Sunday, February 01, 2009

ginsberg and atlantic city

(Celena Glenn at the Harlem Bodega )

this morning i had to wake up early again. it seems for the past two weeks i've had a hard time adjusting to the earlier schedule, the whole running to turn the alarm off while i clumsily fall back into my bed if only to catch 5 or 10 minutes more of sleep. and well, normally winter sundays are sleep-in late, hot chocolate marshmallow days, but with the enthusiastic invitation of bob holman it was hard to turn down a trip to atlantic city, along with Celena Glenn, discussing ginsberg and listening to bunny rabbit the whole way....haha. It was a nice random moment this morning to have Bob and Celena both walking with me to the corner Bodega around my house for a coffee. On to the trip--So yea, today I gambled. I made some money and had quite the beginners luck. black jack is my new ish. btw, hilarious--we had this older chinese man named Eddy as our dealer. he stuttered when he spoke but had no issues with clowning you in front of the whole table, so it was great, his sense of humor was kind. we didn't gamble long. thats not quite what we came there for...

In the early 1960's, beat poet Allen Ginsberg embarked on a journey to India, one that served as a pilgrimage of sorts. This trip provided Allen with a great length of spiritual awareness and reflection. fifty or so years later I receive a phone call from Bowery Poetry Club owner and founder, Bob Holman, who informs me of his decision to embark upon this same journey as Ginsberg. This is where bob's brilliant sense of humor comes into play--he invites Celena Glenn aka Black Cracker and I to road trip with him for the New Jersey Taj Mahal in ode to sir Ginsberg and the embarrasing American rendition of the Indian Memorial. This trip will be filmed as an independent documentary that will follow Bob through this long journey. Our trip to Atlantic City was special for two main reasons, one--i have never been to Atlantic City and have always wanted to play the slots, and two, well it was honor to hear Holman talk of Ginsberg the way he had. The way his eyes lit up with excitement and the words spun around. You could see him reminiscing in the creases of his face, the way he remembered his own journey to poetry, and more importantly how he told it. It was kind of like one of those moments where everything sits still and its almost like you've traveled back in time, its sort of how I felt this one time where I saw Miguel Algarin of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe walking down ave B in the Lower East Side, while a group of a disgustingly drunk white folk stumbled around him... I imagine time is the only God we know, if there is a God that taketh and giveth then it is time who best resembles him or her.

(Celena Glenn and Bob Holman at the Taj Mahal)

I think I become overly sensitive when I look back into "history" not because it is some romantic obsession but because it causes me to reflect, grounds me if you will-- The way I am suddenly aware of the moment, of the now, how idealistic it all seems when we are children. Bob, Miguel, Abiodun, Amiri, Lucille, Maya, all of us--I mean, there are many poets that have witnessed the fingers of time, how it molds and moves through us. There is something to be said for the time that I was not a witness to and more importantly the time that we live in now, the way neighborhoods change, technology prospers, and people interact.

On our drive back from Atlantic City, Bob Holman asked me a question I never thought to answer, and it made me wonder-- when "Howl" was written and performed it served as a generational testimony, Bob wondered if Celena and I had a reference point, a contemporary work that could be used to best compare with Howl or Ginsberg. Sorry to say Holman, I don't think we've had a Ginsberg in our time, but I don't think this generation calls for a Ginsberg. I dont know, I mean we've had some incredible minds in our generation, I wouldnt feel comfortable comparing any of them to Ginsberg tho. Its just not a comparison that should be made. The question of comparing involves a whole host of things. I did mention that Celena Glenn was one of the inspiring poets I have come across to truly relate and reveal generational issues incredibly but I'm not sure how many other people would give her that type of credit which she completely deserves, and this is also something to consider, there are poets or artists out there that do justice to some of the old timers if not even better, but not all of them get the shine they deserve. The media has definitely skewed things. I think with the influence of Hip Hop we've been able to see some artists that have spoke to the generational issues of our day and age. But poets don't have the same influence as they used to. This is not to say we have no influence, quite the contrary. I simply believe that our collective consciousness is at a different place.

( Celena Glenn and I on our way to the Casinos)

Any way, it was a long conversation and we came to the conclusion that some artists have done well at speaking to the generation at hand; I argued folks like Tupac, Lauryn Hill, Lupe, even Saul Williams etc. And then Celena advocated Soljah Boy-- suggesting that technology is the new language for young people right now and Soljah Boy's use of youtube hits and popularity is something to be noted. I do agree with her, that it is easy for people to sign him off arguing that they don't like his music or he's a sell out blah blah blah but the point Celena was trying to make was that perhaps Soljah Boy is not just some random ignorant boy from the hood, perhaps we can look at it like he is a genius or atleast he accomplished a type of support in numbers that should be acknowledged as a young man that was able to get everyone on the bandwagon and use the media tools at hand to his advantage. My only issue with Celena's point in reference to Bob's question, was that I understood where she was coming from but I didn't think Soljah Boy would have the same type of generational influence as Ginsberg, not to say that he doesn't have influence, Soljah Boy has influence we can all argue what type of influence but he does have influence. However, I am not so sure how reflective he is of the current generation and the wide range of issues we are facing, although his success story is a great American story, from rags to riches. However, what responsibility does Souljah boy have to his generation and the ways that he engages with them. I already think its hilarious that Ginsberg and Soljah Boy are coming up in the same conversation, I wonder if Soljah Boy even knows who Ginsberg is, if he has an interest in poetry--shit, for all we know Soljah Boy could be Walt Whitman's biggest fan or better yet a Jack Kerouac fan. haha. i mean i wouldnt put any of this pass him, but I get a strange feeling that hes in the list of those young people that believe poetry is some "pussy shit" some "roses are red and violets are blue" type mess. That what we do with words, as poets, is cool but not his steelo. and well, in that case we're speaking different languages.

(Bob Holman at the Atlantic City Buffet )

any way, back to the trip--it was fun. we went crazy at the huge buffet, I found it particularly hilarious to watch Bob Holman break through his crab legs like a survivor episode. It was dope to chill with Celena Glenn too aka Black Cracker. She's a poet that I admire, one of the first major influences in my writing. Shes now a part of this music band called Bunny Rabbit producin illness and making ends meet like the rest of us. You should check some of their music for those of you that havent heard of em. here's a link to celena's myspace. As for those of you that have never been to Atlantic City you should go sometime. I'm sure its way funner in the summer. As for the Taj Mahal in Jersey...its not all its cracked up to be and Donald Trump is too full of himself, his name is all over EVERYTHING, ugh, Alright well, I'm off to get ready for tomorrow. good night to you all. and a big thank you to Bob Holman and Ram. Good times.



  1. Very insightful story miss monet. I had the privilege to see the artist known as Black Cracker at the last blah, blah poetry show. Ginsberg is also one of those influential poets of his time... gotta learn more about him. Good post.

  2. Good post.

    So, there's this theory Gene Kelly suggested that a dance can reach people across generational points, that a dance that speaks to people, no matter the reason, is a powerful thing. And it is to be respected, although not agree'd with maybe.

    That's why I kinda respect Soljah Boi. I mean, Gene Kelly is basically saying dude hit a vein, for whatever reason, he drew something out of people. And there is a connection between Kelly and Boi. No matter that neither know of each other.

    And there's a connection between Ginsberg and Boi, however weak it may be. Since Hip Hop is just an offshoot of poetry, Boi is naturally apart of the tradition. They work in the same industry, but at waaaaaaay different companies.

    I dunno Aja, I kinda hope Hip Hop begins to learn that the reason its so popular, is because its much like the oral tradition. Not some "pussy shit". 'Cuz even Nas had to call himself a 'street poet' to make himself less a sissy and more legit.

    Like what?