Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 220

Tomorrow in New York City, courtesy HarperCollins and the Allen Ginsberg Estate, at the new Howl Happening exhibition space, celebrations for The Essential Ginsberg . Readings and performances by Andy Clausen, David Henderson, Bob Holman, Penny ArcadeBrenda Coultas, Jameson Fitzpatrick, Ambrose Bye, Amy Lawless, Angelo Nikolopoulos, Emanuel Xavier, Slava Mogutin, Peter Hale, and others.

Check out the the Facebook Eventpage. 

and, next week in L.A  - 

Richard Modiano, Marc OlmstedBob Branaman, Michael C Ford, Renee BlakelyDoug Knott, Christian Elder David ZasloffSally Kirkland, Rick Overton, Theida Salazar, Eric Trules, Greg Cope White and Rex Weiner, a celebratory gathering (once again organized by the redoubtable Eve Brandstein) to (belatedly) celebrate Allen's 89th birthday.

More shout-outs for Allen. Last week we quoted the hook-line by Anne Waldman that appears on the back jacket of The Essential Ginsberg. Here’s the complete quote:

“Allen Ginsberg brilliantly adhered to the poet’s job of looking into the darkness of his time, seeing the generative aspects of imagination, composing texts as orality and believing in the power of poetry to re-awaken the world to itself. He never lost that faith and manifested it in myriad directions with as empathetic a heart as I have ever known. His humanity embraced others all over the world. His spirit matches Whitman for its profound candor, adhesiveness and trickster transgression. When planet earth is dust this will be one of the books to take to Mars to remember us." 

                                                            [Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman]

Here's Serbian-in-exile-in Paris, poet (and Allen's sometime translator), Nina Zivancevic with a somewhat more cerebral quote:

"(His) (Allen's) work can really be explained through the Hegelian stance…which involves the so-called "spiritual self-consciousness", otherwise referred to as action and determinateness. And, in order for us to understand Ginsberg's really innovative "determinate and original individuality" as exemplified in his poetry, one would have to go even further back to Plato's Politeia, where the ancient philosopher describes the written word as "the shadow of the living one", the one which is (according to Socrates) inscribed in the mind of the teacher, "the word that speaks to the man who can get it but is always silent to someone who can't". Of course, Allen was, and is, much more than the written word to me: he was a precious teacher, an oral griot and a shaman who followed Woody Guthrie to the letter in combining the spoken word with music and the scores, etc. He always reminded us (his students at Naropa), that "music unnaturally divided from poetry" with the Tenth-Century Church of performers, and that it was our role to put it back together. I tried, in my personal work, to follow his advice."  

Read more of Nina Zivancevic on "The Beats" here
                            [Nina Zivancevic and Allen Ginsberg c.1996 - Photograph by Ira Cohen]

[David Olio]
The David Olio "Please Master" Censorship case (a crucially important case - Connecticut high-school teacher David Olio lost his job over "exposing his students" to Allen). We've been reporting this story, as it developed. Last week it obtained significantly more traction when Mark Joseph Stern in Slate reported on it - & 763 comments (wow! - how come The Allen Ginsberg Project doesn't get that kind of feedback!) Among the most significant comments/responses was this one (from one "Michael Pemulis" (sic)):

"This is hard for me, because I actually had Mr Olio as a teacher twice in high school. I say without hesitation that, of all the teachers I had, he was the best. If it wasn't for his insistence that I push myself to improve my writing, I would not have advanced as far in my career as I have so far.
For what it is worth, many of my classmates (I graduated in 2000) would also tell you that he was a great teacher who truly engaged students and pushed them to challenge themselves.The poem was probably a bit too graphic for high school. That being said, as an AP English class, many of the students will be in college later this year where they will be exposed to all sorts of graphic material and no one will bat an eye.
From what I have heard, the firing was partly political. The school superintendent's contract is up soon, and she didn't feel as if she had any choice but to begin his termination. The teachers contract will also be up for negotiations soon and the union was worried it would hurt their bargaining power
Mr Olio without doubt made a large mistake. But his firing will certainly deprive my high school and home town of a terrific teacher. Students will be worse off for it.
In the end, there are no winners here. Only losers. I just hope Mr Olio ends up back on his feet.
I would caution other commenters, like some below [sic], to stop speculating about his record as a teacher prior to this incident. In this case, you really have no idea what you are talking about."

Another measured response came from Clyde Selner in the Hartford Courant (the local media have been, perhaps not surprisingly, (politics again), less than sympathetic):

"Mr Olio apparently made the mistake of treating his students as young adults, college students. Despite the difficulty of the material, he took a student's request to submit the poem for class discussion seriously and expected the class to respond in a like manner. "Please Master" (the poem) would be fodder for thought-provoking topics such as: Why does the poem have the power to elicit such strong emotions? Did the author write it just to prompt the very reaction it received? Would reactions be the same if it were about heterosexual instead of homosexual sex? Instead students witnessed what happens when you cross the invisible line surrounding what authority considers acceptable discussion topics.."

"Kathy C", one of the parents of one of the students, wrote here about the case (picking up on that very point):

"When my daughter first told me about the class in question, she told me that some students were uncomfortable with the poem content and complained to their parents and the parents in turn complained to the school. My first question to her was "when the poem was being read, did anyone ask Mr Olio to stop playing it?". Answer: "No". I'm quite certain that had any of the students asked Mr Olio to stop the reading he would have done so right away.There is a line between being provocative and being disturbing and for some this reading crossed that line but it didn't cross the line for everyone. I don't know how Mr Olio was supposed to know that it was provocative with one person but offensive to another without students speaking up. I spoke on behalf of Mr Olio at the Board of Education meeting on this very premise. It's my belief that this whole situation should have been handled by the students and Mr Olio and not by the parents and administration.

When the suspension first took place my daughter was very upset about the situation and the media firestorm that followed. I told her to stay away from the media because even comments intended to help would continue to add fuel to the fire and keep the story going. I was hoping that once the media situation died down that the administration would be able to quietly bring Mr Olio back from suspension. At the Board meeting I found out that the school had initated termination proceedings against Mr Olio. If you could have been at the Board meeting and heard person after person, including present students, speak about how inspirational Mr Olio is as a teacher, you would find this move as baffling as I do. I can only surmise that this action is less to do with what the administration actually thinks of the situation and more to do with the fact that they don't know how to bring back a teacher who has been branded by social media as unsuitable for the job. Ironically, the very same rights that allow the news and social media to paint this picture are the very same rights that Mr Olio allowed the students to exercise in that class."

Another irony "Kathy C" points out elsewhere (to Wonkette) - the student "who brought in the poem" (her daughter's class-mate) "spoke at the Board of Ed meeting in defense of Mr Olio and wants to be a teacher because of him."

The Daily Beast also picked up on the story. See their (David Freedlander's) account here

An inspiring teacher, a challenging debate - who, exactly, is being threatened/"emotionally damaged" here? 
Big kudos to our friend Steve Silberman in all this, who has tirelessly taken on the case (making the initial connections of support during Olio's legal proceedings - (Lawrence Ferlinghetti - "As the original publisher of Allen Ginsberg's poetry, City Lights Books  fully supports David Olio as a high school teacher of poetry.." - Helen Vendler: "...asking students to bring a poem to class does not violate the curriculum; on the contrary, it asks that the student make an investment in his own education..." )  - and instigating this - the all-important debate/publicity, "putting the word out" - the Slate (which-begat-the-Wonkette-and-begat-The Daily Beast) connection.  For his sterling  services, thanks. 

England isn't forgetting the Beat Generation. The 50th anniversary of the remarkable International Poetry Incarnation of June 1965 at the Albert Hall will be commemorated with a live celebration at London's Roundhouse on Saturday (same night as  the NYC ..Essential.. gig). Dan Cockrill will be the m-c. Original participant, Michael Horovitz leads the cast. Also participating Adam Horovitz, Pete Brown, John Cooper Clarke, John Hegley, Libby Houston, Cecilia Knapp, Patience Agbabi, Francesca Beard, Kei Miller, Elvis McGonagall, Malika Booker, Janaka Stucky, Chet Weise, Vanessa Vie,  Steven Berkoff, Eleanor Bron.. have we forgotten anyone? - We're sure we have   - oh and not forgetting the William Blake Klezmatricians (Horovitz, Pete Lerner and Annie Whitehead) 

and on Wednesday (Allen's birthday) at Blackwell's in Oxford - "A Celebration of 60 Years of City Lights Publishing" - "To celebrate 60 years of City Lights Bookstore and Publishers, we'll be hosting a very special evening of readings from selected authors published by City Lights including Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and more…" Readers on that evening include Dan Holloway, Alan Buckley, Daisy Johnson, Tom De Freston and Kiran Millwood Hargrave".."A similar celebration will be taking place across the water in Paris, where our comrades in the trade, Berkeley Books, will also be celebrating in their own way". 

Yes, 60 Years of City Lights - City Lights is - and will continue to be - celebrating. Coming soon  (next month) - City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology, 60th Anniversary Edition (specially edited by Lawrence Ferlinghetti).  More information about that title - here    

Don't forget! - Allen Ginsberg's birthday next Wednesday! 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Haiku 12 (Allen Ginsberg Haiku Class)

tôyama ga medama ni utsuru tombo kana

In the eye of the dragonfly
The distant hills


Student: Allen?

AG: Yes

Student: ((The compound) eye of a dragonfly, (comprises) a thousand [thirty-thousand] facets,  you can't (actually) get a reflection from it (as a singularity))

AG: All dragonfly's eyes are thousand-faceted?  Well, I don't know what we're going to do with that.  I think (here) it does come from some observation of some (natural)...

Student: (But it's not biologically accurate..)

AG: We'd have to question, then, the translation, maybe. But, actually, he might have had 
a little ant-heap, (for) which a thousand-faceted reflection would be the distant hills. Or maybe it was a grain of sand? - "A grain of sand/ reflected in the eye of a dragonfly/the distant hills")

The wind-bells ringing…
(You know wind-chimes?)

The wind-bells ringing, 
While the leeks 

Round the small house
Struck by lightning,

(Some correlation there, between vast, mighty impact of the lightning and melon flowers springing up. That's Buson, another celebrated haiku-maker

Then, for time again, this is Basho again. As you may know (or may not know) - of course, this is about impermanence - the umbilical cord of Japanese babies were saved at the old homestead, wrapped up and saved.

In my old home
weeping over the umbilical cord
at the end of the year.

(That's enough to make you cry. Back, returned, after many years - "In my old home/weeping over the umbilical cord/at the end of the year"). 
The footnote - "Japanese people still preserve their children's umbilical cord. Basho is spaeaking of his own, that his mother, now dead, has preserved" - "In my old home/weeping over the umbilical cord/at the end of the year"

Well, all the emotion there, which is very powerful, is suggested without direct reference (and only by) indirect reference to the word, "emotion". There's the  word "weeping", which is literal, there's the "old home". there's "the umbilical cord", and there's "the end of the year" - all totally material objects, which actually do catalyze tears in your eyes, if you understand the haiku - and they're the tears of things, the classical traditional lacrimae rerum, tears of things, which are supposed to be unapproachable, but they are (approached) actually. 
But I keep trying to say, no matter, according to the old ways, there's only one road to silence, there's only one road to dealing with what's unspeakable, which is you have to deal with the speakable to get there. You have to combine the speakables to get the unspeakable. You can't plunge directly into the unspeakable and say, "You can't say it". Because it is say-able  

This, is a question of…  as in (Walt) Whitman's inquisitiveness of mind, or, "not till the sun excludes you do I exclude  you" [from "To A Common Prostitute"], or (William Carlos) Williams'  "(Nose), must you have a part of everything.." [from "Smell!"], there's a famous haiku:

The autumn moon

shines kindly
on the flower thief

(It's the same mind. Mind). Or:

Even to the saucepan

where the potatoes are boiling
a moonlit night.

A few of Basho now:

Winter seclusion

Once again
I'll lean against this fence-post

The first morning

of Spring
I felt like somebody else

(And, an answer to that):

I am one

who eats his breakfast
gazing at the morning glories

And, a late poem by Basho, an ascetic and a monk:

Resigned to death 
by exposure
How the wind 
Cuts through me

nozarashi o / kokoro ni kaze no / shimu mi kana 

Student: Allen, would you repeat that please?

AG: Yes. It's the first poem in the Nozarashi Diary (Nozarashi Kikō (Record of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton (1684)) . These were done as prose-diaries, 
accountings of travels, or visits, in which, (like in (Jack) Kerouac's Dharma Bums prose), in the midst of the prose accountings, a sudden flash of insight is expressed in a brief (single) line. In the Japanese, the haiku is actually one line, you know. Seventeen syllables in one line. Translated into English in three, so Kerouac used three lines, copying, probably as much from this haiku anthology [Blyth] as (from) anyone - "Resigned to death by exposure/How the wind/ Cuts through me" -  Yeah?

Student: (Did you say that the original haiku was a single line?)

AG:  Yeah.  Seventeen syllables.  Five-seven-five,  in one line. 

Student:  (Was it always?) 

AG:  Always in one line.  It's not three lines.  It's one line, the Japanese - very brief.  They're written out here, if you'll check out the book, and it's always written out in one line. But it is five/seven/five.  Usually, probably, syntactically or grammatically within that one line there are divisions - divisions of thought, (most) likely.

I guess we're late.  I'm sorry.  I better quit now.  I might continue with these to finish up.  
I have about a dozen to finish (up with ) Wednesday and then (we'll) move on to (William) Blake, and maybe some of  (Jack) Kerouac's Mexico City Blues from Blake to Kerouac (the Blake I want to compare with the Zenrin-kushu)

tape and class end here

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Haiku - 11 (Haiku and The Gap of Space)

AG: (Haiku) …and the gap of space

Billowing clouds -
An ant
climbs on to the ink stone

(The ink stone where he's mixing his ink to make the painting of the billowing clouds) - "Billowing clouds -/An ant/climbs onto the ink stone".

A cow is lowing
in the cowshed
under the hazy moon

(That's very similar to that (one earlier)… (tape ends and then restarts here)  …the lowing of the cow and the hazy moon).

Then, again, like the one of the firefly's neck really is red in the daylight ("The firefly's neck/in the daylight/is red" (Basho) [Hiru mireba kubisuji akaki  hotaru kana]). 

So other examples of minutely-perceived concord like that are:

In the eye of the dragonfly
The distant hills

(You have to look real close…)

Student: …if you can see that, right?

AG: That's very good. It's so totally opposite. The space - the gigantesque junp of mind-space is there, yet it's absolutely literal - He probably did see the distant hills reflected in the eye of the dragonfly (like I really did see a snow mountain field through the transparent wings of a fly on the window pane). Can I have another? (that, incidentally, is Issa again - the (image) reflected in the eye of the dragonfly, the distant hills….

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Haiku - 10 (Ginsberg on Haiku continues)

Student:  (Allen, what about the sound in (haiku) poems?)   

AG:  Oh, sure.  There's a whole sound (presented) in certain of these books, if you want the sound.  These books by (R.H.) Blyth, he'll give you the Japanese lettering, he'll very often give you some phonetic transmission of the Japanese sound, as well as, incidentally, explanations, footnotes, and comparisons to Western poems. 

Sound is important.  It's a seventeen-syllable machine, with certain kinds of internal rhymes, and certain phrases like "ah", or "oh", or "kana" - "kana" - which are used for emphasis and filler of syllables.  Filler meaning filler emphasis-isms.

Student:  (I also recall that in Japanese some of them sound like (perhaps) another word) 

AG:  Right.

Student: (Sound. Content. Precision)

AG:  And Blyth points out that you probably find more haiku in precise prose than you might in poetry, (or at least in the nineteenth-century poetry - Tennyson and the Georgian poets - that Blyth was brought up on - he, being an older man, who was brought up in 1910, reading British poets before Pound, before (Ezra) Pound's influence of sharpening direct treatment of the object).  So he points out that prose probably offers more haiku than poetry. 

However, the point of these that I'm reading is the mind-jumps, the mind-gaps, the space- jumps, the time-jumps, the two poles of image (one, and another that you fill in with your imagination, conjuring up in your mind space/time/compression), with the mother eating the astringent parts of the persimmons - that what is unnameable is conjured up in imagination by the coordinates in actual space and time perceivable (or space and time themselves are suggested in all their vastness by tiny coordinates contained within them).  So it's the mind content, or mental content, or structure, that is perceptual  (the structure of perceptions in haiku that I was trying to manifest with these), rather than the technical poetic aspects of number of syllables - seventeen - filler-words used, history of them, or assonance. There's quite a bit of assonance in them, and internal rhyme. 

      There's a repeat of one that I did before but in larger [form]:

      Misty rain on Mount Rothe incoming tide at Sekko
      Before you have been there, you have many regrets,
      When you have been there and come back,
      It is just simply misty rain on Mount Ro, the incoming tide at Sekko.

      And parallel to that:

      This New Years Day
      that has come at last
      just another day.

      New Years Day
      the hot just as it is
      nothing to ask for
      The scissors hesitate
      before the white chrysanthemums
      a moment.

 Does anybody have (William Carlos) Williams' Collected Later Poems here? Well, there's a Williams poem about..  "The Act" I think it's called:

      There were roses, in the rain.
      Don't cut them, I pleaded. They won't last, she said.
      But they're so beautiful where they are.
      Agh, We were all beautiful once, she said
      and cut them and gave them to me in my hand.

      The scissors hesitate
      before the white chrysanthemums
      a moment.

So, what's conjured up there?  The scissorer is hardly mentioned. It's just the action, and seeing the action of the scissors themselves hesitating before the white chrysanthemums you have the whole philosophy of emotions.  A whole philosophy of emotions and reactions and sensitivities and philosophies about transitoriness. 
      Similar to that:

      Ah! grief and sadness
      the fishing line trembles
      in the autumn breeze.

You can take that any way you want - whether the wind is rippling the fishing rod, or the hand holding the rod is trembling. 

      I'm almost done with these, actually.            tape breaks here