IN FATHER-SON READING
Poet Allen Ginsberg: 'Keep on breathing'
By Anthony Buccino
Allen Ginsberg then read from "The Fall of America"
some poems about Bayonne upon entering New York City and the 'Gorny Gorny Mortuary.'
NEWARK, N.J. -- After teaching poetry and English at Rutgers University for 25 years, Louis Ginsberg returned to give a rare poetry reading with his son, Allen Ginsberg. Louis Ginsberg is the "king of pun-liners," as can be seen in his feature, "O-Pun Mind."
From the start, Ginsberg senior explained the difference between himself and his son. Allen's verse is "free style" while Louis' is "regular meter."
Since "poetry is breath," Allen Ginsberg preceded his reading with the simple mantra, "ah." Climbing the musical scale in a slow, relaxing tone, the mantra calms the breath; it is the "purification of speech, space and time."
Poetry is eternal. In the May issue of "Penthouse" magazine there is an article that mentions Allen Ginsberg's "CIA Dope Calypso." He enchanted his standing room only audience by reading it.
Allen Ginsberg then read from "The Fall of America" some poems about Bayonne upon entering New York City and the 'Gorny Gorny Mortuary.' He read a poem about traveling across the "Great Midwest" while hearing the "Radio Bible Hour" from Lincoln, Nebraska.
Born in Newark, Allen Ginsberg's "home" seems to be an occasional launch pad for his poems. He read a poem from 1968 about Newark sitting in "gray gas." There was even a poem about driving to Newark Airport.
The younger Ginsberg then read poems he'd written since last summer. The blockbuster was swift jackal of a poem provoked by two "for sale" signs on the same sign post Allen encountered on the road to San Francisco. Everything is for sale, "Western Civilization, presidents, generals, atom bombs, nirvana ... all to make money." Even the sobering truth, "forest for sale to the cities" must itself be for sale to those who do not wish to know it.
In "Mugging" Allen explains how he lost his last 70 dollars to muggers in New York City but managed to save his $25,000 worth of poetry by chanting the mantra each time they demanded money.
With "Now a Satellite" Louis Ginsberg evokes the spirit, "We need more mistletoe and less missiles." He hoped that if no one heeds this message, we'll at least have the "right to be cremated equal."
Louis' definition of poetry is that it is the "most beautiful way of remembering what it would impoverish us to forget."
In Louis' "I Met a Caterpillar" came that often asked question, "How do you walk with so many legs?" There was also the soul of Louis' wit in the caterpillar's reply, another question, "How do you walk with only two?"
Louis is a "City Man" unlike Allen who has traveled cross country more times than the wind. Louis' street-wise heart was the core of "Midnight Streets," "City Twilight," and "Expansion of an Exclamation." The last of which states, "I was the world I traveled through."
A full pardon was extended in "Thanks For a Loan" to the "ephemeral flesh and bone." Looking for the "Answer of Death" the reply is only "one answer explaining a riddle with a stone."
Louis' puns step aside when his poems begin their flow. There is much to be learned from him. Maybe it can be summed up in one girl's words, "I'd like to adopt him as my grandfather."
Allen's words to live by in every confrontation were simply "keep on breathing." How inspiring a man.
This first appeared on April 24, 1975 in the Belleville Times News, Belleville, N.J.
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New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards. The Pushcart Prize-nominated writer has been called ' “New Jersey’s ‘Garrison Keillor” or something to that effect.’
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