Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Weekly Round-Up - 89

It's Charles Reznikoff's birthday today. We've been featuring him recently, see here, here, here and here.. and our last year's birthday celebration here . Allen presents here his NAROPA notes, "Suggestions for Readings in Charles Reznikoff...according to hardness, objectivity, vividness - selected epiphanies."

September 4th, Tuesday! (only 4 days away!) - Countdown to the first release on Ginsberg Recordings! "Ashes and Blues", the first release from a digitalized "Holy Soul Jelly Roll", will be ready and available on that date. More information, more releases, to follow.

The Harry Smith Conference, taking place in London on September 15, never too early to alert you to that date, a celebration of the legendary Anthology of American Folk Music (and check out Richard Clayton's illuminating article on Harry, in (of all places?) the Financial Times.

The perennial (and necessary) debate about the Beats and sexism - Stephanie Nikolopoulos' recent piece in The Millions, "On The Highway of Love, Jack Kerouac Divides Men and Women", recently re-opened that particular can o' worms, and was followed, only a few days later, by Danny Lanzetta in The Huffington Post ("In Defence of Jack Kerouac and Other Flawed Literature") - both articles, very definitely, worth reading, (and both, of course, equally pertinent to Allen).

Kill Your Darlings - Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg - the date for that comes ever-closer. Radcliffe's co-star, Dane DeHaan (playing the Lucien Carr role) has been giving some interviews, declaring Radcliffe's Allen to be first-rate, that he's "earned his stripes". It was Carr, DeHaan points out, who "inspires (inspired) Ginsberg to be who people know Ginsberg as today", and so,"the film is really about Ginsberg becoming Ginsberg through the catalyst of Lucien Carr.."

First reviews of Steve Finbow's new Ginsberg biography, just out - and positive - "Resolutely straight-shooting" - "As any good biographer, Finbow, demystifies rather than promulgates romantic notions about his subject...Finbow's uncompromisingly lucid and thoughtful book evinces great insight.." For more of the review, and more on this recent, useful, addition to the ever-expanding A.G. bibliography, see here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Allen Ginsberg Doesn't Believe in Ghosts

[2014 update - the video that accompanied this post is now no longer available}

So this delightful snippet of Ginsberg footage recently re-surfaced - Allen among his file-cabinets on East 12th Street. The tape begins in media res (Allen rifling through his things)

AG: (There’s a) - photograph with (Bob) Dylan at (Jack) Kerouac’s grave, (I’ll) see if I can find it. Here’s some photographs of the Rolling Thunder tour..let’s see, yeah, [shows Ken Regan’s photo] - This has been in the newspapers and all. Actually, this is an interesting photo if you can zero in on it. Peter (Orlovsky)’s over here, Dylan is strumming, thinking, Kerouac’s grave-stone here, copy of Mexico City Blues here, and I’m improvising, but I’m in a kind of inspired state at that instant (‘cause my breath is (on), my hands are lifted, you know, like..(Ahhh)), pretty bad tombstones all around.
Interviewer: Do you feel still in touch with Jack Kerouac?
AG; You mean his wandering…?
Interviewer: His spirit?
AG: Nah
Interviewer: No?
AG: Not.. you mean it literally?.. like…
Interviewer: Yeah
AG: .. life-after-death-like? spooks?
Actually there is.. Yes, I’ll show you..stay where you are, I’ll be right back - [Allen goes over and picks up book of poems] - What I feel about that is in a poem (reads from “Returning to the Country for a Brief Visit”) – “Reading Sung Dynasty poem, I think of my poems to Neal,/ dead a few years now, Jack underground/ invisible” – underground/invisible – “their faces rise in my mind, Did I write truthfully of them? In later times/ I saw them little, not much difference their dead./ They live in books and memory, strong as on earth.”
So, in touch with "books and memory", but ghosts? No. (I) don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe in ghosts.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Charlie Parker's Birthday

File:Charlie Parker, Tommy Potter, Miles Davis, Max Roach (Gottlieb 06941).jpg
[Charlie Parker (1920-1955) (with Miles Davis) in 1947, at the Three Deuces Club in New York - Photograph by William P Gottlieb - William P Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress]

Bird's birthday today. The Allen Ginsberg Project salutes Charlie Parker, bebop maestro, with this fine BBC documentary. Check out also our last year's anecdotal hommage to the great saxophonist, here.
[2013 update - unfortunately this video has been taken down. We're replacing it with a four-part BBC radio documentary - here, here, here and here]

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mind, Mouth and Page - 43 (D.H.Lawrence - 2)

                                                         [D.H.Lawrence ( 1885-1930)]

AG: A couple more? You wanna hear some more (D.H.) Lawrence?
Students: Yeah.
Student: Allen, you and Lawrence..I was in your details.. like.. in Planet Waves (sic), or Planet News, or whatever... how much... did you find.. did you have... the sort of tendency to want to... was that all made-up?

AG: No, there’s very little made-up there (except the humor I purposefully made up, sometimes). But most of my writing is just direct transcription - or the ideal - the compass direction – is direct transcription – direct detail, drawn from life, and, actually, more and more particularly, while I’ve been teaching this course, I’ve been getting an acid-test of my own poetry, and saying, “Jeez,what a load of bullshit I’ve written! - I really should get back to doing the kinds of things I’m ordering you people to do - go out and observe a little poem”

This morning I saw a small bird on the lawn lift up a green caterpillar and wing it up to the top of the one-floor house, to the roof-edge and stand there slowly dipping its head up and down, slowly swallowing this little green caterpillar which was this curve in its mouth, and I had some cotton-plugs in my ears and I kept hearing little crashing sounds, thinking it was maybe the noise of the sparrow, and I finally turned around and saw a squirrel watching me as I was watching, a squirrel coming around the big trunk of a big tree watching me as I was standing there, unwontedly standing there, looking up and doing nothing but watching the sparrow, and I realized the squirrel knew about the sparrow – the squirrel was conscious of what the sparrow was doing, as well as conscious of what I was doing, as I was conscious of the sparrow and I was conscious of the squirrel. And the sparrow observed me observing him, too. So there was the three of us together, and this big tree over it all.

Student: Did you write that (down) (what you just described)?

AG: No. I didn’t. I thought I’d save it for you here. It’s down now, see? It’s already there (down). I just "wrote" it.

Student: Yeah.
Student: Can you read (for us) [Lawrence's poem] “Figs”?
AG: Pardon me?
Student: Would you mind reading “Figs”?
AG: I would, if I knew where it was, but I (had) sort of prepared certain…
Student: It’s in the back, I think. It’s the title...
AG: Well, is it a poem that sticks to strictly (our present concerns)?
Student: I think so. I don’t know..
AG: Are you sure? Wait, Is that the only one you know? - or is it one that really sticks to the point?
Student: I think it sticks to the point.
AG: Well, okay, we’ll have to trust you for a minute, and I’ll look it up and see. But, if it doesn’t stick to the point, we’re going to be way out in the middle of nowhere. “Fig- trees"?, "weird fig trees"?.. or what?... I have (the) index of first lines.. and.. wait a minute, here we are - “Figs”, yeah, (page) 282. Okay, let’s try it out. Might as well try something random. Now let’s see.. [Allen glimpses at the poem]. It’s not too bad. Okay. Keep on the (subject) . I mean it’s not too..
[Allen begins reading the poem] – “The proper way to eat a fig in society.." [then stops] – [to the student] or how about you reading it? Do you know it well?
Student: No, not that well.
AG: Oh well, I’ve never read it before.
Student; Alan Bates could read it [the allusion here is to Alan Bates in Ken Russell's film version of Lawrence's Women in Love]
AG: Yeah. Let’s see you read “Figs”
[Student begins reading the poem] - "The proper way to eat a fig in society/ Is to split it in four holding it by the stump,/ And open it so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist, honeied, heavy-petalled/ four-petalled flower./ Then you throw away the skin/ Which is just like a four-sepalled calyx,/ After you have taken off the blossom with your lips/ But the vulgar way/ is just to put your mouth to the crack, and take out the flesh in/ one bite./ Every fruit has its secret./ The fig is a very secretive fruit. As you see it standing growing, you feel at once it is symbolic,/ And it seems male./ But when you come to know it better, you agree with the Romans, it is/ female/ The Italians vulgarly say it stands for the female part, the fig fruit:/ The fissure, the yoni,/ The wonderful moist conductivity towards the centre/ Involved/Inturned/The flowering all inward and womb-fibrilled;/ And but one orifice.."
AG: "Febrile"?
Student: Is that it?
AG: Oh "womb-fibrilled" - F-I-B-R-I-L-L-E-D - "womb-fibrilled" - "fibrilled"
Student: "The fig, the horse-shoe, the squash-blossom./ Symbols./ There was a flower that flowered inward, womb-ward/ Now there is a fruit like a ripe womb./ It was always a secret./ That's how it should be, the female should always be secret./ There never was any standing aloft and unfolded on a bough/ Like other flowers, in a revelation of petals;/ Silver-pink peach, venetian green glass of medlars and sorb-apples,/ Shallow wine-cups on short, bulging stems/ Openly pledging heaven:/ Here's to the thorn in the flower! Here's to the Utterance!/ The brave adventurous rosaceae.."
AG: What words!
Student: "Folded upon itself, and secret unutterable,/ And milky-sapped, sap that curdles milk and makes ricotta,/ Sap that smells strange on your fingers, that even goats won't taste it;/ Folded upon itself, enclosed like any Mohammedan woman/ Its nakedness all within-walls, its flowering forever unseen/ One small way of access only, and this close-curtained from the light;/ Fig, fruit of the female mystery, covert and inward/ Mediterranean fruit with your covert nakedness,/ Where everything happens invisible, flowering and fertilization/ and fruiting/ In the inwardness of your you, that eye will never see.."
AG: That's E-Y-E - "that eye will never see"
Student: "Till it's finished, and you're over-ripe, and you burst to give up your/ ghost./ Till the drop of ripeness exudes,/ And the year is over./ And then the fig has kept her secret long enough/. So it explodes, and you see through the fissure the scarlet./ And the fig is finished, the year is over./ That's how the fig dies, showing her crimson through the purple slit/ Like a wound, the exposure of her secret, on the open day./ Like a prostitute, the bursten fig, making a show of her secret./ That's how women die too./ The year is fallen over-ripe,/ The year of our women./ The year of our women is fallen over-ripe./ The secret is laid bare./ And rottenness soon sets in./ The year of our women is fallen over-ripe./ When Eve once knew in her mind that she was naked/ She quickly sewed fig-leaves, and sewed the same for the man./ She's been naked all her days before,/ But till then, till that apple of knowledge, she hadn't had the fact on/ her mind./ She got the fact on her mind, and quickly sewed fig-leaves./ And women have been sewing ever since./ But now they stitch to adorn the bursten fig, not to cover it./ They have their nakedness more than ever on their mind,/ And they won't let us forget it./ Now, the secret.." - This is getting off the subject.
AG: It sure is, yes.
Student: Sorry. I just liked the beginning of it.
AG: Ah, yeah, ok.
Student: I won’t finish it.
AG: Go on finish it.
Student: I just meant the…
AG: Finish it, finish it. You’ve only got another half..
Student: Okay. Really, it’s getting awfully sexist.
AG: Well, ok, it’s your fig now. Go on.
Student: I just wanted to...
AG: Finish. Finish.
Student: I just wanted to finish it in one bite.
AG: Finish!
Student: [ finishes the poem] “Now the secret./ Becomes an affirmation through moist, scarlet lips/ That laugh at the Lord's indignation/ What then, good Lord! cry the women,/ We have kept our secret long enough./ We are a ripe fig./ Let us burst into affirmation./ They forget, ripe figs won't keep./ Honey-white figs of the north, black figs with scarlet inside of the /south./ Ripe figs won't keep, won't keep in any clime./ What then, when women the world over have all bursten into self-assertion?/ And bursten figs won't keep? I just liked...
AG: Yeah, yeah
Student: ..the first two paragraphs. I’m sorry about the rest of it.
AG: Yeah. Interesting thing about..
Student: The description..

AG: Understood. Okay. The beginning is actually good description. When I was preparing what to read tonight, I was running through a lot of Lawrence, trying to find a couple of poems which were really right-on and stayed with it, and that series of poems on animals, one after another, seemed to be anecdotal and perfect in that way - but, actually, it’s good teaching, it’s a good lesson, hearing the thing on the figs, because you see how the mind can wander. There’s a funny line between bullshit and real sensible taking-down of your subjective thoughts about things. Sometimes his thoughts about things are great, and sometimes it gets too heavy. So probably, (particularly for the reader), that was a good poem to read, to see how far off it went.

Student:There was a part that wasn’t (so sexist) that I liked....

AG: Yeah, the beginning description of the fig is great.

So, actually, what I’d like to do (now) is move on from Lawrence, whom you’ve had a taste of there, to an elegy for D.H.Lawrence by Williams (which is interesting because it's Williams' take on Lawrence, Williams' appreciation of what Lawrence did in a certain kind of subjective heroism that Lawrence represented for Williams - The two of them working in such different ways - Lawrence, all over the map, physically, all over the world, searching for his subjects and sketching; Williams, in "Paterson", sort of admiring and envying Lawrence, loving him a great deal, (and), at the same time, seeing certain limitations - but seeing his heroism, the limitations of his verse-form, in a way - and the greatness too.
[Allen reads William Carlos Williams' "An Elegy for D.H.Lawrence" in its entirety]. So there's Williams commenting on his own practice, continuing. Even trying to out-do Lawrence a little bit in his description of the "glassy.. folds" going in, the snake's "glassy.. folds" ["the forked tongue alert/ Then fold after fold,/ glassy strength, passing/ a given point.."] - Was it "glassy.. folds" (initially) in the Lawrence, I wonder? I don't think he used that image. He was even trying to refine (Lawrence). He admired Lawrence's view, Lawrence's perception, there. He admired Lawrence's photograph there, and he was refining on Lawrence's photograph. So subtle had his appreciation become, and so subtle ours can be (like watching the transmission between the two of them, or the succession of recognitions - the recognition that Williams felt for Lawrence and the solid image that Lawrence presented that Williams appreciated) that we can watch Williams improving upon slightly, practicing a little bit, and then all of the observations. There were a lot of poems about flowers ((there's a volume) called "Pansies") in Lawrence....

AG: Pardon?

Student: Bavarian Gentians.

AG: Yeah. So there's all sorts of paraphrases or takes by Williams on Lawrence's description of flowers. So they're both (of them) good studies for actual human perception.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mind, Mouth and Page - 42 (D.H.Lawrence - 1)

[D.H.Lawrence 1885-1930]

AG: So how many people here have read D.H.Lawrence ? Raise your hands if you have. Read his poetry. Raise your hands. How many have not.? Okay. Do most of you know the poem about the snake? How many have read that? Yeah..,,
(So). We got to (William Carlos) Williams, up to the point (of the) late (19)20’s. The last line I read from Williams was “More, the particular flower is blossoming.. Then I started thinking, now where else can we go beside Marsden Hartley, to look historically at who else was working beside Williams at this time in an open form, working with particular details. When I first started working imitating Williams, or working out of Williams, around 1948 to 1955, I started beginning to check out all the other poets I could find that wrote in an open form, that wrote boken lines, that wrote long-line poems, that wrote short-line poems, all the people who were Williams’ friends, all the precursors, like Whitman. One of the people I got into was D.H.Lawrence. One of the people I got into was Marsden Hartley. Another one I looked up was (Charles) Reznikoff. Another one I looked up was Mina Loy. And then I went to the Activist and Objectivist anthologies (different ones, edited by (Ezra) Pound or edited by Louis Zukofsky). – The Objectivist Anthology, edited by Louis Zukofsky, the Activist, or Active, Anthology – who edited that? - maybe Ezra Pound. Check them out. I checked them out in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which is a good place for that kind of material. (I discovered also) a girl named Lorine Niedecker who was writing very precise observational poetry.. Whitman, (and) friends of Whitman, like Edward Carpenter, a name you’ve probably not heard but who is also a very interesting poet – Edward Carpenter – with a long book of poems called “Towards Democracy”. He was an elegant Britisher, who came to see Whitman to learn from him, to sleep with him, actually (who later slept with Gavin Arthur, who later slept with Neal Cassady, who later slept with me, so there was a transmission involved). Edward Carpenter, a name to remember, a really great poet. "Toward Democracy" is the name of his book. Rare to find. (It’ll) probably be reissued in the next ten years as appreciation of this kind of poetry grows. One major poem of his is called “The Secret of Time and Satan” . There are other poems describing the details of train trips, just like Whitman, between Paris and Italy. So like a Whitman wandering around, observing passengers in trains in Europe, instead of just the United States.
Lawrence wasn’t a member of that hard-working Carpenter group that was actually trying to reduce verse to its bare essentials, but he was friendly with people who were friends in England, he knew people in the Bloomsbury circle (which means he knew Virginia Woolf, or Richard Aldington, who was a friend of Pound and a fellow-Imagist with Pound). So he knew what the current poetic movements were. He was more of an exuberant prose-writer, and so he wasn’t so tight-assed, worrying about how to measure the line, as the Americans were, which was partkly their virtue and partly their dryness. But if you want to compare a natural talent, just looking at the outside universe and writing down details, a natural talent doing it, as compared to Williams, he’s raw, crude and natural, but he’s still hard-working. He’s studying it, Williams is studying it. Lawrence is really smart and deep and he doesn’t have to study it, he just sort of lets it flow, so to speak. It’s still details, but his way of approaching details is more like (Jack) Kerouac, in a way, more like a novelist. His details, which are buried in the subjective babblng, like…[Allen, as illustration, reads, in its entirety, D.H.Lawrence’s poem. “The Mosquito”] – “When did you start your tricks/ Monsieur?”... “Queer, what a dim dark smudge you have disappeared into”.

Student: Can you hold it up?

AG: Pardon me?

Student: Hold the book up

AG: Yeah, The lines are very variable. He’s not measuring the lines as Williams (does). It’s like he’s taking down his thoughts. He’s taking down his prose thoughts. But the his prose thoughts are so exact as observation of his prose thought. See, the subject is the mosquito, somewhat, but also the subject is, with Lawrence, his reaction to the mosquito, in which he gets all sorts of archetypal human reactions. Like that business of how much he hates it, and the way he reacts to it, and how much he hates himself, and all the double thoughts he might have about putting himself as a mosquito and fighting the mosquito – the two of them as mosquitos in the universe, sort of battling it out, who’s going to make it? – “Come then, let us play at unawares,/ And see who wins in this sly game of bluff./ Man or mosquito.” – But there’s (also) an awful lot of observation of mosquito here (from “high legs”, “shredded shank”, “weigh no more than air as you alight upon me”, “turn your head towards your tail”, “translucent phantom shred”, “thin wings”,”stalk and prowl the air/ In circles and evasions”, “Settle, and stand on long thin shanks/ Eyeing me sideways”, “lurch off sideways into air/ Having read my thoughts against you”. Because everyone knows that relation with a mosquito – just when you’re going to get him, he knows too! – “(Y)our small high hateful bugle in my ear” - that’s a funny, beautiful way of putting that mosquito-whine, calling it a bugle.

Student: What kind of bugle?

AG: Hateful bugle. He’s got the “hateful” in there. Great, because one remembers that. So it’s almost objective, in that he’s including his hatred of the bugle. It’s almost, you could say.. Objectivist…
And then the really accurate observation of the infinitesimal . The “Big stain my sucked blood makes / Beside the infinitesimal faint smear of you!/ Queer, what a dim dark smudge you have disappeared into!” – So there’s a lot of detail there. It isn’t just a big vague rhapsody about mosquitos. With all of his takes on mosquitos, he’s actually probably sitting there in a room writing, observing and watching the mosquito move around, and then writing another line – likely enough. But anyway, it’s obvious what he’s doing is obvious. What he’s doing is so obvious that anyone can do that if they would just sit down and focus their mind on something real. Here he’s chosen as his subject the mosquito, which, in a sense, is beyond the imagination of most people to do – to accept that as his central theme there, for the moment. Everybody else wanted to write about God instead, or something.
[Allen continues] – “The Bat” “Man and Bat” – What I’m reading is a series of poems – “Bat”, “Snake”, “Baby Tortoise” and “Tortoise Shout” – a series of poems in which D.H.Lawrence has a definite subject, so we can see how he handles his definite subject with all its pictures and all its details. Do you know these poems, by the way?

Student: I know some of them

AG: Yeah. [Allen then reads, in its entirety, Lawrence’s “Man and Bat”] – “When I went into my room, at mid-morning/ Say ten o’clock…”…. “There he sits, the long loud one!/ But I am greater than he…/ I escaped him…” – It’s a great thing he did there. Yeah. He’s got a lot of amazing poems in which there’s not only that empathy but that jousting back and forth and the struggle, in which he’s really taking the fellow-creature seriously, and getting it on with him, and having an emotional relationship, and expressing it. What's interesting (is) he's able, in here, to get all the little subtleties of his own changes. He's not afraid to face his own creepy thoughts, just as Williams was not afraid to remember that when he saw his children on his stoop his heart sank in his breast and he felt crushed, so Lawrence is able to face the details of his own feelings. In other words, he doesn't reduce all his feelings to one big hate, or one big gawp, or one big love-schmove - it's a total variety of feeling that anybody, actually, does have. As well as very precise observations of the detail of the fur, the details of the kind of wing-flight flicker - the flicker of the wings. So, actually, if you go through this, as (William) Burroughs goes through his cut-ups, sifting and panning for little nuggets, if you go through this sifting and panning for the Imagist-ic, Activist-ic, Objectivist nuggets, there are a great many. Accurate sounds - The "twitchy...lunge", "(opening) The venetian shutters I push wide", "Loop back the curtains..", "flicking with my white handkerchief","round and round..touching the walls, the bell-wires/ About my room", "crash gulf", "Via de' Bardi" - It sounds like Kerouac - somewhat.

Student: Which one of those phrases are you saying sounds like Kerouac?

AG: "Above that crash-gulf".."above the Via de' Bardi".. It sounds like a Kerouac line, or a modern mind-transcription line, when somebody's high on tea, sitting at the window of an Italian hotel, maybe three flights up, and the "crash-gulf" of the street outside. That whole spaced, spaced-out, thing, with trolley-cars rattling. It's a very strange perception that reminds me of my own writing or of Kerouac's. Then the funny thing of his observation of how the bat kept going, almost magnetically, toward the window, and kept getting pushed back by the light. It's something that's direct observation, rather than symbolic, so to speak (though here it's sort of beautifully symbolic - but it's "a natural object which is an adequate symbol"). Somebody had a question?

Student: You answered it. I was going to ask why he didn't go into bats being a sort of prototype gargoyle and a symbol of everything that's dark and evil and mysterious, but he just keeps presenting you with bats.

AG: Yeah

Student: It sort of freaks you out (or it freaked me out!) - (an invasion of bats!)

AG: Well, there's only one specific bat, you can tell. There's (just the) one time.

Student: He doesn't need to introduce...

AG: He doesn't need to introduce anything symbolic, because all he has to introduce is his own actual feelings.. and his own direct reaction, and his own yellow electric light, the brown of the room when the light's put on, a really accurate description of the slow tiring of the bat ("flicker-heavy,/...wings heavy"), then, a really good observation there with "a clot, he squatted...sticking-out, bead-berry eyes, black...shut wings,/ And brown" - nut fur, fine fur body - "But it might as well have been hair on a spider" (which is really good, as far as creepy-crawly (evocation) - Also, there's a great observation of his own mind-thoughts - "Ah death, death, you are no solution!/...Only life has a way out" (that sounds like Gregory Corso, that little part). "And the human soul is fated to wide-eyed responsibility/in life/ So I picked him up in a flannel jacket" (It's great that he put that word "flannel" in there. How many here would have the presence of mind to remember that word? that it was a flannel jacket - which immediately snaps everything back to the place, the actuality). And "shook him out of the window" - It's all there - A flannel jacket, and he's shaking the jacket out of the window with a bat in it - So there's actually enough raw detail in here to sustain such a long flight. It's like a short story, really. And, as novelists know, the details are the life of the stories like that.

(We'll) move on to a couple more. The most famous is the "Snake", which some of you have already read, which is maybe his most anthologized poem (except for the later "Ship of Death"). But this, as far as dealing with detail, (is) a great triumph, because it's real observation. [Allen reads D.H.Lawrence's "Snake", in its entirety] - "A snake came to my water-trough/ On a hot, hot day.."..."And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords/ Of life/ And I have something to expiate:/ A pettiness" - That's totally straight, both in recording the observed cinematic movie-like details of the snake, as well as the archetypal self-thoughts, the, almost traditional, changes that Lawrence, the author, went through. He was able to register them, and register them very accurately, so that the changes he went through became facts or natural objects to describe, and don't need any further symbolism. But it takes a real honesty and frankness and objectivity to describe your changes as objectively as you describe the flickering of the snake's tongue, including the "Was it humility, to feel so honoured?/ I felt so honoured", And, actually, that's archetypal. Anybody who's been out in a forest and actually seen some wild creature nearby, and there's been a mutual acknowledgment, knows that feeling of being honored, of self-respect, that comes from being able to be still with this completely other form, another life. So he's able to capture all the little subjective details. So part of the poetics is in recording subjective details, as well as with Williams, objective details. But the problem with recording subjective details is you've got to be really accurate, you can't make them up, you have to observe the ones that really happened. You have to remember or recollect what you were actually thinking and recollect it in a naked and unembarrassed way. And here he's even recollecting his own pettiness (which is what's so good about it -which is that he and you - we - can learn a lesson from that - but most people don't want to recollect their own pettiness, they want to recollect their nobility, or their great love, or their rainbow-like appreciation of the empty sky). So the problem then is, if you're going to include personal detail, really, are you going to be personal enough and specific enough, or are you going to bullshit? - So, he's a great honest man. Lawrence is famous for his honesty in this realm.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Happy 132 Apollinaire!

[Guillaume Apollinaire 1880-1918]

It's Apollinaire's birthday today. That's right, Apollinaire's birthday. We'll draw your attention to two previous posts on the great French poet - here (an over-view) and here (transcription of a 1975 Naropa class conducted by Allen). Darren Anderson's piece for 3:AM magazine, Copywriter of the New, is also well worth a read. And here is a miscellany of images of the great man.

Saturday, August 25, 2012



Andrea Andermann's film, "Castelporziano Ostia dei poeti") (1981) immortalizes the chaos and extraordinary happening/event that was the Primo Festivale Internazionale dei Poeti, in 1979, the International Poetry Festival, at Castelporzia.

"This documentary was shot at a three-day celebration of poetry (a "Poets' Festival") at the beach of Castelporziano near Rome in the summer of 1979. Pier Paolo Pasolini was killed on this beach a few years earlier and his murder is commented on by Yevgeny Yevtushenko at the beginning of the documentary. On the first day of the event, the camera focuses on both poets and audience, and reveals a striking reality: the audience is not only indifferent, it is increasingly antagonistic, and when one of the least-liked of the minor poets is booed off the stage, he flashes the audience in response. As the day wears on, objects go flying through the air, catcalls abound, and the self-styled poets seem to be taking their life in their hands when they get up in front of the microphone. Back at the hotel where they are staying, Allen Ginsberg, Le Roi Jones [Amiri Baraka], Yevtushenko and others discuss whether or not to go on with the planned third day. Meanwhile, as the camera pans across nearby beaches and out into the harbor, there is obviously no one around who realizes that this international event is taking place right next to them. Have the poets lost their touch in communicating with the world at large -- or has the world become a place that is inhospitable to poets of any range of ability? The documentary raises these issues and lets the viewers formulate their own, individual opinions."

For those too impatient to watch Andermann's portrait in its entirety (and watch the festival mayhem in its context and unfurling), there's a key moment (about 49 minutes in) when Allen is seen chanting ("OM"), trying to tamper down somewhat the already out-of-control energies of the huge crowd
- and then, (at approximately 63 minutes in) - footage of him declaring, "We will begin the poetry-reading tonight" (this would be the third and final night). "There are 22 poets from all countries (here) to read. Each poet (including myself, Allen Ginsberg) will read for 7 minutes" - The film then goes on to show glimpses of Yevtushenko ("poet-orator of modern Russia'', as Allen describes him), Peter Orlovsky (reading "America, Give A Shit"), Ted Joans, Brion Gysin, Miguel Algarin, Amiri Baraka.. Allen is the last of the American poets shown, performing "Father Death Blues" (further attempts to quiet things).

"Lunatics, Lovers and Poets" was this film's (alternative) European title.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 88

Allen's attention and words of advice to young poets:
Joseph Massey received the above card in the Spring of 1993, after sending him some poems

"Dear Mr Massey, The poems are better than I wrote at your age 15. "Attack" is confusing, sounds like you cut your foot on an icicle? If so describe the situation's details more clearly. "Crickets familiar chant from/ heavy dark grass beneath/trees silhouetted/ where water choking... flows/ Crisscross vehicle sounds/ dawn hard solid rises/ sudden lapse in blue" - all that has elements of good poem!
Read W.C.Williams (old poet) & Gregory Corso (New Directions Publishing). Best take care of little details. See my "Mind-Writing Slogans" Yours Allen Ginsberg".

Do see the Mind Writing Slogans - and perhaps also it's time, once again, to remind people of Steve Silberman's Celestial Homework - and, indeed, of the Allen Ginsberg Practicum (see here).

Open Culture, the web-site has been pleasingly Ginsberg-centric of late. See their posting on James Franco's "dreamy" reading of "Howl" (alongside Eric Drooker images), the meeting of Allen and Bob Dylan at Jack Kerouac's grave-site, and a note on some 1981 "Expansive Poetry" Naropa lectures - here, here, and here.

"Most living organisms on this planet are...tied down, encumbered, caged, restrained, shackled, weighed down, confined to the planet by the pressure of gravity...This transmission is designed to free all life forms.." - "The Periodic Table of Energy" ("by far the most substantial and important (Timothy) Leary manuscript to have ever been offered at auction", to quote the auction house), a 203-page typescript, "illustrated with images and articles clipped from newspapers and magazines", is being offered for sale by Bonhams in San Francisco in October. Estimated selling-price - between 30 and 50,000 dollars!

Still staying in San Francisco (and free!), check out Al Hinkle (Big "Ed Dunckel" in On The Road)'s tour, and clear-eyed recollections, of his old North Beach haunts (he's filmed and interviewed by his daughter, Tamara). That video can be seen here.

Time of Useful Consciousness, Lawrence Ferlinghetti's new book of poems comes out from New Directions next month. The title, an intriguing one, an aeronautical term, refers to that period between the time that you run out of oxygen and the time that you cease to be able to function (the cover, a Ferlinghetti painting, shows the clock at five to 12) - an obvious warning - America, you better watch out!
(an illuminating interview with Lawrence by Michael Silverblatt that aired last night on radio station KCRW may be listened to here)

Anne Waldman - did we mention? - was the recent recipient of the 2012 American PEN Center Literary Award for Poetry (for her epic collection, Iovis, published by Coffee House Press last year) - Congratulations, Anne!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Beat Britain in the 1990's

This BBC radio documentary from the early '90's (broadcast here, courtesy You Tube, in two parts) features an avuncular host, Ian McMillan (with a broad and delightful Barnsley accent) in search of the Beat custodians in England's strangely bland and soul-less cultural climate. The first person that he visits is Kevin Ring, custodian of the estimable Beat Scene. Also included, the voices of Jeff Nuttall and Eric Mottram (key figures in the so-called "British Poetry Revival"), not to mention, Jim Burns (old-time Beat-o-phile), David Tipton & Dave Cunliffe (a dual interview), and Steve Sneyd.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Encore En Français

[Jean-Jacques Lebel, with poets Jerome Rothenberg and Allen Ginsberg, at Centre Pompidou in Paris, 1994]

Allen parle en français, we trumpeted, a while ago, introducing this post (footage from 1965 of Allen speaking eloquently (allbeit briefly) about his drug experience - speaking in French! - part of Jean Michel Humea's He! Viva Dada).
Jean-Jacques Lebel, who organized his visit on that occasion (as part of the second "Festival de la Libre Expression" (Festival of Free Expression)), re-appears (over three decades later!) here (as faithful confrère, prompter, and, when necessary, when Allen's vocabulary occasionally fails him - translator - even performer), alongside beaucoup, (much) more! Allen-speaking-French
(oui, oui, c'est vrai, Allen parle ici en français).

Here, being a singular treat, unearthed courtesy of French radio (via the archives of INA, the French national sound archive) - Une anthologie parlée d'Allen Ginsberg" (de "La poésie n'est pas une solution avec Frank Smith") - poems and conversation recorded on the occasion of his visit there (to Paris) in 1996.

The "anthology" begins with a recording of Allen reciting "Footnote to Howl" ("Holy, Holy, Holy"..."Holy, the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul" (sic)), followed by his first hesitant French utterances (he starts off by stressing "l'amitié" - "C'était l'amitié des poètes" et" l'idée de l'affection" (which America, he points out, took initially from Whitman), citing representative lines of Whitman's Song of Myself ( (et) "ce n'est pas un égoïsme").
Il chante (He sings) (like Whitman) - beginning with a version of "Everybody Sing" (from "First Blues") ("Everybody's just a little bit homosexual.."), improvising, morphing into a version of Blake's Tyger! Tyger! ("Tiger Rag"). The poem, he notes, is "une projection de notre coeur" (a projection of our heart(beat)) - He references Artaud (Artaud's famous concept of Van Gogh - le suicidé de la société) and confesses that he'll die soon enough but does not want to die in a nuclear explosion, is willing to speak out, for sanity, (and) against (global) pollution - "Comment vivre, c'est le problème" (how to live, that's the problem) - Allen then reads (with piano accompaniment) a brief section from Plutonian Ode. This is followed by a segment from 1987, Allen and Jean-Jacques Lebel - Allen reads, in English, his "sound poem" (''appropriate for radio"), Hum Bom!, followed by sections of it read in French by Lebel. A second "anti-war" poem is then read by Allen, first in French, and then in English, (from Cosmopolitan Greetings) - "After The Big Parade"
Allen on the role of the poet - "La possibilité pour la création d'un miroir pour d'autres personnes" via "la candeur" "la sincérité et "la précision" - to awaken, to evoke, true (personal) thought and emotion dans la population générale (he cites, in this context, public impact, Anna Akhmatova's "Requiem", and the poetry of (Osip) Mandelstam) - but (he observes, this generalizing), that's "not the intention", it's "the fall-out"
Next, Allen on old-age ("Probablement je suis plus tranquille maintenant") - 69 - (he can't resist making the sexual pun! ) - "older and wiser' - Allen reads his poem "Autumn Leaves" (from Cosmopolitan Greetings), first in French ("Feuilles d'automne") then in its original English ("..happy not yet to be a corpse"). This is followed by a typically ribald throw-away ditty, (a recording of) "Cherry Blues" (mixing oral sex and heart-failure!) - & more talk of aging (and the aging of his friends - the relative good health of the octogenarian William Burroughs - Allen notes Burroughs' current circumstances, his house by the lake (in Lawrence, Kansas), his painting, and his writing (a new book, Mon Education, focusing on dreams about to appear - Allen himself notes his commitment to writing down his dreams)
The next segment has Allen noting his engagement with Surrealism and the Surrealists that were in New York in the late 1940's - in the company of, among others, Lebel's father, Robert Lebel - ("et (importantly) le magasin VVV") - Andre Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Benjamin Péret... ("Duchamp et Man Ray adoré Allen Ginsberg", Lebel points out) - also later visits in Paris, he notes, with Tristan Tzara, Louis Ferdinand Céline, Henri Michaux..
Allen is asked about poetry and intellectualism (en Anglais, on dit "head-trip"..ou abstraite, ou généralisée.."), and points to another, alternative, tradition drawing from William Carlos Williams and Whitman - and blues - and jazz (Ornette Coleman, for example - "Et nous avons travaillé avec ces musiciens de temps en temps") - and, significantly, Beat involvement in Oriental studies (Zen, Buddhism, meditation, etc, etc)) - "(C'est) une classe différente de l'intellectualité" - He's asked about religion (speaks of Buddhist impermanence - ("I don't think there is a heaven. I would not want to be condemned to go to heaven forever...that sounds like Hell!") - On ne peut pas entrer le fleuve un fois! (purposefully mis-translating Heraclitus, Allen credits that bon mot to Gregory Corso) - You can't step into the same river..once!

The last approximately 15 minutes (starting 41:45) are taken up with an uninterrupted reading (in English) of Howl (accompanied by the Kronos Quartet) - reason enough to be listening to the broadcast.

Jean Jacques Lebel is currently organizing a multi-media presentation, dedicated to Allen and the Beat Generation which will take place in the Spring of next year, simultaneously at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, Les Champs Libres de Rennes, the Studio National des Arts Contemporains, Le Fresnoy,and ZKM (Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie), Karlsruhe.
Lebel writes: "No art on the walls, no linear discourse, but a maze of screens on which films, video-clips, photos, text, will be projected with or without sound. The overall effect I'm looking for is a "psychedelic jungle" offering the viewers the possibility to dance through a sensual experience of Beat poetry. At least three screens will have seating arrangements and a computerized "menu" from which visitors will be able to choose the films or clips they want to see, or see again..This is a very ambitious project.."
It will open on May 31, 2013.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mind, Mouth and Page - 41 (Birds and Flowers)

AG: I want to finish (these recent discussions on Charles Reznikoff) right now with a little last poem of (William Carlos) Williams, sort of summing it up, summing up the effort that both of them were making- "Birds and Flowers". So, suggesting a still life, or suggesting the subjects he might write of, (or) that he might notice.


It is summer, winter, any
time -
no time at all - but delight
the spring up
of those secret flowers
the others imitate and so

become round
extraordinary in petalage
yellow, blue

fluted and globed
moonshaped -

in clusters on the wall.
And just now

you will not come, your
carry you another way, as

thought grown old - or
older - in
your eyes fire them against

me - small flowers
birds flitting here and there
between twigs


What have I done
to drive you away? It is
winter, true enough, but

this day I love you.
This day
there is no time at all

more than in under
my ribs where anatomists
say the heart is -

And just today you
will not have me. Well,
tomorrow it may be snowing -

I'll keep after you, your
repulse of me is no more
than a rebuff to the weather -

If we make a desert of
ourselves - we make
a desert...


Nothing is lost! the white
glassy, linenwhite, crystalwhite
crocuses with orange centers
the purple crocus with
an orange center, the yellow
crocus with a yellow center -

That which was large but
seemed spent of
power to fill the world with
its wave of splendor is
overflowing again into every
corner -

Though the eye
turns inward, the mind
has spread its embrace - in
a wind that
roughs the stiff petals -
More! the particular flower is

So that's what they were all trying to do - get that particular flower of perception blossoming in America - a whole phalanx of writers trying to find an American language, using an American local diction, trying to find the rhythms of their own talk - "Peggy has a little bit of albumen/ in hers" - trying to compose poems that are indistinguishable from our ordinary speech and perceptions that are indistinguishable from the actual perceptions of our ordinary minds, but which, when recognized and appreciated consciously, transform the entire feeling of existence to a totally new sympathetic universe where we're at home, where we're playful, where we're generous - because the mind overflows with these perceptions and the perceptions are all generous, because they're not blocked by anger. Actually, beginning, as Williams later says, a "new world" - "A new world is only a new mind" - A new mind, in poetics, is only a new set of words equivalent to what you're actually able to use with your mouth when you're talking, so you don't twist your mouth and twist your brain and twist your so-called soul to strain for an effect of a universe that isn't there. And that way, you don't create paranoia, but dispel paranoia, because you're reaffirming through clearly presenting your perceptions, the very same perceptions in the mind's eye of others.
So, finally, it comes down to what Plato [actually Damon of Athens (sic)] originally said, that I quoted - "When the mode of music changes, the walls of the city shake". When the mode here of music, or prosody, returns to its normal order, then there begins a new direct perception of the soul - so that "noble is changed to no bull" - that you can see through hallucinated language, you have something to compare hallucinated language with, and you can see what's direct contact - language that rises out of direct contact with phenomena, as distinct from language that rises out of overheated imagination or desire to impress, by writing something sounding "poetical". So Williams becomes a standard for morality, in a sense, or a standard of normalcy of mind, a standard you can measure your own perceptions and sanity against - measure your own poetry against, to some extent - measure your own glimpses of what you see, what you recognize of what you see. Thus, actually, I think (Williams is) the true hero of the first half of the American century, carrying on the work of Whitman.
So we'll carry on, considering (his work) in detail, as he would ask, then. We'll consider more in detail from the middle period of Williams (in coming classes).