Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Collected Poems of Lew Welch

Ring of Bone, by Lew Welch Photo: City Lights / SF

We mentioned it on Friday but we thought it important enough to mention again (and to give it its own post) - Ring of Bone - The Collected Poems of Lew Welch, (an expanded edition of the old Grey Fox Press book) was published last month by City Lights (with an introduction by Gary Snyder - that introduction may be read in its entirety here). This new edition includes "photos, a biographic time-line and a statement of poetics gleaned from Welch's own writings".

As we noted on Friday, a gathering for the book took place recently at the San Francisco Public Library featuring Gary Snyder, Joanne Kyger & others.
Reports on and photos from the evening may be seen here and here.

Jonah Raskin's review in the San Francisco Chronicle may be read here, Jeff Baker's in The Oregonian here. Andrew Burke, on his blog, Hi Spirits, here, and Jessica Cornola on htmlGiant here

Meantime, for links to original audio sources, we'd draw your attention here, to our earlier post, Lew Welch Speaks From Beyond The Grave
(not, of course, that there ever was a grave!)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Lenore Kandel (1932-2009)

Lenore Kandel ( 1932-2009)
We’ve been meaning to feature this and come to it a few months late, perhaps (it was published in the Spring by North Atlantic Books, and launched with a memorable reading at the Beat Museum this past May (highlights from that - Brenda Knight, ruth weiss, Gerald Nicosia... - here, here and here).
First, a tip of the hat to Don Wentworth and his comprehensive review/overview on Issa’s Untidy Hut.
Here’s Lenore, reading from the opening section of the book - her ground-breaking spiritual-erotic celebration from 1966, "The Love Book" - "Love poems, which", as she points out, "had a very strange effect, since they were arrested by the police!"
Here’s another beautiful interview-document. Lenore, from 2007, two years before her death, (in conversation with the Spaniard, Carlos Fresneda - and gorgeously and tenderly illustrated with a lovingly-compiled slide-show by Isaac Hernandez) – “My only desire is to have no desire..” – "I'm serious but I play" - She reads "Beast Parade" (part of her poem, “Circus”, from Word Alchemy (1967)) - "love me, love my elephant".
"If my head is holy, my asshole is holy" (recalling "Footnote to Howl")
Here’s her obit note in the San Franciscan papers (and here’s a pleasingly-extensive one from the London Independent)
We’ll conclude with this charming memory of Lenore from her neighbor, Stephanie Salter - "I did suspect...that she'd been a bohemian in her day. I had no idea how much of a bohemian until I read her obituary".

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Trent Harris' Allen Ginsberg Interview

So here's a lost little You Tube gem (it's been up since December of 2010 apparently!). The message here is, please, spell-Allen's-name-right! - it's Allen Ginsberg! (and Ginsberg not Ginsburg!) - That necessary kvetch out of the way, it has to be said, this is a curiously charming, and delightfully intimate, piece. Trent Harris manages to coax out of Allen an extraordinary honesty and candor (and the clips of him reading are pretty great too).

In 1979 Trent Harris, as he declares, "was lucky enough to spend three days my favorite free radical...We talked about beatniks, politics, and love."

Here follows a transcript:
tape begins with Allen reading excerpt from "America" - "America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies/ America I used to be a communist when I was a kid I'm not sorry/ I smoke marijuana every chance I get/ I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet"
AG: Well nobody could ever be a beatnik, it was just a phrase, a label that people put on people, like "Republican", "Democrat", "Communist", "Anarchist", "Faggot", "Straight", "Beat".
TH: It's not a philosophy? one that adheres to.. a life-style?
AG: No, I used to get letters from kids in high-school saying, "I want to join the Beatniks, how do I do that?", and I would write, "Read Rimbaud".. people, kids in high school would write me in the '50's, so I'd say.. I'd write back postcards saying, "Read Rimbaud's "Season in Hell", Herman Melville's "Moby Dick", "Billy Budd", and "Bartleby the Scrivener", read Dostoevsky's "(The) Idiot", read (The) Diamond Sutra by Buddha - and then I'd say (Jack) Kerouac wrote a great essay called "Origins of the Beat Generation", telling people to go and see W.C.Fields and go see Harpo Marx, with his angelic hair, playing harp
Allen cross-legged with aboriginal songsticks reading excerpt from "Ayers Rock/Uluru Song" "When the raindrop dries/ worlds come to their end"
AG: People who were called "Beat" had what might be called a planetary consciousness, the vision of us as that living blue eyeball as seen from the moon, as a living creature, a flash of the vastness of the space that we inhabit, of the transitoriness of our existence here, a kind of glory or joy in being aware of it and waking up in the middle of the sleep of America, realizing that we weren't in America, we were on the planet, and we weren't even on earth, we were in eternity.
Allen reads a further excerpt from "America" - "America you don't really want to go to war/ America it's them bad Russians/ Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians./ The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia's power-mad. She wants to take our oil fields from Persia from outside of our oil machinery [Allen's additional line] She wants to take our cars from out our garages./ Her wants our Central America [additional line]/Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Readers Digest.../ America this is quite serious/ America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set/ America is this correct/ I'd better get right down to the job."
TH: Do you love this country?
AG: Like my mother. Sure. My mother died in the madhouse and I'm afraid this country is going the same way, but I love my mother.
AG reading excerpt from "Verses Written for Student Antidraft Registration Rally 1980" "only helpless Draftees fight afraid, big meaty negroes trying not to die -/ The Warrior knows his own sad and tender heart which is not the heart of most newspapers/ Which is not the heart of most Television - This kind of sadness doesn't sell popcorn/ This kind of sadness never goes to war, never spends $100 Billon on MX Missile systems never fights shadows in Utah/ never with Strategic Air Command near Colorado Springs / hides inside a hollow mountain/ waiting orders that he press the Secret button to Blow up the Great Cities of Earth"
TH: Do you think your poems are going to have an effect on politics?
AG: Well, probably - they have had in the past, not through the effect on politics but also the effect on consciousness, the appeal to some common sense and common ground of understanding, common emotions, like, if at the time... It's not so much politics, it's culture, like culture revolution. Like Plato said, "When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake" [Ed Sanders cites this as coming, actually, from Tuli Kupferberg, "adapted (and considerably improved) from Damon of Athens circa 460 BC"]. When people begin to hear a new rhythm, when they begin to think a new way, then that affects the external political forms.
AG reads couplet from Capitol Air - "No hope Communism, no hope Capitalism Yeah/ Everybody's lying on both sides Nyeah nyeah nyeah"
Allen seen hitching a ride in the Colorado mountains
TH: I'm starting to get a feel for the kind of person you are..I think
AG: Uh-huh. I don't. I don't who I am?
TH: You don't know who you are?
AG: Absolutely no idea who I am anymore. I gave up all idea of that a long time ago.
TH: What do you mean by that?
AG: Well, I don't seem to have a fixed identity. I seem to have a lot of thoughts that go through my head and recurrent patterns but the biggest question I started asking myself when I was at grammar-school was "Who am I?", and I never did find an answer, fortunately.
TH: Fortunately?
AG: Yeah. So that left things wide open for lots of space and lots of..
TH: What do you mean, you're Allen Ginsberg, the poet..
AG: That's my name..
TH: You're Allen Ginsberg, the teacher.
AG: A lot of people come up to me and say, "Are you Allen Ginsberg?" and I say, "No, that's my name!"
AG reads excerpt from "Song" -" The warm bodies/ shine together/ in the darkness/ the hand moves/ to the center/ of the flesh/ the skin trembles/ in happiness/ and the soul comes/ joyful to the eye/ yes, yes/ that's what/ I wanted/ I always wanted,/ I always wanted/ to return/ to the body/ where I was born"
TH: Are you lonely?
AG: Of course. Everybody's lonely. That's the beauty of life, that sense of lonely solitariness in the immensity of space that we live in. "I am proud to be lonely, I am best lonely" [Allen parodies here William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe" - "I was born to be lonely/ I am best so"]
AG reads excerpt from "Why Is God Love, Jack?" - "Why is God Love, Jack? - Because I lay my/ head on pillows/ Because I weep in the/ tombed studio/ Because my heart/ sinks below my navel.."
AG: Is love painful? Sure it is, an ache in the heart.
TH: Are you in love right now..
AG: Yes
TH: ..with anyone? Who are you in love with?
AG: About six people..
TH: At least six?
AG: ..but I wouldn't want to tell who they were unless I embarrass them (except Peter Orlovsky, who's un-embarass-able! - I have a crush.. I have a crush every day!
TH: How do you know when you're in love?
AG: It's this sort of aching feeling in the heart, a deep heavy feeling in the heart, and a sort of spooning day-dreamy Err [groans]!
TH: Sounds miserable.
AG: No, I enjoy it. Don't you ever get that way?
TH: Yeah, I.. that's how I know when I'm in love.
AG: Well, I think everybody gets that, but..
I think I get a crush nearly every day . Just seeing someone walking on the street.[three young men cross by the car]. I could be in love with a couple of those guys over there.
[Allen hectors from Boulder Varsity Townhouse fire-escape balcony] - "There's a Buddhist coming up the street, banging on his drum, get him on the camera! - "Ho - Hum - Ginsberg - nam myoho renge kyo" [Allen quotes from the Lotus Sutra] - back in the car - improvises
"Oh-ho for the mind that takes all in its turn/ oh-ho for the world which has not yet burned/ oh-ho for the fact that we all are alive/ oh-ho some of them have boyfriends and some of them have wives/ oh-ho for the voice that keeps singing along/ oh ho for Foothills Gardens, its cemetery song/ oh-ho for the life that persists for a while/ oh-ho for the pond down there half a mile/oh-ho for the space that gives us a place/ to roll in our truck and continue the race"
Allen reads excerpt from "Guru" - "It is the moon that disappears/It is the stars that hide not I"

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 84

[Nina Kosoff (Ginsberg Recordings) and Peter Hale (Allen Ginsberg Estate), at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, on the occasion of the official launch of Ginsberg Recordings, July 17, 2012. Photo: Michelle Peralta]

The Esther Creative Group and the Allen Ginsberg Estate recently celebrated the launch of the newly-established label, Ginsberg Recordings, with a stellar evening at New York's Gagosian Gallery, featuring speeches/contributions/recollections from Bob Rosenthal, David Amram, Hettie Jones and Hal Willner. Jameson Fitzpatrick gives it a detailed write-up (including a fine portfolio of photographs) on the Lambda Literary blog, here.

The recent Lew Welch night in San Francisco (at the San Francisco Public Library, for the new City Lights edition of, his "Collected Poems", Ring of Bone), was, by all accounts, a grand success. Gary Snyder, Joanne Kyger, David Meltzer, Peter Coyote, and step-son Huey Lewis (sic) were among those who participated. There's an account (again, with photos) on the City Lights blog (and also another report, by Steve Helig, on the Huffington Post, here.

City Lights promises a podcast (audio) of that soon (we look forward to that). Meanwhile, check out their list of podcasts, including this vintage Lew Welch reading
- and this, two leading Ginsberg scholars, Bill Morgan and Gordon Ball, in conversation, recorded there, in San Francisco at the bookstore, just this past March.

Depressing news via our good friends at E.V.Grieve, the East Village local blog - 170 East 2nd Street - the apartment building where Allen wrote "Kaddish"! (there was even a plaque on the wall to that effect! - he lived in Apartment 16 from August 1958 to March 1961) is up for sale - at the ridiculously stratospheric price of $16.5 million!

Allen memories - We're always pleased to hear Allen memories. Here's Charles Peters in Washington Monthly - "I met Allen in October of 1946..."

The Catalan "Ode to Allen Ginsberg" (Oda a Allen Ginsberg) that appeared in El Pais last week (Javier Perez Andujar's excoriating Howl hommage) is pretty-much a must-read for those of you who speak Spanish - "He visto a las viejas de la generacion de mi madre robadas por los bamcos y las cajas de ahorros, enganadas, saqueadas, desplumadas, timidas.."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mind, Mouth and Page - 32

[William Carlos Williams - (1883-1963) - photograph courtesy the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library]

Student: You know in the introduction to Visions of Cody you talk about the karmic situation..

AG: Yeah

Student: Do you.. (and wondering about bad karma) what do you think.. what went wrong back in the '4o's..?

AG: Well, it didn't just start in the '40's. What I was talking about was somebody lands and deceives the Red Men, and steals the land, to begin with, so it never did belong to us - so that's why they were always looking for English manners and English poetry. (William Carlos) Williams finally comes along and writes this long book, In The American Grain, which recognizes how we took over the actual land by force, and therefore got this neurosis of not wanting to see the land, and not wanting to see what we had taken, and not actually wanting to live here, but wanting to live in that kind of mechanical dream-world, cellophane-wrapped with imports (from) England for thought, meter, poesy, music (and) philosophy, rather than having to deal with the tragic fact that we're trespassers in our own bodies, and in our own land.
So Williams was urging that (by) recognizing that fact, we recognize the awkwardness and weirdness of our presence here, which is why he dug (Edgar Allan) Poe, and all his other heroes (and so he's got (there) a list of heroes who understood America in his terms)

Student: Would (Gary) Snyder be one of them?

AG: Gary? - Well, Williams is one of Gary's heroes. Yeah, I suppose Snyder would somewhat belong to that, because they met, actually - and turned each other (on). I mean, Williams liked Snyder's poetry later. Yeah. Sure..

Student: Allen, Isn't it strange that the next poem in this series is..(a) completely artificial universe, it's a completely imaginary universe.

AG: Which?

Student: It's the one called "Quietness" , ((right) underneath "The Red Wheelbarrow"). It's like something out of Wallace Stevens more..than Williams

AG: Let's see. Okay. I've never noticed that poem (before) [Allen reads Williams' "Quietness" in its entirety] - "one day in Paradise/ a Gypsy/ smiled/to see the blandness/ of the leaves -/ so many/ so lascivious/and still" - Yeah, I've never understood (it). The leaves lascivious and still is sort of nice, but "one day in Paradise/ a Gypsy" sounds like e.e.cummings or something. It's less Williams' direct style, so I didn't emphasize it.
Am I missing anything? Got any thoughts? [turns to poet Larry Fagin, sitting in on the class]

Larry Fagin: "Rapid Transit"?

AG: Rapid Transit? - That - sounds like (Philip) Whalen - Rapid Transit - page 282 (in the Collected Earlier Poems) . This is where Whalen gets his.. actually, compare this with a poem in the Don Allen anthology, by Philip Whalen, "Big High Song for Berkeley", I think it's called [actually its correct title is "2 Variations: All About Love" - with the second section titled ("BIG HIGH SONG FOR SOMEBODY")] - [Allen reads Williams' poem, "Rapid Transit" in its entirety] - "Somebody dies every four minutes/ in New York State-/ To hell with you and your poetry - / You will rot and be blown/ through the next solar system/ with the rest of the gasses - / What the hell do you know about it..."..."..Take the Pelham Bay Park Branch/ of the Lexington Ave. (East Side)/ Line and you are there in a few/ minutes/ Interborough Rapid Transit" - Actually that particular poem did influence Whalen. - the sort of randomness, and the humor of just composing out of the subway lines.

"The Descent of Winter", which is, like, a classic exercise, again, in sketching (like the one we had on Sunday morning - remember Trungpa talked about taking a walk?, and then I read, following that, Williams' series of simple sketches?). Here he's a little older, so here's another series of perfect little vignette pieces.

Larry Fagin: Are you going to go through it systematically?

AG: Well in a couple of months (sic!), we'll be at "The Desert Music". We'll be in the desert in a couple of months! - Yeah? (so)..
"The Descent of Winter" - and that begins on page 297 - and it's a series of just little small fragments. He's not even trying to finish a poem anymore, just trying to get a little detail [Allen reads from the opening of "The Descent of Winter"] - "9/27 / My bed is narrow/ in a small room/ at sea/ The numbers are on/ the wall/ Arabic 1/ Berth No.2/ was empty above me..", reads through the first section but omits the final two words - "the moon"]

Student: "the moon"

AG: Pardon me?

Student: The last line of that.

AG: What? Where's the moon? [notes that the two words are printed on the following page, over the page, and so, easy to miss] - Ah! - there was something missing there - right - but what a foolish way of printing it!
[Allen continues reading from "The Descent of Winter" - "[9/30] / There are no perfect waves/ Your writings are a sea/ full of misspellings and/ faulty sentences. Level. Troubled".."There is no hope - if not a coral/ island slowly forming/ to wait for birds to drop/ the seeds will make it habitable" - There's no hope unless you accumulate many, many little details like the tiny cells of coral accumulate an island slowly forming to wait for others to pass by and drop their shit on it and make it habitable. In other words, he's saying you have to build up an entire universe of detail, at least a poetic universe , to be a poet, (to inhabit) a poetic universe. [Allen reads the next two sections of "The Descent of Winter" ] - "[10/9] / and there's a little blackboy/ in a doorway/...".."[10/10]... /the grass is long/ October tenth/ 1927" - So that's as far as he'd gotten by 1927. [Allen reads "[10/21]"] - "In the dead weeds a rubbish heap/ aflame...".."they should not have to suffer/ as younger people must and do/ there should be a truce for them" - Actually, the object there is his own compassionate thoughts about old folks. [reads "[10/22]" - "that brilliant field/ of rainwet orange..".."and a young dog/ jumped out/of the old barrel" -
["10/28"] - "On hot days/ the sewing machine/ whirling.".."and men at the bar/talking of the strike/ and cash"] - jumping (to) "[11/1]" - "The moon, the dried weeds/ and the Pleiades.." - Page 303 - "two/ gigantic highschool boys/ ten feet tall" - A broad advertisement, with the "dried weeds" and the Pleiades all about. It's a very funny combo. It's (something he saw off) a highway in New Jersey, (perhaps)?

Student: What?

AG: A billboard. A billboard advertisement off of a highway in New Jersey, surrounded by dried weeds. But then there's a description of the dark dry weed stalks [Allen reads from "[11/2]" - "Dahlias -/ What a red/ and yellow and white/ mirror to the sun, round/ and petaled..".."is this Washington Avenue Mr, please/ or do I have to/ cross the tracks?"

Student: Did he get turned on by photographs, by stills?

AG: Yeah, that's why he was hanging around with this guy Stieglitz.

Student: It seems a lot of them are. like, stills, still photographs..

AG: Yeah

Student: ..sort of Walker Evans

AG: I think he probably took that as a form, sketching, or still photography. What I like are the almost minimal little sketch details, because they're sort of the endless practice that anybody can do. Then, occasionally, there'll be some burst of a larger ambition, like..

Student: Wouldn't you say, though.. why not take a photograph of it?

AG: Well, you're beginning, practicing with language, to see if you can build a coral island out of all the little cellular details, to see if you can build a consciousness of speech, a speech-consciousness". You're practicing a speech consciousness not an eyeball consciousness. Photography would be an eyeball-consciousness. The poem would be speech-consciousness and a refinement of speech.

Larry Fagin: They're almost exactly the same.

AG: Yeah.

Larry Fagin: Different qualities of framing in them.

AG: Framing, definitely.

Larry Fagin: Framing

AG: Framing your mind, in this case. Framing the language of your mind.
You remember, at the very beginning, he dipped his hand in the filthy Passaic,
and the Passaic consented to him to be(ing) the muse of the river. Then years later,
1927, (the) Passaic River in Paterson... [Allen reads next '[11/8]" - "O river of my heart polluted/and defamed..".."That river will be clean/ before ever you will be" -]
Talking about "O river of my heart".

But then there's a funny outburst, more like the (19)60's, he gets political - the Sacco and Vanzetti case - a thing called "Impromptu: The Suckers", which is, like, a really prophetic, little, anti- police-state, radical shot for Williams. Very vulgar for Williams, but full of energy and full of good intentions. Actually, what's interesting is the stubborn, straightforward, citizen-ly, toughness about him here - "The Suckers" - meaning the entire nation at this point, the guys who voted for Nixon (sic). or the guys that were in favor of executing two anarchist fellows accused of a bomb plot - Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti [Allen reads "Impromptu: The Suckers" in its entirety"] - "Take it out in vile whiskey/ take it out/ in lifting your skirts to show your silken/ crotches...".."..No one/ can understand what makes the present age/ what it is. They are mystified by certain/ insistences" - So that's, like, a great tirade, that would deal right now with (the) Wounded Knee trial, or any of the Conspiracy trials, or the present sort of police-state situation. And Williams' take on it, with all the details of the Sacco and Vanzetti (case), and then his peroration, and his energy on it - like one of the few great common-sense breakthroughs (but it's also vulnerable Williams, getting mad and angry, like a good citizen. A funny model of a poem.
And there's a weird prophetic seriousness.up [Allen quotes from the poem] - "Why, when a cop steps up and grabs/ you at night you just laugh and think it's/ a hell of a good joke/ ..It is there and it's loaded". That line - "It's there and it's loaded". The situation.
I always thought this was a really amazing poem for him following "The pure products of America go crazy". Those two. Apparently, at the time, he got prophetic - he began getting prophetic about America. Yes?

Student: Um.., what do you think of the form of that?, the way it's written?, because it's.. I mean, it's very interesting in that sense. It's broken down as a poem all along with these mock paragraphs here..

AG: I'll bet you it was written in prose.

Student: Pardon?

AG: I'll bet you it was written in prose and then he chopped it up. It would be interesting to know. It looks like.. oh, blank verse - just the eye on the page makes it look like blank verse. Of course, the actual speech is much more variable than Shakespeare's blank verse. I don't know how he arrived at this. It's one of the first pieces that are of that kind, with a thick line.. (except for the moving imagination of Russia and (that) other thing I read, (in) "Paterson" originally, "No ideas but in things" - That has the same form - on page 233, the form is similar, that is, a thick line on the page because he's got a lot to say, a lot of talking to do.
That was one of the things that turned me on to my own style, though it's one of the grosser elements in Williams. But it's also one of the most charming things he did - that he let himself open and laid out that vulnerable angry tirade. It also shows you that people - that is 19.. (well, I think it's before '34 - I think 1927 or '28) - it shows you how traditional.. how there was a break in consciousness in America all the way back then, in the late '20's and early '30's, of this kind of police-state paranoia, heavy-metal Burroughsian awareness. In fact it was pretty strong then among the anarchists, among the literary Bohemians of that day in America. A realization of the difference between the political front and the radical awareness. So it's just radicalism coming out. But that radical awareness of the difference between the political front as presented by the judges, the university trustees, and what was actually going on in the back rooms of the courts and the jails. It's amazing how solid his perception is there, and how valid that is now.
So, leaving it on that, I'll quit the class for the day...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mind, Mouth and Page - 31

William Carlos Williams - (1883-1963) - photograph courtesy the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library]

Ginsberg on Williams continues

[Allen continues this August 1975 Naropa class by reading Williams’ “The Right of Way”] – “In passing with my mind/ on nothing in the world/ but the right of way/ I enjoy on the road by/ virtue of the law - / I saw/ an elderly man who/ smiled and looked away”…”Why bother where I went?/ For I went spinning on the/ four wheels of my car..”

Student: Did he crash?

AG: Pardon me?

Student: Did he crash?

AG: I don’t think so. He doesn’t even have a period (at the end of the poem).
Here’s another – to a jaundiced old woman - [Allen reads in its entirety Williams’ “To An Old Jaundiced Woman”] – “O tongue/ licking/ the sore on/ her nether lip/ O toppled belly/ O passionate cotton/ stuck with/ matted hair/ elsian slobber/ upon/ the folded handkerchief..”..I can’t die/ I can’t die” - That’s a doctor taking notes, probably on his prescription pad, from the size of the line (because he did write a lot on his prescription pad). “Elsian” – (that’s) his own personal mythological..

Student: Maybe it’s a Greek allusion?

AG: No no no. Why don’t you let me answer, because I do know the answer - his own personal mythological dumb used slattern servant-girl-broad who gets tragically fucked-up by life. And in “The Pure Products of America Go Crazy” [a.ka. “To Elsie] he has that again – “some Elsie, (sic), some doctor’s servant with cheap young jewellery addressed to rich young men’s fine eyes..” [the exact quote is “..addressed to cheap/ jewellery/ and rich young men with fine eyes”] ..”who’s screwed under a hedge of viburnum or choke-cherry and sent out to work in some doctor’s family..” [“..succumbing without/ emotion/ save numbed terror/ under some hedge of choke-cherry/ or viburnum..”..”sent out at fifteen to work in/ some hard-pressed/ house in the suburbs – some doctor’s family, some Elsie –“] - “Some Elsie”, he says. So he’s made an adjective here out of it - “elsian slobber”. His poem beginning “The pure products of America/ go crazy” has “Elsie” as a character. In fact, that’s coming up next, on (page) 270.. I read part of it in the last session, but for those who weren’t here, we can go through it again [Allen reads “To Elsie” in its entirety] – ““The pure products of America/ go crazy”..”No one/ to witnesss/ and adjust, no one to drive the car.” – That was his presentation of he karmic situation of America actually - “Imaginations which have no/ peasant traditions to give them/ character”..”we degraded prisoners/ destined/ to hunger until we eat filth” - Yeah?

Student: You’ve spoken before about Williams, you know, how he spent his life, and that he didn’t have that much time to write, except he would carry a pad around with him, like going to the hospital to get an I-V and stuff, you know, (scribbling) on the roadside or something, and I wonder, how much that influenced, like, the mass of his work, and these shorter poems..

AG: Yeah. The short line is probably determined either (by) the short notebook or prescription pad that he used..

Student: Yeah, right. I’m wondering how much…

AG: ..which, in a way, is what we began (discussing)..

Student: And he would write on Sunday(s)?

AG: Of course he would.

Student: ..Sunday(s) was the only (full) day..that he had to write..

AG: So there’s a whole series of Sunday poems…

Student: Oh yeah?

AG: ..that we were going through. That was logical, yeah.

Student: How much.. was there a connection.. had you read that [“To Elsie”] when you started “Howl”?

AG: Yes, I had read (it). I had that very much in mind when I wrote “Howl”. I’m glad you saw the correlation - his understanding of the imagination, that is, his freedom of imagination, his recognition of the beauteous necessity of imagination. The imagination (is where) at least we’re free. If we are stuck and hemmed in by what seem to us facts, still there is the heart’s imagination, and the mind’s imagination, of what we actually desire (here defined as “..deer/ going by fields of goldenrod in/ the stifling heat of September” - that is, a free life, in the open) - but “as if the earth under our feet/ were/ an excrement of some sky/ and we degraded prisoners/ destined/ to hunger until we eat filth” seemed to me like the whole karmic condition of America when I discovered this poem in the ’50s.
Another little turn of the imagination, the sexual imagination, “Horned Purple” [Allen reads Williams’ poem, “Horned Purple” in its entirety] – “This is the time of yeat/ when boys fifteen and seventeen. Wear two horned lilac blossoms/ in their caps – or over one ear”..”Out of their sweet heads/ dark kisses – rough faces” – That’s really sweet. That last line - Out of their sweet heads/ dark kisses – rough faces” (is a) funny thing for him to come to. He finally got the essence of the adolescent desirousness there, and actually the old satyric meaning (of) “Horned Purple”. I always liked that.
Then right soon after that comes that one moment when his attention is totally fixed on “The Red Wheelbarrow” [Allen reads "The Red Wheelbarrow"]. So I always figured “so much depends” meaning his whole mind depends on being able to see it, or the entire universe, or a clear apprehension of the entire universe, or just being there in the universe depends on – I heard a fly buzz when I died" - Like the Emily Dickinson line - “I heard a fly buzz when I died”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mind, Mouth, and Page - 30 (WCW on EP, EP on WCW)

[William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) - photograph courtesy the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library]

AG: Read the thing. (Read Williams). (It’s) a review (in his Selected Essays) of (Ezra) Pound. He’s not yes/no. I mean, it’s not a black-and-white deal. He’s saying Pound is trying to make use of what can be made use of – the excellence of the classics – “It is in this case a master meter that wishes to come out of the classic(s), but at the same time to be bent to and incorporate the rhythms of modern speech…It succeeds and not. It does, and it fails” - He’s saying that there’s certain elements of it that really are great and make it, and (that) the guy has worked on Greek and is making use of Greek quantitative measures, and then, but at the same time, with the sound of someone actually talking (because Williams once told me that Pound has “a mystical ear” – an ear so fine - that his ear was so subtle, that it was like a mystical ear – he cold hear things, gradations of vowels, he could hear length of vowels, that other people wouldn’t notice, and he could get the vowels balanced from line to line so that he could work with vowels as the measure of the line, as other people couldn’t. So Williams isn’t putting him down. He’s examining what Pound is trying to do. Pound is trying to make a new kind of American measure based on approximation of classical quantity.

Student: You’re referring to poems that Pound wrote in Personae

AG: No, here it’s Williams review of A Draft of XXX Cantos – 1931

Student: Oh

AG: First draft of the first cantos – “Pound has attempted an ambitious use of language for serious thought, without...the cloistering of words, and acceptance, and by his fine ear attempting to tune them, excluding nothing. He has succeeded against himself. He has had the difficulties of training to overcome, which he will not completely undo" - So he is sort of putting him down a little - "In himself at least, if that were all, but the words reveal it: white-gathered, sun-dazzle, rock pool, god sleight, sea swirl, sea break, vine trunk, vine must, pin rack, glass glint, wave runs, salmon pink, dew haze, blue shot, green gold, green ruddy, eye glitter, blue deep, wine red, water shift, rose paleness, wave cords, churn stick. We have, examining the work, successes (greatness) and first molds, clear cut, never turgid but following the heated trivial, staying cold classical but swift with the movement of thought.It stands out from all other verse by a faceted quality that is not muzzy, painted, wet. It is dry clean use of words. Yet look at the words; they are themselves not dead. They have not been violated by thinking. They have been used, willingly, by thought. Imagistic use is entirely passed out of them. There is almost no use of simile or allegory" - no allegory - "The word has been used in its plain sense to represent a thing, remaining thus loose in its context, not gummy, when at its best. An objective unit in the design, but alive. Pound has taken them up, if it may be risked, this simile, alertly, swiftly, but with a feeling for the delicate living quality in them. Not disinfecting them, scraping them, but careful of the life. The result is that they stay living, but discrete. Or almost" - Then he puts him down (just) a little - "For besides living passages there are places where he wrenches the words about for what ought to be their confirmation. But that's no matter, he has taken up language and raised it to a height where it may stand beside Artemis, the goddess. If that is not a purpose worthy of a poet and if Pound has not done it, then it isn't all. It's even, in a sense, a defect to want so much the Artemis thing, but Pound has lifted the language up as no one else has ever done, wherever he has lifted it, or whatever done to it in the lifting. His defects (dey's good, too) - D-E-Y-apostrophe-S good. In parenthesis - His defects (dey's good, too) are his inability to surmount the American thing, or his ability to do so without physical success, if that be preferred" - A very good criticism. He was really honest. (He) really registers the sort of turns of his mind. It's a very solid common-sense.
What I'd recommend if you want to know how Williams thinks - some of the "Prologue" to "Kora in Hell", probably a little bit on James Joyce ("Note On A Recent Work of James Joyce", back in 1927), the review of Pound ("Excerpt from a Critical Sketch, the Draft of XXX Cantos"), the little thing on Gertrude Stein - they're only a few pages each, they're little reviews that he wrote for "Contact" magazine, or whoever he was writing for then - "The Nation" - If you want to know about Marianne Moore, his is one of the best essays about Marianne Moore. A little bit about Gertrude Stein, yes, but, for the whole American background, that long essay on "America and Alfred Stieglitz in 1934" - And there's this little "Pound's Eleven Cantos" (and) a little thing on (Charles) Sheeler is a little bit more Americana and Imagism. There's a weird review.. if you like Carl Sandburg (anybody like him? know him? anybody read Carl Sandburg ever?)...so there's a weird review of Carl Sandburg, calling his entire range of poetry a complete desert, a featureless desert (with interesting poems, but featureless, in the sense that in the verse there was no attention paid to the actual composition of verse as speech - so there was no form given to the verse, and he (Williams) got more and more interested in some kind of American measure, or some kind of definiteness to the verse forms).

Student: What does Pound say about Williams?

AG: Well, there's all these great letters between Pound and Williams. Well, if you want to know how they related, sort of [Allen reads from Pound's idiosyncratic correspondence] - "Gawd knows I had to work hard enough to escape" - in Europe - "not propagand, but getting entered in propagand. And America? what the h--l do you a blooming foreigner know about the place, (Williams). Your pere only penetrated the edge and you've never been west of Upper Darby, or the Maunchunk Switchback. Would H(ilda Doolittle) with a swirl of the prairie wind in her underwear, or the Virile Sandburg recognize you, an effete easterner, as a REAL American? Inconceivable!!!! My dear boy you have never felt the woop of the PEEraries" - P-E-E-R-A-R-I-E-S - "You have never seen the projecting and protuberant M(oun)t(ain)s of the Sierra Nevada. WOT can you know of the country? You have the native credulity of a Co(unty) Clare emigrant. But I (der grosse Ich) have the virus" - sounds like Burroughs, actually - "..the bacillus of the land in my blood, for nearly three bleating centuries. (Bloody snob. 'eave a brick at 'im!!!)..I was very pleased to see your wholly incoherent unAmerican poems in "The Little Review". Of course Sandburg will tell you that you missed the big drifts, and (Maxwell) Bodenheim will object to your not being sufficiently decadent. You thank your bloomin gawd you've got enough Spanish blood to muddy up your mind, and prevent the current American ideation from going through it like a blighted colander. The thing that saves your work is opacity, and don't you forget it. Opacity is NOT an American quality. Fizz, swish, gabble and verbiage - this are echt americanisch. And alas alas, poor old Edgar Lee Masters. Look at the October issue of "Poetry".." - And so forth. So that's part of their..

Student: (This is) to Williams, or vice-versa?

AG: No, this is Pound to Williams. This is Ezra Pound writing to Williams, because (Pound) was born in Hailey, Idaho. Pound was really (from) Idaho, and Williams is just a second-generation (American). When Pound ran off to Europe it was (as) a real American, whereas Williams had this sort of guilty second-generation thing of trying. That's the whole point about Williams - because he was a foreigner, he was trying to talk in American. He was trying to figure out how people talked, actually. It was his advantage in a way.

Student: What's "opacity"?

AG: "Opacity". Now I wondered, I always wondered what he meant - Opacity? - What is Opacity? - I thought it was Transparency?

Student: You can see through it.

Larry Fagin (poet Larry Fagin, sitting in on the class): You cannot see through it!

AG: Yeah.

Larry Fagin: ...which he liked! - because most American poetry, you could see through

AG: Oh, totally see through it.

Larry Fagin: Totally see through everything which was going on..That's why he liked Williams because he...

AG: In the early Williams, there's a certain opaque quality.

Student: An interesting thing that happens there, culturally. Someone suggested that (Noam) Chomsky proved, rather inadvertently, that we all speak prosaic poetry..

AG: Uh-huh?

Student: ...rather (that is) than prose. The androids spoke prose and .. computers speak prose but... and I was thinking of those early Honda ads that were written by Japanese copywriters.. and they looked... there was something wrong with them, you know, they didn't come over, and I think that what was lacking was the lyrical aspect... and I think that this probably happens to people like Williams who are trying to become, you know, close to the culture, and they're not quite sure of all the rhythms that are present in the speech, but, of course, this is eventually.. if you're second-generation, this is probably just an apparent fear.. but not an actual fear.. even.. probably as well as first generation..

AG: But that fear was transformed into a real precise study of those rhythms actually. He finally got it better than...

Student: I (personally) didn't hear it, but I completely agree.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mind, Mouth and Page continues - 29

[Alfred Stieglitz (1964-1936) - photographed by Edward Steichen at the "291" Gallery, 1915]

Ginsberg on Williams continues

Let's see, page 289. Incidentally, I was talking about the American background. There's a long thing on (Alfred) Stieglitz (who I was talking about) - "The American Background - America and Alfred Stieglitz" - a long essay. If you want to check out what the common thinking was of all those people hanging around together, that'll give you the main gist of it.
There are a few other piths in this. [Allen begins reading from Williams' "Selected Essays"]
"Now we come to the question of the origin of our discoveries. Where else can what we are seeking arise from but speech? From speech, the American speech as distinct from English speech, or presumably so, if what I say above is correct. In any case, since we have no body of poems comparable to the English, we have to work from what we hear in America, not, that is, from a study of the classics - not even the American classics, the dead classics, which I remind you, we have never heard as living speech. No one has or can hear them as they were written any more than we can hear Greek today. I say this once again to emphasize what I have often said, that we must hear, listen to, the language for the discoveries we hope to make. This isn't the same as a hierarchical, or tapeworm, mode of making additions to the total poetic body, the mode of the schools. This will come up again elsewhere, it is there in the mouths of the living that language is changing and giving new means for expanded possibilities in literary expression, and, I add, in basic structure, the most important of all."
So this is his prescription for actually paying attention to our own sound, your own words coming out of your own mouth, and sort of doctor-scientist classifying, labeling, re-arranging
rhythms of your own talk, literally going back to the raw material of your own ears. He was writing here about W.H.Auden, a British poet who'd come to America, who Williams felt didn't quite make it, because he was still hearing an English speech. But what he was pointing out was that Auden came here because he knew the vigor of the speech here, as distinct from England, and that people were actually listening to their own talk here, and he was putting down (T.S.) Eliot for that reason because Eliot didn't exploit that possibility.
Now both on this point of the speech and on the point of beginning at the end of your nose - [Allen quotes Williams again] - "To be an artist.." (this is an introduction to the paintings of Charles Sheeler - Remember the "I saw the figure 5 in Gold" poem that we read the other day?)

Student: Wasn't that Charles Demuth?

AG: Demuth. Right. That's why I kept thinking it was Sheeler, because he wrote about Sheeler all the time. Right? It was a review of assembled paintings of Charles Sheeler in 1939 [Allen quotes Williams again] - "To be an artist, as to be a good artisan, a man must know his by a substitute materials, but in addition he must possess that really glandular perception of their uniqueness which realizes in them an end in itself, each piece irreplaceable by a substitute. Not to be broken down to another meaning, Not to pull out, transubstantiate, boil, unglue, hammer, melt, digest and psychoanalyze, not even to distill, but to see and keep what the understanding touches intact, as grapes surround and come in bunches. To discover and separate these things from the amorphous, the conglomerate normality with which they are surrounded, and of which, before the act of creation, each is a part, calls for an eye to draw out that detail which is in itself the thing, to clinch our insight, that is, our understanding of it. It "calls for an eye to draw out that detail which its in itself the thing, to clinch our insight, that is, our understanding of it". "It is this eye for the thing that most distinguishes Charles Sheeler, and, along with it, to know that every hair on every body, now or then, in its minute distinctiveness, is the same hair on everybody anywhere at any time, changed, as it may be, to a feather, quill or scale".
Are you following this? It's very funny. In fact, I have a little poem to illustrate it, so you can follow what he's saying. I'll read that little thing again (first though), for it's really acute - "It is this eye for the thing that most distinguishes Charles Sheeler, and, along with it, to know that every hair on every body, now or then, in its minute distinctiveness, is the same hair on everybody anywhere at any time, changed, as it may be, to a feather, quill or scale. The local is the universal" - "The local is the universal!" (he goes on) - "Look, that's where painting begins. A bird up above flying may be the essence of it but a dead canary, with glazed eye, has no less an eye, for that well seen becomes sight and song itself. It is in things that for the artist the power lies, not beyond them. Only where the eye hits does sight occur". Somebody handed me a little poem that illustrated that point - "The room lies quiet and still/ His gaze lights on a hair/ hanging from the lamp, waving gracefully" - That's like a funny little Williams poem (except for the funny way.. much lighter..a light refinement). Everybody get that? Is that clear to everybody? Anybody not hear that because they were day-dreaming or their minds weren't "clamped down on objects", or something? - okay, I'll read it one more time, yeah - "The room lies quiet and still/ His gaze lights on a hair/ hanging from the lamp, waving gracefully" - Just one tiny, simple, isolated detail, of somebody's long hair hanging from the lamp (I guess the guy's in bed, but, anyway, "the room lies quiet and still"), it's very nicely done. Did you like that? Did you hear it?

Student: Yeah

AG: That's (from) someone in class - David Cheatham (is David Cheatham here?) - Eero [Eero Ruuttila], that would be a great thing to get, in fact [for the NAROPA poetry mag, Sitting Frog]
So..so, I was reading page 233 of the "Selected Essays" [of William Carlos Williams], the "Introduction" to Charles Sheeler's show of paintings and drawings..

Student: Earlier, he (Williams) says similies never are.. They have virtually no place in "No ideas but in things"

AG: Yeah

Student: They tend to clutter up an image..

AG: Yeah

Student: So, you'd say for good poetry..

AG: Of this mode, yeah

Student: Yes, of this mode, (that) similes are kinda out ?

AG: Yeah. It would be more expressed by the action. Both Pound and Williams felt that. Of course they use them occasionally, but they try to eliminate the word "like" or "as"... they try to eliminate the syntactical trick of putting two things together by saying "like" or "as". They said, if you can do it by just putting them together without linking them up with a link word, if they actually jump together in the mind, then you've got it made. You can make a simile if you don't use the word "like" or "as" - like the famous Imagist poem by Pound - "the apparition of these faces on a train"..or? - what was it? - [turns to poet, Larry Fagin, who's sitting next to him in the class] - Do you remember that?

Larry Fagin: The apparition of these faces...

AG: ..in a crowd

Larry Fagin: ..in a crowd

Student: Petals on a wet, black bough.

AG: "Petals on a wet, black bough" - Called "The Subway" - " The apparition of these faces in the crowd..."

Student: At the Metro - "In a Station of the Metro"

AG: "In a Station of the Metro" - ok - Paris - in Paris subway. The point there was that he didn't use "is like" - he said - "The apparition of these faces in the crowd/ Petals on a wet, black bough."
So, first they revolted against making use of the traditional words "like" and "as", which were traditionally used to link anything with anything. So he said, "If you really want to link things up, you've got to make the things themselves link up in your mind, and don't make a metaphor like that..
Yeah? (you?) you're just holding up the wall. Yeah?

Student: Are metaphors.. equally suspect then?

AG: Yeah. Well, what's a metaphor (I forgot!) ?

Student: "Your thighs are apple-blossoms"

AG: Right, Yeah, Of course. "Your thighs are appletrees whose blossoms touch the sky". And the first thing that Williams did was (undercut it) - "Which sky?". He opened his poetic career by questioning that, that metaphor, by questioning that kind of use of metaphor. What they substituted was direct action, direct observation. Of course, that was what (Ernest) Hemingway was doing too, basically, I imagine.

Student: Have you read the first sentence in Hugh Kenner's The Pound Era?

AG: What did he say?

Student: Well, I can't remember it very well but it's something like.. I wrote it down here.. "Towards the end of the summer evening, the light etc, streaming or caught and held, two figures". Now this is very very very rough but what he's basically.. what it seems, when you read the sentence the sentence goes on and on, and it's significant because it also has that (Henry) James chord at the beginning..and the end is labyrinths, "caught and held". Of course,, it's James and Pound who are strolling on the street. When you read the sentence it appears that it's the context which is the subject. The fact that they are strolling, and all of these..images brought together so that the simile or the metaphorical aspect of the sentence is contained within the sentence itself. It's one of the most fantastic sentences I've ever read in the English language, you know..

Student: As James-ian as it can be. Yes.

AG: All of that study of Ezra Pound, he should have come up with something! If he did it in the first sentence, I guess one would have to read it to understand your description

Student: Yeah, I'd recommend it

AG: Okay, it's around, it's around in (the) bookstores

Student: The sentence, of course. My description is very inadequate to the sentence.

AG - Yeah? Anybody? Ok - one or two little more statements by Williams on Pound, since there was some question about Pound to begin with [Allen continues reading] - "The lines in Pound have a character that is parcel of the poem itself. It is in the small make-up of the lines that the character of the poem definitely comes, and beyond which it cannot go". In the "small make-up of the lines" - not in the grandiose conception, but in the little tiny detail work, ""small make-up of the lines" - "It is in this case a master meter that wishes to come of the classic, but at the same time to be bent to and incorporate the rhythm of modern speech. This is, or would be, the height of excellence, the efflorescence of a rare mind turned to the word. It succeeds and not." - He's talking (here) about Pound's attempts to drag in the classical mind - "It succeeds and not, it does and fails. It is in the minutae, in the minute organization of the words and their relationships in a composition that the seriousness and value of a work of writing exist, not in the sentiments, ideas, or schemes portrayed. The seriousness of a work of art, the belief that the author has in it, is that he does generate in it a solution in some sense of the continuous confusion and barrenness which life imposes on its mutations, on him who won't create in any case. We seek a language which will not be a deformation of speech as we've known it, but will embody all the advantageous jumps, swiftnesses, colors, movements of the day, that will at least not exclude language as spoken - all language present as spoken. Pound has attempted an ambitious use of language for serious thought without sequestration or the cloistering of words, and acceptance, and by his fine ear attempting to tune them, excluding nothing." - So the key thing for Williams' practice and what he liked in Pound was " We seek a language which will not be a deformation of speech as we've known it". In other words, write as talk, or the model of the writing is the rhythms (and) diction of the speech as we know it. At least that the poetry not be "a deformation of speech", "but will embody all the advantageous jumps" - jumps of mind, jumps of syntax - "swiftnesses, colors, movements of the day, that will at least not exclude language as spoken - all language present as spoken" - Now that was for those days actually quite a big, serious discovery, but for Pound and for Williams.. Yes?

Student: Then the line that he said about the Greek being, like, too distant from us, because it's not a spoken language, wouldn't that be putting Pound down?

AG: Well, yes and no..

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Chuck Workman - The Source (ASV # 33)

"ASV" in the title here stands for "Annotated Streaming Videos". Scroll down (as we hope you do) on the far right-hand side of your screen, and you'll see "Streaming Video", "Streaming Audio", "Online Essays, Interviews and Articles", etc, etc.

Chuck Workman's, kaleidoscopic, lovingly-made, 1999 documentary, "The Source - The Story of the Beats and the Beat Generation", (the title comes from a throw-away remark by William Burroughs, at the very end of the film) somehow slipped our focus and our annotation, so here, belatedly, it is, (chopped into 7 parts for the purposes of You Tube, but none the worse, we think, for its dismembering - ok, Helen Adam, caught between 5 and 6, gets short shrift, but otherwise.. Workman's episodic collage technique (he is perhaps best known for his compilation film-clips that were traditionally aired at the Academy Awards) is curiously fitting.

For a brief interview with the filmmaker, for Indiewire, see here. For Janet Maslin's review of the film in the New York Times see here (and here's another Times review). Here's also a review by Robert Hunt for Riverfront Times, one for About.com, and Gary Morris in Bright Lights Film Journal.

Alongside the usual "gang of souls" (and multiple film-clips), there's the slightly controversial inclusion of actors "playing" characters - John Turturro is Allen, Dennis Hopper is Burroughs, and Johnny Depp, famously, takes on (reads sections of) Jack Kerouac.

Allen begins the film (the first shots have him browsing through his Twelve Trees book) and provides commentary and observation throughout. Here's a brief transcription of some of that commentary, interspersed with (unedited) notes

part one - Allen browsing through photographs - Boulder "July 3rd, Allen Ginsberg Day" proclamation - Ann Charters reading from Kerouac at NYU Beats Conference - Ed Sanders introduces phone-link to William Burroughs at NYC's Town Hall -
AG: "Gregory Corso and I collaborated, almost inadvertently, in building a whole mythology of a generation"
Gregory Corso on a NYU Beats Conference Panel - glimpse of Anne Waldman - Lawrence Ferlinghetti reading at NYC Town Hall - Kerouac monument in Lowell - William Burroughs in
Kansas - Allen in empty loft space - Saturday Night Live Beat/Star Trek parody - tv news announcer - Steve Martin parody - tv announcer - glimpse of Jack Kerouac - Amiri Baraka - miscellaneous 50's movie-clips of rebellion/anger -
AG: "In the forties the Bomb dropped, the entire planet was threatened biologically ..was suddenly the realization why are we being intimidated by a bunch of jerks who don’t even know about life? who are they to tell us what we feel and how we’re supposed to behave and why take all that bullshit?"
[sound of the typewriter] "In 1944, three young men, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs met for the first time in New York City. Things were never the same again for them, or for the century" - Columbia University campus - '60's class - On The Road field trip
AG: We weren’t trying to make a social revolution particularly, we were just trying to propose our own souls to ourselves..We felt very close to each other just intuitively but, you know, without any overt sexual thing (except that I was in love with him. I had a crush on him and a crush on everybody)
African-American culture - footage of Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington etc -
AG: (to William Burroughs) - "Jack and I went over to investigate your soul. We both really thought you were real interesting, dignified, and weird – but intelligent. Jack said he was the most intelligent man in America"
observations on drugs - footage of Paul Bowles and of Burroughs ("It kept me occupied") - Columbia University field trip juxtaposed with footage of Ginsberg, Kerouac, etc
AG: “Burroughs began exploring Times Square sort of to see the lumpen population. He was interested in the different varieties of the bars. Then he met Herbert Huncke. Huncke was living around Times Square, practically on the street"
Herbert Huncke: ..(they were) rolling down the street with books under their arm.
Allen Ginsberg: We thought you had a kind of secret knowledge.
Herbert Huncke: Just good healthy activity in a way
AG: (in contemporary Times Square) – “We’d pick up some grass, smoke, and observe the phenomena of the red light over the roof cones of the buildings that indicated some kind of apocalyptic, end-of-millennium consciousness
Herbert Huncke: It's all justifications! (laughs) - for what? - for an interesting...
Michael Schumacher at NYU Beats Conference - Pull My Daisy (with Jack Kerouac narrative_

part two - 'Fifties continues - images of McCarthy hearings - Philip Glass and Robert Creeley on the atmosphere of the 'Fifties - Ann Charters - Walter Cronkite - J.Edgar Hoover
AG: “It was such a schizophrenic distinction between the private world of what everybody knew and talked about, like black culture and tea-head culture of those years, or just sexual culture, gay culture, there were all these marginalized cultures which were never represented in public" - George Stade at Columbia University notes parallels in Abstract Expressionist painting and jazz - Philip Glass on Living Theater, John Cage and Happenings - David Amram (on joy and optimism - and music) -
AG: We were our own audience. I mean Kerouac wrote 7 books, 14 books, before they were published.
Michael Schumacher - George Stade - David Amram
William Burroughs: Allen had these visions, these Blake visions, and he suddenly said, "We're taking over the Universe!"
definition of Beat - Kerouac interviewed (in French) - Ed Sanders - Gregory Corso (quotes Huncke) on it -
AG - “When the Sputnik went up.. and he [Herb Caen] said, "Oh, these guys are out-of-this-world – Beat-niks"
on women and sexism in the Beats - Gregory Corso - "Women were pretty much ornaments for men and the Beats and they were the caretakers" (Kyle Roderick, Corso biographer) - Shirley Clarke - "They got away with murder.."
AG: "I don't think we were particularly machismo. Actually, Burroughs and I were queer, very sensitive and literary"
William Burroughs and Gregory Corso remark on women and sexism - more Kerouac footage - “In 1957 with the publication of its most famous work , the scattered scene of writers, musicians, artists, and their friends had a spokesman, and began to be taken a little more seriously by the literary establishment"
AG: "We didn’t expect to be representative folk. We just wanted to represent ourselves and write for heaven..building up treasures in heaven. I think Kerouac despaired of ever having his work published"
Gilbert Millstein, New York Times reviewer of On The Road - Burroughs on Kerouac, the writer - David Amram scat-sings
AG: “Life magazine came around to interview us for an article on the Beat Generation and I thought “Jesus, if they think that we have anything to say, they must be scraping the bottom of the barrel, they must be pretty desperate"
Kerouac on the Steve Allen show - David Amram ("The road is life") - Johnny Depp reading from On The Road - Lawrence Ferlinghetti - Ken Kesey - Gary Snyder - Johnny Depp - audio Allen reading from "America"

part three - images of America – 50’s America etc - soundtrack and image of William Burroughs reading – Johnny Depp reads Kerouac – Gary Snyder – Ken Kesey – Jack Kerouac (from Steve Allen tv show) – focus on Neal Cassady - Burroughs on Cassady - Jerry Garcia on Cassady - Ken Kesey on Cassady - footage of Neal Cassady
AG: “(Neal) Cassady was a sort of self-taught prison-boy who came to New York to con Kerouac to teach him how to write..His special ting was that he could remember the chain of thought that went before that led up to a moment of conversation
Kesey on Cassady - Allen and Neal at City Lights - Jerry Garcia - more Cassady footage - Johnny Depp continues reading from On The Road - Lawrence Ferlinghetti on City Lights
AG: There was already cultivated a San Francisco Renaissance. There always was an anarchist pacificist anti-Stalinist anti-authoritarian literary bohemian anti-war circle..and that manifested itself in literature, in painting, in bohemian parties, poetry readings.
Footage of Jack Michelene reading - cartoon - Michael McClure (on Kenneth Rexroth) - Steven Ronan, Beat historian, outside Gallery 6 location -
AG: Rexroth had been invited to organize a reading at the 6 Gallery. He suggested to McClure or myself that we organize it and it fell to me. And Rexroth gave me Gary Snyder's address (Snyder was a student studying Chinese and Japanese Zen)
Gary Snyder on Gallery 6 - Philip Whalen on Gallery 6 - Michael McClure
AG: "(Jack) Kerouac (was) in the audience with Neal Cassady in the audience - [Allen reads from Kerouac's account in Dharma Bums] - images of Robert LaVigne mural etc - Michael McClure: "When Allen read from Howl, we all knew a line had been drawn in the sand" - Lawrence Ferlinghetti
AG: I had a conversation with Rexroth the next day. I said,"Gee, I'm going to be famous in San Francisco..or North Beach! - and he said, "You're going to be famous from bridge to bridge" -
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
AG: "There were a whole series of trials in the late '50's that liberated the word and that meant a whole spiritual liberation after that"
- Lawrence Ferlinghetti - Norman Mailer (on Allen - "What I've always loved about Allen was his bravery..") - opening lines recording of Howl - then actor John Turturro reads Howl

part four - the first approximately two minutes and fifty seconds is John Turturro in the persona of Allen reading (from) Howl - Norman Mailer on Howl
AG: I had no idea that it would be famous. I had no idea that it was of such value to other people. Apparently it was.
Norman Mailer - Michael McClure - "Despite Howl and On The Road, few people in the '50's cared about the Beats. This didn't seem to bother them much. But small unorganized breakthroughs were occurring all over the world"
Lenny Bruce - Groucho Marx interviews poet Stuart Z Perkoff - brief Bukowski audio - William Burroughs' letters to Allen Ginsberg from Tangier - Steven Ronan, Beat historian on San Francisco docks - Burroughs again - banned from Mexico ("She said to Bill, "Shoot that odd my head"") - Burroughs on "the ugly spirit" - Allen: "It was then that he began writing - Burroughs - miscellaneous Burroughs' footage (to soundtrack of Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil) - including Terry Southern, Brion Gysin (on "cut-ups"), George Stadte - Robert Motherwell offers a definition of "Surrealism" -
AG: “Over a series of years from ’53 to ’57, Burroughs sent me the letters with all the chapters, or “routines” of Naked Lunch. And then by ’57, there was so much material that I had and he had that it was time for me to leave San Francisco and work on it with him to shape it into a book. Kerouac had started the typing. We arrived with all the new material, shuffled it around, typed it up.
Burroughs on Naked Lunch - AG: "Burroughs said, “I’m not American Express. If the reader’s asked to take it from Tangiers to Paris in one jump, he’ll have to get there himself"
Young kid calls it "cool" - Burroughs on writing and solitude - Mortimer (William's brother) expresses exasperation and disgust about the book - more Burroughs - actor Dennis Hopper reads Burroughs

part five - For the first three minutes and ten seconds, Dennis Hopper reads from William Burroughs' Naked Lunch - Burroughs himself then appears - observations on drugs - "Dear Allen.." (Yage Letters) - Burroughs on drug-taking - Michael McClure reads from his "Peyote Poem" - Ken Kesey ("I would never have written (One Flew Over) The Cuckoo's Nest without LSD") - Gregory Corso on drug-taking ("It was my protector..") - Michael McClure continues with his poem - Timothy Leary - footage of Leary - and
AG: (testifying to government commission) - "If we want to discourage use of LSD for altering or attitudes, we'll have to encourage such changes in our society that no-one will need it to break through the common sympathy - Leary - Michael McClure - Ed Sanders ("It's like everything else in life, you can over-dose on sushi") - "When the '50's ended, to the relief of many) people continued to make fun of the Beats but ironically also began to accept them. The Beat counterculture began to move into the mainstream - Alfred Hitchcock - Rod McKuen - Beat Kitsch - Louis Armstrong - Maynard Krebs - Happy Days - Bob Hope - cartoons AG: “There was kind of a Beatnik craze around the end of the ‘50’s..which became parodied and co-opted. So Gregory Corso went to Paris, Burroughs stayed in Tangiers (and Paris). Kerouac, getting more retired at home after having a great deal of venom and mockery laid on him..Peter Orlovsky and I disappeared into India, basically, went around the world and stayed away for three years and studied something new.
Gary Snyder on Buddhist meditation - glimpse of Ted Joans (and others, on panel & audience at NYU Beat event) - footage of Allen (interspersed with footage of Gary) -
AG: (conducting, meditation) "So you're like the tree sitting there..your muscles hanging down from the trunk, mouth closed, shoulders relaxed, - so now why don't we sit, doin nuttin'".."thank you for your patience".
William Burroughs: I was never really heavy into Buddhism. Get Allen Ginsberg to talk about that. He can go on and on and on"
Gary Snyder on Buddhism - Gregory Corso on Buddhism ("..they just may see what I see") - Amiri Baraka (materialist criticism of Buddhism) - footage from London Albert Hall reading - footage from Prague Kral Majales - LBJ
AG: By the time I got back in '63, war was raging already. America, rather than being sort of enlightened by the possibility of some open world, was trying to inflict the Catholic dictator on the Buddhist Vietnamese.
"Sixties"- Allen chanting in Chicago - footage of Fugs - Ed Sanders on the 1967 Be-In - footage of the Be-In - the beginning of the Hippies - Paul Krassner - Helen Adam reciting a ballad (section ends abruptly)

part six - Helen Adam continues from previous part - Jerry Garcia on the "Sixties - Michael McClure - Bob Dylan - Diane di Prima - Jack Kerouac - Ed Sanders - Chicago 1968 (David Dellinger - Tom Hayden - Mayor Daley ("The policeman is there to preserve disorder!") - Allen chanting - Beats and Politics (Burroughs on Beats and Politics, David Dellinger, Abbie Hoffman) - Rocky Flats Demo - Joan Baez - Anne Waldman - Bob Dylan - brief glimpse of Allen singing along on "Knockin' on Heavens' Door") - Neal Cassady focus again (Ken Kesey -Lawrence Ferlinghetti at Beat art show shows his painting of Neal Cassady's death and speaks of Neal Cassady - Allen reads from "On Neal's Ashes")
AG: “Our existence is so brief, as we understood it, that it becomes more poignant, more emotionally rich, knowing that it’s like a dream that’s already finished, as Kerouac once said – life is a dream already over
John Sampas (Kerouac's brother-in-law) on Kerouac's death
AG: America by his day was sick, hard-heartedness had taken over, so I would say America broke his heart. You just have to read the reviews of his books in those days (how) he was put down, it was if he was.. knifed.. in the.. and yet he was writing about enthusiasm and delight and he was being treated like some juvenile delinquent
William Buckley interviewing Kerouac - Lowell priest ("thining about heaven")
- AG (reading): “He’d already scribed a thousand dreams, a thousand pages of dharma, a million words that sounded like a million ears.. His heart was tender. He’d already died and become “recording angel”
Walter Kronkite tv announcement of Kerouac's death – footage of Kerouac funeral (Billie Holiday soundtrack) – Lowell gravesite hommage (including Allen and Bob Dylan at the gravesite) - back to William Buckley interview ("it was pure in my heart") - Johnny Depp reads Kerouac (from "List of Essentials.." and On The Road) - "By the seventies a new consciousness was part of the culture, a consciousness that the Beats and their followers had significantly helped to define and bring to life" - Jack Nicholson film clip - Gregory Corso
AG (interviewed in the early-mid 70's) - Interviewer: Do you have nostalgia for the 5o's and 60's, Allen?
AG: None at all. It’s more interesting now. It’s always the same, the 50’s, the 60s, the 70’s – same thing as no. It’s eternity all the time so there’s no point having nostalgia for eternity
Gregory Corso - William Burroughs on Saturday Night Live - Gregory Corso (reading from "Columbia U Poesy Reading 1975")

part seven - Gregory Corso (continuing reading from "Columbia U Poesy Reading 1975") - Ed Sanders - miscellaneous footage (McClure's The Beard and the San Francisco Vice Squad, Timothy Leary bates Allen about getting busted - demonstration - "mad as hell" - Beats on Jeopardy quiz-show - Gregory Corso to Lawrence Ferlinghetti on the Beats acceptance -Gregory Corso focus - from NYC Town Hall Beats reading - 1988 Lowell Kerouac Mayoral Proclamation - Lowell - Jan Kerouac by her father's grave - Jan Kerouac and "Kerouac-gate" - Beat exploitation? - Ed Sanders introduces Allen at Boulder tribute - Allen explains "Gap" ads on the Conan O'Brien tv show ("I have my alibi for not selling out!") - glimpse of him, David Amram and Steven Taylor performing "Father Death Blues" - Dennis Hopper reads Burroughs on Allen's last words - Johnny Depp reads Kerouac - Lawrence Ferlinghetti reads at San Francisco Ginsberg Memorial event - Gregory Corso at the Kettle of Fish (bar) in NYC - "Death is a rumor spread by life". From approximately five-minutes in, poignant footage of Allen wandering around (contemporaneous) Times Square (Jenny Holzer texts on the marquees) -
Youth (including Stefan from The False Prophets) declare they're continuing a tradition - Miguel Piniero, Jim Carroll, John Leguizamo, Lydia Lunch, Henry Rollins, Robert Creeley - Michael McClure (to the youth - "You're us") - William Burroughs ("because we're the source") Johnny Depp reading concludes the film