With Allen in Arkansas: An Ozark Diary, by John Wood (Saturday, May 3, 1969)
October 29, 2012 § Leave a comment
Saturday, May 3, 1969—Allen had lunch with his old roommate and met all of the poets in Old Main at 1:30 for a workshop, criticism on the poems, etc.—didn’t get to everybody. I got him off the subject on Lamantia. And then Jim did on Neal Cassidy, which was wonderfully interesting. Allen said he was the only man to ever make it with Cassidy and talked of his gentleness, turning everybody on, his life, death, etc.
About 3:30 we went over to the Student Union for about 30 minutes for cokes and Allen got a sandwich—talked about this and that—just being with him was moving—so beautiful a man. John Clellon Holmes had told me Allen was the only “great” man he had ever met. It’s true, I think—never have I met anyone so humble and so honestly modest.
About 4:00 we headed to the Deep End (Presbyterian) Coffee House. I introduced Allen and he sat down on a small stool and people asked questions and he talked till about 6:00—talked of ecology, the Greenhouse effect, [illegible], and chanted for Pollard the Prajna Paramita Sutra in Sino-Japanese and then in English—beautiful. One girl accused him of not [having or possibly being] [illegible] in his poetry. He talked of that and what life was—said he felt he had done what he was to do and was ready to die—those were not his exact words—spoke of the [illegible], zazen meditation, and all sorts of things—a great two hours.
At about 6:00 we left—Leon, Sandy, and me together—Allen, Frank, and Bob Ross, an art teacher who had mutual friends with Allen. We stopped at Leon’s house to get some records Allen wanted to hear. Allen stopped to get Peter but he didn’t want to come, and we all headed over to Paul Lubenkov’s house. He and Leon had recently bought a side of beef and were having it for all of us. Paul, Terry (his girl friend), Frank, Leon, Sandy, Jim, Gen [Jim’s wife], Bob Ross—Rick and [illegible]— Larry and Mabel came over later.
We listened to a lot of country music that Allen was interested in. Terry charcoal broiled the steaks outside on the grill—talked of the desert and Taoism and Robert Duncan. Whitehead tried to show off about country music but got put down by everyone. He wasn’t trying to be a smart ass—just Jim’s way. I went back in after I finished eating. Allen kept telling me I didn’t need so much bread. More music. Larry brought a camera to take pictures, and Allen called me over. He lay back on me and said “Let’s snuggle” and we snuggled up and Larry took the picture and pictures of everyone else with Allen, too. Allen and I sat and talked a good while about Vedanta, about a Swami I’d studied with, and other esoteric things. I asked if he knew the Mantra of Chenrazi. He, of course, did and he said he would sing me two versions. He started chanting and everyone grew silent. I’ll never forget that or the beauty of his voice.
Originally published by “The American Poetry Review”