Sunday, December 30, 2012

Patti Smith's Birthday

[Patti Smith & Allen Ginsberg in 1977 in New York City (at a William Burroughs book-signing at Gotham Book Mart) - via Marcelo Noah

Happy Birthday Patti Smith! - two magical sixes! - 66 years old today!  Patti's been featured a fair bit on The Allen Ginsberg Project (and will, of course, continue to be featured). We draw your attention, in particular, to last year's birthday posting (including the famous mistaken-for-a-boy-in-the-Automat encounter!) and this one (Patti and Philip Glass's filmed recollections of Allen), and also, (highly recommended), this triumphal rendition of Allen's "Footnote to Howl" ("Spell") - "Holy, holy, holy..." In this post, she can be heard saluting Fernanda Pivano, and in this, William Burroughs. She is sui generis, like they say, "one of a kind", or as the Japanese say, (she'll be touring in Japan, as a matter of fact, in a few weeks time), "a national treasure". 
Read more recent news about Patti here - "I just reached social security age, but I'm far from retiring".

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Weekly Round-Up 106

[Ben Foster as William Burroughs, Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg, Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr, and Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac in John Krokidas' upcoming film, "Kill Your Darlings"]

[Jean-Marc Barr as Jack Kerouac in Michael Polish's upcoming film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's Big Sur - photo by Adam Rehmeier]

"On The Road" featured last week. This week's "Round-Up" (the last of 2012) begins with a brief note on two further Kerouac adaptations, both of which are scheduled to have their premieres in Park City, Utah, next month, as part of the Sundance Film Festival - "Kill Your Darlings", we've already spoken of  (here, here and here - not to mention, here) -
(An interesting article on the background to that movie may be read here).
 "Big Sur", however, we may not yet have mentioned. Michael Polish's adaptation features French-American actor Jean-Marc Barr as Kerouac's alter-ego, Jack Duluoz, and Josh Lucas as the charismatic Cody Pomeray (Neal Cassady). The cast also includes Radha Mitchell (Evelyn/Carolyn Cassady) Anthony Edwards (Lorenzo Monsanto/Lawrence Ferlinghetti), Balthazar Getty (Pat McLear/Michael McClure), Henry Thomas (Ben Fagan/Philip Whalen), Patrick Fischler (Dave Wain/Lew Welch), and Stana Katic (Lenora/Lenore Kandel). Both movies we are, needless to say, very much looking forward to.

On The Road? - Here's a few more American reviews of it - Chris Barsanti in Pop Matters - "In adapting Jack Kerouac's famously skittish book, On The Road, Walter Salles has conjured a movie that's raging and serene, always looking over the horizon while grooving on the beauty of the here and now. That is no small feat". Leonard Maltin  - "Salles tries to capture the immediacy and spontaneous nature of the book, using long takes and even allowing the camera to drift out of focus when a character moves about. Prominent actors...turn up at unexpected moments, playing characters our protagonists meet, only briefly, in their travels. But the movie's real strength is in evoking the feel of the road in a now-vanished America. If there were an award for location scouting, along with production design, this film would be a prime candidate" - and Richard Corliss in Time magazine (he had originally reviewed the film here) - "Walter Salles' probably as decent approximation of the book as a conventional movie can achieve...The movie's visual texture is both acute and evocative, a vision of postwar America as it might have looked on its sexiest day. Moment to moment, in perhaps half of its teeming vignettes, "On The Road" is alive"). 

Here's Kerouac biographer, Ann Charters and Walter Salles discussing the film in a Q & A after December 14's NYC IFC screening.      Go see the film.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Üvöltés - Allen & Lazlo Foldes' Hobo Blues Band

Our Christmas posting - Allen and the Hobo Blues Band's "Come Back Christmas" was from Üvöltés.   
Here's the whole album, released, in Hungary, on the Krem/Hungaroton label in 1987.

The line-up was Laszlo Foldes (vocals), Dezso Dome (drums), Laszlo Fuchs (piano, electric organ and synthesizer & vocals), Egon Poka (bass, guitar, synthesizer & vocals), Rudolf Janos Toth (guitar, violin & vocals) &  Allen (vocals and harmonium).

The track-listing - "Gospel Noble Truths" (sung in English), "Tear Gas Rag", "Guru Blues", "Come Back Christmas", "Cafe in Warsaw", "Sickness Blues" (again in English) and - side two - "Howl" (excerpts from Carl Solomonert's (sic) Hungarian translation of the poem, recited by Foldes against an increasingly swelling organ-bass-drums background)

Here's an alternative version (in fact, several alternative versions) of Allen's "Gospel Noble Truths"

and here's an alternative "Guru Blues".

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Seasons Greetings

Seasons Greetings from The Allen Ginsberg Project.

Here's Allen's "Come Back Christmas", recorded in 1987, and performed by the Hungarian Hobo Blues Band

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Classroom Survey Results: A Snapshot - Naropa 1976

File:Title page William Shakespeare's First Folio 1623.jpg

["Top of the charts" - Shakespeare (title page of first folio, 1623, with copper engraving by Martin Droeshout)] 

Allen, periodically, in his early Naropa teaching, would conduct what he, endearingly, referred to as “a pecker-count” (an impromptu survey of student’s familiarity with various (what he saw as) “essential” authors). An early example of such a “pecker-count” may be found here. In his 1976 Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) lecture course (the course that we’ve been serializing), June 14, 1976, he tries it again, and announces:

"Almost everybody has read some Shakespeare – Well, 44 people (out of 50) have read T.S.Eliot and 45 have read Shakespeare –The top of the charts – Shakespeare – and 45, Whitman (out of how many? do we know? – Okay, so there are a couple of people who didn’t put one in, there are 5 people who didn’t have papers – Shakespeare 45, Whitman was read by 42, Poe was read by 39 (but that means there are 20 people here that never read Poe, which is amazing!) – no, 11 – Wordsworth – 36 people read, Shelley, 34, Chaucer (amazingly) 33 people have read, Keats, 33, Dickinson 33, Coleridge 33. 31 people have read Blake (So we’ll probably go through some Blake – there are 20 people who haven’t read Blake, so anybody who hasn’t read Blake, should go right to Blake fast)
Then of the other group – more modern, it was (yes), 44 people that have read T.S.Eliot, 39 had read Gary Snyder (the one (real) “modern”, I guess – except probably for myself, but  didn’t have my name on it (on the list) – Gary, apparently, the champ “modern poet”, in terms of penetrability, beating out Ezra Pound by one set of eyes – 38 people had read Pound), 35 had read (William Carlos) Williams, 30 had read Wallace Stevens, 30 had read (Gregory) Corso (and Burroughs was read by 27) – (Robert) Creeley was read by 22,21 read Charles Olson. 30 had read W.B.Yeats, 30 had read D.H.Lawrence. Only 28 (not quite over half) have read Rimbaud – amazingly (So I would say for those who haven’t read Blake or Rimbaud, that would be, obviously, for anybody in this room, (that) is material you should go to fast. 24 have read (John) Donne,22 had read (Pablo) Neruda and 21 had read W.H.Auden. Then, for the rest, it’s under 17, under 17 for everything else (or under 20) – Marvell, Dryden.. In other words, less than half the class have read Marvell, Dryden, Milton, Vachel Lindsay, Marianne Moore, Hart Crane, Frank O’Hara (16 have read (John) Ashbery).
Then, for the people who are almost unread (in this sampling) – Antonin Artaud, a great French Surrealist and post-Surrealist poet, founder of much modern theater, who’s best known work is called “The Theater and Its Double” and whose wildest poetry is called “To Be Done With the Judgement of God" (Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu) which is a very powerful work which has influenced a lot of modern writers. So I would recommend that). Who else have we got unread? Sir Thomas Wyatt is unread.. Yes, we’ll get all this in the library..Wyatt is unread. Christopher Smart, only 7 people read (Thomas Wyatt only 7 people read). Ted Berrigan (who’ll be here (at Naropa)), 9 people have read, Kenneth Koch, only 8 peole have read. Herman Melville’s poetry, hardly anybody knows – 7 people. In the 19th Century in America, Whitman and Emily Dickinson and Egar Allan Poe – and Herman Melville, are, in my opinion, the great poets. You know Melville’s a great prose writer, but as a poet (too) he’s absolutely great, like Shakespeare. Very awkward in his stanza-forms, but his language is a Shakesperean as it is in his prose. We don’t have a book of Melville’s Collected Poems around. There are anthologies. There is a collection which I’ll try and get ahold of for the library."

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 105

December 21 - Today's the day for the official U.S. "On The Road" opening. Walter Salles' film has already been playing (in various versions) in Europe (and elsewhere) for some time now. (See earlier posts about it here and here and here) but today - Winter Solstice - it officially hits the U.S. screens.  
Here's a smattering of U.S. press responses. First, Kenneth Turan's enthusiastic piece in the L.A.Times - "Salles has lovingly crafted a poetic, sensitive, achingly romantic version of the Kerouac book that captures the evanescence of its characters' existence and the purity of their rebellious hunger for the essence of life..more than a tribute to people who have passed into legend..(its) recreation..uses youthful show how eternal that yearning remains". 
The youth and characterization is one thing several critics, it seems, have had some trouble with. Tom Sturridge's Allen ("Carlo Marx") is either "a pleasingly vulnerable and youthful incarnation" (David Haglund in Slate) or "an embarrassing impression" (Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News).       
From Stephen Holden's  New York Times review - "First the good news- America the Beautiful has rarely looked more ripe for exploration than it does in "On The Road", a noble attempt by the Brazilian director Walter Salles to capture literary lightning in a bottle. With spacious skies stretching endlessly over open uncongested roads bordered by amber waves of grain, and purple mountains beckoning in the distance, the movie resurrects a perennial frontier dream and invites you to barrel into the unknown with its Beat Generation legends.." - Holden goes on - "Jose Rivera's scrupulously faithful screen adaption..tries (with only fitful success) to convey the bravado, passion and verve of Kerouac's besotted streams of consciousness.."
"Fitful Success"? - This frustration with, arguably, the impossibility of adaption, is something that several of the reviewers zone in on - Linda Holmes (somewhat waspishly) for NPR - "What I wanted from "On The Road" [what I wanted?] was something that would capture what people love about Beat literature. What I got was a movie that genuinely draws its pleasures from people speaking painfully affected dialogue and doing lots of drugs and having lots of sex with each other. It's exactly the parts of life [sic] that are better to experience than they are to hear about"
Not quite so acerbic but equally damning, perhaps, Jake Coyle for AP - "Walter Salles' "On The Road" was made with noble intentions, finely-crafted filmmaking and handsome casting, but, alas, it does not burn, burn, burn...doesn't pulse with the electric mad rush of Kerouac's feverish phenomenon..ultimately feels conventional too neatly affected and too affectedly acted."  Nick Pinkerton in the Village Voice seems to share this sentiment (""On The Road" is Tamed At Last") - "(The film) does build to a certain rueful poignancy.. (to) one glimmer of truth.." [uh? only one?]. 
One of the most intelligent reviews we've read so far (intelligent, as in provocative, neither frustratedly sniping nor overly fawning) is the aforementioned David Haglund in Slate - "On The Road" is not a great movie", he writes (leaving open what exactly the definition of a "great movie" is), "but it's a pretty interesting work of literary criticism...throughout - whether on purpose or, as sometimes seems to be the case, accidentally - the movie makes one reconsider, and not entirely fondly, the beloved, messy, sporadically thrilling, frequently dispiriting, and widely misunderstood book that inspired it." - "On The Road" makes us look at, among other things, not only youth, but gender (and expectations).
Other interesting "On The Road" reviews here and here, but heck, just turn to Rotten Tomatoes, the movie-review aggregating site, where last time we looked there were 82 of them! 

 Too late for last week, but not too late for this week's Round-Up,  Eliot Katz's review of the recently-released Ginsberg Recordings Holy Soul Jelly Roll set (on Levi Asher's venerable and informative Literary Kicks site) is very much worth perusing (in fact, is an essential read!)

Finally, The Boo-Hooray Gallery in New York (the gallery that has previously been featured here regarding exhibits on Angus MacLise, and on Ed Sanders' Fuck You Press) is currently presenting (through till January 16 - tho' closed December 22-January 3rd) an exhibition of still images and ephemera relating to legendary film-maker (and Allen's sometime consort) Barbara Rubin and her landmark 1963 underground film Christmas on Earth. The Gallery is also publishing a limited-edition book of still images from the movie (with an extended biographical essay and bibliography by art historian, Daniel Belasco).
More information about Barbara and about that project here and here

[Allen Ginsberg and Barbara Rubin, June 3 1965, in London at Barry Miles apartment, on the occasion of Allen's 39th birthday. Photograph by John ("Hoppy") Hopkins]

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) - 21 (Jerusalem..& Weep No More...)

Allen concludes this particular July 1976 class at Naropa [see our earlier serialization] on the ballad form

The other (piece) that I had in mind (alongside "As You Came From The Holy Land of Walsingham"..)  was "Jerusalem, My Happy Home", which is the same basic pattern. [Allen reads "Jerusalem, My Happy Home" - "Jerusalem, my happy home,/ When shall I come to thee?/When shall my sorrows have an end./Thy joys when shall I see.." - That's a very powerful piece of idealism.

Student: Allen?

AG: (The singer, he) sure wants to go!

Student: It sounds so much like (William) Blake. Was he influenced by that?

AG: Yeah, likely. Blake would have picked up his notion of "Jerusalem"

Student: The sound is there too.

AG: I think this is probably still sung in Anglican churches

That was ballad, but going on with song, while we're on song, the one thing in all these is, rhythmically, what I was pointing out, basically in "Walsingham" was..just that there's a slowness that comes sometimes when you divide the line. I think it comes from being aware of the lines as something that are sung, so that though there's a built-in sing-song power, there's also an awareness of slowing down, taking breaths and stretching out the vowels.

Here's a song, not a ballad but a song, which, when you pay attention to the commas, it slows down the song and gives it a real subtle rhythm, (John Dowland's "Weep You No More, Sad Fountains"  [Allen proceeds to read "Weep You No More, Sad Fountains" - "Weep you no more, sad fountains,/ What need you flow so fast?/ Look how the snowy mountains/Heaven's sun doth gently waste./ But my sun's heavenly eyes/ View not your weeping,/ That now lie sleeping/ Softly, now softly lies/ Sleeping. Sleep is reconciling/A rest that peace begets/Doth not the sun rise smiling/When fair at even he sets?/ Rest you then, rest, sad eyes" - "Rest you then, rest, sad eyes". Not "Rest you then rest sad eyes", but "Rest you eyes" - [Allen continues] - "Melt not in weeping/ While she lies sleeping/Softly, now softly lies/ Sleeping." - What's funny is there's a combination of run-on lines, so that two lines or more may be spoken in one breath, or as one tune, and then the middle of the line will be interrupted with a rest.

Student: A caesura?

AG: Yeah. Caesura, it's called, but it's a comma here. So, one thing to be aware of is that, generally, with fine poets, the punctuation is actually an indication of the breathing and the spacing and the sound. In (William) Blake particularly, with his manuscripts, because those are (in) his original hand, so you can rely on the punctuation because he put it there himself. Often in the old song-books. I think in the Norton Anthology, the punctuation is reliable - that is, studied classical punctuation, copied from some original text. There is a problem if you've got somebody who was a goofy editor, who punctuates unnecessarily, not for the original music but punctuates because he thinks syntacticly it's supposed to be, but punctuation from the original music will give you a sense of how you breathe, if you're singing the song, or how you speak it, if you want to speak it. We don't have it here visually, but "Sleep is a reconciling" is one line, with a comma - "Sleep is reconciling/A rest that peace begets". Period. Second line - "A rest that peace begets"- "Doth not the sun rise smiling/When fair at even he sets?/ Rest you then, rest, sad eyes". Those are two lines but it's spoken as one -  "Doth not the sun rise smiling/When fair at even he sets?" - because there's no punctuation. "Rest you then - (comma) rest comma)  sad eyes" - All ones. "Rest you then.. rest.. sad eyes - (comma)/ Melt not in weeping/While she lies sleeping/Softly (pause)  now softly lies/ (pause) Sleeping" - I'm not being clear, because I'm trying to explain verbally what's visual - The last four lines are "Melt not in weeping/While she lies sleeping/Softly, now softly lies/ Sleeping". If you follow it and speak it according to the punctuation - "Melt not in weeping while she lies sleeping softly, now softly lies sleeping", you have a funny kind of punctuation against the arrangement of the lines, run-on lines and then lines cut, third line cut in the middle, so you get a very delicate series, a delicate syncopation, or, if you're singing it, a delicate suggestion (as to) how to extend the melody, where to break the time. This I'm saying on account of this (which) can be done sing-song. [Allen then repeats the stanza "sing-song" to illustrate the point] - So you can do it that way, or you can get the interior, or inner echo that way, but if you actually spoke it as suggested, you actually get something much more delicate... (If) you want to know how to make a tune out of (the) words) you really have to follow (the) marks to guide your own breathing.
Well, that's about all I feel like going through now. Does somebody have any questions?

Student: Allen, with your early influences of (William Carlos) Williams, and (then) all this work you've done with measured verse rather than metered verse...

AG: Yeah. That's a nice distinction. Did everybody hear that?

Student(s): No

AG: (A) distinction between measured verse and metered verse. So, just for everybody's ear..

Student: I'm curious why you found a need to go back to all the metered.. Is it curiosity, or is it...

AG: (Well), several reasons. Several reasons, yeah. First of all, I grew up with metered verse in my ear and just got it by osmosis, and did some study on it but never any real scholarly analysis, or no real scholarly study. I can do it automatically, more or less, but I never had to figure it out. So it's just out of curiosity this (past) year. A reason for the curiosity is that, in taking (recently) core samples of people's readings in the class, I find that very few people have read what I take for granted (which is to say, last year, nobody  had read Shelley's "Ode to The West Wind" - well, anyway, under half the class). Only seven people here (in this class) have read (Sir Thomas) Wyatt. So, for teaching, I've been interested in going back and filling in gaps in (students') reading - and, partly from a case of guilt, because last year I came in and took a pecker-check [sic!] of who had read what, and found that under half the class had read (John) Keats and  (Percy Bysshe) Shelley and (but) the majority had read my own poetry and (Jack) Kerouac in the schools. I felt that there was something basically wrong with that and that, if I was teaching, I'd better go back and teach the early stuff. Partly out of (a) sense of self-interest (because I don't think people will appreciate how good my poetry is unless they know how the measured verse contrasts with the metered - People won't really appreciate measured verse unless they have some ear for the original metered verse). Because a lot of the charm of what Kerouac is doing, or what I'm doing, or what Gregory Corso is doing, is that it is built on an extension of, and a revolt against, and an opposition to, and a reflection of, and a comment on, earlier centuries of meter. And the beauty of William Carlos Williams' discoveries of measure are not as easily appreciated, the intellectual beauty of it, and the cultural canniness of Williams' practical measurement of speech, measurement of actual speech, as a principle of arranging the line, that Williams arranged for American verse, you won't appreciate how really funny it is, until you know what it's coming out of and how they used to measure before. Or you won't be able to appreciate (Ezra) Pound's use of measuring vowels as a standard of measuring the line until you dig how people before that were just measuring syllables and accents and they got their idea of measuring syllables and accents from an older English practice which adopted the foot and the accent marks and the system of count from Greek and Roman classic meters, which were originally meters of vowel-length (which is what Pound brought back to the 20th Century). In other words, in Greek and Latin times, they measured vowel-length. Then, when they had to figure out things in English, a little before Shakespeare's time, they said. "Well, let's see, they used to measure it in long and short vowels, so we'll have heavy and light accents, and we'll adopt their whole system of classification, but, instead of applying it to vowels, we'll apply it to stress or accent".  And then Pound in the 20th Century went back to measuring vowel-length. So, unless people understand all that funny history, the whole progress (because there is a kind of progress, or development, of 20th Century poetry), it doesn't make too much sense, and then people are lost.  I'm trying to teach and make sense of the basics. So I'm just trying to make sense of the basics. The fact that there is a measure possible for 20th Century speech, is something that is not even known, anyway, to most of the students in this class, I'll bet. How many here have heard of William Carlos Williams' "variable foot"? How many have not? How many have heard of Pound's suggestion, or how many know what "quantitative measure" is? Quantitative measure? How many don't? Raise your hands. Okay, how many know what "stress meter" is, (that is, accentual count)? How many are familiar with the count of measure? How many are not? And how many are really not?  Come on! How many people are not familiar with how to count an iambic line? Well, people know just that much, but not too much. So it's interesting to spread it all out. And to spread it all out, you've got to begin with the best-known, which is metered - it's metered matter. And then (we'll) go on to other matters. Does that answer (your question)?

Student: Will you be publishing sonnets?

AG: Oh, oh, a third reason - I used to write sonnets...

Student: Yeah, I know.

AG:  The third reason is that at the moment [1976], I'm involved in writing songs. I'm running around with Bob Dylan and writing songs and recording songs (which I did a wek before I came here) and so I'm just getting curious about old songs (just as I was saying, if you want to know where Dylan got "Where are you going, my blue-eyed boy? [sic], go back to "Lord Randal, my son". So I was getting interested in the old songs because I'm writing new songs (actually, just to see if there's anything there I can use). Today, what I was reading out loud, when we got to that really beautiful..that funny line - duh-duh-dah, duh-duh-dah - "As it was, so will be" - I'll use that. Yeah.."In Times Square, Union Square" - "In Times Square.." - "I've been walking on the street/In Times Square, Union Square". So you can use those. I mean, I heard that, and I suddenly said - "Ah, I've been looking for my love/In Times Square, Union Square" - Why not? - Because it's such a powerful sound. The point is to get the sound in your belly and then you'll speak your own words with it. But the obvious thing is to consciously speak your own words with those sounds. "I got up in my business-suit.." What was funny about the ballad that I tried to make was that it started out, "I came out in my business-suit, my vest and my briefcase.." It's just the same old ballad meter, but using contents of a modern mind.. If you get the rhythm in well enough, then, maybe, you have freedom to use modern mind in the rhythm. The problem would be to get the sing-song meter and.. repeat the words, which most people do..    

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads - 20) (As You Came From..)

AG: "As You Came From the Holy Land of Walsingham" is (also) interesting. Robert Lowell got into this, actually, quite a bit. [Allen reads the first two stanzas of "As You Came From the Holy Land of Walsingham" (a poem attributed to Sir Walter Ralegh) - "As you came from the holy land/ Of Walsingham,/Met you not with my true love,/By the way as you came?/ "How should I know your true love/That have met many a one/As I came from the holy land/ That have come, that have gone?"] - Now there's a funny rhythm, different from anything (that) we've heard so far, actually. That, almost-sad "How should I know your true love/That have met many a one/As I came from the holy land/ That have come, that have gone?" - that sudden cut, right in the middle, in a perfect balance. Apparently, all through the poem you get that little echo (which is not like anything in Wyatt, or not like anything I've seen in earlier ballads, and is obviously great for singing, because, if you had to say "As I came from the holy land/ That have come, that have gone?", you really have to take a breath and lay down both parts, both divisions of the tune. [Allen continues, reading the remaining nine stanzas of the poem - "She is neither white nor brown/But as the heavens fair/There is none hath her form so divine,/ On the earth, in the air/ "Such a one did I meet, good sir,/With angel-like face,/Who like a nymph, like a queen did appear/In her gait, in her grace."/She hath left me here alone,/All alone unknown,/Who sometime loved me as her life,/And called me her own./ "What is the cause she hath left thee alone,/And a new way doth take,/ That sometime did thee love as herself,/And her joy did thee make?"/ I have loved her all my youth,/But now am old as you see,/Love liketh not the falling fruit,/ Nor the withered tree./ For love is a careless child,/And forgets promise past,/He is blind, he is deaf, when he list,/And in faith never fast./ His desire is fickle found/And a trustless joy,/ He is won with a world of despair/And is lost with a toy./ Such is the love of womenkind/Or the word, love, abused/Under which many childish desires/And conceits are excused./ But love, it is a durable fire/In the mind ever burning,/Never sick, never dead, never cold,/From itself never turning." - It's funny how when you get "On the earth, in the air" - "In her gate, in her grace" - "That have come, that have gone" - and then, "He is blind, he is deaf, when he lists" - "Never sick, never dead, never cold" - In the short lines you get that division into two - like the extra-special good parts rhythmically of the poem are those divisions into two of  "That have come, that have gone", and in the longer line, the four-beat line - "Love liketh not the fallen fruit" - "He is blind, he is deaf, when he list" - "He is blind, he is deaf..." - how would you do that? - "He is blind, he is deaf.." - how would that be? I didn't even analyze it.  "Love liketh not the fallen fruit" is one stanza, then the equivalent - "He is blind, he is deaf, when he list" - it sounds like it's just three - "Never sick, never dead, never cold" - "But love, it is a durable fire" - So you could actually.. theoretically, it's four (we're still back on the original ballad meter that I started messing about with the other day, of four-beat and three-beat and four-beat and three-beat line) - "But love, it is a durable fire/In the mind ever burning,/Never sick, never dead, never cold,/From itself never turning." - I don't know how to analyze it. I mean, it's so subtle. Probably there are great books of analysis of this particular ballad. Has anybody studied this one? Do we have scholars here who have actually studied the prosody of this "Walsingham" ballad? [to student] - Do you know anything about that, Paul? Well, unfortunately, I'm ignorant. Do you know anything about that?

Student: Is that Scottish? (a) Scottish ballad?

AG: Yeah. No, no, I don't think so, because it sounds English, because there's.. Norfolk, actually. Norfolk, where?..Norfolk, England.. and thr language is not Scottish. The language, as you hear, it sort of straight.

Student: Because it's reminiscent of the Elizabethans, how their thoughts twist, and how they're playing on their conceit.

AG: Yeah, I was just thinking of.. right at the moment, I was right into wondering.. because what I had suggested as ballad meter was duh-dah, duh-dah, duh-dah, duh-dah-duh-dah, duh-dah, duh-dah - then I just was noticing here, does that actually follow that?. Because this is so beautiful, musically - this is probably more beautiful musically than anything so far, but it's totally eccentric in that sense. [Allen re-reads the opening two stanzas of the poem, emphasizing the melody] - "That have come, that have gone" - he reverses it - "That have come, that have gone" - how would you count it? Obviously it was written for music, or in some kind of stanza that I haven't analyzed properly.

Student: Allen?

AG: Yeah.

Student: That four-four-three thing is present in Indian music, so maybe it was a minor key that was..  (and).. a melody that was.. (in this way) more prevalent..(I'm looking at) the same line.. and..

AG: "As you came from the holy land" - (so) how would that be analyzed in Indian?

Student: Well in Indian music, there's...

AG: Yeah, I never thought of this. This is.. Go on.. "As you came from the holy land" - that would be the line. So how would that go?

Student: It would go by beat.

AG: Yeah - and how would that be?

Student: I've seen it (so) analyzed...

AG: As?

Student: ...breaking down four beats, it's a seven-beat measure.

AG: Dum-duh-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah.

Student: Four-three

AG: Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh - "As you came from the ho-ly land". Yeah. If you were doing it with finger-cymbals it would fall in a funny way like that. You could do a four and a three... Yeah, that was (is) an interesting way of thinking about it. Lately I've been doing a lot of music so I'm interested in what I can pick up just by looking at the text - what it feels like and how I can balance it out, and what it weighs like in the hand or in the mouth. Probably it would be useful to check it out in some classic study of meters, but it's just as well to try and figure it out yourself too.

Student: Duh-dah, duh-dah, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, dah? No? And wouldn't it be like that - Four-three, four-three?

AG: What are we talking about(here)? - "As You Came From the Holy Land.." - "As You Came From The Holy Land" - Unfortunately, not everybody has the text here. THe "four-three"'s we are talking about in the first line are  - "As you came from the holy land/ of Walsingham" (that's the four and the three, alternate lines) - Same as the classic ballad meter, same thing as Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner". So that's just old-fashioned classic ballad. What I was pointing out in this is that this has broken the pattern of a four-beat and a three-beat because you have "Who like a nymph, like a queen did appear/In her gait, in her grace". So the hanging part, the "three-part" is sometimes just two, or odd. I was just pointing out that this one has an eccentric (prosody) that likely could be analyzed but I'm not capable of doing it. And I'm inviting people to dig anyway the variability - and how powerful that is.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) - 19 (The Unquiet Grave)

AG: Getting back to ballad(s). There was one that Helen Adam didn't read. She also sent a message about her ballads..where's that?..yeah,.the ballads she can recommend as her favorites are (were) "Thomas the  Rhymer" and "May Colvin".. and "Young Tam Lin". I'll try and get ahold of those. (But) did she read "The Unquiet Grave", do you remember?

Student: No

AG: It's sort of short and interesting. [Allen reads "The Unquiet Grave" in its entirety - "The wind doth blow today, my love,/ And a few small drops of rain,/ I never had but one true love,/In cold grave she was lain./  "I'll do as much for my true-love/As any young man may,/I'll sit and mourn all at her grave/For a twelve-month and a day"./ The twelve-month and a day being up,/The dead began to speak,/"Oh who sits weeping on my grave,/And will not let me sleep?"/ "'Tis I, my love, sits on your grave,/And will not let you sleep,/For I crave one kiss of your clay-cold lips/And that is all I seek./ "You crave one kiss of my cold-clay lips,/But my breath smells earthy strong,/ If you have one kiss of my cold-clay lips,/Your time will not be long./ "'Tis down in yonder garden green,/Love, where we used to walk,/The finest flower that e'er was seen/Is withered to a stalk./ "The stalk is withered dry,my love,/So will our hearts decay,/So make yourself content, my love,/Till God calls you away" - Actually, rather sweet sentiment. She denies him the kiss, I guess.  You know what's funny?  [Allen begins singing] - "'Tis down in yonder garden green,/Love, where we used to walk" - this meter (and the very language) is the archaic original of almost all country 'n western rhetoric. The American radio country 'n western all comes from "The Unquiet Grave", oddly - from this classic background [Allen continues singing (with country 'n western intonation)  - "'Tis down in yonder garden green,/Love, where we used to walk"..   

Student: Does it say where that verse came from?

AG: Yes. Child Ballads #78A. The Norton Anthology is pretty good. I'll try and get the Child Ballads for the library. Our problem there is we don't have a lot of money..

Student: (It's rural is) cowboy music. It came from there. As the country spread westward, the only music that they (the people) had was the music of the settlers and what they brought over (with them)...

AG: Yeah

Student: So that's what they..

AG: Well, it was a bunch of Scotchmen, a lot of Scotchmen and Englishmen and Irishmen , that moved through, what? Where is the ballad country in America?

Student(s): Appalachia

AG: Appalachia. So what groups were they?

Student: Scotch/Irish

AG: Scotch/Irish. They just brought their own music and their songs, and were isolated, and kept singing the same songs. The American tradition has got a direct transfusion of that. But those lines are so obviously right out of the radio, right out of the American Southern radio.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) - 18 (Thomas Wyatt 3)

[Sir Thomas Wyatt (1498-1543) - woodcut by Hans Holbein the Younger, drawn c.1540 (published in John Leland's Naenia, a poetic elegy in Latin, composed in praise of Wyatt and published on the occasion of his death]

AG: (So) You see how terrific (Sir Thomas) Wyatt is, actually. As I say it’s sort of a shame that, [according to a class survey’}, only seven people (here have ever) read Wyatt. Actually, I have a book of poems called The Gates of Wrath, which were the earliest poems I wrote, and the rhythms of that book were straight out of Wyatt. I found him the most candy-like model. His rhythms were like sweet candy. So strong that it had an early influence on me.

Student:; Were you influenced by “My Lute Awake..” and “Forget Not Yet..” and..?

AG: Yeah, those. Yeah. The ones that I read, naturally.

Student: No, I mean in your book, influenced by..

AG: (Well,) in particular, what?

Student: The two sonnets in the beginning..

AG: No, that’s not so much Wyatt. The Wyatt influence is on “Stanzas Written At Night in Radio City”. Okay, let me show you how I transferred that, actually. Might as well. From “Forget Not Yet..” – that sound of “Forget Not Yet”.. [Allen proceeds to read, in its entirety, the three stanzas of his early poem, “Stanzas Written At Night in Radio City” – “If money made the mind more sane/ Or money mellowed in the bowel/The hunger beyond hunger’s pain,/ Or money choked the mortal growl/ And made the groaner grin again…,” – I’m reading it sing-song, it doesn’t mean anything that way, but just to show you I got that sing-song speedy cadence from Wyatt into my brain and then, after a while, could churn (it) out. You can hear it in your inner ear with the same speed, then you can write it more slowly and it breaks down so you can recite it with more sense, like…[Allen re-reads the first stanza with the proper intonation – “If money made the mind more sane/ Or money mellowed in the bowel/The hunger beyond hunger’s pain,/ Or money choked the mortal growl/ And made the groaner grin again/Or did the laughing lamb embolden/To loll where has the lion lain/ I’d go make money and be golden” ] –So you can read it as sense too. - as I was reading the Wyatt as sense. Or you can also get that rhythmic speedy paradigm. I guess Wyatt stuck in my nervous system, so I’m recommending a dose of Wyatt. While we’re..  yeah?

Student: Do you think it is important to work through and beyond these voices that you hear of other poets, or just to absorb them?

AG: I was just responding to… what’s your name?...

Student: Natalie

AG: Natalie’s situation, in which she wasn’t able to write spontaneously in that song form, because she wasn’t used enough to the form, so I was just trying to figure out a way of how you could get a fast dose of that form. To get a fast dose of that form, I would say take Wyatt’s poems, (“My Lute Awake..” and :Forget Not Yet..”, among others) and read them aloud about 25 times, fast, digging that funny, fast syncopation, Not worrying about the sense. You get the flashes of sense, anyway, while you’re doing it, but if  you read them aloud, fast, just for the fun of that. [Allen illustrates, reading the first two stanzas of “Forget Not Yet..”] – If you do that, just fast, there’s a funny…

Student: Okay, that has the iambic, right?..

AG: Actually, what is that? I think..

Student: Not the ballad form.

AG: No, it’s not the ballad form, no. I drifted off. We were dealing with (the) ballad, but then I got off into “The Morpethshire Farmer”, and then.. I got on to Wyatt, and then I thought it would be a good idea to read a couple of poems of Wyatt, because they’re songs, so they’re somewhat  related to the ballad, and they’re back in that period, (and because nobody (had apparently) read them and they were right here). I wouldn’t take (the term), “ballad” too seriously. For ballad meter, one of the best examples that can stick in the mind, if you want to get it in your nervous system.. some of the ballads that…

AG: Yeah..some of the ballads that Helen (Adam) mentioned would be a good idea - “The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens”..  but they’re a little archaic. I would say “Jerusalem..” (there’s one called “Jerusalem..”, which I’ll get to in a moment), one called “As You Came From The Holy Land of Walsingham” (I’ll get back to ballads in a minute or two). “Jerusalem, My Happy Home” – but, jumping ahead in time to (Samuel Taylor) Coleridge’s “The Ancient Mariner” – “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” – (that) is in a ballad meter. You know that poem already, don’t you? That’s classic ballad meter. He’s combined all the echoes of the earlier ballads..                                                                                         

The other poem, while we’re on Wyatt, before we get away from Wyatt, while we’re still into his ear (is) “They flee from me, that sometime did me seek..” [Allen reads Wyatt’s poem in its entirety – “They flee from me, that sometime did me seek,/ With naked foot stalking my chamber..”] – This poem is famous for a lot of reasons, and worth digging for a lot of reasons – but two, one – the whole situation is really mysterious, what his relation to her [the subject of the poem] is, and whether it’s a mystical Madonna, or an actual mistress, or somebody he once made it with - or somebody that was once dependent on him for bread and now ranges “busily seeking.”…”with.continual change”, away from his chamber. There’s a lot of brilliant phrases – “With naked foot stalking in my chamber” – and there’s a sort of weird comparison between the girl [subject] and some wild beast (“I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,/ That now are wild…”) – But, also, rhythmically, it’s real rough and strange, and apparently broken. It’s very difficult to read this particular one in total sing-song without tripping and getting lost, without breaking the reading, without losing the rhythm. It has an echo of that perfection of sing-song in it. [Allen attempts to read the poem again] – “They flee from me, that sometime did me seek,/ With naked foot stalking in my chamber,/ I have seen them , gentle, tame and meek,/ That now are wild, and do not remember/That sometime they put themselves in danger/ To take bread at my hand, and now they range,/ Busily seeking with a continual change.” – It’s almost.. But, then, unlike the other little poems that I was reading, it breaks, and I’ve never successfully been able to make a run-on reading, like that, fast  - {Allen continues] – “Thanked by Fortune it hath been otherwise,/ Twenty times better, but once in special,/ In thin array, after a pleasant guise,/ When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,/ And she me caught in her arms long and small./ And therewith all sweetly did me kiss/ And softly said, “Dear heart,  how like you this?” – Well, so far you can, I guess – “It was no dream, I lay broad waking/ But all is turned, thorough my gentleness..” – And (so) there’s (that) word, “thorough”, (which sounds like it should be “through”, “But all is turned, through my gentleness?”), and nobody has ever understood why “through” is spelt “thorough” there – T-H-O-R-O-U-G-H (unless, in that century, ”through” was pronounced and spelt “thorough”). So, this has always hung (up) scholars, like Lionel Trilling, or..

Student: Critics?

AG: Well, scholars and critics, trying to figure out what was the original rhythm, and was it a song, and, if a song, how was it sung? – “And she also to use newfangleness/ But since that I so kindely am served/ I fain would know what she hath deserved.” – Nobody has been able to figure out the exact meter, and, in the early anthologies, they used to cut various words out (of them) to try to make it sound even, to try and make it sound sing-song like the rest.  “Kindely”, also – K-I-N-D-E-L-Y – “But since that I so kindely am served”, is the way it’s spelled in this book and probably in the original spelling.   So, “They flee from me…” is another thing you might check out. I had a teacher at Columbia, named Raymond Weaver, who was the best college teacher I ever had, who was s sort of innovative mystic, the only one around Columbia College who had been in Japan and actually sat in Zen, and knew Zen koans, and used koans and strange methods of teaching, (who was also reputed to be gay, and a friend of Wanda Landowska), who had had taught in Japan and was also a great scholar, who was the first person to write a book about Herman Melville (and who actually discovered Melville’s manuscript, “Billy Budd” in a trunk in an attic in New York). So Weaver was teaching at Columbia and he used to use this poem, “They Flee From Me..”, mimeographing it up without Wyatt’s name on it and handing it out, as a sort of mysterious document, to the football-team members who took his famous course, “Communications 13” (which was actually a course in poetry, but which was called “Communications”), in which he taught very odd things, like koans, haiku, some of Hart Crane, and a few, rare, special, poems (of which this was one). That was the standard fare in college in the (19)40’s – Sir Thomas Wyatt. I don’t know how anybody who went to college could have escaped Wyatt. Actually, there’s one very funny sonnet of his, “Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind…” It’s a pun on “be-hind”, actually! It’s an old, funny, sex poem – mystical sex poem. “Hind”? What’s a hind? I forgot.

Student: A deer

AG: A deer, yeah. A mystical deer. Usually you’re chasing a hind! “Whoso list to hunt..”  - “Whoso list” – who has the desire to hunt. [Allen begins reading Wyatt’s “Whoso list..” – “Whoso list to hunt, I know where there is an hind,/ But as for me, alas, I may no more,/ The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,/ I am of them that furthest come behind..”] – It’s always been considered to be a double-entendre, this sonnet, actually, if you can follow it. [Allen continues] – “Yet may I by no means my wearied mind/ Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore/ Fainting I follow, I leave off therefore,/ Since in a net I seek to hold the wind..” – A very famous line (that) – “Since in a net I seek to hold the wind”. Is that his original? – “Since in a net I seek to hold the wind” – or is he using that from somebody else? – because that’s a classic line – “Who list her hunt, I put him out of dount,/ As well as I, may spend his time in vain./ And graven with diamonds in letters plain,/ There is written her fair neck round about, “Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,/ And wild for to hold, though I seem tame”..” – These are all poems that students of English poetry consider great classics, all these little Wyatt sonnets and songs. They are actually pretty good for your ear. There are some anthologies in the library, and I’ll leave this Norton Anthology there on and off, so you can check out Wyatt, and then I think there are probably (also) cheap anthologies of his work. He’s worth reading in detail. He’s worth reading a lot of poems just for that real perfect sound. There’’s a lot of poems that have that great, impeccable, iron-like sing-song, if you want to read him that way, as well as tremendous humor and mysteriousness. I think there used to be a volume in the Everyman series called Silver Poets of the 16th Century, was there not? – That had a lot of Wyatt.