I missed “Howl” day. Did anyone wonder who Carl Solomon was? I am not sure who he is. All that I know is that I read a book of small writings he did about his life a few years ago that is called Emergency Messages: An Autobiographical Miscellany.
Solomon did an interview once with John Tytell, in it he talks about his relationship with Ginsberg and they’re relationships with Whitman. Is this interesting to you Whitman scholars?
I will type it out for you because I can’t find a web page to link to it.
JT: In your books you always tease your readers with differences you had with Ginsberg, such as the way you saw Whitman.
CS: We were continually fighting. I saw Whitman as a political revolutionary, and Allen saw him as a sexual revolutionary. When I first met Allen I called him a “dopey daffodil” because he symbolized to me what poetry was then, referring to Wordsworth, I guess, the idea of poets as sensitive souls rather than Artaud’s conception of the poet as brute. But Allen turned out not to be a dopey daffodil at all, but that’s the way he looked then, a neat haircut and horn rim glasses. He seemed to me to be like the conventional English major who couldn’t stand up to me at all. I thought I was much greater than these types, much more unconventional. I identified with the Beat Generation in much the same way as Artaud himself identified with the Surrealists: he felt that they were his ultimate enemies.
I think that is great, to think of Nerd Ginsberg. Ginsberg and Solomon first met in mental institution in 1949. In their first meeting they both introduced themselves as Dostoevsky characters, Solomon as Kirilov and Allen as Myshkin. This was the beginning of a relationship that seems to have truly influenced Ginsberg’s work. Ginsberg introduced Solomon to Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac, and Burroughs. He was sent manuscripts for review and seems to have been the man in the wings for several major beat works; he got his uncle, a publisher for Ace Books, to publish Junkie. Still, Solomon never felt that he was really a part of the beat movement. He felt that he was more a part of a movement that was before the beats, he was fascinated with Artaud, and more invested in French culture. Besides, it seems that he felt a little cast aside by the beats, like they had all started this thing together but by the time he got out of mental institutions the thing had a life of its own.
He says of his relationship to the beats
“I was angry because of my second sickness. I thought that they had all rejected me because I was madder than they were. I thought that they were neurotics and I was a psychotic, an outsider.”
But at the same time, in the letters he includes in this book, I get a sense that he felt very invested in these relationships, and some of the letters express the light-handed effects of influence that we discussed with Neruda and Lorca. I’m going to include one letter that I think exemplifies this, again I couldn’t find it on the internet:
Yomolka and all I have escaped from the lunatic rathole which your perverted old auntie antics drove me into. You and your mother entered my life at a certain point. Carrying with you your entourage of Huncke, Burroughs, Kerouac, Carr and Cassady I even know Bill Gains by this time—Corso has become my brother under the lousy skin—Who was Paul Bowles to me before I met you? And Anatole and Delmore and Jaime and Henry? This craft of poetry (as it is officially known) is parasitic and we live off another’s hat.
I will try to obtain your address from Leroi Jones to mail this missive. I may be in the Sahara by the next time you are home. Good luck. All is forgotten. Why the Sahara? Because I am a Saharist. Why? No dandruff. Nothing but the excelsior of the foreign breeze. The paraplegic rejoices at my Disneyesque face and so the carnival has begun again. Mummified we face the Republican again, their pubic hairs all a-blossom.
On our foreheads are the scars of incisions. WHY the tomb? Why the tomb? WHY am I ready for the tomb? My friend Norman has just interrupted with a telephone call so I’ll close.
This is a video of Ginsberg reading for Solomon’s funeral. Oh poet friends! Oh Carl! Oh tapping my foot to a poem about death.
- Carl Solomon and Allen Ginsberg