COLUMN THIRTY-FIVE, JULY 1, 1998
(Copyright © 1998 Al Aronowitz)
BLUES FOR ALLEN
(Copyright © 1998 Amiri Baraka)
(Photo Courtesy Myles Aronowitz)
(All Rights Reserved © Myles Aronowitz 1998)
[THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST is proud to welcome Amiri Baraka, one of America's greatest living poets, as a contributor to this column.]
ALLEN GINSBERG: BLESS HIS SOULHOWL reached Puerto Rico, late 55, whenever the early Village Voice did. I was there disguised as a colored Airman second-class, lower left gunner and weather man on a B36, Reading at nights and 12 hrs every day under the Latino sun, while guarding somebody else's airplanes, and scoffing every stationary word in English Literature, all the Best sellers in the NY Times and with 7 or so comrades in an underground airman professional killer salon learning the history of western music and literature as night librarian at Ramey Air Force Base, Strategic Air Command, Aquadilla, Puerto Rico. At least two of those guys, both photographers, lurk somewhere even now in NYC, to tell the tale. James Mitchell and Phil Perkis!
We read and kicked Hardy, Proust, Kafka. Hey, Whats a Kafka, we yelled? I donno...Hey Roi, order it. And the night librarian did, plus a fifth of Rum. Motets, Gregorian Chants, Bach, Ulysses, Tess Durburville, I mean some under the earth dull as shit, but Ulysses, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Satie. We were getting our under over graduate readiness preparation to return to Civilization, we thought, after roaming the sky scaring the world with nuclear frustration, American ignorance and young arrogance, wandering what the big world wd be.
For me, the Voice, was just more confirmation that like my High School hero Allen Polite, who I first was turned on to The Writer, him a still great unpublished Poet. HE said, we thought, The VILLAGE, YEH, thats where everything was at! OH yeh. Thats where the world class intellectuals and knowers wd reside. Oh Yeh.
And finally, 1957, they booted me out as undesirable, you bet, I had already got booted out of College as likewise, but now as a fucking commie buddhist colored guy, busted for books and an alarming hostility to dumbness. You ever dig Curtis Lemay on his stomach on a "Go-Cart" speeding across the flight line Saturday mornings. Wd instruct the hell out of you. With both stripes now ripped off along with secret clearance, Gone Gone, and so we shot off in ecstasy to the City the Apple, New York, Bohemia, The Village, to try out our vicious learning on those we were sure wd dig how heavy we had got.
And it was Howl again. plus Allan Polite and his cohorts, Cunningham, Cage, Charlip, Czernovitch, R H Blythe, Suzuki, Zen, gals in black stockings, Yeats, Poetry Poetry Poetry, that brought us panting into the Village. lst crib 104 E.3d St, 28$ a month, 3rms, no heat, my mother wept. But hey wasn't this the joint?
But Alas! and Alas and Alack. IT was not that what that was in my head. Not the GV of PR. The west village was full of poseurs and empty bags of old pretense where was Poetry? Where was heavy intellectual outness after all? But Howl was emerging full then. Being talked about. Given Ink emerging full and clear. What struck me...an Audaciousness I needed....in that McCarthy Eisenhower 7 Types of Ambiguity '50s. That oatmeal lying world. In Puerto Rico, I'd sent my stuff to Kenyon, Sewanee, Hudson, Partisan, and all the cemeteries, and it came back almost before being mailed. The New Yorker's poetry actually made me weep, at the deep nothingness they touted as feeling, yeh, but only of deep disgust.
So HOWL---the language. The stance. The sense of someone being in the same world, the defiance. Yeh---to the Dead and somebody else's version of a Bohemian Intelligentsia there was here this HOWL. So I wrote Allen on a piece of toilet paper to Git Le Couer asking was he "for real." He answered on French toilet paper, which is better for writing, that he was tired of being Allen Ginsberg. And sent a broad registration of poetry from a newly rising objective united front of young and younger poets, for the new magazine YUGEN. And that began some forty years of hookup.
Allen was finally what I thought was everywhere in the Village, a genuine book stuffed intellectual, and as well, a publicist, perhaps the best we knew of poetry itself. There were so many bullshitters and tasters and energetic dilettantes otherwise. Jammed in the coffee shops imitating Marlon Brando. Except Jack Micheline wasnt imitating, in those jazz poetry sessions he was who Marlon Brando was imitating.
And we remained friends Allen and I for 40 years. His takes on Williams, and the variable foot, American speech, the breath phrase, the existence of an American language and literature, which the colleges still deny, was what was most important to me. The anti Moloch heavy anti imperialist line that wove through HOWL. AMERICA GO FUCK YR SELF WITH YR ATOM BOMB! Now that was poetry! Plus talking to Allen bout Western poetry was always part of a course. On Blake, Smart, Rimbaud, the troubadours, we visited Pound and he apologized for being anti Semitic, at least Allen heard that, that crazy motherfucker. Wms' funeral, we trooped over for, once read together at Weequahic high school, in Newark, where we was both borned. Howard U, that historic trek, reading on the campus, refused from all buildings.
Allen was a font of ideas and publicity for the new word, a new generation, on prosody, America and intros to the whole united front against dead people "they dont like the way we live" was the way AG summed it up. And for this, that we cd bring the SFp's, the Beats, the Black Mt, O'Hara and the NYers together to do battle against the zombies of Euroformalism, neo colonial death verse, academic glacier-jingle lobotomy, was where our deepest comradeship was formed.
Allen and I argued relentlessly, from sotto voce subtle earlier to staccato hand waving shriek, as soon he and me, in our ultimately contradictory rationales of the world, went our separate ideological practical day to day paths. But we could always talk.
Malcolm's murder shot me out of the village for good, and our greetings and meeting became measured and less frequent. The gap between Black Nationalism and Tibetan Buddhism, I wanted to make War, Allen to make peace. For all our endless contention, often loud and accompanied by contrasting histrionics, we remained, in many ways, comrades in and of the word, partisans of consciousness!
The day before he split, Allen called and sd he had to see me. Very important he sd. Can you come? Yeh, whats up? Well...he paused, then as usual, matter of fact---I'm gonna die... OH bullshit, Allen Why're you saying that? No---It's true. I just got out the hospital. Maybe a couple months...not long. Hey dont say dumb shit like that. No, No its true...Anyway, you need any money? Money? Naw Naw I dont need no money ...and you aint gonna die. Well, you still gonna come Monday, its important. Yeh, I'll be there....but nix on that death shit. Ok, see you...we exchanged our outs...the phone hit. Then the next day, the newspapers carried their stuff. A big drag..Man, a big big drag, you know. Because that fundamental struggle for an American poetry. For our speech and consciousness as part of the energy and power of the United front against the dead and their Ghosts. All that I first was drawn to, though we might argue where it all went. Still, right now, The anti imperialist revolutionary democratic struggle itself is about to be running again at Rage Pt. And I guess Allen figured the exit would be his final argument. Like, I told you I was leaving...
But then a last word for Allen, gone now, turned completely into spirit on us. What we uphold of him, for all the, to me, completely objectionable, out-to-lunch postures he can be identified with, is the defiance and resistance to Moloch, in the collective tongue of the multinational multi cultural American speech, rhythm and voice. What it was I first dug he was saying in Howl. And the great line from America. America go fuck yr self with yr Atom Bomb. Now that's Poetry!! That still rings and will ring true. And for this sentiment, and stance, and revolutionary democratic practice, part of an often revolutionary art for cultural revolution, we say Hail and Farewell my man, Hail and Farewell! ##
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