Literature: And the Beat goes on

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Indy Lifestyle Online
How are we to remember Allen Ginsberg (right)? As the man who single-handedly brought the Beats into being? Or as the man "who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed", to steal from "Howl" - his wake-up call to the world, that's been stretching lungs and minds ever since 1956? When it comes to commemorating the dead, poems beat prosaic epitaphs any day. The official UK celebration of the hipster's life and work, held a little over a month after the first anniversary of his death from cancer, should be mercifully short on sentimental speeches. Instead, five well-chosen poets will read his verse - and some of their own - highlighting the points of connection.

From this side of the water, we have the arch-champion of performance poetry, Michael Horovitz, who, among other things, will be singing William Blake's "The Sunflower" much in the manner that the poet did when he appeared to Ginsberg in a life-changing vision. Horovitz will be joined by free- wheeling Adrian Mitchell and the staunchly Northumbrian poet, Tom Pickard, who proffers this immortal line: "For me, Ginsberg was one of the most political and compassionate poets and as funny as fuck. That's worth emulating."

From over the pond comes the poet Anne Waldman, who, with Ginsberg, set up the gloriously titled Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Colorado. And a fanfare please for Lawrence Ferlinghetti, dubbed by many as the "last, great, surviving Beat", although he has called for the abolition of the term on numerous occasions. It was Ferlinghetti, now 79, who published "Howl" and who fought and won the ensuing obscenity trial. With luck, he will read his typically droll lament "Allen Ginsberg Dying" ("He is dying the death of the poet / He has a telephone in his hand.").

He's also over here to read from his latest collection, A Far Rock-away of the Heart and to celebrate the life of one of American letters' unsung visionaries, the poet-painter Kenneth Patchen (1911-72). "When such a one dies / even the agents of Death should take note / and shake the shit from their wings," his elegy runs. Sometimes, you gotta say it with poems.

`Primal Beat', Ferlinghetti reads from his own works, Pavilion Theatre, Brighton (01273 7090709) today, 7.30pm; Allen Ginsberg Celebration, St James's Church, Piccadilly, W1 (0171-734 4555) tomorrow, 7pm; `A celebration of Kenneth Patchen', Tate Gallery, SW1 (0171-887 8922) 18 May, 6.30pm

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