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Series V: Stage Backdrop Collages, 1952-1955

Call Number: YCAL MSS 262, Series V

Scope and Contents

Series V contains a set of seven collages that Longstreet donated to the library in 1992. In his accompanying letter he wrote, "In the 1950s Kenneth Rexroth and other advant [sic] garde figures were going up + down the West Coast reciting poetry to Jazz: Whitman, Dickinson, Eliot, Ginsberg, e.e. cummings, Millay and others. For these recitings I did a series of stage back drops, abstract versions of American poets and Jazz music." He added that these are "the original designs from which the stage back drops were painted," but on two of the collages he wrote "slide projection," suggesting that at least those two works had been photographed and projected behind the poets. The dates cited in the box and folder list are those written on the collages by the artist, though they are most likely assigned from memory and may not always be reliable. As an example, Longstreet dated his design for the recital of Ginsberg's "Howl" as 1953, although its live debut was in 1955 and its publication came 1956. In addition, the Los Angeles Times only documents Rexroth and Lawrence Lipton holding similar poetry and jazz events in the late fall of 1957.

The performers and works cited on the collages are: Val Burton, Kenneth Rexroth and chorus, reading selections from Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" to Joe Zawinul's "The Rise and Fall of the Third Stream;" unidentified readers presenting Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" to Bessie Smith's "I'd Rather be Dead and Buried" and T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" to the recording "Jazz at Massey Hall" (featuring Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach); Lawrence Lipton and Group reading selections from Emily Dickinson to Benny Goodman's "The Japanese Sandman;" the Pasadena Actors Group reading selections from Langston Hughes to James P. Johnson's "Boogie Woogie Stride;" the Beverly [Hills?] Jazz Society reading William Butler Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium" to Dizzy Gillespie's "Anthropology;" and Lawrence Lipton, Val Burton and others reading the King James Version of "The Song of Songs" to King Oliver's "Frankie and Johnny."


  • 1952-1955

Conditions Governing Access

From the Collection: The materials are open for research.


Arranged in chronological order.


1.67 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English


Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

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