Requiem for a Dream

The Auerhahn Six Poets Reading occurred just days after the Kennedy assassination.  As such the reading eulogizes the death of a young Sixties in the process of being born.  To be sure one of the great myths of the Kennedy Era was that it was a peaceful, hopeful time.  The Cuban Missile Crisis, the bombing of Birmingham Church, the Feminine Mystique, to list three events symptomatic of the simmering violence and despair associated with the Cold War, Civil Rights and the Women's Movement, suggest the opposite.  Yet for many, the events in Dallas signaled a decisive shift.

Allen Ginsberg's poem Nov. 23, 1963:  Alone, written at 1403 Gough Street in San Francisco, highlights this belief.  Again a naive view.  On October 28, 1963, Madame Nhu arrived in San Francisco and faced a protest demonstration, the first Ginsberg ever attended.  Camelot was doomed before Kennedy died.  Despite this fact, looking at Alone as marking yet another traumatic shift for Ginsberg, The Change:  Kyoto-Tokyo Express was written just four months earlier, and for the nation in general has become a standard reading.  For me this reading rings true but for different reasons.  The poem is one of the best documents of the pre-hype (read pre-hippie) San Francisco scene that I know of.  A series of Robert Frank-style snapshots.  As such it marks a dramatic shift.  Likewise the Six Poets Reading was the highwater mark of Auerhahn Press; it would be on the path to destruction soon after, with the Press dissolving roughly a year later with the publication of Bill Deemer's Poems.

The Reading took place at the International Music Hall at 2226A Fillmore.  On November 26, 1963, for a buck you could hear six poets read from the backlist of the Auerhahn Press. The location, like Ginsberg's poem, captured the spirit of the Auerhahn Press and head San Francisco.  The Batman Gallery was next door.  1403 Gough Street was in the neighborhood, as was the Hotel Wentley (1214 Polk), Foster's Cafeteria (1200 Polk), one time apartments of Robert Duncan and Jess (1350 Franklin) and the McClures (2324 Fillmore).  The East-West House (2273 California) offered a space for quiet contemplation.  A few years later, if you wanted a little more action, sister venues to the International Music Hall, the Avalon Ballroom (1268 Sutter), the Fillmore (1805-1807 Geary), and the Winterland (1725 Steiner), sprung up nearby.

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