Beats

Beats

Saying No to a System That Would Crush Us: The Poems of Paul Pines



by LOUIS PROYECT


Louis Proyect blogs at http://louisproyect.org and is the moderator of the Marxism mailing list. In his spare time, he reviews films for CounterPunch.

Fifty-four years ago when I was a freshman at Bard College, the Beat Generation was still a presence in our lives. In dorm rooms you could spot copies of Donald Allen’s “The New American Poetry” on the bookshelves of the “hippest” students, back when the term referred to the bohemian underground rather than the sort of clothing you wore (not that black turtleneck shirts were not de rigueur.)
Two years earlier I had read about Jack Kerouac in Time Magazine and had decided to join the Beats even if its energies were largely spent. Kerouac’s odysseys continued to inspire some Bardians to take a year off and ship out on freighters or to hitchhike across the U.S. as I did shortly after graduating.
Despite the school’s bohemian reputation, Robert Kelly was the only faculty member who had any kind of connection to the Beat subculture. In 1961 I was able to attend poetry readings organized by Kelly that featured writers in Donald Allen’s anthology, including LeRoi Jones who co-edited Fubbalo with Kelly, a poetry magazine out of the U. of Buffalo where the two men taught before Kelly came to Bard. Jones, of course, transformed himself into Amiri Baraka later on. You got an inkling of where he was going from what he read at Bard, “The System of Dante’s Hell”, a novel about Newark that revealed to me the depth of Black anger about American society.
Kelly also brought up Robert Duncan, a leading light of the San Francisco Renaissance that included Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Kenneth Rexroth. Duncan has remained one of my favorite poets as he has for Paul Pines, who transferred to Bard in 1961. In Paul’s latest collection of poems titled “Message from the Memoirist“, there’s a tribute titled “Thoughts on Robert Duncan” that reflects our common roots in a period of literary fecundity:
Fifty years since I first read him
I’m still moved by Duncan
Within two years of graduating Bard, I left my literary ambitions behind and joined the Trotskyist movement. But Paul Pines continued to write prose and poetry, for which the world is a better place. Judgment on my own revolutionary career is still pending. As a continuator of the Robert Duncan, Charles Olson and Robert Creeley tradition, Paul is a reminder that the best writing comes from people who have lived life at the margins rather than in the safe confines of places like the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. He spent time in the merchant marines, coming ashore in Vietnam in 1965 and 1966, and ran a jazz club called the Tin Palace later on.
Every single poem in “Message from the Memoirist” reflects a lifetime of experience as a voyager, both externally across the planet and internally through an engagement with the spiritual wellsprings of the early sixties such as Gnosticism, Greek mythology and dream interpretation. In reading this collection of poems, it reminded me of how powerful this culture operated on me even though it was my anger against capitalist injustice that finally set the course of my own voyage.
As a fellow septuagenarian, Paul dwells on what one might call intimations of mortality (with all due respect to Wordsworth.) It is expressed in poems such as “To David Amram on Turning Eighty” and “Interview with the Old Poet: Lawrence Ferlinghetti at 91”, as well as one of a number of stellar prose poems, “Lachrimae Rerum” (Latin for the tears of things), where he reflects on Robert Redford in “All is Lost”, a film that I loved but did not fully appreciate until reading Paul’s words:
LOST has received rave reviews which call his performance the role of a lifetime, but has not done well at the box office. This comes as no surprise. After all, who would willingly spend time sharing a moment of joy with an old man at sea alone on a leaky boat?
I suppose if you’ve seen Spencer Tracy in the adaptation of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”, or better yet read it, that’s an easy question to answer. For that matter, as might be obvious, this book of poems has the same irresistible, siren-like appeal to readers of any age, including those in their twenties who might benefit from the wisdom of an elder poet especially one who as a counterpart to Spencer Tracy has been involved with the lonely and arduous task of reeling in the big one: a memorable work of art.
The irony is that despite the preoccupation with aging and mortality, there also probing examinations of what it means to be young:
Brooklyn 1951
a kid standing
in the dark basement
of his father’s
house
whispers
words he will repeat
to himself
for a lifetime
                  I will be a furnace
                  in the shadows
But the crowning synthesis of the contradictory poles of youth and old age can be found in “Dance to the End of Love”, a poem whose title is drawn from Leonard Cohen’s song. It was probably no accident that Paul felt a connection to Cohen who recently turned 80 and obviously is meditating on the same issues as those found in this haunting poem that simultaneously reflects on Cohen’s performances and the work of another poet in old age.
There is something
shocking
but riveting
to words
written as
a young man
sung in the voice
of an old one—
as if the latter
had been waiting
inside the former
all along
to bring us this
requiem
Later this month Bard College is staging its yearly commencement weekend that a number of people from the class of 1965 will be attending. I spent a few minutes trying to decide if it was worth it, if for no other reason than to get a rise out of President Leon Botstein who resents my gadfly attacks on his corporatization of a college that meant as much to me—oddly enough—as my time in the Trotskyist movement.
But then I imagine the failure to communicate that would take place as I sat around a banquet table for the class of 1965 as the old folks showed each other pictures of their grandchildren and shared horror stories about hip replacements and the like. What could I possibly share with them? My concerns over Greece’s debts or whether slavery was capitalist or not?
The only reunion that makes sense for me is to keep abreast of the activities of people like Paul Pines, who will always symbolize for me what was best about the school, its ability to attract brilliant minds not content to fold into the complacency of American society and chase after the almighty buck. As long as Paul keeps writing poems in the great American tradition that goes back to Walt Whitman, I will feel that my experience there was worth it since it connected me to those who matter most—those who have an insatiable desire to make the world a better place either through the arts or by saying no to a system that would crush us underfoot.


Allen Ginsberg: 'He greeted the Beatles with a do not disturb sign hung on his penis' Michael Horovitz remembers Allen Ginsberg, 1965



By Michael Horovitz


Horovitz can be seen in Poetry ReIncarnation, May 30, part of the Last Word Festival (May 16-31) at the Roundhouse, London NW1 (roundhouse.org.uk) 


I first met Allen Ginsberg [right] outside Better Books on Charing Cross Road, a gathering place for London hippies, in 1965. He and I had been corresponding ever since I read Howl in the late 1950s, exchanging poems and commenting on each other’s work. In my final year at Oxford University I founded New Departures magazine, and by 1965 had published most of the beat generation pioneers – among them William S Burroughs, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Jack Kerouac – but it was always Ginsberg I was most interested in.
We had some things in common: his family arrived in New York as Jewish Russian émigrés, while I am the youngest of 10 children brought to London by European Jews. We had also both published and performed a great deal, long before public readings really took off, and we were compared by critics.
There was a confluence of poets from around the world in London that summer. My friends and I decided to put on a few small readings and one large, collective one. When Allen heard he asked what was the largest venue we could hire, and we told him the Royal Albert Hall. He decided we should have it, so we booked it for the following Friday at a cost of £300. That was a fortune then, but the affluent wife of a friend put the money down.
That fortnight Allen and I hung out, yacking nineteen to the dozen about poetry, politics and so on. He was what I call ‘the real thing’, and his stay was entirely joyful. One night we threw a party for his 39th birthday, which George Harrison and Pattie Boyd attended with John and Cynthia Lennon. Allen was fairly drunk by the time they arrived, and greeted them wearing nothing but boxer shorts on his head and a do not disturb sign hung on his penis. The Beatles winced at this and left shortly afterwards, Lennon hissing at Allen, ‘You don’t do that in front of the birds.’ It was their loss. This photograph was taken at a reading Allen gave a few days later, at the ICA. He is in typical flow, and holding the Tibetan finger cymbals he often performed with.
The next week we all walked across Hyde Park to the Albert Hall for the big show. To our astonishment, thousands of people were outside the building, like some tribal gathering. We had sold more than 7,500 tickets. There were 18 poets from 10 countries doing a huge range of material. Allen was last on the bill in front of an audience encouraged to shed their inhibitions and rise as one body: outsiders suddenly aware they were not alone.
Interview by Guy Kelly


From Bukowski's "Dinosauria, We


Born like this
Into this
As the chalk faces smile
As Mrs. Death laughs
As the elevators break
As political landscapes dissolve
As the supermarket bag boy holds a college degree
As the oily fish spit out their oily prey
As the sun is masked
We are
Born like this
Into this
Into these carefully mad wars
Into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness
Into bars where people no longer speak to each other
Into fist fights that end as shootings and knifings
Born into this
Into hospitals which are so expensive that it's cheaper to die
Into lawyers who charge so much it's cheaper to plead guilty
Into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed
Into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes
Born into this



Beat Shindig in June


From  Hoodline

It's been nearly 60 years since Allen Ginsberg publicly read his icon poem Howl, but the beat goes on.
Jerry Cimino, the founder of the Beat Museum in North Beach, has organized a hip, happening conference for June 26–28 called the Beatnik Shindig. The Shindig—so named because it sounds more fun than "conference," Cimino said—will include at least two dozen speakers at Fort Mason, some of whom were at ground zero during the Beat Generation. It'll also include evening performances and parties in the "heart of Beatdom itself," North Beach, which was home to Ginsberg and other Beats and the site of City Lights Bookstore.
More details about the schedule, programs and tickets should be up on the event website by this weekend.
Cimino said the reason for pulling together a conference now is because this Oct. 7th marks the 60th anniversary of Ginsberg's first public reading of Howl, which City Lights published the following year — and got into a lot of legal trouble for it. "Lawrence Ferlinghetti had to end up standing trial" on obscenity charges, Cimino said. "Had there not been a Howl trial, we would not be talking about any of this."
Add to that, there hasn't been a Beat blowout in about 20 years, Cimino said. Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! happens regularly in Jack Kerouac's home town in Massachusetts, but the last big conference was in the mid-1990s in New York. "This will be the first major conference to be held in a major city with dozens of speakers" since then, he said.
What is it about the Beats that continues to capture attention six decades later? “What the Beats talked about in the '50s resonates with every group as they come of age,” Cimino said. "Youthful rebellion; taking your risks; living a rebellious life. Young people today are very hip to this stuff."
Some recent movies have fueled interest, he added. "On the Road came out with a huge cast of characters. Kill Your Darlings came out with the Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe. Howl came out with James Franco. Big Sur came out." The latter, about Kerouac's sojourns to Ferlinghetti's cottage in Big Sur, starred actress Kate Bosworth, who'll attend the Beat Shindig for a screening along with director Michael Polish. Also, the Shindig will see the West Coast premier of “Neal Cassady: The Denver Years.”
Another big name attending the Beatnik Shindig is conductor, composer, musician and author David Amram, who appeared in the 1959 short film Pull My Daisy with Kerouac, Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Larry Rivers and others. In a phone interview with Amram, he dispelled the notion that Beats were moody, brooding and ill-attired.
"My hope is that since I’m one of the few people there who actually knew Jack and was part of that era—and I’m still living with the ideals that many of us shared—that young people will see that above everything else we were open, warm and appreciative of every person who crossed our path," he said. "We also shared the idea that what you do to pay your rent has no bearing on your value as an artist, that what you get and what you deserve have no relationship to one another, and most importantly, if it appears hopeless, do it anyway."
People "may be shocked to see that those of us who were in the film were friendly, obviously enjoyed everyone else’s company and all were totally different and did not dress or look like depressing, sour, sociopathic, disillusioned, untalented, Lower Slobbovians," Amran continued. "That’s because what became the stereotype of the so-called Beat generation, once it became a brand name, not only made people who weren’t there feel that that’s what we were like, it forced many people to think that if they could identify with the era, they had to act that way themselves."
Amram will speak along with Beat greats such as ruth weiss, David Meltzer and Gerd Stern, who met Ginberg and Carl Solomon in a psychiatric ward. A list of speakers and their bios are on the Beat Shindig website. Top Beat scholars such as Hilary Holladay, founder of the Jack and Stella Kerouac Center for Public Humanities and the Kerouac Conference on Beat Literature at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, will also be there, along with the three children of Carolyn and Neal Cassady.
Cimino became a fan of the Beats back in eighth grade, he said, when his teacher read one of Ferlinghetti's poems about the crucifixion. "It blew my mind," he said. He became an avid reader of the Beats in college, and then later, in 1988, he and his wife moved from the East Coast to California and in 1991 opened a bookstore in Monterey called Monterey Coffeehouse Bookshop. “Because I knew all about the Beat stuff, I said, 'How about we have some events and I’ll talk about the Beats?'" Cimino said. "I could carry that myself. People dug it. I was shocked at all the people who showed up. We got to be known as the Beat bookstore of the Central Coast."
In 2001, Cimino and his wife were traveling in Europe and found the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum in Amsterdam. "I remember commenting to her, 'If they can have a hemp museum in Amsterdam, why can’t we have a Beat Museum in San Francisco?'" he said. "I decided to create the Beat Museum as a way for people to realize you can be a nonconformist and still change the world.” It opened in Monterey in 2003 about a block from the bookstore, and moved to its current location at 540 Broadway St. in San Francisco in 2006.
One of the many Beatnik Shindig speakers Cimino is jazzed about is Dr. Philip Hicks, who was Allen Ginsberg's psychiatrist in 1955. During a breakthrough session, he told a young Ginsberg that it was fine to be gay and to quit his job in advertising and start writing poetry and dating men. "Homosexuality was considered a mental disorder at that point," Cimino said. "He looked Allen Ginsberg in the eyes and said it’s okay for you to live an authentic life. Next thing you know, [Ginsberg]’s reading Howl; Howl gets published, and it changes the world.”
The Beat Shindig will run from June 26-28 at Fort Mason and in North Beach. Stay tuned to the event website for more info on schedule, tickets and more in the weeks to come.



'Beatnik Shindig' In June Will Feature Poets, Scholars, Artists & More



It's been nearly 60 years since Allen Ginsberg publicly read his icon poem Howl, but the beat goes on.
Jerry Cimino, the founder of the Beat Museum in North Beach, has organized a hip, happening conference for June 26–28 called the Beatnik Shindig. The Shindig—so named because it sounds more fun than "conference," Cimino said—will include at least two dozen speakers at Fort Mason, some of whom were at ground zero during the Beat Generation. It'll also include evening performances and parties in the "heart of Beatdom itself," North Beach, which was home to Ginsberg and other Beats and the site of City Lights Bookstore.
Beat Shindig poster. Graphic: The Beat Museum/Facebook
Cimino said the reason for pulling together a conference now is because this Oct. 7th marks the 60th anniversary of Ginsberg's first public reading of Howl, which City Lights published the following year — and got into a lot of legal trouble for it. "Lawrence Ferlinghetti had to end up standing trial" on obscenity charges, Cimino said. "Had there not been a Howl trial, we would not be talking about any of this."
Add to that, there hasn't been a Beat blowout in about 20 years, Cimino said. Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! happens regularly in Jack Kerouac's home town in Massachusetts, but the last big conference was in the mid-1990s in New York. "This will be the first major conference to be held in a major city with dozens of speakers" since then, he said.
What is it about the Beats that continues to capture attention six decades later? “What the Beats talked about in the '50s resonates with every group as they come of age,” Cimino said. "Youthful rebellion; taking your risks; living a rebellious life. Young people today are very hip to this stuff."
Some recent movies have fueled interest, he added. "On the Road came out with a huge cast of characters. Kill Your Darlings came out with the Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe. Howl came out with James Franco. Big Sur came out." The latter, about Kerouac's sojourns to Ferlinghetti's cottage in Big Sur, starred actress Kate Bosworth, who'll attend the Beat Shindig for a screening along with director Michael Polish. Also, the Shindig will see the West Coast premier of “Neal Cassady: The Denver Years.”
Another big name attending the Beatnik Shindig is conductor, composer, musician and author David Amram, who appeared in the 1959 short film Pull My Daisy with Kerouac, Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Larry Rivers and others. In a phone interview with Amram, he dispelled the notion that Beats were moody, brooding and ill-attired.
"My hope is that since I’m one of the few people there who actually knew Jack and was part of that era—and I’m still living with the ideals that many of us shared—that young people will see that above everything else we were open, warm and appreciative of every person who crossed our path," he said. "We also shared the idea that what you do to pay your rent has no bearing on your value as an artist, that what you get and what you deserve have no relationship to one another, and most importantly, if it appears hopeless, do it anyway."
People "may be shocked to see that those of us who were in the film were friendly, obviously enjoyed everyone else’s company and all were totally different and did not dress or look like depressing, sour, sociopathic, disillusioned, untalented, Lower Slobbovians," Amran continued. "That’s because what became the stereotype of the so-called Beat generation, once it became a brand name, not only made people who weren’t there feel that that’s what we were like, it forced many people to think that if they could identify with the era, they had to act that way themselves."
Amram will speak along with Beat greats such as ruth weiss, David Meltzer and Gerd Stern, who met Ginberg and Carl Solomon in a psychiatric ward. A list of speakers and their bios are on the Beat Shindig website. Top Beat scholars such as Hilary Holladay, founder of the Jack and Stella Kerouac Center for Public Humanities and the Kerouac Conference on Beat Literature at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, will also be there, along with the three children of Carolyn and Neal Cassady.
Cimino became a fan of the Beats back in eighth grade, he said, when his teacher read one of Ferlinghetti's poems about the crucifixion. "It blew my mind," he said. He became an avid reader of the Beats in college, and then later, in 1988, he and his wife moved from the East Coast to California and in 1991 opened a bookstore in Monterey called Monterey Coffeehouse Bookshop. “Because I knew all about the Beat stuff, I said, 'How about we have some events and I’ll talk about the Beats?'" Cimino said. "I could carry that myself. People dug it. I was shocked at all the people who showed up. We got to be known as the Beat bookstore of the Central Coast."
In 2001, Cimino and his wife were traveling in Europe and found the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum in Amsterdam. "I remember commenting to her, 'If they can have a hemp museum in Amsterdam, why can’t we have a Beat Museum in San Francisco?'" he said. "I decided to create the Beat Museum as a way for people to realize you can be a nonconformist and still change the world.” It opened in Monterey in 2003 about a block from the bookstore, and moved to its current location at 540 Broadway St. in San Francisco in 2006.
One of the many Beatnik Shindig speakers Cimino is jazzed about is Dr. Philip Hicks, who was Allen Ginsberg's psychiatrist in 1955. During a breakthrough session, he told a young Ginsberg that it was fine to be gay and to quit his job in advertising and start writing poetry and dating men. "Homosexuality was considered a mental disorder at that point," Cimino said. "He looked Allen Ginsberg in the eyes and said it’s okay for you to live an authentic life. Next thing you know, [Ginsberg]’s reading Howl; Howl gets published, and it changes the world.”
The Beat Shindig will run from June 26-28 at Fort Mason and in North Beach. Stay tuned to the event website for more info on schedule, tickets and more in the weeks to come


At 84, Poet Gary Snyder Lives In 'This Present Moment'



BY EDITOR
Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Gary Snyder is a poet. He was born in 1930 so he's been around for most of the important things that happened in the last century and this one. And he has had quite a life. He's been a fire lookout, a logger, a Buddhist monk, a translator of Chinese poetry, a painter. He was there when Allen Ginsberg and the Beat poets of San Francisco read Ginsberg's poem "Howl." And Snyder is theoretically the man on which Jack Kerouac based a character in his novel "Dharma Bums." At the age of 84, he has published more than 20 books. His most recent is a slender volume of mostly short poems, and we hope he'll read some of them for us. He joins us from KVMR in Nevada City, Calif. Gary Snyder, welcome to our program.
GARY SNYDER: Pleased to be here.
WERTHEIMER: Now, what about getting right down to it and reading a poem? This one is called "From The Sky."
SNYDER: "From The Sky." (Reading) The sand hill cranes are leaving, soundings from the sky. Songbirds from Central America begin to arrive. Flitting through the bushes, snow patches on the ground, truck still in four-wheel-drive.
WERTHEIMER: It's interesting, though, that in some of your poems, there's - you know, there's just sort of the - you're purely dealing with nature, and then you'll stick something in like the truck that's in four-wheel-drive.
SNYDER: Well, you know, that's the world we live in. Poetry isn't about just nature. It's about reality. And as a Buddhist, Buddhism does not just favor a nice side of the phenomenal universe. Buddhism says we are all students of reality, whatever it is.
WERTHEIMER: The poem that's on the very next page is called "Here."
SNYDER: You want me to read it?
WERTHEIMER: Yeah.
SNYDER: (Reading) Here in the dark, the new moon long set. A soft grumble in the breeze is the sound of a jet so high, it's already long gone by. Some planet rising from the East shines through the trees. It's been years since I thought why are we here?
WERTHEIMER: Do you want to explain that last bit? What is that?
SNYDER: Well, that is our existential question. And a lot of people think about it all of the time. Now, few people never think of it. I'm one of those people who thought about it for a long time and then quit thinking about it.
WERTHEIMER: (Laughter) Why was that?
SNYDER: Because I was working on it so hard that it was no longer an intellectual or rational exercise. It was more a something in my own nature that I was trying to get around, get close to. And maybe it's not a real question. We're here because we're here, as Mr. Natural says.
WERTHEIMER: Do you still live up in the mountains in a house you built yourself and all of the things that I've read about you? Or - is that all still happening?
SNYDER: Oh, yeah, I drove down here from that house just a few minutes ago. And it still is learning what it's supposed to become, I think. It's a great old house. I felt every tree that went into the framework.
WERTHEIMER: You've outlived lots of your hard-living buddies from the bad-old days. How do you feel about writing now? How do you feel about being alive?
SNYDER: It's wonderful. Every moment is really interesting, and I'm grateful to be alive. And I'm ready to die whenever it happens. So you try to bring some little bit of quality to your choices and, you know, stop and appreciate things maybe a little more than you did when you were trying to meet - match a big steady schedule.
WERTHEIMER: Gary Snyder's new book of poetry is called "This Present Moment: New Poems." Thank you very much for doing this.
SNYDER: Well, thank you for doing this. Transcript




Steve Kowit dies at 76; San Diego poet championed numerous causes


By TONY PERRY

Steve Kowit, San Diego's self-described 'all-around no good troublemaker' and poet, dies at 76
'He used humor to talk about matters of life and death,' says fellow poet Austin Straus of Steve Kowit
To Steve Kowit, the biggest sins that could be committed by poetry were being dull, obscure, too laden with allusions that might woo the intellectuals but turn off the common man (and woman).
His poem "I Attend a Poetry Reading" is Kowit's sendup of much of modern poetry and modern poets: "Polite applause had stiffened / to an icy silence: / no one clapped / or nodded / No one sighed."
As a poet, essayist, teacher and self-described "all-around no good troublemaker," Kowit was never dull. In a dozen volumes of poetry, his enthusiasm burst off the page in language that was direct, accessible and devoid of the ambiguity favored by some literary critics.
His poetic models included Walt Whitman, Robinson Jeffers and Allen Ginsberg, and he admitted in an essay titled "The Mystique of the Difficult Poem," that try as he might, he could not fathom poems, such as those of Hart Crane and others, that were "filled with footnotable literary allusions and hopelessly gnarled syntax and untrackable metaphoric acrobatics."
Recently retired from Southwestern College in Chula Vista but still holding poetry workshops at Liberty Station in San Diego, Kowit died April 2 of cardiac arrest at his home in Potrero in a rural stretch of southern San Diego County near the border with Mexico. He was 76.
He died just days before his latest volume of poetry is set to be published by Tampa University Press.
A story in The Times once described Kowit as "a pro, bard of innumerable liberal causes, a teacher, elfin, self-mocking, editor of a sassy volume of a no-intellectuals-need-apply poetry called 'The Maverick Poets.'" Among his causes, in poetry and prose, were animal rights and the plight of immigrants.
Steve Mark Kowit was born June 30, 1938 in New York. He liked to say that he was "Jewish by birth, Buddhist by inclination." He served in the Army Reserves and attended Brooklyn College.
In New York, he was part of the Lower East Side poetry-reading scene in the early 1960s. Later, attracted by the intellectual freedom accentuated by the Beat poets, he moved to San Francisco's Haight Ashbury and received a master's degree from then-San Francisco State College.
[Steve Kowit] could have been an actor; when he was onstage he was mesmerizing.- poet and artist Austin Straus
He taught at San Diego State, San Diego City College, UC San Diego and the College of Southern Idaho, and was publisher of Gorilla Press and founder of the Animal Rights Coalition of California. Among his books was "In the Palm of Your Hand: A Poet's Portable Workshop: A Lively and Illuminating Guide for the Practicing Poet." His poetry was read by Garrison Keillor on his national radio show.
Part of Kowit's reputation among poets and poetry lovers came from poetry readings.
"He was a terrific performer," said poet and artist Austin Straus. "He could have been an actor; when he was onstage he was mesmerizing. He used humor to talk about matters of life and death."
Mixing passion and satire, Kowit poked at the "idiotic grandiosity of the human ego" — like his poem "The Workout" about the fitness craze of Southern California.
"Not unlike the penitents of other sects
they are convinced that decades of decay
can be undone & that the more one genuflects
the less one rots — a doctrine
that has got the aged, the adipose & the misshapen
pedaling their stationary bikes
in such unholy fury."
Still, the openness of Southern California appealed to him, like his poem "Joy to the Fishes."
"I hiked out to the end of Sunset Cliffs
& climbed the breakwater
sneakers strung over my shoulder
& a small collection of zen
poems in my fist."
In "Refugees, Late Summer Night," he sees the universality of the immigrants moving past his property:
"Out there, in the dark, they could have
been anyone: refugees from Rwanda
slaves pushing north.
Palestinians, Gypsies, Armenians, Jews…
the lights of Tijuana, that yellow
haze to the west, could have
been Melos, Cracow, Quang Ngai…"
And in "Notice," he wrote about the shortness of life and the death of a friend:
"Take heed, you who read this,
& drop to your knees now & again
like the poet Christopher Smart,
& kiss the earth & be joyful,
& make much of your time,
& be kindly to everyone,
even those who do not deserve it."
In "The Garden," he brooded about life without his wife, Mary.
"In the bedroom, Mary has fallen asleep.
I stand in the doorway & watch her breathing
& wonder what it will be like
When one of us dies."
Kowit is survived by his wife and his sister, Carol Adler.

A poetry reading in his honor is set for April 26 at Liberty Station, sponsored by San Diego Writers Ink.

tony.perry@latimes.com
Twitter: @LATsandiego
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times







Jack Kerouac, Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954


“Don’t tell them too much about your soul.
They’re waiting for just that.”



  

Lawrence Ferlinghetti recounts more than six decades of life in San Francisco


BY Joanne Elgart Jennings 

The first time I met Lawrence Ferlinghetti was unforgettable: It was early on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and Elizabeth Farnsworth and I were working on a story about him for the PBS NewsHour.

As surreal news trickled in of planes crashing in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, the crew and I continued to set up the lights and cameras while Ferlinghetti floated in and out of the room, offering stoic yet witty commentary.
Shortly after that morning, he composed “History of the Airplane,” a prose piece inspired by the attacks. Here’s an excerpt:
And they kept flying and flying until they flew right into the 21st
century and then one fine day a Third World struck back and
stormed the great planes and flew them straight into the beating
heart of Skyscraper America where there were no aviaries and no
parliaments of doves and in a blinding flash America became a part
of the scorched earth of the world
So, when KQED conceived of its Boomtown series, which seeks to put the Bay Area’s current boom-and-bust cycle in context, I thought who better to turn to than Lawrence Ferlinghetti, to reflect on the changes that gentrification and technology have made in his beloved city.
Ever since the iconic poet, painter and publisher helped spark a literary renaissance in the 1950s with the “Beat” movement, Ferlinghetti has served as a conscience for San Franciscans, especially when times are tough.
When Ferlinghetti arrived in the city in 1951 from New York, he settled into a $65/month apartment in the Italian working-class neighborhood of North Beach. That was the beginning of his journey to put San Francisco on the world’s countercultural map by publishing the work of beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.
With $29/month rent for a massive art studio, “it seemed as ideal as any city could be for an artist or writer … a city small enough for human conviviality and large enough for intense creative ferment, with a metropolitan sensibility,” he wrote in a 2001 prose piece titled “The Poetic City That Was.”
But 64 years after arriving in San Francisco, despite his status as a literary legend, the 95-year-old co-owner of the renowned City Lights bookshop and publishing house says he doesn’t feel so at home in the city by the bay anymore. He complains of a “soulless group of people” too busy with their phones to “be here” in the moment.
“A new brand of dot.com millionaires and generally Silicon Valley money moved into San Francisco with bags full of cash and no manners and very little education in the great culture of Western civilization,” he told us when we went to visit him at his North Beach apartment last month.
“In 1951 I had the feeling walking up Market Street … that the general attitude was that San Francisco really wasn’t part of the United States. They were sort of an offshore republic. … But that’s not the case anymore,” he told us.
“Now it’s like the rest of the country. Our city is like all the other cities. We’ve lost that feeling of being a unique place. I think the electronic revolution has caused that. So with the Internet it becomes flat earth. We’re living in the flat earth now.”
The George Krevsky Gallery in downtown San Francisco, which had shown Ferlinghetti’s work for two decades, was forced out of its building to make way for a cloud computing startup called MuleSoft.
Krevsky now sells most of his artwork online — out of his home in the Oakland Hills. Some of Ferlinghetti’s works can be seen at Live Worms, a gallery on upper Grant Avenue, one of the few parts of North Beach that still feels bohemian.
As part of its “Legends of the Bay Area” series, the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art in Novato is hosting a retrospective exhibition of Ferlinghetti’s art work through April 5.
Last Saturday, at an opening night reception, Ferlinghetti thanked the museum director for the exhibit and noted that it was “nicely hung.”
“I know that has a connotation,” he told the crowd, “and I’ll leave it at that.”
A day after our interview, Ferlinghetti left me a voicemail expressing concern that he struck too negative a tone and invited us back to his apartment for a second take. He wanted me and our audience to know that he still has hope.
“There’s always hope in love. Love and hate are viruses. Love can make a civilization bloom and hate can kill a civilization,” he told us when we returned. Then he read this poem:
“Recipe For Happiness Khaborovsk Or Anyplace”
One grand boulevard with trees
with one grand cafe in sun
with strong black coffee in very small cups.
One not necessarily very beautiful
man or woman who loves you.

One fine day.