Thursday, November 18, 2010
Why We Love the Internets part 73: Fixing the Poem Transcription for Allen Ginsberg's Poem "Things I'll Not Do"
This was one of the last poems Allen wrote. You'll see the date is March 30, 1997, he passed away just five days later. Although many of his poems' first drafts looked like this, for the most part, if anything was unclear, we could just ask. That, obviously, wasn't an option after April 5 that year. Pretty much all of us - some ten of us - who'd worked with him, examined it, handing it around, vainly trying to decipher some of the references, place-names we'd never heard of. "Tibet Templed Baluchistan"? or "Caves of Dunhuang"? (which went incorrectly transcribed for the first edition as "cares of Dunhuang", since none of us were aware these were caves!). Looking back, that's a bit embarrassing. We were without Google then, but there was Encyclopedia Britannica, and, if that didn't work, there was the library information line. Yes, you could call directly to the NY Public Library, and were allowed two queries. The researcher would put you on hold and go look, for however long it took, five minutes, ten, or thirty. Obviously, some things they couldn't answer. So when we got to the "antique lands of Hades Necromanteion," we couldn't find a single reference to it - anywhere, and in the end simply stated "Hades Gates". That's how it's published today - still. Till the next edition that is. The other week we decided to look up that pesky word with today's modern research tools, and bam! we found it, where else but in Wikipedia! - Necromanteion - I think we can trust this entry now to be a pretty accurate transcription of Allen's poem.
["Things I'll Not Do" Allen Ginsberg Collected Poems 1947-1997. New York, Harper Perennial. 2007