The Scene

Today in 1997 Allen Ginsberg Died

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And the screen remains empty.

April 5, 2017

On this date in 1997 Allen Ginsberg died in New York at age 70. Here’s what Seymour Krim said about a young Ginsberg in the crazy Beatnik days of the 1950s, from The Beats, published in 1960.

“Allen Ginsberg, chanter of the scorchingly present-tense ‘Howl,’ is one of the true lunar voices rising about the skyscrapers; he has the courage of his imagination, and is keening a mighty song for his generation. Ginsberg is both an exciting and highly readable human poet. His fever is that of thousands: but nobody of his age and time threw the sick-room back at life as he did, and thus redeemed us all as well as himself. Society’s fangs await his beautiful phantasmgorical songs, if only to insure their validity; but he who would be an atom-age Shelley must have a price on his head. The stakes demand it. Ginsberg is really a bit of a miracle.”

Seymour Krim printed Ginsberg’s famous “Death to Van Gogh’s Ear” in The Beats.

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Chandler Brossard, Pre-Kerouac Beat Novelist

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Zig Zag

April 4, 2017

Here is another post I am publishing based on Seymour Krim’s 1960 anthology of the Beat Movement. Before each Beat writer Krim featured he wrote a short profile. What’s so fascinating about Krim and his little book is that it was written and published when the Beatnik culture was dominating America’s 1950s. So he writes from the perspective of the moment and with the crazy Beatnik vernacular that often was fodder for cartoons, satire, and ultimately Hollywood movies. Here is Krim’s profile of one of the pre-Kerouac Beat Movement novelists. In later years Brossard would seek to disassociate himself from the Beatnik image and go Establishment.

“Chandler won’t go for the present jazz thing, won’t go for action painting, Loden coats, black-stockinged chicks or any of the hip trademarks of the beat scene. A loner, but in triplicate. His first novel, ‘Who walk in Darkness,’ was written with the cool eye of a rifleman; his second never got the attention it should have; his plays haven’t jelled critically or commercially. He stands in odd relationship to his generation–quieter than when he burned his presence onto the literary scene in the late 40’s, more inner. Older, tireder. He has a gnarled maturity encased in a golden boy façade; an unusual cat who hasn’t quite made his fullest literary moves yet. Has the aware calculation of a deepsea diver and has already left his scar on his generation. It could and might go deeper. This selection is from ‘The Double Dealers,’ an unpublished novel”(85).

Seymour Krim published Brossard’s story “Béatilles,” for The Beats.

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Paul Varner

Yevtushenko with Hank Williams in the Background

April 3, 2017

Yevegeny Yevtushenko, Red Cat, Dies at 83.

I’m sure most of you have heard by now that Yevegeny Yevtushenko, the greatest living poet from the former Soviet Russia died April 1. I love the fact that he was a longtime resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma and preferred Oklahoma to anyplace else in the U.S, according to the NY Times.

For those of us who grew up with the literature of the Beat Movement from the 1950s and 60s onward, Yevtushenko represented the radical left coming out of Russia and giving hope for sanity in a US quagmired in Vietnam. I mean if cats like Yevegeny Yevtushenko could unsettle the Reds during the supposedly Soviet thaw maybe something could happen here. Lawrence Ferlinghetti celebrated the very young Yevtushenko in his hipster Pocket Poets Series. You couldn’t get any more Beat bona fides than that. He was one of Beatdom’s Red Cats.

Red Cats Front CFEKd0rW8AEgOug                               Red Cats Back Cover md16035656090_3

Years and years ago in a Beat magazine called The Gryphon, Hans Jurgensen published a poem of mine (one of my very few poems). Here it is seeing the light of day after several decades:

Yevtushenko with Hank Williams in the Background

Paul Varner

The comrade hillbilly:

time’s making times half a time wave past the ‘40s—

‘is counting years later to the way of salvation?—

Bratsk Station, Alabama/ on the road to the gonegone (clichéd) world

the poem picker plugging his man with soma

from the radio playin’ the latest:

 
“Today I am as old in years

                        as all the Jewish people.

                        Now I seem to be

                                                A Jew.”

A fiddle waves across the mind,

the sickly smell of whine—

                        creating night visions—

                        small hope for Babi Yar

Oh Gorgeous Voice.

Bratsk Station1403789

 

 

Early Beat Hipster Jack Green

April 3, 2017

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Seymour Krim’s 1960 anthology The Beats, with its cool cover of a very young and hip Allen Ginsberg is one of the great archeological relics of Beat history. Here is savvy Krim describing one of his favorites, Jack Green.

“Gentle, fidgety, huge-bearded, Jack Green puts out a wild sheet called ‘newspaper’ from his storefront at 225 E. 5th St. in lower Manhattan. Pressed for biographical data, he answered: ‘[“] Jack Green is a prof in beat’s clothing. His hobbies are, he has traveled to, and he has worked as a. He is years old[”]” (94).

The piece Krim publishes is Jack Green’s prose Beat ramble, “peyote”:

peyote

is one of the most beautiful things that ever happened to me     i had thought i couldnt get anything from drugs     seeing how happy 2 of my friends were, high on peyote, I decided to try it

And on we go for a peyote trip for the next several pages similar to the above.

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Paul Varner

Diane di Prima in the Beatnik Days

March 31, 2017

Seymour Krim in his 1960 anthology The Beats describes the writer of Memoirs of a Beatnik and Loba with his wonderfully archaic Beatnik slang of the time:

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“Devouring-eyed Diane Di Prima once wanted to be a theoretical physicist; went to Swarthmore; gave in to the hip muse and began writing her very inside, real, stylish, lethal poetry-prose. All of 25 or so she is one of the very few ultra-swinging girl writers in the scene; a very smart cookie, she is also honest, terse, hurt in a way that counts. Very gifted, writes with a fine cutting edge. Her future is important in literature as well as beat. An exciting writer who has concretized what people twice her age will never manage. She flirts with preciousness and never yields—sure sign that intelligence has pinned artifice to the mat, sure sign that we are witnessing the real stunning thing with this unusual kid.”

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Paul Varner

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Early Beat Writers Richard Barker and James Grady

March 30, 2017

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Here is another post I am publishing based on Seymour Krim’s 1960 anthology of the Beat Movement. Before each Beat writer Krim featured he wrote a short profile. What’s so fascinating about Krim and his little book is that it was written and published when the Beatnik culture was dominating America’s 1950s. So he writes from the perspective of the moment and with the crazy Beatnik vernacular that often was fodder for cartoons, satire, and ultimately Hollywood movies. Here are Krim’s profiles of two lesser-known early Beats:

Richard Barker

“Barker is a professional drummer. WestCoast-based, with a legit literary background (MA at Cornell, 1953, with a pre-Beat Henry Miller as his thesis) and some Paris knocking-around as part of his picture. He’s 30 and has made the bohemian scene from coast to coast. He writes a tense swinging piece here.”

For the anthology Krim published Barker’s prose piece “Horn Fight at the Mission Corral.”

James Grady

“Cocky Jim Grady comes out of Ohio, the Army, Manhattan’s New School and is bucking for Broadway dramatist fame—he’s honest about wanting the dollar and beatly bitter in his appreciation of its Lordship. A flinty, sardonic wiseguy complete with brain and, unexpectedly, soul. Plus that startling Irish wit.”

For Grady, Krim published the poem “The Buck is My Benison.”

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On This Day in History Gregory Corso was Born

March 26, 2017

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The Beat Hotel, Paris

The Beats: Gregory Corso

On this day in 1930 Gregory Corso was born. He died in 2001 and is buried in the English Cemetery in Rome, in proximity to the Romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats.

Here is the profile of Corso written during the frenetic days of the Beatnik scene by Seymour Krim in his 1960 anthology The Beats,

“Corso is urchin-looking, street-bred, a true singer and loving wordman with lots of humor plus a regal tone. A big treasure of talent in this little guy which he’s not entirely certain how to handle—comes on tough or rude or me-no-speak-english when his poetry gives his living-room style the lie. Full of unexpectedness and unclassifiableness; offbeat imagination to burn. One of the big three that began to turn the public on around 1954; Kerouac and Ginsberg the other two. A glitter of contradictions, Corso also has formidable verbal refinements and a closetful of skills along with his deadend-kid comeon [sic.]. Last heard from he was in Athens, jazzing, playing roulette, making a carnival out of this ah sweet mystery of life bit. More power and joy to him.”

Krim published the long poem “Spontaneous Requiem for the American Indian” in the anthology. I thought I would print a particularly relevant clip to our current political predicament in America.

Ghost-herds of uneaten left to rot animals thundering across the plains

Chasing the ghost of England across the plains forever ever, pompous Kiwago raging in the still Dakotas, o america—

America o mineral scant america o mineralize america o conferva of that once

great lovely Muskhogean pool, o oil-suck America despite, oil from forgetive days, hare to arrow, muskellunge tospear, fleet-footed know ye speed-well the tribes thence

outraced the earth to eat to love to die,

o requiems, Hathor off-far bespeaks Wakonda. . . .

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Paul Varner

 

 

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