Allen Ginsberg and Morden Tower
Allen Ginsberg read many times at morden Tower. Below is his account of his first reading at Morden Tower.
“When Tom Pickard by telephone invited me to read at Morden Tower in 1965, I felt like a bearded emissary of another hemisphere, and eager to share my magic wares I boarded train North happily. Greeted at Newcastle Central Station by the most furious display of Gnostic graffiti in the gentleman’s room walls that I had ever seen on the planet, I realized for certain that the bardic rituals of Morden Tower were not merely the propriety of youthful cognoscenti continuing traditions of old, but that the magic enacted in the Tower articulated the unconscious of the entire city slumbering in the mechanic illusions of the century.
To a celestial Eye travelling on earth the Scene in Morden Tower would’ve appeared celestially decorous: a mediaeval turret wherein youthful bards, in poetic tatterdemalion, or spiritual coloured dress, with manly hair princely-long, wine cups or other alchemic potions at hand, their lasses sensitive tender and observant, were gathered quiet in the centre of Satanic- architectured city in Albion to listen to the mind-language of poet travellers from other cities of their Isles or strangers from across the ocean.
That a secret stranger dwelled in their midst and instructed them by his modesty confirmed in the myth, and thus some youth of Newcastle instinctively re-enacted the most distinguished ritual of Britain, the Bardic Assembly, all through the sixties of the XX century.
Morden Tower was famed afar, appropriately English- tongue poets of the Western Hemisphere knew that Basil Bunting (companion and peer of the great word masters of the century) had found companions among the young in Newcastle who had answered the Great Call of Poesy. More charmingly, the young had sought out and found the older Bard in his obscurity near the city, and drawn him out to word-joust and night –intoxication properly renewed by their own attentive enthusiasm and good cheer.
A crowded evening, candles, incense, music, beautiful-bodied company, stone walls, Pickard with the haircut of a valiant magician’s attendant in charge of the Tower’s rare library, Bunting the master himself smiling in the fete-oso I gave the most complete reading of my own written work that I ever vocalised in one evening. Knowing the minds and ears were fine, (or among the younger folk, if inexperienced, tenderly open), I began at my beginning as a poet and read past midnight all the scribbling I had done for a decade.
Certainly happy circumstances for a poet, and happier to hear Buntings concern “Too many words, condense still more”. Thus reading at Morden Tower altered my own poetic practice slightly towards greater economy of presentation. So I learned more reading at Morden Tower than I had at a hundred universities”
Allen Ginsberg October 13 1968.