Gordon Ball and Bill Morgan in conversation
Wednesday, March 14, 2012, 7:00 P.M., City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco
Join these two great storytellers and keepers of the Beat flame in an evening of heartwarming discussion
Gordon Ball celebrates the release of
East Hill Farm: Seasons With Allen Ginsberg
published by Counterpoint Press
During the late 1960s, when peace, drugs, and free love were direct challenges to conventional society, Allen Ginsberg, treasurer of Committee on Poetry, Inc., funded what he hoped was "a haven for comrades in distress" in rural upstate New York. First described as an uninspiring, dilapidated four-bedroom house with acres of untended land, including the graves of its first residents, East Hill Farm became home to those who sought pastoral enlightenment in the presence of Ginsberg's brilliance and generosity.
A self-declared member of a "ragtag group of urban castoffs" including Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, Herbert Huncke, and the mythic Barbara Rubin, farm manager Ball tends to a non-stop flurry of guests, chores, and emotional outbursts while also making time to sit quietly with Ginsberg and discuss poetry, Kerouac, sex, and America's war in Vietnam. In honest and vivid prose, Ball offers a rare intimate glimpse of the poetic pillar of the Beat Generation as a striving and accessible human being at home on the farm and in the world.
What has been said about East Hill Farm:
"I couldn't stop reading East Hill Farm and learning so much of what really went down on that farm in that so crucial period in the lives of the Beats. I visited the farm just twice but wish I had had Ball’s innocent yet so perceptive eye." —Lawrence Ferlinghetti
"In the late 1960s, poet Allen Ginsberg bought an isolated, broken-down farm in upstate New York as a retreat for himself and his worn-out, burned-out friends. Ginsberg hoped to create an Elysium where they could escape from the urban pressures and drug addictions that had laid Kerouac, Corso, Orlovsky, and Huncke so low. Only a masterful story-teller like Gordon Ball could turn a depressing tale of poets at rock bottom into a triumph of the human spirit. Ball's East Hill Farm is one of the most intimate memoirs I've read about those wild, back-to-nature expeditionary times which so many baby-boomers recall. Ball has painstakingly traced his days as the "farm manager" who tried to plant the crops, do the chores, and keep on an even keel while the rest of the tribe were literally bouncing off the walls. It led him to tremendous joy, sadness, ecstasy, and a black eye. This is a personal book that examines the period that changed America—for better or worse? You decide. —Bill Morgan, author of I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg
About the speakers:
Gordon Ball is a poet, photographer, filmmaker, professor of english, and master storyteller. For 28 years Gordon Ball took informal photographs of poet Allen Ginsberg and other members of the Beat Generation, the literary and cultural phenomenon which has had a world-wide impact since its inception in the mid-1950s. As well as being exhibited at five conferences on Ginsberg and the Beat Generation, at one-man shows at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and other venues, Ball's photos have appeared in many books, including Dennis McNally's Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America; Michael Köhler's Burroughs: Eine Bild Biographie; Carole Tonkinson's Big Sky Mind: Buddhism and the Beat Generation; Steven Watson's The Birth of the Beat Generation: Visionaries, Rebels, and Hipsters, 1994-1960; and many more. Starting at Ginsberg's farm in 1968, he worked with the poet on numerous literary and artistic projects, editing three books, including two volumes of journals and the Pulitzer Prize nominee Allen Verbatim: Lectures on Poetry, Politics, Consciousness. He's the author of '66 Frames: A Memoir (Coffee House Press, 1999) and Dark Music (Cityful Press, 2006) Gordon now lives in Lexington, Virginia, where he teaches at the Virginia Military Institute.
Bill Morgan is a painter, archival consultant, and historian working in New York City. He is the author of numerous publications including The Works of Allen Ginsberg 1941-1994: A Descriptive Bibliography, Lawrence Ferlinghetti: a Comprehensive Bibliography, The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete Uncensored History Of The Beat Generation, The Beat Generation in New York, The Beat Generation in San Francisco, Howl On Trial (co-authored with Nancy Peters), I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life Of Allen Ginsberg. He has worked as an archivist for Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Abbie Hoffman, and Timothy Leary. He is a storyteller extraordinaire.