Thursday, August 28, 2014

Jazz and the Beat Generation

Jazz and the Beat Generation

from On The Road -  "They ate voraciously as Dean [Neal Cassady], sandwich in hand, stood bowed and jumping before the big phonograph, listening to a wild bop record I had just bought called “The Hunt,” with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing their tops before a screaming audience that gave the record fantastic frenzied volume."

Allen Ginsberg - on "Howl" - "Lester Young, actually, is what I was thinking about. "Howl" is all "Lester Leaps In". And I got that from Kerouac. Or paid attention to it on account of Kerouac, surely - he made me listen to it."

"No periods...but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases)…"- Jack Kerouac (from "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose") 

Yeah, Kerouac learned his line - directly from Charlie Parker, and (Dizzy) Gillespie, and (Thelonious) Monk. He was listening in (19)43 to Symphony Sid and listening to "Night in Tunisia" and all the Bird-flight-noted things which he then adapted to prose line" (Allen Ginsberg)

Lester Young's birthday yesterday, Charlie "Bird" Parker's tomorrow. Jazz is our focus on the Allen Ginsberg Project for the next few days -  Jazz and the Beat Generation

We'll direct you, first off, to Mike Janssen over at Literary Kicks for a useful intro'. 
(and for our Spanish readers - Adrian Barahona)

more tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lester Young's Birthday

Lost Treasures from Jazz's Golden Age Head to Harlem Museum
[Lester Young - "Prez" - (1909-1959)]

August 27 - It's Lester Young's birthday today 

Henry Ferrini's upcoming  film biography is our focus. More on that essential documentary here.

Drummer Tootie Heath recalls Lester's lingo, Wayne Shorter recalls apprenticeship with Prez, George Wein recalls sitting-in, Monica Getz recalls travelling on the bus, David Amram, in 2009, speaking of the exuberance of Lester Young

As Ralph J Gleason memorably put it, "If you don't know who Pres was, you've missed a great part of America".

Here's the original "Lester Leaps In" from 1939 (first take)


Here's "Lester Leaps In " (second take) 

Allen, in 1968, to interviewer Michael Aldrich:  "Lester Young was what I was thinking about.."Howl" is all "Lester Leaps In"

Douglas Henry Daniels: Lester Leaps In, The life and times of Lester 'Pres' Young, Boston 2002

Here's more (an NPR report) from the 2009 centennial 

Francois Postif's legendary 1959 interview may be seen here
but, more importantly, must be heard here.

Frank Büchmann-Møller: You just fight for your life, The story of Lester Young, New York 1990

August 27-29, WKCR's annual Lester Young and Charlie Parker birthday broadcasts

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Expansive Poetics - 104 (Weird Juxtapositions)

[John Ashbery - The Little Tower of Babel, (2010) - collage 15.2 cms x 20.3 cms - courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery

(Weird juxtapositions) - Gregory Corso is a master of this. He actually took this method beyond the Surrealists and beyond any others that I know, in his book Happy Birthday of Death, and had a series of brilliant single-word poems - "Bomb" (which we have in here (in our anthology)), "Marriage" - taking a concept or an idea (an idea-word, not just the word but the idea-word) - and then writing down, wittily, all the archetypal associations and turns and gifts, jumps of association, ordinary literal clunky reality takes, as well as fantastic mythological takes (like, if you had "shoes", he'd wind up talking about Hermes' sandals, as well as well as the shoe-shop, and the old shoe-man, and the shoe peddler, and the man without shoes, and the barefoot Hottentot, and the..) - or "Hair" - (has anybody read that?) - he's got a poem, "Hair", in which he talks about Yul Brynner, Ish Kabibble, Harpo Marx..

Student: "Stained-glass hair"

AG: "Stained-glass hair", hair sticky with chewing gum, short hair, military hair, hippie hair, any variation. So it's variations on the theme, and, actually, it's like a musical fugue, or just like any jazz musician blowing ideas on a theme. Whatever extravagance comes into mind, (and the bigger the jump the better). Because, what it does (is) it illustrates the mind actually at work. It illustrates the nature of the human mind. So there could be no greater subject, or no greater method of writing poetry, in a certain way - (It's) more naked. It's the most naked method of writing, because you see (the) pure mind, (and) see the mind in it's own quixotic element, (William) Shakespeare does it in some of his Sonnets - "Tired for all these for restful death I cry..", and then it's a list of all the fatiguing, disappointing, bitter, aspects of life.

Student: Do you think it's letting your subconscious flow?

AG: Well, it's mixed, it's very mixed. Sometimes, the lines are totally subconscious and sometimes, they are calculated. It depends. If you're sitting with a paper, writing, my experience is, if you're doing this form (I'm talking about this particular form we've been talking about, which is a catalogue, or list, poem, or litany, where you have a repeated fixed word concept and then you make variations on it and let your mind go anywhere it wants), during the time of composition, probably, you'll encounter every possible function of the mind - completely calculated conscious, completely unconscious accidental - you start to write one word and you'll type out the beginning of another by mistake. So you do tap whatever you could call "unconscious", if there is such a thing.

(William) Burroughs gave a good definition before (sic) when he said, "Art reminds us of what we already (know)", "makes us recognize what we already knew".  You can't tell anybody anything he didn't know already,

Student:  (but) what we didn't know we know.

AG:  Oh, what was the phrasing?

Student:  Isn't it, something that you know but that you don't know that you know.

AG: Yeah. So there's no unconscious, in the sense that we know it. But then there is an unconscious in the sense that we don't know we know it sometimes. That's why we make slips of the tongue, or that's how we write, actually. My writing is really an attempt to discover what I think. The process of creation is (as) a revelation of what you were thinking all along that you didn't notice, that you didn't know you know.

to be continued

[Audio for the above can be heard herebeginning at sixty-five-and-three-quarter minutes in and continuing to approximately sixty-nine-and-three-quarter minutes in] 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Expansive Poetics - 103 - (Vítězslav Nezval)

[Vítězslav Nezval (1900-1958)]

AG:  It'd be funny to write a poem (like "The Voice of Robert Desnos")  that's totally extravagant in confidence, and then followed by a line that's a complete flop, announcing a complete failure of power, to go back and forth from line to line, that'd be a funny one - a funny exercise. "I own the Empire State and the Woolworth Building,/the landlord is coming to take me away from my hovel.".."I declare war on Mars,/I just got arrested for jaywalking around the block".."My armies will conquer Nicaragua [editorial note, this is 1981],/That fat teacher stepped on my toes",  Just alternate between this expansion and the complete contraction. Has anybody done that? I guess somebody must have tried out that.
See, with this.. these.. with this form, which is a very definite form, you can do anything - you can make many many variations, do anything you want.

There's a great Czech)oslavakian poet, (Vítězslav) Nezval, if you get to the Eastern
European section (of the classroom anthology), who does it with Prague - he's got a whole series of poems about Prague - Nezval, Eastern European section, 1900 - born the same year as (Robert) Desnos.  The first of the poems.. I'll just do that one, because it's very similar to the….is almost a steal from the (Andre) Breton poem. I don't know what year it was written, though probably much later - about Prague - "City of Spires". And that comes back to a point where the writing of the poem and the subject of the poem and the poet in  his life are identical, just like that moment when Desnos said "tornadoes spinning in my mouth at this moment". This is (in the) "Eastern Europe" (section), that comes after..

Student: Russia

AG: Russia. After the Russian section, we have an "Eastern European" section - (a poem) called "City of Spires" - Vítězslav) Nezval - Can you find it, those of you who've got… (it's) between "French" and "Russian" - got it? - [ Allen begin reading] - "Hundred-spired Prague/With the fingers of all saints/With the fingers of perjury/With the fingers of fire and hail" - [So, you can see in Prague,they heard the news of this Surrealism] - "With the fingers of a musician/With the intoxicating fingers of women lying on their backs/With fingers touching the stars/On the abacus of night/ With fingers from which evening gushes  with tightly-closed fingers/With fingers without nails/With fingers of the smallest children and pointed blades of grass/ With the fingers of a cemetery in May/With the fingers of beggarwomen and the whole working-class/With the fingers of thunder and lightning/With the fingers of autumn crocuses/[With the fingers of the Castle and old women with harps/With fingers of gold/With fingers through which the blackbird and the storm whistle…" - [ (and there was the line I quoted before, "The birds sing with their fingers", by (Jean) Cocteau -" les oiseaux chante avec les doigts")] - [Allen continues] - "With the fingers of naval ports and dancing lessons/With the fingers of a mummy/With the fingers of the last days of Herculaneum and/drowning Atlantis.." - [(This is all about "hundred-spired Prague" - he's still describing mental and social and citizenly events of Prague)] - "With fingers of asparagus/With fingers of one-hundred-and-four-degree fevers/And frozen forests/With fingers without gloves/With fingers on which a bee has settled/With fingers of larch trees/With fingers cajoling a flageolet/In the night's orchestra/With the fingers of card-sharpers and pin-cushions/With fingers deformed by rheumatism.." - [(Now he's gotten literal)] - "With fingers of strawberries/With the fingers of windmills blossoming lilac/With the fingers of windmills blossoming lilac/with fingers of mountain-springs, with bamboo fingers/With fingers of clover and ancient monasteries/With fingers of French chalk/with fingers of cuckoos and Christmas trees/With fingers of mediums/With admonishing fingers/With fingers brushed by a bird in flight/With the fingers of church bells and an old pigeon loft/With the fingers of the Inquisition/With fingers licked to test the wind/With the fingers of grave-diggers/With the fingers of thieves of the rings/On hands telling the future/On hands playing the ocarina/With the fingers of chimney-sweeps and of St.Loreto/With the fingers of rhododendrons andthe water jet on the peacock's head/With the fingers of sinful women./With the sunburnt fingers of ripening barley and the Petřín Lookout Tower/With fingers of coral mornings/With fingers pointing upwards/With the cut-off fingers of rain and the Tyn Church on the glove of nightfall/With the fingers of the desecrated Host/With the fingers of inspiration/With long jointless fingers/With the fingers with which I am writing this poem." - [(Then he cuts it there because he's brought it back to immediate focus. So that kind of poetry can go in and out of lteral focus. The advantage is you can go anywhere you want and do anything you want, actually, it's an easy form. And the amazing thing is, given that easyform, people sometimes get balked and blocked and begin saying something rational, thinking they're supposed to say something for real and try and make it... The way you do it is just accept anything that blurts into your mind, and that comes out good, always. Whereas if you try and think up something smart you'll always wind up sounding stiff).] 

Student: The occasional ones that do come from that are very realistic ones

AG: Keep it anchored.

Student:  … (which) come out.. and also come out sounding weird in juxtaposition..

AG: Right

Student:… …in juxtaposition to the weird ones.

[Audio for the above can be heard herebeginning at approximately fifty-nine-and-a-quarter minutes in. and continuing to approximately sixty-five-and-three-quarter minutes in]