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East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg Hardcover – November 29, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


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

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.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (November 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582437769
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582437767
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,133,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gordan Ball has written an elegant rememberance of his days as the caretaker of Allen Ginsberg's East Hill Farm. He creates moving portraits of the curious and creative souls that struggled to live together and carve out a life during what were politically terrifying times in America. On my way up to Albany from Binghamton, I would pass Cooperstown and the Cherry Hill exit. I always tried to imagine what when on up there. Now at last I know. Here's a story that is human, tragic, triumphant, and quite beautiful.
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Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed reading this. I've always wanted to know more about what it was actually like on the farm, and Gordon gives a detailed and very readable account from the very first beginnings in April 1968 until he leaves in March 1971.
During these years he was almost ever-present and, more than anyone else, responsible for the smooth day to day running of the farm and the hard work involved in trying to make it more self-sustaining and habitable. This was also the period of time when the farm had the greatest number of residents and visitors.
His writing is never judgmental, always gently perceptive in his observations of the challenges posed both by the decrepit state of the farm itself and by the idiosyncrasies of those living there.

This is my sense of what the book is about:

(1) The farm itself: abandoned for seven years with no running water, no electricity. It is impressive just how much back breaking work Gordon, Peter Orlovsky, and others put in, and how hard this was. Week in, week out, there was so much work to do, especially during the growing season.

(2) The backdrop of the times. Gordon vividly conveys the particular craziness of those years. John Sinclair and Tim Leary both received insane jail terms on dubious charges of minimal marijuana possession. The government was getting deeper and deeper into Viet Nam. There was growing polarisation in society of war and anti war, drug user and straight, long hair and short, permissiveness and conformity. Revolution and violence were in the air. This deepening polarisation eventually led Allen to begin meditating for an hour a day on a regular basis, something that would develop further once he got to know Chogyam Trungpa in the early `70s.
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Format: Paperback
East Hill Farm, Seasons with Allen Ginsberg by Gordon Ball
(Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2011).
In the late sixties and mid seventies Gordon Ball did a good job editing some of Ginsberg's journals while writing his own. He's meticulous. Get halfway through the book and it's still only the spring of 69. He was a movie maker. Gregory Corso taunts him by saying that all movie makers do is point a camera but he's a POET and he does something. Funny stuff.
He kept a journal and the book follows the journal authentically. It just goes to show how much a person can forget without some type of record. The book is spliced into more or less chronological incidents of life on Ginsberg's farm focusing on the personalities that resided or visited. This book is so detailed it's really refreshing.
I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings but I just couldn't wait for this book to end. It was like: oh know, he's gonna talk about his sexual relations again-he provides mondo detail about all the pseudonymous women he slept with-and there were plenty-good for him-but I thought this was about Ginsberg's farm? Maybe Ginsberg's farm was about sex, maybe sex is the crux of poetry, maybe poetry is the crux of sex. Maybe he wrote this memoir to impress his old lady.
Once Mr. Ball pissed me off. Barry Miles suggested that he go see the Mothers on Mother's Day instead of going to see Linda Ronstadt. He mentioned that he didn't like Zappa's "Suzy Creamcheese" put down of little girls, Zappa's stance turned him off. Okay that's fine, it's okay to have an opinion, and even I disagree with some of Zappa's pronouncements. But here we have a guy that details every sexual encounter he's ever had (for the whole world to see) (he uses pseudonyms and generally respectful) BUT Zappa's bad?
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Format: Hardcover
A fascinating and disturbing time in U.S. history is echoed in Gordon Ball's riveting memoir of a period in Allen Ginsberg's life that was pivotal in Ginsberg's move to a truly serious Buddhist practice. The Cherry Valley farm commune of upstate New York is breezed over even in Ginsberg's own poetry. But here, Ball's training as a filmmaker gives us a slowed down gander of the often hilarious interactions of visitors Gregory Corso, Herbert Huncke, Ray Bremser, Charles Plymell and Andy Clausen with Allen and longtime companion Peter Orlovsky. At the same time, Ginsberg's voluminous correspondence and exhaustive traveling, as well as Ball's own adventures with Harry Smith, Bob Dylan and John Giorno in NYC serve up a truly satisfying feast of well-doucmented detail. A book I didn't want to end.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Gordon Ball's memoir is a must read for any devotee of the Beats. It's great to read a Historically accurate time-line. Ball is dead on. His book is a clear, unadorned look at, not only The Beats and Allen Ginsberg, but the Vietnam war, Nixon (and his insane drug policies) and the complexity of relationships. What's also a treat is how much of Gordon there is in this book. There's a parallel coming of age subtext here that is touching yet wrenching at the same time. The powerfully written section about leaving the farm made me well up with tears. A great book I couldn't put down. Gordon Ball's love For his subject matter makes for a moving tribute to a time long gone yet still very much a part of who we are.
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