An elegy for Peter Orlovsky

Steve Silberman offers this wonderful tribute to Peter Orlovsky, who died Sunday. Orlovsky was a poet and, more prominently, Allen Ginsberg’s lover for decades. I heard Orlovsky had died but couldn’t find anything Sunday to confirm it with the exception of changes to his Wikipedia entry.

Silberman was no stranger to Ginsberg and Orlovsky, to be sure. He was an apprentice to Ginsberg at the Naropa Institute and offers this wonderful passage in his Orlovsky tribute to put it all in perspective:

“It was Allen’s belief that the best education came not from niggling over line breaks and metaphors in airless workshops, but from living with poets and seeing how their minds worked in ordinary situations. (In an old Hasidic folktale, a young man says he is making a pilgrimage to a renowned rabbi not to discuss Torah, but to watch him tie his bootlaces.)

“One virtue of this approach was that seeing a world-famous poet in his underwear in the morning, turning the pages of The New York Times, tended to strip one of exalted illusions. These Beat Generation icons sweated, gossiped, got crabby about the littlest things, schlepped to the supermarket (except when they had me do it), made clumsy passes at sexy young poets, and had enormous and very fragile egos. In short, they were a mess, but as my Buddhist poet friend Marc Olmsted puts it in his best Burroughsian drawl, ‘It’s Samsara, my dear, we’re all a mess.’”

While Orlovsky wasn’t a critical figure in the Beat movement, I expected a little more attention from the mainstream press. Perhaps the New York Times will run something this week. I guess it’s tough to compete with Gary Coleman and Dennis Hopper …

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