Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ginsberg - Scribble

[Kenneth Rexroth  & Edith Piaf]

Here's the very first poem that opens "The Lion For Real"  (published in Reality Sandwiches) - Kenneth Rexroth and Edith Piaf - a brief but poignant lyric,  Scribble

Steve Swallow' s on piano, Michael Blair on guitar, Ralph Carney on clarinet.

Allen's sleeve note - "Casual note, a long melancholic affectionate 1956 thought about the late irascible Bay Area anarchist Poet, Kenneth Rexroth, might be 4 A.M. in the soul that Michael Blair's music mirrors"
Rexroth’s face reflecting human
           tired bliss
White haired, wing browed
           gas mustache,
                flowers jet out of
                      his sad head,
listening to Edith Piaf street song
           as she walks the universe
                with all life gone
                and cities disappeared
                      only the God of Love
                            left smiling 
Berkeley, March 1956
Here (added bonus) a recent translation of the poem into Spanish:


A cara de Roxroth refletindo a cansada
           beatitude humana
A cabeleira branca, a sobrancelha arrebitada
           o bigode tagarela,
                as flores rebentando
                      de sua cabeça triste,
a ouvir as cantigas mundanas de Edith Piaf
           como se ela passeasse pelo universo
                com toda a vida ida
                e as cidades desaparecidas
                      somente o Deus do Amor
                            ficou a sorrir
Berkeley, março de 1956

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Shrouded Stranger (Three Renditions)

The Shrouded Stranger

Last weekend we featured two tracks from the Michael Minzer-Hal Willner-produced Lion For Real - "To Aunt Rose" and "Lion For Real", this weekend, a couple more - 

First, the very early lyric (from 1949) -  "The Shrouded Stranger"

Shadow Death From Nowhere.jpg

The Shrouded Stranger

Bare skin is my wrinkled sack
When hot Apollo humps my back
When Jack Frost grabs me in these rags
I wrap my legs with burlap bags

My flesh is cinder my face is snow
I walk the railroad to and fro
When city streets are black and dead
The railroad embankment is my bed

I sup my soup from old tin cans
And take my sweets from little hands
In Tiger Alley near the jail
I steal away from the garbage pail

In darkest night where none can see
Down in the bowels of the factory
I sneak barefoot upon stone
Come and hear the old man groan

I hide and wait like a naked child
Under the bridge my heart goes wild
I scream at a fire on the river bank
I give my body to an old gas tank

I dream that I have burning hair
Boiled arms that claw the air
The torso of an iron king
And on my back a broken wing

Who'll go out whoring into the night
On the eyeless road in the skinny moonlight
Maid or dowd or athlete proud
May wanton with me in the shroud

Who'll come lay down in the dark with me
Belly to belly and knee to knee
Who'll look into my hooded eye
Who'll lay down under my darkened thigh?

"The song of the Shrouded Stranger of the Night", Allen can be heard at the beginning of this 1970 reading at New York's 92nd Street Y, reading from it here

A 1973 recording at Salem State's remarkable Jack Kerouac Festival may be heard here

The 1989 Lion For Real version may be listened to -  here 

Sleeve notes: "A Blakean Lyric, drawn from a childhood boogeyman sex dream under Paterson, N.J. choo-choo train Broadway overpass, my best 1949 rhymed poem. (Jack) Kerouac liked the genius of "I hide and wait like a naked child/Under the bridge my heart goes wild'. Marc Ribot's setting captures the railroad shuffle bones wispy phantom rhythm - Till this version I never realized the strangers gasping graveyard groan was a Hungry Ghost's hopeless cry for sexual help"

addenda - here's the poem both in English and Hungarian - and a menacing rendition by the Hobo Blues Band

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 202

Embedded image permalink
                                     [Allen Ginsberg, 1994, San Francisco - Photo by Jay Blakesberg]

Jay Blakesberg's wonderful photograph of a pensive Allen. It was Robert Frank's advice to Allen, the photographer (advice that he always took to heart and would tell other people) - always, in portraits, if at all possible, include the hands.

             [Allen Ginsberg and Robert Frank, 1986, New York City - Photograph by Peter Hale] 

News from the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa - the 2014-2015 Allen Ginsberg Visiting Fellow has just been announced, and it will be - Kevin Killian - Kevin's visit will begin, on Friday February 6, with a lecture titled "The Color in Darkness", the following Monday events will continue with a reading and a book-signing.

[Kevin Killian]

"Joan Anderson letter"  news - No auction (as originally planned) last week. Now the letter sits in legal limbo. David S Wills' piece, in Beatdom, "Reconsidering the Importance of the Joan Anderson Letter" is timely musing and well worth reading - "Beat fans and scholars are often guilty of perpetuating myths", Wills writes, and, "in order to take the movement seriously one needs to be critical and ask questions that are often unpleasant".. "now it is time that we ask whether the letter was as important as (Jack) Kerouac claimed. We need to acknowledge that Kerouac's obsession with (Neal) Cassady often blinded him to his friend's flaws, and that Cassady was far from a saint. Indeed, it is hard to imagine the contents of the letter - once published - living up to the hype."…"None of this means we should ignore the letter by any means, but rather that we should be skeptical and not carried away by the excitement of its discovery".  


[Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)]

Beat scholarship - last month's European Beat Studies Conference in Morocco is now just a memory.  Here's an "unofficial video record" (warning - if you can bear the highly disorientating soundtrack!)

More on the great Jim Koller, who's passing we noted last week.  A gathering of memories and notes by friends may be found here. Here's another video (this, with his son, Bertie accompanying him on banjo and guitar and with an interview with fellow Maine poet, Steve Luttrell)

Jim, poignantly, wrote (ahead of time)  his own "Last Will and Testament"  - "I want only blue sky over me/I want the clouds, so many/of them variations, passing/changing as they pass./ I want the blackest nights filled with turning stars/I want birds to find me,/want the hot breath of animals./ The wind too shall pass,/on its way to places/I have been." 

[James Koller (1936-2014)]

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Meditation and Poetics - 24

AG: So there was the first Imagist school which said, "Sight is where the eye strikes", "Direct treatment of the object" (that's from (Ezra) Pound's little easy, "How To Read" - "Direct treatment of the object, with as few fuzzy words as possible. As we concentrate on the breath, or as we're one with the breath, so one is absorbed in clearly seeing a situation, a person, a look, a broken flower in a vase - or "so much depends/ upon/ a red wheel/ barrow/ glazed with rain/ water /beside the white/chickens" - you know that? (William Carlos) Williams? - "so much depends/ upon/ a red wheel/ barrow/ glazed with rain/ water /beside the white/chickens" - So much. So much of one's own consciousness depends on seeing it clearly, or rendering it clearly, or being there with it precisely in some way that it's clear. It's not just a vague thought but you actually see it and not try and day-dream up another universe,

So that was sort of..sort of..Imagism. Then Objectivism was the next literary school, which said you don't just have to look at wheelbarrows, you can also include your thoughts because your thoughts are objects just like wheelbarrows. So that was Objectivism.  Does that make sense?

Student:  Yeah.

AG: Yeah?

Student: "The Red Wheelbarrow", that's more nebulous than Imagism, because it's "so much depends upon.." - so that's being included as a personal thing, whereas  Pound's thing..

AG: "The apparition of these…"
Student: "..faces in the crowd"
AG: "Petals on a wet, black bough". Okay, Pound was trying to be really totally objective, Imagistic. Totally objective. So his sample great Imagist poem was, as quoted, can you quote it again?
Student: (How does it begin?)
AG: "The apparition of these faces in the crowd.." 
Student: "White petals on a…"
AG: "Petals on a wet.."
Student: ("..wet..")
AG: " bough". It's in all the anthologies. It's the period piece, sort of, (like Williams' "Red Wheelbarrow')

But you're right, Williams included a thought - So much depends upon - a red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater beside the white chickens. So that's what made it an Objectivist poem, because he included his thought. But, there again, the point I'm trying to make is that thoughts, since you can wake up from them, drop them, separate yourself from them and observe them, thoughts themselves, then, can be treated as objects, just like wheelbarrows and trees, right? - Does that all make some sense? Is there anybody who has some practical objection? 
Okay, well, it's not very precise really. It's what they were saying in 1923 or (19)30 or (19)40..actually, what were the years of the Objectivists? That would be (the) (19)30'

So Louis Zukofsky put together what he called an Objectivist anthology (Pound had put together, in 1923, an Activist  (Active) anthology, I believe). I don't know if any of those books are available [here in Boulder, Colorado]. They might be in the University of Colorado Library, and they're really, historically, interesting. If you go back, you'll see what those active groups were doing and how they got together and it'll give you some insight into what's going on now when groups of poets get together to form a school or make an anthology or make a magazine. They're sort of modern twentieth-century standards, high standards, for that kind of activity, because they actually sharpened perception among a group of poets and were like a sharp axe which went into the public head. (They) actually did make changes in perception in the larger social community. So there's the Activist Anthology by Pound and (an) Objectivist issue of Poetry magazine edited by Louis Zukofsky. Some of this is recapitulated in a recent anthology by Jerome Rothenberg. Does anybody know the name of it? Anybody?

Student: Versions of the Sacred?
AG: No, no
Student: Technicians of the Sacred?
AG: Technicians of the Sacred  is..
Student: Versions of…
AG: No, [pointing to Student] - what was it you had?
Student: America- A Prophecy
AG: No, there's another odd little book. I think Rothenberg did it. I think it's in our library here. Do you know, Sam? [points to Student, Sam Kashner] - It's sort of, like, an anthology of (19)20's and (19)30's
Student (Sam Kashner): I think it's Revolution of the Word
AG: Right. Is that Rothenberg? - an anthology called Revolution of the World -  That was what? - the phrase used by Eugene Jolas, who edited Transition magazine, which was the big magazine, publishing a lot of (T.S.) Eliot, a lot of Pound, James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake (at that time known as "Work in Progress") 

[Audio for the above can be found here, starting at approximately eighteen-and-a-half minutes in, and concluding at approximately twenty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in]