Thursday, August 25, 2016

Naropa Classroom Conversations

                                                                  [Lyke Wake (in North Yorkshire)]

Minor matters today.  More one-on-one post-class discussion. Allen makes arrangements.

AG:  [to Student] - What have you got? some poems? 
Student: Some homework, from last week - Lyke Wake Dirge
AG: Oh great - good - Shall I take it home?
Student: There's a journal and a transcription.
AG: Oh yes, shall we make a date?
Student: Sure….. Mondays and Fridays are (the) best (days)...
AG: Mondays and Fridays?
Student: Mondays are good.. 
AG: Well, tomorrow I've got a reading.  (But) At weekends, I'm free, certainly...
Student: Weekends are fine.
AG: When?
Student: Saturday or Sunday? 
AG: Saturday?
Student: Sure.   Afternoons are probably good.
AG: What time is good? - Three?
Student:  Three's just fine - Ok, I'll see you at three. 

AG: Thank you for getting this (sic) ready.  We'll have this..  This is the… I want there to be.. could you make an index with the (poems)..
Student: Oh sure… 
AG: And I'll take this [the homework] home.  

[Francis James Child (1825-1896)]

Student 2: There's a singer who sometimes sings down at the James bar (sic) on Saturday's, I don't know her last name, but Christine.. She accompanies herself on autoharp and she's knows..
AG: She knows a lot? 
Student 2: She knows all the Child Ballads.

Student 3: Where?
Student 2:  The James.
Student3:  The James?

Student2: The James, yeah.. It's 13th Street, just off the Mall…Saturday night(s), ...she's not there all the time. It's Christine, that's all I know. But she knows all the old Child Ballads. And then, a lot of them that don't have music ..she's composed her own music.. 

Student 2:  I've found that a lot of them that don't have music  (like Lyke Wake Dirge). That they said.. most of the people said.. well, they just weren't that particular about taking down the music,  as the guy would sing with whatever instrument he had, passing the hat, or take it and do whatever he..(thought fit).. 
Usually, with the records, though, they'll be an insert in which the musician will say, "Well I got the music from here. I borrowed it from here". "We didn't have the original music but I borrowed a tune that would fit it", you know,  (a tune) that was current to the times. It's real interesting. And then how it would move from country to country. Each country would add its own flair, its own flavor. And something always happens in Child Ballads. It's not 
"I love her, and isn't this great?". It's, like, a storyand they end up (very) different from how they started...   

[Audio for the above can be heard  herebeginning at approximately forty-two-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately approximately forty-five minutes in ]

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Campion's Prosody

Allen Ginsberg's January 1980 Naropa  class on Basic Poetics continues with transcription of one-on-one conversation that appears to take place after the formal end of the class  

AG: Pat (sic), did you ever read that -  (Thomas) Campion's treatises on the music and poetry?
Student (Pat (sic)) :  I've read the Observations in The Art of English Poesie 
AG: Is that the one that takes up quantitative.? 
Student (Pat): Yeah
AG: Do you have a copy of Campion ?  Could you prepare a little summary of his ideas on quantity...You know what he says about that?

[Allen is temporarily distracted by another Student - Student: Is this my book?  AG Yes. I brought it back in . Student;: Thank you. AG: Peter (Orlovsky's)'s got the other one.] 
AG: [proffering a copy of George Saintsbury's A History of English Prosody…] - Is this good?
Student (Pat): I enjoyed it immensely
AG: He [Basil Bunting] said the defect of it was  - a very great line - on.. Saintsbury, (that)  "in two fat unreadable books.."
Student: (Pat) Make it three, actually!
AG: Yeah, but  "in two unreadable fat books.."  -  and his point was that Sainsbury, "in two fat unreadable books, concluded that there was no other measure in English poetry but stress"
Student (Pat): Now, see Saintsbury is saying the exact same thing as Bunting, actually. They're just arguing about the terminology, basically.
AG: You think so?
Student (Pat): I think so
AG: I'm not sure. But you can hear it in Bunting's ear, as he speaks..

                                                            [ Thomas Campion (1576-1620)]

Student (Pat): So what do you want on the Campion?
AG: Well…It would be interesting to get into what really the quantity is. because, actually, I know how to write it, and I do use it, and I hear it, but I would like to be able to know it better, and then, actually, open it up for the class to get (them) to do something with it, so that they actually do get it.
Student (Pat): He's actually trying to evolve some rules..
AG: Right
Student (Pat): So ..They don't really work so well. They probably work as well as any rules..
AG: They're probably the rule(s), the general practice(s) that he uses in his writing, right? - or..?
Student (Pat): Well, he's… primarily in this. You see, he thinks in terms of, as I remember.. And it's just the last chapter of it, actually, that deals with quantity. He's actually more interested in getting around lines.. of getting an English meter forced onto the Greek trochaic and...
AG: Yeah.
Student (Pat): He does do specific things..
AG: So what's… what is he using.. what's the difficulty getting in English (that which) corresponds to…?
Student (Pat): Well, he slips up on the hexameter right away. He says it's just against the nature of the line. So..
AG: On iambic hexameter?
Student (Pat): No, the dactylic hexameter, the imitation of Homer, which was, at that time, or just previous to that time, a great problem. Everybody was trying to write English hexameters, and, you know, pragmatically, it wasn't working. So he limits himself pretty well to the trochaic and iambic meters and various combinations of these. Yeah, I could work through...
AG:  "Cause, yes..  Could you prepare a little summary of his gists and main ideas and how we can understand his poetry from his theory, his descent into.. I mean, how we can understand the quantitative element in his poetry

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-one minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-two-and-a-half minutes in , and also from approximately forty-five-and-a-quarter minutes in to the end of the tape]

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

John Dowland/Basil Bunting

                           [John Dowland (1563-1626)]

Allen Ginsberg's January 1980 Basic Poetics class continues (in preparation for future notes on John Dowland

AG; Apparently, I have.. the “Fine Knacks For Ladies" that you gave me the recording? – I have some  (John) Dowland around and I had that so I’ll try and bring in a… I was going to try and get Charlie (Ross - sic) to bring in a phonograph today. Were there any others on that  beside the "Fine Knacks For Ladies" ?   

Student: There’s Dowland’s setting of "Weep No More Sad Fountains" on that other one.

AG: Ah, good ok.. We've got both of them then -  "Dough-land" (that’s how  (Basil) Bunting pronounces it)  
Student: What's that?
AG:  You pronounced it (that way) also.
Student:  Yeah, I definitely lose points for saying "Dow-land"
AG: What?
Student: I definitely lose points for saying "Dow-land"
AG: Who knew better?
Student: "Dough-land" (from the Anglo-Saxon)
AG; "Dough-land" (Dowland) is the composer. 

                                                      [Basil Bunting (1900-1985)] 

In fact, I think what I'll do with the Bunting, I may.. I may bring in a tape and just play it, a few minutes of it, just some essential points, and also Bunting pronouncing (Sir Thomas) Wyatt and (Thomas) Campion (which is a real treat, because this is (with) this marvelous English, or Northumbrian accent with rolling "r"'s , and, you know, like, very finely pronounced consonants. It's really a pleasure to listen to). Nobody (here) knows Bunting? - I don't know. I've spoken of him here in previous classes, but.. He has Collected Poems, put out by Oxford University Press [Editorial note - now updated in the new Faber edition - see here]. He was one of the great..  with Marianne Moore, (Ezra) Pound, (William Carlos) Williams(W.B.) Yeats, in the early part of the century. He was in obscurity for many years but..  the phrase that I've used here over and over - "Follow the tone-leading of the vowels" - was attributed to (Ezra) Pound (it comes from Pound's introduction to Bunting's  Collected Poems (Dallas, Texas, 1950, a little paperback, the Square Dollar series of Pound. [Editorial note - Allen is factually inaccurate here - the 1950 edition of his Collected  published by Dallam Flynn, an edition Allen owned and treasured, was actually published by The Cleaner's Press, Galveston, Texas]    Then, later on, he was picked up by Tom Pickard and the younger British poets and then brought back to life by Jonathan Williams, and Oxford, last year, two years ago, [1978] published his Collected Poems. And he's really worth reading. And his specialty is condensation..

Student: What?

AG: Condensation. Like "minimum number of syllables, maximun amount of information". (Ezra) Pound quotes him in The ABC of Reading that Basil Bunting told him that "Dichten Equals Condensare" -  Poetry Writing is Condensing - and I would say, "Maximun amount of information, minimum number of syllables" - "Rut thuds the rim" is a line of Bunting's. The cart going over the country road - "Rut thuds the rim". You really get it all there - you get the physicality of the cart, the condition of the road, the era (or, at least, the anthropological era) - "rut thuds the rim" - a rut in the road, thudding against the rim of the wheel - "Rut thuds the rim" - "Pens are too light. Take a chisel to write" (talking about tombstones) -  "Words?"  ("Words", question-mark) - "Pens are too light. Take a chisel to write". Bunting is a great poet. You know, in this kind of tradition of absolute attention to the articulation of sounds and to measure and time of vowels. And you can hear it in his voice when he's talking. So I think I'll bring know, prepare some of that for next time. Okay..
 We might play some.. for the rest of the class we might play some of the.. a couple more of these.. a couple more of these ballads [Dowland's ballads] next time. So we'll hear the rest of them.  

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-six-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-one minutes in ]   

Monday, August 22, 2016

Dowland Performance ("Weep ye no more, sad fountains")

Transcription of Allen's "Basic Poetics" class, from 1980 at Naropa, continues. The previous tape (tape 9 of 35) is missing and this tape comes in (towards the end of a class) with an in-class performance]

AG: What page is the poem  ("Weep You No More Sad Fountains" by John Dowland)
Student:  Page 115

[Editorial note - The author of this poem is, in fact, unknown, but its first recorded use was as the lyric for one of Dowland's published lute pieces]

[Student/Musician in class plays with guitar accompaniment his own setting of  "Weep You No More…"]

Student/Musician: I’m not sure how fast its supposed to go, this person says to slow down.

[plays & sings] - "Weep you no more, sad fountains;/What need you flow so fast?/Look how the snowy mountains/Heaven's sun doth gently waste./But my sun's heavenly eyes/View not your weeping,/That now lie sleeping/Softly, now softly lies/Sleeping./  Sleep is a reconciling/A rest that peace begets/Doth not the sun rise smiling/When fair at even he sets?/Rest you then, rest, sad eyes,/Melt not in weeping/While she lies sleeping/Softly, now softly lies/Sleeping."

AG: (to Student/Musician re his version) - How did you derive that or how did you figure it out?
Student/Musician:  I…  It’s a pretty logical sort of mode, you know. A-minor type-D kind of  progression. G is added, I think, but, at that point, the timing is..
AG : In terms of the time?
Student/Musician: You just play it six, like one-two and-three, one-two-and-three. It’s hard to go four-four time, three-three time would be much more logical - it’s like a three, yeah.
AG: I wonder what mode they had then, because I still think that the.. there’s some other principal beside…
Student/Musician: Besides time?
AG: Yeah
Student/Musician: Oh yeah, you can do a vibrato version of it.  We’re thinking of doing a slower version of it. We tried one in four-four (time).
AG: What does that sound like?...In other words, taking into account those vowels..
Student/Musician: (begins playing):  Weep You No More Sad Fountains - (something like that (a lot slower) - Weep You No More Sad Fountains(that gives a longer, longer (stress) on “Sad”)
AG: Yeah, that sounds better to me..
Student/Musician:(continuesWhat need you flow so fast
AG: Yeah
Student/Musician: Look how the snowy mountains/Heaven’s sun doth gently waste..
AG: Heaven’s sun doth gently waste..
Student/Musician: Yeah -  There’s a move there. Like, the meter does require a few things, like, what the three required, a little bit different interpretation.
AG: Yeah, like the problem is, how d’you get a form where your…let's see..where the note,  the note, is as long as the vowel?
Student/Musician: The note is as long..?
AG: ….is held as long as the vowel should be, if it were spoken. 
Student/Musician: Yeah, that could be. Yeah. that's why I said that one, that slower one, (to) try and get that going (continues strumming) -  Now we have to go to a D-minor here because there is a definite change, like we're on the second part and (to) catch that particular move that is necessary...

AG: The quantitative measure that I was talking about is, checking out on Basil Bunting -  the time it takes to measure a syllable. He put it down as that simple. Some language, he says, measures the time it takes to speak a syllable. It’s a real simple straightforward explanation – “the time it takes to speak a syllable”  rather than….

Student: And that was from where?

AG: Basil Bunting. I’ve been listening to some lectures by.. there’s an elder poet, Basil Bunting, who was a friend of (Ezra) Pound and Louis Zukofsky, who was in on these experiments with quantitative (prosody) back at the turn of the century, and he gave some lectures in Durham Universityin England in the late (19)70s, and I have cassettes of them that I’ve been listening to, because he’s reading (Thomas) Wyatt and talking about precisely this problem and I think he’s probably the world’s pragmatical expert on the whole subject. So I want to make some arrangements so everybody can hear those, because they’re absolutely amazing, all sorts of interesting stuff, some basic, basic, historical and ideological matters about the origins of poetry and what poetry is, that touch on what we’re trying to touch on, but do it in a very authoritative way, and very sensibly. That’s sort of like déjà vu hearing it. know, I’ll have it put in the (Naropa) library, or maybe set aside one class just for listening to some of that.It’s really great (and) the first time I’ve heard it.

Student: What is this person's name again?

AG: Basil Bunting. I don’t think he’s in this anthology.                 

(to Student/Musician departing  – Thank you - ( it) sounded great – ok – say to Jerry (Granelli) hello - we’ll probably break up soon anyway...)

[Audio for the above (including the Student/Musician's rendering)  can be heard here, beginning at the beginning of the tape and concluding approximately eight minutes in]

[Postscript - the rock star, Sting, can be heard performing "Weep ye no more, sad fountains" - here]