Saturday, July 30, 2011

Spiritual Poetics


Allen Ginsberg Class - NAROPA Institute July 31, 1974

AG: (This) I got from Karma Trinley, who’s a lama, friend of (Chogyam) Trungpa in England - OM, you might want to write it down so it won’t be mysterious: OM (O-m.) SARASWATI (S-a-r-a-s-w-a-t-i) , Sar-a-swa-ti – how many have heard of Saraswati? - okay, Om-Saraswati, HRIH (H-r-i-h), SOWAH (S-o-w-a-h – So-hah), so it’s easy, Om-Sarawati-Hrih-Sowah

[Raja Ravi Varma - Saraswati (1848-1906)]

“Om”, you know – body sound, salutation. Saraswati - is generally pictured with a veena in one hand and a book in the other. Riding, what?. Riding a swan, I think. I’m not sure. Does she have any other attributes ? In Hindu she’s a wife of Shiva

Student: ..playing a lute?.

Student: ..playing a veena

AG: A veena, which is, like, a stringed instrument, (a lute would do just as well), a long stringed instrument . Yeah

Student: ..she’s all flowing, she flows..

AG: Flowing? mean.. clothes…?

Student: ..flowing

AG: ...are flowing? (uh?) – (that’s) pretty indefinite. Okay, she flows. She’s the mind. She flowed.

Student: Is she the one they throw in the river one day?

AG: Ah, Durga, I think, another wife of Shiva, they throw in the river. But she apparently exists in Buddhist iconography also. I also don’t know who she’s the consort of . You can ask around your iconography teachers.

Student: Manjusri

AG: Ah, okay, consort of Manjusri

Student: I’m not sure though

AG: I think so. I’ve heard that before. Discriminating wisdom – which would mean a sharpness of mind, a discrimination, and a clarity. Manjusri also has a book in one hand and the flaming sword in the other. So, clarity and definiteness, no bullshit. Flowering, but within specific boundaries, where something specific is flowing; either her clothes, or her mind, or her thoughts, or.. so how many here are sort of familiar with basic Buddhist gossip?, have heard of Manjusri – have heard of Manjusri Buddha?? ..Yeah, well, some. Manjusri’s an interesting figure because he’s got the sword of mind and the book, which means he’s read the classics. Background intelligence and reading, and not just total spontaneous oatmeal – (but) it still is discriminating mind, there would be mind recognizing its own nature, or first thoughts of the mind, remembering what the mind was actually thinking, remembering how the mind was actually working, and thus cutting through bullshit; that is, remembering first thoughts, or remembering what you secretly thought , or what occurred to you on the bathroom stool – a thing you wouldn’t necessarily write down for public. It’s the making public that private thought that’s, in a way, the sword of intelligence or the sword of discriminating wisdom. In other words, being frank. You could call it, like, mental frankness in a way, or you could also call it alertness, that is, remembering, without hypocrisy, what you were really dreaming about. So that would be the husband of Saraswati. Instead of a sword she (Saraswati’s got a veena, or musical instrument, so she.. I’m interpreting her as, then, speaking out her mind, expressing herself or manifesting her thought forms via music or via any way that invoves her whole body and her breath. She’s got a book too – that means she’s read, she’s learned. Anyway, Om-Saraswati-Hrih-Sowah – “Hrih” – I guess I don’t know what “Hrih” means. It’s a seed syllable, but I’ve heard it used.. Pardon me?

Five forms of Manjushri

[Five Forms of Manjushri - Tibetan Thangka Painting]

Student: I think it’s a syllable of the heart chakra

AG: Is it the heart chakra?. That’s good. When you say “Om-Padme-Hum-Hrih”, “hrir”, is used as the bodhisattva extra syllable. Om-Padme-Hum-Hrih. The extra syllable is for getting into the world of action, getting up out of meditation and moving out into a world of action. So, “Om-Sarasati-Hrih..” – I guess active, then. “Sowah” is “Swaha”, the same as “Svaha” in Sanskrit. I guess it’s a Tibetan pronunciation, of “Svaha”, meaning “Amen”, or “Salutations” - generally to a feminine divinity.

So let’s all sing that to invoke whatever we can get up

(AG & Students chant (repeating the mantra), with Allen accompanying on harmonium - OM-SARASWATI-HRIH-SOWAH - open eyes!”, he counsels, and, “anyone who doesn’t sing it, fails”).

AG: There’s another Bengali mantra, very similar, a strotra to Saraswati, has a really nice nursey-rhyme rhythm. I don’t know what use it is, except it has such a strong rhythm, It’s a little bit like (Edgar Allen) Poe’s “(The) Bells”, or “half a league, half a league, half a league onward into the Valley of Death charged the six hundred..” It’s got a good, solid rhythm. I can give the words, if anybody’s interested, but I’ll recite it, because it’s a good invocation anyway


(It’s) “Jaya-Jaya-Devi”, for (whatever it’s worth, Jaya-Jaya-Devi – J-a-y-a, J-a-y-a, D-e-v-i). I don’t know what it all means actually! I know a lot of it and I’ve got a book, I can look it up! If anybody’s ever seen a copy of a bibliography of my poetry, put out by City Lights, there’s a whole page of technical explanations - “Jaya-Jaya-Devu” - “Devi” is “goddess”, “Jaya” is “victory” - “Charey, Charo” (Charo – Sari)

Student: In a purple sari.

AG: Yeah, it’s a red-bordered, or vermillion-bordered, or purple-bordered, sari. “Charey Charo* (C-h-a-r-e-y, C-h-a-r-o). “Charey, Charo Sari, Kucha” (so, K-u-c-h-a), Kucha-Juga (J-u-g-a, Juga), Kucha Juga Sovita. Next line,. “Mukta Hari” (M-u-k-t-a..M-u-t-c-k-h-a? – M-u-k-t-a H-a-r-i) Mukta – “release”, “(one) who brings release”, “goddess who brings release to the whole world”, Hari…

Student: Sovita wears pearls on the breast

AG: Maybe

Student : Yes..

AG: Okay, remember that now. Okay, Kucha-Jug-Sovita-Mukta-Hari-Kucha-Sovita-Muk.. pearls-adorning-breast, or, pearl-breasted maybe, Kucha-Jug-Sovita-Mukta-Hari-, Veena (V-e-e-n-a, Nan-dee-tah) , Veena Nan-dee-tah, Pustaka Hastey (P-u-s-t-a-k-a H-a-s-t-e-y)..veena in the left hand, book in the right hand, or veena in the right hand, book in the left hand, whatever. Veena Nan-dee-tah, Pustaka Hastey, Bhagavati…

Student: Pustaki?

AG: Pustaka (P-u-s-t-a-k-a). Pustaka Hastey. I guess “Pustaka” would be “book”, if I’m not mistaken. Veena.. ..and you could always look it up in the book if the right interpretation is important, (which it probably is), but the sound is what I’m interested in, and rhythm - Veena Nan-dee-tah, Pustaka Hastey, Bag-Havati…where was I ? - Veena Nan-dee-tah, Pustaka Hastey. Bag.. (B-a-g) B-a-g-h-a-v-a-t-I, Baghavati (B-a-g, h-a-v-a-t-i). Bharati (B-h-a-r-a-t-I, B-h-a-r-a-t-I – “Bharati” is the word for India, but, I guess, for the whole world also). Bhagavati Bharati, Devi (Goddess) D-e-v-i – Namaste (N-a-m-a-s-t-e) - “hello”, “hello Goddess”, or “namaste” (“salutations”, “respect”). It’s catchy, sort of, can be sung together


While singing, I was thinking of something Robert Duncan told me in (19)63, which was that when I was singing “Hari Krishna”, which I was just beginning to do in ’63, he found that I was using my voice and my body a lot more..thicker..more involved, using my body and my voice a lot more than when I was reading poetry, that I was putting more force and more energy, more conviction, into the physical rendering of the mantras than to what I was supposed to be good at, which was the poetry. It was, I think, a real criticism. It was a seed that got stuck over time and flowered somewhere. From then on.. For one thing, I realized that singing is a very good thing if it can bring that out and break through the shyness or the barrier of fear of energy or fear of expression. But it also turned me on to, or made me more conscious of, the fact that in whatever great poetry I wrote, like “Howl” or “Kaddish”, I was able, actually, to chant and use my whole body, whereas in lesser poetry I was not, I was talking – or, I wouldn’t say “lesser”, but poetry that didn’t involve me so much, so, in that sense, lesser. So from that point of view, poetry becomes less intellectual or verbal and also becomes, like, a physiological thing, something where you actually use your body, use your breath, use your full breath. At least chant becomes that, and poetry can approach chant. When you’re really into it, poetry can become an expression of the whole body, of a single body/single mind, really all, with real oomph! As distinct from the practice of poetry as it was all along into my day, and probably yours still, which is more of a tentative thing, where you’re dealing with the flimsy materials of your own mind, and so you’re not really sure whether you should lay it out, solid, like a prophet or something, whether it’s worth shouting or speaking or howling or using your whole self in. That’s not, of course, the only form of poetry because there is a quiet, conversational, poetry, and there’s a whispered poetry – I guess, whispered transmissions, even. But.. since that area of full energy is very rarely appreciated now – well, it’s appreciated when you hear it, when you hear it in (Bob) Dylan, it’s totally appreciated, which is a great thing about Dylan in a way, that what he’s doing is, in one vowel, he puts his whole lung - “How does it fEEEEEl?” (or, as in old blues – “hOOOOOme, I’m goin’ hOOOOOme”). So, you have the whole body into it because what is meant is something very definite emotionally, rather than tentative. So it’s good, then, to link poetics with some form of vocalization.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Announcing Spiritual Poetics

[Allen Ginsberg with Anne Waldman at NAROPA Institute 1975 (in the background, dancers Douglas Dunn and Barbara Dilley) - photo by Rachel Homer copyright]

Announcing the upcoming (on-line) publication of the first chapter of a long-awaited and crucial project - Allen Ginsberg's Selected NAROPA Lectures 1975-1997.

The very first of these lectures - on "Spiritual Poetics" - delivered on this very day, thirty-seven years ago - will be serialized, in this space, (the Allen Ginsberg blog), throughout the up-coming week(s).

We at the blog, wish to salute, at the outset, the tireless and heroic work, accomplished over many years now (dogged and patient transcription of priceless archival recordings) by Ginsberg-scholar, friend, and true disseminator of the dharma, Randy Roark.

Transcriptions originally made by him have been only lightly edited. The texts will, simultaneously, be made available - as they appear - on our web-site, Allen Ginsberg dot org

Allen: "The title of the course is "Spiritual Poetics", which was just a spontaneous title arrived at when we had to have a title, but it might as well be used. And we're beginning with considerations of breath, considerations of vowel, and the relationship between vowel and intelligence, vowel and soul. I'll try to define more clearly the words I'm using.."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Smoking Typewriters

Smoking Typewriters, historian John McMillian's recently-published definitive history of the underground press scene in America in the '60s, and of "the rise of alternative media", brings to mind an earlier "Smoking Typewriters", Allen's lead essay in the 1981 City Lights compendium, UnAmerican Activities - The Campaign Against The Underground Press (edited by Geoffrey Rips & Anne Janowitz, with reports by Aryeh Neier, Todd Gitlin and Angus MacKenzie). That book was the result of a decade's zealous study made possible by the release of files, courtesy of FOIA (the Freedom of Information Act - ironically, an outgrowth of the Nixon administration). Allen's essay was later reprinted in Deliberate Prose - Selected Essays 1952-1995. Here he is in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1981, speaking about the book

"Well, for the last ten to twelve years, I’ve been working on a book.. published by City Lights...Is there any possibility of getting that in the school? got it? ... ok.. It ‘s called “Underground Activities – The Campaign Against the Underground Press – A Pen American Center report”. P.E.N (poets, essayists, novelists), a big middle-class organization – Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer...Bernard Malamud was the head. So this is a survey of the sabotage of the underground press (including the local newspaper here (Atlanta), The (Great) Speckled Bird (which was bombed in '72 or 3)..yes, so this is an account of the fire-bombings, arrest of vendors, double-agent set-ups, sabotage, intimidation of landlords, god knows what..what they do (legal stuff), legal intimidation, yeah, lets make a list of all the different kinds of things they do – harassing distributors, harassing printers, harassing vendors, harassing distribution on college campus(es), harassment for obscenity, harassment for drugs, harassment of publishers, harassment of advertisers, harassment of printers, sabotage of news services, spies (government spies, FBI people outside the newspaper offices), dis-information (circulating fake information in to disrupt the New Left), anonymous letters, narcotics agents infiltrating, raids (an officer’s description of office equipment and records and mailing lists), theft of legal papers, harassment of “angels” (the people that bought the.. who subsidized the newspapers),wire-taps, harassment of customers, bombings (as in the (Milwaukee) Kaleidoscope and here), bomb threats, conspiracy charges, direct assaults, insults, vigilante groups, the whole gamut of the kind of sabotage you read about in..Poland..or Nicaragua..or (El) Salvador.. or Iron Curtain countries. .were.. (they) destroyed about 60 per cent of the underground press in America - or helped destroy it. So this report, which I assembled material for over a ten year period, just came out this year".

Thirty years on and John McMillian is at City Lights talking about his book - a 48-minute video on Book TV (C-Span) can be accessed here.
The book's reviews have been, in the main part, pretty positive. Here's the most recent one (from the July edition of J-History, republished courtesy of Humanities and Social Sciences Online), a review by Jeanette McVicker. Here's Jenny Williams in Wired. The press reviewing the press. Always useful to see what survivors of the '60's underground think of the book. Here's Bob Patterson's review in the Berkeley Daily Planet. And here's Richard Greenwald in In These Times, Robert M Knight in the Washington Independent Review of Books, Jonah Raskin in The Rag Blog, and (allow us the irony) Russ Smith in The Wall Street Journal.

McMillian is interviewed here (on the OUP blog) about his work, and also submits to the Ford Madox Ford Page 99 test - "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you" - "No, I wouldn't quite say that the quality of Smoking Typewriters is (thus) revealed...much of the book is done in a narrative style, but a few sections are analytical. On page 99, I'm fully in analytical mode, I'm exploring the possibility that members of a radical news agency..(the) Liberation News Service (LNS) might have, on a very few occasions, consciously tried to advance the New Left's aspirations by putting across "strategic myths" - stories that they knew were not fully accurate but retain a kind of "impressionistic honesty". Again, I don't think this happened often". As Jonah Rakin points out, "An (accomplished) historian, he (McMillian) looks back at the era with the benefit of hindsight, and with a certain detachment, too, that enables him to tell the story without aiming to grind obvious ideological axes". Allen would surely have approved.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Little Fish Devours The Big Fish

Following on from yesterday's "Capitol Air", here's another rock Allen, or more precisely, pop Allen - circa 1983, his collaboration with the Lawrence, Kansas, band, Start (from the album Look Around, on Fresh Sounds Records - another cut from the album can be sampled here).
The poem Allen chooses to sing/recite is his "Little Fish Devours The Big Fish", another political screed ("Hypocrisy is the key/ to self-fulfilling prophecy"), subsequently published in White Shroud: Poems 1980-1985, and drawing, very much from his visit to Nicaragua, and appearance at the Poetry Festival in Managua, the previous year. His "Declaration of Three" (penned alongside Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Ernesto Cardenal), "written in the Intercontinental Hotel bar, Managua, Nicaragua, January 25, 1982", is among the material incorporated into the poem.
A subsequent, considerably more sophisticated version of the piece (recorded with Elvin Jones) was released on Holy Soul Jelly Roll (Volume 4 - Ashes and Blues). Here's Allen's note on the recording:
"Elvin Jones and I were teaching together in Florida and stopped at a small recording studio to experiment. I'd written this estimate of the US-backed Contra war at the bar of the big Nicaraguan hotel as a rhyme that requires a strong steady beat to rap against. The amazing thing about Elvin is he's a very powerful-looking guy and a drummer of tremendous power, gigantic and scary in a way, but on the other hand he's a being of great delicacy and understanding. He describes his job as building a ground floor to support the solo. I felt like a four-eyed intellectual professor with him but he was very respectful and amused by what I was laying down. At the end he got into what he spoke of as a traditional spiritual church rhythm."

The accompanying footage here is of Allen in 1968, on the shores of Lake Michigan, leading a group in a chant, in advance of the fabled 1968 Democratic Convention. Footage from the same spot ("Allen Chanting") can also be seen here.
A July 1984 performance (and another performance of Capitol Air, for that matter) can be found in this miscellany of performance here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Poetry In Motion (ASV #14)

Ron Mann's groundbreaking 1982 documentary feature, Poetry In Motion, remains a treasure-trove of performance and poetry, and poetry-in-performance, and features a stellar group of (mostly North American) poets (twenty-five from a group of sixty-five originally filmed), among them, Allen, Anne Waldman, John Giorno, William Burroughs, Amiri Baraka, Ed Sanders, Robert Creeley, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, John Cage, and Jim Carroll. Introduced and punctuated by the acerbic thoughts of Charles Bukowski, the film also affords us rare glimpses of such legendary figures as Ted Berrigan and Helen Adam and - it was partially Canadian-financed - Christopher Dewdney (reading a, perhaps, Christopher Smart-influenced piece), and "The Four Horsemen" (Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Paul Dutton, Steve McCaffery, and bpNichol). It was re-released in 1994 in an innovative format on CD-R0m (the CD-Rom remains available), and, in 2002, as a DVD. A second DVD, Poetry in Motion 25, was also made available ("a one-hour television special featuring out-takes from Poetry In Motion", with many of the artists featured in the original film, (different poems, different settings), plus a bunch of new faces (Peter Orlovsky, Alice Notley, Eileen Myles, Spalding Gray, Tom Clark, Jerome Rothenberg, Joel Oppenheimer, and Philip Whalen, amongst others).
Allen's appearance is suitably performative - "punk rock" with a full-scale back-up band (we've commented on it before). Allen introduces the segment with musings on the craft and an invocation of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's "crazy wisdom": "I have a Shelley-an, Gnostic, Buddhist notion", he declares, "which is that the art is wild and the insight is wild and the behavior may be wild, but there's that thing called "crazy wisdom", which is breaking up an old form, but as gently as possible, and doing it in a way that you leave space for a new form to rise, or giving space for people to come out behind their cover, and, er.. speak more frankly, so I think it would be radical, but I don't think it would be violently revolutionary. The whole point is that it's all poets, all writers, all actors, making up their own prose, their own scenarios, so the poet is in a position to make up a scenario..that's a lot more..vivid, actually, because it's based on accurate observation". ("I don't like the government where I live/I don't like dictatorship of the rich..").
Digitally Obsessed's review of the DVD (DVDs) can be found here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

David Schneider on Philip Whalen (early Whalen)

["Philip Whalen, Sensei, in his peaceful chair, my apartment living room, East 12th Street New York March 1984. he was visiting East coast to give readings N.Y. and Buffalo, calm poet. 'What are you reading?' 'I'm not reading I'm just turning the pages.' " - Allen Ginsberg. photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

The current (summer) issue of Tricycle contains
an excerpt from David Schneider's forthcoming Phil Whalen biography - Crowded by Beauty: A Biography of Poet and Zen Teacher, Philip Whalen. Schneider, currently, (since 1995), based in Germany (Cologne), studied and practiced at the Zen Center in San Francisco from 1971 to 1984, and is also the author of another great personal dharma-biography, Street Zen: The Life and Work of Issan Dorsy (which is still available in paperback). The chapter excerpted in Tricycle focuses on the friendship between Whalen and Gary Snyder. "Philip Whalen had no better friend than Gary Snyder", Schneider writes, "Whalen's life would have run a vastly different course had the 17-year-old Snyder not first seen him from offstage at Reed College's theater, directing players in a student production, and been impressed with him..". The rest of the article, an illuminating read,[you'll need to join Tricycle first, but why not?] can be read here.

"Whalen would never have read in the historic Six Gallery reading had not Snyder put Philip's name and poems literally in front of Allen Ginsberg's face", Schneider observes - the legendary Six Gallery reading of October 1955 (Whalen's reading at the recreation of that event, six months later, in Berkeley, can be accessed here - courtesy of the Poetry Center Digital Archive - introduction is by Kenneth Rexroth. The Poetry Center has also made available Whalen's December 12 1956 reading here).

This section (the Tricycle section) is adapted from a more extended sampling from the book, that was published September last year by Jim Koller in Coyote's Journal and is available here.

Other notes by Schneider on Whalen may be found here and here and here.

More on Phil to come on 20th of October, his birthday, we promise.

Meanwhile, this (edited by Michael Rothenberg) is an essential item.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Original Beats - Huncke and Corso

Francois Bernardi's short film, Original Beats, is this weekend's film-showing - featuring.. two of the most hard-core (Beats) - Gregory Corso and Herbert Huncke - and a paean to a lost New York - Times Square and the Chelsea Hotel (no longer, the same Chelsea Hotel these days, nor the same Times Square, sad to report).

It opens with footage of Huncke in the back-seat of a taxi-cab - one rainy evening in Manhattan - fish-eye glimpses of the Chelsea (interiors and exteriors) - Huncke's genial narrative. Gregory Corso first appears about two and a half minutes in:
GC: "The FBI caught Huncke and gave him some marijuana and said plant this in Ginsberg's house and we won't bother you any more. Huncke called up Allen and told (him) what the FBI said. I was there. Allen immediately called up Robert Kennedy (because Robert Kennedy had gotten in touch with Allen earlier on, getting the vote, lets say, with the people that Allen knew - and Allen knew a lot of people - and he (Kennedy) knew (that) he was an influence in New York. So Allen calls Robert Kennedy and says, "Look, get the FBI off my back! - they got this guy, Herbert Huncke, they wanna lay pot on him and plant it in my house, so I get busted". And bam! - never again did it happen to Allen. Now that's a fact of life."

St Mark's Poetry Project, Jan 10 1996 - Huncke (looking back on incarceration): "It could have been any time from, well say, roughly '47 or '45 might be that far back, to about '54" - Gregory: "Yeah, I went there, 17 years old, I was 17. I left at 19". Huncke: "I never saw you" - Gregory: You were '54, man, you were fucking 1954. You know where I was (then)? - I was at Princeton. I was fucked out of Harvard..what are you talking about?...I don't care about the age of people. If I can put my parents down so I can put (down) you. See, I know this system, it's good. But these fuckers are heavy-weight too."

Legendary book-seller, Roger Richards speaks on camera about Huncke - Huncke himself tells his story - Gregory again:
"..And that, I think, Chicago, put the Beats on the map. When we gave a poetry reading there, in 1958, it was in every newspaper.. that was the big one.. it was Chicago that did it.. they loved us..everything, Time magazine, all the papers there, and all that, we were on the biggest, famous shows there.. it was a breakthrough. And Ginsberg and I hit it off without even planning. What we did was, he read his "Howl" poem, which was heavy-weight serious, and I read my "Marriage" poem, which is heavy-weight-serious-funny. So.. And we both put each other down. Me and Ginsberg yelled at each other (so) that they couldn't touch us. For instance, one of the people in the audience said (Gregory mimics prissy accent here) "Mr Ginsberg, Why is there so much homosexuality in your poetry?", and Allen said, "Because I'm queer, madam!" - yuk, yuk,yuk, I mean there was no way they could touch us, no way.."

Huncke on queer friendships - more Roger Richards on Corso and Huncke ("(two) guys that never think of anything but the moment..I envy them..") - Huncke reminiscing again - Roger Richards on hipster argot - and attitude - and authenticity. Corso reads from "The Whole Mess..Almost" - Roger Richards: ("Nobody writes like Gregory I swear, you wouldn't even believe it, it just.. they come out whole..") - Herbert on traveling and finding (a) home - footage of vintage 42nd Street - Roger Richards: ("I always assumed that he (Huncke) and Gregory had known each other a long time, but they didn't really know each other, and, as they got to know each other, Gregory wound up with a terrific kind of respect for Herbert, you know, as this old guy who knows.."
"There was a guy who went through his garbage every day, looking for a bag of dope, empty bags of dope, not the police, him, so he could write about it and sell it to the newspapers" - "I was in the big prison that he ended up in before I went there, even tho' he is older than me. Yes, let me tell you (about) that one, that's a big one - of course - ok, he ended up, Mr Herbert Huncke, in Dannemora prison. He entered when I left and that's a fact of life. I entered Dannemora prison, Clinton prison, at the Canadian border, in 1947, at the beginning of '47 - I had to do two to three years. I entered the youngest (they told me) ever in that prison, and I left the youngest ever in that prison (I left at 19). When I got to talk to Herbert about his prison days, he had mentioned that he had ended Dannemora, and I said, "oh, really? what year?" (turns to Bernardi: "do you have any idea?, did you ever ask him that? - (no?) well, why the fuck didn't you ask him that?, these are important things about people's lives - like I got a one-up-manship on that 76-year-old bastard and I'm 62, that's a one-up-manship!") (strains his ear)..he went in 79? - he is 79? - even more so, even more, he's a 79-year-old fart and here I am a 62-year-old angel! Anyway.. being in Dannemora prison, the heaviest prison in New York State, ok.. -

Herbert Huncke, on prison: "It's "the Tombs"'s a matter of adjustment..".."don't always be a victim" - Roger Richards historicizes again - Huncke, on "the Beats": "I would never have known them unless I'd had a criminal record, in all probability. I think they came looking for excitement vicariously. Why would they have been interested in 42nd Street and what they thought was the underworld at that time? (I represented the underworld for them.) They thought they'd gotten real close to it, close to the real thing, to put it that way.So that's how it affected them." - Gregory, on Times Square: "I used to hang around there in 1942 and '43, when the war was on, and I was a 12-year-old, 13-year-old who ran away from home, and I would get money and food from these old faggots who would come by and pick me up to take me out to eat - and then I'd run (I never had sex with the sonuvabitches!), but I'd eat first, I knew that game. In fact, that was where I was busted to go to Dannemora, (I)was living on 42nd Street (and that hotel is still there, 42nd and 9th Avenue), ok? ..(I was part of a? walky-talk gang?) and they popped us.
I never encountered in those days, when I hung around that area..which is the most deplorable area to hang around, I mean only the lowest of the low hang around there, if you got nothing to offer society or even themselves, (they) hang around there, to burn people, to steal from them, to hustle them, all of that kind of shit - and that's where Herbert hung around? - there was nothing classy there..if he had hung around Greenwich Village, he might have had the ball-game (sic)" - Herbert replies: ("It wasn't my place. I didn't want to see the village. I told you why. I was kind of fed-up with the so-called "bohemian" scene") - Roger Richards (what Huncke brought to the Beats) - "I think that I started them all moving, frankly. They certainly were a dead-beat bunch, other than verbalization, when I first met them, all of them" - Roger Richards (on his influence on Kerouac) - Huncke himself (recollecting Kerouac) - Gregory, the poet (reading (from) "Puma In Chapultepec Zoo") - Roger Richards (on Huncke's prose) - Huncke reading ("..time doing as we desired..") - "You said it, that's it, that's it" - two "Original Beats" - Huncke and Gregory shake hands.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday's Weekly Round-Up 34

[Allen Ginsberg - painting by Chris O'Neal - from Howl! Festival - Art Around The Park, 2011]

First, belatedly, to note the recent Ginsberg meme - substitute "Murdoch" for "Moloch" in Howl. Here's Mitch Myers proposal of the "Mash-Up" (from the Hollywood Reporter)..

and here's Dennis Potter's scathing indictment of (Rupert) Murdoch a good many years earlier, 1994, to be precise, in his haunting last interview

We were also unnerved by this photographic evidence!

Most "mashers" seem to be content with using James Franco's recitation of Howl. We would, of course, draw your attention to this - and, indeed, this. For more, see our Howl pages on our parent site, Allen - here (audio-visual) and here (other, written, materials).

Our friend, Michael Rothenberg reminds us of the gathering energies for (only a couple of months away) - September 24th - an ambitious international declaration - 100 Thousand Poets For Change:
"Poets around the world are planning individual events to take place simultaneously on that date in a demonstration/celebration of poetry to promote social and political change".
"So far, over 325 cities, representing 65 countries have signed up to make this global initiative a success,through poetry readings, political demonstrations, community picnics, awareness events, parades and more".
More details (including details on the multiple events and locations) may be found on their web-site here
- and here are daily news updates.

Eliot Katz's "Ginsberg Turn On" (we mentioned it last week) is now up and available here

Upcoming soon - publication of Allen's 1975 lecture, Spiritual Poetics (more details on that forthcoming)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Allen and Bob in Renaldo and Clara (ASV # 13)

[2012 update - Renaldo and Clara, Bob Dylan's "classic subterranean film", despite these notes, remains strictly under copyright, unreleased, and (the many "bootlegs" circulating, notwithstanding), strictly unavailable. The video-clip that first appeared on this post was from an unauthorized source and has been taken down. Likewise, our somewhat forward presentation (via the Dangerous Minds blog) of the whole movie (in this post of February 2012). A brief clip (Allen and Dylan famously at Jack Kerouac's grave in Lowell) can be glimpsed here (it's one of the "extras" on Jerry Aronson's - The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg). Otherwise, understandable curiosity notwithstanding, the film is "buried", and, despite persistent rumors, no plans that we know about are afoot for its release]

Allen writing to his father, Louis
(from Michael Schumacher’s under-appreciated dual-biography, Family Business: Two Lives In Letters And Poetry):

Newport, Rhode Island Nov 4 1975

Dear Louis,

Beautiful day with Dylan in Lowell Mass, beginning early afternoon visiting Kerouac’s grave plot and reading the stone,”He honored the world” - We stood in the November sun brown leaves flying in wind, & read poems from Mexico City Blues, then we sat down, Dylan played my harmonium, Peter beside him, and we traded lines improvising a song to Kerouac underground beneath grass and stone. Then Dylan played Blues chords on his guitar while I improvised a ten stanza song about Jack looking down with empty eyes from clouds – Dylan stopped guitar to stuff a brown leaf in his breast pocket while I continued solo voice and he picked up his guitar to pluck it on the beat perfect to the end of my stanza – little celestial inspired ditty on Kerouac’s grave - all recorded for movie (sic), then shot many other scenes in Catholic statue grotto Jack wrote about, near an orphanage, Dylan conversing w/statue of Christ..

Allen and Peter and Dylan and hommages to Jack (as the Rolling Thunder tour passed through Lowell). Ken Regan, the official photographer took pictures of the scene in front of the grave, and of the tour.
(Sam Shepherd's Rolling Thunder Logbook and Larry "Ratso" Sloman's On The Road With Bob Dylan are the two (so far) essential written documentary records).
The documentation, the filmed documentation - 1978's Renaldo and Clara (now, see above, presently not available)

Here's Janet Maslin's contemporaneous New York Times review (following a brief theatrical showing).
Here's James Calamine's informative essay (bewailing its status as a "lost classic", "an obscure gem..buried in a vault", "Dylan's classic subterranean film") - "Bob Dylan's Renaldo and Clara - Asleep In The Tomb"

& from the sound-track:

Dylan (to Allen): Ever been to Chekhov's grave?
AG: No, but I've been to Mayakovsky's in Moscow. What graves have you seen?
Dylan: ..Er..Victor Hugo's grave..
AG: I used to haunt graveyards in Paris. I went to see Apollinaire's grave.. So [pointing to Kerouac's grave] that's what's gonna happen to you?
Dylan: No, I want to be in an unmarked grave.

As Calamine notes, "For faithful fans and scholars, this one scene (alone) redeems years spent searching for this rare film".

A second (fugitive) clip from the film, included here [still up - but for how long?] shows several of the company gathered together around a picnic table (as the sun sets (or rises?) behind them, picturesquely, on the water) - Idle banter ("I think I've lost my charisma". "No, here it is").
"I'll teach you how to meditate?", Allen offers - Surprisingly (?) the group takes him up on his suggestion - and ("Yeah yeah baby, go go baby/ bop shoo-wop, doo-wah diddy"), he and Peter lead them all in a spirited improvised chant:

The rumor that it (the whole, approximately 4-hour, movie) might be imminent on DVD (a rumor, we confess, we helped fan) seems to have been just that - it turns out - a rumor [see above - there are no plans that we know about for "official" DVD release] - here's the most recent denial in Variety (which informs us, in passing, of another book, Sid Griffin's Shelter From The Storm).