"Wholly Communion"; poetry, the police, and serendipity in London, 1965.
On June 11, 1965, a poetry gathering in London’s Royal Albert Hall got a little visit from the police and a lot of subsequent attention in the press. After the dust had settled, the usual suspects — Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Corso — and a host of other participants and creative provocateurs had been witness to the first countercultural “happening” and the subject of a film by Peter Whitehead, sometimes characterized as the first cinema verité film.
Whitehead himself has written:Allen Ginsberg, travelling pal of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, this time fresh back from Poland where he had been crowned “King of the May”, started the proceedings by singing a Tibetan mantra, accompanying himself with finger cymbals. Lawrence Ferlinghetti launched into a poem - “To Fuck is to Love Again” - and the evening - and England - was never the same again. Alexander Trocchi kept the police at bay and the events rolling. Gregory Corso read his poem “Mutation of the Spirit”. Ernst Jandl read two sound poems in German.English poets Michael Horovitz and Christopher Logue read calmly, but Harry Fainlight, reading a poem written on LSD, “The Spider” was interrupted by Dutch poet Simon Vinkenoog, high on mescalin, shouting out “Come man come” and Harry’s attempts to carry on and read more and more poems are some of the highlights of the film. Not so much about poetry - but the awesome experience of poets exposing themselves, reading to a public which can be sometimes hostile.Adrian Mitchell’s poem “To Whom it May Concern” - a savage diatribe about the Vietnam War - brought the house down. Allen Ginsberg read a poem written by the Russian poet Andrei Vosnesensky - “New York Bird” - he was present but not allowed to read by his Embassy. Allen brought the evening to a close with a reading of two long poems - “The Change” and “Who be Kind To” - in which he wrote “Tonite let’s all make love in London”. While he was reading, a young girl danced - in a haze of pot smoke - oblivious of time and space and people - following the rhythm of the poetry as if it was music.
Photos: Top - Allen Ginsberg, Bottom - Peter Whitehead