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
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.
“The weight of the world
Under the burden
under the burden
the weight we carry
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!