Saturday, May 2, 2009

Memento Mori

I'm in a gloomy mood today. I might be coming down with something or it might be that the weather is dismal. Either way, I'm tired and things refuse to come into focus. I've been trying to put together a little piece on Madame Pamita and her place in the context of California: the land where genuine mysticism, outright hucksterism and show biz meet and greet. All this inspired by a book and lecture by Erik Davis. I guess it will happen when it happens.

When I was about sixteen years old. I attended a reading by Allan Ginsberg. It wasn't just any reading either. He read to a rather small group of young people at the Paterson, New Jersey public library. Ginsberg was in town, visiting his father, Louis, when some local hippies managed to talk him into giving a reading for whoever they could scrounge up. Word went out on the radio and thirty or so kids showed up.

That reading changed my life but it changed it very slowly. I wasn't struck by lightning and thrown from my chariot. Somehow, Ginsberg, his writing, his Buddhism and the example of his life, kept coming back. Considered as an American literary figure he seems larger than life, and a bit ridiculous. Trailer dwelling bus drivers do not, as a rule, look to Allan Ginsberg for inspiration. The thing is, I sat at his feet. I bumped into him in the hallway. I know perfectly well that he was a human as me.

One of the great mistakes of my young life was falling for the academic shuck. The tragedy was compounded by the fact that I "have a learning disability". Which is a way of saying that I cannot learn anything by sitting in a room being mumbled at by someone who has made it his business to drain the life out of things. I am unable to attain the heights of academic rigor and for years I was deeply ashamed.

I know that there are brilliant minds out there, people who can jump through the hoops of academe and then use the institutions of higher learning to bring their insights to a public that thirsts for knowledge. The sad truth is that possibly as many as two out of eleven academics are cynical hacks. Professor, perhaps one of them is your colleague?

Coming from the outside, it now appears to me that academic criticism sets out to prove that:

1) Your favorite artist is not as good as you think he/she is

2) Their art does not mean what you think it means

3) It's all very derivative and not at all original

On top of that, there's the whole business of The Canon and what belongs in The Canon. The over all intent is to tell the lover of art that he/she is a fool, that life is a dreary business and the facts are the facts.

I felt foolish, but immensely relieved when I figured it out. Today, I am feeling old and tired. I know this house is not meant to stand forever. I also know that James Brown really did give more than any man could, that he really needed to be wrapped in a succession of capes and led from the stage, drained. I know that Jerry Lee Lewis really did arrive on the midnight train from Mars. I know that William Blake conversed with angels and poets of all ages. I know that he was tutored in engraving by the ghost of his brother. I know that Bill Wilson and Lodowick Muggleton were both touched by the hand of God and permitted to reveal great truths by His divine mercy. I know that Allan Ginsberg was a prophet whose mission was to reveal that divine mercy and that I was blessed to sit at his feet.

From time to time, I have to pause and explain the name of this blog. It is an allusion to Ed Sanders' mimeographed journal, "Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts". Ed really is the hardest working man in poe-business and when he is led from life's stage he will be wrapped in glory.

Ed Sanders- Song For Allan(buy)

Paterson as seen from The Great Falls. Notice the angels in the treetops.

1 comment:

ib said...

Ah, yes. Hard to disagree with this observation.

Much of the time, I remain sad that Bukowski is no longer with us. Inevitable that it was that he would go sometime, there is too much of a void in his passing. In terms of hanging it all on the line to dry out or catch the gusts of disapproval, there was nobody quite like him. I miss the honesty and disregard for stepping on toes.

I hope you are feeling slightly better, brother.

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