Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Czeslaw Milosz


Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) - Photograph by Allen Ginsberg, courtesy the University of Toronto's Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Allen Ginsberg Collection]


TO ALLEN GINSBERG

Allen, you  good man, great poet of the murderous century, who
persisting in folly attained wisdom

I confess to you, my life was not as I would have liked it to be 

And now, when it has passed, is lying like a discarded tire by the road

It was no different from the life of millions from which you rebelled
in the name of poetry and an omnipresent God

It was submitted to customs in full awareness that they are absurd, to the
necessity of getting up in the morning and going to work.

With unfulfilled desires, even the unfulfilled desire to scream and
beat one's head against the wall, repeating to myself the command, "it is
forbidden." 

It is forbidden to indulge yourself, to allow yourself idleness, it is
forbidden to think of your past, to look for the help of a psychiatrist or
a clinic.

Forbidden from a sense of duty but also because of the fear of unleashing
forces that would reveal one to be a clown.

And I lived in the America of Moloch, short-haired, clean-shaven, tying
neckties and drinking bourbon before the TV set every evening.

Diabolic dwarves of temptations somersaulted in me, I was aware of their
presence and I shrugged: It will pass together with life.

Dread was lurking close, I had to pretend it was never there and that I 
was united with others in a blessed normalcy,

Such schooling in vision is also, after all, possible, without drugs,
without the cut-off ear of Van Gogh, without the brotherhood of the
best minds behind the bars of psychiatric wards.

I was an instrument, I listened. snatching voices out of a babbling
chorus, translating them into sentences with commas and periods.

As if the poverty of my fate were necessary so that the flora of my
memory could luxuriate, a home for the breath and for the presence of 
bygone people

I envy your courage of absolute defiance, words inflamed, the fierce
maledictions of a prophet.

The demure smiles of ironists are preserved in the museums, not as 
everlasting art, just as a memento of unbelief.

While your blasphemous howl still resounds in a neon desert where the 
human tribe wanders, sentenced to unreality.

Walt Whitman listens and says, "Yes, that's the way to talk, in order to
conduct men and women to where everything is fulfillment. Where
they would live in a transubstantiated moment."

And your journalistic cliches, your beard and beads and dress of a 
rebel of another epoch are forgiven.

As we do not look for what is perfect, we look for what remains of 
incessant striving.  

Keeping in mind how much is owed to luck, to a coincidence of words 
and things, to a morning with white clouds, which later seems
inevitable. 

I do not ask from you a monumental oeuvre that would rise like a
medieval cathedral over a French flatland.

I myself had such a hope, yet half knowing already that the unusual 
changes into the common.

That in the planetary mixture of languages and religions we are no more 
remembered than the inventors of the spinning wheel or of the
transistor,

Accept this tribute from me, who was so different, yet in the same 
unnamed service.

For lack of a better term letting it pass as the practice of composing 
verses

 [translated from the Polish by the author (Czeslaw Milosz) and Robert Hass]


(for a translation of this poem into Spanish by Adam Gai - see here)  - 
    

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ginsberg on Late Auden

                                                              [W.H.Auden (1907-1973)]  

[Allen (at Naropa in 1980) continues his survey through a xeroxed classroom anthology of the Sapphic form, paying particular attention today to the late work of W.H.Auden]

AG: So from that (from Robert Bridges),  we get into, I think you have the Vernon Watkins and the..

Student: Auden

AG: There's Auden (W.H.Auden), and then from the front, mixed up in the front there's Vernon Watkins and Louis MacNeice .. had rough Sapphics - (it's way up front, we don't need it now). Auden, however, is.. funny. So I think I'll take two brief Auden Sapphics - "Circe" (page 54 ) - and the next page on the left -  "(For) Orlon Fox" - (I'll be done in a minute, has anybody got to run?) . The Sapphic poem was basic to Auden's practice - and to MacNeice and that whole group of English poets of before the war, the new poets, the modern poets who followed after the great generation of (Ezra) Pound and (T.S.) Eliot . There was Stephen Spender, Wystan Hugh Auden, Louis MacNeice, Christopher Isherwood, and then a younger group, David Gascoyne,Vernon Watkins, Dylan Thomas (younger than Auden, actually). So, Watkins, we have a sample of.

Of Auden, his last book leaned very heavily on Sapphics and very boring statements of boring everyday thoughts (actually, a little bit dumb in that way, except brilliantly written, very witty, but sort of negative). Here, in the introduction (for Orlon Fox) if you've got it - the next page - "For Orlon Fox- "Each year brings new poems of Form and Content,/ new foes to tug with: At Twenty, I tried to/ vex my elders., Past sixty, it's the young whom/ I hope to bother" - So that's a little cantankerous, actually - "the young" (very preoccupied with "age-ism", so..  - and it's an attack on the young in "Circe" - it's an attack on the Hippies of the "Sixties

Student: on Women

AG: ..On the Hippies of the 'Sixties  - Well, maybe. On women too, but.. You know the story of Circe in The Odyssey is that she turns men into pigs. You know, because of sheer lust, and she refuses their lust, and they turn into pigs, they slobber and grovel in a swineyard. Meanwhile, Odysseus is not turned into a pig but he enjoys Circe's bed - "Her Telepathic-Station transmits thought-waves/the second-rate, the bored, the disappointed/and any of us when tired or uneasy/are tuned to receive/ So, tough unlisted in atlas or phone-book/Her Garden is easy to find. In no time/one reaches the gate over which is written/ large: MAKE LOVE NOT WAR" - "large:MAKE LOVE NOT WAR" - If you notice, he's not paying any attention at all to the rhythm of that hendecasyllable and adonic. It's all… He's just counting syllables - Eleven and five.. Eleven, eleven, eleven, and five. And you'll find that's mostly.. They'll either do.. The way that the British, twentieth-century British, are so lax, but are still interesting - they all went to Oxford or Cambridge, and they all studied Greek and Latin, and so they're all studied, - and they're all fairies, so they've all read Catullus and Sappho. So there are two ways they handle it. One is to have a mixed line that has hendecasyllables that aren't eleven but ten, thirteen, twelve, sometimes eleven, coming back to eleven, and adonics that are maybe four, five, six (four, five, or six), but not really sharp. 

Auden, I think, will, generally, try to stay to eleven and five -  "large:MAKE LOVE NOT WAR" is five - "pinks-and-blues-and-reds" - but I.. you know, it reduces the rhythms to "pinks and blues and reds", da-da, da-da, da - "the rendering, schmaltz", "splintered main-mast/ of the Ship of Fools". Why did Auden do that? That was because Marianne Moore, earlier in the century, had decided that because the problem of American rhythm (and English rhythm) is so complicated  and insuperable that (William Carlos) Williams' idea of trying to pay attention to little cadences of American speech,  (or) (Ezra) Pound's idea of trying to adapt to approximate classical quantity is just hopelessly self-conscious. So what she said was "I'll write it as brilliantly, concisely as I can, sticking to the facts, and I'll just snip the lines off, arbitrarily, according to a fixed count of syllables. So, she fabricated stanza-forms of arbitrary.. say eleven syllables, seven syllables,thirteen syllables, five syllables.. And the next stanza would have to be the same. And there would be a run-on line completely. But there was no interest..not no interest, there was no count, for the verse. There was no count of the cadence, no accounting of the cadence. The angle was to have the strict carpentry of the number of syllables counted (arithmetic-like) and then the rhythms of the speech would run slightly counter to that and syncopate. Auden picked it up from Marianne Moore and does the same thing - he's just talking like he's talking - " So, although unlisted in atlas or phone-book/Her Garden is easy to find. In no time/one reaches the gate over which is written large: MAKE LOVE NOT WAR."- So that the cadences of speech contradict  the artificial snipping of the lines  counting the syllables of the lines just by arithmetic. That has.. If you get to do that, that has a funny ear. If you can develop an ear that way. And other poets that do that - Kenneth Rexroth is one, famously. I do it, as I mentioned, in some early poems 

Student; With that kind of stanza would you pause at the end of the line?

AG: No. If you hear Auden, he doesn't pause, doesn't pause, but then he can. See, you notice the way John (Burnett) read. It wasn't very dramatic, but he didn't pause at all, so you couldn't tell where one line began and another line ended As distinct from Ed (Sanders). Now Ed was pausing at the end of each line, which is probably wrong. The way the original would go, I imagine, is that the rhythmic.. that the tones, pitch, tones, melody, the melos, melody, and the length make the rhythm (which was repeated line-by-line so you could hear the variations very clearly, but you didn't have to pause to know it, see - because they are run-on lines in Greek - just like in Auden and in Marianne Moore). So it's the run-on of an actual speech that goes on by the breath, and then within that there are the repeated cadences that we're beginning to get familiar with of   [Allen sounds them out - "da-da, da-da   da-da-da, da-da da - da - da-dum da-da" -  So probably "da-da, da-da,  da,  da-da-da-da  da-da da-da - da da da-da-da, da da, da-da, da-da ,da, da-da-da, da-da, da-da, da-da-da-da-da"without a pause for the lines that you'd have to know it because they repeat the surge of the cadence repeat - That make sense?

So the perfect poem would be where the surge of the cadence repeats but where the cadence in itself is a single continuous thing throughout the whole stanza of someone saying something without realizing it's going to be lines, or without intending a breath-stop for lines. In other words, you wouldn't know it was poetry, except it has this repeated cadence, wouldn't know it was poetry by the fact that they stopped at the end of the line, that is to say. That make sense?  That would be the ideal poetry where you wouldn't have to stop at the end of the line to hear the rhythm, if the rhythm was strong enough.  

Well, [returning to Auden] - "Inside…" (inside the gate) - "Inside it is warm and still like a drowsy/September day though the leaves show no sign of/turning. All around one notes the usual/pinks and blues and reds,"/  A shade over-emphasized - [in other words, the day-glo colors] - "..the rose-bushes/have no thorns. An invisible orchestra/plays the Great Masters: the technique is flawless/the rendering, schmaltz./ Of Herself, no sign. But, just as the pilgrim/is starting to wonder, "Have I been hoaxed by/a myth?" He feels her hand in his his and hears Her/murmuring: "At last!"/ With me, mistaught one, you shall learn the answers./What is conscience but a nattering fish-wife,/ the Tree of Knowledge but the splintered main-mast/ of the Ship of Fools?"/Consent, you poor alien, to my arms where/sequence is conquered, division abolished:/soon, soon, in the perfect [Reich-ian] orgasm, you shall, pet,/be one with the All/ She does not brutalize Her victims (beasts could/ bite or bolt). She simplifies them to flowers,/sessile fatalists who don't mind and only/can talk to themselves - (that's very much like Chogyam Trungpa's view of Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, you know, poking fun at the…what's the phrase he uses? the… "idiot compassion" - poking fun at idiot compassion - "you shall, pet,/be one with the All" (there's that line of Hart Crane - "O answerer of all" - and then he jumped off of the ship and committed suicide!) - "She simplifies them to flowers,/sessile fatalists who don't mind and only/can talk to themselves/All but a privileged Few, the elite She/guides to Her secret citadel, the Tower/where a laugh is forbidden and DO HARM AS/ THOU WILT  is the Law" - [that must be (Charles) Manson] - "Dear little not-so-innocents, beware of/Old Grandmother Spider; rump her endearments - [turn your ass on her endearments] - "She's not quite as nice as She looks, nor you quite/as tough as you think."


Well, that was Auden..  Then finally, (Bob Dylan)  "William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll", ("The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll"),  which I would… If you look at it you can compare it to the (other texts)..  And on the next page, there's a little thing on how you can…three different arrangements of hendecasyllables.. and the rest is...you'll find them.. and (find) ways of getting in and out of it. Alright, I think we'll move on from the Sapphics… 




[Audio for the above can be heard here beginning at approximately fifty-seven-and-three-quarter minutes in and ending at approximately sixty-six-and-a-half minutes in]

Monday, September 28, 2015

Swinburne, Pound and Bridges

                                                      [Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)]


AG: Did I do that last time? [Swinburne's Hendecasyllabics]. If you listen to the way he handles it, it's a direct transmission from him up to Ezra Pound up to modern days and into this classroom - "In the month of the long decline of roses/I, beholding the summer dead before me,/Set my face to the sea and journeyed silent,/Gazing eagerly where above the sea-mark/Flame as fierce as the fervid eyes of lions/Half-divided the islands of the sunset;/Till I heard as it were a noise of waters/Moving tremulous under feet of angels/Multitudinous, out of all the heavens; /Knew the fluttering wind, the  fluttered foliage,/Shaken fitfully, full of sound and shadow…"

(The) two tricks Swinburne does here in English that Pound takes over, and that passes through (Charles) Olson, (Robert) Duncan and a little bit of my work. First of all is that "da-da" at the end - if you notice the paradigms at the end, the end of the adonic line and the end of the hendecasyllabic line when it's in the Sapphic mode, very often ends with two long, or two accented (stresses)  - or, some special emphasis on the last syllable, if it's a two-syllable word like "shadow", "ending", "sea-mark", "lions". Pound takes that"sea-mark", "sea-surge", ear for the "sea-surge", the rustle.. the rattle of old men's voices", ear for the sea-surge, and there's a funny kind of crooning thing that he does with that that gives a weight to the last syllable - even if it's "and the girls sing-ing" - Has anybody.. you've all heard Pound's poems on records? - has anybody not? - anybody not heard Ezra Pound on record? Is this recognizeable for those who have heard it? Do you recognize what I'm talking about? Next time, I'll bring in some Pound. We'll get ahold of Pound reading The Pisan Cantos, I guess - (do we have one (of them) in here (in the clasroom anthology)?…toward the end.. with Pound...Pound...okay..if you look toward the end... I'll find it.. [Allen keeps searching] - no..well, no, never mind).

What you can get is... You get it more in his handling of "The Seafarer"  ("May I for my own self song's truth reckon,/Journey's jargon, how I in harsh days/Hardship endured oft/Bitter breast-cares have I abideth.." - "Known on my keel many a care's hold,/And dire sea-surge…"). You hear that little thing that he's doing with the "sea-surge"?, "cares hold"? "harsh days"?, "hail scur"?, "clamour"?, "mead-drink"?, "ring-having"?, "wave's slash"? -  You know what I'm talking about? - two long vowels..two long vowels (or two accented vowels, however you want to count them) at the end of the line - or, an unaccented vowel, like "singing", pronouncing it "sing-ing", when you put a little bit of emphasis on the end of the…on the second vowel. That ear went, I believe, from Swinburne to (W.B.) Yeats to Ezra Pound, probably, because Pound said that he didn't get to see Swinburne when he went to London, Swinburne was the one man he missed.   


                                                                      [Ezra Pound (1885-1972)]

The other thing he does is - "Set myself to the sea and journeyed silent". Instead of saying "I'.. well, he had "I, beholding the summer dead before me/Set myself to the sea and journeyed silent" - there is a thing where you cut.. he cuts..  (he) cuts out the subject - "And then (we) went down to the sea in ships" - If you look at the Canto we have here by Pound [Canto 1], I think that he's cut out that subject - "went down to the sea in ships"..(where is (the) Pound here? (in the Norton Anthology) - page 1007) - "And then went down to the ship,/Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly seas, and/We set up mast and  sail on that swart ship/Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also" - Is that sounding familiar? - "Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also" - It's a hendecasyllabic line - "Bore-sheep-a-board her-and-our-bod-ies-also" So, throughout The Cantos, you'll find Pound making use of the rhythms of the hendecasyllabic line, the double.. the molossus, as it is called,  the double.. at the end, where we have a.. [Allen  moves to the blackboard to demonstrate the line] - it could be either, interchangeably, either light or heavy, the last one (last syllable).. I've forgot where the other one.. yeah, the fourth and the eleventh, can be interchangeably long syllables or short syllables, that's why I… You following what I'm saying? - "sea-surge"...

So you find it in the Hendecasyllabics of Swinburne. So we'll go on (because we did that already) from Swinburne to..  I think you got Swinburne's Sapphics broken up into several pages, with the Hendecasyllabics sandwiched in-between. So if you put the Hendecasyllabics  first - 202, then 204, then, 206….


                                                            [Robert Bridges (1884-1930)]

Robert Bridges is the next. Bridges was a Georgian poet, a kind of conservative, not a very exciting poet at all. It's called "Povre Ame Amoureuse" (You can't quite see it, but it is Robert Bridges, down there, labelled) . It's a trans(lation) - Louise Labé  translated the Sapphic-style poem into French in the Sixteenth Century and here is Bridges' translation of Louis Labe, so there's further lineage - "When to my lone soft bed at eve returning/Sweet desir'd sleep already stealeth o'er me/My spirit flieth to the fairy-land of her tyrannous love/Him then I think fondly to kiss to hold him/Frankly then to my bosom, I that all day/Have looked for him suffering, repining, yea many long days/ O blessed sleep, with flatteries beguile me;/So, if I ne'er may  of a surety have him/Grant to my poor soul amorous the dark gift of this illusion." - Can you find that? It's at the end of the Sapphics (section). It looks like this [Allen displays the xerox anthology once again]

[Audio for the above can be heard here beginning at approximately fifty-one minutes in, and ending at approximately fifty-seven-and- three-quarter minutes in]

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ginsberg-Koch-Waldman part 2 - (Anne Waldman)


                 [Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman, New Years Eve, 1979 - Photo by Louis Cartwright]



                                                                              [Anne Waldman]

continuing from yesterday's transcription - Allen Ginsberg, Kenneth Koch, and Anne Waldman reading in Denver, Colorado, 1979.

Today (introduced by Allen Ginsberg) - Anne Waldman reading

Allen Ginsberg: Some of the audience are students from Naropa and some are old friends from Denver and some are strangers. So for the strangers and old friends from Denver, some background here. Actually, all three of us, Anne Waldman, Kenneth Koch, and myself, were in England just a couple of weeks ago and we all read together at Cambridge. And I was coming from a tour of the Continent with Peter Orlovsky - Italy, France - and Anne Waldman and Kenneth Koch went on to.. Glasgow and Durham and read. So, actually, we've been wandering around reading, and just got back in the United States a week or two ago, and Anne and I, the day after tomorrow, are taking off and flying to Rome [Castelporziano] to give a big reading with William Burroughs and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso and about fifty other poets, sponsored by the Communist commune government elected in Rome, who were interested in having an international poetry conference. So, in between all these flights and European fantasies, we're having this little reading here. And some of you know Anne Waldman and some of you don't, so I'll introduce her.

She is the co-director of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute, a Buddhist meditation center in Boulder. She's had a number of books published (one by City Lights, called Fast Speaking Woman - and she has a book of Journals and Dreams, and a long poem called "Shaman" about Bob Dylan, (whom she knows quite well, because she traveled with the Rolling Thunder Revue, and was featured in the movie Renaldo and Clara, which probably passed through here, like a flittering ghost, within the year - I think it showed here, but nobody went to see it and it got really attacked, viciously attacked in the Denver Post).

So, Anne was, for many years, the director of the St. Mark's Poetry Project in New York in the Lower East Side, (for) almost a decade. She was born in the Lower East Side.. born in Greenwich Village in a classic.. Macdougal Street in Greenwich Village.. and grew up, and saw Gregory Corso when she was a young lady (going to high school, I guess), she saw Corso on the street and she grew up with all the bohemians as neighbors in Greenwich Village, and some, actually.. she knows the literary scene..down..totally..(it) comes in her family [sic]. She was a great executrix editor of Angel Hair books and the co-ordinator of  the Poetry Project in Nw York (as she's been up here) . And she's also the editor of a really interesting compilation of lectures made in Naropa called Talking Poetics, where John Cage, Robert Duncan, myself, Ted Berrigan, many many others who visited over the last few years - we recorded what they had to say to the students and published it as a book this year [1979] called Talking Poetics, and Anne edited that. She's also a very great orator (which is to say, given the right mood, and the right text, and the right situation, she certainly can swing and the wind comes through her bones with great subtlety and violence. So, Anne Waldman, poet. 

Anne Waldman: That's a lot to live up to! - This first work is for all the ladies out there and it's a poem addressed to the Madonna - (is this better without the sound-system? - no? - ok) - inspired by reading some of Dante's love poems (and there are a couple of lines in here stolen from Dante) and it's called "My Lady" ("I wish to speak to you about My Lady.."…"...I love her tragedies and the way she undoes me, My Lady, My Lady").

She follows this with "Plutonium Poem" ("This was a Plutonium chant for a Rocky Flats demonstration" ("Fuck Plutonium! Love it? Hate it?…"…"poor, sad, monster eyeballs, reincarnated for a quarter of a million years!") 

Next, a poem incorporating found language - "This poem was wriitten on a limousine ride from the Stapleton International Airport to Boulder. It's mostly a cut-up of the overheard conversation (actually, it's more direct than that') - "May 10th, moon's nearly full, this is a great time for Scorpios…."…"what a silly town, what silly people, but they do good business, but.." 

"I've been preparing for this class (that) I'm going to do a second session, on, sort of, shamanistic poetry. It's quite fascinating, and I don't know what that means exactly, but I'm trying to figure it out. And this (next) is "Shaman Song", sort of based on some compilation of texts - ("I'm throwing words around..something is forming.."…"..to me to me to me to heal me up again" (and) this is called  "Alphabetico Sudamericano". It's about trying to learn Spanish - "Alphabetico Sudamericano" - ("I am young, studying language in the high striped mountains, 0 South America…" .." looking for the sign of a shoe-maker, a zapatería ")" 


"I was making my class write, this last winter, write sestinas. So I'd like to read an old sestina and then a newer sestina. This is a sestina from the 'Sixties - it's called "How The Sestina Yawn Works". Sestina is basically a six-verse poem with six end-words that you repeat in a varying form. The words for this poem are "yawn","revolution", "television" "poetry", "methadrine" and "personally". So if you want to follow those words through their permutations and then there's actually a little three-line coda at the end where you use all six, all six of the words." - "How The Sestina Yawn Works"- ("I open this poem with a yawn, thinking how tired I am…"… "..war, strike, starvation, revolution."


"This was written in a train station in Dimitrovgrad (it's a long way from "methadrine"!). It's called  "Trains and Clouds" and the words in this one - "Dimitrovgrad", "1949", "about", "me", "ambassador", and "clouds" - ("We have just arrived in Dimitrovgrad…"…"..but I love exotic trains and clouds').  

and this is.. "Skin Meat Bones" - Anne reads "Skin Meat Bones" in its entirety - ("I've come to tell you of the things dear to me/& what I've discovered of the skin/Meat/bones…")

This is another little formal poem. It's a cantilena [sic], which is a dispute or dialogue between a man and a woman, between a lover and his lady, and this is written with a Boulder poet named Reed Bye - "Cantilena" - (the lady speaks first) ("Lady: I like elegance in dress, in men, the display and play in the phenomenal world…"… "…a poet's choices lie in his closet, he can pick from there what ain't too moth-bit") 

Just a few more here. This is by request - "Silver E" ("I'm a mischievous woman, whose heart expires…"… "…we'll lock gaze rock fire love")

This is "After the Copper Eskimo", a sort of shamanistic song, song to expel hesitation ("I'm quite unable, I am quite unable…"……."I am quite unable to wince more pain).

"There's one other here I'm supposed to read if I can find it - [Anne rifles through her papers] - It's not here, sorry. I'll close with..  Ah! here it is - I'll read this one and then I'll close with a shorter one. This is called  "Swami", a little travel story ("And I had written the Swami, and I had rented a bungalow a little above the town and waited.."…"..sat by the river, locked in meditation") 



Anne concludes with a brief excerpt from "Fast Speaking Woman" - "I want to read a few lines.. these were lines, that were added to this second edition of Fast Speaking Woman, that I've never read before, so I'll just.. it's just a few phrases, and this..also comes from..(is) partially inspired by a Mazateca Indian chant, the shaman-ess, Maria Sabana, who takes people on an all-night..mostly, it's an initiation for women, a sort of all-night..it's a vigil" - "I'm the hieratic woman/I'm the hermetic woman/I'm the harvesting woman…."…"The woman inspired inside her house" -  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ginsberg-Koch-Waldman reading




From the incomporable Naropa University Archives, another vintage audio tape this weekend - (from June 25, 1979)  a reading that took place in Denver, (Colorado), featuring Allen, alongside Kenneth Koch and Anne Waldman

Anne's voice (a brief excerpt from a poem and a brief note of introduction) begins the tape, before Allen speaks) 

AG: Thank you Anne, thank you everyone for coming.  When I speak..  The sound-system here is real good, so when I speak, you can hear? everybody?  Justin [sic] you can hear?    every syllable?, every consonant? - Okay. What I'm going to do is mostly read poems of the last year or so. However, I wanted to go back to a poem typed-up only this year for the first time, a composition from 1958 by Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, and myself, called "Nixon" (from 1958) - and the footnote - I found this in my papers this year - says "This poem was written in a bar on Broadway, New York on 110th Street, Manhattan, over beers, during a visit to town by Kerouac, likely after the Vice-President's celebrated "Checkers Speech", [Editorial note - the "Checkers Speech" dates from several years earlier, September 1952]  at a time when Kerouac was besieged by Esquire, Vogue, or other slick magazines, to write "timely" articles on subjects that the editor then thought modish. On this visit, he had refused to write a - quote "critique of American women" - unquote - and the transcript ends with his wry world-weary cry - "We ought to make fifteen-hundred dollars right now, write a big attack on American women!". That's what the big gay editors, or the faggot editors, of Esquire of those days wanted (or the macho editors, they were, actually). In other words, it was modish at that time - "Let's have an article on American women?  What's wrong with American women, Jack?" . That's the way magazines are run. I guess you know. Sells copies.



[Allen reads  "Nixon" in its entirety] - "Nixon has a pillow in his mouth in the kitchen. Nixon has chickenfeathers coming out of his fly…."…"Nixon doesn't know Lafcadio." 
That was all we had to say about Nixon. It was nice because it was 1958 and high-hearted, friendly

"Lack Love"..This is.. these are poems, beginning  February 1978, so, it's the last fifteen months - "Lack Love" - [Allen begins reading his erotic poem] "Love wears down to bare truth/ My heart hurt me much in youth"… "Hear my heart beat red in bed/Thick and living, love rejected"

"All The Things I Got To Do" - [This is followed by Allen's long litany of distractions] This is May 1978 -  "All The Things I Got To Do" - "I remembered when I sat down to meditate after weeks wandering streets of iron thoughts, I have to go back to my own universe, Buddha-imagination… "…."...edit the Shambhala Talking Poetics and read up on my file on nuclear poison."

"A Pleasant Afternoon" - June 18, 1978 - "One day three poets and sixty pairs of ears were sitting under a green striped Chautauqua tent in Aurora listening to black spirituals, tapping their feet, appreciating the words flying by…"and the tent flapped open-hearted and spacious and didn't fall down"

"What' s Dead" - or "What's Dead   "Clouds- dead, movies, dead shadows…."…."shadows left behind. These were the musings of the Buddhist student, Allen Ginsberg"





Next, (starting at approximately twelve minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-three-and a quarter minutes in)  Allen reads Plutonian Ode 
   - "writtten at the night before, at.. about a year ago, written about a year ago the night before an arrest sitting meditation at Rocky Flats Nuclear Facility.
"What new element"..  "gone beyond me into wakened space - So - AH!'

[Allen follows this with a few brief related poems]

This is..  (these are).. area poems… a few poems of this area. A month later, after we were up at Rocky Flats - Nagasaki Day [August 9] , last year (which will be coming around (again) in August - and I think there'll be more demonstrations there, (and) I'll probably get busted again, and others will be meditating on the tracks, so, any of you who are particularly sensitive to this kind of social meditation are invited up. I guess the Rocky Flats Truth Force will be announcing that.). These are haiku or one-shot perceptions, while being arrested
"Cumulus clouds float across blue sky/ over the white-walled Rockwell Corporation factory /am I gonna stop that?"
"Rocky Mountains rising behind us/ Denver shining in morning light/Led away from the crowd by police and photographers."
"Middleaged Ginsberg and Ellsberg taken down the road/ to the greyhaired Sheriff''s van - What about Einstein? What about Einstein? Hey Einsein, come back!"
"In Golden Courthouse"  - (Kerouac has a line in Mexico City Blues - "I want to go to golden" - very abstract - written here - "I want to go to golden" - and I wound up going to Golden Courthouse!) - "Waiting for the Judge, breathing silent/Prisoners, witnesses, Police -/the stenographer yawns into her palms'
And, later, we went to visit the manager of the Rocky Flats Plutonium Plant, and we found out that the basic mantra of those who were creating the plutonium is - quote "Give us the weapons we need to protect ourselves" - unquote - "Give us the weapons we need to protect ourselves"/the bareheaded guard lifts a flyswatter above his desk/...whap!"
A green-letter'd shield on the pressboard wall/ "Life is fragile, handle with care" -/My Goodness!  this is where they make the nuclear bomb triggers!"

September (19)78 - "Fake Saint" - I left…Summers, generally, I teach, as now, at Naropa Institute's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. (for those of you who don't know the occasion of this reading, because.. Kenneth Koch is teaching there for this week, and Anne Waldman is co-director, and I'm co-director) - And in September, last year [1977],  I left Boulder and went out to the West Coast and stayed with Gary Snyder. And this is a poem written in a notebook, riding along the road, up into the Sierra Mountains, a couple of hundred miles north of San Francisco, or coming down from his mountain retreat -  "Fake Saint" - "I am Fake Saint, magazine saint , Ram Dass, who's not a fake saint consciousness?- Nobody…...  " "uncertain as incense"..


"And I'll finish with one.. (with) two poems, relatively brief. I had a series of love poems. This was the most recent series of adventures, that were all put in Skelton-like, Skeltonic-like, stanzas - "Love Returned"  - "Love returned with smiles three thousand miles to keep a years promise".."Some nights are left free and love's patient with me".


And I'll finish with a brief poem, (from) this Spring, Brooklyn College, I went to teach, substituting for a poet I like, John Ashbery, in a writing class. And it was the first time I'd ever taught in a formal university, with a tie and a coat - "At Brooklyn College" - ("You used to wear dungerees and blue work-shirt, sneakers, or cloth-topped shoes, and ride alone on subways, young and elegant, unofficial bastard of nature, sneaking sweetness into Brooklyn./ Now tweed jacket and  your father's tie on your breast…." …"have a good time workshopping brain-mind in the Avery room in the student office building." 


The next poet will be Kenneth Koch. Anne, will you introduce Kenneth?




AW: Kenneth Koch reading next. Kenneth is the author of many books of poems including The Art of Love, Thank You and Other Poems, The Duplications. Also the author of the novel, The Red Robins (which is coming out as a play as well, and appeared in..was presented in New York last year) and books on the teaching of poetry-writing, Wishes, Lies & Dreams, Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? and "I Never Told Anybody - Teaching Poetry-Writing In A Nursing Home). We're very pleased to have Kenneth Koch visiting this week at the Kerouac school in Boulder and he'll also be reading Wednesday night at the Public Service Building with three younger poets, so that's Wednesday night at 8 o'clock if any of you are interested in that. Kenneth has a wonderful sense of humor and beauty. It's as big as the sky. Please welcome Kenneth Koch

KK:  Thank you Anne. After I read there'll be a five-minute intermission and then Anne will read. 


The first poem is called "The Magic of Numbers"  ("The Magic of Numbers - 1 - How strange it was to hear the furnitue being moved around in the apartment upstairs!…"…"The magic of Numbers - 7 - I was twenty-nine and so were you. We had a very passionate time./Everything I read turned into a story about you and me, and everything I/ did was turned into a poem")


The next poem is called "The Circus". It refers to a poem I wrote about thirteen or fifteen years earlier called "The Circus'. I wrote the first poem… well, this poem explains the circumstances of writing the first poem. The people in this poem are all real - "The Circus" ("I remember when I wrote The Circus/I was living in Paris, or rather we were living in Paris.."… "And this is not as good a poem as The Circus/ And I wonder if any good will come of either of them all the same") 


"The next poem is called "The Boiling Water" ("A serious moment for the water is when it boils.."…."That is enough. For the germ when it enters or leaves a body, for the fly when it lifts its little wings")


I have..  I have one more poem I'm going to read, it's called "Our Hearts" . It's in nine parts, each as long as a sonnet, fourteen-lines long, they're not at all sonnets) - "Our Hearts" - ( I - "All hearts should beat when Cho Fu's orchestra plays "Love"…."…but usually without the time/Or power to change anything  (sometimes - maybe a fraction - if so it's amazing!)  then off we go.")


AG: We'll have a ten-minute intermission then Anne Waldman will be on. And so those of you who have never heard her, I would suggest, stay, she's a great orator, fantastic voice. So, ten minutes.

                         [Dual-portrait of Anne Waldman - from "Face of A Poet" (1972) by Alex Katz

This reading (with the second half), the Anne Waldman half) will continue tomorrow

[Audio for the above may be heard  here, beginning at the beginning and concluding approximately sixty-three-and-a-half minutes in]


Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 237



                                                      [Herschel Silverman  (1926-2015) - Photo by Jeffrey Weinberg]

Herschel Silverman, New Jersey "Beat" legend passed away last Saturday, aged 89, "The Candystore Man".
Allen immortalized him in his poem, "Television Was A Baby Crawling Toward That Death Chamber" - "candystore emperor Hersch Silverman, dreaming of telling the Truth, but his Karma is selling jellybeans & being kind"
Here's a 2000 New York Times article on him
Allen on his poems:
"There is an inventive energy, New Jersey beauty and charm in his compositions . This writing is marked by soulful perception of life around him and language as it falls from his mouth, it includes the complete comedy of his particular obsessions."
Allen, in 1992, (from his "Homage to Hersch"):
"Herschel Silverman's memoir of early days [late 1950s] introduction to the New York poetry bohemian beat Lower East Side Village Cedar Bar &  Seven Arts Coffee Shop scene or community is touching - his faithfulness to an idea of art & excitement he projects on others tho' he half denies it to himself. I'm glad he enjoyed the better part of both worlds, householder, candystore owner in W.C. Williams' Jersey province as well as active believer & observer & Poet in the now-historic yet still-developing poetic scene in pre-millenial megalopolis America."
Allen strikes just one down note - but first Silverman and his own recollection:
"Hypnotised by reading Allen's "Howl & Other Poems" over and over and applying them as Great Poetry Truths, in comparison with most other "modern" poetry taught in schools, I viewed Allen as Holy American Prophet, almost two thousand years in making. seeing him as Yeats' Creature slowly moving towards Jerusalem to proclaim Second Coming. I was sure that near end of twentieth-century, Allen's words would be recognized as Herald of New Man, a breakthru in civilization's march toward Enlightenment. I was seeking a guru through poetry and now I'd found him."
Allen:  "He makes too much of me as poetry messiah or macher & I'm a little uncomfortable in that role, either he's found out my vanity or laid on me a stereotype.
But his sincerity and the pleasure his life's taken in the poetry world encourages us all to realize that poetry does serve humankind well, in giving pleasure & empowerment to people of sensitive spirit, domestic folk, enlightening their lives and relieving some of the suffering of earthly existence."

More press on Silverman - here (from 2010) and from here (2012)
Levi Asher's obituary note - here  - and the Hudson Reporter (local paper) - here 

[Jack Kerouac at the Seven Arts Coffee Gallery, NYC,  1959 - Photograph by Burt Glinn © The Estate of Burt Glinn] 















[Frank O'Hara and crowd at the Cedar Tavern, NYC, 1963 -
 Photograph by Fred W McDarrah © The Estate of Fred W McDarrah]


Kianna Carlisle has an interesting project - digitizing the printed poem (no audio, just the words coming up). Here's her digitization of a selection from Allen's Journals made for Ed Sanders legendary Fuck You magazine



We particularly like the slow "real-time" unfolding of all this.

(Ed Sanders, incidentally, was interviewed last week on Rag Radio)



Tomorrow, as part of the on-going show (on loan from the Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco at The Berkeley Public Library (North Branch)), and part of the celebration of Banned Books Week  - Eric Drooker

and same day, on the East Coast, as part of the Buffalo Humanities Festival, Professor Jonathan Katz will give a lecture entitled "Allen Ginsberg Isn't Gay" (in the Ketchum Hall in the Burchfield Penney Art Center- Don't worry, there's intentional provocation and irony in that title. 

Allen makes it as nude centerfold in the current issue of the St Mark's Poetry Project Newsletter
Editor, Betsy Fagin and poet Elinor Nauen:

BF: The reason I wanted to talk to you about this [male centerfolds] is that as soon as I got the gig for the newsletter. I knew I wanted a naked centerfold. People thought I was kidding.
EN: What was behind your idea to do that?
BF: I thought it would be funny.
EN: That's it. See! And how did you come up with that idea?.
BF: Because of the Ginsberg line on the Project website: "The Poetry Project burns like a red-hot coal…" ["The Poetry Project burns like red hot coal in New York's snow"] I'm interested in exploring the attachment to the past and the impulse to glorifying what used to be at the expense of what's happening now and the directions the Project has been moving in. There's a whole world of people who worship at the altar of Ginsberg like nothing else ever happened or ever will happen...

Elinor Nauen notes: "I feel like Allen would want to have a new naked picture of himself taken".  
Meanwhile...

[Ginsberg caption: "Odalesque, my bedroom, young naked friend took my picture 437 East 12th Street, N.Y. March22, 1985" - © Allen Ginsberg Estate  - courtesy the University of Toronto's Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Allen Ginsberg Collection)]

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sapphics continued - (Tennyson)


                                [Alfred, Lord Tennyson ( 1809-1892)- Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron]

Allen continues with his survey of Sapphics, going through further pages of his xerox-compiled classroom anthology 

AG:  [to another late-comer] - You can take one of those that says "Sapphic anthology, two bucks"…and then the bag.. not two bucks for one paper.. And we're about two thirds down the bottom..to...(Edmund) Spenser

Okay, We're on that Spenser page? - Sidney? - (the) (Philip) Sidney and the (Walter) Raleigh? Ok? - So we read those, then I read you aloud Raleigh's notes on Quantitative Verse. So then the next page would be (Thomas) Campion Campion's excellent translation, on the left, of  a little ode by Horace (and the Latin is on the bottom, and you see what he did, making it into quatrains) - and Campion himself also wrote Latin Sapphics. So you get that next. Got it?. See, I'll just tell you what's in here. The next page would be Campion's explanation of the Sapphics that I read aloud. Got that?. And then the next page, Isaac Watts, a piece of Isaac Watts, and then (William) Cowper's poem . Then, the next page, typed out, from Saintsbury's History (of English Prosody).., a few little fragments that I  mentioned. Tennyson's one thing (which is interesting  - we'll read the Tennyson aloud) - "Faded every violet, all the roses/Gone the glorious promise and the victim/Broken in this anger of Aphrodite/Yields to the victor" - He had that run-on there which is very interesting, the best part of that verse form, how the lines run on from one line to another without a break> "and the victim…"

Student: (Not all on the) same line..


AG: "And the victim/ Broken in the anger of Aphrodite""


Student: It's usually always been in the second line.


AG: No, sometimes it'll be broken in  (the very last line) -  "Aphrodite/ Yields to the victor". In fact, I (myself)  wrote a Sapphic stanza that I'm very proud of, that I read the other day, which has that run-on line - "Still love escapes my grasping for an ideal body/One friend Tuesday visits me.." - "Still love escapes my grasping for an ideal body/One friend Tuesday visits me Tuesday/sleeping bag/big cocked, older, mustached, crooked-mouthed, not the same teen-/ager I sucked off" - "teen-/ager I sucked off" (so I just broke it between "teen" and "ager"). And that's really exactly the way this… the.. Greek and the Latin Sapphics do go, with that run-on (even breaking words in the middle, as John (Burnett) mentioned before). Tennyson did this experiment in Sapphic meter, contributing to Professor Jebb's primer of Greek Literature, as an example, presumably as a formal example of English Sapphics


Then the next page, some of Tennyson's "Hendecasyllabics" and alcaics. There was a sample of the alcaic before..at the top (we went through it, I read it before). There's this weird little attempt to just write hendecasyllabics, not exactly the same as.. not this ..not exactly the same, it's called "Milton", it's, from Tennyson. It's Tennyson on (John) Milton. (Just) a sample. The Swinburne's "Sapphics" (which I read) (are) next - (you should) probably reverse (the) pages - and Swinburne's "Hendecasyllabics" too. You see those?  And I was reading.. did I read that aloud here? any of the hendecasyllabics?  Anyone remember? Swinburne? Because I would like to do a little of that in this course.


[Audio for the above can be heard here beginning at approximately forty-seven-and-three-quarter  minutes in, and ending at approximately  fifty one minutes in]