Ginsberg and Lowell

Allen Ginsberg by Larry Keenan. Robert Lowell by Elsa Dorfman. Both copyright by their respective creators

the alignment of planets    parents
and the cost of going
ensured that I missed the 
Albert Hall in 1965

it was just an early disappointment
and not outstanding
because over years it joined 
many other disappointments 
too disappointing to recall 
too painful to list

but the night Ginsberg and Lowell  read poetry 
at Saint Marks church in 1977
sat on stage or hunched over a 
generically set  microphone 
in some ways is no longer one of them

although I was not there    I have now seen it
experienced it 35 years later   from a front row seat
heard words synchronised with picture
saw each expression  detected each nuance
read body language  like Lowell’s hand casting 
away an idea at the audience

Lowell dishevelled     hawk like
his brilliance pouncing on words 
thrusting them out 
daring  the listener to seize upon them
before he snatches them away 
to be replaced with something else
that shows how insignificant the previous 
thought was

this is Lowell    his Southern drawl 
his Boston Brahmin vowels
clipped in all the right places

that night Ginsberg  was an anaesthetist 
you strain to hear his quiet delivery  
before his images catapult you to
a Californian supermarket
or a grey dawn

and now ready at a click 
Peter Whitehead’s documentary
the Poetry Incarnation in 65
Ginsberg   Burroughs  Ferlinghetti
the Beat Generation kick starts the engines
and the genius reading of Mitchell
who in one poem spoke out for a generation
seen in small snatches in other peoples
documentaries over years
Wholly Communion complete unabridged 
my hand poised over the play button
hoping that it will not disappoint 
but really knowing that it cannot

and feeling a lot like Lowell’s cat
who lived  on scraps found round the house


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