Mellon Tytell, Allen Ginsberg’s farm, 1973
(L to R) Carl Solomon, surrealist, essayist, and editor who published William Burroughs’ Junky; Allen Ginsberg; Peter Orlovsky, poet and Ginsberg’s companion; John Tytell, historian of the Beat Generation and author of Naked Angels.
BACKGROUND TO HOWL: MEMOIRS OF THE WAUGH YEARS It was Franklin Roosevelt who declared that he hated Waugh. At the time he also stated that his wife Eleanor hated Waugh. I, on the contrary, loved Waugh. I remember reading three of his books consecutively immediately before concocting a unique suicide scheme: to be suicided by society a la Van Gogh. I picked up a peanut butter sandwich without paying for it in the Brooklyn College cafeteria, hoping to be fired upon and executed summarily by the huge cop on duty. At this time I was also influenced by the famous gratuitos crime in Andre Gide’s Les Caves Du Vatican. What happened was no execution but an introduction to the head nurse at Manhattan Psychiatric Institute where, history moving in strange ways, I met for the first time my fellow beatnik to be, Allen Ginsberg. I gave Allen an apocryphal history of my adventures and pseudo-intellectual deeds of daring. He meticulously took notes of everything I said (I thought at the time that he suffered from “the writer’s disease,” imagined that he was a great writer). Later, when I decided to give up the flesh and become a professional lunatic-saint, he published all of this data, compounded partly of truth, but for the most part raving self-justification, cryto-bohemian boasting a la Rimbaud, effeminate falsehood as truth and raving as common sense for future generations to ponder over and be misled. Lee Harvey Oswald had his Mark Lane–I had none. And needed none, such a man of action have I proven myself when confronted with the lies and false analyzing of my own generation–that glamorized assortment of nincompoops. I have wormed by way out of an infinite variety of asylums and proven that I am a good, honorable, Manitou-fearing, solid citizen–a sensitive humanist and literateur. This is spite of the general pederasty to which I was exposed as a tender child. In spite of the influence of weazened academics who first led me astray by exposing me to seducers of youth like Gide, etc.
Carl Solomon, More Mishaps, San Francisco, CA: Beach Books, Texts & Documents, 1968, pp. 51-52.
LIFE IS Life is Gary Cooper fighting the Arabs in his Foreign Legion uniform.
Life is reading Kierkegaard in 1948 in the Forty Second Street Library.
Life is mother and aunts and uncles and cousins and memory of father.
Life is enumerating the suicides and psychoses of this one and that one.
Life is anger, anger at those real or imagined who have become rich and successful and gone away and left you grovelling in despair.
Life is parsing of verbs and brushing of teeth.
Life is playing Monopoly and Scrabble and Tennis and Pingpong and moving on to a new destination.
Above all, life is deceptive – when those forgotten return, when you meet old loves and new hates and they mingle inextricably interwoven into a fabric of which one can never perceive the whole overriding master design.
Carl Solomon, More Mishaps, p. 21
POETRY Most poetry today is either boring, incomprehensible or both. I prefer poetry which is attempting to make some sort of philosophical point. It must be backed up by a theory, or illustrate a theory to really interest me. If it lacks a hard core of ideas, then it is merely words. The reason, I feel why poetry is made to submit to psychiatry today (and philosophy as well) is that this science offers theories and ideas while poetry (since surrealism) does not. Poets turn more and more to theories (way in or way out) of mental health since psychiatry now seems the queen of intellectual disciplines. Ours has really become a world without poetry and that is why our cities now look like open-air asylums. The cops (attendants) herd the kooks around the city blocks like vast wards. There is absolutely no difference anymore between living outside a hospital and in one. I do not know what to write to restore your equilibrium other than to suggest that you in engage in physical labor (if you haven’t already).
Carl Solomon, More Mishaps, p. 9
See more of photographer Mellon Tytell’s work here.