Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Ginsberg Scavenger Hunt

A journalist's search for the truth -- or search for visuals to edit over the television version of the truth -- is often a rambling path of phone calls, emails and Google searches.

The one for a story about performance poet Alex Caldiero went across the Atlantic and back in time 40 years.

Caldiero, self-described "word shaker" whose sound art is reminiscent of The Beats, took inspiration from poet Allen Ginsberg. He'd been preparing to read Ginsberg's "Howl" on it's 50th anniversary.

The Ginsberg video scavenger hunt went from the Allen Ginsberg Trust in New York to Boston area photographer Elsa Dorfman, whose work is dominated by a monstrous 20 by 24 Polaroid camera and mapped out like Boston's "T" on her website. Ginsberg was both a portrait subject and friend. And once, as seen in her photos, a guitar student of Bob Dylan. (Elsa Dorfman on WGBH)

And then from Elsa Dorfman to "Hoppy" Hopkins.

Hopkins became a well-known figure in the London underground of the 60's. He photographed the Stones, the Beatles, Ellington, Monk, Coltrane, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X -- just about everyone on the political and cultural front -- including Allen Ginsberg. According to biographical sketches, he helped start London's first psychedelic club, a musical venue for Jimi Hendrix, and spent part of the Summer of Love in prison for possession of marijuana.

Thanks to both and the Trust for permission to use their photographs.

I enjoyed my time talking to Caldiero, a man who writes one word poems, who reads what's left on your dinner plate the way fortune-tellers read tea leaves, and who has a true passion for language. (Guy Lebeda told the Standard Examiner that Alex Caldiero could live in Berkeley or Haight-Ashbury and he'd be a weird guy. "And I mean that in a positive way.")

But all those little detours are just as fun.

It's not the destination.

It's all the cool pictures along the way.