Poetry News

Locus Solus Serves Up Rare Frank O’Hara, Allen Ginsberg, and Amiri Baraka Footage

By Harriet Staff


We're grateful to Andrew Epstein for pointing us to this rare footage of a poetry reading featuring Frank O’Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones), and Ray Bremser at the Living Theater in 1957. The footage arrived via the Allen Ginsberg Project and runs for three minutes, with Ginsberg's "Sunflower Sutra" dubbed over the short film. Epstein writes:

Via the Allen Ginsberg Project, I just learned of the existence of some rare, but apparently now-available, footage by the experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas that features Frank O’Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones), and Ray Bremser giving a poetry reading and hanging out together at the Living Theater in 1957.* Until now, the only remnant of that evening I’m familiar with was this still photo by Fred McDarrah.


There are so few moving images of O’Hara available at all that it’s a thrill to be able to see him in action. It’s also extraordinary and moving to see these poets, looking impossibly young, reading their poems, smoking, drinking, and goofing around (O’Hara even seems to be trying on a hat, possibly someone else’s, at one point). The footage also testifies to the close but complicated friendships and alliances between Beat and New York School poets in the later 1950s.

I’m especially taken with the sight of O’Hara and Baraka leaning in close to one another, laughing and at ease, exhibiting precisely the kind of intimacy and camaraderie I wrote about at length when discussing their friendship in my book Beautiful Enemies.