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This article by Richard Skelly was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper
on May 6, 1998. All rights reserved.
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,
Einstein invented atom bombs in Princeton,
television antennae sprung over West Orange-
lobotomies performed in Greystone State Hospital.
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
together. Let’s go back Sundays & sing old springtime music
on Greystone State
Mental Hospital lawn.
— Richard J. Skelly
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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