Bruce Jackson (b. 1936), Allen Ginsberg and Leslie Fiedler, 1994; photograph; Courtesy of the artist

Bruce Jackson Being There: Allen Ginsberg and Leslie Fiedler at "Fiedlerfest," UB Center for the Arts, 1994

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Throughout the run of Being There: Bruce Jackson Photographs 1962-2010, the artist is sharing some of the stories behind his photographs.Being There is on view until June 16, 2013. The catalog accompanying the exhibition is available at The Museum Store at the Burchfield Penney.

 

In 1994, Diane and I got the notion that the University should do something to celebrate our friend and colleague Leslie Fiedler, who was then probably the best-known literary critic in America. Institutions often put on events for people like Leslie after they're dead, but our idea was to do it while he was still around, with the key players being people the celebrant wanted. We asked Leslie what his preferences might be and he said Camille Paglia (whom he'd never met but whose work he admired), Allen Ginsberg, and Ishmael Reed (both of whom he'd known for years). The University put up the money and we organized the event. The Korean students in the English Department, who were particularly fond of Leslie, asked if the wife of one of them, known as a master Daejaeng player at home, might perform in his honor. She was astonishing, Camille was a trip. It turned out Leslie and Allen were two of her literary heroes and she'd never met either of them, so she was delighted not only to be invited to take part in the performance, but when we put her between the two of them at lunch. Allen and Ishmael gave wonderful readings, and the whole event, which we called "Fiedlerfest" and had at the Center for the Arts, was great fun. As I recall, Camille performed Friday night; then Saturday morning was Allen, the Daejaeng performance, then Ishmael. Afterwards, there was a reception in the CFA Atrium.

I kept trying to get a photo of Leslie and Allen together, but every time I raised my camera a certain local poet would place himself between them, put his arms around the shoulders of each of them, and grin into my lens. He had an uncanny sense of when I was going to take the picture: one time I saw him zoom halfway across the room before I had time to focus. Allen, who was one of the most gracious men I ever met, just let it keep happening, while Leslie, I think, was bemused by it. I wanted to whack the guy with my Nikon. I had just about given up on getting the photo of Leslie and Allen when the local poet got distracted, Leslie and Allen sat down for a moment, and Allen leaned over and kissed Leslie on the cheek. It was a beautiful moment.

-Bruce Jackson

 

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