Recently released FBI files on Allen Ginsberg inspire Jerry Quickley’s poetry at Days and Nights Festival
It’s possible that President Barack Obama or C.I.A Director John Brennan will make an appearance at the Days and Nights Festival in Big Sur this weekend. But don’t count on it. “I’d really like President Obama and Michelle to see our performance,” says performance poet Jerry Quickley, who will be featured during the fifth annual festival, established by composer Philip Glass. “I’m also hoping that the Director of National Intelligence and all the other dark lords can either come or send one of their minions. But they act as though I didn’t send an invitation.”
Quickley will be joined by Philip Glass, Dutch harpist Lavinia Meijer and other world-class musicians at the festival, which runs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 1, and includes a variety of events in three locations, including Big Sur (The Complete Piano Etudes by Philip Glass on Sept. 27), Monterey (free Children’s Animation Workshop on Sept. 26) and Watsonville (free film screening of Llevante Mis Amores on Oct. 1) to name a few.
“Phil called last year and asked if I’d like to collaborate for the upcoming Days and Nights Festival,” Quickley says. “I was completely obsessed with the horrors of the NSA, and was in the process of writing an essay on the impact the NSA is having on our dignity, privacy and social interactions. I told him, ‘I’d like to collaborate but I’m completely obsessed with the NSA.’ Fortunately, Philip Glass, being Philip Glass, said, ‘Well, why wouldn’t you want to write about that with me?’ So we were off to the races.”
A former journalist turned poet, Quickley will be on the outdoor stage of Big Sur’s Henry Miller Library on Friday, Sept. 25 to present poetry, including his provocative prose-essay titled, “Memory/Surveillance/Love/Snowden.” Quickly, who told GT that he’s received death threats due to his outspoken political observations, has previously collaborated with Glass at the Henry Miller Library, where poems of the late poet Allen Ginsberg were robustly recited to appreciative audiences. This year, Quickley plans on premiering a new section of “Memory/Surveillance/Love/Snowden” that’s based on the recent release of 89 pages of secret files gathered by the FBI during the ’60s about Ginsberg, who died in 1997.
“Just a few days ago I had my imagination captured by an organization called MuckRock,” Quickley says. “Since 2012, they’ve been trying to get FBI docs on Allen Ginsberg. They got them very recently and released them. I sent a copy to Phil. Here’s this unbelievably gifted man distilled into these government pages. The FBI calls him ‘Bizarre but probably not a criminal.’”
Ginsberg, along with Charles Bukowski, had a huge impact on Quickley. “They opened me to seeing the world through literature and art,” says Quickley. “I’m happy to have the chance to create some work with one of Allen’s close friends [Philip Glass].”
Quickley traveled to Baghdad in 2003 as an unembedded journalist and produced a film about the war from a hip-hop perspective called B-boy in Baghdad and a play titled Live From the Front. Quickley also reported from Iraq for Democracy Now! and was a radio host at KPFK in Los Angeles.
“When you have the most powerful government in the history of the planet deciding they need access to everyone’s information all the time, even if they have no reason to suspect you of anything, there’s a word for that—it’s called fascism,” says Quickley. “I have a responsibility as an artist to let people know that it’s not coming; it’s here.”
“As artists, one of our jobs is to help people imagine a better and more just future,” says Quickley. “Artists are a significant problem for the oppressors of the world. The dictators have figured it out; passionate young people and artists are the bane of their existence and control. Because I’m an artist I still believe in the possibility of magic in the world. I believe it’s possible for the magic created by art to have an impact on people’s thinking, thought processes and even policies. Without magic we’re lost. Without magic there’s only physics, and I need ’em both.”
The Days and Nights Festival runs Sept. 24 – Oct. 1. For info and tickets, visit daysandnightsfestival.com.
POLITICAL POET Journalist-turned-poet Jerry Quickley will be on the outdoor stage of Big Sur’s Henry Miller Library on Friday, Sept. 25 to present his poetry as part of this year’s Days and Nights Festival, established five years ago by composer Philip Glass. PHOTO: ARTURO BEJAR