Reign of the May King

Dubbed “Poet Laureate of the Beat Generation,” Allen Ginsberg is arguably one of the most influential poets in literary history, continuing in the traditon of such greats as Blake, Whitman and Williams. A writer, photographer, filmmaker, political activist, first generation JuBu, and champion for queer rights (and incidentally a card carrying member of NAMBLA), Ginsberg‘s vast cultural contributions are present throughout the entire latter-half of the 20th century, and have left an indellible mark on New York City’s artistic community, as well as that of the world abroad’s.

Thus it is only natural that adulations of his work should ring out across the city this summer, manifest in two events inspired by his two most prominent works.

August 20th-26th is Ginzy week, as HOWL!: The 1st Annual Festival of East Village Arts conquers Tompkin’s Square. Taking it’s name, of course, from Ginsberg’s seminal poem “Howl,” the event will be comprised of the 1st Annual East Village Film Festival, the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, the 19th Annual Wigstock Festival (a drag queen convention), and last, but certainly not least, the 1st Annual Allen Ginsberg Poetry Festival.

The festival is the work of the Federation of East Village Artists (FEVA), a group which “honors the historic role of the East Village as the cradle of the city’s, if not the world’s, counterculture.” The Federation is interested in forming a union to help struggling artists stay afloat with healthcare and financial support, as well as a “Smithsonian of the Counterculture”—a museum which would house the treasures of New York City’s subversive past.

Volunteers are still needed for the event, so help out if you can. It’s gonna be an amazing week! (Too bad my Bjork tix are for the night the poetry fest kicks off! Grrr!)

Pushing the vibe to the brink of Autumn, Israel’s national theatre company Habima, will be in residency at Symphony Space, September 18-21, performing “Kaddish L’Naomi,” a drama based on Ginsberg’s classic poem “Kaddish.” The play, which will be performed in Hebrew with English supertitles, depicts “Ginsberg’s boyhood and his mother’s decline into madness.” (What the hell is a supertitle?)

The event marks Habima’s first visit to America in over 40 years, and will feature leading Israeli actress Gila Almagor. On September 16, Almagor will appear with director Hanon Snir at the JCC in Manhattan (where I work) for a behind-the-scenes discussion of the piece. Tickets go on sale later this week.

Regardless of your feelings towards the war-embroiled nation, don’t make Israeli artists suffer for the acts of their government: If you’re a Ginsberg fan, you should definitely check it out.

Contest — The first person to accurately explain the May King reference without using a search engine will win a Jewschool trucker hat. Jewschool crew excluded. That means you Shred Lexicon! Post responses to comments.

3 thoughts on “Reign of the May King

  1. Thank You! Being old enough to remember this Ginsberg incident and having, years later, discussed it in a college English class, may have been an unfair advantage, but I still look forward to wearing a Jewschool hat!. I’ve e-mailed the address.

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