Friday, September 16, 2016

Allen Ginsberg in Krakow, late 1980s ...

John Brown's photo.
Ginsberg image from

From a Facebook entry (slightly edited):

John Brown American anti-establishment poet Ginsberg  (or so he was labeled) came to Krakow, Poland (its intellectual capital, home of the Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest European institutions of higher learning) when I had the privilege to be posted there as an US Foreign Service Officer (FSO) in the late 1980s. 

Allen was accompanied by his partner, whose name I fail to remember (Peter?). I had the honor of giving a reception celebrating their presence as American intellectuals in southern -- granted, according to some, provincial -- Poland at my "diplomatic" residence (thank you, USA taxpayer, for paying for its rent/representation costs). 

Invited to this festivity were members of the very Euro-cultivated, cosmopolitan (some quite anglophile) crème de la crème Krakow intelligentsia.

Allen -- dressed as he was (not at all "outrageously"; he was actually wearing a jacket and tie!) -- looked like a untenured academic from a minor American midwestern learnery. 

The "Howl" poet was very well behaved at this semi-formal social activity, more bourgeois than the bourgeoisie itself, no matter in what country. 

(This may have "disappointed" this U.S. dip's Polish distinguished guests, some of whom, I suspect, were eagerly expecting to be "shocked" by a New World beatnik). 

Allen's main concern (as he expressed it to me at the reception, if my failing memory serves me right) was that Poland was not paying him for the rights to publish his works. 

Like an honest American business person (yes, there are some), Allen (he assuming zlotys [Polish currency] was a not a totally "worthless" currency  -- at that time in Poland, the widespread joke went -- "What's the difference between a zloty and a dollar? A dollar, proshche pana [dear sir]) -- was expecting to actually get paid for the publication in Poland of his works (presumably with translation)!

Or he hoped that, at least, if such a financial (fanatical?) transaction proved to be an impossibility, that a professional camera be given to him as remuneration for his works appearing without his getting cash royalties (again, all this if my failing memory serves me right). 

One thing I definitely do remember during our brief conversation: the New York bard was not interested in talking poetry, howling or otherwise. Business first!

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