Sunday, January 21, 2007

DON'T BIOGRAPHY DOWN MY BACK AND TELL ME IT'S RAINING

I spent some of yesterday in email correspondence with the legendary poet Charles Plymell, who has agreed to write some things for my site WHOLLY COMMUNION (http://whollycommunion.blogspot.com ). We had one piece already and we were agreeing on a final shape for it for publication.
Well, we did it finally--Plymell has to be the most unpretentious major poet I've ever dealt with--and his piece is now there to view. Another negative commentary on the Allen Ginsberg Estate.

People have commented on my bravery in taking Boss Morgan and his pals to task over their withholding of some important details from I CELEBRATE MYSELF (or is it I SING MYSELF?), and their alleged involvement in the blacklisting of 'difficult' authors like Gerald Nicosia, Jonah Raskin and yours truly. But trust me, I'm not brave. If the Ginsberg Estate comes after me with a lawsuit I will probably run like a frightened rabbit.

So, what's this about?

Naivety really. And a certain stubbornness. The first time I was warned that publishing Nicosia in my little magazine Blue Frederick would get me on a list of authors the Kerouac Estate would not deal with (I heard it from another editor, not the Estate), I was initially sceptical, and then extremely bloody irritated; so I published him, determined I wasn't going to be pushed around.

My attitude to the Ginsberg Estate is the same. I don't really care that Morgan has written an account of Allen's life which is--according to people who know more than I do--highly selective in its detail. Every poet has had to suffer the odd bad or misleading book about them (every well-known poet, anyway.) And it's really up to Morgan what he wants to include, or leave out. But I do care when there appears to be some sort of campaign to suppress more accurate accounts; and the rumours of a blacklist have persisted stubbornly ever since Nicosia went into bat for Jan Kerouac, which is getting to be a long time ago.

Somebody has to be allowed to tell the whole story; anything else dishonours the poet and insults the reader. And that's all any of this is about really. It may appear to be more personal than that, but I'm sure Bill Morgan is a lovely man. Any time he wants to turn up at my door I'll take him out for a drink.

3 comments:

tom said...

i hadn't seen any reviews of the book - but from what you've said -it seems pretty sad to write a biography about someone and not deal witht the very art that they are associated with, that made them famous. and what good is an 'edited' biography anyway. blacklisting and the beats - there is something very bizarre about that concept fight the good fight Bruce

Bruce Hodder said...

Even most reviews by critics friendly to Morgan and the Estate have expressed ambivalence about the portrait it paints of Allen. But those whose lives intersected with Allen's (and Morgan's), are nearly apopleptic about its inaccuracies.

Yeah, the blacklist. Nobody can prove it because nothing has been said PUBLICALLY. Significant figures in the Beat world have admitted that they couldn't deal with Nicosia or Raskin because it would affect business with the Kerouac and Ginsberg Estates, but these admissions were off-the-cuff, verbal--they weren't written down anywhere. And what we don't know is whether they were working on the perception of a threat to business that occurred as a result of the persistent rumours about a blacklist, or whether they knew their business would be affected because the Estates told them so.

Sulis said...

Well said.