John Giorno

An innovator of poets performing, John Giorno elevated Spoken Word to a high Art form. Born on December 4th, 1936, John Giorno’s career spans fifty years. Giorno’s work: written, performed, recorded and filmed, and presented, has been a revolution and changed the way the world views poetry.

“In 1965, the idea occurred to me that a poet can connect to an audience using all the entertainments of ordinary life: watching television, listening to albums, radio, and the telephone, and going to rock concerts.”

John Giorno

“John Giorno raises questions to an almost unbearable pitch, to a scream of surprised recognition. His litanies from the underworld of the mind reverberate in your head and ventriloqize your own thoughts.”

— William Burroughs

His book Subduing Demons In America, Selected Poems 1962-2007, will be published by Soft Skull Press in November 2007.

His book You Got To Burn To Shine (Serpent’s Tail, 1994), poems, and deeply personal memoirs, including the story of his relationship with Andy Warhol (Giorno was the star of Warhol’s first film, Sleep, 1963), his anonymous sexual encounter with Keith Haring (he and Keith later became good friends); and being a Tibetan Buddhist, his understanding of death in the age of AIDS.

Giorno Poetry Systems, begun in 1965, innovated the use of technology in poetry, working with electronic and multi-media, creating new venues, and connecting poetry with new audiences. 1966-68, Giorno worked with Bob Moog, making sound compositions of his poems on the new invented Moog synthesizer.

In 1968, John Giorno created Dial-A-Poem, and innovated the use of the telephone for mass communications. Dial-A-Poem was the first time the telephone was used to communicate mass audiences. Dial-A-Poem’s enormous success, receiving millions of calls, gave rise to a Dial-A-something industry, from Dial-A-Joke and Dial Sports, to phone sex, to 900 numbers. Dial-A-Poem ushered in a new era in telecommunications.

Giorno Poetry Systems released over fifty LPs and CDs of poets working with performance and music, numerous cassettes, videopaks, poetry videos, DVDs and film, books, silk-screen Poem Prints and Poem Paintings, and the Internet.

John Giorno has lived for forty-five years at 222 Bowery, New York, in three lofts in a historic, landmark 1884 building, The Young Men’s Institute of the Y.M.C.A. Built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II and Cleveland Dodge, it was the first of the modern-day “Y”s, and helped young men get a better start in life, until it’s demise in 1932. Now, it is now an artist loft building.

The Bunker of William Burroughs, is the former locker room, where he lived in the 1970s and 80s, and visited until his death in 1997. His bedroom is preserved as a relic. There is a Tibetan Buddhist shrine and meditation hall for teachings and practice. 222 Bowery is the home of Giorno Poetry Systems.

For over forty years, John Giorno has been Buddhist meditation practioner in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. His teacher is His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche. For thirty years, Giorno has hosted many great Tibetan lamas, who visit New York, and give teachings at 222 Bowery.

The AIDS Treatment Project, begun in 1984, is John Giorno’s attempt to combat with all-pervasive compassion, the catastrophe of the AIDS epidemic. Cash grants for emergency situations: back rent, telephone and utilities, food, nursing, alternative medicine not covered by Medicaid, taxis, whatever is needed. Money given with love and affection.

Past events