February 25, 2021
photo of Lawrence Ferlinghetti above taken by that ace photographer Larry Keenan Jr.
By now most of the media will have some words on Lawrence Ferlinghetti – who has died just short of his 102nd birthday. A fully lived life, where he juggled his creativity through poetry and art alongside maintaining the business of City Lights Books, store and publishing. Not an easy task. You will read his story in many places, though there is only one biography by Barry Silesky and that is decades old. There is Chris Felver’s lovely book of photos, capturing Ferlinghetti in many places. The feeling is that Ferlinghetti didn’t want the attention. He seemed a calm, private man. My only experiences of him, if you can call them that, are a few brief letters from him asking about Beat Scene and ordering copies on a number of issues. He’d usually include a little spontaneous artwork in the letter and he was kind enough to allow one or two poems in my Transit magazine. The only other time was in Brigham’s Ice Cream Parlour in Lowell in 1988. The Jack Kerouac memorial park was being officially opened. Was lucky enough to connect up with the memorial creator Ben Woitena, who was from Texas. A couple of hours sitting with Ben and a couple of milkshakes. Right beside us were Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, we were almost touching knees. They were talking like the very old friends that they were, Ferlinghetti was a young man of about 70 then. Neither Ben or I spoke to them, it seemed bad manners to even think of cutting in. Though we could hear much of what they said. Lawrence Ferlinghetti always had my admiration and always will. He achieved so much and remained true to his ideals. As I said somewhere – he was waiting, now he’s not waiting. Hopefully, in the words of another bloke who’s name escapes me – he’s now safe in Heaven dead.
LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI has died aged 101. Some people talk of eras ending. This might be the case today. He is no longer waiting. The English daily newspaper The Guardian carried this obituary a short while ago. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/feb/23/lawrence-ferlinghetti-poet-founder-city-lights-bookshop-dies-aged-101
A brief clip of a film from Colin Still’s excellent Optic Nerve site. LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI reading The World Is A Beautiful Place in the City Lights office. Colin Still has made many films of Beat writers over the years and his site is a treasure trove. https://www.opticnerve.co.uk/poetry/american-poets/lawrence-ferlinghetti/the-world-is-a-beautiful-place
Michael McClure’s MULE KICK BLUES will be published by City Lights in April. Here’s a little City Lights promo film for the book. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=We0MnMOzAA8
51 years ago Wallace Berman was killed in an car accident. It was his birthday. The Allen Ginsberg Project site recalls this talented man and supreme catalyst with a page or two on his remarkably inspirational life. Film, found sound recordings made at home, Jack Hirschman knocks on his door and comes in. Photos of Berman at work, with Allen Ginsberg. Tosh Berman, son of Wallace and Shirley, reads from his book. And much more besides. Go here – https://allenginsberg.org/2021/02/t-f-18-2/
A rarely seen photo of Neal Cassady – on left – presumably in Mexico, as he seems to be in his early forties here. He died aged just 42 in 1968. Does anyone know the other people in the photograph?
An article in the English daily newspaper THE GUARDIAN. An English travel writer Dan Richards gets to Desolation Peak and meets with the current fire watcher. Of course the Peak is where Jack Kerouac spent a couple of months in 1956 as a fire lookout. He followed in the steps of his West Coast friends Philip Whalen and Gary Snyder, both encouraged him to take up the job. https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2021/feb/16/desolation-peak-cabin-washington-state-fire-spotters-lonely-vantage-point
Scarce film footage of William Burroughs walking in London. It’s in connection with a new book about Burroughs and Scotland in the early 1960s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?fbclid=IwAR2hgiZCGtLdLBEOA43Ooj8A3RwxDz5E5ySnjkq4IkkD6vDK_vZbwaeOcnQ&v=h_QDjRnGf9c&feature=youtu.be
A link to the film A MAN WITHIN – with a lot of clips of William Burroughs – much to see.
OUT NOW from The Beat Scene Press, a bigger chapbook in the black cover series THANKS FOR ASKING: THE WHALEN JOURNAL by Steve Silberman. An edition of 125 numbered copies. An intimate picture of Philip Whalen in his later years – Silberman was friend and carer for Philip. Advance orders being taken now. email email@example.com
Allen Ginsberg’s book THE FALL OF AMERICA gets a musical treatment with range of musicians and poets, in a 50th anniversary celebration. Looks like a format for everyone, digital, vinyl, compact disc. What no cassette? Here’s a link. https://allenginsberg.bandcamp.com/album/allen-ginsberg-s-the-fall-of-america-a-50th-anniversary-musical-tribute
A link to a brief promotional film clip of poets Neeli Cherkovski and Clark Coolidge – ahead of a new book out later this year year Cherkovski and Coolidge in Conversation. Published by the Lithic Press. www.lithicpress.com. They did a beautiful book by Jack Micheline in recent times. https://www.lithicpress.com/index.php/our-catalog/116-coolidge-cherkovski-in-conversation
In these doldrum weeks of frigid January, when life itself seems frozen as we wait for better, free days – it is a boost to the flagging spirit to be able to read Michael McClure’s MULE KICK BLUES. The book appears in April and it is a volume that Michael McClure worked on together with editor Garrett Caples at City Lights. Despite his failing health Michael pushed the book along during 2018 into 2019. He died on May 4, 2020. He was 87. McClure really rated Jack Kerouac’s MEXICO CITY BLUES and the poems and haiku that he penned – but which remained criminally unpublished in his lifetime. There are echoes or homage to Kerouac’s work here. As well as to Blues masters like Leadbelly. And death as McClure, fading, faces it. Diane di Prima, Jack Kerouac, Philip Whalen, all feature. Editor Caples has written a substantial essay of introduction. It’s almost as if he started writing and became a biographer and had to rein back. It’s an introduction that will be referred to much by many in the future. McClure is so much more than a ‘Beat’ poet. Sure he was there at the Six Gallery in 1955 with Lamantia, Whalen, Snyder and Ginsberg, with Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Cassady, Rexroth and John Montgomery in attendance in that converted garage – and he never sneered at the Beat label, yet he went on into the decades ahead and equally could be tagged ‘Eco-poet.’ Years before it all became part of the furniture. He never made it to see publication. And yet with City Lights as publisher it seems fitting that he should bow out with them.
Those nice people at the Beat Museum in San Francisco have posted up a link to a newly ‘colourised’ version of film of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr and others walking in New York. The footage has been around for some years and is priceless in black and white – enhanced with colour it seems to bring them to life even more so, as though they are not really so far away in historical time as we might sometimes imagine. Kerouac looks very tired as he attempts to get a friend to answer a door. Maybe they’ve been up all night. Allen looks tired too. And it is rare footage of Lucien Carr who shied away from any publicity that might connect him with Kerouac and Ginsberg. I’m wondering who the two slightly cleaner cut men are with them? And while one of the women is Lucien Carr’s wife, I’m struggling to name the other woman with long fair hair. (Since realised it is the wife of film man Robert Frank). Thanks to whomever colourised the film. It would be interesting to know what they are saying. Any lip readers out there? The picture above is from the film. Go here to see it all. Five minutes duration. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJPYlByVnp8
YOURS PRESENTLY: THE SELECTED LETTERS of JOHN WIENERS edited by Michael Seth Stewart is a big new book published by the University of New Mexico Press. Always connected with Black Mountain college and its then rector Charles Olson, John Wieners is a writer greatly influenced by his time with Ed Dorn, Robert Duncan, Charles Olson of course, his Projective Verse among other elements and a key figure in that so called ‘Black Mountain school’ of writers that people like Dorn, Robert Creeley and others are often tagged into. The letters cover the period 1955 right through to 1997. The volume reveal the highs and the lows of an often chaotic life. His euphoria and despair. He was at times a poet lauded by his peers but one who, at points, slipped through the cracks into the shadows. The collection amounts to a fabulous literary history, a network of connections. Especially insightful are the letters relating to the magazine Wieners published, MEASURE. It was a short lived thing but, like the seven issues of THE BLACK MOUNTAIN REVIEW, it was influential on so many levels. But in reality Wieners was no magazine editor, as this collection will tell you. It could not contain his energies, his soaring imagination. Another crucial point was his initial publication in 1957, a time where he was to be found in San Francisco, being a key figure in the ‘Poetry Renaissance’ there. The hope is that enough people will see this essential book and have insight into the mind of an important American poet.
ISBN 978-0-8263-6204-9 — University of New Mexico Press
A two hour film celebration of the life and work of Kenneth Rexroth was recorded at Beyond Baroque in recent times. To see this film and get insights into Rexroth and his massive influence on modern American poetics, on literature in general – go here — http://kennethrexroth.com/
Over a period of two or three years The University of Minnesota Press have undertaken to publish three vast collections from the archives of poet Allen Ginsberg. Expertly edited by Michael Schumacher, a man well grounded in Ginsberg research, these three volumes gives the reader close insight into the mind, the thoughts, the dreams, the actions of the poet who, with HOWL, broke the conservative stranglehold on poetry in America and thereafter the world. No mean feat. These really are big, substantial books. The third of which is sitting here ALLEN GINSBERG – THE FALL OF AMERICA JOURNALS 1965-1971. It is the period where Ginsberg travels more than ever, Asia, Europe, Russia and becomes the poster boy for the anti Vietnam protests in America, you can see him here on the cover in a stars and stripes hat, an image known everywhere. Allen, as ever, is so frank, painfully so at points, revealing himself at times as a very vulnerable figure. These three volumes will certainly open new doors into Ginsberg.
Brief black and white film footage of Jack Kerouac in Milan during his ill fated trip there in the mid 1960s. Fernanda Pivano speaks of his visit in Italian. Jack seems bemused as he is escorted throughs a big bookstore there and is seen sleepily sipping from a glass before eventually dozing off on a sofa. He was, he said, doing the promotional trip there to earn money to care for his sick mother. The film lasts just a couple of minutes. Click here — https://lanostrastoria.ch/entries/x08AooOA1lg?fbclid=IwAR0pfvLPmEEOtyPcEcG42ndlRM3MoZ0XUOotDKkGKT5_IxLW7cGYbtUxSrU
Out now BEAT SCENE issue number 99. In a packed new edition there is close focus on TUVOTI. Older heads will recall this is shorthand for The Unspeakable Visions of the Individual, drawn from Jack Kerouac of course. This was a press run first by Arthur and Glee Knight and later on by Arthur and Kit Knight. Arthur died a few years ago, but not before this man of many talents – along with Kit, saw published a string of books devoted to the Beats, interviews, letters, previously unpublished material, from all of them. They were the kinds of books you’ll never see today, purely because it would be beyond the purse of virtually all publishers to secure rights. And this in the era of 1970s onwards, when quite frankly the Beats were yesterday’s men. Out of print, largely unloved. Arthur wrote to them all, Kerouac, Burroughs, Holmes, Ginsberg, McClure, Snyder. Kit Knight herself has written her memories of what they did. And her essay is preceded by V.J. Eaton’s recollections of their achievements. They were true Beat pioneers. No question. A photo here of Kit Knight with John Clellon Holmes and on the right V.J. Eaton (some of you may have one or two of his Literary Denim books). The picture dates from 1981 at the home of John Clellon Holmes at Old Saybrook.
Those nice people at the Beat Museum in San Francisco have put these pictures on their site, highlighting the issue of Beat Scene that has a sharp focus on Jack Kerouac’s novel ON THE ROAD. In better times no doubt many of you will take a trip to SF and possibly visit the museum. Here’s a link to the Beat Scene images they’ve put up. https://www.facebook.com/thebeatmuseum/photos/ms.c.eJwzNDA0tTC3NDAxMzczMzYxNNMzRIiYmKCLGBmjixiaWKCKmFmAdQEAK~_QSDQ~-~-.bps.a.10150109389103416/10158790467148416/
This 16 minute little film about William Burroughs from The Los Angeles Review of Books, features the English writer Barry Miles, always affectionately known simply as ‘Miles’ – someone who has done tremendous things in the name of the Beats, biographies of Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac and for me a book that somehow gets overlooked THE ZAPPLE DIARIES, where he speaks at length about recording Olson, Bukowski, McClure and others for the short lived Beatles label Zapple. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4jCdcMHK10
There is a new issue of Beat Scene – number 98. See image of the front cover here. That’s a young Gary Snyder. He also features on the back cover. Naturally Gary features inside, as does Jack Kerouac, Robert Creeley, Ruth Weiss, Philip Whalen, Kenneth Patchen and more. This issue is, once again, ‘Perfect Bound.’ It has a spine. We continue our sharp focus on the Beat Generation and associated figures, with interviews, long essays, photos, histories and up to the minute news (Well as up to the minute as a Quarterly can be). What Beat Scene does, I think, is gather together in one place the Beats – rather than the reader having to search the infinity of online or to have to seek out the obscure places they might appear. It’s a place to turn the page at your own pace. Forget virtual. If you would like to order a copy – please get in touch and email firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a charming little film about the current owner of Shakespeare & Co, the famed bookstore in Paris, near to Notre Dame. The store has put out a notice, like so many places globally, that it is struggling right now due to the virus. Locked down as Covid has a grip in France. If you live in Paris they will take orders by email. Here’s that link to this little film. https://youtu.be/71SE3-Cvb8A
Diane di Prima has died in the past week. She was 86. Here she is with Anne Waldman. It looks a little like the picture was taken at Naropa. Diane had a few stints teaching there. And another couple of her as a young woman. Over the past thirty years or so Diane was always helpful to me. Sending poems for Transit, doing interviews for Beat Scene. She remembered her small press roots. She was, after all, a printer and publisher herself with her Poet’s Press in New York way back. I got to meet Diane twenty years ago in Berkeley and had time for a little conversation. There will be much on Diane in Beat Scene number 99, out before the end of the year.
Besides Diane di Prima – Philip Whalen seems to take up quite a lot of reading time here lately. Going back to old books only half (if that) understood and appreciated. Big Bridge https://bigbridge.org/BB19/index.html invariably devote time to Whalen (Warren Coughlin if you read Jack Kerouac). A commendable American poetry site – Brian Unger set up and transcribed some excerpts from 1967 notebooks of Whalen. You’ll find them here. You will see the original Whalen pages and Brian’s transcriptions. https://bigbridge.org/BB15/2011_BB_15_FEATURES/2011_BB_15_WHALEN_FEATURE/bb_15_features_WHALEN_intro.html
More on MICHAEL McCLURE – his good Oakland friend, poet and broadcaster Jack Foley has done a couple of radio show tributes to Michael on the station KPFA (a lot of history in that place). Jack talks about Michael and the show includes live recordings of Michael reading with Ray Manzarek playing keyboard accompaniment. Go to https://soundcloud.com/john-w-foley/michael-mcclure-tribute-mp3
Tough Poets Press are issuing a new edition of San Francisco poet Kirby Doyle’s critically acclaimed HAPPINESS BASTARD. Originally published by Essex House back in 1968, the book has been out of print in the years since. Doyle died in 2003 aged 71. Contact Rick at www.toughpoets.com or email email@example.com — for more information.
In the period before his death in May this year Michael McClure was working on what was to be his last book. Soon City Lights Books will publish MULEKICK BLUES. I’ve cribbed some of the early reviews from the City Lights site to give you here a feel for what the book might be on release. Here’s Eileen Myles and then Anne Waldman speaking of what they see in McClure’s book………
“What a beautiful book. He’s Blake-huge and gets away with it, possibly because he’s always in motion. ‘Should I put a hairy tail where my head is?’ He revels in the unstable. The famous all caps that explode in his poems show the bounce of his desire at the micro and macro, a wish to experience, to understand the scale of existence. I’ve never read such a disarming approach to mortality and death, he’s young in it and absolutely with it, most felicitously when he shares it with a friend: “AROUND / THE / EARS / a puff / of / cherry blossom smell” which he repeats to Diane because poets always speak to each other in rhythm. I can’t think of any contemporary artist who explores the interior, the inside-out of the dharma as magically and freely as McClure except maybe for David Lynch. Were they friends? He talks to a shark before crossing to ‘the other side’. The radicality of Michael McClure might be that he’s all on the surface, but rarely alone, like a new kind of depth: ‘To the sensual fly buzzing in my ear / I am a warm good tasting stone.'”—Eileen Myles
“Like Zen poets of yore, Michael McClure’s tender satori consciousness cuts though the Dark Age with friendship, desire, psalms of the meat-wheel, pond-plants physics, and animal cries in spines of symmetry. It’s a pulsing maelstrom. And others chime in: Sung Tung-P’o, Dōgen, Mallarmé, and Blake flex biceps in mutual co-arising. Mule Kick Blues is claps of thunder bringing the mind back to a luminous level of particulars. ‘I’m coming from my hormones with nothing left to tease.’ A cat’s face is ‘like a basket of pine cones in a dream.’ Recently departed, this legendary rockstar eco-poet’s gemlike modal structures will keep humming while ‘black ants circle a bubble of honey.’ A final performance from a master poet.”—Anne Waldman
The Beat Museum in San Francisco recently put up this link to a two part film of Gregory Corso in Rome for two weeks. Walking the streets, enjoying being back in the country of his parents. The two films run to about 12 minutes in total and are very relaxed and candid. Gregory seems happy, he could do grumpy very well, but here he is genial. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0DqUmBPtoU
Those very nice people at The Times Literary Supplement recently wrote some kind words about the current issue of Beat Scene magazine, number 97. The one with the Michael McClure image on the front cover. Thank you James Campbell, who I understand penned the article. Much appreciated. Beat Scene of course features many other people besides what I tongue in cheek sometimes tag as the ‘Holy Trinity’ of William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Here’s an image of the TLS words.
It feels like I know the reading this 28 minute film of Charles Bukowski is based around by heart. Made by Taylor Hackford and released in 1972. Having listened to a bootleg cassette sound recording of it in its entirety for about thirty years it is fixed in the memory banks. A surprisingly mellow Bukowski (he sound more menacing on tape) exchanges banter with a mellow California audience. Good that Bukowski was seen in a store, mixing with everyday people, it adds another dimension to this man who allegedly disliked pretty well most of humanity. And yes he does speak positively about Los Angeles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWSg1z0hzjs&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0uwxA2QnRyR9XJaE_ltBr8D9AeJIth9dS6f6TyvBNQnoKK4h-AQnXDsJ0
Sad news just in ruth weiss died on July 31. She was born on June 24, 1928. She was 92. I understand it is not virus related. She died surrounded by friends. More later. Have a look at this trailer for the film ruth weiss: Beat Goddess – in just a few minutes it catches something of this West Coast poet. https://www.ruthweissfilm.com/the-film.html#
A new film YOU NEVER HAD IT – all about Charles Bukowski will soon be available. Filmed mostly in 1981 and never released commercially I understand, the footage remained in storage until very recently. A link here to see a clip from the film which is going to be shown at various film festivals. All quite fitting in the year Bukowski would have one hundred years old.
Thanks to Beat Scene friend Peter Hollywood for reminding me of this Satori Books paper catalogue from back in 1987. In the ancient days before the internet took over the world – sending things in the mail was the way. I’d been selling books by and about the Beat Generation since the late 1970s, formalising it with the name Satori Books in 1982. No prizes for guessing where the name arose from. One of Jack Kerouac’s less heralded books of course. This paper catalogue has them all. I marvel at those prices, some of which possibly seemed steep at the time. As I recall it, there were few places you could get ‘Beat’ books in the 1970s and 1980s. Compendium of course in London’s Camden town. God bless Chris Render and Mike Hart & co – Iain Sinclair did paper lists – you’ll see those documented in Jeff Johnson’s monumental bibliographical books on Iain – I’m sure there were one or two others waving the flag too. But they were few. And, judging from a glance inside this catalogue, my desire to publish a magazine was showing itself. That came with BEAT SCENE in 1988. Bits about Kerouac, some words from him on the cover – think that may have been stolen from Moody Street Irregulars – the terrific Kerouac fan magazine from Joy Walsh that played a significant role in reviving Jack Kerouac’s reputation all those years ago. Lawrence Ferlinghetti on the back too. There was a note from Kerouac biographer Ellis Amburn inside – he was a onetime editor of Jack’s too. These were times when I worked as a school teacher and working any other hours at this Beat stuff. Laughing now at what you could do with a few sheets of Letraset (ask your dad) and a portable typewriter. A big advert for Gerald Nicosia’s Memory Babe biography of Kerouac, a page on the excellent The Unspeakable Visions of the Individual books (TUVOTI) put out by Arthur and Kit Knight. It reminded me of trips to Airlift Books near The Barbican in London. People who got Bukowski established in this country, amongst others. Good book distributors and to Dick McBride’s old chapel book warehouse in Buckinghamshire. RIP in Dick. And inside too a short account of going to Bath and meeting up with a lot of other Beat readers to see and hear the revue CITY LIGHTS put on by Jean Wagoner and friends. The hilarious Richard Brautigan sketch is forever in my memory bank. Glad to be reminded of it. Thanks Peter.
It was about this time all of 55 years ago that poets Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg came to London to join forces with a whole roster of British and European poets at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Robert Creeley was supposed to have joined them but never made it. It was an unprecedented poetry gathering for England with thousands attending. The reading got national coverage and was a turning point in the literary landscape of this country. The feeling being that all those who attended realised they were part of something bigger. The event had a unifying impact. In some respects it was the British equivalent of the Six Gallery reading of ten years earlier, where Ginsberg had electrified a much smaller venue with Howl. Poets Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Philip Lamantia and Philip Whalen were there and played their part also. Here’s a recent article from the London Magazine which reflects on the Albert Hall reading.
Ahead of Beat Scene 98, where Gary Snyder will feature, I looked at the film made about ten years ago of Gary with the novelist Jim Harrison, THE PRACTICE OF THE WILD. A slowly paced, thoughtful film, centred a lot around a dining room table with various guests. Michael McClure features, as does Gary’s former wife, the late poet Joanne Kyger, along with a significant figure in Gary’s life, the publisher Jack Shoemaker. Gary was just a kid in his late 70s at that point, now 90 of late. Here’s a link to the film on the quality site Vimeo. Thanks to Beat Scene friend Gary Raine for suggesting the link. https://vimeo.com/418682866?fbclid=IwAR2bj_j5CZP0us7uIzD26GZrdjY1p-Y7mJIB37FLF0kEqppijZA2Zwi64V4
As well as a new issue of Beat Scene magazine, see just below, a new bigger format chapbook is out soon from The Beat Scene Press. BILL BUTLER AND UNICORN BOOKS by Terry Adams, charts the times in the later 1960s and early 1970s when an ex US Marine Bill Butler came to England, worked briefly in the book trade in London and then established the Unicorn bookshop and press in Brighton. Some say the shop was an outreach of Compendium Books in London, so full of Beat Generation, obscure alternative books as it was. Butler, over the years, clashed with the authorities. He also published Bob Dylan, Alex Trocchi, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac amongst others. Terry Adams tells the story of these years. Available quite soon.
There is a brand new issue of Beat Scene, number 97. As ever, if interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.Included are Michael McClure, Diane di Prima, Jack Kerouac, Lew Welch, Tom Clark, Charles Olson, Gregory Corso, Kirby Olson, Burroughs and more. This is the first Beat Scene in a ‘perfect bound’ state. With a spine. A big deal for the magazine.
A few lines below about the work of Michael McClure. One from the English alternative music magazine Wire. The other from Jack Kerouac.
“…… it’s salutary to hear the voice of Michael McClure, a poet who (for fifty years in print) has explored states of freedom with candor and athletic intelligence. He writes poetry with acute eyes and ears, translating critical observation into precisely tempered verbal notations, celebrating the animal body and human consciousness growing out from it. He’s an expert reader too, with an actor’s voice, sensual and attuned finely to cadence and energies of enunciation. And he’s learned from musicians. As his Beat associate Jack Kerouac might have noted, McClure knows time…”
— WIRE magazine, from a review of the CD I Like your Eyes Liberty
“The most fantastic poem in America…”
— Jack Kerouac (writing about McClure’s long poem Dark Brown)
Some images of poet Michael McClure from the files here. Sadly missed by many. By me. He was a good friend. Despite the many demands on him, he always found time for me. Poet, essayist, performer with Ray Manzarek for many years. Also collaborated with Terry Riley and others. A playwright, with many productions to his credit besides THAT play! (The Beard). The photo of him typing with Frank Reynolds in the background hangs in the hallway here.
You know when you are searching for something, you can’t put your hands on it to save your life, but other things turn up. Such was the case this morning. Looking in my diary for 1988 for some information that would help a future article for Beat Scene, I found an entry for this month, June of that year. In it I’d entered that I’d spoken with Lawrence of the Birmingham band Felt. I know his surname but he’s protective about it and I won’t mention it. Though it’s possibly common knowledge after all these years. We had quite a long conversation. Think he talked of having his home up for sale, our book passions, Kerouac, music. He’d been over to see me in Coventry a week or two before. A quiet young lad, self effacing. Unique in his own personality. Just a young kid really. Even though I was dealing with something of a migraine I warmed to him right away. His band Felt were pretty popular, hovering on the cusp of real fame. I thought their music was exceptional. Highly melodic, clever, informed. Lots of references, dropped hints. The album at that time was something called THE PICTORIAL JACKSON REVIEW. Lawrence was a big Jack Kerouac fan and it was a kind of tip of the hat from the band to Jack. It was somehow typical that they would pick a novella by Kerouac to shine the light on, a book not always top of any list. But that was Lawrence. If the crowd were going one way, he’d go the other. It was an aspect of him that I liked and respected. He was a good bloke anyway. I think he had Kerouac’s fear of the limelight as well. Unusual in a rock musician. But refreshing. We did make arrangements to go and see the re-screening of the film HEART BEAT in a Birmingham cinema but he wanted to sit on his own. Something about wanting to absorb it by himself. I didn’t mind at all. I like to sit in silence watching films too. Getting drawn into that world. He was deeply into Kerouac back then. I wonder if he still is? At my youngest brother’s (another Loz) house in Sussex a while back I browsed through the big book on Felt that he had on his shelves. It reminded me of that album again. Which I’ll play today. Those guitars. Hope Lawrence is doing ok. He’s had some ups and downs. It’s thirty two years ago. Hard to believe. Quite scary really.
OUT NOW from The Beat Scene Press. A new chapbook in the continuing series. No 69. LOOK AT UNCLE BILL: AN INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM BURROUGHS. (London 1972). 125 numbered copies in the usual 8″x 5″ format. Thanks to all those who pre-ordered a copy. Yours should be there by now. Anyone else interested please email me at email@example.com
A fresh article on Jack Kerouac and his quest to discover his ancestry. You’ll find it by clicking the link here which will take you to the Penguin site and the essay written by Pauline Bock.
Michael McClure dies aged 87
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://firstname.lastname@example.org,-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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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. email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org – 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 email@example.com for rates.