Saturday, July 20, 2013

Peter Orlovsky & Jackson MacLow 1975 Naropa reading (with harmonious introduction by Allen Ginsberg)

Jackson Mac Low, photo by Anne Tardos

Continuing with our choice selections from the remarkable Naropa Institute Archives. Here's Peter Orlovsky and Jackson MacLow from 1975. (Allen, accompanying himself on harmonium, chooses to improvise/ sing the introductions on this particular occasion).
A transcription of his introduction follows:

AG: (The) Kerouac Institute for the School of Disembodied Poetics will now continue its cycle of poetry readings by famous nuts and neurotics and people who watch their diet-etics/ two moralist vegetarians, years gone by, Jackson MacLow and Peter Orlov-sky. Peter's the Professor of Bucolic Poesy, a pastoral poet and  farmer boy is he, originally, also a Beatnik, as you know, who William Carlos Williams praised for his great lyric flow. Oddly, of all the poets of the mid 1955's, Peter Orlovsky was praised by William Carlos Williams as the best Beatnik lyric poet alive, his talent recognized by the old kind-eyed guru. Now Peter Orlovsky's, Bucolic Poetry Professor, teaching you. He taught his class this afternoon, tonight, his poesy he'll read into your ear...... or make up whatever he can think of might be.  
Participant in many poetry readings, historic events, from 1955 San Francisco to Chicago.  He has made a great golden angel in the poetic heavens of Amerikee - and so he'll be here at Naropa, for a Buddhist boy he also be. He took his refuge vows from Kalu and his bodhisattvas too, although he's been a bodhisattva decades long now, yes, a true blue. An original participant of the establishment of the dharma in the land. Peter Orlovsky, called by (Jack) Kerouac (as) a saint, has always had a hand in creating the ground and atmosphere for the suffering we know so well, and has spent many years rescuing his brothers from their hell, in mental hospitals, or cities, or the hells of amphetamine. Peter Orlovsky (has) wandered around and been the strong-arm man, the guardian angel of the poets, the great bicept-ed fool (for Peter Orlovsky, humble boy, has followed golden rule
But there are two poets here tonight. The second who will read is Jackson MacLow in the red shirt and several pairs of beads. Jackson MacLow's bibliography includes many a beautiful rare book - 22 Light Poems, Black Sparrow, L.A, 1968 - take a look! - The Pronouns, London, (19)71, from Tetrad Press, issued forth, 4 Trains from Burning Deck, Providence, in 1974. Stanzas for Iris Lesak, from Barton, Vermont, Something Else Press is one of the thickest volumes of chance poetics that you'll ever find. 36th Light Poem, Permanent Press, (19)75. Several of these volumes Jackson's brought, and so, you or your wife can buy then here at Naropa, if you want to see his latest work. As well as if you look it up in the library - An Anthology (edited by La Monte Young, in 1963). Don't shirk the proper study of the poets we bring here. You'll find that, of his work, it is among the most earliest and dear of the chance operation poetics and music practiced in Amerikee - 1954,  with John Cage, he worked on that thing which is eternally a representation of the first simultaneous spontaneous event. The '5 biblical poems" he did , in 1955, for three voices  (for Henry Cowell) was one of the first chance operational poems presented in America that we know. It influenced John Cage's chance operations to include language. So, Jackson is one of the fathers, yes, a father is MacLow. He's also been influenced by Dao and (I Ching) The Book of Changes too. A pacifist anarchist, he was the first man to sit down and refuse to join the air-raid drill and hide his ass underground. That was back in 1955 - City Hall Park, New York. (That's a piece of anarchist resistance that goes back, for true work, almost as long as the deep record of William Merwin [Merwin is there in attendance] and early men, at that too - refusing to take shelter from the Bomb - amazing! - wouldn't you spend a couple of days in jail for refusing the air-raid drill) - and in that chance operation he as well influenced Julian Beck and Judith Malina of the Living Theater, those days, which began a huge and beautiful pacifist wave. 

Kabbalah('s), also, Jackson MacLow's music in the back of his brain. He also, like Orlovsky, fled from sorrow's reign to Kalu Rinpoche for his vows, refuges (and) bodhisattva too. And now I'll end my song, and the poets will speak and sing to you."   

Peter Orlovsky begins the reading, "I'll read the first poem I wrote in Paris, 1957" - "Frist Poem" - "Then I wrote another poem called "Morris", about a young kid in a mental hospital in New York City, where I worked in 1959" [Peter reads "Morris"] - "This is a sex experiment in Tangier - making love with Allen (and I got the typewriter to write it down) -  [reads from "Sex Experiment"] - "This is a poem I wrote ten years later, after having been in India, 1961 - Benares ("When in Benares, in 1961, Summer, I was so lazy"..."the last bastard of a selfish human creep sleep") - Then this is a poem I wrote recently - "But because the military now gets a hundred million dollar budget for war study...")

Peter reads next "Poems From The Subway" -  ("There goes Adam and Eve.." .."let the subway be our Greek meeting-place.."..) - That's a poem I wrote taking cough syrup ( I was addicted to cough-syrup for years - like an idiot!), so you go into a funny reverie.. 
reads next - "Second Poem" ("Morning again. Nothing has to be done. Maybe buy a piano or make fudge..".."..walking over a bridge of flowers"), then "Snail Poem" ("Make my grave the shape of a heart.."), then "My Bed is Covered Yellow" ("O sun, I sit on you..".."O yellow bed, all the news lay on you at one time or another") - "I got a phone call from my heart".."I waited in fear" - concluding with "Scrambled Leaves Poem" ("There's our small country dump with ten thousand pounds of township leaves..."..."...and that it's not good  to smoke, he thinks")

Jackson MacLow: "I'm going to do a variety of things tonight. For about twenty years, I've been working in the interface between music and other arts, poetry and other arts, especially music, but also theater, dance, video and drawing (and) painting, and at this interface one can do various conversions, and one thing that we're [sic] going to do tonight is take something that is a drawing consisting of 960 words that are derived from the name of a friend of ours - Peter Innisfree Moore, a great photographer. We're going to play these words as well as say them, by playing the letters, by a sort of translation system, and we produce a piece by a combination of having to keep the actual pitches that are indicated by the words, but making free choices of how we do it, by listening intensely, and being aware, in every respect, of all aspects of the situation. So we're going to be doing three pieces of this sort. the first one I'll be doing as a duo with Sharon Mattlin, and then I have a group of people (who's names I have, I hope, on this list) who will be helping me in the first piece and then the piece that will come at the end. The people who are helping me are... [Jackson enumerates a list of his collaborators] - I guess that's it, did I leave anything out?. Now the first piece is a piece which I call a "gatha", in which I take the letters of a mantram [sic - singular of mantra] (in the case of this first one it's the mantram of Chenrezi) - aum mani padme hum -  and, as Allen mentioned, I was initiated into that by Kalu Rinpoche, (and so I'm dedicating at least that aspect of this reading to Kalu Rinpoche). So, we've.. once, this..  You have the mantram, and then a chance-given roll of "A's", "U''s and "M''s. By using random digits produced by a computer. I find places to put, first the row of "A'''s, "U"'s, "M"'s, and then repetition of the mantram  Where the letters of the mantram cross the "A"'s, "U'"s and "M'"s, where "A"'s, "U''s and "M"'s occur in the mantram. Other chance operations assign places to the mantram. So once we have this configuration, you get a number of them, any number of mantram. We each perform and follow as a path from any letter, any square, to saying letter sounds, saying letter names, saying the words, finding other words, syllables, and so on, and falling silent in silent spaces. So this is the Chenrezi Gatha - Aum mani padme hum - Sharon Mattlin and myself. [MacLow and Mattlin perform the Chenrezi Gatha] - (next),  "A Vocabulary for Peter Innisfree" Moore, which was, as I say, produced by finding 960 words spelled from the letters of this man's name and then using chance operations to draw them from the list and to place them on the drawing, and then the people on the stage work freely from these materials, but always either saying the word or playing letters that correspond, playing notes, that correspond to the letters - [Group performance of "A Vocabulary for Peter Innisfree Moore"] - pause - " hello..ok..I'm going to a different kind of piece now. This is the "36th Light Poem", in 1962 and (19)68, I wrote a number of poems based.. drawing their basic images from a chart of 288 kinds of light, that I made up in 1962, and these poems I call "Light Poems" and, after the first 22 of them were published by John Martin and the Black Sparrow Press, in (19)68, I continued to write more of them, and so, on New Years Day, 1972, I wrote a "Light Poem" - "In Memoriam Buster Keaton - It's the 36th Light Poem - "In Memoriam Buster Keaton", and this was just published in London (England), when I first got over there, in May, by Robert Vas Dias from the Permanent Press). So just a little pamphlet - [Jackson reads "36th Light Poem" ("As a mad scientist, Buster lights a bunsen-burner flame that starts a series of processes..." .."your karmic residue dissolves in joyous shouts")  [continues]- So, since I like to go from one extreme to the other, this is "A Phoneme Dance, For (And From) John Cage" - It's from him in the sense that all the sounds are just sounds in John's name - and subtitled "A Word-Event For John Cage", (it) was written, September of (19)74 [note here (in "A Phoneme Dance.."), Jackson's use of pauses] - (then) - "Since (19)54, I have been writing poems that are both syntactical, with words and without (words), non-syntactically with words, as well as syntactically..

So here is a poem I wrote in 1958, in which I translated, using some numbers system.. I translated from one book of Joseph Conrad('s) to another - one was a... the novel, The Arrow of Gold, where there's a principal that.. deals with.. a.. Don Carlos rebellion and gun-running. He was actually involved with, and one of the ring-leaders of this, the main ring-leader was a lady named "Dona Rita", and this was a real.. he based this novel on a real period in his own life when he was actually gun-running, and he tells about this in The Mirror and the Sea, where he tells about the real character, "Dona Rita", who really did organize, help organize, the rebellion against the.. there was a collateral branch of the Spanish Royal Family that many people supported in Don Carlos and so this was.. they had little rebellions every so often..
So I translated one into another and I call the poem "Dona Rita Joseph Conrad" - So I drew words from The Arrow of Gold  by translating the passages in The Mirror and the Sea, his autobiography, that tell about the actual gun-running [Jackson performs/reads his Conrad-into-Conrad experiment -  "hair grey.."]  
ok, what comes up next is another "Light Poem", another memorial "Light Poem", it turns out, and this was the "42nd Light Poem In Memoriam Paul Goodman", and it was written a little after he died, in August of 1972. [Jackson reads the "42nd Light Poem"]
So I'll do one more solo, I guess, and then we'll do the last piece.. 
Well, one other kind of translation thing (that) I like to do is to work from notations of music to words by... just as we translated the letters of the words into music, in these poems, I translate the notations for.. tones in.. it so happened that I'd done it more often in works of Ancient Music, (although I did a part of a Beethoven bagatelle once, also). So I translate the words, or the features, of a modern notation of an ancient work of music, into a list of words.. usually, from a book called "Bilby's Natural History For Young People" (from the 1880's). So I first did this about the time I was first working with chance operations and early (19)55 with something by M.. - And then a few years ago, I went back to this system and did it to a motet by Dufay, the 15th century motet. So this is.. this is (for anybody who knows it) a translation of the beginning, I didn't work out the whole thing, you see (and) (but) I'd prefer to read the shorter version. It's the beginning of the Gloria [Jackson sings it out - or part of it out - in Latin  - "(Gloria in excelsis Deo), et in terra pax hominibus (bonae) voluntatis. (Laudemas te Benedicimus te, Adorams te, Glorificamus te. Gratias agimus tibi)" - that one!  - Anyway, this is "Dufay" - and you can hear, for instance..   It's for voices and two wind instruments. (We did it on a radio station in New York [WBAI] with two trombones) - doo-doo-doo doo-doo - [Jackson tries to demonstrate the melodic effect] (and) I'll tell you afterwards which lines translate back. Here's "Dufay". It was written in 1969. [Jackson performs "Dufay" ("the Underwood", "whithersoever"..] 

The last one will be..well, I'm going to do a section of, something, part of which was published recently here in Boulder by Jack Collom in (his poetry magazine), "the", and that's..a poem.. in (19)69 in the summer I was brought out to Los Angeles by the Los Angeles County Museum to work in their Art and Technology project, and I worked with a programmable film-reader at Information International, and produced a series.. what I.. I won't go into what I actually was trying to produce but what actually I have left of it is a series of about 14 poems, of which I have a great deal of print-out from each poem, I (keep) fed in certain materials and the computer fed it out using certain randomizing routines, and I'm going to read part of the print-out of one of the runs of print outs from "the" (there are other parts, there are other parts I think it might be of the same run, that are in the current issue of "the" (number 13) and that's available around town here, or ask Jack. Okay, this is print-out from "the", 14, a PDP3 poem (the name of the computer used). 
[Jackson begins reading, but tape ends and cuts him off]   

Audio note: Allen begins his musical introduction approximately eight seconds in, and concludes at approximately eight-and-a-quarter minutes in, Peter Orlovsky, reading first, reads from this point through to approximately thirty-seven minutes in, 
Jackson MacLow's reading begins approximately thirty-seven-and-a-half minutes in     and runs on to the end of the tape (approximately eighty-five minutes. The audio may be accessed here 


  1. Poster for this reading is here:

    1. Thanks, Tim - We've added it to the post.