giorno poetry systems - history

The following text is an excerpt from "Wisdom is his voice" by John Giorno. This text appears in "The Best of William Burroughs" Box Set. This text is not intended to be a complete history of GPS, but perhaps is intended to relate to you GPS' conception, where it came from and why it shaped modern pop-culture and brought forth the age of telecommunications and information.

"In 1961 I was a young poet who hung out with young artists like Andy Warhol, Bob Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, as well as with members of the Judson Dance Theatre. The use of modern mass media and technologies by these artists made me realize that poetry was 75 years behind painting and sculpture, dance and music. And I thought, if they can do it, why can't I do it for poetry. Why not try to connect with an audience using all the entertainments of ordinary life: television, the telephone, record albums, etc? It was the poet's job to invent new venues and make fresh contact with the audience.

"This inspiration gave rise to Giorno Poetry Systems, a non-profit foundation under which many projects were born. The record label called Giorno Poetry Systems eventually built up a catalog of 40 titles, ushering poetry onto the radio alongside rock, jazz, etc. for the first time. The Dial-A-Poem service, begun, in 1968, was a huge success. Not only did we ourselves get millions of calls, we inspired the creation of dial-for-stock market info and dial for sports-info services, etc. We also foreshadowed by a generation the explosion of 1-900 telephone promotions, not to mention the delivery of the Internet over phone lines. we produced poetry videos, videopaks and films. We formed bands and toured like the rock'n' rollers. We displayed poetry on the surface of ordinary objects, producing silk-screen and lithograph Poem Prints. We established the AIDS Treatment Project in 1984.

"But in 1965, even before founding Giorno Poetry Systems, I began recording my friend William Burroughs, starting with tape experiments at his Centre Street loft and with Brion Gysin at the Hotel Chelsea. Before the year was out, with my earlier inspirations turning into tangible performances, electronic events and sound pieces at a show at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, I began Giorno Poetry Systems.

"We taped the riotous Democratic National Convention in the summer of 1968, and presented the results that September at New York's Central Park Bandshell. Three months later I featured William in the inaugural installation of Dial-A-Poem at the Architectural League of New York.

"In 1975 William moved into The Bunker at 222 Bowery, where I'd lived on the third floor since 1966.

"In 1976 Giorno Poetry Systems released a double-record set, one LP featuring William's live recordings, the other my sound poems.

"In 1978 in New York there was the Nova Convention, a three-day tribute to William that crowned him patriarch of heroin and wisdom, and featured performances by Patti Smith, Frank Zappa and many others, including Laurie Anderson, who was making her debut public performance.

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