I didn't much care for Boulder's poetry scene. Divorced from Denver by a just long enough to be annoying on a week day bus ride, the poetry scene was heavy with the scent of death. Ginsberg, as lovely as he is, held service over a slew of voices mostly unwilling to do anything but repeat and remain in the style of the Beats. Of course, the Beats were not just people and not just poems, but they were a part of time, a point in history. Forgetting this reduces their legacy in the same way a Buddha statue on a fancy lawn in an overly lit house in a security guarded part of town might reduce the message of Buddha. It's not that I don't like Boulder or its poets, I do. Naropa is a great place and the Summer Program is legendary for the freedom and license it sparks in so many, it's just that, as a town, it's a little too beholden to its pedigree. Constant work must be done to expand, not imitate a legacy. The Beats are mostly dead. Poetry is alive, right now.
The fact that recent readings of Ginsberg's works has left my lips slightly parted, breathing slowed, and my gay masculinity acutely aching (if that is possible) over a morning coffee in a public place; just leaving that aside, I would like to note once again, the man is not breathing. In fact, a lot of dear people are no longer breathing. Let's not forget the lovely sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay, another personal favorite. So, although I respect and wash myself in the words of those already eulogized, last night I found the legacy of the living to hold me by the ear and also by the eye. Watching a poet, musician or anyone else grab a microphone and speak current words is a study in willingness to experience greatness not once it is confirmed by history or the press, but to see it growing, like a shoot from the earth. It's compelling in a way that even a bustling café somehow falls silent.
Nascent beauty is nothing like amber. It's not the dead lover or ancestor. It's not the god or the myth. It is in line with these things. It is reaching and stretching itself backwards and forwards all at once and sometimes it is doing so in complete ignorance. Last night I witnessed a man come out of his shell. He spoke of moving forward while recalling his past in oblique ways that might someday be all but hidden from those who do not know him right now. When his wounds are healed and he surpasses his teacher he will be all and completely different. His cells will have sloughed off and wrinkles will have deepened at the sides of his mouth. He will wear his clothes differently because his body, like all things, will require different shapes.
Shape shifting is the gift of living. It's the necessary quality of culture, too. No one knows who invented the wheel but no one will ever forget how to use one, either. Things just don't go back into the box once they circulate. So, the good thing is that a society that would have hung or burned Ginsberg to a crisp wouldn't dare (hopefully) go back to doing that type of thing again. And the other nice thing is that new voices, new movements and new driven and deeply creative people can create, not in the shadows, but hand in hand; like toddlers taking their next large steps.
Lovers die, parents, too. Children sometimes leave us and even the rescue dog of Afghanistan, Target, was mistakenly euthanized. There is grief and there is the process of remembering what a life brought to the table. There are the voices we miss, like the uncle who is no longer there for Thanksgiving. It's so good that we had them. It's so important and life saving whenever we encounter connection and those who can connect people back to something larger than themselves are the very blessed bards and storytellers. They might tell some jokes or they might write things that get reprinted in translation and paperbacks. Either way, to every action, individual person and each word uttered, there is a legacy. Last night, I was excited to see someone break free of legacy's shadow while respectfully turning it into a stepping stone. Go Austin.