I'm still all atingle from Friday night's HOWL event. We read en masse, the whole thing including the "footnote to howl;" david bernstein from the Theatre Dept (and my chair Paula Rabinowitz's husband) conducted, along with three Arts Quarter pixies, Eliot Durko Lynch the blue-haired impresario, Crystal with or without beret, and a cute girl whose name i forget in countercultural gamine fashion. There were about 150-200 folks in attendance, including my old Naropa connection Gregg Rutter and his wife Beth and their friends Robert Ferguson and wife (with a K- or C-name); about 12 of our fabulous graduate students, many of whom read self-translated passages of HOWL in their own languages. That was the highlight for me. We had a lot of tech difficulties that meant that some of the special effects we had planned we were unable to execute until later in the evening when they had become somewhat irrelevant. Still, we opened with the sound of howling wolves, to put the Minnesota imprimatur on the evening. A jazz trio consisting of Paula and David's son's best friend, Javier Santiago and his father Mack (hence a "generational" event; the evening was very much about generations) and a bass player who accompanied the mass reading, which was gloriously chaotic. People were sitting at different round tables around the Campus Club (spectacular view of downtown's skylight reminiscent of the cover of the HOWL album where a young and wild-eyed Allen Ginsberg is gesticulating in front of an infernal Moloch city-scape), each table had a few xeroxed copies of HOWL on it. As the Theatre Dept Arts Quarter folks and I wandered through the room shouting the gospel of Ginsberg, it was so cool to see all these people, many of whom i knew from my daily institutional life, hunched over the texts in intense concentration, intoning with their fellow-readers. People I'd known, though not well, for eighteen years. Finally I was reclaiming a space which had for so many years been abusive. One colleague referred to it as a "ritual of cleansing" so the department can achieve a different vision. It was an exorcism in a way, and when we were done we were all glowing from the oxygenation of reading aloud such a longline poem and having to breathe! Reading in different languages were:
Albanian, Julia Musha boy was that amazing to hear
Amharic, Solomon Deressa who intoned Kaddus Kaddus Kaddus...
Bulgarian, Stoyan Tchaprazov straight from the City of Wisdom
Chinese, Wang Ping who brought kids and friend
Danish, Ole Gram-wild to hear HOWL in my mothertongue!!!
French, Robert St Clair who read a fabulously gutteral Moloch passage
German, Tom Pepper who read from America and recited Jimmy Schuyler
Haitian Patwa, Valerie Deus from Brooklyn
Hebrew, Renana Schneller it sounded so beautiful
Italian, Siobhan Craig who took on the polysyllabic academy
Japanese, Christine Marran (with intensely cute baby in stroller)
Latin, Steve Jackson ? he appeared out of the blue, it was a true gift from heaven
Oromo, Solomon Deressa again
Russian, Masha Zavialova the professional translator doing Moloch
Spanish, Rosangelica who also appeared spontaneously and translated on *-of-moment
Yiddish, Leslie Morris and Margie Newman, she-wolves of the shtetl
and Alexander Truskinovsky, whom i'd known since he was an undergraduate physiology major and now is a doctor at the Med School, recited a gorgeous Mayakovsky poem in Russian and followed it with his own translation --riveting! Ryan Cox, Becky Weaver and Gregg Murray, students in the English Dept, read their own work, as did u-grad Jacob Duelman later on. Gregg Rutter read too, a poem he'd written the day before about having hoped a poem like HOWL could really save or change the world.
There was a sheetcake saying "HOLY HOLY HOLY" i had three pieces with lots of frosting, during the last few minutes of wind-down. The wonderful Terri Sutton, the dept's events manager, calmly did everything from order the food to run the video camera. It is hard to capture in blogtalk the intensity and excitement of the event; it was thrilling. Many folks said: "We should do this more often." A few others used the term "thrilling" also. Most of my ugrad class was there, i was proud of them for showing up, though it was assigned. And folks i didn't recognize at all. Two former colleagues, now retired, were there; one is a friend, the other is someone who tried to get me fired. It was sort of a kick to see him perseverating earnestly over the text and to think that the context was capacious and forgiving enough to hold both of us in the space. It was v meaningful and fun for those of us who have labored under the yoke of an oppressively prejudicial and conformist department, we were creating new possibilities, just as the poem itself created new possibilities when it was first intoned at the Six Gallery in San Francisco 1955 and then published to scandal and notoriety in 1956.
I spent the weekend taking it easy, and today made pumpkin soup for Thursday's feast. I still have lots of pumpkins and squash left! And I've been shopping like a crazy person for all kinds of "luxury" goods, well they're not but i never buy them: fruit spreads, which i use in bread puddings, crystalized ginger (they have a new, cheap kind at the co-op), nuts and dried fruit, eggs for pies and so on. Made a butternut squash pie yesterday, with one egg and two egg whites –it rose really high and looked beautiful, then sank and still looks all creamy yellow and brownish on one side where it got more heat, like a golden marshmallow held just the right proximity to the flame.