My posts on the August 2013 Seattle visit of Morrocan poet and Beat scholar El Habib Louai were quite long, (archived here) so I am creating this post in the hopes that viewers of this blog will take a listen to the interview we did at the top of Desolation Peak, right next to the Lookout where Jack Kerouac spent the summer of 1956.
August 12, 2013, Habib was the featured poet at Peter Munro’s reading in the Wedgwood section of Seattle. North End Forum Habib’s reading is here: Habib at North End Forum, Wedgwood Ale House, August 12, 2013, Part 1 (16:40)
Habib at North End Forum, Wedgwood Ale House, August 12, 2013, Part 2 (19:37)
El Habib Louai Interview atop Desolation Peak, Part 1. In the first segment, Habib talked about his background, his parents (who are illiterate), how he found the Beats and how their counter-culture ethos greatly appealed to him and seemed to be a method for changing the culture of his country. He discussed the cultural encounter between the Beats and Moroccan poets in the 50s and 60s and hopes, through his Ph.D. dissertation to dispel the myth of Euro-centricity. Mohamed Choukri is one of the Moroccan novelists on which he will be focused. (14:13)
El Habib Louai Interview atop Desolation Peak, Part 2. In the second segment, Habib talked about his tour of the U.S., how it came to be mainly through Facebook networking, his visits to New York, Paterson and Newark, New Jersey, (retracing the steps of Allen Ginsberg and others), Altoona, PA, Boulder, Portland and Seattle. He recorded some of his Ginsberg translations at the Ginsberg Trust with Peter Hale, visited Amish country in Pennsylvania, rode the bus from Altoona to Boulder, Shambhala Mountain Center and sites in Seattle and the Northwest, including the graves of Denise Levertov, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce and Brandon Lee and a visit with the very live and always entertaining Sam Hamill, who introduced Habib to sushi. He also talked about his poem Kerouacian Epiphanies in Portland Greyhound Bus Station, how that was composed and how he tends to write organically, in a first take manner. (17:25)
El Habib Louai Interview atop Desolation Peak, Part 3. Habib discussed his method of composition which he says owes something to the projective method, his deep experience listening to Michael McClure’s poem Dolphin Skull, how it must have been written at a deep level of consciousness and how moved he was to hear it. He discussed the upcoming stops on his tour, including San Luis Obispo, Santa Rosa, Berkeley and Los Angeles and visits with Michael Rothenberg, Michael McClure, Joanne Kyger and other friends and poets. He also discussed his plans for the future. (16:20)
Once down from the top of Desolation Peak, we camped on the mountain that night and the next day at Noon our water taxi whisked us to the trailhead that led to the short hike to the car and the short drive to the North Cascades Institute’s Environmental Learning Center. A beautiful center on Diablo Lake, we had a chance to shower, have some lunch and coffee before our talk that evening.
Habib and I had been invited to speak to the Beats on the Peaks class. NCI Executive Director Saul Weisberg, longtime North Cascades National Park employee Gerry Cook and his wife Hannah Sullivan are huge Beat poetry fans and very capable guides for the Beats on the Peaks program. It was the first night of the 2013 Beats on the Peaks event. Gerry Cook discussed Fire Lookouts in the North Cascades and showed some very dramatic photos of the Lookouts in winter.
Habib talked about the Beat connection to Morocco and other aspects of his Ph.D. research.
Habib at NCI, 8.15.13, Part 1 (15:21)
Habib at NCI, 8.15.13, Part 2 (17:02)
Habib at NCI, 8.15.13, Part 3 (12:27)
The following morning Habib and I got into my car early and I made sure he was on the 9:35 Coastal Starlight to San Luis Obispo with the instruction to tell Michael McClure: The Amtrak is a person as much as people are.
I am grateful to everyone who made Habib’s visit to Cascadia a huge success, including those mentioned above, my wife Meredith who took great care of our little girl Ella and especially the Subud International Cultural Association and the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs. Habib, your trip was mythic. May your mythic journey continue in the best way. I am honored to call you my Brother.