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This article by Richard Skelly was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper

on May 6, 1998. All rights reserved.

Ginsberg Requiem

Everyone knows that Allen Ginsberg, who died last April

at age 70, was one of the world’s great poets. What many people do

not know was how many friends Ginsberg’s generous spirit earned him.

Those friends included Yoko Ono and the late John Lennon, jazz drummer

Elvin Jones, rock poets Patti Smith and Bob Dylan, Joe Strummer, and

various members of the U.K.-based new wave rock groups the Clash and

U2, photographer Robert Frank, sculptor George Segal, and dozens of

other famous and not so famous people from around the world.

Last April, a week after his death, 1,000 friends gathered in a hastily

prepared funeral at St. Mark’s Church in lower Manhattan, home of

the non-profit group, the Poetry Project, a group to which Ginsberg

gave thousands of dollars over the years. On Thursday, May 14, many

of Ginsberg’s U.S.-based friends will gather in for a grand and more

fitting memorial service to the late poet, scholar, citizen activist,

singer, songwriter, photographer and archivist.

Performers and participants will include Newark-based poet and jazz

fanatic Amiri Baraka, rock musicians Patti Smith, Natalie Merchant,

The Fugs, composer Philip Glass, and poets Anne Waldman, Sonia Sanchez

and Andy Clausen, among others.

Ginsberg, born in Newark and raised in Paterson, always had strong

Garden State roots. His father, Louis, taught English at Rutgers in

New Brunswick. The college campuses around the state hosted the poet

for hundreds of readings and performances over the years, beginning

in the late 1950s at Rutgers’ Newark campus. Images of New Jersey

are scattered throughout his poems and songs. When he was in the Garden

State, he would often be asked to read his poem "Garden State."

It used to be, farms,

stone houses on green lawns

a wooded hill to play Jungle Camp

asphalt roads thru Lincoln Park…

…then came the mafia, alcohol

highways, garbage dumped in marshes,

real estate, World War II, money flowed thru Nutley,

bulldozers.

Einstein invented atom bombs in Princeton,

television antennae sprung over West Orange-

lobotomies performed in Greystone State Hospital.

He uses the poem to urge people to get back to their roots while

reminding himself of the memory of his late mother, who spent a lot

of time in mental hospitals while he was growing up.

Often considered a dangerous radical, Ginsberg was, at least in his

later years, a polite, scholarly, peaceful and generous person. Ginsberg

touched and inspired thousands of careers with his emotional, spiritual

and financial support of musicians, artists, actors, poets, novelists,

journalists, and photographers.

He closes "Garden State" by writing:

The Data Terminal people stand on Route 40 now. Let’s get

our stuff

together. Let’s go back Sundays & sing old springtime music

on Greystone State

Mental Hospital lawn.

— Richard J. Skelly

A Tribute To Allen Ginsberg, St. John the Divine Cathedral,

1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street, New York City. Information:

Allen Ginsberg Trust, 212-358-9534. Thursday, May 14, 7 p.m.


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