Alden Van Buskirk and his girlfriend Freddie
Alden Van Buskirk is the lost angel of Beat poets. He died at the age of 23 in 1961. His only book of poems, Lami, was published posthumously in an edition of 1000 copies.
It is a visionary book, ahead of its time, written while Alden was living in Oakland and experimenting heavily with drugs, including, pot, LSD and morning glory seeds. In theme and style, he draws inspiration from Blake, Whitman, the French Surrealists and Allen Ginsberg. In fact, Allen wrote the introduction to Lami.
There is virtually no information on this brilliant young poet other than some anecdotal musing by the poet David Rattray who died in 1993 while working on a Buskirk biography.
In his introduction to Lami, Ginsberg writes that in Van Buskirk’s verse “all sorts of weird electronic references, images of robot paranoia, city impulses of supersonic nerve thrill are recorded. What a lovely companion he would have been to talk to on top of roofs and bridges, or sitting with a bottle of wine or delicate martini in the middle of a living rm. floor at 3 a.m.” Indeed.
Van Buskirk should be a legend among devotees of the Beat movement. That he isn’t, astonishes me. His poetry and prose incinerates most of that written by poets far better known. His writing is as edgy and uncompromising as anything being written today. And it is time for you to check it out.
Van Buskirk wrote the following while tripping on four packages of blue morning glory seeds and a few hits of pot:
LAMI IN OAKLAND
I am ready to come back to you. I’ve lived my life a million times over in a few hours, seen everything, known too much, & now I’m burnt out, want only love & peaceful madness of America seen & shared with your eyes.
Last night I saw my whole life illumined over & over.
Each time one image/hallucination set it off. Nuance of a line on the gold/black statue tells all childhood sorrows, a tracer on the shell curving through past of dream & real life
too much for anyone, I will burn up, pray for God or codeine pills (I left them behind in Oakland) to stop them, the endless picture/ideograms that spell all knowledge, unlock forgotten nightmares, diabolic comic strip of old illusions running on the wrong reel too fast.
Don’t take It unless you want to know everything simultaneously, hell & heaven, terror & ecstasy -
to be Faust too & endure the humility of weeping repentence for what your life or the distorted images that say this is your life & you believe it helplessly,
perfect knowledge - its terror - wild hallucinations, but hallucinations that won’t stop, but devour time & leave you hung up for eternity;
to take yr imagination out on the straightaway & see what it’ll do
but some other foot steps on the gas:
IMAGES: I wanted to see them all : dig my own mind-movie - hungry-eyed poets of the universe live it all so you can die in an armchair in Oakland,
loose wires burnt out & still sputtering -
clenched jaws, mouth aches today from it. Teeth grated & startled me from Dali comic movies of Mickey Mouse war, troops, guns, explosions, loves in toppling picture puns -
unclench, relax the mouth, dig it, get in there, don’t back off, it’s what you always wanted, all the perfect gestures, classic dada poses of the diabolic genius, angel-monster showman, the stage, its depth - curtains drawn back reveal the scene, but its background unfolds: another universe of actors - they play out in the skull-theater, more rooms, each more painful than the last, one life lived over & over each time triggered by an image whose colors/lines stretch tentacles of remembered sensations into the past, a million deja vues , no one can stand this I say, this is the entire scene, no THIS is,
each image perfect & bottomless, the pain of each registering -
O sleep, blankmind, a drink, imagine blankwall but it breaks open into new shapes more revealing than the last…
is this what you want?
Sure, I dig pretty pot dreams, geometric puns, abstract poem-memories gentle & easy they unfold, body warm, high, a new chevrolet purring easily, not
madmind rocket acceleration at speeds of 4 universe-lives per second, pain of too many mental G’s the take off continues, never levelling out…
apocalypse is a barrage of milleniums / continual explosions of death / birth death / birth, lives
illuminated in the flame.
When I tell you to try it it is afterwards in a room with solid furniture, remember that.
You can read Lami in its entirety at the following link: The Lami Book