The Poem Again is Yours: A Tribute to Ira Cohen
"He taught us how to read the texts." - Tom Walker
Ira Cohen was born in 1935 in the Bronx and attended Cornell University and Columbia University. In the early 1960s, he lived in Tangier and published GNAOUA magazine, an early venue for William Burroughs, among other Beat affiliates. He also produced Paul Bowles's recordings of dervish trance music (Jilala). Between stints in Spain, Paris, London, and Amsterdam, he returned to New York where he conducted shamanic experiments in photography and produced the films Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda and Paradise Now (documenting the Living Theatre's historic American tour). In the early1970s, he went to the Himalayas, studied bookmaking with native craftsmen, and continued to publish poets and writers such as Gregory Corso and Paul Bowles. In 1972 he spent a year in San Francisco reading and performing and mounting photographic shows. In 1981 he again returned to New York, where he lived between travels to Africa and Asia. In India, he documented the great kumbh mela festival in the film Kings with Straw Mats. In the latter part of the decade Synergetic Press published On Feet of Gold, a book of selected poems. Ira was a contributing editor of Third Rail magazine, a review of international arts and literature based in Los Angeles. His photographs have been shown internationally. Ira passed away on April 25, 2011. The following tributes by Ira's friends were compiled for RS by Steve Dalachinsky.
There are those rare, exotic birds that fly into the "real" world distinguished from all others by their rainbowed plumage all aflutter. They flourish briefly then fall prey to poachers and become extinct as fast as they are born, leaving behind traces of their struts, rituals, beauty, individuality, anger, humor, wisdom and illuminations. One such rare migratory creature was Ira Cohen born 1935, who travelled the wide world from Amsterdam to Morocco to India only to return to nest in his native New York in the early 1980's and to leave this "real" world for THE REAL WORLD on April 25, 2011 leaving behind a legacy of long scarves and mylar, colourful shirts and long flowing beards, photographic and filmic histories in black and white and living color, endless poems of the real, hyper-real and surreal. Tales told in mirrored kingdoms beneath "Thunderbolt Pagodas" by "Kings on Straw Mats", the twisted fingernails of Sadhu contortionists bent like pretzels beneath the Bhodhisatva Tree, warm smiles, Buddha belly, harsh chastising and nasty FUCK YOUs. Born to deaf and hearing impaired parents Ira made up for it with his huge presence, large voice and well-attuned ear. This piece is a compilation/collage of words by some of those who knew and loved him best. This piece is....
About Ira as told by
1. Romy Ashby
Over the years, I heard a lot of stories told by Ira. And very often while I'm walking in the city, snatches of his stories fly up into my consciousness. Ira told me about going to Hubert's Flea Circus once upon a time on 42nd Street and watching real fleas pulling little chariots. He told me a few times about Paul Bowles showing him two embalmed Mexican fleas in little boxes that he had in Tangier, dressed in tiny, colorful costumes. On another visit to Tangier a few years later, Ira asked to see the fleas again, but when Paul went to get them the little female flea had disappeared, box and all. Later still, the male went missing too. Ira told me that Paul told him a story about sticking a pin through a spider to keep it as a specimen and in the night the spider got up and left, pin and all.
He told me about a dream he had where Socrates and a bunch of friends were sitting on a beach somewhere, wearing no underwear beneath their cloaks, and leaving the imprint of their twig and berries in the sand by which they could be measured.
He told me about his old friend Irving Rosenthal, the author of a very good book called Sheeper, and how he had an extra tooth growing out of the roof of his mouth. Ira said that once when Irving took an overdose of pills he tried to get him to throw up by sticking his hand down Irving's throat, "past that mean little tooth."
Sometimes I recorded things in my diary, little things I scribbled down while Ira talked nonstop into my ear from the phone:
At 11 PM answered phone/Ira. He told me about Paulita Sedgwick, cousin of Edie and sister of Susanna (who she looks very much like) how much he likes her--knows her for many years--and how she turned him down for a kiss at his 36th birthday party, so he turned to Gianfranco Mantegna, who was sitting next to him on the other side, and stuck his tongue down Gianfranco's throat instead.
Sometimes it was something that just reminded me of Ira but wasn't about him at all, but I'd write it down and I'm glad I did:
6 January 2005
As the E train came into the station I saw that the driver was a glowering person in a turban who looked like Ira. Once Ira told me about when he was a kid, how funny he thought it was when his father farted and didn't realize it because he was deaf. We were sitting in his living room on 106th Street, full of all his stuff, me on the sofa and Ira planted in his chair. He looked like a wonderful, menacing old owl. I'm one of the countless people who hit the jackpot the day I met Ira, and the winnings will last me my lifetime.
2. from Sylvie Degiez (from Sylvie and Wayne, CosmicLegends.com) NYC 2011
Ira Cohen, always game for anything that feels Ira Cohen. He was a Mercurian being
and I love to see himself that way.
We met at Jedi's bar The Cooler talked right away, I'm kind of a tall European
I may have reminded him of Petra a bit. We hit it off, worked together from then on
first in the musical performance "Soundbites" at the Cooler (where I also met the most dear, now departed soul, Rashied Ali). Ira, Rashied, Wayne and I, Michael Alig, Angel Jack, Screaming Rachel, Taylor Mead, Gloria Tropp and a few others performed 4:33 for John Cage's 1992 memorial in Central Park Summerstage. We both loved music, words, costumes and rituals. We performed The Dwarf of Oblivion/ A King, A Flower, A Point in time / Devachan and the Monads / Moody Moon / Earth Ark / In the Sun and many other performances together.
One day, he gave me the strange manuscript of ORFEO, scribbled in India by Angus MacLise, to direct. We did it at the Kitchen, Hetty Maclise came, I met so many of Ira's friends. He was always happy to introduce you to someone: I met Ornette Coleman with him, Cecil Taylor too. He knew everyone that was someone or not I was lucky to spend his last Christmas with him and Mikki Maher and his last New Year too, with loyal Alan Graubard. He was sharp as a tack although forgetful and fragile. I will always love him and if all that's left is love he had plenty of it, sometimes too much.
Mercurial love Ira, will we resonate together again?
Ira, you always spoke of this other world beneath the trivial. Are you there now?
3. Debbie Harry
What a wonderful experience Ira had in life. A sometimes hard fought
search for his soul, Ira collected people and people's stories. He in turn was a great story
teller relating in wonderful detail all the nuances of his stories.
I was often swept away by listening to him talk about his experiences
and the experiences of the people he met. Good bye crazy sweet Ira.
4. Michael Rothenberg
PHANTOM, COME HITHER!
You're not having enough fun
Or smoking enough dope
Not opening up your head
Or heading out into the open
So go (NOW) to the Cosmic Hotel
Check in to the Paradise suite
Give the Akashic cashier
All your hard-earned money
Condemn the sacred incantation
Of your tragic virgin muse
Pay tribute to the grave robbers
To troubadour Francois Villon
Master bandit vagabond
Break open the sky!
Let the shattered stars shred all memories
On the bloody road to ruinMap the trail where lost dreamers go
This is not a day for archives
Libraries or documentaries
Pound the wheel into motion
Lie without shame
In a bramble of white roses
Run in terrible glee through worlds
Of avant-garde Pinocchios
Dance like Yakas
In the hallowed wheat fields
Of Indiana, Ohio and Idaho
The Killing fields of Pollyanna!
Drink to the masked dancers. Have fun!
Because that's what suffering is for
There is no time for contemplation
No time to lean on a lamppost
And smoke that forgotten cigarette. . .
Instead, blow blue smoke into the lights of a dying city!
While the sun goes up and down and up
And you shed your skin
And I shed mine
And die, and die, and die
With every fucking breath
Death-click, enlargement, refraction, replication and scan
You're holding on too tight
To your rule book
You don't need your life!
Step outside and scream
To the Daughters of Hell!
I'm waiting for you
Ghost draped in flesh
Waiting for you
To turn me on.
June 7, 2000
(S.D.) Ira shared his crazy whirld with other such exotic members of the flock as Marty Matz, Gregory Corso, Angus MacLise, Paul Bowles and Jack Smith, Steve Ben Israel, Judith Malina, among others. All comrades, some extinct yet not stuffed and displayed behind glass but alive and thriving in the hearts and minds of a fertile underground still filled with outsiders, hunger artists, shop lifters and lovers.
5. Here are two excerpts from an interview taped and transcribed by Eric La Prade from November 8, 2000 with Ira Cohen talking about one of those very souls, Herbert Hunke and their encounters in the 60's including another reference to Irving Rosenthal:
As La Prade puts it: "Ira was street smart. He could think on his feet, and was always ready to deal with an absurd encounter."
"I knew Herbert very well. When he was on Methadone, he bought me junk every day on a regular basis without ripping me off. He loved my mother. He also acted like there was something suspicious about me; that if he didn't know my mother, he couldn't deal with me. But, we always got along well. I remember with a very big laugh. . . . how, before Louie, (Huncke's lover) he had Whitey. So, one time they came to my place on Norfolk Street, right on Houston, over a Jewish Monument Store. After I came back from Morocco, I got a nice pad there for Sixty-five dollars, and in the window of the store was a monument that said, "Cohen." So, Huncke came over with Whitey one day and we were doing [something] and afterwards, I took them to the door to say good-bye, and he [Huncke] was already at the door with Whitey and as I came over I heard Huncke saying to Whitey, "Notice how this doorknob turns to the left and the lock . . ." So, I'm hearing this conversation and I'm thinking, "What the fuck!"
Then I said, I don't have to worry about that lock, it works very well but because we're on Houston Street right here and the [Police] Precinct is right down the block, this house is so well guarded . . . can you imagine. The other day, somebody came up on this building on the fire escape and they went up on the roof and they just put the searchlights on him and they nailed him against the skyline, and the guy was running here and there, and they just mowed him down with a hail of bullets, on the roof. Then, Huncke left. I just wanted to put a stop to what he was thinking."
"One day when I was home on Norfolk Street, Huncke called and said, "Know anybody who wants to buy a typewriter?" I said, "No, but if I find anybody, I'll let you know. So, ten minutes later, I got a call from Irving Rosenthal, who is on Suffolk Street. and he says, "Someone just stole Edward Dahlberg's typewriter. Do you know where I can get another one?" So, I said, "Sure. It's funny you should call because Huncke just called me and he said he had a typewriter he wanted to sell. And it was a Remington; the same kind, so maybe you should call Huncke."
6. Ira Cohen-In Memoriam
by Valery Oisteanu
What's next? whispers Ira and becomes invisible
Scream no more, from unquenched fate
We'll see you on the other side
A Jewish Shaman walks away
While the big flutes are silent,
The extinct cactus remains still
The bells are thunderstruck
Our holy man of the straw mats
Melts benignly into the molecular earth
After an endless battle with himself
A distorted shadow in search of Ganesh Baba
From Chelsea all the way to Kathmandu
365 steps up to the Temple Swayambhu
Kumbha Mella traveler overran by sadhus
Blowing a dijiridou, jazz convulsions
With potent magic mushrooms
Psychedelic carnal lovers evaporating
Disappearing on the magic carpet to the Kasbah
Lamenting in the sub-ground Ethiopian churches
Following the holy wind into the dessert
Eating majoun, riding the sunset
Tormented musicians of joujouka
Helter-skelter from Tangier to Crete
What's next boychick? What's hip?
Poetry shrunk down to tiny crumbs
Farfetched nightmares no more!
An avalanche of absurd nothingness
Yisgadal v'yiskadash sh'may rabo
Sufi in Ira's coffee, Shiva in Ira's tea
Buddha in his wine, Yahweh in his tap water!
Last chillum for trans-hypnosis
The king of Thunderbolt goes to sleep
7. The Bat Palace - Jordan Zinovich
Ira was a man who actively engaged life's mythopoetic potentialities. I already miss that aspect of having him around. If he wasn't recounting his own adventures, other people were. But the second-hand tales were frequently mangled half truths filtered through weird impressions of Ira's complex personality and performative personae. About ten years ago, he and I created a 350-page manuscript of his prose pieces entitled "Ira Cohen: A Dissolute Life Spent in the Service of Allah." During that work I asked him about some of the stories I'd heard and read. One of the most interesting was a claim by Paul Bowles that Ira and the people living with him in Tangier regularly practiced chiropterophagy and dark magic in the house called the Bat Palace.
Jordan Zinovich: Tell me the story of the "bat palace." I'm familiar with Paul Bowles's version, which he apparently told fairly often, but it's about you and I've never heard you tell it.
Ira Cohen: My girlfriend Rosalind and I were living with Irving Rosenthal in a house in Tangier.
JZ: On the mountain?
IC: No, not on the mountain. People with money lived on the mountain. We didn't have any money. Our house was in the Medina, close to the drain.
Anyway, the Caves of Hercules weren't far away. The bats swarmed out every night, so we got curious and went to take a look. As usual in Morocco, there were "guides" there - they always needed money and never asked for much. For some reason, once we got inside the caves I decided I wanted a bat. It just seemed like a good idea. So the guide we'd hired took a long stick and poked around in a crack in the roof until one fell out.
I'll never forget that bat crashing down: it didn't just drop, it plummeted like a star, smashing down stunned.
The Moroccan wanted two dirhams for it. Irving and Roz went nuts. Twenty-five cents didn't seem too much to me, but they wanted me to barter - as if they really knew anything about bartering. Some people really got into bartering, but things were cheap and within reason I just paid what the Moroccans asked. You're never really going to beat them anyway. Since the guide specifically asked for two dirhams I suspected he had some special need for them, so I said: "Two dirhams, two bats." I didn't need two bats, but it was easier for both of us for me to barter up rather than down. I got two bats.
That was probably good, because the injured bat died by the time we got home. We laid it out on the table and started smoking. You know how it is: you get stoned, you get crazy; one thing leads to another. We started talking about what to do with the bat. At some point, as a joke, I said, "Why don't we just eat it?" Roz said, "Okay." She was so matter of fact about it. She got out a frying pan and some oil and started to skin it, which was the last thing in the world I expected her to do. (I nailed the skin to a board and kept it for years until it got so moldy I had to throw it out.) Irving said he wanted the lips and the penis. I wasn't really sure that I wanted any of it - but when the time came I went for a drumstick. Roz ate the brain. When Mark Schleifer dropped by it had become a theatre piece. Poor Mark had had a terrible time the night before at Sidi Kacem (the Moroccan equivalent of Walpurgis Night). He had no idea what was going on and he recoiled from us in horror. Before I knew it the story was circulating as if it was something we did regularly, which is the story Paul told.
JZ: That's it?
IC: That's it.
JZ: What about the other bat?
IC: We wanted to learn more about it, so we put it in an empty room in the house and closed the door. But we never saw it again after that. No matter how quietly we moved it was never there when we opened the door. No sign of it. I guess it found its own way out. Animals are a lot smarter than people think they are.
8. Indra B. Tamang - Ira Cohen as I remember him most May 4, 2011
I remember trekking with Ira in the mountains of Crete, as we went through little villages, dogs would come tearing after Ira and I'd think, "Why him and not me?" There was just something about Ira that made the dogs want to chase him. I think they had probably just never seen anything quite like him before. Something I always admired about Ira, that I've never seen anyone else do, was his way of being able to carry on a conversation with a number of people while writing poems at the same time. Poems just flowed out of him, a constant flow of poems like a river. Whenever he used to come up to the Dakota to visit Charles Henri Ford and me, dressed in his unmistakable caftan, he always came with everything he needed to preserve the moment; pen, notebook and camera-and he created a huge memory bank of moments with those tools of his trade. A huge pair of shoes has been left empty with his passing.
9. Bobby Yarra remembers:
Coming home each day, wearing my three piece suit and carrying my briefcase, I passed Cafe Boheme in the Mission District and often saw a fantastic spectacle. There was an incredibly handsome man dressed like a Pasha, and what looked to be his entourage, lounging in the cafe and having a wonderful time. I would say to myself "I wish that I was with him and his crowd and not scurrying home after a hard day of misery."
I flew to New York from California in early 1983, dropped my bags off, and went immediately to The Chelsea Hotel to see Vali Myers, which was what I always did upon arrival when Vali was in town. I always brought a fifth of Bombay Gin to room 631 to celebrate and to enjoy the magic of my friendship with the divine Miss Myers. After imbibing way too much, Vali took me to a party in the Village honoring George Plimpton, who was her great friend from her early days in Paris. I remember shaking his hand and then running down the stairs, as I was about to be sick. After heaving, I looked at a man sitting on the stoop of the building where the party was and recognized that handsome man from the cafe in San Francisco. It was Ira.
We started talking and thus marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
10. Penny Arcade - Ira, You Are Gone Now May 8th, 2011 NYC
Ira, you are gone now
You have lost that body
That needed so much
No more the urge
No more Desire
No more your refrigerator of stolen meat
No more, no more
The epic poems
You are full now Ira
No more hunger
No more emptiness
"A non psychedelic can never enlighten a psychedelic"
you always said
And of course that is true
as you were true
True to yourself if to no one else
except maybe Lakshmi
your red headed daughter
Ira I walk the Lower East Side
There is you
You were not the best father
You were not the best friend
You betrayed my trust with that psycho bitch
I always knew that when you turned your back on me
It was in the hope of pussy
Nothing meaner really at work
When I said "How could you Ira?
I stuck up for you to Ginsberg"
You just shrugged
Majoun and Mylar blurred your boundaries
What a fool for pussy you were
What a cunt collar you had Ira
Ever the hustler, ever the shoplifter
Your desires were so strong
Books, poetry, photos, steak, pussy
And something to smoke,
pussy and the hope of pussy
love and the hope of love
poetry and the hope of poetry
you were that criminal Sadhu, Ira
in the tradition of Villon, Rimbaud , Genet
You shoplifted thousand of books and thousands of steaks
Ira and you read them all,
And you ate them all Ira
You read all the steaks and ate all the books
didn't you Ira?
You ate them all Ira
One extraordinary person after another
One adventure out on a limb after another
You were so hungry, your appetite for life so big Ira
You out ran death for a good long time
Your death was always with you as it is with us all Ira
But you made deals with yours Ira didn't you?
That warm fuzzy death sitting on your left shoulder
You borrowed from your death Ira
She was your pimp and your lover, Kali
And you owed her big time
At court for Jack Smith's estate, you sat with the psycho bitch
And when I confronted you
You said "I don't think that shows I'm on her side"
You sat there just to be close to the pussy
She was never gonna give you
But you didn't believe that did you Ira?
And when the judge dismissed our case
Without even hearing it
and their lawyer came to you
As I stood in front of you
the crooked lawyer said :
"We couldn't have done it without you Ira"
and You were so confused
you looked up at me sadly, blinking
and said, "I didn't do anything."
But I understood you were just there hoping for the pussy Ira
I really did
For a taste of the recognition that eluded you
Just wanting to be heard Ira
till the last second just after you died
You never understood you couldn't play both sides Ira
The Mylar and the Majoun
they blurred those boundaries
See how they played you Ira?
The New York Times Obituary
You didn't expect
So respectful and so grand
They gave you your rightful place in history Ira
The place at the table you helped set
And now your photos will be worth money Ira
But you won't be there
To pay your rent with it
Or to buy a dinner or a pack of smokes
That's the catch Ira
The New York Times never mentioned your poverty
Or how it twisted you to be so unrecognized,
So left out
They didn't mention your skill at shoplifting
A skill, you said, every poet should have
Later when the psycho bitch cut you from the
Jack Smith Film except for one line
You were so angry and so disappointed
When I told you she was a trust fund cunt with a million bucks
You said "A million dollars? She told me she was starving!
I bought her a sandwich with my last 5 bucks!"
Oh Ira you got played
And I was so pissed off
I didn't talk to you for two years
Then one night at The Pink Pony
Lucien said to me
"It's Ira's birthday "
I felt your sorrow from across the room
And I came to you and kissed your head
And I didn't say anything
But you knew I forgave you
I remember your mother in the hall
On 106th St. and Broadway
The deaf people signing madly
clustered in the doorway
The deaf neighbors of that silent tower of babble that formed you
And I entered the wordless magic world you grew up in for a little while
Your mother's sweet, silent laughter echoed in yours
Your eyes so merry like hers and so filled with life
You knew joy Ira
You really did
Ira I could listen to you for years but you never let me get a word in
Years of living in that silent world
insured you would have to talk uninterrupted for decades
But I hear you Ira, like I always did
You channeling the secrets of the Akashic Record for all to hear
If they only listened to you instead of looking at the crumbs in your
I heard you Ira.
I really did, and you can talk uninterrupted in my ear forever now
I always wanted to hear every word you said
Ira , we laughed so much
I remember that Ira
I really do
All those days and nights with Jack Smith
When you first called me to say he was dying
And not answering his phone
And you sent me to ring his bell
Because you were afraid of Jack's famous rage
And after you asked me
"Now that Jack knows he's dying, do you think he
will be easier to deal with?
And I laughed and said
"No Ira, Jack is more difficult then ever but so what?"
And you said, "Yes, I guess it will be alright"
You at Jack's bedside, in Beth Israel
The day Ginsberg came and tried to photograph him
And I stopped him
You said "You are so brave."
Allen said, "You take such beautiful care of Jack"
And Jack lifted himself off the pillow
And screamed at Allen
"It's because I am not a walking career like you!"
and standing by his pillow
you gave Jack the little ball of opium
It can be said now
No one will think you killed him
AIDS did that
But remember when Jack turned to me and said
"Thank God Ira is here. No one knows how to talk anymore"
and oh how happy that made you
All that long night as Jack died
We massaged him and spoke lovingly to him
You and Mikki, Mitch and I
And when he died in my arms
You anointed his body with the special perfume
From Marrakesh's master perfumer
As the nurse tied the white cloth around his head
To keep his jaw closed
Jack's eyes wide open in ecstasy
And the Doctor said "I have never seen anyone die like this"
And I said "Photograph Jack, Ira"
And you hesitated
And I said
"Get on the chair Ira
Shoot from above
It is Jack's best angle
Jack wants this. It is his death portrait"
I never saw you hesitate before
They never let you read at St Marks
You the real poet
The cruelty of Ginsberg and Burroughs
At the PEN Award
When the staff tried to throw you out
Because there was no chair for you at the dinner
And Allen and William turned their backs on you
Like you were nobody
And you shrugged you shoulders and said
"Ginsberg wants to be the only beard"
You wanted their approval Ira
But it was you who were the time traveler
You who sat in dirt with the Nagas
You who smoked chillums with the Sadhus
You who stood in the Atlas with the Berbers
You who went to the Kumbh Mela
How many times?
They could only write
They never lived it
And they knew it, Ira, they knew it
You always had one foot in the astral plane
I know you are at home there
With Ginsberg, Burroughs, Julian Beck and Don Snyder
Brion Gysin, Charles Henri Ford and Paul Bowles, Jack Smith, Marty
Matz and Corso
With Lionel Ziprin, Roger Richards, and Hunke,
Louis Cartwright and Tuli and Vali
And soon the rest of us
The Sweet Return
And we will all be there together
in the sweet bye and bye
I know that
and I feel you there ,
and I feel you here
with me now
I always will Ira
and I know
You will never go away again
11. Inside Outsider for Ira Cohen - Shiv Mirabito
When we first met with the Kathmandu set
on a sunny day in Woodstock
You explained the joy & the pain of publishing poems
on handmade paper in Nepal in the 70's
& You inspired me to start Shivastan Press in Nepal in the 90's
to continue the tradition You & Angus started
Bardo Matrix, Star Streams, Dream Weapon
Spirit Catcher Book Shop
All now rare as opal vulture's teeth & 1000 year old unicorn eggs
A book is a beautiful thing
You name dropped me an avant garde education
Bowles, Burroughs, Gysin, Ziprin & Corso
Midgette, Malanga & Maclise
Paul Babes, Little Ira, Ganesh Baba, Jack Smith & Penny Arcade
Vali, Debbie Harry, Chris Stein & Joey Ramone
Peter Lamborn Wilson, Charles Henri Ford & Indra
etc, etc, etc
Morocco, Amsterdam, New York, Kathmandu
Italia, Ethiopia, Angkor Wat & Timbuktu too
Now that the translucent psychedelic opium bubble
swirling on the edge of time has burst
may the purple shadow of your poetry never diminish in size
Your work will live forever in the Akashic records of eternity
Born of parents who could not speak
You never stopped speaking
& I tried to devour every golden razor tongued word
You were right when you screamed at me on the phone:
"You don't know anything!!!"
Was the bat palace really Shangri-la?
Why did Mata-ji cry on that houseboat on the Ganga in Banaras?
Was the Bardo Matrix press really financed by the CIA
& King Birendra of Nepal?
Why did the silently smoking sadhu
hold his arm in the air for 12 years?
How many million pilgrims shit at the Kumbh Mela?
How did Paul Bowles make love to a Moroccan?
How did William Burroughs make electricity from dead cats?
Was mylar photography really inspired by butterflies wings?
Did the secret caverns below the self arisen stupa
really connect to Lhasa?
How big were the roses in Bir Singh's garden?
What did Jack Smith's bejeweled lair look like?
How did Vali get those tribal tattoos?
How many topless angels can dance on the head of your pen?
Has the gold dust in your squid ink finally faded?
Does the one legged blind beggar cry for you?
Is it true that "Whatever you say may be held against you"?
If Groucho Marx said you had an ethereal body
would you hold it against him?
12. Louise Landes Levi
met Ira Cohen on
the Weesperzijde home of poet-
anarchist Simon Vinkenoog - I had read
& marveled at his works - editing Americain's Abroad,Vol.2 w. Lynne Tillman -
unpublished, Amsterdam 1974. Ira Cohen arrived at Simon's moments
after I'd received a psychic message don't meet him -
I was trying to preserve a love relation, absent lover in India
, I knew close contact w. Simon & his entourage wld. bring the circle to a close - IRA
appeared - the conversation centered
on confetti in Benares bearing images of
Antonin Artaud, Daniel Moore's Floating Lotus
Opera Company had I slept w. him? & Petra Vogt,
Ira's great love - great actress of the German stage & the Living Theatre.
Ira was returning fr. a visit w.Jodorowsky - he had wanted to score a part for
Petra in Dunes. He wanted to get back to Nepal as soon as possible.
The next morning Ira arrived at
my place on the Laings Nek Straat-
(Daumal & Michaux translations - literally - hidden
under my bed- The boyfriend did not approve.
I knew.someone wld. be sent who did. )
Ira needed a place to stay, yes,of course, welcome,
It reminded him of Nepal, Indian
instruments, books on Buddhism, very quiet.
Ira, Heathcote Williams & I, that night do a
show at the Milky Way. The boyfriend returns, luckily
headed for his parents, his twin -or double - had already found another
place for him. IRA had entered my life -
A symbolic, empowered (by the poetic
muse), entirely personal (Uncle Ira where are you?)
relation - over the next 4 decades-evolved. Countless readings,
publications, photos, a film, musical accompaniment (for his
readings), radio shows, endless talks, cafes, bars, living rooms,
his living room that is - I never had my own apartment
after the Laings Nek Str., Ira the rival
of my sweethearts but never my sweetheart -
it wld. be incest we agreed. Poems written for
you, written together, a few out bursts
diabetic rage. Louise what shld. I do,
toward the end, bravely persisting,
you can't kill yourself. It wld. be terrible for Lakshmi, yes.
Breathing yr. last the
day I return fr. my retreat. I was
thinking of you on the island, dancing
for you. the dance encapsulates the teachings-
why didn't you ever talk abt. it?
you never asked.
You waited until the day
I returned to die/you are living
In my heart, O my poems have flown
wind up on my
bicycle, you are so heavy,
but I do not falter, notebooks, photos,
Petra is a princess fr. a dark world, you are
a ruler of an other wordly planet, or
place, as yet unencountered,
We are friends, we
are the priests of the nation*, you
have the social gifts, I am an outsider, a temple
musician, according to tradition - By the
same tradition women are not allowed
to play, we break - at a cost - w. these
traditions. It is a long road
clad in black, we meet in Naples,
in Amsterdam, in NYC, in London, when
the paradigm is changing & I am playing w/o you,
But the photos, in the gallery are yours. The relation
at this point. Changes.
You are bedridden & your
mind has been affected by the endless medications
imposed on you & by whom? I will ask that question
for a long time. Your poetry continues,
We write & work together. The tables of fortune
turn on a vast mandala & you are mine & I am yours,
that is, we never took the poetic voice, it overtook
us - talks of deep personal nature, the poets
Li po & Tu Fu maintained such dialoge.
Wasn't it you who introduced me to Arberry?
Wasn't it you who was as light as
(in lore of 10 lost tribes, the Cohens occupy the position of
the socially active 'priests' or rabbis, the levites are
wanderers, are not permitted to own land,
but teach as travelers. The Cohens &
the Levites guard the treasury
of the 5 books.)
13. Peter Lamborn Wilson remembers:
Some time in the late 80's in NYC I happened to be at a poetry reading that also featured Ira Cohen, whom I did not know. He happened to mention his guru Ganesh Baba and as it happened I too was a "disciple" of this great enlightened eccentric - who smoked more ganja than anyone else I (or Ira) ever met. I met Ganesh in Darjeeling in 1969. Ira met him, I think, later in Katmandu. Ira helped bring Ganesh to America. And published a pamphlet of his outrageous aphorisms - which I later re-published in Orgies of the Hemp Eaters (Autonomedia). I loved Ira and if there's a heaven for dope smokers I hope to meet him and Ganesh there once again, for an eternity of emerald bliss.
14. from Gabor Gyukics - Hungarian poet / translator and good friend
it has nothing to do with
(in memoriam Ira Cohen)
say farewell to all the previous notions
walk among sleeping crocodiles
towards the center of colors
not withstanding the magnetism of mysteries
below the crowds of nothing under the skies
along the chords of the infinite circle
with silent lips
with goggled eyes
with storming calmness inside your skull
your defenseless cells lead your invisible steps
across the forbidden zone
yellow fog feeds
your leftover body
17. From Herbert Kearney
I had the good fortune to spend his last weeks' transition with Ira. He held true to the last when the nurse tested him with who's the president of the U.S. he replied 'FUCKHEAD!' . you filled me empty.
For Ira Cohen...Keeper of the Akashic records.
Crazy man takes my black shmotta from your hospital room
it returns with open hand of steve dalachinsky
Later stilled you I in timeless silent stare
somewhence between birthmark and buddha
pen-knifed ink tatooed on my paper heart
doing upside down mudra magic with gummy worms
outside 'Herbies cuoferi' on 110 th st.
taking London strides to october gallery
where you wrote the last samurai in a book
I gifted made from English meadow flowers
challenged double decker bus for the road
looming big caped in black lunged I between as offering.
Unpoliced poet pulling Malanga's 'Living theatre' from Italian prison
band aid buttoned old Nikon marrying words to pictures
the haunted rose finally talks to the angel
sitting on cosmic straw with matz
listening to the sound of jade growing in stone
rather then the jingle of gold
wearing Kaufman's eyes blinded by loud sounds of Hunckes hipster shirts
did the ex professor of tempest and torment confess to her mic
that the listener risks all in the nightmare of Corso's mindfield ?
where Angus makes Omas' bent bowls sing arye with sounds of light
and Villon's noosed neck need not know the weight of his ass
where the insomniac sleeps the big sleep
we seek undying dreams as death dreams us back
where Luca puts his head thru a hole in the Romanian Flag
which now drapes around Andrei Cadrescus'
still stretching like suspenders of nations that have no meaning
here no one sleeps in these times
when the maker is the monster's myth
here the minoans still bemoan dolphins deaths
waiting for drunk gods to drown
as the brown owl stays up all night
filling the white goddess with stolen meat
four hour phone calls pass like moments planning plays
where Bobby produces 'a ship of fools' at 631
Vali as captain hennas your beard to look like an Afgani tourist
fantasizing a gypsy wedding
pissing in the same can thrown into inseparable seas
with Lionel as navigator using five dimensions at once
inventing stars to go by
you as mate busy keeping records of cultural icons
personal happiness too low a star to shoot for
and I as crew trying not to fall overboard while
landgarten in panama style
collects the songs of the ancients thru gulls cries
in constant constellations of creation
through the sound of silence
brings back coconut economics
and now... you are the temple.
16. Allan Graubard reports April 26, 2011 that:
The day after Ira dies
A Great Horned Owl lands in a backyard tree in Chicago
Startling all the little birds
Who know their time has come
A friend calls me up to tell me
How it happened
Sitting there on the back porch
Smoking a cigarette
The sky going dark
And the lamp light wrapping its soft fingers
Around the shuttle cocks
We know it¹s him
Another guy from the gang
Who went years ago
To tell us
That we know
What Ira knew
Never knowing how
To say no
When it was
Always better to say yes
We¹ll do it
And it will do us
So are there two owls now
Between their feathered eyebrows
Or is that the illusion
Of a reflection
For being there
When that owl landed
And all the little birds
As the funeral proceeded, a slight wind came up and above floated a hawk, no other bird in sight, careening up and down on the updrafts. For a time, above the mourners and coffin it hung there like some ancient glyph, spirit messenger from the feathered realms to tell us, we know, we see, he who helped one of us we now recognize. Pass on, brother, we are here to help you.
Ira is in the feathered realms; this man who spoke
the language of the
17. and a similar experience by Ira Landgarten
Ira Cohen was buried beside his parents & grandparents in Mt. Lebanon Cemetery in Queens, April 27, 2011.
During the funeral, a single majestic hawk soared above the open grave...
several of us mourners saw it hovering on the thermal winds.
How fitting, this spirit bird, how totally Ira!
18. steve dalachinsky
your death was so real like being in a movie
you were buried today
& bobby said it was all very jewish
& some little kid had ½ his body
½ his mouth blown off by a car bomb
so they brought him here
to feed him ice cream for his birthday
alan g. & ira l. said a lone hawk hovered over your
grave as they laid you to rest - rest
& you who
evoked the natural world with your dinosaur bones
sought what could never be truly represented
in the "real" world
tangible you endured
rendering the "real" thing false
invested in this LIFE beyond this life
always a small group of the faithful
seeking your every move
it's too beautiful today
said the BIG RED flowers
not like yesterday - all grey & misty wet
when the breath they forced into you choked on itself
& the great machine that you were shut down
in the midst of spring's silence
big body lost in the paradise of the JEWS
it's a great upheaval today
said the big white, yellow & orange flowers
who are you talking to? she asked
to impending summer little girl - they answered
short skirted little girl
& the guy wearing the Disney t-shirt that says
NO MORE MR. NICE GUY
says that Boccioni's unique forms of continuity &
space would seem like cartoons today
died of WAR & Pestilence - small fragments
of his body blown away
just disappeared into the battle stained air of metamorphosis
zero relative cube architecture
a non- manifesto-ist in a time ruled by manifestos
& great art everywhere succumbed to &
influenced by influenza
contrast of forms - romanticism - solidarity
& the cone itself was a symbol of the future
& your warm chromatic swirling strength
quiet feet in the corridor
"what's happening to lakshmi" you say
"she's falling off the page"
"the pillow is falling off the bed"
"my leg is falling off the bed"
"why don't i get a fucking blood connection"
" i need a fucking shot"
"i'm gonna punch you in the nose"
"i don't want the pillow to fall"
let it fall - i say - "fuck you" you say - bag ½ full of piss
the afternoon rush is quieting down
she sweeps silently along the corridor
it cannot be true
what the old Nicaraguan poet
what the long gone scientists
that we all evolved from a
you & the hawk perhaps
the ice cream cone
the muddy rainbow
there are unstoppable counterfeiters
hence uncountable counterfeits
all that is left of original civilization
the inside story of a vital brain
closing doors while opening minds
you leave it all behind now
NOW behind you now
waiting to play your song
waiting for the world to begin again
born of mutes
an automatic son - your links to the very origin
land of the free - free links to the world
the universe whose hands you are now in
traveler wherein you travel with your autobiography
beneath your arm/your skin
& our biographies as well within this one/celled DNA-circus
waiting for you to bring toward your chin
hidden behind your long white beard
GOD or something like that
see-er / translator of traditions
here/now the angel of death finally annoyed
kissed you on the forehead - & the skin peeled off its lips
& you surrendered said hello to the bright light
your shoulders lightening - the pillow falling
your vocabulary communing with the SEASONS
solutions - your very memory multi-layered
multi-celled lingering in the substance
& you threw the dice
said farewell to the color of music
said hello to the rumor of otherness & immortality
left behind the deep clarity of your voice
the reflective rewinding of a journey
& its steps
& you slipped the Akashic Record beneath
kissed the little boy of WAR on the forehead
took a lick of his ice cream
threatened to stick a pencil up the nurse's ass
set your wings in motion
& said FUCK YOU to DEATH - death
HERE I AM!
So here's to you dear Ira, one who had the wisdom of an owl, the appetite of a hawk and the heart of a dove. (S.D. - NYC may 2011)
For those interested DREAMWEAPON - the Art and Life of Angus MacLise
is on view at 521 W. 23rd Street, NYC from May 10-May 29. Angus was a good friend of Ira's and there are many photos letters, poems etc by Ira in this show. A poet, musician and original member of the Velvet Underground, MacLise was only 41 when he died in 1979. Also there is a Jack Smith exhibit at Gladstone Gallery on 515 W. 24th St. oddly right around the corner.Tweet