I only met Ted Joans once, at the 1994 NYU Beat Conference. According to my somewhat altered consciousness and memory of the time, Ted and Jack Micheline stole the show. At the time, Ted was living, at least part-time, in Timbuktu (did I spell it right?). He seemed to delight in the reactions of young white kids like myself who had never met anyone from Timbuktu and very few people who had known Jack Kerouac. Timbuktu seemed even more exotic than Kerouac.
Ted’s poetry readings that weekend were pure joy. His humor and genuine nostalgia, in the best sense of the word, for the lost New York of the 1950s and 60’s really shined. I remember he was also a huge flirt at the conference — and all the women loved him.
Ted may not have been among the golden circle of Beat Generation poets. Others had better press agents. In my humble opinion Ted was underestimated. He projected, better than anyone, a pure sense of the fun enjoyed by the beats of that long gone era. This was not a man who seemed to be haunted by Moloch.
It’s too bad more people never met Ted or heard him read. Ted especially remembered getting paid $20 an hour (a huge sum at the time) at a “rented beatnik” when the swells of New York City would pay for the likes of him to attend their oh so chic parties. What a goof! Ted Joans was the real thing!
IN TED JOANS’ BIOGRAPHY, HE TELLS A STORY ABOUT WHEN HE FIRST READ FOR LANGSTON HUGHES, WHEN HE SAW LANGSTON IN THE AUDIENCE, HIS VOICE WENT UP AN OCTAVE CAUSE HE WAS SOOO NERVOUS TO READ IN FRONT OF THE POETRY MASTER. I HAD JUST READ THAT LITTLE STORY BEFORE I WAS TO READ WITH HIM AT A BOB KAUFMAN TRIBUTE AT NEW COLLEGE IN THE LATE 80’S. SURE ENUF, HISTORY REPEATED ITSELF……..THIS TIME, I WAS THE ONE WHO’S VOICE WENT UP INTO THE VIENNA BOYS CHOIR RANGE AND STAYED THEIR THE ENTIRE READING, CAUSE I WAS SO ENTHRALLED THAT I WAS BEING HEARD BY THE TED JOANS! AND THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING I COULD TRY THAT WOULD BRING THE VOICE BACK TO NORMAL DURING THE HALF HOUR READING. HERE I WAS READING IN FRONT OF THE MAN WHO USED TO LIVE WITH BIRD, AND THE ONE WHO CAME UP WITH THE PHRASE BIRD LIVES………TEDUCATION LIVES NOW!
WHERE IS HEAVEN?
THE RETURN TO
Long live Ted Joans, sweet Black giant ! Let three continents awake in his dreams ! Let his surrealist poems run over the oceans as deeply as the Gulf Stream ! Let his words rise in the vulcanoes of the future !
A reminiscence of Ted appears in a recent entry for my online web-log:
also see: Ted Joans Lives!
Saddened by the news about Ted Joans. We were introduced a few years ago by Charles Borkhuis in Paris. Ted immediately arranged for a wonderful reading for the three of us in the magnificent old Parisian villa and garden of a friend of his. An unforgettable evening that included a surprise performance by Phoebe Legere whose sultry accordion playing and singing has haunted me ever since. I learned that Ted loved to travel and frequently did book tours and readings including many in Africa. Ted liked to tell stories of his beat days, he was easy going and lots of fun to be around. He called one his favorite publishers “Nude Erections” (*New Directions*) I saw Ted once more a couple of years ago. We spent the day together going to some bookstores. I had told him about some signed books by him I had purchased from the Skyline bookstore downtown around 17th and 5th, and the owner, of course, knows Ted.Then Ted wanted ice cream and we went somewhere and they happened to serve blue ice cream.. Ted immediately named the day our “blue ice cream day.” I’ve never forgotten that moment, and I realized that Ted knew something important about memory and imagery that I had planned to discuss next time I see him. Toni remembers another occasion when she and I went out with Ted and his companion, the warm and very lovely Laura Corsiglia to one of Ted’s favorite Village coffee houses, the “Figaro.” Ted gave us some drawings in exchange for some books. Toni just located a terrific photo of Ted, Laura Corsiglia, Charles Borkhuis, Toni and myself in an outdoor cafe in Paris.
I knew Ted Joans a little in England late summer and fall of 1967 where I read with him and others at the Edinburgh Festival and sometimes in London. I was young and probably intimidated not to get to know him as person. But he had a great playful energy that helped animate whatever scene he was around (and that time a great love of Hell as presented by Hieronymus B.) He had a lifetime dedication to the Bohemian margins and seemed to manage to put up a tent
anywhere and practically survive (NY, Europe, Mali). Tho I admit it’s been ages since I have revisited the books – the covers of which still have an innocently wonderful way of provoking a serio-comic kind of shameless attention. I don’t know if we are left with the history of a public character & performer and/or someone whose poetry will also survive its performed moment as text.
The Bancroft Library at Berkeley acquired Ted Joans’ archives a year or so ago.
Ted Joans, le soufle d’une mélopée sur la partition de la libertée. Une seule clef à la portée : celle des champs qui ouvre tous les possibles et notamment les territoires inconnus que chacun porte en soi.
Bastiaan David van der Velden:
As a young artist and writer I came to Paris in the late 1980s. The first person I met was an English surrealist living in Paris, who tried to make me a coffee at 6:45 in the morning, everything went wrong, I should have asked for a tea.
The second person was Ted Joans, we met at a gallery vernissage later that day, and he directly gave me the phone number of a certain Jim Haynes, although I’m not sure it was for me or my girlfriend. We went to Jim’s place, where we fell into a big dinner party. At length we discussed vegetarianism, surrealism, totem animals, how to stay as long as possible in Paris (not necessarily in France), Dutch poets and the rest of the world. The next Monday we had to come to Shakespeare and Co. (where of course everybody could stay for a certain time, when they read a book a day). It was I great time, end in the years after this first meeting, our roads crossed once in a while. In Paris, in Dutch books, for example when the Dutch poet Jules Deelder used Ted’s motto ‘Jazz is my religion’ on the title page of one of his books. One last time I came across his name. I bought a book on Internet by Ted, but it never arrived…Ted, poet, we don’t walk away from you since you’re only telling the truth.