I was sad to read yesterday that Beat legend, Peter Orlovsky had passed away on May 30. Orlovsky, who was Allen Ginsberg’s life-long partner, died in Vermont as fellow Beat legend Anne Waldman writes, ”with “trach” in throat in orange sheets at the kind Vt Respite Center in Williston, Vermont (but no extra tubes/ heroic measures for this advanced cancer on his lung!), a copy of the Songs of Saraha by his pillow, photo of beloved Allen Ginsberg companion of many years on the wall, other Buddhist images, iPod of music he loved including chants by Buddhist nuns, cards from friends and out the window a bird feeder with finch and red-winged blackbirds landing/taking off.” (Read Waldman’s full tribute here)
Orlovsky’s poetry was overshadowed by Ginsbergs for many years, but his work has since earned the deep respect of readers, writers and critics. His writings were collected by City Lights Books in 1977 and William Carlos Williams described his work as having, “the kind of natural voice America would one day sound.”
Orlovsky was a true original and his presence in the world will continue to have a lasting impact on all that come into contact with his words.
His ‘Snail Poem’, has long been a favourite of mine… Here it is, along with a link to 3 other fine poems.
Make my grave shape of heart so like a flower be free aired
& handsome felt,
Grave root pillow, tung up from grave & wigle at
blown up clowd.
Ear turnes close to underlayer of green felt moss & sound
of rain dribble thru this layer
down to the roots that will tickle my ear.
Hay grave, my toes need cutting so file away
in sound curve or
Garbage grave, way above my head, blood will soon
trickle in my ear -
no choise but the grave, so cat & sheep are daisey
Train will tug my grave, my breath hueing gentil vapor
between weel & track.
So kitten string & ball, jumpe over this mound so
gently & cutely
So my toe can curl & become a snail & go curiousely
on its way.
Peter Orlovsky, 1958 NYC