tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > Bombay Gin #25

Bombay Gin #25 by Lisa Birman
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bookshelves: poetry, literature

I just wrote a long review of this & then accidentally left the page behind - thusly obliterating it. Dontcha just HATE THAT WHEN IT HAPPENS?! Am I really going to try to rewrite it?

"Bombay Gin" is the literary magazine of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics wch is part of the Naropa Institute. The Kerouac School was founded by Anne Waldman & Allen Ginsberg. The last issue of BG that I reviewed here was from 1994. Ginsberg was still alive. This issue's from 1999. Ginsberg died in 1997.

There're 3 works of his here: 2 drawings that make me think they were probably done under the influence of peyote or some other consciousness expanding substance, & a poem called: "Thirty State Bummers" that lists international (c)overt crimes done by that well-known, but never apprehended, criminal at large: the gvmt & related fiends. So far, so good. But in this very same poem Ginsberg writes:

"Descended into Anarchy
Pol Pot's Maoist Butchery"

I mean, WHAT THE FUCK?! - "descended" being the same old same old metaphor for going to hell n'at, anarchy AIN'T Maoism, Pol Pot was the state exemplified, blah, blah.. I find this typical idiotic misuse of anarchy particularly annoying considering that Wikipedia says this about Ginsberg:

"In the 1950s, Ginsberg was a leading figure of the Beat Generation, an anarchic group of young men and women who combined poetry, song, sex, wine and illicit drugs with passionate political ideas that championed personal freedoms."

The Beats may've been "anarchic" but Ginsberg doesn't appear to've been an anarchist. Nonetheless, Ginsberg's one of my favorite political poets - one of the few who's not likely to just seem tediously preachy to me.

I liked Anne Waldman's "By Candle's Light A Bedouin" partially b/c it's different from anything else I've read by her (not that I'm an expert on her work). AND I was inclined to like Douglas Oliver's "Wolves, Rats and Birds" b/c it seemed a complex interweaving but, THEN, I came to:

"The Satanic "no" at the heart of anarchy is the "no" of powerlessness. Often, the lives of the anarchists include adolescent experiences where the innocent heart has been brutalised or betrayed by family authority."

Yawnsville, daddio, yawnsville. Do you think that only anarchists have "adolescent experiences where the innocent heart has been brutalised" & that that's the ONLY path to recognizing that hierarchies engender injustice?! Somehow, I think that a study of the childhoods of, say, sports figures might reveal something like "the lives of [sports figures:] include adolescent experiences where the innocent heart has been brutalised or [frustrated:] by family authority" thusly leading to a dominating will to overcome obstacles. Or whatever. In other words, I don't think that adolescent hardships necessarily lead to anarchy.

As for the "powerlessness"? What type of power is it that's implied here to be so damned desirable anyway? Most anarchists are, as I've often stated before, trying to prevent other people from having power over them & not trying to have power over others! I feel like any day when I manage to live my life fairly close to the way I desire it to be is as powerful as I want it to be - & many of my days are like that. I'm not trying to have the powerfulness of Hitler or Clinton or whomever. Oliver goes on to write:

"A pulse, a loppy centre of true flight, not biased by extreme right-wing thinking or buffeted into hysterical failure by extreme left-wing or anarchist thinking"

Oi veh! "hysterical failure"? "hysterical failure" at WHAT, exactly? Furthermore, I know that there aren't many of us saying this BUT I don't consider anarchy to be "left-wing". For me, it's just the natural state of being of people who want to rule their own lives & who believe in their own strength of character enuf to live by it.

Later in the issue, I enjoyed Michael McClure's "Dogen Sonata One" somewhat. Incidentally, my friend Amy Catanzano, the one who gave me all the BGs I'll be reviewing here, ALSO gave me a bk of "Zen Essays" by Dogen. Dogen was a 13th c. (EV) Japanese Zen 'master' (never trust 'masters') & McClure's poem interests me largely b/c of the way he references Dogen but writes using present-times references as well.

Now I DETEST religion & the founder of Naropa, Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche (an honorific meaning "precious one") was a Tibetan Buddhist - so one might think I'd detest Naropa. But, no, I've always respected Naropa as a bastion of free-speech - largely b/c of the Kerouac School but also b/c my religion detestation is largely directed at the 2 biggest fundamentalist war-mongers: the Christians & the Muslims. But I have to wonder, is the sneaky anti-anarchism of the 2 above-quoted texts a side-effect of Naropa as a religious institution? After all, religion is the ultimate mind-killer & even Ginsberg sacrificed his intelligence to it from time-to-time.

Near the beginning of this issue is a text by Trungpa:

"Intellect moon

If you are purely looking for answers,
then you don't perceive anything. In the
proper use of intellect, you don't look
for answers, you just see."

I more or less agree w/ that EXCEPT THAT I don't think there's a "proper" use of intellect ("proper" meaning "right" in both the phsyical & the moral sense), nor do I think that people can "just see" - there's an infinite array of perceptual channels that filter. Despite these criticisms, I still basically agree w/ it. But if Trungpa was as philosophically advanced as is implied by his "Rinpoche" honorific, does that mean that others at Naropa are too?

But enuf about that sort of thing. Regardless of my criticisms, it's sad to me to see BG printed in such small editions. This particular issue was printed in an edition of 750 w/ grant money in honor of its 25th anniversary. Recent issues have been in editions of 300. &, yet, I know of a small local university whose literary qualties pale dramatically before BG & THEIR literary mag is printed in editions of 1,800. That, indeed, is sad. Bombay Gin 'deserves' wider recognition & respect.

Take Tannis Atkinson's "from Mask Migrations": Here's a work w/ some sense of field writing layout, a work where different conceptual threads share the same page(s) & the eye can wander from texts re "illegal immigrants" to "Alien" plants to an apparently personal time-line. It's writing like this that helps keep me returning for more.
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