Skip to comments.Ginsberg Offers Rare Peek With Beatnik Family Album
Posted on 06/16/2013 5:02:16 PM PDT by nickcarraway
It can be easy to be jaded about the Beat writers in San Francisco, but even the most indifferent literary snob would be hard-pressed to walk away from "Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg" at the Contemporary Jewish Museum without feeling fuzzy inside.
Organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and running through September, "Beat Memories" is a collection of about 80 photos taken by Ginsberg and his friends in the 1950s, 1960s and 1980s.
Nearly every image is notated with the wobbly handwriting of Ginsberg, who added paragraph-length captions to the images in the 1980s at the prompting of his archivist Bill Morgan and photographers Robert Frank and Berenice Abbott.
The photos are taken in bedrooms, on rooftops, in exotic countries, in photo booths and in Parisian attics. All of the usual suspects are there: Ginsberg's lover Peter Orlovsky, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Gary Snyder, Herbert E. Huncke, Lucien Carr and a fantastically rumpled, dogged Bob Dylan.
Although he rocketed to fame with the publication of his poem "Howl" in 1956 and bounced around the globe, Ginsberg kept his friends close. The photos are often casual and domestic, a testament to the impassioned camaraderie and intimacy the Beats shared.
Under a shot of Burroughs supine on a bed, naked but for his white underwear, Ginsberg wrote: "Bill Burroughs in back bedroom waiting for company ..."
Ginsberg's scrawled notes are charmingly detailed and frank. On an image of Burroughs pontificating to a pensive Kerouac Burroughs' palm is face up at the end of a languid wrist Ginsberg quotes Burroughs: "Now, Jack, as I warned you far back as 1945, if you keep going home to live with your 'Mémère' you'll find yourself wound tighter and tighter in her apron strings till you're an old man and can't escape ..."
The static snapshot transforms into prophetic cinema: Kerouac's relationship with his mother was fraught, co-dependent and lasted a lifetime.
One famous image of Kerouac is in the show Jack howling at the camera, with New York a blur behind him circa 1953. Ginsberg also caught Kerouac ravaged 11 years later, slumped in a chair, a "red-faced corpulent W.C. Fields shuddering with mortal horror and grimacing on O.M.T. I'd brought back from visiting Timothy Leary."
Reading Ginsberg's priceless captions is an homage to memory and a puzzling, mysterious mix of things human brains remember: raindrops on laundry, rent prices, addresses, routines, friends and passing philosophies.
In "Beat Memories," the images and his recollections are a glimpse into Ginsberg's tenderness, and into a world of collective minds that fueled each other.
Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg Where: ContemporaryJewish Museum, 736 Mission St., S.F.
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays-Tuesdays, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays, closed Wednesdays; show closes Sept. 8
Admission: $5 to $12
Contact: (415) 655-7800, www.thecjm.org
I think he appeared on “Politically Incorrect”.
Like Kerouac, highly over rated and utterly unreadable...
Give me Elizabeth Bishop or Robert Hayden or Robert Lowell, anyone not connected to the free verse crap associated with the spoiled brats that came out of the 50’s and 60’s....
I respectfully beg to differ. As a person, who is both a lover of poetry and a published poet myself, I consider Ginsberg to be one of the truly great poets that America has produced, and I am absolutely not ashamed to admit it.
I have always preferred to focus most of my regard for Ginsberg on his work rather than on the lifestyle that he chose to live. Conservative or liberal, many writers and artists make poor choices in their personal lives, and indeed some can be or have been quite repulsive in their own ways.
Al Capp and Ernest Hemingway immediately come to mind for examples of more conservative writers, who were nevertheless not exactly all sunshine and roses in their personal lives.
“malodorous clown”....best put down of the year so far...
~ Allen Ginsberg, poet.
” Like Kerouac, highly over rated ..”
I beg to differ . BTW - how many of his books have you read ???
they made it to FR.
“we’re the Beatniks now”
my tagline since the NOV ‘12 defeat
I’ve written some research work on Ginsberg, and while I find Howl to be a really incredible poem, much of Ginsbergs other work is not impressive. I tend to agree with Kerouak that “Beat” wasn’t what Ginsberg tried to craft it to be, but was really a New Romantism.
Howl is one hell of a poem though!
So the fact you don’t like him automatically means he is over-rated ??? He was a great influence on many musicians and other writers , too , but you probably wouldn’t like them either .
Alan Ginsberg was a fake poet and a fake guru. A mess of cliche archetypes pushed his pencil around in circles. The only Beat poet of any real consequence was Robert Kaufman. That boy had the Muse Calliope sitting on his shoulder piping ocarina melodies straight to the helmsman.
On the Road was one of the first books I fell in love with when I started reading seriously as a teenager in the 70’s. Kerouac became one of my favourite writers and he helped to give me a love of literature ( BTW I’ve read everything he wrote ). I can’t think of any other writer who has inspired me with such a feeling of optimism and the desire to go and live life to the full. He is the only writer I can think of who does this. It’s depressing that I can’t think of any other good writer who is able to inspire this feeling.
Ginsberg is one of the reasons the gays have taken over our culture.
Ha! I’ll second that ...
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