Monday, June 30, 2014

Expansive Poetics - 75 (Nikolay Klyuev)



[Nikolay Klyuev (1884-1937)]

August 4, 1981 Naropa Institute, Allen continues his lecture(s) on Expansive Poetics

AG: Well, I thought this time to cover somebody that we had mentioned before, which (is Sergei) Esenin, and to cover Esenin, we also have to cover a little bit of (Nikolay) Klyuev. Those of you who are in Peter (Orlovsky)'s class have heard a lot of Klyuev, but a lot of you haven't been in that class. So I just want to touch on him. He was a friend of Esenin. [to Peter Orlovsky] - can you pick up on Klyuev a bit? 

Peter Orlovsky: Friend of Esenin, and I guess he was the arch.. archetype kulak that (Leon) Trotsky…

AG: Kulak?

Peter Orlovsky: .. kulak.. ..that Trotsky was picking up on, because Trotsky didn't… and a kulak.. (they made a new definition with Klyuev on mind, because he was a peasant poet, so, "a well-to-do peasant"). "Klyuev had studied..", this is what Trotsky wrote, "Klyuev had studied, what and where we don't know, but he had managed to horde up a lot of superficial knowledge. He is like a well-to-do peasant who accidentally brings home a telephone receiver and attaches it in a prominent area of the room next to the icon shelf. This Klyuev decorates all the prominent corners of his verse with India, the Congo, Mont Blanc, Tibet, for Klyuev loves to decorate. A peasant owns a simple unpainted shaft bow only if he's poor. A good owner has an engraved shaft bow painted in several colors. Klyuev is a good owner of verse. Everywhere he has engravings - cinnabar, blue-gold, a fancy roof-top and more - brocades, satin, silver, and all sorts of precious stones." -  So, it's sort of… he goes around travelling a lot and he brings these different things back, and he's being criticized for it, as if he's only supposed to have… you're supposed to give up your land and your house and your garden and work in a huge, gigantic field, and the tractor's about to come, and you're going to give up everything you own for the collective.

AG: What was his basic philosophy, or approach? - It was like the "back-to-the-land" movement. Can you describe that all, and the religion connected with it.

Peter Orlovsky: No, I don't know anything about it.

AG: You know something about the religion?.

Peter Orlovsky: Well, the religion was just what's in this book, that he was.. at fifteen, he sang songs for a religious sect that would burn their.. that sometimes the boys would be "Christ", and they would have to cut off their genitals  [!] , and the girls would have to cut off their nipples [!] - And then..

AG: And this is, like, an old, old..

Peter Orlovsky: … they'd have big.. 

AG: It was called "the Old Believers"

Peter Orlovsky;  "The Old Believers" (or some sects of the Old Believers), and they'd have a big religious gathering with no sex at all. Then, at the end of the religious gathering, they'd have a big, wild, incestuous, orgy.

AG: This was connected with what kind of.. ? what were kulaks, does anybody know?

Student: It was a big peasant, yeah.

AG: What kind of peasant?

Student: A free peasant, I think, a non-serving peasant.

AG: Yeah

Student: He owned his land.

AG: So, a small land-owner. He came from that group and he was in favor of that, actually. His angle was similar to the "Back-to-the-land" Movement now, in some respects, (maybe somewhat of a Manson-esque aspect to it?), but, anyway, it was back-to-the-land, Holy Mother Russia, holy land, emnity for the machine civilization 

Peter Orlovsky: There wasn't like (Charles) Manson - there were no drugs involved (there were, maybe, mushrooms…

AG: Yeah

Peter Orlovsky: .. but he didn't smoke, he didn't drink.

AG: Yeah, Puritannical. Back-t0-the-land, like our post-Hippie scene of "rucksack revolution", in the sense of the fear of the Machine Age, fear of Industrialization, conservatism, in the sense of wanting to conserve peasant traditions and peasant technology, preserve nineteenth-century technology, pickling and kvass vodka, haying, direct relationship to the soil, a fanatical Holy Russia attitude based on backwoods and provincial  redneck Russian values, which in Russia at the time had a lot of worthwhile associations. He was from that Old Believers sect, which was a weird sect, though. What else about him? [to Peter Orlovsky] (Can you) say anything else about him (there)?

Peter Orlovsky: "The kettles gleam with a hundred years fat"

AG: The kettles?

Peter Orlovsky: "The kettles gleam with a hundred years fat"

AG: In England, in the eighteenth century, they had similar poets (and even nineteenth- and twentieth- century - same thing). It's a constant theme in poetry from (William) Blake on, a resentment of the Industrial Revolution and a "back-to-the-land" Movement, and it comes to a climax in America in the (19)60's with people going back and making communes (and also having connected with worship in the land associated with the American Indian - sacred, sacramental, land value - and retention of old tribal traditions connected with the land). Actually, it's a world/universal neolithic idea, in a way, as Gary Snyder says, world/universal neolithic consciousness - a direct relationship to the land and to the village - the village economics, village  work, village morals, village aesthetics, handicraft, hand crafts (weaving), such as, in (the) nineteenth century, you had William Morris and (John) Ruskin and people who were realizing that the Industrial Revolution was destroying all the arts and crafts and direct knowledge of the countryside that had accumulated for a thousand years. What's that? - "A hundred years of fat in the kettle"? 

Peter Orlovsky: On the outside

AG: Yeah

Peter Orlovsky: Well, there's two religious groups - the Khlysts - K-H-L-Y-S-T-S - and the Skoptsy sect. "Skoptsy practiced self-castration, in the belief that this custom helped to achieve self-perfection. And the Khlysts believed in… (They were) persecuted by the official Orthodox Church (since there appeared (with them) figures who claimed to be Christ, (coming from their divine mothers), who (challenging the orthodoxy) enjoyed a large following. There were massive trials of persons suspected of (holding) membership in the Khlysts sect, in the nineteenth century, which resulted in hundreds of people being imprisoned in monasteries, while others were beheaded".


[Nikolai Klyuev and Sergei Esenin]


AG: So what was his relationship with Esenin?

Peter Orlovsky: With Esenin? - [Peter reads from his book] - "He (Klyuev) completely dominated Sergei. He tied his belt for him, stroked his hair, followed him with his eyes. When Sergei returned from his first trip to Moscow, he told how Klyuev was jealous of (the) attention (given) to a woman, with whom he, Sergei, had his first city romance - "As soon as I would pick up my hat he would sit on it in the middle of the room and sob like a woman at the top of his voice, "Don't go to her, don't you dare!". He was particularly indignant that the sick man who was constantly fussing with all sorts of ointments and medicines dared to bother him." - "Ointments and medicines"..

AG: Well, since there's an element of homosexual mysticism related to the peasant back-to-the-land Movement  (which Klyuev was inviolved in, and he was the teacher for Esenin). He was Esenin's first big-time poet-friend, and, apparently, they had a big affair, and Klyuev dominated Esenin - very strictly and cruelly, actually. (So) they knew each other.  But still..(and)  they were good friends, until Esenin's suicide, so, until 1924… Yes?

Student: What is "homosexual mysticism"?

AG: I guess it's a yearning (like you hear in Gustav Mahler) for some kind of union which can't take place. So, more and more heartbroken yearning (like you get in (Richard) Wagner, or Mahler), that endless series of passionate heart-beat…breathings.. and almost to a climax, but that climax never comes.

Student: So it's never… it's non-experiential maybe, or ..

AG: No, it's experience of lack love more than anything else - a yearning for love but a lack of consummation. In certain cases, like his, because he's also a moralist and a Puritan.. He isn't a pagan homosexual, he's God-dominated, so there's always, maybe, some kind of guilt connected to it, I guess - and aestheticism - and cutting off their own genitals, actually! -
It's not a universal form of homosexuality, but it's a particularly Russian kind of self-flagellation (well, it's, like, (the) Russian Christianity also includes flagellation). 

Student: Yeah

AG: Heterosexual Christianity in Russian also included flagellating yourself  - (like in Mexico).



["The Flagellation of Christ" - late 15th Century Russian icon 24 x 19 cms - Museum of Architecture and Ancient Monument, Novgorod, Russia]

So, anyway, they had a big affair, and Esenin came from a little village which he wrote about, and grounded himself in (St.) Petersburg and Moscow and in the cafes as a peasant poet, and, wandering around with Klyluev, he wore peasant clothes. But then it got pretty theatrical, because they made up their own peasant clothes, and it got totally exaggerated. Everybody looked on Klyuev as some kind of con-man, or a peasant con-man, sometimes a genius, of a kind,  sort of Svengali, of a kind, dominating people by (sheer) will-power and loud mouth and brilliance, and he had some good arguments - that the Mechanical Age was going to ruin mankind, and would certainly ruin Holy Mother Russia, particularly a  Machine Age connected to a Communist bureauracy - between the two of them, he thought it would be kind of poison - because the new economic plans of Lenin and others wanted to communize the land, and communize it and break up the holdings of the kulaks, or the small landholders, and break up their traditions, and start up a whole different sense of a different family system. And then there's all these whisperings of free love and everything, coming from the Jewish Communists and the International Anarchist Communists. It was a whole big mix-up.  There's a guy named (Nestor) Makhno - Do you remember anything about him, Peter? - anything?

Peter Orlovsky: He was a…





















[Nestor Mahkno]

AG: He looks like (Arthur) Rimbaud, actually. From..

Peter Orlovsky: Georgian

AG: Georgia. 

Peter Orlovsky: Yeah, he was a horseman and a leader, and was he an Anarchist?

AG: Yeah. he represented the local Anarchism (in the sense of provincial Anarchism, or..what do you call it?… individualized, broken-up, decentralized Anarchism.

Peter Orlovsky:He got trapped in a battle.

AG: Yeah, well, he resisted the authority of the Bolsheviks. First, he fought the White Russians, right?

Peter Orlovsky: Right

AG:  And beat them. So, fighting with the Communists against the White Russians or the old Czarist armies. Then he didn't want to come under the rule of the Central Committee (CCCP). And so Trotsky went out with an army and beat Makhno. Makhno was this beautiful-looking guy…if you ever see a picture of him - an anarchist -  so that's kind of interesting (except, it's also said that he was kind of an egotist, and…

Peter Orlovsky: ..an alcoholic...

AG: An alcoholic

Peter Orlovsky: ..ended up in Paris…

AG: Yeah, he died in Paris, in exile, of alcoholism, drank himself to death in Paris after he got kicked out of Georgia.

But this attack on Makhno was, finally, the crucial thing, politically, because the Bolsheviks  had to consolidate their power and they had all these people (what would be like The Living Theatre today, or radical anarchists, or the Rainbow Family, or Woodstock tribes), all resisting the central authority, and, finally, Trotsky had to take an army and knock them off, kill them, or drive them out.   

Peter Orlovsky: Did they like...

AG: Esenin, kind of liked Klyuev, Makhno also. He mentions him a lot. I don't know if he met him but he did like him.   So what else about Klyuev, anything (else) to say?

Peter Orlovsky: His famous poem is "The Burned Ruins" (Pogoret'shehma) (of  (the) village Zhelvachevo - he's got a long poem about that).

AG: Any interesting lines?

Peter Orlovsky: He was sent to Siberia, and left in (19)45 with two suitcases of poems, and never…

AG: 1945?

Peter Orlovsky. Oh, thirty-five.. Came back in (19)35,  he was freed in (19)35, and was heading out on a train to Siberia, and was never seen again (with his two suitcases of poems - which may have been used for toilet-paper, because there was no toilet-paper in those days)

AG: Yeah, he was exiled to Siberia, and he had a tough time, (but) apparently didn't die, though, survived it. But on the way back, it is rumored, he was shot by the police because they didn't want him back anyway, because he was a thorn-in-the-side to Stalin and the whole bureaucracy then, because he was so obviously out-of-step with what they thought was the times and what they wanted. He was still friends, even at that late date, with Esenin, though (they first met (in) 1910 or so - 1912).


[Audio for the above can be heard here , from the beginning until approxiately fourteen-and-half minutes in] 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Interview in Galway 1995 - Getting to Ginsberg



Allen Ginsberg in Ireland -  (Allen filmed in Galway, when he was over for the Cúirt Literary Festival, in 1995).  Local "character", Mark Kennedy (of Streetcorner Productionsrecently put up on You Tube a curious half-hour documentary (from 2007), perhaps more revealing of him than it is about Allen, but we thought, nonetheless, we would share. 
"Getting To Ginsberg" is the title, focusing, as it does on the frisson - a tired and harrassed Allen is, at one point, quite explicitly, telling Kennedy "You're being irritating".."You taking advantage of me to talk about yourself on..camera, and then talk about me in stereotypes". Kennedy's, likewise explicitly-announced, hero-worship  ("he was, to me, the embodiment of everything that was brave and free of careerism and self-interest. He took risks that very few men would take", he says, regarding Allen's participation in 'Sixties activism - he was "the King of the Hippies") is seriously countered by a bruised ego, spilling into vituperativeness and anger ( "how dare he correct me in that manner and accuse me of trying to fuck with his head")

The first half  (a full eleven-and-a-half minutes), prior to the Ginsberg-Kennedy encounter, consists of unedited footage of Allen at a book-signing, spotlighting Ginsberg's on-the-road patience (he even compliments one of those seeking an autograph for his patience, at one point) though the fractious tone is immediately set - "I can't agree with you because you're not loud enough and you're not enunciating either"..""..not unless you speak loud enough for me to hear, come on!"
One highlight (beginning approximately six minutes in), self-confessed "Bob Dylan fanatic", George Moynahan
GM: Did you see the film Renaldo And Clara?
AG: Yeah
GM: It's been withdrawn, I believe
AG: It was so badly received in America that Dylan withdrew it temporarily, until he..until it would be..
GM: ..appreciated
AG: .. a time..
GM: Personally, it's one of my inspiring documentaries
AG: I thought it was pretty good
GM: Yeah, me too.
AG: I like it because I have a nice big role in it.
GM: You did, yeah. Your (part was) particularly memorable.
AG: The fourth-largest, I think. And he had a very nice intention, trying to present me to his audience..
GM: Yeah
AG: ..very consciously.
GM: Yeah he did..

Another notable encounter occurs (at approximately ten minutes in) when Allen is generously presented with a present of drug paraphernalia ("Well, you know, I don't smoke very much".."Who made all these?" (it was a set of pipes, hand-crafted, hand-made) - Noticing drug residue on one of the pipes, Allen politely refuses - "You have no idea, they've tried to get me any number of times" - "I thought they'd sort of leave you alone" - "No way. I'm much too paranoid to carry these things around"... "actually, I get strip-searched.." - "Still?" - "Not so often, but there's the old (records)… from 1965 on..'

Starting approximately twelve-and-a-half minutes in, Kennedy accompanies Ginsberg to the Galway Atlantic (school).  


MK: I'll tell you a little story. This building next to here, which is now redolent of the Galway new big wave of destruction..
AG: Which building?
MK: This building..here. The curbstone is still left, as you can see, and the path is rather low, wouldn't you think? It used to be an asylum for gentle folk..
AG: Uh-huh
MK: ..when I was a child, I lived down here, and, as children, we used to come and stand outside to hear the screams and the travail of people in there. And now it's left an indelible impression on me, you know, as a boy, I sort of became a voyeur, emotionally, in some way. How are you enjoying Galway?
AG: No, but what was the..  what happened to the building?
MK: Well, it became..  it fell into disuse because genteel people disappeared from Galway, as far as I know
AG: Well "genteel", "mad"  people. What happens to all the people now? Where do they go?  What sort of problem  do they have now?
MK: Oh well…Ballinasloewhich is on a par about with Bellevue Hospital in New York
AG: Bellevue is not so bad now 
MK: Well I'm happy to hear that, Allen. Were you ever in there?
AG: Oh yes, many times..
MK: Were you? Were you really?
AG: ..with my mother, visiting, other people, visiting, Peter Orlovsky, visiting, 
MK: How marvelous!
AG: ...oh god, any number of people.
MK: But you were in there as a visitor, I hope?
AG: Yes. I spent eight months as an in-patient in another hospital, much earlier, 1948, yes..
MK: Did you?
AG: ...but I had a good time
MK: Oh wonderful! But you've always been such a wonderful..
AG: I met interesting people, and, since I wasn't really in a bad state, I was able to use it as a rest hotel and write a lot of poetry. 
MK: Splendid, splendid.
AG: I met Carl Solomon there
MK: Yes, yes. Well, when I met you, in 1974, you were at the height of what I would call, if I may, your "rant" period.
AG: I don't know if that's correct.  
MK: Is it?
AG: In 1974 I was writing..  No, I had done a lot of Buddhist meditation (by then).
MK: Yes, that's true, and when I saw you at the Troubador.. (Los Angeles)
AG: I think you're stereotyping me there.
MK: No I'm not Allen, I don't mean to do that at all.
AG: At the Troubador I was singing "all the hills echo-ed", I remember.
MK: Well what image do you think that young people have of you now?
AG: Well  I hope a mixed self-image.. I don't know what I am.. What am I supposed to do? One fixed image?
MK: Splendid, splendid.  I was talking to the little  receptionist in the hotel today.. Catherine..
AG: Young girl?
MK: Yes. And I asked her if she knew who you were..
AG: Oh, please!
MK: Do you know what I mean?
AG: Well you could spare me that now. 
MK: Well give me a break, Allen 
AG: You could really spare me that.
MK: You have a public persona
AG: You're being irritating.
MK: Sorry, Allen.
AG: You're being irritating, It's like.. you know, when they say, "don't point, it's bad manners"!
MK: I'm afraid of you, that's all. 
AG: No, fuck you, you're not afraid of me, you're taking advantage of me.
MK: I'm sorry.
AG: You're taking advantage of me to talk about yourself on the camera - and then talk about me in  stereotypes on top of that.
MK: Yes, alright.
AG:  Now, what is your actual social business?
MK: My actual social business?
AG:You're clearly talking to me for your reasons, you have your reasons, but (the) appropriate reason was that you were doing some work documenting.. interviews or, documenting civil liberties.
MK: That's right, that's right
AG: So what sort of thing is that?
MK: Well, for instance, we have in this country the travellers, you've heard about them, have you?
AG:Yes, I know.
MK:Alright
AG: I've been reading about them
MK: Sorry?
AG: I've been reading about them
MK: Good.
AG: It's a very interesting aim.. compared to the gypsies, who, a few years ago, in this country.. more dignified..
MK: Yes, in any event, this [hands Allen a video-cassette] is a documentary which we made (Forced Land) and we, Niall Hughes and I,
AG: Niall is the one on the camera?
MK: Yes, sorry Niall. We are unemployed people (well, we are unwaged, but we are busily employed with this work).. Now, I don't know what impression you've gotten of Galway? 
AG:  ..So far? MK: Yes. Well,  I wonder if you have seen the Galway that we are struggling to alter
AG: No, I haven't
MK: Well.. there's
AG: What part of town is that?
MK: Well What area? what ethnic area? This area..this area is..Hillside, it's called, where the traveler people live, four hundred families, four hundred persons, who have one faucet for cold water, Up to their ankles in mud, etcetera, etcetera, rats and what have you.
AG: Are they forced there by the state?
MK: Well no, they're not actually forced there by the state. They are a separate cultural entity, they insist on their nomadic rights. What the authorities are saying is break up the clans, disperse them throughout settled neighborhoods...
AG: Right
MK: ...which means break up the culture.
AG: Yes, I've seen some argument about that in the newspaper..as being an imposition of a ..society culture on the minority and the minority culture has long virtues, dating back centuries actually, of  coherence and cohesiveness  and community values
MK: Yes
(NH): They actually tried to establish that they are a seperate ethnic culture
AG: Well they obviously are.
(NH) But they have to establish it in fact before they get any kind of recognition as a separate people. otherwise they're not accorded any special status..
AG: I hereby accord them any special status I have power to accord them
MK: Thank you
(NH): Can we impose on you..
AG: .but.. I'm not very much of an empowered.. type. 
MK: Well, we also need mention too, before you leave this country, that in July of last year [1994], there was a public order act passed, which made it possible for any policeman who didn't like the looks of you, or me, gathered here, having a conversation. We are four, the law states, that if the policeman, in his opinion, thinks that we're engaged in conversation which might - repeat might - later lead to..later lead to a breach of public order, he can take all four of us down there
AG: Yeah they have a new law.. there are currently laws  in America like that.
MK: Yes
AG: But Britain has those kind of Constitutional Courts and we don't.. 
MK: Yes
AG:  .. so that maybe there's some prohibition, except that they.. The Supreme Court now is so right-wing that you never know what to think about this.. 
MK: I know, I know
AG: The only way out of that, so far as I know, is some kind of coherent, non-aggressive, cheerful, public..
(NH): Resistance?
AG:  Resistance is (too close to) beaten
(NH): It's already been done?
AG: No, no, it already implies defeat..There's got to be more more energetic, more urgent..
(NH): Any gesture taken in anger..
AG: You wanna put words in my mouth? - great!
(NH): Excuse me, sorry, Allen.
AG: Any gesture taken in anxiety creates more anxiety. Any gesture taken in anger creates more anger. Any grand gesture taken agressively creates counter-aggression. Any gesture taken in calm and equanimity creates calm and equanimity. Lucidity creates lucidity. So what lucid form is there of appealing to others, except..poetry?..  
(NH):..music, and film
AG: Film, I think, but you have to do it without..
(NH): Rancor
AG: Rancor yes.. I want  to go in and enjoy myself
(NH). Yes.  Thanks for that statement/ 
MK: Allen, if I offended you, I'm glad because at least I got to you. 
AG:  No, no, I was jut talking.
MK: Thank you Allen. 
Will you take "Forced Land" as a gift, it's an American..American  edition. Thank you Allen.

The door closes (at approximately twenty-five-and-a-quarter minutes in and Allen is left to his privacy. Niall Hughes keeps the camera rolling, to allow Kennedy to deliver a coda  

MK:  We have Mr Allen Ginsberg at last, in the heat of the hunt. Now I don't know what anybody else expected but I know I don't know what I expected,  but my memory of Ginsberg was that he was in a rant on that day - I don't care what he says - and he was playing at the Troubador Hotel, not the hotel, but the nightclub, on Santa Monica Boulevard, in Los Angeles. (I strolled in there by accident one night and, just for you celebrity-lovers, it was the nightclub in Hollywood that had the distinction of barring John Lennon)., So I went in - I'd never seen Ginsberg before (I'd read a great deal about him, I'd read about his influence on the Berrigan Brothers, the two Jesuits who were active in the Catonsville Nine, and I don't need to go through all that history) - but he, to me, was, to use a literary word, "seminal" (I mean, he was always talking about semen, anyway), and he was a man who greatly impressed me, because he was the polar opposite of myself. He was a burl.. well, at that time, was a burlesque-ing street- theatre lunatic hooked on the ecstasy of the 'Sixties, and I don't mean the pill, I mean the ecstacy of the awakening of that time. Now, whereas Ginsberg, who is a man of probably twelve years older than myself, he must be approaching seventy.
(NH): Sixty-nine.
MK:  Or whatever he is, whatever he is , he made me angry
(NH): He made you angry?
MK: ..and I might counter-attack him with a .. he's a bit too fuckin' cosy, for my liking, anyway  - how dare he correct me in that manner and accuse me of trying to fuck with his head!.. anyway, that aside, he was, to me, the embodiment of everything that was brave and free of careerism and self-interest. He took risks that very few men would take, and any man who rushes into the Chicago police, who, at that time, were rioting, in 1967, at the Rubin trials (sic), and all that, anybody who rushes in with nothing to offer but his moral outrage and anger is a brave man, regardless of what he might be otherwise. Now what I'm trying to lead up to here is that I was living a completely different life to him. I was on a remote island, by myself, trying to live the Zen life -and I was.. around Buddhism too, if he puts me to it - but I won't, I have to be nice! - Now my immediate reaction was, if he walks away from me and leaves me here, I'll attack him in no uncertain terms on the business of his approval of homosexuality with minors. By the grace of god (and presumably Buddha!), he had the grace to take me by the arm and take me after him. 
Now, the positive thing he did was that he forced me not to ask him cliched questions
(NH):  This is tonight now, yeah?
MK:  Now. When did I.?. ! - No, fuck it!. Now..
(NH): You started off talking about..
MK: Now.. The story that I was going to tell him, and I'm going to tell it here was this - that I went into that hotel today and the young girl that was inside the thing was a very sweet child, no more than sixteen, you know child-slave, like they have in these places, and I said to her, she.. she gave me another note that was for Allen Ginsberg, because she thought I was Allen Ginsberg. Now that was the first thing. The second thing was, I told her I'm not Allen Ginsberg, I want to leave a note for him, which I left, and, just as a matter of course, I said to her, "Do you know who he is?" - And she said, "No, no I don't" - She was all misty for it - and I said, "Well, he's a hippie, he's the King of the hippies, you know, just like that. She said "Was he?". I said, "Yeah, he was". She said, "You mean, all that flower.." I said, "Yeah, that thing". And she lit up like a Christmas tree, man, and she said "Gee, I don't.. I didn't know that". Now, she knew about the enlightenment movement that went on in the 'Sixties, she knew about the awakening of the 'Sixties, and I wanted to know if she did (because she was only about fifteen) and, whether he likes it or not, Ginsberg is an iconic name.

The film is dedicated to the late camera-man, and co-producer,  Niall "River" Hughes, who speaks on camera on a number of occasions.  The film is also dedicated to Allen, whose name is, unfortunately, mis-spelt - Alan Ginsberg (sic).

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday July 28 - Gay Pride






Stonewallposter





Gay Pride weekend this weekend. We begin by drawing your attention to this important posting

We celebrate today with Greta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg's 1984 documentary, Before Stonewall.  (Allen and poet Audre Lorde are among those featured). 

Also hats-off to Kate Davis and David Hellbroner's 2010 doc, Stonewall Uprising (based on David Carter's exhaustive research).

45 years on from Stonewall - the pivotal moment in America for the establishmen of gay civil rights.  



Here's a profile of Allen on Dutch tv  ( from OUTtv):



Here's the gay-themed "Jimmy Berman" (Gay Lib Rag)"



Here's the cover of the wide-ranging Gay Sunshine interview with Allen Young, (originally published, in 1974, by Grey Fox Press)
 (with a suitably exuberant inscription!)


  
Here's the text for our Spanish readers (translated into Spanish). The original text in English (too long to include here) is included and available in David Carter's edition of Spontaneous Mind - Selected Interviews 1958-1966  (yes, the same David Carter!) - David's extraordinary (and definitive) work about Stonewall, Stonewall - The Riots That Sparked The Gay Revolution is essential reading. 

Here's Allen, in 1994, on right-wing gay yearning



Saluting Gay Pride!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Allen in the 'Sixties - Portland State College Readings

[Allen Ginsberg, April 23, 1969, at Portland State College - Photograph from Viking (PSU Yearbook, 1968-69), courtesy Portland State University Library's Special Collection]  

The big news last week, the discovery, initially, by Portland State University archivist, Christine Paschild, (with additional assistance by PSU library technician Carolee Harrison) of a remarkable collection of reel-to-reel audio tapes (275 hours, now transfered to digital format and made publicly available) - the historic and extraordinary Oregon Public Speakers Collection, featuring the voices of such singular cultural (and counter-cultural) figures as Robert F Kennedy, Carl Sagan, Linus Pauling, Stokely Carmichael, Toni Morrison, and… Allen Ginsberg.

Allen's contribution - two visits to the Oregon campus, at the heart of debate, and profound concern, over the growing escalation of the Vietnam War. The first, a reading (recorded on May 22, 1967), introduced by Gary Koeppel (Allen, in the Q & A session that follows,  provocatively notes that then-Presidential-contender, Kennedy, might, actually, benefit, perhaps, from the consciousness-expanding experience of taking LSD!), the second, participation, (along with poets John Anderson, Robert Sund, and Robert Bly), in an SDS reading, some two years later, in resistance to the war. (Allen, at the request of Bly reads "This Form of Life Needs Sex", but otherwise takes care not to repeat any poems he might have read on the campus on the previous occasion).

The 1967 poetry reading is available here
The 1969 SDS anti-war reading is available here   

And more details:
The May 1967 reading begins with an approximately five-minute introduction by Koeppel, "comment(ing), very briefly, on two facets of his (Ginsberg's) poetry" - "the first, is that (which) is referred to in the cheap and vulgar press as its "obscene" qualities, the second, is the term which critics have used to recognize the major mode of his poetry, it's confessional strain" - "and I believe these are not unrelated questions."
Allen begins (approximately five minutes in) - ("let me know if you can't hear me at any point'') - with a chant. "I want to begin, generally, as I begin poetry-readings, with an interesting poetic text - the Prajnaparamita Sutra.." - "it's a text used by Tibetan Buddhists, (and)  Japanese Zen Buddhists, for chanting. Almost all schools of Buddhism accept this as a statement of ultimate reality. It's.. Sino-Japanese first, and then English (so you get the import), Sino-Japanese, as taught to me by Gary Snyder. The translation into English is by Roshi Suzuki of the Soto temple in Page Street, San Francisco. The text is available in the most recent issue of the San Francisco Oracle 



Following ten minutes of chanting, (at approximately fifteen minutes in), Allen reads his poem (to Harry Fainlight) - "Who Be Kind To"



followed by "Uptown N(ew) Y(ork)" - ("The yellow light of Budweiser signs over oaken bars./"I've seen everything" - the bartender handing me change of $10..".."If I had my way, I'd cut off your hair and send you to Vietnam.."), "Portland Coliseum" ("Brown piano in diamond/white spotlight/Leviathan auditorium.."), "First Party At Ken Kesey's With Hell's Angels" ("Cool balk night thru redwoods..") and "This Form of Life Needs Sex

At approximately thirty-minutes in, Allen begins an extensive reading of "Beginning of A Poem of These States" - "This is a record of an auto-trip in a Volksvagen that I took with Gary Snyder, in, let's see, it would be Fall 1965, covering… the beginning of a long poem, so it's called "beginning" of a poem of "these states" (taken from Walt Whitman), beginning then with the Canadian border, starting, down towards San Francisco, on the other side of the Cascades.." - ("Under the bluffs of Oroville, blue cloud September skies, entering US border..") - Then (at approximately forty-one-and-a-half minutes in)  - "continuing the same poem, one section, ( then, I think, chant a little and have an intermission), "on the road", to Los Angeles from San Francisco. Let's just continue this, through America")
At approximately forty-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in, Allen concludes the first part of his set with a chant - ("I'll end, chanting to Shiva, the "Hare Krishna" mantra probably best (then take a break for ten minutes or so and come back, read for another half hour or so, as long as we have the hall for an hour, continue). I wanted to read the "Wichita Vortex Sutra", which is the main poem of this set) - From approximately forty-eight-and-three-quarters to fifty-three minutes in, Allen chants "Hare Krishna" ("to Krishna, the god of preservation, an aspect of Vishnu, the preserver, from the Bhagavad Gita")



The second set begins with a brief announcement- "Mr Ginsberg will be reading poetry tonight and lecturing on the subculture in the DCA Building from 7.30 to 9.30. The program is part of an on-going seminar on the psychedelic movement. There will be a small admissions charge for students and faculty. Mr Ginsberg has been kind enough to agree to try to answer some questions at the end of this reading, as long as we have some time. He will take as many questions as he has strength for, but I ask you to be a little kind. He has been meeting with faculty and students since noon.. We want to give him a little time to rest.. Mr Allen Ginsberg."
Allen follows this with his own announcement - "How many.. were there anybody here who heard any of the other readings I gave in town? - because I don't want to repeat material." - "So, next then, "Wichita Vortex Sutra" - between Los Angeles and Alburquerque, so we continue with.. geographically, we've gotten from Omak to San Francisco, San Francisco to Los Angeles, and now Los Angeles to..  a few sketches on the way to Alburquerque - [Allen then reads, uninterrupted, nearly half-an-hour (from approximately fifty-five minutes in to approximately eighty-four-and-a-half minutes in), from "Wichita Vortex Sutra" ]

picture

At eighty-five minutes in - "Mr Ginsberg  will try to answer some questions. If you want to ask a question, will you please stand and we'll try to get (to) it.It's a little difficult trying to get it, coming the other way, without a mike.."
AG: I had a few statements I wanted to make.
 "Mr Ginsberg will make a few statements without questions."
AG:  The picture.. I understand that there was some confusion or feelings about the picture that was on the front-page of the campus newspaper. I.. It's, apparently, a legitimate art work done by Richard Avedon. It was published in a book, and I think it was reprinted in other college newspapers, and so, as far as I'm concerned, I was delighted to see it, naked and all. So it wasn't any insult to me, because that was me, and I'm certainly not insulted by myself, and I hope nobody else is. So I don't see how anybody really could be insulted by oneself, certainly, with no words attached to it even, just standing there. So, that's sort of charming, I thought. I thought there was a news.. there was one section of.. a thing which said that I.. (which, I thought, was rather, in a sense, freaked-out) which was that a letter had been sent to me, requesting me to "go easy", or something.. I don't.. No letter was sent to me (that I know of) . I didn't see any, didn't ask for any. I have an agent that takes care of all those arrangements, so, I just arrived here happily. 



Fortunately, there's no great mob-scene either.We have no trouble with crowd-control. People were driven out after the first hour of poetry. So everything worked out nicely tho' there was anxiety about the reading - which always shows you how our anxiety is a mass hallucination. I mean, that's the whole scene, (as) simple as that. I think the whole Vietnam War is a mass hallucination, of a similar nature - just anxiety being acted out - and the problem, then, is control of anxiety, and self-awareness (which I don't think is a speciality of our government at the moment), so I think, like, politically, what would be necessary,
ultimately, is to be aware of people as aware of themselves, and vote for someone who's aware of themselves (if he's free enough of his awareness to be able to be in politics!) - and there were some people - like (Mahatma) Gandhi (who made their mistakes too) - Anybody got anything you want to ask, or know?
The other statement (that) I had to make was..  well, (that) I gave my blood to be tested, by the way, (to) see what happens, with the LSD in me..   

Student: (Do you miss (John) Kennedy?)

AG: Yeah, I missed… yeah, I think so. I felt more affection for him than I did from (Lyndon) Johnson, or I felt the possibilties of affection. Also, the obvious thing of there being sex in The White House, finally, after many years of aged xx    But I don't necessarily trust the policies that he had, nor trust his brother, Robert.  I don't think Robert is hip enough yet. I think what he ought to do us take some LSD and then he'd be more qualified to run. He's got enough children already so he doesn't have to worry about his chromosomes. I think, actually, that would be quite a thing, if he took LSD and ran with Martin Luther King as a Vice-Presidential candidate would be... . Otherwise we're going to be stuck (someone was telling me) we're going to be stuck the next time round - big choice offered to us, to our consciousness,  is a combination of (Nelson) Rockefeller and  (Ronald) Reagan (Reagan for Vice-, Rockefeller for President - that unlikely.. haiku), and, I guess, (Lyndon) Johnson and (Hubert) Humphrey, again, (or something like that), and that's no choice, really, for anybody any longer, that's not even politics, any longer, so I.. between here [May 1967] and the elections. I think something should be done by all you upstanding, righteous-thinking citizens to make your democracy work - with or without LSD! 

Student: (Have those poems you read from been published?)

AG: [1967] - No, very little of it has been published. A lot of what I was reading from was manuscript, hand-script manuscript. The "Wichita Vortex Sutra", the last long poem, was published in the Underground Newspaper Syndicate (UPS), beginning in the Village Voice, and then in a pamphlet put out by a young man named Van Aeistyn up here in Eugene (Oregon), Ed Van Aeistyn, Coyote Press, [with James Koller], so that's available through City Lights.  Another section, (which I didn't read, if you want to hear another short section, there's one that I would like, actually, to read), is a prefatory piece to that longer one, which is "on the road" from Wichita to Lincoln, on the road from Lincoln to Wichita. It's much shorter, and there are one or two statements in it that are interesting. Lincoln, Nebraska's the home of William Jennings Bryan. Bryan opposed the Gold standard. I understand he had interest in Baby Doe (Tabor's) Silver Mines. He was the… he defended the Biblical interpretation of the Bible of the creation of Man (the Biblical interpretation, as opposed to the evolutionary interpretation - which was outlawed in Tennessee schools up to this week!) - and so there was the famous Scopes Monkey Trial (which you may have seen the movie of  - (Inherit The Wind)) - and there's a beautiful poem written about him by Vachel Lindsay, there's a dormitory named after him at Nebraska U(niversity) in Lincoln. [Allen concludes the reading, reading from this section of "Beginning of A Poem of These States']    

william_jennings_bryan.jpg
[William Jennings Bryan at The Scopes Monkey Trial, 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee]           

The second reading (Allen at the 1969 SDS anti-war reading) begins approximately thirty-seven minutes in (Allen concluding the evening, following a poem and "pornographic" short-story by John Anderson, a miscellany of poems read by Robert Bly (including one by Bill Knott), and a selection of poems read by a belatedly-arriving Robert Sund (including a poem by Pablo Neruda, "Ode to the Table")

AG: "Robert Bly has asked me to read a poem that I read two years ago when I was here ("This Form of Life Needs Sex"), it's short.. I'm reading poems, the rest of the poems I'm going to read are poems I didn't read the last time around here" - starting with (at approximately forty-one-and-a-half minutes in), "Wales Visitation", "a text written in Britain in the fifth hour of an acid trip", followed by "a last poem and a chant, I guess, or more Blake?"- "To Poe" - (a) record of an airplane trip from Albany to Baltimore (where Poe died, or was dragged through the streets on election-eve, intoxicated or alcohol-poisoned, dragged through the streets and voted as a dead-man's vote by party hacks of that day (in the nineteenth-century).

Poe
[Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)]

Following this (at approximately fifty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in) - 
AG: Should we finish now? Finish now? It's eleven-fifteen, everybody getting fatigued, I guess. What do you want to do,  more poetry or sing? Sing, I think. Sing (William) Blake, so you have both. More Blake.. 
Student: "Who Be Kind To".
AG: I read "Who Be Kind To" last time. I'd prefer not to do things I did last time. Otherwise,I'd get bored with my own corpse!
Student: (A chant?)
AG: We'll get to a chant (but, first,).. the blossom.. - The Introduction to "Songs of Experience", you know, the piper, by William Blake ("Piping down the valleys wild..") - [Allen and Peter Orlovsky perform four songs from "The Songs of Innocence and Experience" - the Introduction, "The Shepherd" ("How sweet is the Shepherd's sweet lot.."), "The Blossom" ("Merry, Merry, Sparrow..") and "The Echoing Green" ("The Sun does Arise..")


[William Blake (1757-1827)]

We’ll end with Raghupati, rājārām – a mantra of some kind – Raghupati – a mantra that was used by Gandhi for uniting black and white, uniting Hindu and Muslim, rival consciousnesses, in political action –"raghupati rāghav rājārām…" - how does it go? - "patit pāvan sītārām.."  - So, it’s in the line of Krishna again - "patit pāvan sītārām" - and then with a chorus, "sītārām, sītārām, sītārām, jai, sītārām". So, if you want to pick up on that at any point, it’s easy to remember and chant. Then I’ll repeat it again – "raghupati rāghav rājārām,/patit pāvan sītārām/ īśvar allāh tero nām,/sab ko sanmati de bhagavān" - (īśvar - lord - allāh - what's in a name? - all same are self god)


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Expansive Poetics - 74 - (Mandelstam And Stalin)


Russian poet Osip Mandelstam circa 1930s
    

[Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) & Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938)



[Prisoners mining gold at Kolyma, the most notorious Gulag camp in extreme northeastern Siberia - from the 1934 documentary film, Kolyma, courtesy the Central Russian Film and Photo Archives] 


AG: The next poem, I think I mentioned before. I'll read you.. I have only one version here but I'll read you another also. This is a celebrated poem which got him in trouble, when it was circulated around. It was the attack on Stalin


Мы живем, под собою не чуя страны,
Наши речи за десять шагов не слышны,
А где хватит на полразговорца,
Там припомнят кремлёвского горца.
Его толстые пальцы, как черви, жирны,
А слова, как пудовые гири, верны,
Тараканьи смеются усища,
И сияют его голенища.
А вокруг него сброд тонкошеих вождей,
Он играет услугами полулюдей.
Кто свистит, кто мяучит, кто хнычет,
Он один лишь бабачит и тычет,
Как подкову, кует за указом указ:
Кому в пах, кому в лоб, кому в бровь, кому в глаз.
Что ни казнь у него - то малина
И широкая грудь осетина.

"We live, not feeling the ground under our feet./No one hears us more than a dozen steps away.." - [I think that's ironic] -  "And when there's enough for half a small chat -/ah, we remember the Kremlin mountaineer.." - [that is, when there's enough left, enough ground and enough space, enough leisure left for a little chat with your friends in secret] - 'ah, we remember the Kremlin mountaineer/Thick fingers, fat like worms, greasy words solid as iron weights./Huge cockroach whiskers laughing, boot-tops beaming./And all around him a rabble of thin-necked captains, he toys with the sweat of half-men/Some whistle, some meow, some snivel, he is the only one looking, jabbing/ He forges decrees like horseshoes - decrees and decrees - This one gets it in the balls, that one in the forehead, him right between the eyes/Whenever he's got a victim, he glows like a broad chested Georgian munching a raspberry."
And there's a footnote to that also, which I should.. what that raspberry image is. It's a

Peter Orlovsky:  (Raspberries actually killed somebody!)

AG: "This is the poem on Stalin for which Mandelstam suffered greatly. He and his wife were sent first to Cherdyn in the Urals, then, after a softening of their punishment, to Voronezh, most likely as a result of his poems having been reported. It must not, of course, be confused with the later attempt to write a positive ode to Stalin.." - [he did, actually, try to do that to get out of trouble] - "..the by-products of which were in the poems written in Voronezh from (6 of January to 9th of February, 1937.." - [that is, just before he got take away - And that's a witty exercise (I think we have it in our books) and we'll get to that - and he tried to write a positive ode) - "Th"Georgian munching a raspberry" - This was, literally, an Ossetian - the Ossetes were a Muslim tribe in Georgia of legendary ferocity said to celebrate an enemy's death by munching a raspberry" (!) (Stalin, of course, who was a Georgian, was rumored to have been of that particular tribe..was rumored, at times, to have been of that particular tribe).. ]
And there's an alternative translation of it (that) I have around, so you get the… I'm not sure if it's any better, but..

“We live without feeling under us firm ground/At ten feet away you can’t hear a sound/ Of any words but "the wild man in the Kremlin/ Slayer of peasants and soul-strangling gremlin" – [this is a translation by Bernard Meares] – "Each thick finger of his is as fat as a worm,/ To his ten-ton words we all have to listen.../His cockroach whiskers flicker and squirm/And the shining thigh-boots shimmer and glisten/ Surrouding himself by scrawny-necked lords/ he plays on his servile half-human hordes /Some mewl, some grizzle, some  moan/ Prodded by him/ scourging us till we groan/Like horseshoes, he hammers out law after law/slamming some in the gut and some in the eye, some in the balls and some in the jaw/At each execution, he belches his best/This Caucasian hero with his broad tribesman’s chest." - [ so they left out the image of the raspberry in this translation.. oh, maybe , they’ve got a note.. let's see what kind of footote they’ve got on it..  Well, they say – "Epigrammatic poem about Stalin which caused Mandelstam’s first arrest in 1934" – [That was the cause of the arrest that I read about last time, this poem] - Alternative second couplet - "Of our voices but each muttered a half-phrase/Sings the Kremlin mountain-man's praise" - [our own voices, our own muttetred half-phrases have to sing his praises]

































Student: (What community (support) did these poets have?.. (Leon) Trotsky?)
AG: Not Trotsky...  (NikolaiKluyev?..
Peter Orlovsky: Trotsky criticized Kluyev.
AG: Didn't like him. That was before Trotsky was ..out - when did Trotsky leave? 
Student: Late (19)20's.  - 1925
AG: Mid or late (19)20's - that's late! - he survived that long! 
No, not directly, they were all (buried or lost), they were isolated lefties. However, they were all known to the intelligensia, and so, like (Vladimir Ilyich) Lenin and those guys..like (with, for example) (Vladimir) Mayakovsky - he knew about him and he'd read something. (Stalin was in direct contact with some of them, I think. In fact, Stalin once called up Mandelstam, or something like that, called up (Anna) Akhmatova).

Student: A phone call to Akhmatova!

AG: Yeah, they actually spoke on the phone. And, like Lili Brik, when the time came, wrote a letter to Stalin, about 1931, (19)32, or so, wrote a letter to Stalin saying 
my boyfriend Mayakovsky, is the greatest, and you said he was the greatest,and I've got all his papers, and nothing is being done to preserve them, (there's) no monument to him, no museum, do something, shouldn't we do something?, you said he was the greatest, didn't you?."  So he wrote a letter saying, yes, we must do something, he was the greatest Russian poet, greatest lyricist, or something, the most gifted. And so they immediately built a museum The next day, I think, there was a headline in Pravda that he was the greatest - according to Ann Charters' account (that we heard two weeks ago). So they were actually close enough to.. (and then) it's a small enough scene among the intelligensia and the politicians, for someone to be writing weird poems like this and attacking Stalin, even ironically, even in gossip, got back really fast. And because the whole thing was a psychological con and an hallucination i the sense of..  well, of course, everybody's hands were covered in blood and so they couldn't go back on it now, all the lower bureaucrats, what they called then the "party hacks", who were clinging to their chairs (as (Yevgeny) Yevtushenko  described them -  "party hacks" - the people who did all this - party-hacks, the people who did all this are still clinging to their chairs, 1965). but everybody was so implicated that amy attempt to address the grievance and go back, undo the karma, would have met with an enormous amount of resistance…  

So, in Russian the bureaucrats were all involved in this kind of national "mucous-membrane" blood network. [editorial note - the phrase "international mucous membrane network" is a phrase by the German poet, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, much admired by Allen - see, for example, here]. It wouldn't feel right, you know, betraying each other (I mean, they had (had) a complicit thing - that they were all going to send people away, and murder people - for "truthful", "good" "idealistic", ideological reasons. (But) now, if somebody pulls it out, pulls the rug out from under them, and says, "you're shit!", and breaks the complicit mutual hallucination, then they're all going to get scared that they're going to get it next, you know, that they might be involved, and they might be fingered, and they might be guilty  and sent off, in their turn.So they'll be this wall of  "no, we don't want any redress". But, if somebody like Akhmatova, who had real language, could cut through. In that sense, the poet is "the unacknowledged legislator of the world", as (Percy Bysshe) Shelley said, because the voice, being so truthfu,l and making such sense, and waking a resonance in everybody else, it could really shake the throne. If somebody in Moscow was going around saying, "I don't give a shit what Stalin says, he's a Georgian, eats raspberries and then kills somebody, and he gets somebody in the balls.. ", well, that guy… Well, pretty soon everybody knows it's true, and, you know, people start muttering, and, pretty soon, it leads to revolt.

Student: So in this case, with Mandelstam and Stalin, it's not only a personal attack, in the sense of the poem, but also an example to all the poets that you (just) better stay in line or we'll throw you off…

AG: Yeah. meaning..(so).. when Stalin did that (also) to (Mayakovsky)..  Also Stalin, I guess, he got really pissed and upset (also). There is this famous line when Mayakovsky gave his big speech, "At The Top of My Voice" (I think it was, yes),  Stalin said, "Who ordered this..claque?" (because there were a lot of people in the hall applauding, maybe three-thousand people applauding) and Stalin said immediately, "Who ordered this claque?" (thinking that it was this big organized claque - and it probably was, you know, like a Beatnik poetry reading is organized, somebody organizes it). "Who ordered this claque?.
Who were they? Get me their names!"  
Well let's see what else we've got here?

Peter Orlovsky: (Didn't he (Mandelstam) write "It is midnight in Moscow, a sumptuously Buddhist summer.."? [ "Полночь в Москве. Роскошно буддийское лето."]

AG: His idea of "Buddhist", no, his idea of "Buddhist" here, that meant "Stalin" - by "buddhist", he meant "impersonal", "de-humanized", I think - I've read it somewhere in a footnote that he meant "impersonal", "de-humanized", "ego-less", "without individuality" - just like Stalin was ordering, a sacrifice to the State. So he was equating Buddhism with that, rather than something slightly different, with which we equate it to here (at Naropa).
I think that's what he mean by "Buddhist summer" there.

I just put these (particular) poems in the anthology because there are clear pictures of Moscow, walking on the street - and somebody going into the crowds out of the dark movie-houses

Student: A nice one.

AG: Yeah

Student: It's very naive

AG: So you can read those. But I gave you the aesthetic ones. I went over before, but I'd like to repeat- 233 - his aesthetic,  his Acmeist aesthetic - [Я пью за военные астры, за все, чем корили меня:/За барскую шубу, за астму, за желчь петербургского дня,/За музыку сосен савойских, Полей Елисейских бензин,/За розы в кабине ролс-ройса, за масло парижских картин./Я пью за бискайские волны, за сливок альпийских кувшин,За рыжую спесь англичанок и дальних колоний хинин,/пью, но еще не придумал, из двух выбираю одно:/Веселое асти-спуманте иль папского замка вино"] -  "I drink to soldiers' star-flowers,/ to everything I was blamed for.." - [(in other words, so he's still holding out in this poem)] - "I drink to everything I was blamed for - soldiers' star-flowers, lush fur-coats.." - [(the elitist. Acmeist, aristocratic..memorobilia of Petersburg)] -"to Petersburg days and their bile" - [because all the poets were quarreling with each other in the Stray Dog (Cafe))]  - "to pine-trees' music,/ to petrol in Elysian Fields,/ to roses in Rolls-Royces" - [(which is a phrase that is picked up later on, I think, by (Andrei) Voznesensky and his poetry - "roses and Rolls-Royces" - that's the sort of barbaric Russian idea of Western civilization, sophistication)] - "to Paris-paintimgs/I drink to Biscay waves/and pitchers of Alpine cream/to arrogant red-headed English girls/to quinine from the colonies/drink to which I don't know/I still don't know,/wine from the Pope's cellars, or a lovely Asti Spumante" - [(good, elegant, manners)]  

Oh, here's the poem he tried to give to Stalin (except this is another - the last two lines change the meaning of the poem). And he wrote two versions - "Если б меня наши враги взяли/Если б меня наши враги взяли/ И перестали со мной говорить люди,/Если б лишили меня всего в мире:/Права дышать и открывать двери/ И утверждать, что бытие будет/И что народ, как судия, судит, -/Если б меня смели держать зверем,/Пищу мою на пол кидать стали б,-/ Я не смолчу, не заглушу боли,/Но начерчу то, что чертить волен,/И, раскачав колокол стен голый/И разбудив вражеской тьмы угол,/Я запрягу десять волов в голос/И поведу руку во тьме плугом-/И в глубине сторожевой ночи/ Чернорабочей вспыхнут земле очи,/И - в легион братских очей сжатый -/ Я упаду тяжестью всей жатвы,/Сжатостью всей рвущейся вдаль клятвы -/И налетит пламенных лет стая,/Прошелестит спелой грозой Ленин,/И на земле, что избежит тленья,/Будет будить разум и жизнь Сталин." - 
"If our enemy took me/ and nobody would speak to me/If they took everything - everything,/ the right to breathe, to open doors,/ to claim that existence will be, will be,/ and that people are judges and judge, they judge/ - if they dared to chain me like an animal/and throw my food on the floor/ it won't make me mute, I won't muffle pain/I'll write what I'm allowed to write, and when my nakedness rings like a bell,/ and the home of hostile darkness wakes/I'll yoke ten oxen to my voice/ and move my hands like a plow in the darkness/ and then, compressed in an ocean of brotherly eyes,/ I'll fall with the weight of an entire harvest, with the exactness of that oath, ripping into the distance,/and deep in the dark sentry- night/ the earth's unskilled-laborer's eyes will flare,/ and a flock of flaming years will flash by,/ and like a blind thunderstorm, rustling out, will come - Lenin/ Yes, but that which will endure on this earth,/ that which will destroy reason…"  ("that which will destroy capitalism,/ which will ruin capitalism, is Stalin") - He just simply.. "that which would for a reason ruin life/ would be Stalin".. just substituted the words "reason" and "life", just put some positive words in there - "Stalin" - as his attempt to write a poem in favor of Stalin. But it's (in) such an ambivalent way - "that which..", "that which will destroy.." - I've forgotten the.. maybe I can find the footnote that will give us the exact.. page 72.. "Although this is not the "Positive Ode" to Stalin, the last two lines..were originally written differently as. "awaken reason" and "arouse life", but this was an obvious ploy for the benefit of snoopers as Nadezhda Mandelstam, his wife and Clarence Brown (sic - his biographer) make clear. In any case, the last two lines seem artificially tagged on and do not really belong to the poem." - (Then there's the article in the Slavic Review - see, by Clarence Brown - "Into the Heart of Darkness" - [(Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness)] - "Mandelstam's "Ode to Stalin"" (where, Mandelstam actually tried to write a poem for Stalin, but, actually, what he (Stalin) read was, the positive one, was, "Yes, but that which will endure on earth,/ that which will awaken reason, arouse life will be - Stalin" (Stalin-oid) - (that) version - and then (there was) the secret version - "(that) which would destroy reason,/ which would ruin life, will be Stalin" - So, the whole rest of the poem could pass as a patriotic revolutionary poem, because he praised it all up to Lenin coming, like he's praising, he's praised, the protestors and the revolutionaries, up to the time of Lenin - "something like a thunderstorm" - "Yes, but that which will endure on earth,/ that which will awaken reason and arouse life - that will be Stalin" -  then he can send that to Stalin and get out of the concentration camp (and then send to his friends - "that which will destroy reason,/ which will ruin life, will be Stalin").



[Stalin c.1902. as a published poet


Joseph Stalin

[Stalin, 1945 at Yalta]


Stalin lying in state

[Stalin, 1953, on his death-bed]


AG: ..and, I'd like to do one more, four-line, poem, which is Mandelstam's aesthetics, number 368, to compare that with William Carlos Williams' "so much depends/upon/ a red wheel/barrow/glazed with rain/water/beside the white/chickens" - Everybody knows that Imagist standard? - Eyes sharper than a whetted scythe/cuckoo in each eye, drop of dew in each eye/ and just barely able to  distinguish, full-length/how to distinguish among the great lonely stars" - February (19)37 - ["Были очи острее точимой косы —/ По зегзице в зенице и по капле росы, ‑/И едва научились они во весь рост/ Различать одинокое множество звезд."]

Peter Orlovsky: (You think he was able to…)

AG:  Yes, he was just beginning to learn the stars, he was able to lie down full length and look up at the sky, wuth his eyes "sharper than a whetted scythe", so, in the middle of all this political complexity, this is what he was really thinking about, actually going out into the space of the earth, lying down and looking up at the stars, and beginning to.. as a big intellectual Acmeist, sort of now, completely wrecked and ruined and a social outcast, going out, and barely able, full length, to learn "how to distinguish among the great lonely stars"

Student: Like Stalin and Hitler?
AG: No no no no! - He's talking about the stars!

Student: Where was Voronezh?
AG: Voronezh was
Student: That was the prison camp, wasn't it?
AG: No, no , that was the place, the town to which he was exiled, from which he was taken , from which he was arrested, and taken to the concentration camp. That was written ..

Then, I want to conclude with a couple of lines of  (Anna) Akhmatova, which relate to what we've just been talking about. In the first page of Akhmatova's "Requiem"  (born 1888, so you can find her by her chronology - got it?) -  in this little poem, in, a part of "Requiem", (which we'll take up next time) - "To Death" (Akmhatova, 1888) - "You will come in any case - so why not now?/How long I wait and wait.The bad times fall/I have put out the light and open the door/ for you, because you are simple and magical./Assume, then, any form that suits your wish,/take aim and blast at me with poisoned shot/ or strangle me like an efficient mugger,/ or else infect me - typhus be my lot -/or spring out of the fairytale you wrote,/ the one we're sick of hearing, day and night/where the blue hatband marches up the stairs/ led by the janitor, pale with fright". ("blue-hat men are the secret police - blue hat men - they're like the guy who came to arrest Mandelstam ) - "or spring out of the fairytale you wrote,/ the one we're sick of hearing, day and night/where the blue hatband marches up the stairs/ led by the janitor,pale with fright" - [(That's a really vivid picture!)] - It's all the same to me/ the Yenesi swirls/the North Star shines,as it will shine forever/ and the blue lustre of my loved-ones' eyes/ is clouded over by the final horror".

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-three minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy-two minutes in. This transcript has been edited, two passages not immediately pertinent to this subject (Russian poetry and Osip Mandelstam) will be transcribed and included later]