Friday, August 31, 2012
Thursday, August 30, 2012
[2014 update - the video that accompanied this post is now no longer available}
So this delightful snippet of Ginsberg footage recently re-surfaced - Allen among his file-cabinets on East 12th Street. The tape begins in media res (Allen rifling through his things)
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
[Charlie Parker (1920-1955) (with Miles Davis) in 1947, at the Three Deuces Club in New York - Photograph by William P Gottlieb - William P Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress]
Bird's birthday today. The Allen Ginsberg Project salutes Charlie Parker, bebop maestro, with this fine BBC documentary. Check out also our last year's anecdotal hommage to the great saxophonist, here.
[2013 update - unfortunately this video has been taken down. We're replacing it with a four-part BBC radio documentary - here, here, here and here]
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Student: Bavarian Gentians.
AG: Yeah. So there's all sorts of paraphrases or takes by Williams on Lawrence's description of flowers. So they're both (of them) good studies for actual human perception.
Monday, August 27, 2012
AG: So how many people here have read D.H.Lawrence ? Raise your hands if you have. Read his poetry. Raise your hands. How many have not.? Okay. Do most of you know the poem about the snake? How many have read that? Yeah..,,
Student: Can you hold it up?
AG: Pardon me?
Student: Hold the book up
AG: Yeah, The lines are very variable. He’s not measuring the lines as Williams (does). It’s like he’s taking down his thoughts. He’s taking down his prose thoughts. But the his prose thoughts are so exact as observation of his prose thought. See, the subject is the mosquito, somewhat, but also the subject is, with Lawrence, his reaction to the mosquito, in which he gets all sorts of archetypal human reactions. Like that business of how much he hates it, and the way he reacts to it, and how much he hates himself, and all the double thoughts he might have about putting himself as a mosquito and fighting the mosquito – the two of them as mosquitos in the universe, sort of battling it out, who’s going to make it? – “Come then, let us play at unawares,/ And see who wins in this sly game of bluff./ Man or mosquito.” – But there’s (also) an awful lot of observation of mosquito here (from “high legs”, “shredded shank”, “weigh no more than air as you alight upon me”, “turn your head towards your tail”, “translucent phantom shred”, “thin wings”,”stalk and prowl the air/ In circles and evasions”, “Settle, and stand on long thin shanks/ Eyeing me sideways”, “lurch off sideways into air/ Having read my thoughts against you”. Because everyone knows that relation with a mosquito – just when you’re going to get him, he knows too! – “(Y)our small high hateful bugle in my ear” - that’s a funny, beautiful way of putting that mosquito-whine, calling it a bugle.
Student: What kind of bugle?
AG: Hateful bugle. He’s got the “hateful” in there. Great, because one remembers that. So it’s almost objective, in that he’s including his hatred of the bugle. It’s almost, you could say.. Objectivist…
Student: I know some of them
AG: Yeah. [Allen then reads, in its entirety, Lawrence’s “Man and Bat”] – “When I went into my room, at mid-morning/ Say ten o’clock…”…. “There he sits, the long loud one!/ But I am greater than he…/ I escaped him…” – It’s a great thing he did there. Yeah. He’s got a lot of amazing poems in which there’s not only that empathy but that jousting back and forth and the struggle, in which he’s really taking the fellow-creature seriously, and getting it on with him, and having an emotional relationship, and expressing it. What's interesting (is) he's able, in here, to get all the little subtleties of his own changes. He's not afraid to face his own creepy thoughts, just as Williams was not afraid to remember that when he saw his children on his stoop his heart sank in his breast and he felt crushed, so Lawrence is able to face the details of his own feelings. In other words, he doesn't reduce all his feelings to one big hate, or one big gawp, or one big love-schmove - it's a total variety of feeling that anybody, actually, does have. As well as very precise observations of the detail of the fur, the details of the kind of wing-flight flicker - the flicker of the wings. So, actually, if you go through this, as (William) Burroughs goes through his cut-ups, sifting and panning for little nuggets, if you go through this sifting and panning for the Imagist-ic, Activist-ic, Objectivist nuggets, there are a great many. Accurate sounds - The "twitchy...lunge", "(opening) The venetian shutters I push wide", "Loop back the curtains..", "flicking with my white handkerchief","round and round..touching the walls, the bell-wires/ About my room", "crash gulf", "Via de' Bardi" - It sounds like Kerouac - somewhat.
Student: Which one of those phrases are you saying sounds like Kerouac?
AG: "Above that crash-gulf".."above the Via de' Bardi".. It sounds like a Kerouac line, or a modern mind-transcription line, when somebody's high on tea, sitting at the window of an Italian hotel, maybe three flights up, and the "crash-gulf" of the street outside. That whole spaced, spaced-out, thing, with trolley-cars rattling. It's a very strange perception that reminds me of my own writing or of Kerouac's. Then the funny thing of his observation of how the bat kept going, almost magnetically, toward the window, and kept getting pushed back by the light. It's something that's direct observation, rather than symbolic, so to speak (though here it's sort of beautifully symbolic - but it's "a natural object which is an adequate symbol"). Somebody had a question?
Student: You answered it. I was going to ask why he didn't go into bats being a sort of prototype gargoyle and a symbol of everything that's dark and evil and mysterious, but he just keeps presenting you with bats.
Student: It sort of freaks you out (or it freaked me out!) - (an invasion of bats!)
AG: Well, there's only one specific bat, you can tell. There's (just the) one time.
Student: He doesn't need to introduce...
AG: He doesn't need to introduce anything symbolic, because all he has to introduce is his own actual feelings.. and his own direct reaction, and his own yellow electric light, the brown of the room when the light's put on, a really accurate description of the slow tiring of the bat ("flicker-heavy,/...wings heavy"), then, a really good observation there with "a clot, he squatted...sticking-out, bead-berry eyes, black...shut wings,/ And brown" - nut fur, fine fur body - "But it might as well have been hair on a spider" (which is really good, as far as creepy-crawly (evocation) - Also, there's a great observation of his own mind-thoughts - "Ah death, death, you are no solution!/...Only life has a way out" (that sounds like Gregory Corso, that little part). "And the human soul is fated to wide-eyed responsibility/in life/ So I picked him up in a flannel jacket" (It's great that he put that word "flannel" in there. How many here would have the presence of mind to remember that word? that it was a flannel jacket - which immediately snaps everything back to the place, the actuality). And "shook him out of the window" - It's all there - A flannel jacket, and he's shaking the jacket out of the window with a bat in it - So there's actually enough raw detail in here to sustain such a long flight. It's like a short story, really. And, as novelists know, the details are the life of the stories like that.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
[Guillaume Apollinaire 1880-1918]
It's Apollinaire's birthday today. That's right, Apollinaire's birthday. We'll draw your attention to two previous posts on the great French poet - here (an over-view) and here (transcription of a 1975 Naropa class conducted by Allen). Darren Anderson's piece for 3:AM magazine, Copywriter of the New, is also well worth a read. And here is a miscellany of images of the great man.