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The Beat goes on

About the author
Michael Horovitz is a poet, songwriter-singer, visual artist, translator, literary journalist and editor-publisher. He has published more than thirty collections. Most titles are available from New Departures, including Wordsounds & Sightlines, the Poetry Olympics Anthologies POW!, POP!, and POM! (Poetry Olympics Weekend, Party, Marathon respectively).

Allen Ginsberg introduced Michael Horovitz to New York in 1970 as a “popular, experienced, experimental, New Jerusalem, Jazz Generation, Sensitive Bard”. Martin Amis later praised him as “a dreamer, a maverick … transmedial crusader”. He is also known as a “far-out, free-range or spontaneous bop troubadour”, and is widely considered to be one of the last great Beat poets from the generation of Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Allen Ginsberg himself.

While still a student in 1959, Michael Horovitz founded New Departures, which became an influential avant-garde literary magazine in Britain. Across the next four decades, he published writers and creators of the calibre of William Burroughs, Samuel Beckett, John Cage, and Stevie Smith. His Poetry Olympics, an annual event launched at Westminster Abbey in 1980 and featuring work from Ted Hughes to Paul McCartney, are legendary; while his POW! anthologies present a potent mix of jazz poetry, lyric and verse. Recent contributors include Patience Agbabi, Heathcote Williams, John Hegley, and the pop-rock musicians Damon Albarn and Paul Weller.

He is currently completing a view of modern Britain called A New Waste Land.

Michael Horovitz: two poems

Michael Horovitz by David HockneyMichael Horovitz by David Hockney

       in Paris        

       …arise at dawn from
       foam rubber blue pillow
       pink blanket piss flush
       brush teeth – miss the feel
       of rush mats underfoot as
       in London – but never mind
       that – I may be a Londoner
       but this is Paris – down the
       stairs jumping 3-at-a-time
       out to the forecourt – ‘Good-
       Day Sunshine’ – ask young girls –
       student couples – restaurateurs
       opening their doors for breakfast
       – for directions – fart belch
       buy croissant & apple turnover –
       munch in streets (‘a small turn-
       over’) – read messages on walls
       wind way through streets wide &
       narrow – just noticing mosaic
       of cobbles on streets – historic
       architectures of church & lion’s
       mouths and classic statues –
       bleach & iron smocked nuns in
       convent vestibules – flamboyant
       sexy walks of Paris business-ladies
       lines from the past – ‘A l’ombre
       des arbres et jeunes filles
’ –
       fall on grass in Luxembourg
       Gardens tall trees & voices
       in them laugh & rustle
       their skirts & leaves
       – so young – so green
        ‘Les lauriers sont coupés’
       – the garden of love
       open & seen – flowers toss
       their heads in the breeze
       – young lovers swing
       their hips – I sneeze
       for the earth is full
       of sky today – & the sky
       replete with sun – & birds
       quietly jingling – their beaks
       still snatching the
       last shreds of night
       plying darker lines of melody
       across the dazzling noonday light…

(taken from Wordsounds & Sightlines (1994), with kind permission of the author)

       For Felix Mendelssohn

       What a wonderful life
       it must have been
       if you were Felix
       Mendelssohn – rediscovering Bach
       and bringing him to wide public
       appreciation, adored by protégés
       like Robert and Clara Schumann,
       getting seasick on a whirl
       round the storm-tossed Hebrides,
       then stepping ashore and dashing off
       Fingal’s Cave, and reprised at every
       second wedding all over the Christian world
       For your Incidental Music to
       A Midsummer Night’s Dream
                                                 – how I’d love
       to have been him
                                       though, come to think of it
       – if I had been him, I’d be dead
       by now

                      … then again, perhaps I was
       Felix Mendelssohn
       in another incarnation
       closed to me

                             – till now.
       to his Songs Without Words, I realise
       that if I am indeed anything like
       a composer, I have to
       stop talking
                             and get on
                                                with the music.

(January 2004)

self portrait

Michael Horovitz (with Frieda Hughes) reads poetry for St Valentine’s Day at the National Portrait Gallery, London: Saturday 14 February, 3-4 pm, admission free.

He also performs in The March of the Beats at Kerouac’s Poetic Cabaret, The White Swan, 13 Blackheath Road, London SE10: Thursday 19 February, 8.30pm.

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