Archives For January 2013

Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg

Gina & Ginsberg

“Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg”
at the Grey Art Gallery New York University

January 15 – April 6, 2013, New York, NY
By GK Stritch

“Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg” at the Grey Art Gallery New York University are familiar to those acquainted with the Beats, iconic photos that have been seen by the world. However, to view them closely and inscribed in Ginsberg’s open, curious hand makes them personal: welcome to the Beat family photo album. The eighty or so framed black-and-white photos include Louis and Edith Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Carl Solomon, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Peter Orlovsky, Herbert E. Huncke, Gregory Corso, Bob Dylan, Wavy Gravy, and shopping cart street prophet. Oh, yes, and Madonna, Allen was on the world stage. The descriptions are a delight: “Neal Cassady with cigarette young & vigorous age 29 with salesman.” About Jack Kerouac: “He’s making a Dostoyevsky mad-face or Russian basso be-bop om…” “We used to wander dockside under Manhattan’s bridges & thru truck parking lots along East River singing rawbone blues, Leadbelly’s “Black Girl” or Eli, Eli…” And there’s the famous photo with Ferlinghetti and Beats in front of City Lights, and Neal with his “love of that year…” the year is 1955. The photos span the smiling, dark-haired young Allen on the Lower East Side, the years of travel from Tangier to the Sea of Japan to Moscow, and the elder Ginsberg. There are many happy photos of youth, but the saddest one is Jack’s last visit to 704 East Fifth Street.
The exhibit features four display cases of original letters, manuscript pages, and first-edition books.
Show runs from January 15 – April 6, 2013

going places

going places

where are you going with your body
which never really came here in the first place
there is a three foot bubble around me
and only the animals are tame
but some of them are wild as russian tigers
which i avoid assiduously

as a human your alibi is tight as air
a migrating bird got lost in a restaurant
i picked it up with only one hand
and showed it to the door
it rejoined its comrades in a parking lot
you would do the same if you had any

December 2012 Gaines I. Milligan


how unique you

how unique you

this moment in time is molded by entropy
it never will happen it already happened
the other day there was no other day

are you aware of other animals or people
watch them come out of their burrows then hide
a handful of nuts might attract them or pheromones

you proliferate thank you jesus they lick your brain
oboy it feels good taste it yourself often imitated
never duplicated the unique you and unique they

funny little machines come and go throughout our country
often duplicated illegally imitated especially the money ones
wind up the money machine it runs away

your precious singularity is like oil on water
lie under a microscope and feel the danger
the light under the slide heats it the oil spreads

all the others you know are in the experiment
there is no scientist taking notes its that secret
the world turned suddenly the sun came up

December 2012 Gaines I. Milligan
I can write more. I accept gratuities

A Super Supermarket in North Jersey

Stop and Shop

by G.K. Stritch – find her on Amazon

Why, Allen Ginsberg, thoughts of you fill my head as I go out in cold sun winter morn to supermarket. Not any supermarket, but a super supermarket. A supermarket as sterile as hospital.  A supermarket sans smells of fish or cheese, cheese so hermetically packaged no smell dare escape, but no wafting scents of bread or cakes baking, either. A super supermarket with five-and-twenty sad lobsters on bottom of tank. Welcome to the homogenized twenty-first century American super supermark.

A lone deer shoots across busy road, but lands safely on the other side, this time.  A frozen, dead raccoon lies near the curb, by bare suburban trees with limbs cracked from super hurricane.

Pass stretches of suburban sprawl, vast empty parking lots, all roads lead to shopping center.

Electric doors slide open for supermarket cowboy greeted by “California Dreaming” and signs of fresh food, fresh bakery, flavorful meats, delicious savory deli.

Antibacterial wipes for cart.

Peaches round, hard, flavorless, from what laboratory? Oranges ten-dollar bag. Where is the garden in the Garden State?

Families shop not – lone women, youngish and old. Aisles so big, the store appears empty. Where art thou husbands? Metallic-haired wives, neon wives, forage in hard two-for-three-dollars avocados. A babe or two in varied shaped tomatoes, baby toes in tom-a-toes, red and yellow tom-a-toes, tomatoes on the vine in plastic boxes.

Are you my angel, lobster and lettuce, Mr. Guppy?

Pass box groceries, Remi Boncoeur, careful, it’s heavy, good heart.

Watermelons, big watermelons and personal watermelons, please, Senor Ginsberg, must you get personal about watermelons?

No Walt Whitman need apply. No poking about, and, woe to the Waltest one, who dares trespass near public school. You with long flowing, soft, father-time beard. A vagabond wandered into local elementary school and asked kids for change – ensuing uproar! Keep away forgotten self-published eccentric in land of cultural conformity.

Bananas 69 cents a pound…cauliflower 3.99 each…pistachios fifteen-dollar bag.

Pork chops, steaks, ribs, roasts, ducks, ostrich, buffalo, frenched lamb rack half, young turkeys.

Brilliant cans painted by silver soup artist stacked to the ceiling.

Store detectives in metal boxes, automated cashiers, artichoke thistle pinch register boy.

Doors open 24 hours, pharmacy and bank, too, kindly enumerate enumerations: umbra, penumbra, antumbra… float to the tundra.

Frozen delicacies of every type under electric sun that never sets: dine on frogs legs in gay Paris? No, crocodile.

Solitary aisles, lots, lots, lots of parking lots, houses big, empty, lonely…cold.

Lost America, lost and blue.

Courage comes from the heart, brokenhearted Walt, please sit in the boat and pass the sea salt.

Take bus to murky waters of Passaic, homeboy, see what’s on the other side, gentle father Ginsberg, as your children pine.

the book of fury

the book of fury

the sweet lords came who wished to harm us
which seemed unnatural and strange.
we reconstructed page by page
the book of fury they were reading

our scholars went on holiday
familiar linguists we all loved
usurped by comic clown poseurs
who jest of fury and its pain

earth to mother ship mayday mayday
sweet lords are attacking with bullwhips
essentially clock springs
and we are running out of grapes

clocks and more especially watches
are beating the world to smithereens
the bloody shards surface on television
resembling flotsam to be swept away
by the latest fashionable storm

bloody fields tell shortened tales
ambitious voices laced with fear
the naked earth shorn of its bounty
hacked by swords of its own making

Gaines I. Milligan Nov.2012/Jan. 2013

block party

block party

in the zig zag festival of nothing
frantic debauchery is the norm
mounted police on roller skates
chased the zig zag pie through gridlike streets

i gave liberty a useless bus schedule
she ran along the winding road with streaming hair
then fanned by chaotic wings of butterflies
died ecstatic in a ditch

above the steaming fields of glory
her monuments appear and slowly fade
disoriented bees and hornets chase the sun
which only they can see ahead 

Gaines I. Milligan November 2012

fruity with a hint of bacon

i think I will join the other gentlemen in the smoking parlor
they are trying to put out a fire there did i mention
the government my bad i will go eat a brillo pad
no good deed goes unpunished if vinegar doesnt work
use baking soda but we wont stand on formaldehyde
is it ever safe to eat bacon except after the pig
is slaughtered and he lived in a pasture with a buffalo
and he never took any wooden nickels just the metal ones
if you want to be happy never do anything and avoid people
you can find certain shrooms in half shade in cow manure


by G.K. Stritch – find her on Amazon


A criminal — car thief, wife beater, sociopath — told me about the Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey, when I was seventeen. Probation mandated that the thug enlist in a state-funded rehab program there for a minor drug offense. It seemed odd, a waterfall in the center of an old New Jersey drug-riddled city. I was ignorant of Paterson, but knew Newark and tried imagining Newark with a waterfall.

Now, almost forty years later, I live in a suburb seven miles from Paterson. When I first moved here, I asked my husband to take me. He was reluctant to go because he had been mugged at the Falls, and was in no hurry to return. But I pestered him because we lived close by and I was mightily curious. Finally, early one cool Fourth of July morn, we ventured out, parked the car, and walked over to watch the water crash down the cliffs, power and might. It was strange to see this magnificent natural creation in the heart of old Pater’s son. The city was quiet and no one was around, still we didn’t stay too long. Thoughts of Alexander Hamilton and William Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg and the generations of Italian-Americans who once labored in the world’s “silk city” filled my head.Great Falls

Lou Costello, of Abbott and Costello, was from Paterson. There’s a statue of him in town and the Paterson City hall is modeled after the Hôtel de Ville in Lyon, France, the one-time silk city of Europe.

Paterson is the heroin capital of the Northeast. It’s easy to get to from New York City and not far from the interstate that connects to Pennsylvania. Check out the top ten drug cities in the USA and Paterson is king of the hill. Watch the New Jersey news and often Paterson is cited for shootings in the streets. A nephew’s buddy, a young, dishonorably discharged marine, was killed in Paterson — drugs gone deadly.

I know several Paterson residents, and like each of them. They’re friendly and industrious, none are criminals, far from it, they’re gospel-singing Baptist church ladies and a gentleman. One of the church ladies called last week to suggest a job to me at her Star of Hope Ministries, but right now, I burn, baby, burn at the typewriter.

A probation officer who worked in Paterson related many stories about his office co-workers and the folks from the streets. He said criminals have one thing in common: stupidity. His clients were mobsters, prostitutes, druggies, gamblers. The Polish cleaning lady from the office became his at home housekeeper and he called her the charwoman. The probation officer was overly educated and overly qualified for his routine and boring job, and along with his grand vocabulary, he possessed an outrageous intellect and sense of humor. He once grabbed a bullhorn and mimicked Anthony Blanche reciting The Waste Land from atop a city building. Much of his work time was spent writing controversial political commentary on the state-owned computer, which lead to his being sacked, newspaper headlines with charges of his own crimes, and exile to Arkansas. The charwoman was hoping he’d marry her daughter. That didn’t happen, but the officer had spic-and-span digs while he worked for the county of Passaic.

I tagged along at the Fourth Biennial Conference of the William Carlos Williams Society, a few years ago, and got to read a paragraph on WCW and the Falls from my book. It rather broke things up for the visiting scholars from as far away as Belgium. The group toured the Falls together, past trails ladened with broken glass and poison ivy, and motorists wondering what so many middle-aged white people were doing roaming around Paterson on a hot, humid June day. In August, two months later, Paterson
would be under water, devastated by floods from Hurricane Irene, four of the city’s five bridges washed out.

It would be adventurous to go to Paterson to photograph the places where Ginsberg once lived with his parents, but I don’t drive much and have no camera, so I probably won’t do it.

Here in Passaic County, people have Ginsberg stories. Someone whose family owned a downtown business knew lovely Louis Ginsberg, and pater was worried sick about his wild, young son. I liked that woman; she was funny and had scores of stories to tell because she worked for the Paterson mayor for decades. I met her at a job I took at William Paterson University, but I only lasted six hours, so I didn’t get to hear many. After the day of employment, the state sent me to the unemployment office in Paterson. We showed our ID to the guard in the foyer before we entered. My husband took a day off work to drive me.

The Hamilton Club, a majestic neo-Italian Renaissance building downtown, is where the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards take place in handsome rooms that feature solid wood wainscoting, hand-crafted mantels, and a security guard. People come from all over the country to attend.

Paterson, Paterson, starting point where Sal and Dean take off into the vast American landscape, from one end of the groaning continent to the other. How great for Sal to leave the old city behind and see that wondrous stretch of land. In real life, how liberating for Allen to exit Paterson and go east twelve miles to Columbia University, over the George Washington Bridge, crossing the Hudson, and traveling forth, forth, forth, young man to meet Lucien Carr and Kerouac, Burroughs, and Cassady.

After the Deluge


“What are you rebelling against?” the local girl asks one of the “saintly motorcyclists” in the

1953 movie The Wild One, and Marlon Brando drawls, “Whaddaya got?” That’s a biography in

brief of  French poet Arthur Rimbaud, who revolutionized literature and then abandoned it at

age nineteen.


He was born October 20, 1854, in Charleville, France. When he was six, his father, Capt. Frederic Rimbaud, left his wife, two sons, two daughters, and “walked beyond the mountain, like / a thousand angels parting on the road.”  Life with his hard mother was no good: “from her summit / of righteousness, she could not see the boy” (from “Nostalgia” and “The Poet at Seven”, from Imitations, a collection of translations by Robert Lowell). He started writing poetry at eleven, was a remarkable student for eight years, and published a poem at sixteen. He ran away repeatedly – at first he was hauled back, and then he retreated to his mother’s farm. He rejected God, the army, and his mother. He embraced filth, drugs, obscenity. He wrote the famous sea poem, The Drunken Boat, without having seen the sea. In Paris, he lived off friends, starting with the symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, who was ten years older. They became lovers, hanging out in cafés, where Rimbaud shocked or insulted all the writers and artists in Verlaine’s circle with his arrogance. Rimbaud rejected all French literature except, with reservations, Racine and Baudelaire. At a poetry reading, he said “shit” after every line.


He travelled with Verlaine in Belgium and England till their affair ended when Rimbaud walked out on the drunk and sentimental poet, who shot at him three times, hitting him in the wrist. Rimbaud tried to get the charges dropped, but Verlaine was sentenced to prison for two years of hard labor. Rimbaud went home to his mother and, in the barn, wrote A Season in Hell, his incomparable confessional prose poem. He published it, sent copies to Paris, and was disillusioned when he was snubbed there as both man and artist. In Charleville, he burned his manuscripts, letters, and author’s copies of the book.


In a letter to Paul Demeny, he said, “Inventions of the unknown demand new forms,” and he started writing Illuminations, which, preceded by Aloysius Bertrand’s fables in Gaspard de la Nuit, and Charles Baudelaire’s meditations in Paris Spleen, and influenced by Judith Gautier’s loose translations of the Chinese poets Li Po and Tu Fu in Le Livre du Jade, are the first true prose poems.

In every edition of Illuminations published since 1886, “After the Deluge” has been placed first, introducing the central themes of subsequent poems. It began,
As soon as the idea of the Deluge had subsided,

A hare stopped in the clover and swaying flowerbells, and said a prayer to the rainbow, through the spider’s web.

Oh! the precious stones that began to hide,––and the flowers that already looked around.

In the dirty main street, stalls were set up and boats were hauled toward the sea, high tiered as in old prints.

Blood flowed at Blue Beard’s,––through slaughterhouses, in circuses, where the windows were blanched by God’s seal. Blood and milk flowed.


The ‘Deluge’ is the Flood of the book of Genesis, Chapters Six through Ten, sent by God to punish mankind in its wickedness, and to wash the earth. The poem begins as if it were Chapter Eleven, after not only the flood but the idea of it had subsided, after mankind had forgotten its moral lesson. It opens not with men and women offering thanks to God for surviving, but with a hare praying to the rainbow, the sign of God’s covenant with all flesh. Nature is restored, and is pure: animals are reverent, gems under the earth, flowers on it; but humanity is seen as sliding back into wickedness: the streets are dirty, blood flows, Blue Beard kills, there are slaughterhouses, grieving children, overdone cathedrals, luxury hotels. And so a boy, with the weathervanes magically following him, waves his arms in the rain, as if summoning the storm. The poem ends with the poet learning that it’s spring, season of thawing, and, like the angry God, and the boy commands the waters of the high seas, the bursting rain, the pond, to rise and bring the Flood again, to destroy the unbearable world he knows and doesn’t know, in another apocalypse. In the original and in Varèse’s superb translation, we can hear the rising of the liquid ‘r’ – the sound of the waters.


This reading skirts over the actual poetry, which is remarkable for the way it fails to represent. Poets before Rimbaud would imagine a scene and develop it, incrementally and continuously. “After the Deluge” cuts from a meadow to a village on the coast, then without transition to the Alps, the North Pole, the deserts, the orchard, the budding forest. Where are we? The setting is the whole world. But with hares praying, stones hiding, flowers looking, weather vanes understanding, and the moon listening, it’s not our world but a fictional one. The characters are a monster from a folktale, children in a glass house, the boy in the square, the unnamed Madame, shepherds named for the pastoral poems about them, Eucharis, from the poetic novel The Adventures of Telemachus by François Fénelon, the poet, who suddenly appears, and the Witch. But who are they? Other people aren’t shown, but are implied by their place in society: commerce, they set up stalls; travel, haul boats; culture: install pianos; religion, go to Mass; exploration, join caravans; tourism: build hotels. Their actions are as in dreams. The boats are going towards an ocean that looks like a crude etching. The piano is installed in the mountains. The cathedral has a hundred thousand altars. The caravans set out from nowhere, to nowhere. The hotel is built in the Arctic Circle. The settings are dissociated, as are the characters and the actions, and all are unreal.


Reading the fourth paragraph, after a metaphorical look at the sanctity of nature, with the hare praying, we’re in a coast town, with a fictive-looking ocean, when with “Blood flowed at Blue Beard’s,” we’re in a fairy tale by Charles Perrault, from a book which includes “Sleeping Beauty,”      and which can be taken as a metaphor for human vice. Then the blood flows “through slaughterhouses, in circuses” – we’ve left the town and the tale, and entered the world, but when does blood flow in a circus? – “where the windows” – slaughterhouses and circuses with windows into their awful or strange spectacles? – “were blanched by God’s seal” – if the seal is the rainbow, the sign of the covenant after the flood, it’s many-colored; does it pale the windows by being glorious? “Blood and milk flowed” – what milk? Is it flowing where the blood’s flowing? at Bluebeard’s? in the slaughterhouse? inside a child? Each phrase has many possible meanings, but flies away from the others. Tzvetan Todorov, who discovered how to read Rimbaud, defines this discontinuity – “…each word may evoke a representation, but taken together they do not make a whole, and we are thus led to settle for the words.” Rimbaud has reinvented poetry as abstract art.


There’s a parallel in painting, as in the collages of Kurt Schwitters, which use scraps of paper found in the street, and make no attempt to represent reality, only their own internal harmony. In A Season in Hell, Rimbaud proposed a new poetry, inspired not by what was eminent in the past, but by what was scorned: subliterary genres, which occur as collage elements in “After the Deluge.”


A Season in Hell                                              “After the Deluge”


I loved. . .

old inn signs, popular prints;               the sea, high tiered as in old prints

antiquated literature,                                       Caravans set out

church Latin,                                                   Mass and first communions

erotic books. . .                                                the Queen, the Witch who lights her fire

the novels of our grandfathers,                       Eucharis told me it was spring

fairytales. . .                                                    Blood flowed at Blue Beard’s


Critics with mystical leanings, encouraged by Rimbaud’s saying, “I am working to make myself a seer” and the sense of illumination as enlightenment, have tried to read spiritual meanings into these enigmatic poems, but as Marjorie Perloff, in The Poetics of Indeterminacy, said of a similar misreading, “Nothing in the text…either confirms or refutes this interpretation.” Perloff was developing the ideas of Todorov, who, looking for symbolism in these prose poems, said they were “structurally. . . undecidable, rather like those equations with several unknowns that can have an indefinite number of solutions.“ He reasoned that, “Rimbaud has used the absence of organization as the very principle of organization that governs these texts.” It’s as if the poem is rebelling against itself.


Rimbaud appeals to rebels. Kerouac wrote Rimbaud, a long biographical poem which eventually became a City Lights broadside, alluding to “After the Deluge”:


—Illuminations! Stuttgart!

Study of languages!

On foot Rimbaud walks

& looks thru the Alpine

passes into Italy, looking

for clover bells, rabbits. . .


In his first novel, The Town and the City, he accurately portrayed Allen Ginsberg as carrying “under his arm, the works of Rimbaud.” Ginsberg was obsessed with Rimbaud, including him in the first draft of the “who read…” reading-list line of “Howl.” In his Naropa University lecture on “The History of Poetry,” after quoting and reflecting on “After the Deluge,” he said: “I was in love with Rimbaud. I was, in fact, physically, erotically, in love with Rimbaud when I was eighteen. It was my first…‘Voici le temps des Assassins’ just turned me on completely, and I went downtown to Times Square to meet the local criminals with their ‘pretty Crime howling in the mud of the streets.’”

During the rest of his life, Rimbaud went on the road, as a teacher in England, a student in Germany, a soldier in Java, a circus manager in Sweden, a farm worker in Egypt, a quarry foreman in Cyprus, a coffee exporter in Arabia, and a trader, explorer, and gun-runner in Abyssinia, where he published reports of his travels, and lived with a native girl for one year, and a native boy for eight years. On November 10, 1891, stricken with syphilis and cancer; delirious, paralyzed, his right leg amputated, he died in Marseilles, at the age of thirty-seven.

Critics have called Rimbaud the father of symbolism, antisymbolism, surrealism, primitivism, and existentialism. The prose poet René Char was closer to the truth when he said, “Rimbaud is the first poet of a civilization which hasn’t appeared yet.”





Ginsberg, Allen, “The History of Poetry, Part 15”, 1975



Hackett, C. A., Rimbaud: A Critical Introduction, 1981

Houston, John Porter, The Design of Rimbaud’s Poetry, 1963

Kerouac, Jack, Rimbaud. Scattered Poems, 1971

Perloff, Marjorie, The Poetics of Indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage, 1981

Rimbaud, Arthur, Illuminations and Other Prose Poems, translated by Louise Varèse, 1957

Rimbaud, Arthur, A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat, translated by Louise Varèse, 1961

Rimbaud, Arthur,Rimbaud Complete, translated by Wyatt Mason, 2002

Starkie, Enid, Arthur Rimbaud, 1961

Todorov, Tzvetan, Genres in Discourse, 1978

Todorov, Tzvetan, Symbolism and Interpretation, 1978




This essay originally appeared in Beatdom #11. The author is Larry Beckett, who wrote Beatdom Books publication, Beat Poetry.

Herbert Huncke at Cafe Nico

Another Huncke video! And why not. The man is a delight to listen to. Thanks to Laki Vazakas for the link.