Austrian writer domiciled just outside Norwich. A writer of such mysterious and beguiling (to me at least) books as THE RINGS OF SATURN. A man who, like some of the best writers, allowed the sometimes apparently unimportant details, encounters, flotsam, to filter into his works. He saw significance and history where others walked on by. An arch creator of mood, especially melancholy, with room for lateral thought, flights of fancy. But also of the real truth. Not some hand me down reality. Here, in that wider London, Sinclair and Watts chart the sometimes eerie synchronicity of street life. Again, they are both unofficial keepers of their regions.
The two chapters in this Test Centre publication were intended to form part of AMERICAN SMOKE: JOURNEYS TO THE END OF THE LIGHT – but it was felt that, ‘a London detour might be confusing.’ Of course AMERICAN SMOKE concerns itself very much with Post War American writing and culture – as it collides with Iain Sinclair’s own personal history – so taking it out made sense. Of course this unspoken ‘bioregionalism’ of Sinclair’s is evident throughout his London writings. He’s not dispassionate about his environs, far from it. He’s not a carpenter like Snyder, or an expert in plants and fauna, of watercourses, though he knows his canals and he’ll provide anyone who cares to know the history, the vibe and moods of a place. And that, in its own way, is equally as valid when pondering this term of Snyder’s. Watching bodies being fished out of canals and watching the watchers, the people of his region and stepping out in the footsteps of Sebald is as ‘bioregional’ as it gets. Labels evolve. Once Sinclair’s approach was tagged, maybe still is, ‘psychogeography,’ but Iain Sinclair and Gary Snyder share much in their awareness of their respective places. They both, one on America’s West Coast, the other in London’s East End, are ‘bioregionals’ in their own special ways.
To ask about AUSTERLITZ & AFTER: TRACKING SEBALD by Iain Sinclair go to Test Centre run by Will Shutes. www.testcentre.org.uk
Gary Snyder’s THE REAL WORK: INTERVIEWS & TALKS 1964-1979 is published by New Directions Press and is very much still in print.
Those good people at The Beat Museum in San Francisco are busy despite these strange times we all find ourselves in. They have put up a film of author Barry Gifford – remember novels like WILD AT HEART – and of course well known to Beat Generation readers as the co-editor of JACK’S BOOK (with the late Lawrence Lee) – first hand recollections from the friends and associates of Jack Kerouac – not to mention that neat little pocket book KEROUAC’S TOWN that he put together with Marshall Clements way back. Barry speaks about this idea of a ‘Beat Generation.’ He’s knowledgeable about it all. It’s just one thing that Jerry Cimino and his staff put together at this priceless Beat landmark in North Beach. Go here for a sneak preview and to investigate their site. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyjMZQBY4d4
Out now – KEROUAC and JAZZ by Jim Burns. Number 68 1n the Beat Scene chapbook series. The regular series format of 8″ x 5″ inches with cover flaps. Really pleased with how it has turned and with the healthy orders for it to date. If interested please contact me on email@example.com
Beat Scene 96 is well progressed. Lots of variety in an eclectic issue – coming up soon. The current situation has delayed the issue but I’m working on getting it published without compromising anyone’s health and safety. I’d rather throw it away than do that. Plus another bigger format chapbook – a little out of the ordinary but one it is hoped will pique the interest of Beat Generation readers who want to delve deeper. Again, out before too long. While they are imminent I’ve put up here the cover of Beat Scene 68 from 2012. That’s Richard Brautigan on the front, of course, and inside is an interview with William Hjortsberg who had recently seen his mammoth biography of Brautigan published. Highly rated here. Plus Jack Kerouac, Philip Whalen – including an excerpt from a newly published biography of him – another interview, this time with Gordon Ball about being the manager of Allen Ginsberg’s Cherry Valley farm, Paul Bowles and Tangier, Michael McClure, Charles Plymell and Robert Branaman. So, if this sounds up your street – get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org
Ragged Lion Press are based in London, England and some of what they publish will be of interest to readers of the Beat Generation. Allen De Loach books, A.D. Winans, Neal Cassady broadsides (that’s Neal above with Ken Babbs), Ted Berrigan and more. There’s Gregory Corso recordings as well. Go to www.raggedlionpress.co.uk for more information. They also have a YouTube site into the bargain.
A brand new larger than average chapbook – AN EVENING AT BUK’S PLACE: AN INTERVIEW by Jean Francois Duval – is out now. All ordered copies have been posted. Thank you all. A substantial 16,000 word conversation conducted at Bukowski’s home in the mid 1980s. With photos. An edition of 150 numbered copies. Orders being taken now. email me at email@example.com
New chapbook soon from the Beat Scene Press – An Evening at Buk’s Place: An Interview with Charles Bukowski by Jean – Francois Duval. A 16,000 word conversation from 1986 – it took place at Bukowski’s house. 150 numbered copies in a slightly larger format than usual. With photos. If this interests you and you would like to pre-order a copy – get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ed Sanders appears in this BBC Radio 4 documentary – HIPPY INTERNET: THE WHOLE EARTH CATALOG – about Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog – a pivotal and huge alternative (some would say) publication of the late 1960s and early 1970s that had echoes of the Sears Roebuck catalogue of earlier decades. A guide to a new way of life. I’ve just listened to it after reading a Guardian newspaper review of SMALL TOWN TALK by Barney Hoskyns – all about Bob Dylan, Woodstock, The Band etc. Where it was linked. The show runs for 27 minutes. The documentary was originally broadcast in 2015.
In the post this morning SONGS OF INNOCENCE and of EXPERIENCE – William Blake reinterpreted by Allen Ginsberg and friends. Of course released previously – but now in this new issue from Ace Records in London, England. Complete with substantial sleeve notes from Allen Ginsberg’s longtime guitarist Steven Taylor, many Blake images too. At www.acerecords.com
All subscriber copies of the very latest issue of Beat Scene, number 95, have been mailed out. Most will have received their copy by now. A few overseas should receive their copy in a few days. Comments, suggestions, corrections, always welcome. This issue includes Michael Fles on travelling with Ginsberg, Corso and Orlovsky in the depths of freezing Winter to Chicago in the very early 1960s. Also featured are Jack Kerouac’s Trip Trap with Lew Welch and Albert Saijo, not so much a book as an epic journey – through the eyes of Joe Ridgwell, A lost recording of Gregory Corso – salvaged by George Scrivani. Allen Ginsberg on the William Buckley FIRING LINE show and trailing him in Belfast and Swansea eye witness accounts from Peter Hollywood and David Woolley. Plus there’s a feature on the English poet Lee Harwood and his strong links with the American poetry scene of his times. Lewis Warsh provides some insight. Jim Pennington goes on a search for Jajouka and Brion Gysin. Ann Charters recalls the journey her husband Sam had in writing the book SOME POEMS POETS back in the early 1970s, a point at which Beat poets had barely been researched. We can’t have Beat Scene without William Burroughs – there’s an excerpt from the Jake Rabinowitz book BLAME IT ON BLAKE – where Jake recalls his times with Burroughs in Kansas. Plus Robert Frank, Peter Whitehead, Lawrence Feringhetti and obscure cassette releases of his readings and more. As we always say – This Is The Beat Generation. Get in touch at email@example.com
COLLECTED POEMS OF BOB KAUFMAN arrived this past few days from City Lights – with a foreword by Devorah Major, edited by San Francisco poet and biographer Neeli Cherkovski and Raymond Foye & Tate Swindell – it is a substantial collection of some 234 pages with photos included also. Proving that City Lights go from strength to strength and that Bob Kaufman, who was allegedly ‘The Silent One’ for ten years, endures and his reputation remains undiminished. We’ll be featuring this book and Kaufman in general in Beat Scene 96 which will appear later in January 2020.
Following on from publication of HARDY TREE (Published by Bracket Press in England) by Warwick Sweeney, which deals with the work of Doctor John Yerbury Dent and in particular the Apomorphine treatment regarding William Burroughs in London in the 1950s, there was a recent radio discussion with Warwick Sweeney, along with Burroughs scholar Jim Pennington, on Resonance Radio. Sweeney discusses the book and the holistic approach John Yerbury Dent employed to gain the best possible outcome. Go here to listen. http://williamenglish.com/hardy-tree/
Something for the experimentalists among you – EVE LIBERTINE with a ‘freeform, improvising of Jack Kerouac’s poem SEA – available on compact disc and download – go and see for yourself at https://evelibertine.bandcamp.com/album/sea
A link to a feature in the Guardian today (November 19) all about BLADE RUNNER the film and the William Burroughs book of the same name. The book has just been republished by Michael Curran’s TANGERINE PRESS.
Thanks to James Campbell of The Times Literary Supplement for the little writeup on Beat Scene 94 in the most recent issue. Here, for those who haven’t seen a copy, is an image.
Beat Scene 95 is now available and is being mailed out to subscribers over the next ten days through late November. Here’s a look at the cover featuring the beautiful artwork of Jonathan Collins who recently displayed his Beat inspired art at the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac in his hometown. Anyone interested in pre-ordering a copy get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org – copies are £8 in the UK, 15 Euros in Europe and $20 USA outside Europe
Beat Scene 94 is out now. Here in October. Sure you all recognise the significance of this month in Kerouac’s imagination. It is a special issue devoted entirely to Kerouac and is us marking 50 years since his death back in 1969. All copies have now been posted out. The last batch of 50 went out just today. It is a marginally smaller format and style to the regular issue of Beat Scene. Next issue it will revert to its usual specifications. If you would like to order a copy get in touch at email@example.com – prices are £8 in the UK, 15 Euros in Europe and $20 USA everywhere else — including Postage – click here
Beat Scene 95 will also appear shortly after – back to regular format for that one. That will be the fourth issue this year. For this one man band that’s not so shabby. P.S. I’ve had a number of people ask where is it available online? It isn’t and it won’t be. We’re old school here. The digital age has its benefits but Beat Scene is a thing to turn the page and take your time with.
The past ten days have been very busy. The Beat Scene 93 mailout was just completed this morning. What a slog it’s been. All subscriber copies mailed out. If you haven’t received your copy yet you will soon. Plus all ordered copies of the David Calonne chapbook on Charles Bukowski have been mailed and again – if not there yet – it will be very soon. Appreciate the subscriptions and orders for both. You keep it alive.
The second volume of Iain Sinclair’s bibliography – deeply researched by the intrepid Jeff Johnson – has just got here. As with the first volume it is vast. Covering the period 1988-1998. Published by Test Centre Books. There are many letters, documents, publication, extracts, almost amounting to a biography. What a research tool this will be for future scholars. A diary of Iain Sinclair’s literary life. Contact https://testcentre.org.uk for more information
In the long running Beat Scene Press chapbook series – On Some Early Poems – The Genius Emerges by David Stephen Calonne is number 67. 150 numbered copies and in the regular 8″ x 5″ format with foldover covers. OUT NOW. David Calonne is a biographer of Charles Bukowski and an editor of several collections of his early work. Copies in the UK are £8 including postage. Overseas please email firstname.lastname@example.org for rates.