‘Holy Soul Jelly Roll’ (Re)launches at the Rubin Museum
Early last Friday evening, friends and fans of Allen Ginsberg gathered at the Rubin Museum of Art to celebrate the digital re-release of Ginsberg’s four-disc 1994 album Holy Soul Jelly Soul, co-sponsored by the Rubin, The Allen Ginsberg Estate, and Origin Magazine. Following a cocktail hour downstairs at the K2 Lounge, the crowd re-assembled on the sixth floor at the top of the museum’s breathtaking spiral staircase to hear poets deliver readings of Ginsberg’s extraordinary work, as well as their own poems.
After a welcome from Peter Hale and Nina Kossoff of Ginsberg Recordings, poet and Ginsberg-pal Bob Rosenthal fondly recalled getting into bed with Allen to transcribe the Jelly Roll liner notes as he dictated them; Rosenthal then read the poem “After Lalon,” inspired by Baul poet Lalon Shaw, as well as a poem of his own–about assholes, which earned riotous laughter from the audience. Next, Ginsberg’s friend and one-time poetry student at Naropa University Eliot Katz read an excerpted version of “Death to Van Gogh’s Ear,” as it appears in The OWS Poetry Anthology, followed by his “Elegy for Allen,” which fondly memorializes his first meeting with the poet in New Jersey years ago. Then poet Sharon Mesmer shared the famous “Sunflower Sutra”–her introduction to Ginsberg, she told the audience, when her high school librarian (Sister Patrice Marie!) suggested she check out the poem–followed by her own Flarf piece “I Want to Expose Myself for Love of the People.” Alex Dimitrov took to the podium next, confessing that he’d never met Ginsberg but had “always wanted to sleep with him,” before reading Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California” and “Tears,” as well as “Leaving Town With Allen Ginsberg” and “One American Summer,” both from his recent chapbook American Boys, which is dedicated to Ginsberg.
To close the evening, esteemed poet Anne Waldman, who Ginsberg once referred to as his “spiritual wife,” gave a rousing reading of “Wales Visitation,” a poem he began in the fifth hour of an LSD trip and which concerns itself with global warming–a timely choice, as last week was Climate Week NYC. She was then joined by poet and musician Steven Taylor, who accompanied her on one of Ginsberg’s old harmoniums as the two sang Ginsberg’s arrangement of William Blake’s poem “Garden of Love.” Taylor then treated the crowd to two more of the Blake poems Ginsberg set to music, giving the rapt audience a teaser taste of the songs on Holy Soul Jelly Roll.