East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg (Paperback)
A memoir of the upstate New York getaway where the icons of the Beat Generation gathered.
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, Gordon 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. Here, in honest and vivid prose, he offers a rare intimate glimpse of the poetic pillar of the Beat Generation.
“Only a masterful storyteller like Gordon Ball could turn a depressing tale of poets at rock bottom into a triumph of the human spirit . . . 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.
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