Word made flesh 1965 / Flesh made word 2015

Tag: allen ginsberg

ReIncarnation Biographies #22: Peter Whitehead

image001The twenty second person in our series of introductions to performers taking part in International Poetry ReIncarnation at the Roundhouse in Camden on 30th May 2015 is the novelist and filmmaker Peter Whitehead.

Peter Whitehead was born to a working-class family in Liverpool, gaining a private-school scholarship and a degree from Cambridge university. He later studied at the Slade, moving quickly into film-making. In 1965 he was at Ginsberg’s Better Books reading, where the Royal Albert Hall reading was planned, and, quickly borrowing a camera, he nominated himself official cameraman for the event. The resulting film, Wholly Communion, gives a fascinating glimpse of this remarkable meeting of British, European and American beat poets, and documents the very beginnings of the British counterculture movement.

1967’s Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London, named for a line in Ginsberg’s ‘Who Be Kind To’, encapsulates the essence of a swinging London populated by now-legendary film stars, models, artists and and musicians. Whitehead also documented the popular music scene, making some of the first televised pop promos for artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Nico, The Dubliners and The Rolling Stones, documenting the young Stones’ 1965 Irish tour in Charlie is my Darling.

In the early 1970s, Whitehead abandoned film-making, and, travelling north Africa and the Middle East, developed an interest in falconry. In 1981 he began working for the Royal family of Saudi Arabia, building and running a private breeding centre. With the start of the first Gulf War in 1989, Whitehead left the Middle East and returned to the UK, where he began a third career as a writer. Novels include Nora and… (1990), The Risen (1994), and Pulp Election, published in 1996 under the pseudonym Carmen St Keeldare. His 1999 novel Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London is, in part, a fictionalised account of his experience as a film-maker in the 1960s.

Peter will be speaking about the impact of the first International Poetry Incarnation after the afternoon screening of his film Wholly Communion. To book tickets, click here.

ReIncarnation Biographies #21: Michael Horovitz

Michael Horovitz

Michael Horovitz

The twenty first person in our series of introductions to performers taking part in International Poetry ReIncarnation at the Roundhouse in Camden on 30th May 2015 is the poet, activist, visual artist and Poetry Olympics torchbearer Michael Horovitz.

Michael Horovitz founded New Departures publications & Live New Departures bandwagons in 1959 when still an Oxford undergrad. ND#1 published the first excerpts from Burroughs’s then still uncompleted Naked Lunch to appear in Europe. From hanging out with Beckett, Stevie Smith, the Beats et al in the ’50s to his last three years’ collaborations on song-poems & music with Vanessa Vie, he has been practising & preaching poetry worldwide all these years.

Dedicated shit-stirrer & Poetry Olympics torchbearer, Horovitz has published over forty books, the most recent of which, A New Waste Land, was welcomed in The Independent by D.J. Taylor as “A deeply felt clarion-call from the radical underground”, & “A true scrapbook and songbook of the grave new world” by Tom Stoppard. He recently recorded with Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon and Paul Weller for Gearbox Records, & is about to bring out recordings of his William Blake Klezmatrix band & a double disc DVD of the joyous POEM 2012 marathon in the QEH which featured many of tonight’s performers at the top of their games.

Allen Ginsberg pronounced him a “Popular, experienced, experimental, New Jerusalem, Jazz Generation, Sensitive Bard”, whilst Vogue dubbed him “The worst-dressed poet in Britain”.

Michael will be speaking about the impact of the first International Poetry Incarnation after the afternoon screening of Wholly Communion. To book tickets, click here.

Get your tickets for the evening’s star-laden performance here: The International Poetry ReIncarnation

ReIncarnation Biographies #20: Barry Miles

Barry Miles

Barry Miles

The twentieth person in our series of introductions to speakers taking part in International Poetry ReIncarnation at the Roundhouse in Camden on 30th May 2015 is the journalist, archivist and biographer Barry Miles.

Barry Miles was managing the paperback section in Better Books on Charing Cross Road when Allen Ginsberg walked in and offered to read anywhere for free. Following a packed reading in the shop, Miles became a key conspirator in the ‘Poets’ Collective’, organising what would become The First International Poetry Incarnation. It was his counter telephone that Barbara Rubin picked up to book the Albert Hall – because it was “the biggest joint in town”.

Barry Miles & Friends, pic by Graham Keen

Barry Miles & Friends, pic by Graham Keen

A co-founder of International Times, Oz contributor, Lovebooks publisher, co-founder of the legendary Indica gallery, and label manager for The Beatles, Miles has also produced a dizzying bibliography of titles giving the inside line on the counterculture, beats and musicians. A long-time music journalist (he was the first to interview the Clash for the NME), he has also become the trusted chronicler of such greats as Burroughs, Bukowski, McCartney, The Beatles, Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Frank Zappa. His ‘first proper book’ was a mighty 585-page – and definitive – Ginsberg biography, first published in 1989.

Miles will be speaking about the impact of the first International Poetry Incarnation after the afternoon screening of Wholly Communion. To book tickets, click here.


ReIncarnation Biographies #13: Pete Brown

Pete Brown

Pete Brown

The thirteenth person in our series of introductions to performers taking part in International Poetry ReIncarnation at the Roundhouse in Camden on 30th May 2015 is poet, singer and Cream lyricist Pete Brown.

Beginning professional life as writer and performer of his own poetry aged 19 after meeting Michael Horovitz, Pete was always in love with music. He joined Michael’s New Departures group in 1961, by 1963 they had their own residency at London’s famed Marquee Club, working with musicians such as Dick Heckstall-Smith, Graham Bond, Stan Tracey and Bobby Wellins.

In 1965 Pete took part in the Albert Hall Poetry Incarnation, alongside Ginsberg, Corso, Ferlinghetti, Adrian Mitchell and Horovitz. He also toured briefly with Ginsberg and later with Robert Creeley. In 1966 Pete was asked to write lyrics for the newly-formed Cream, and went on to write such hits as “I Feel Free”, “White Room”, “Politician” and “Sunshine of Your Love”. In ’67 he cut his first demo as a singer, along with some of the members of his own Jazz/poetry group including John McLaughlin. The same year his first book of poetry, “Few” was published.

A year later he was signed with his band the Battered Ornaments to the new EMI Harvest label. He was then on the road with his own bands, including the well known Piblokto, for nearly ten years. Phil Ryan, his current musical partner, joined the latter band in l970. When Cream broke up Pete continued working with singer/bassist Jack Bruce, contributing lyrics to most of his recorded output.

Driven out of music temporarily by the onset of Punk, Pete, encouraged by Martin Scorsese, took up screenwriting, at the same time undertaking nearly six years of singing lessons. Seduced back into music in the new role of record producer, Pete also worked in the studios as both percussionist and backing singer. He began working with Indy bands and jazz groups, and progressed to working with such as Peter Green and Jeff Beck.

In 1993 Pete and Phil formed the Interoceters, his longest lasting band. Phil eventually had to leave to look after his ailing wife, but Pete carried on until 2010 when he and Phil reunited and formed their current 9-piece blues and soul band, Psoulchedelia.

During this period Pete also toured widely in Germany as guest singer with the Hamburg Blues band, alongside Maggie Bell and Chris Farlowe. In  2010 Pete published his autobiography, “White Rooms and Imaginary Westerns”. In 2015 Jack Bruce’s final solo record “Silver Rails” was released, with most of the lyrics by Pete.

A feature documentary by young director Mark A,J, Waters has just been completed, and should be released this year. Pete and Phil’s current record, “Perils of Wisdom” was released in 2014 on the Repertoire label. Pete continues to write songs , screenplays and produce records, and to perform both as poet and singer. Young blues/rock artist Krissy Matthews’ album “Scenes from a moving window” , produced and co-written by Pete, is currently in the Amazon charts. Pete’s goal is to continue touring for as long as possible. He plans a new book of poetry and a best-of lyric book.

Get your tickets for the evening’s star-laden performance here: The International Poetry ReIncarnation

Liberty, Equality, Poetry

mhandginsbergAdam Horovitz reflects on the impact of the International Poetry Incarnation in 1965 and looks forward to the celebratory party for it.

I have spent most of my life aware of the International Poetry Incarnation, which took place in the Royal Albert Hall in 1965, very nearly 50 years ago. My father, Michael Horovitz, helped organise it, so of course I was going to be exposed of it. Growing up, I knew some of the poets. They were often about, in our house or at events, being genial and strange and merely a part of my metaphysical furniture.

For a long time, the 1965 Incarnation was a big poetry gig in the sky that people talked about and that I accepted as just another impressive thing that fathers do. As I have grown older, however, and become more interested in poetry in my own right, it has been hitting ever more forcefully home to me what a turning point this Incarnation, this 1965 happening, was.

Annie Whitehead

Annie Whitehead

Poetry in Britain was somewhat in the doldrums in the 1950s, as far as it being a public art went. It tended to sit in small rooms in universities and libraries and speak to and of itself. With my father’s generation – people like Adrian Mitchell, Christopher Logue, Pete Brown – poetry picked itself up and went running around the country talking to people who didn’t expect poetry to come leaping out of hedgerows at them. It went charging up to the Edinburgh Festival and touring through towns and cities with musicians and actors and playwrights in tow. Poetry began to listen, and to sing out in different rhythms. It offered up a party where only drier forms of symposia had appeared available before. Continue reading

ReIncarnating at a Roundhouse Near You Soon

Our beautiful Allen Ginsberg poster, by Chris Hopewell of Jacknife.

“The weight of the world
is love.
Under the burden
of solitude,
under the burden
of dissatisfaction

the weight,
the weight we carry
is love.”
from ‘Song – Poem’ by Allen Ginsberg

So, there’s a little under a fortnight to go until the Roundhouse in Camden plays host to International Poetry ReIncarnation, the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the International Poetry Incarnation which completely filled the Albert Hall with an audience eager to see and hear poets such as Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ernst Jandl, Michael Horovitz, Pete Brown, Adrian Mitchell, Anselm Hollo and many more – an event which helped to kickstart the counterculture in Britain.

The International Poetry Incarnation was arguably the first major event to open Britain’s eyes to the idea that something more was possible from the arts in Britain, something other and wilder and more popular than the staid hegemony of the previous decades. Jeff Nuttall, author of Bomb Culture, said “the Underground was suddenly there on the surface”; and certainly, as a result of that night – which it is worth noting came together in a week – a hundred other nights were born. Countercultural activist and archivist Barry Miles described “a sense of constituency that was never there before…. All these people recognised each other and they all realised they were part of the same scene.” The Incarnation even presaged one of the greatest public expressions of the counterculture – flower power – by handing out flowers to every person who attended. The only weight that the audience carried away with them from the International Poetry Incarnation was love, and with the encouragement of Ginsberg and the counterculture, it spread like wildfire.

Something worth celebrating, then.

So, there’s little under a fortnight until we attempt to lift the roof off the Roundhouse (one of the venues where people met after the 1965 extravaganza to plan their own events) with an international array of poet/performers who were either part of the original event, or who have endeavoured to keep on reincarnating the potent, loving spirit of poetry in performance over the last fifty years. Over the next two weeks we will be introducing you to the performers taking part in this ReIncarnation; some of the finest voices, transcending cultural spectra and international borders, writing and performing today.

Hold on to your hats; this is going to be exciting!