[Allen Ginsberg and Barbara Moraff at 7 Arts Coffee Gallery, NYC, 1959; photo by Dave heath]
Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac are gone, but their iconoclastic writing continues to energize not just the Baby Boomers with whom they grew up, but rebels of today's generation, too. Among booksellers, it's said that Beat poetry is so much in demand that it's the most likely on the shelves to be stolen.
From a poetry reading and collecting point of view, Ginsberg and Kerouac can be the tip of the mountain of exhilarating materials ahead. I like spinning outward in their circles, and particularly in the spiral of poets that attach in influence to Ginsberg, whose longer life and close ties with Buddhist networks allowed him to care about, mentor, and appreciate many others.
For instance, there's Barbara Moraff. At the time when she met Ginsberg and Kerouac, she was just a teenager -- Kerouac called her the "baby Beat." She read poetry in coffeeshops, even in Hell's Kitchen, and found her way to Ginsberg in the city. She read poetry with him in Paterson, NJ (where she grew up), to honor William Carlos Williams, as well as in New York; her kind and generous mentor was Leroi Jones (later known as Amiri Baraka), who encouraged her to submit material to Evergreen Review (which soon published her poems). Bob Arnold at Longhouse (see his web site on the right side of this blog) brought out her FOOTPRINTS in 2007, and it's a gem. Still writing -- in fact, writing a lot these days, in her Vermont home, where she's also working on a "collected and selected" -- Moraff called last month to announce another new publication in process: ALL SET, being issued by John Martone and his Tel-Let Press. Visit his web site at http://www.ux1.eiu.edu/~jpmartone. Drop him a note to tell him you're interested and eager, so he'll bring this out sooner.
Dave and I were recently deeply honored by the chance to visit long-time Ginsberg partner Peter Orlovsky, also in Vermont; Orlovsky signed some of his books for us and mentioned he's thinking about writing his autobiography. That would be fantastic! Meanwhile, here's a great old photo that shows in the back row Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Orlovsky, and in the front row Gregory Corso and Peter's brother Lafcadio (photo taken in Mexico). For a really nice description of a visit with Orlovsky and a recent photo of him, check out 2006 blog entry by Jacqueline Gens at http://tsetso.blogspot.com/2006_10_01_archive.html.
Make my grave shape of heart so like a flower be free aired
& handsome felt,
Grave root pillow, tung up from grave & wigle at
blown up clowd.
Ear turnes close to underlayer of green felt moss & sound
of rain dribble thru this layer
down to the roots that will tickle my ear.
Hay grave, my toes need cutting so file away
in sound curve or
Garbage grave, way above my head, blood will soon
trickle in my ear -
no choise but the grave, so cat & sheep are daisey
Train will tug my grave, my breath hueing gentil vapor
between weel & track.
So kitten string & ball, jumpe over this mound so
gently & cutely
So my toe can curl & become a snail & go curiousely
on its way.
From Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs, Pocket Poets Series #37, City Lights Books ©1978 by Peter Orlovsky.