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East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg [Kindle Edition]

Gordon Ball
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

“This was Allen Ginsberg,” Gordon Ball declared after recounting intimate moments with the cultural icon and beloved Beat Generation poet on East Hill Farm, outside Cherry Valley, New York.

During the late 1960s, when peace, drugs, and free love were direct challenges to conventional society, Allen Ginsberg, treasurer of the 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 tended 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.

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Review

Praise for East Hill Farm "Gordon Ball has written an important book. He is already known as a filmmaker and editor of earlier collections of writings by Allen Ginsberg--including Allen Verbatim (1974) and three volumes of Ginsberg's journals--as well as the author of the memoir '66 Frames (1999). Now Ball deserves to be called the "Beat Boswell" for providing his uniquely personal, detailed account of the years 1968 to 1971 when he participated in and observed the people and events at Allen Ginsberg's farm five miles from Cherry Valley, New York. Anyone interested in Ginsberg's life and work, or desirous to explore the gritty daily reality of the Beat/Hippie lifestyle, will find this book essential reading."--Ann Charter "In writing a memoir about the time he spent managing Allen Ginsberg's farm in upstate New York, Gordon Ball has detailed an important yet often overlooked side of the poet's colorful life. Anecdotally fertile, with a memorable cast of characters, East Hill Farm is informative, entertaining, often very funny, and ultimately important. Allen Ginsberg and Friends live again in these pages." --Michael Schumacher, author of Dharma Lion: A Critical Biography of Allen Ginsberg "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 Author

For twenty-eight years Gordon Ball took informal photographs of poet Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation. 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 publications. Ball is the author of 66 Frames: A Memoir and a volume of prose poems, Dark Music. He lives in Lexington, Virginia, and teaches at VMI.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2163 KB
  • Print Length: 482 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1582437769
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (15 Nov. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006542OJA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,261,385 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. Well worth reading 19 Feb. 2015
Format:Hardcover
I really enjoyed reading this. I've always wanted to know more about what it was actually like on the farm, and Gordon gives a detailed and very readable account from the very first beginnings in April 1968 until he leaves in March 1971.
During these years he was almost ever-present and, more than anyone else, responsible for the smooth day to day running of the farm and the hard work involved in trying to make it more self-sustaining and habitable. This was also the period of time when the farm had the greatest number of residents and visitors.
His writing is never judgmental, always gently perceptive in his observations of the challenges posed both by the decrepit state of the farm itself and by the idiosyncrasies of those living there.

This is my sense of what the book is about:

(1) The farm itself: abandoned for seven years with no running water, no electricity. It is impressive just how much back breaking work Gordon, Peter Orlovsky, and others put in, and how hard this was. Week in, week out, there was so much work to do, especially during the growing season.

(2) The backdrop of the times. Gordon vividly conveys the particular craziness of those years. John Sinclair and Tim Leary both received insane jail terms on dubious charges of minimal marijuana possession. The government was getting deeper and deeper into Viet Nam. There was growing polarisation in society of war and anti war, drug user and straight, long hair and short, permissiveness and conformity. Revolution and violence were in the air. This deepening polarisation eventually led Allen to begin meditating for an hour a day on a regular basis, something that would develop further once he got to know Chogyam Trungpa in the early `70s.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Elegant and Insightful Memoir 27 July 2012
By T.J. III - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Gordan Ball has written an elegant rememberance of his days as the caretaker of Allen Ginsberg's East Hill Farm. He creates moving portraits of the curious and creative souls that struggled to live together and carve out a life during what were politically terrifying times in America. On my way up to Albany from Binghamton, I would pass Cooperstown and the Cherry Hill exit. I always tried to imagine what when on up there. Now at last I know. Here's a story that is human, tragic, triumphant, and quite beautiful.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. Well worth reading 19 Feb. 2015
By Peter King - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I really enjoyed reading this. I've always wanted to know more about what it was actually like on the farm, and Gordon gives a detailed and very readable account from the very first beginnings in April 1968 until he leaves in March 1971.
During these years he was almost ever-present and, more than anyone else, responsible for the smooth day to day running of the farm and the hard work involved in trying to make it more self-sustaining and habitable. This was also the period of time when the farm had the greatest number of residents and visitors.
His writing is never judgmental, always gently perceptive in his observations of the challenges posed both by the decrepit state of the farm itself and by the idiosyncrasies of those living there.

This is my sense of what the book is about:

(1) The farm itself: abandoned for seven years with no running water, no electricity. It is impressive just how much back breaking work Gordon, Peter Orlovsky, and others put in, and how hard this was. Week in, week out, there was so much work to do, especially during the growing season.

(2) The backdrop of the times. Gordon vividly conveys the particular craziness of those years. John Sinclair and Tim Leary both received insane jail terms on dubious charges of minimal marijuana possession. The government was getting deeper and deeper into Viet Nam. There was growing polarisation in society of war and anti war, drug user and straight, long hair and short, permissiveness and conformity. Revolution and violence were in the air. This deepening polarisation eventually led Allen to begin meditating for an hour a day on a regular basis, something that would develop further once he got to know Chogyam Trungpa in the early `70s. Throughout these years Gordon is resident on the farm but linked into the world zeitgeist through Allen Ginsberg's constant involvement with so many causes.

(3) Centre-stage throughout are Allen Ginsberg and the Orlovsky brothers, Peter and Julius. In truth this account is about Allen rather than the farm, as the book is grounded in Gordon's love, admiration and respect for Allen, and Gordon's observation of and learning from Allen is the important central core of the book. While Gordon had a more difficult relationship with Peter, I still found it very interesting to learn more about his day to day interactions with both Peter and Julius. I had known very little about Julius before reading this book, so it is great to see him brought to life.

(4) The supporting cast of characters, some staying longer than others: Denise Mercedes, Herbert Huncke, Gregory Corso, Ray and Bonnie Bremser, Barry Miles, Maretta Greer (whatever happened to Maretta?), John Giorno, Ed "The Hermit" (neighbour) and a number of others.
For example, I particularly enjoyed the portrait of Huncke: ".... a warm deep voice and an eye-fastening look and attentiveness that put you at ease whenever he spoke. And whenever you spoke - at the center of his abiding calm lay his gift for making you feel that whatever problems or difficulties you had, they were familiar: from the perspective of those large regarding hazel eyes and that rich voice, they were his own." It's good to read something of his charm, as there is so much written about other sides of him.
I would have liked to have heard more about some of these individuals, the remarkable Denise Mercedes for instance, whose electric guitar I'm told is still blazing a trail in clubs and stadia. However, I appreciate that there is only so much room in the book and it already comes in at some 450 pages.

(5) Relationships. The pressures of disparate individuals living together in a small dilapidated farm are great, and some of these residents/ visitors were not easy people to be around. If I have to make a criticism of this book it is that its style edges into the observant rather than the emotional, so that the day to day grist of human encounter is somewhat played down. Several well-known flare-ups are already documented in the Ginsberg biographies and in the two farm chapters of Barry Miles' excellent "In the Seventies", and Gordon does take the reader through these once more, but there is always a sense for me that there is more that could be said. I think that this is also true of his account of his own relationships with women: although he makes explicit a number of disagreements and failures to communicate, in general I am left feeling that these relationships are not described in significant emotional depth. He does make reference to his own sexual intimacy with Allen, but again I do not know how important to him this was, and whether this was an integral part of him living at the farm or not. However, despite these comments, these are minor criticisms as I still found the book an enthralling read.

I think that this is an excellent book. I am so glad Gordon has finally written it. If you have any interest at all in the life of Allen Ginsberg, I recommend that you read it.

Thank you Gordon.
4.0 out of 5 stars over all pretty good 11 Dec. 2012
By Jim Hayes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
East Hill Farm, Seasons with Allen Ginsberg by Gordon Ball
(Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2011).
In the late sixties and mid seventies Gordon Ball did a good job editing some of Ginsberg's journals while writing his own. He's meticulous. Get halfway through the book and it's still only the spring of 69. He was a movie maker. Gregory Corso taunts him by saying that all movie makers do is point a camera but he's a POET and he does something. Funny stuff.
He kept a journal and the book follows the journal authentically. It just goes to show how much a person can forget without some type of record. The book is spliced into more or less chronological incidents of life on Ginsberg's farm focusing on the personalities that resided or visited. This book is so detailed it's really refreshing.
I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings but I just couldn't wait for this book to end. It was like: oh know, he's gonna talk about his sexual relations again-he provides mondo detail about all the pseudonymous women he slept with-and there were plenty-good for him-but I thought this was about Ginsberg's farm? Maybe Ginsberg's farm was about sex, maybe sex is the crux of poetry, maybe poetry is the crux of sex. Maybe he wrote this memoir to impress his old lady.
Once Mr. Ball pissed me off. Barry Miles suggested that he go see the Mothers on Mother's Day instead of going to see Linda Ronstadt. He mentioned that he didn't like Zappa's "Suzy Creamcheese" put down of little girls, Zappa's stance turned him off. Okay that's fine, it's okay to have an opinion, and even I disagree with some of Zappa's pronouncements. But here we have a guy that details every sexual encounter he's ever had (for the whole world to see) (he uses pseudonyms and generally respectful) BUT Zappa's bad? If Zappa didn't write childish sex songs that make even diehards cringe-if Zappa hadn't written those songs, well he'd be stuck in the ghetto of "art rock" like Yes, ELP, Tull, Rush and their slimy ilk.
Then Mr. Ball mentions that a critic liked his film of two women sleeping together. Well of course the guy liked it! It would have to be a pretty awful lesbian sex film to get bad review. (Not only that, the Fillmore show that Miles wisely recommended was a legendary few gig performance by a specific brand of Mothers-not many people saw that particular ensemble featuring Ray Collins, Don Preston, Ian Underwood, Aynsley Dunbar, etc: he should be thankful).
But STILL the book reads well, it just got too long. Mr. Ball sounds like a nice guy. He was there and he was pretty much running Ginsberg's farm. It's a great book for dipping into and finally out of...The last chapter features Mr. Ball describing what he learned from Ginsberg. It's easily the best part of the book but I was just so bored at this point I rushed through it. Rereading it was fun though. You gotta let this book sit on your shelf for a while. Y'can't really just sit down and inhale it.
I came across what they call an opposing viewpoint. Billie Maciunas, a poet, wrote a memoir of her husband George Maciunas. She was living in Cherry Valley in 1978 so this is long after Mr. Ball is gone. "Now (publisher) Charlie Plymell relented, explaining that he was bitter because he never found success as a writer. He admitted that he was abusive to everyone including Allen Ginsberg, who had a rundown house he called "the committee on poetry" in Cherry Valley. "The Com-mittee" sounded like it was some sort of literary headquarters however it mostly served the function of party headquarters for the caretaker and his friends." (Maciunas, Billie. The Eve of Fluxus. Winter Park: Arbiter Press 2010, p.85)
// Ball talks about how AG got a phone call from Stella Kerouac describing JK's death. I always remembered a book saying: "Al! Jack died!" Corso on the phone. Who is right? It looks like Gordon Ball is correct. I looked in Dharma Lion and it said that AG got a call from Al Aronowitz, the same for the other bio-only Miles biography is the one that has it wrong with Corso getting the call. Well Miles was wrong about the phone call but he was right about going to see Zappa.//
5.0 out of 5 stars Allen Ginsberg 1968-1971 7 Dec. 2011
By Marc Olmsted - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A fascinating and disturbing time in U.S. history is echoed in Gordon Ball's riveting memoir of a period in Allen Ginsberg's life that was pivotal in Ginsberg's move to a truly serious Buddhist practice. The Cherry Valley farm commune of upstate New York is breezed over even in Ginsberg's own poetry. But here, Ball's training as a filmmaker gives us a slowed down gander of the often hilarious interactions of visitors Gregory Corso, Herbert Huncke, Ray Bremser, Charles Plymell and Andy Clausen with Allen and longtime companion Peter Orlovsky. At the same time, Ginsberg's voluminous correspondence and exhaustive traveling, as well as Ball's own adventures with Harry Smith, Bob Dylan and John Giorno in NYC serve up a truly satisfying feast of well-doucmented detail. A book I didn't want to end.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent memoir of life with Allen Ginsberg 7 Feb. 2013
By JR - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Gordon Ball has written an excellent memoir of his time with Allen Ginsberg at East Hill Farm. Filled with exquisite details of life with Ginsberg, the Orlovskys, and many of the beat madmen and women that came and went from the farm. It is an excellent slice in time, the late 60s and early 70s, a picture of Ginsberg in middle age, but also of the author as a young man finding himself amidst the back-to-nature, anti-war, free-love, and consciousness transformation movements of the 60s, surrounded by poets, artists, cultural & political figures all swirling in the unrest of the time. It was moving, funny, informative, and well-written.
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