With Allen in Arkansas: An Ozark Diary, by John Wood (Friday, May 2, 1969)

October 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

with Allen Ginsberg

Bob Ross, Gen Whitehead, Frank Stanford, Allen Ginsberg, Leon Stokesbury, Paul Lubenkov

Friday, May 2, 1969—Rick Ryan, another one of the poets in the Program, Larry, and I picked up Allen and Peter at the hotel at 10:30.  We took them to the Student Union to get breakfast.  On the way we looked at Steve Pollard’s tree, which was now blocked off because grass (which could never grow under it because of the shade) was being planted there. [Note: Pollard’s tree had been a cause célèbre.  Pollard, a U of A student, had climbed the tree to protest the Vietnam war.  Threats were made on his life, and students and faculty rallied in support and kept a day and night vigil around the tree for days.  I don’t recall now, these 42 years later, what caused him to come down.  I assume the grass planting was done to suggest that Pollard’s protectors had ruined the area under the tree.

As we wandered into the Student Union, we immediately ran into everybody, and everyone was happy to meet Allen and Peter.  They got some food and we pushed three large tables together, which weren’t enough, and we all sat down.  In a few minutes Allen had met one of the undergraduate poets, Frank Stanford, whom he took a liking to and they conversed at great length about Ozark folk music.  He also soon met the SSOC people [Note: Southern Student Organizing Committee, an anti-war organization similar to Students for a Democratic Society] and Steve Pollard. « Read the rest of this entry »

With Allen in Arkansas: An Ozark Diary, by John Wood (Thurs. May 1, 1969)

October 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Allen Ginsberg and John Wood

Allen Ginsberg and John Wood

May  2011 :  I had not forgotten that these pages existed, but I’d not read them since I wrote them in 1969 recording a visit of Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to give a poetry reading.  I had been in correspondence with Allen for a few years.  It started simply with a fan letter which he responded graciously to.  The accessibility of a famous poet and cultural figure to a kid trying to write poetry at Arkansas State College in Jonesboro, Arkansas, was exhilarating.  I had been reading him since I was in the tenth grade.  It was the early sixties, and I, too, wanted to Howl.  By the time I finally met Allen, I had discovered Wallace Stevens and Richard Wilbur and drifted from his influence.  And Allen obviously thought I had become overly ornate,   but he did kindly offer to write the introduction to a small limited edition of my poems called Orbs printed in 1968 by Harold Swayder, an artist who made woodcuts for each of the poems.  Swayder’s woodcuts and Allen’s kind introduction are the only good things about the book, which, thankfully, was in such a small edition few people have ever seen it.  In 1969 I entered the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Arkansas, which at that time was one of only thirteen MFA programs in the country.  Because of my connection with Allen, the question arose of whether I might be able to get him to come for a reading.  The MFA Program’s budget could not afford his fee, but it was still the beautiful sixties—so he cut the fee in half and for several electrifying days the world seemed to glow.  I started keeping a careful record of them, but finally exhaustion overtook me.  They were all written in the evenings after a lot of activity and a good bit of drinking, and so a word every now and then is illegible.  The following does not presume to be elegant or even well-written prose, and I have not tried to improve upon it, except for deleting a few redundancies.  It’s merely a diary of those intense days, a diary I think may hold some interest for others, especially as it relates to Allen and to Frank Stanford.

Thurs. May 1, 1969—Larry Johnson and I drove down from Fayetteville today to Little Rock to meet Peter and Allen as they came in from Arizona. « Read the rest of this entry »

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