Giorno Passes Away – Poetry News October 17th

Today on My Poetic Side we bring you the sad news of the death of John Giorno.

John Giorno Dies at 82

John Giorno, who was responsible for bringing poetry to the masses through mass media, passed away last week at his home in Lower Manhattan. His death, which was the result of a heart attack, was confirmed by his husband, the artist Ugo Rondinone. He was 82.

Early in his life, Giorno played an important role in the art scene. He was the subject of “Sleep”, the 1963 film by Andy Warhol, which was his slumbering body captured on film for almost 5 hours.

It was, however, his contribution to the world of poetry for which he is most likely to be remembered. Giorno believed that poetry was around 75 years behind the arts of painting, dance, music, and sculpture, and he felt obliged to do something about this. It is his relentless experiments on the subject of the circulation of poetry, as well as its political potential that brought poetry into the public eye.

When he began his experiments in 1965 the only place where poetry was really seen was in magazines and books. He founded the non-profit organisation Giorno Poetry Systems so that he could promote not only his own work, but that of his fellow poets. Four years later he started Dial-A-Poem. A service that was rather rudimentary and offered cutting edge poet a mass communication tool. The service initially used six phone lines which were connected to special answering machines. The service was available all day long.

Millions of calls were made to the service and were able to hear recordings that had been made by poets like Ron Padgett, Anne Waldman and Allen Ginsberg.

Giorno was himself a poet and he was heavily inspired by the found imagery that was responsible for the pop revolution. In much of his earlier work, he collected news items and then presented them almost as they were written but in verse form. His first collection published in 1964 under the title “The American Book of the Dead” was a privately circulated collection.

Born in 1936 Giorno was an only child. His parents were both involved in the garment industry; his father owned a manufacturing company that produced clothes whilst his mother worked as a fashion designer.

Giorno was a lifelong practising Buddist and every year he hosted a gathering in his home. The fire pujas were hosted for the benefit of hundreds of people who adhered to the teachings of the Tibetan Buddhists.

Over the course of several decades, the Giorno Poetry System produced a number of videos and albums. In 1984, it started the AIDS Treatment Project, the sole goal of which was to distribute money to those who were struggling with the disease.

At the time of his death, Giorno has been working on the final parts of his memoirs. Titled “Great Demon Kings” the book was due to be published at some point next year.

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