Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Expansive Poetics - 91 Apollinaire - Le Pont Mirabeau)

[The voice of Guillaume Apollinaire, recorded at the laboratory of Abbé M. Rousselot, December 24th, 1913, reading his poetry - "Le Pont Mirabeau" and "Marie"] 

AG: Incidentally, there's a recording of (Guillaume) Apollinaire's voice. I don't have it  [Allen is speaking in 1981]-  The only place I ever heard it was the Musee de Sonore [maybe the Archive de Parole?] - the Sound Museum in Paris, where there's (also) a recording of Count Tolstoy, the writer - Tolstoy and Apollinaire - that far back - those do exist (just as the recordings of (Sergei) Esenin and (Vladimir) Mayakovsky (remarkably) exist.

And the thing that he (Apollinaire) is reading  is his poem, "Le Pont Mirabeau", I think (which is a very pretty poem, so I'll read it - It's just a traditional lyric, with great sonority, so I'll read it in French) [Allen proceeds to read the poem in its original French, followed by a version of the same poem in English] - "Under Mirabeau bridge flows the Seine/And flows our love/Must I remember/Joy always comes after pain/ Comes the night, rings the hour/Days go, I stay/ Let night come sound the hour/Time draws on, I remain.." - [But the French is "Vienne la nuit" - comes the night - "sonne l'heure" - rings the hour - "Les jours s'en vont" - the days go - I stay - "je demeure" - That's pretty - Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure/Les jours s'en vont je demeure" - "Hand in hand let us stay face to face/ While past the/ Bridge of our embrace/ Flows one long look's weary wave./ Time comes, clock sounds/Days go, I stay/ Love moves on like that water current/Love passes by/How slow life is and/Like hope (or expectation) how violent/ Night comes, hour sounds,/Time flows,I stay.." - Passent les jours et passent les semaines - Pass the days and pass the weeks/Neither time past/Nor love returns - Nor time that's past, nor love comes back/ Under Mirabeau bridge flows the Seine/Let night come, sound the hour/ Time draws on, I remain." 

[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately fifty-five-and-a-half minutes in (Allen's reading of "Le Pont Mirabeau" begins at approximately
fifty-six-and-a-half minutes in), concluding ar approximately fifty-nine-and-a-half minutes] 

Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine/ 
Et nos amours/ 
Faut-il qu'il m'en souvienne
/ La joie venait toujours après la peine.

 Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure/
Les jours s'en vont je demeure/

Les mains dans les mains restons face à face/
Tandis que sous/
Le pont de nos bras passe/
Des éternels regards l'onde si lasse/

Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure/
Les jours s'en vont je demeure/

L'amour s'en va comme cette eau courante/
L'amour s'en va/
Comme la vie est lente/
Et comme l'Espérance est violente

/Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure/
Les jours s'en vont je demeure/

Passent les jours et passent les semaines/
Ni temps passé
 Ni les amours reviennent
/Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine/Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure/
Les jours s'en vont je demeure

Under Mirabeau bridge flows the Seine/And flows our love/ Must I remember/Joy always comes after after pain/Comes the night rings the hour/Time draws on /I remain/  Hand in hand let us stay face to face/While past the/Bridge of our embrace/Flows one long look's weary wave/Comes the night  rings the hour/The days go  I stay/ Love moves on like that water current/Love slips by/ How slow life is and/Like hope how violent/ Comes the night          rings the hour/Time draws on  I remain/Pass the days and pass the weeks/Neither time/Past nor love returns/Under Mirabeau bridge flows the Seine/Comes the night          rings the hour/Time draws on  I remain

Monday, July 28, 2014

Happy Birthday John Ashbery

John Ashbery

[John Ashbery, iconoclast, with a baseball-bat, from Rudy Burckhardt's Mounting Tension (1950); painted by Larry Rivers ("Pyrography: Poem and Portrait of John Ashbery II" (1977); photographed by Lynn Davis (c.1986); "L'Heure Exquise - collage by John Ashbery (1977); presentation of 2011 National Arts and Humanities Medal, February 2012, by President Barack Obama

Today is the great American poet John Ashbery's 87th birthday

We thought to celebrate with this - a vintage reading from 1963 in New York at The Living Theatre (reading from Rivers and Mountains, Some Trees, and The Tennis Court Oath, with an introduction by Kenneth Koch

Here's a more recent reading (from February 2013) at the Kelly Writers House 

(and here's a follow-up interview, (hosted by UPenn's Al Filreis), a day later 

The PennSound John Ashbery page (from which these two readings have been excerpted) is, truly, a quite extraordinary trove - hours and hours of Ashbery, we recommend you pursue further. 

Similarly, the remarkable Ashbery Resource Center (a project of the Flow Chart Foundation for Bard College)  

John Ashbery - Collected French Translations: Prose

Just published, this past Spring, from FSG, "a major publishing event", John Ashbery's Collected French translations

(Our note on his 2011 Rimbaud translations may be read here)

Ashbery's most recent volume is Quick Question (2012). A new book of poems, Breezeway will be forthcoming early next year.

Happy Birthday, John!

Expansive Poetics 90 - (Apollinaire and TS Eliot)

[Allen Ginsberg's Annotated Copy of The Waste Land]

AG: The comparison to "The Waste Land" of this (Apollinaire's "Zone"), particularly, "You are alone the morning is almost here/The milkmen rattle their cans in the street" ( "Tu es seul le matin va venir/ Les laitiers font tinter leurs bidons dans les rues") - does that remind you of (T.S.) Eliot? - "Wipe your hands across your mouth and laugh,/ In the vacant allotments women gathering garbage",  or something. Do you know the line? [Editorial note - Allen is quoting here, (slightly misremembering), the concluding lines from Eliot's "Preludes" - "Wipe your hand across your mouth and laugh,/The worlds revolve like ancient women/Gathering fuel in vacant lots"] 

And the panoramic aspect is very similar to lines in "The Waste Land" - Eliot has the line- "A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,/I had not thought death had undone so many./ Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled/And each man fixed his eyes before his feet,/Flowed on the bridge and down off the bridge and up St. Williams/To where St Mary Woolnoth Church kept the hours/With a dead stroke on the final stroke of nine." - Let me find it... "Flowed up the hill and down King William Street/To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours.." - [Editorial note - Allen, again, from memory, slightly misremembers the line] -  You know that passage in "The Waste Land" that was itself an imitation or adaptation of Dante's vision of hordes of the dead moving in Hell [Canto III, verses 55-57) - Si lunga tratta/Di gente, ch'io non avrei mai credito/Che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta" - "Such a long stream/Of people, that I should never have believed./That death had slain so many…")], another paraphrase of which we heard was Jerome Rothenberg's - the hordes of the dead moving around the Ring Street in Vienna, the other night). [Editorial note - the allusion here is to a poetry-reading given by Rothenberg, one of the "Visiting Faculty" at Naropa that summer] 

Let me see if I can find "The Waste Land". How many here have read "The Waste Land"? - Just about everybody knows a little bit. Yeah - page one-seventy-nine - Yeah - "Unreal City.." (which is a paraphrase of (Charles) Baudelaire, originally  the first modern.. Fourmillante citécité pleine de rêves." [Editorial note - Allen is quoting from the opening line of Baudelaire's poem, "Les Sept vieillards" in Fleurs du Mal ]-  does anyone know French? - "Fourmillante"? - cité pleine de rêves - sort of like mass moving, massive moving, bubbling city, city full of dreams) - "Unreal City,/Under the brown fog of a winter dawn/A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,/I had not thought death had undone so many./ Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled/And each man kept his eyes before his feet.." - That's a direct quote or paraphrase or translation of Dante moving through (the) Inferno - " Flowed up the hill and down King William Street/To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours/With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine." - [This is that one panoramic vision of the twentieth-century city as a city of the dead, or as a city where the dead flowed over the bridges, and where the traffic is a phantom traffic. So you get that first in Eliot. 

Here - the little influence of Apollinaire's "Zone" - "Unreal city/Under the brown fog of a winter noon/ Mr Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant/Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants.. ["currants" would be current drafts, or bank drafts, I take it?] - "C. i. f. London - documents at sight/ Asked me in demotic French/To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel/Followed by a week-end at the Metropole" - So it's (that's) very similar to.
(Apollinaire's) "Here you are in Marseilles amid the watermelons/Here you are in Coblenz at the Hotel of the Giant". ("Te voici à Marseille au milieu des pastèques/Te voici à Coblence à l'hôtel du Géant") If you check through Eliot and check back to Apollinaire you'll see the relationship, which is celebrated, and which then goes back, as you'll remember, to (Arthur) Rimbaud (remember when we had that kind of discontinuity and juxtaposition in Rimbaud, as well as some element of modernity? - and you also get the modern city in (Charles) Baudelaire, who's what? - eighteen-twenty? thirty? forty?  around the time of (Edgar Allan) Poe? or just after Poe? [Editorial note - Fleur du Mal was published in 1857]

So, from Baudelaire to Rimbaud, then Rimbaud to Laforgue, and Laforgue to Apollinaire, is a huge influence of modernity and modern consciousness acknowledging the modern city which then spreads from the continent to (Ezra) Pound and (T.S.) Eliot, and influences (William Carlos) Williams, and other also (Williams' application to America was to try and be totally up-to-date and just look outside, Pound and Eliot were picking up from classic writers and from French sources more, and trying to adapt Laforgue and Apollinaire into English). 

[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately  forty-nine-and-three-quarter minutes in, to approximately fifty-five-and-a-half minutes in ]  

Addenda: and here's Allen's hero, Bob Dylan reading a few lines from Eliot's Waste Land -


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Allen Ginsberg's Proust Questionnaire

The Proust Questionnaire is a questionnaire named after the one famously responded to by Marcel Proust (he actually took the questionnaire twice (once in 1885-86, when he was only a teenager, and again in 1891-92, with a different set of answers). Modern (twentieth-century evocations have included those by French tv host, Bernard Pivot, and, more recently, American tv presenter, James Lipton, and, as a high-point in the register of popular culture, for many years now, as a regular feature in the magazine, Vanity Fair.
It's from the latter (the March 1994 issue) that the following has been taken. This text also appeared in  Vanity Fair's Proust Questionnaire - 101 Luminaries Ponder Love, Death, Happiness and the Meaning of Life  (2009)    

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

AG:Excellent health. no flu, no leprosy.

What is your most marked characteristic?

AG: Incriminating eloquence.

What is your greatest extravagance?

AG: Poetry office with fax, Xerox and poetry archive

What is your favorite occupation?

AG: Writing poems in a bedside notebook.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

AG: Insanity, drug-induced or natural.

What is your greatest regret?

AG: I didn't accept a friend's invitation to get in bed naked in 1944

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

AG: Continuous cowardice

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

AG: Renew my body, set at 17.

Which living person  do you most despise?

AG: New York City's Cardinal O'Connor, for his gay hypocrisy, considering that his powerful predecessor Cardinal Spellman was notoriously gay.

On what occasion do you lie?

AG: To protect friends from my public life in poetry. Candor for oneself doesn't require snitching on others

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

AG: Virginity and/or cynicism and/or machismo

What do you regard as the lowest depths of misery?

AG: Co-dependency with madman or - woman

What is the quality you most like in a man?

AG: Intelligent beauty.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

AG: Sympathetic self-reliability.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Who are your heroes in real life?

What is your favorite journey?

AG: To Benares, the "oldest continually inhabited city in the world".

Where would you like to live?

AG: Sometimes Paris, sometimes London, sometimes Benares, sometimes San Francisco, sometimes New York.

How would you like to die?

AG: In Buddhist community peacefully, aged 100, in presence of a helpful lama

What is your motto?

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what do you think it would be?

What is it that you most dislike?

AG: Theopolitical nationalist "family values" TV hypocrites and their corresponding heads of state

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?