We’ve had two colossal Get to the Point!s in a row now, with stand-alone main events following impressive line-ups of stories, readings, songs and such. September was the full-album concert version of The Point, commandeered by Dean Falcone. That needs its own essay, which will have to run here out of order. For I have just returned from the October edition—a Beatnik spectacular featuring an outstanding reading of “Howl” Part One by Karen Picone Ponzio (posing as Allen Ginsberg), not to mention all the other key poems of the famed Six Gallery reading of Oct. 7, 1955.
Some esteemed Get to the Point! regulars made up the cast of San Francisco poets: Kenneth Rexroth was played by Ken Carlson with a stentorian swagger. Philip Lamantia was played by David Pilot with an aloof air and no-nonsense delivery. I was Michael McClure, trying to make McClure’s oddly shaped, capitalized and punctuated verse leap as it does on the page. Sarah Russell brought out the Francophilia in Philip Whalen. Craig Gilbert rose to the difficult task of following “Howl,” as Gary Snyder reading “A Berry Feast.” At the back of the stage sat Saul Fussiner as Jack Kerouac, shouting “Yes” and “Go!” as Ginsberg (Karen) howled.
Sitting there onstage, it felt literary and poetic and rhythmic and all that, but it also had the rush of an explosive chemistry experiment. It was impossible not to get swept up in “Howl.” It was hard not to pound the floor and bang on chairs and yell, and slap things until your hands hurt. So we did.
Ginsberg only delivered Part One of “Howl” at the Six Gallery that historic night in ’55, but the GttP readers of today were intent on delivering the whole thing. So there was an encore, a full-crowd yelling of Part Two (“Moloch! Moloch!”) and then a hardcore poetic blaze through Part Three (“I’m with you in Rockland”) by Saul and myself, while the ever-attuned Lys Guillorn played A-C-D chords on a fuzzy electric guitar.
And that was only the finale. Even without the main Beat event, this was a strong and diverse Get to the Point! evening, with several newcomers: musician/memoirist Steven Christofor of the well-remembered local band Flowerland, poet Julie Ann McCormick, Cafe Nine stalwart Jamie Arabolos with a heartwrenching tale of depression and survival, and a guy called Liam who was not just a solid reader/writer but a terrific audience member. Among the regulars and increasingly regular visitors who contributed: Karen Picone Ponzio (with her own poems, not Ginsberg’s), Billy K. (whom I praised for his “scatalogical wordplay jukebox”), David Pilot (short story this time), Dulcet-toned Terrence intoning an original love poem and Ken Carlson with a new episode of his golden-age-radio space saga Inferior Planet.
Andrew Williams of the Placing Literature website contributed introductory knowledge of the Six Gallery reading. Rebecca Scotko, who has swiftly and securely insinuated herself into our merry band of rebel writers, paid tribute to Banned Books Week and also brought stylish “Howl” headgear and accessories. And when new-guy Liam happened to mention the Jack Kerouac portrait which has been hanging above the bar at Cafe Nine for the past 24 years, it gave me an opportunity to talk about how I helped put it there.
A night of smooth contours and sharp jagged dangerous edges. Variety and unsteady beats. It made me realize, with awe, what a special community has been forming at Cafe Nine on those unpredictable first Mondays of each month, and how meaningful they have become. Boy, do I feel like I’m with you in Rockland.