Saturday, August 31, 2013

Charles Reznikoff's Birthday

[Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976) - Photograph by Abraham Ravett, 1975]

It's Charles Reznikoff 's birthday today. We've featured him here before, with great pleasure, quite extensively. 

Previous "Rezzy" postings on the Ginsberg Project:  here - here, here, here and here here and here.

Today, the recording of a memorial gathering held for him at St Mark's Poetry Project, March 20, 1976.

Audio notes from the Internet Archive, via Other Minds:  

"A veritable who’s who of American poets, many hailing from New York, read their favorite poems by Charles Reznikoff and others, during a memorial for the late Jewish-American poet, author, and playwright. Those marking the passing of the first of the Objectivist poets include, Allen Ginsberg, Ron Padgett, Joel Oppenheimer, Anne Waldman, Armand Schwerner, Charles North, and many others. The poems they have selected represent the incredible range of Reznikoff’s writings, from one-line mediations on a bridge to excerpts from book-length poems about the Jewish Holocaust. Written in the clear plain language that was a hallmark of the Objectivist poets, this reading serves as a fitting memorial to a quintessential American poet of the 20th century, whose “brightness dwindles into stars.”

Note: All poems are by (Charles) Reznikoff, except where noted. The attribution of these poems is based on the 2005 edition of The Poems of Charles Reznikoff  edited by Seamus Cooney. Certain poems have been renumbered from their original publication and this has been indicated when possible."

Allen can be heard reading from "Five Groups of Verse" (from 1927), approximately thirty-four minutes in. He is followed by Peter Orlovsky reading a brief section from "Holocaust".    

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 141

[Johnny Depp at Allen Ginsberg's kitchen table, New York City, 1994. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

["Harry Smith with Flowers and Cigarette in the kitchen 437 East 12th Street NYC,  August 3, 1986. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

[Joanne Kyger, Allen's kitchen, 437 East 12th St.NYC, November 1989 c.Allen Ginsberg Estat

[Gary Snyder, 437 East 12th St kitchen table, March 1991. photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

[Peter Orlovsky 437 East 12th St, New York City, 1996. Photo Allen Ginsberg. c Allen Ginsberg Estate] 

Allen's table. We've been contacted about Allen's kitchen-table, historical hearth and meeting point, also setting for innumerable photos. Paul Seaton and Dorothy Shostak of Vermont now have it (legally!) in their possession and are looking to find it a home (either with an institution, or a private collector). "We would like to offer a percentage of any proceeds to Karmê Chöling  and to a local community kitchen", they write. 
Contact them here for further details.     

Here's the first poster (just released this week) for Kill Your Darlings. The text/blurb at the top is from Entertainment Weekly - "An expressive, jazzy and ambitious movie, sexually alive and yearning. Daniel Radcliffe [Allen Ginsberg] is fearless and full of vitality. Dane DeHaan [Lucien Carr] is hot and dangerous." Further (all - so far - positive) reviews can be seen here (at Rotten Tomatoes). Bob Rosenthal's wise dissenting opinion may be seen here.  October 18 is release date.  

An earlier, more sedate one ("Before he could become a great poet he had to live life" is the tag line) has also been circulating. 

and now this

Footage of  the Patti Smith-Philip Glass Ginsberg hommage earlier this month at the Edinburgh Festival - here. 

A glimpse from Jean Jacques Lebel and Xavier Villetard's "Beat Generation: Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs" film - here.

Bea Kozera dies, aged 92 - Bea Kozera?

S183  Allen Ginsberg Lot Of Letters And Signed Howl  Photo 4
                                     [Allen Ginsberg c. 1986 - Photograph by Peter O Whitmer ]

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 126 (William Blake)

File:William Blake - Jerusalem, Plate 27, "To the Jews...." - Google Art Project.jpg
[William Blake (1757 - 1827) - Jerusalem, Plate 27, "To The Jews..." via Yale Center For British Art, Paul Mellon Collection]

AG: I'd like to finish this quasi-political section with a song by (William) Blake from "Jerusalem". I'll sing it, because it has a certain natural music in it.

Student: What part is it?

AG: Perhaps repetitious. It's Plate 27 of "Jerusalem"his last work (or his last known work - apparently, some of his work was burned after his death) - [Allen begins reading/singing - "The fields from Islington to Marybone,/To Primrose Hill and Saint John's Wood/ Were builded over with pillars of gold/And there Jerusalems pillars stood/ Her Little-ones ran on the fields/The Lamb of God among them seen/And fair Jerusalem his Bride:/Among the little meadows green"..."She walks upon our meadows green/The Lamb of God walks by her side/And every English Child is seen,/Children of Jesus & his bride./ Forgiving trespasses and sins/Lest Babylon with cruel Og/With Moral & Self-righteous Law/Should Crucify in Satan's Synagogue!" - which is precisely what Wordsworth did - "With Moral & Self-righteous Law".."Crucify in Satan's Synagogue" - [Allen continues reading from "Jerusalem"  - "What are those golden Builders doing/Near mournful ever-weeping Paddington/Standing above that mighty Ruin/Where Satan the first victory won"....] - Well, he's got comments on almost every aspect... 

 [tape ends here and then continues] - 
"...that "The iron hand crush'd the tyrant's head/ And became a tyrant in its stead" -  - but he's also got it the other way on Wordsworth, who was in favor of capital punishment - "(H)e who makes his law a curse,/By his own law shall surely die". For Wordsworth, death, in a sense, was, finally, death of the imagination, because he did (unlike Whitman, unlike Blake), somewhat get scared of the anarchy of his own mind, I guess you could say, and the anarchy of nature. But he was scared of the anarchy of his own mind, and wanted, finally, liberty and order. He wanted liberty only within order, and wanted a law and order that would include the punishment of death. That seems to have been a sort of neurotic extremism on his part (although, I know it's counted now to be a great virtue, it's counted by the CIA to be a great virtue).

Philip Whalen: Well, but the thing is they had a definite split. They had.. On one side they said, "You guys, it's alright to have liberty, but you musn't have license - and that's the only possible thing - either liberty or license (and "license" meant you went out with your machete and chopped off everybody's head on the street out of pure...  This is what the expression of the self was, what they figured the self really did, and what-not.. But the idea, like I was saying the other day, the idea that you take people that are left alone, they don't usually do that. When the cops go out on strike, the crime rate drops. The idea of license is a bogey, it's a fake-a-rini that the government promotes in order to stay in power.

AG: Well, he's commenting on the license that the unconscious, or the mob, or the mass, or anarchy, took in the French Revolution, where everybody's head got chopped off, beginning with the King, until finally Robespierre and everybody else...

Philip Whalen: That wasn't anarchy. That was organized.  

AG: Yeah

Philip Whalen: And Blake says, (in) about nineteen different places, there's  no such thing as organized innocence. You've got to.. That was a  set-up..It was done on purpose. It was people (that) got it going, and other people said, "okay, we're tired of it", and they stopped it. People say, "Oh my goodness! The Cultural Revolution in China was terrible! They went out and blew up the Museum(s) and what-not!", and, "What's going to happen?", you know, "It's horrible." - But it got stopped, also. It was started for a purpose, and it was stopped for a purpose. It took some doing. It took Chou En-Lai (and his minions) to get those kids back down to the farms. And (but) they didn't blow up everything - they didn't burn down every tourist!

AG: Well, I think I presented a confused picture here. Because, we're dealing with it on a lot of levels. First of all, there's a level of political activity that we've all gone through, one way or another, or are empathetic with. Then there's the level of subjective psychological revolution - Gay Liberation, Women's Liberation, anarchy liberation, sensory liberation, biochemical liberation, vegetarian liberation. Then there's the aspect of liberation from Capitalism to consider, (which everybody's preoccupied with), or liberation from police state Communism (which everybody is equally.. preoccupied with somewhere else). And then there's the liberation from the vegetable universe (which Blake was preoccupied with, actually - seeing Woman (sic) as having imposed the vegetable universe and having "number(ed) every nerve" of the (male) "Babe",  so, seeing Tirzah (sic), or Woman, that wants reproduction and recreation of the vegetable material universe, as being the big enemy - In Blake, "Tirzah"). So you get a little of that too.

Philip Whalen: Whereas there is this brainless, mechanical, reproduction. That's the real fear - getting rid of that, and getting into conscious imaginary creation , which is what he's all in favor of.

AG: Anyway, we've got Whitman, Wordsworth and Blake, with their mental revolutions, revolved in our heads at this point, and I'm not sure that I've come to any conclusion. Because everybody's sort of solidified little notions of it, or all the poets solidified notions of it, in various forms, and we're still stuck with having to deal with all the symbols laid on us, and all the insistences of all the revolutions and counterrevolutions. So I'll leave it there, because it's twenty of one (twenty of the other)

[to the class re their assignment] - Bring in your blues next time

[class and tape end here]   

[Audio for the above is available here starting at approximately twenty-one-and-three-quarter minutes, through to the end

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 125 (Blake - The Mental Traveller)

File:William Blake Mental Traveller bb126 1 3 ms 300.jpg
[William Blake - The Mental Traveller - original ms. circa 1803]

AG: There is another odder way of looking at it that I always dug, in Blake, in "The Mental Traveller"Does anybody know that poem? - "The Mental Traveller"? - It's one of the strangest poems ever written, which (W.B) Yeats, who was a great commentator on Blake, still found indecipherable. It's somewhat a cycle that comes back to itself - like a long story-poem, like a dream, like our own existence, or like Finnegan's Wake, a construction that begins somewhere in the universe and comes right back to the same spot, having gone through various different universes, or births-and-deaths, or re-births. I've never fully understood it, but I've been lately advised to take it as a political parable - that the "Babe" that is born, is Political Liberty, or Intellectual Liberty, or Spiritual Liberty, or Spiritual Open-ness - but maybe, more specifically, political, and the old woman ("Woman Old") is custom and society closing down. So it's a little bit, maybe, similar in theme to the Wordsworth ode, and carries some of the suggestion of continuous change and transformation as re-birth that Whitman suggested (at least as an idea). But it's couched so mysteriously that it seems to come out, not so much from the social womb but from the actual womb of consciousness, because it talks about the perceptions themselves, so it's not just political liberty, it's also, I guess, a wakening - Buddha-mind, or wakening - (that's) also referred to here - [Allen reads the first two stanzas of Blake's "The Mental Traveller"] - "I travel'd thro' a Land of Men/A Land of Men & Women too/And heard and saw such dreadful things/As cold Earth wanderers never knew./ For there the Babe is born in joy/That was begotten in dire woe/ Just as we Reap in joy the fruit/Which we in bitter tears did sow" - I'll interrupt the rhythm of this just to make one (comment) - "For there the Babe is born in joy./ That was begotten in dire woe" - that might be, then, political liberty coming out of blood revolution. Is that clear? (or it's been interpreted that way) - [Allen continues reading the poem, the next twenty-five stanzas, to the end] - "For there the Babe is born in joy/ That was begotten in dire woe/Just as we Reap in joy the fruit/ Which we in bitter tears did sow.  And if the Babe is born a Boy/He's given to a Woman Old/Who nails him down upon a rock/Catches his shrieks in cups of gold".."Her fingers number every nerve/Just as a Miser counts his gold/She lives upon his shrieks and cries/And she grows young as he grows old"... "And none can touch that frowning form/Except it be a Woman Old/ She nails him down upon the Rock/And all is done as I have told" - Figure that out. It's actually the reverse of consciousness, as well as political liberty. I think it was David Erdman and Mark Schorer (two critics who have written books on Blake) who were interpreting that as cycles of civilization, or cycles of social constriction and expansion.

While we're on Blake, there is a portion of "Jerusalem" which I want to get to, which is politically visionary also.

What was going on in "The Mental Traveller" - remember, the title is "The Mental Traveller". Has anybody ever looked at that and figured that out? Has anybody ever puzzled over that one? (Philip) Whalen, do you know it? Have you ever thought about that?

Philip Whalen: Yeah.. a little.. I would suggest Northrop Frye's book on Blake. His interpretations are usually pretty sensible and useful, probably - The book called "Fearful Symmetry". Maybe he has something to say.

AG: In our library, I think we have (S) Foster Damon's "(A) Blake Dictionary", which actually tries to define a lot of the concepts in Blake (like "The Mental Traveller", the "Babe" and "Woman Old"). Yeah?

Student: That poem's also dealt with very interestingly in the novel, The Horse's Mouth by Joyce Cary

AG: Yeah.    The great line in it that I always took was, the Buddhist line, so to speak, or the line that was nearest to LSD, or the line  that was nearest to one's own experience - "...the Eye altering alters all" - which is a terrific conception, a terrific statement. The Eye altering, alters all" - ah! - "For the eye altering alters all" -  Well, anybody who puts on eye-glasses knows that anyway, but anybody who's dropped acid knows that, and anybody who's had some kind of ecstatic visionary experience knows that.. anybody who's dropped acid knows, or anybody who's got drunk, I suppose, will know - "..the Eye altering alters all" - It's a great way of saying it. Yeah?

Student: In the beginning of the poem, it seems to me, there might have been a little bit about the role of the poet - like Whitman was saying (about) how the country absorbs the poet the way the poet absorbs the country?..or like .. the poet is sucking all the strength out of the country and the country puts him on (the cover of) Time magazine and then sucks all the strength out of him..

AG: Uh-huh. Yeah. There is a certain way that you can follow it up to a certain (point). You can follow it through that way. But it's not the poet. It's just, like, the birth of consciousness in to the vegetable universe, which is the woman who "..numbers every nerve,/ Just as a miser counts his gold- that having experience of the world at all begins to limit and number and count and measure. What (happens is the) "shades of the prison house begin to close upon the growing boy" (same thing as Wordsworth) . His fingers "number every nerve, just as a miser counts his gold" . It could be seen as that. But, actually, it's just the birth of consciousness and growth, growth in a body.

[Audio for the above is available here, starting approximately ten-and-a-half-minutes in, through to approximately twenty-one-and-three-quarter minutes in]

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 124 (William Blake and the French Revolution)

[William Blake (1757-1827)]

We'll leave (William) Wordsworth for a moment. There was another mind dealing with revolution - (William) Blake, also disillusioned - and there are a couple of brief comments that he made, summaries, of his political changes - that are not too well-known  (The longer, "prophetic books" are difficult to get into, and I haven't mastered them, so I won't deal with those, but some brief comments on the French Revolution by Blake. Since we had Wordsworth's disillusion, this is Blake's) - A generalization - [Allen recites William Blake's "The Grey Monk", in its entirety] - ""I die, I die" the Mother said,/"My children die for lack of bread./What more has the merciless tyrant said?"..."For a tear is an intellectual Thing/And a sigh is the sword of an Angel King/And the bitter groan of the martyr's woe/Is an arrow from the Almighty's bow/  "The hand of Vengeance found the bed/To which the purple tyrant fled/The iron hand crushed the tyrant's head/And became a tyrant in his stead"" -  Talking, I guess, about the same thing as Wordsworth - about Napoleon having "crushed the tyrant's head", or the revolution having "crushed the head of the tyrant", becoming "a tyrant in his stead". As I mentioned the other day, Blake, when Napoleon took the crown, jumped up on his tri-corn(er hat).  

Student: He's advising we all become Buddhist monks or something?

(Another) Student:  Or widows?

AG: We are all widows and monks already. (We're) all "sighing" and "groaning" already. No, first of all, he's saying it as a definite comment on the French Revolution, (as Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) (now makes a comment on the Cuban Revolution), that the revolutionary has become a tyrant. Or as, say, the CIA makes its comment on the Russian Revolution.. (but you've got to remember, all the Capitalist lies about Communism are true, just as all the Communist lies about Capitalism are true - no way around it). So he's just pointing out that, "the iron hand crushed the Tyrant's head/And became a Tyrant in his stead".

As to what to do about it, he thought.. he was an eager beaver also, in the beginning, in a sense of.. he got mad at .. he thought that pity for the King and Queen of France was misplaced, for instance. When Lafayette was a revolutionary but a sensitive, he, apparently, took somewhat the part of the King and Queen of France, and didn't want to see them executed. The thought that (the) blood-letting was going too far - and there's a very odd poem about that called "The Brothels of Paris". So this is an earlier and more pitiless view... [Allen to Student]  I was continuing to answer your question - There's an earlier, more pitiless view by Blake, blaming Lafayette (for) having a kind of reactionary pity for the King and Queen of France - [Allen reads William Blake's "The Brothels of Paris"] - "Let the Brothels of Paris be opened/With many an alluring dance/ To awake the Physicians thro' the city/Said the beautiful Queen of France."..."O who would smile on the wintry seas/& pity the stormy roar?/Or who will exchange his new born child/For the dog at the wintry door?" - So there's a real put-down of empathy there. That's much more powerfully revolutionary. But then, an actual event, for Blake as well as Wordsworth, (and), to some extent, with ourselves, (has) foiled our own, maybe ego-centric notions of revolution, political or spiritual.

[Audio for the above may be heard here, starting at approximately two-and-a-half minutes in and concluding approximately ten-and-a-half minutes in]

Monday, August 26, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 123 (Wordsworth - 8)

[William Wordsworth (1770-1850)]

Why don't I just go through a few little fragments of not-very-well-known poems by Wordsworthfrom "Poems of the Imagination". (I'll) just pick out a few lines here and there which give a little haiku-like, or direct, perception, examples of direct perceptual.. examples of the activity of his mind. Like (since) we're talking about the inertness of his mind, we have to balance it. 

He has, (for example), a little poem called "There Was A Boy" - [Allen reads "There Was A Boy" in its entirety] - "There was a Boy, ye knew him well, ye cliffs/And islands of Winander!.."..."This boy was taken from his mates, and died/In childhood, ere he was full twelve years old"..."A long half-hour together I have stood/Mute-looking at the grave in which he lies" - He's built a very jocund, lively picture and then, all of a sudden, there's a funny real switch into the experience of looking at the grave for an hour at a time. So there's a solidity there about Wordsworth's experience, particularly there, of death, that's odd, more like the empty strangeness of the situation than in most of Whitman (actually). So, in this case, maybe, Wordsworth is more direct.

Student: What's the name of that poem?

AG: "There Was A Boy". It's the beginning of the "Poems of the Imagination". One thing Wordsworth does have occasionally, to perfection, is observed imagistic detail, or samatha, or vipassana, rather - the insight, detail insight. I remember talking about Imagism with Louis Zukofsky. He pointed out that Wordsworth had one particular phrase that Zukofsky always took as a standard of pure imagery, which was the star-shaped shadow of a blossom cast on stone - Star-shaped shadow of a blossom cast on stone. I think I've mentioned this before when we were talking about haiku. Because what it does is.. it means that Wordsworth is in a field where there's a bright sun, bright enough to cast a shadow, of a little flower on the stone. So you've conjured up space, you've conjured up sky, you've conjured up bright-enough sun, you've conjured up consciousness walking through the field, looking with sufficient microscopic observation to actually see the shadow of the flower underneath the flower on the stone, so, you've actually conjured up, with that one little detail, a whole panorama.

There's an interesting description of the night sky here called "A Night Piece". I won't read the whole poem - [Allen reads from Wordsworth's "A Night Piece"] - "..the pensive traveller, while he treads/His lonesome path, with unobserving eye/Bent earthwards.."..."At length the Vision closes, and the mind,/Not undisturbed by the delight it feels,/Which slowly settles into peaceful calm,/Is left to muse upon the solemn scene." -  So, it's just the parting of the clouds, a really fast description of the stars, and then a strange description of that evanescent sensation we have when looking up and looking away - "How fast they wheel away,/ Yet vanish not!" - That's an odd, almost optical, sensation, or "eyeball kick" that people (have had).. Do you know what I'm talking about? A glimpse up and sudden sense of the entire heavens, constellations "wheel(ing) away" yet "vanish(ing) not"? Of the stars moving yet not moving?" - [tape ends, starts up again] - 

Allen continues his commentary (noting, in "Airey Force Valley"), trees, wind moving the trees - " seeming silence makes/ A soft eye-music of slow waving boughs" - "In seeming silence makes a soft eye-music" - Eye-hyphen-music - " a soft eye-music of slow waving boughs" - "slow waving"..

What else is interesting? He went out on "Nutting" - he was messing up little copses, you know, dragging branches around, screwing up the woods - AG reads - "Then up I rose,/ And dragged to earth both branch and bough, with crash/ And merciless ravage and the shady nook/ Of hazels and the green and mossy bower,/ Deformed and sullied, patiently gave up/ Their quiet being......  - That's sort of an odd moment - noticing the violence he'd brought to the "Shady nook of hazels and the green and mossy bower" - good description of that...   Let's see what we have here. (From "Power of Music" -  Some odd phrasing that's almost Shakespearean - "That tall man, a giant in bulk and in height, not an inch of his body is free from delight"" - it's so Shakespearean..or Blake - "That tall man, a giant in bulk and in height, not an inch of his body is free from delight" - Or (from "Lyre, Though Such Power Do In Thy Magic Live") - "(translucent summer's happiest chance!)/ In the slope-channel floored with pebbles bright" - That's kind of interesting. We've all seen that little river-bed or stream-bed, "floored with pebbles bright", but rarely (so) well described, actually. If you were doing a haiku...

[Audio for the above is available here, beginning at approximately fifty-five minutes in, through to the end of the tape]

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ginsberg on Kerouac and Kesey and Cassady

1973 Salem State College’s Jack Kerouac Festival - here and here. (We’ve even previously featured an “out-take” here),. Heres another one, (similarly focusing on the poignancy and tragedy of late Jack Kerouac (and on late Neal Cassady). An audience member asks about Cassady and his legendary cross-country drive, Allen responds.

[This particular tape begins in media res with Peter Orlovsky, having just finished his presentation, and a (more-than-usually) offensive/provocative/drunken Gregory Corso, meditating/theorizing.. on sudden death! – but then, thirty-five seconds in, is the question, and fifty-five seconds in, Allen’s answer]

AG: I can only talk, I would rather only talk, in relation to Kerouac on that. They, Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady, came across country, during the (19)64 election, with “A Vote For Goldwater Is A Vote For Fun” sign on the side of the bus, and this was their first pilgrimage to New York, as a gang, together, and Kesey felt very strong love for Kerouac (as well as Burroughs) and so Neal said that he would drive a car out to Northport to get Jack to bring him in to see Kesey, and the Merry Pranksters, who were all at that moment, that evening, high on acid, in an apartment on Park Avenue, which was heavily illuminated with electric..electronic bright lights, cameras going, many tape-machines going, wires snaking all over the room – an.. ethereal scene, actually, with a lot of heavy metal, and a lot of electronics around (so, giving  a sense of robot re-echoing, robot re-duplications, and mirror images receding past into infinity), and Neal arrived with Jack, who was brought in from Northport, who was already sick, who didn’t want to come out, who didn’t want to leave the house (because he knew that if he went to the city he’d be drinking and he’d wind up in pain), brought Jack in the room – and me (he sent someone downtown to get me from East 2nd Street and bring me up to Park Avenue, so I sat quiet and watched) – and everybody was eager to see what Kerouac would do in appreciation, or how Kerouac would react to this transposition of On The Road into celestial, day-glo, cosmic, electronic, environment. Jack was very shy, sat down on the couch, which was covered in American flags .but shyly - he removed the flag and folded it up first - he didn’t want  to sit on the flag of Joe McCarthy, it boiled down to! – but he wasn’t sure who everybody was and why they were all there, what they were coming on, so there was an element of bewilderment and confusion in Kerouac but, more than that, like, a very deep sorrow, realizing  that all of these eager-beaver Pranksters were going through another stage of dumb-show, another stage of idealistic nonsense, another attempt to make themselves real (though they were all made of phantom-stuff and they hadn’t yet realized it, and in the course of that they were poisoning Cassady with amphetamine, as Jack was poisoning himself with alcohol). So Jack was down-mouthed, sad, reflective, unresponsive to all their enthusiasm and, actually forced, electrical gaiety, (visual) gaiety.
Kesey was, like, a very very beautiful musing angel on the scene, because he was observant, and trying to understand where Kerouac was. Some of the younger Pranksters were mocking of Kerouac – “What’s the matter with him? Why isn’t he jumping? Why isn’t he enthusiastic? Why isn’t he excited? Why isn’t he ecstatic? Well, his ecstacy was in the realization that they were all dead, right there on the scene. The scene is still preserved on a tape (though so ecstatic were the Pranksters that they probably didn’t get any of the film in focus and it was probably all jarred and jumping, so the visual phenomenon might have been denied to later generations, but it’s all recorded on sound tape and could (should) be edited... except they have all the sound-tapes jumbled up, and it’s never been edited after ten years already, it still hasn’t been edited. [1973 - so, almost 30 years later, the footage was, finally preserved and edited, by Alison Ellwood and Alex Gibney, part of the extraordinary preparation for the 2011 documentary, Magic Trip].  
So there was that one great meeting, lasting that evening and then Neal drove Jack back out to Northport. But Neal at that point was so jagged up with amphetamine that he wasn’t really capable of carrying on a heart-tender, mellow, conversation with Kerouac. He was laying on Kerouac the story of the cross-country trip. Kerouac was pained and so, because drinking, not able to sit comfortably in the car, and was sweating, in body  So he wasn’t able to attend with complete tenderness to Neal’s condition, and they all arrived in this electronic nightmare together.

Allen Ginsberg, "Jack Kerouac the last time he visited my apartment 704 East 5th Street, N.Y.C., he looked by then like his late father, red-faced corpulent W. C. Fields shuddering with mortal horror, grimacing on D.M.T. I’d brought back from visiting Timothy Leary of Millbrook Psychedelic Community, Fall 1964." (1964), gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis (© 2012 Allen Ginsberg LLC, all rights reserved)
[Jack Kerouac, the last time he visited my apartment, 704 East 5th Street, NYC, he looked like his late father, red-faced corpulent W.C.Fields shuddering with mortal horror grimacing on DMT I'd brought back from visiting Timothy Leary at Millbrook Psychedelic Community, Fall 1964 - Photograph by Allen Ginsberg - copyright Allen Ginsberg Estate] 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 140

[Time Magazine cover (Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon) November 12, 1956]

Side-swipes. Time magazine. The voice of "the establishment". Allen memorably excoriated its pomposity and hauteur in 1956 in his poem, "America" -  "Are you going to let your emotional life be run by Time Magazine?/ I'm obsessed by Time Magazine/I read it every week/Its cover stares at me as I slink past the corner candy-store/I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library/It's always telling me about responsibility.." 
Plus ça change, over fifty years later, the snarky caption to a photo juxtaposing Allen and Daniel Radcliffe (early warning, early promo', on the up-coming Kill Your Darlings)  - "It's more fun to watch Radcliffe play Ginsberg than it is to read anything by Ginsberg" - anything 

Still on the topic of monumental Ginsberg put-down's, there's this - John Hollander's Spring 1957 review of Howl & Other Poems for Partisan Review - "It's only fair to Allen remark on the utter lack of decorum of any kind in his dreadful little volume. I believe the title of his long poem Howl is meant to be a noun, but I can't help taking it as an imperative.." (and that was just the beginning!) - But Allen, famously rose to the occasion, with what Bill Morgan in The Letters of Allen Ginsberg refers to as "an epic-length letter in which he tried to set the record straight" - "..(Y)ou've just got to drop it, (John), and take me seriously, and listen to what I have to say. It doesn't mean you have to agree, or change your career or writing, or anything hideous. It just means you've got to have the heart and decency to take people seriously and not depend only on your own university experience for arbitrary standard of value to judge others by..." Hollander, Ginsberg's sometime Columbia class-mate, did indeed "listen and take Ginsberg seriously" (would that the junior sub-editors at Time would do the same!) - From his Fall 1985 interview with J.D.McClatchy in the Paris Review:  McClatchy: Allen Ginsberg was a close friend of yours in the late (19)40's. How did he influence you?  Hollander: Ginsberg was my poetic mentor, very generous and considerate of my early work. At college he was my close poetic, rather than literary friend. That is, we talked about the minute particulars of form as if mythological weight depended on them, and about the realms of the imagination. Not about style, or about "the artist in society" - those were literary matters."
Two very different poetic careers, but a mutual respect.
Hollander died this past weekend, aged 83. The New York Times, among other things, featured lines from "Helicon" (from his 1965 volume Visions From The Ramble) - "Allen said, I am searching for the true cadence.Gray/Stony light had flashed over Morningside Drive since noon.."..."Allen said, They still give you five dollars a pint at St Luke's,/No kickback to the intern either, and I leaned out/Over the parapet and dug my heel in the hard,/Unyielding concrete below..."   

[John Hollander (1929-2013]

Hollander was the Sterling Professor Emeritus of English at Yale. 

Laudably a long way from the academy (she declares so in the interview herself) the extraordinary Joanne Kyger can be seen here (Marin Poets Live!) on local cable tv, being interviewed by a fawning (if well-meaning) Neshama Franklin and reading from the essential About Now.

The Collected Philip Lamantia - any day now. Here's Garrett Caples note on the editing process. 

Here's a Japanese version of Allen's "Hadda be Playing On The Jukebox". (Rage Against the Machine's (live) version (perhaps a little more recognizable) can be heard here).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 122 (Wordsworth - 7)

William Wordsworth, by Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1815 - NPG 2020 - © National Portrait Gallery, London
[Benjamin Robert Haydon - plaster cast of life mask, 1815, of William Wordsworth (via the National Portrait Gallery, London]

There's the famous nostalgic "Ode on Intimations Of  Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood", which I read to my father, several months ago, on his death-bed - and his comment - it was a poem that he'd always loved and wanted me to read aloud to him - it was the last time he heard it (a poem which he'd heard maybe a thousand times in his life, aloud, or read) - but his final comment was, "It's very beautiful, but it isn't true". And I was thinking that Wordsworth, trying to be judicious, trying so hard to be judicious, (to) have a responsible political reaction and a responsible personal reaction, tried to codify, formulate, and bid farewell to anarchic visionary consciousness, accepting heavy responsible maturity, still didn't make it. I'll read it (and) see what it sounds like (because it's actually moving) - [Allen begins and reads Wordsworth's "Ode on Intimations of Immortality..." in its entirety] - "The Child is father of Man/And I could wish my days to be/ Bound each to each by natural piety..."..."To me the meanest flower that grows can give/Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears" - Well that's 1802, published in 1807, same year as he published an "Ode to Duty". There's a very self-conscious close-down on his part of what he thinks of as his original inspiration. Yeah?

Student: But he still... That's an example of him writing his way back to the light, you know.

AG: Well, yeah, because he's got the light solidified as something that was before birth and that ain't here no more, and it's become an idea, so he's got to write his way back to it, and 
actually doesn't really experience it any more, as he says. He says - the key thing - "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:/The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star/Hath had elsewhere its setting/And cometh from afar:/Not in entire forgetfulness/And not in utter nakedness,/But trailing clouds of glory do we come/From God, who is our home" - In other words, it was at the key, crucial, point that my father said, "It's very beautiful, but it isn't true". I thought that was very interesting, puncturing that balloon - actually, the balloon of God, but also the balloon of (a) sort of conceptualization of experience, of actually wanting a specific, visionary, God-like experience so much that it had become an idea, and an unreal idea, or become an unreality but an idea of doing exactly what (Walt Whitman) said (in "Respondez!") - "Let books replace trees, forests, mountains, rivers" - "Let ideas replace daylight", so to speak, let ideas of eternity replace the daylight. It's a funny mixture he's got, but I think he finally did get hung up on notions, on ideas, of both eternity and liberty, and therefore his disillusion with eternity was sad, whereas Whitman was able to continue exploring straightforward phenomena that he encountered.

Student:  And Whitman was writing his way back to the light every time that he..

AG: Well, I think Whitman sort of stood more in it. It was there present with him, I think,
more directly. It had become more of an idea in Wordsworth. The idea of liberty, particularly. Political liberty later to Wordsworth became a kind of Frankensteinbut he could only see it in terms of total middle-path Moderation, slow Law and Order, basically. Funny.  
It isn't an open and shut case. It's just simply that there are poets exploring... they're intelligent people reacting.. just as we are intelligent people reacting.. and you have all these alternatives.. and you can't really put down Wordsworth, although you can see certain tendencies there that are pathological (as there are in Whitman too).

Student: It seems to me that, when reading that (Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality") that the seven stages of man, Shakespeare's idea.. was repeated - and also that, I mean, like, what you're saying about (the) poetic idea being crystallized and written about in the present, like "Gather ye rosebuds while you may" - in essence, although you transferred into a more..transferred into a more, you know, eternal story.. but I mean, I mean, that whole idea in English Literature (which is probably prevalent in other literatures, as well, I mean, from the Elizabethans) know, you can see how that's present in that poem, and exactly what you say of writing about an idea, you know, that is not necessarily a real one. That, Whitman doesn't have (or, at least, not in the stuff  you've been reading us)

AG: (Or) Whitman's form of it (They both have the idea of an eternal, some sort of eternal empathy). Whitman's form was maybe more workable, because it consisted in continuous change, and responsiveness to change. Wordsworth seems to have...

Student: Preconceptions.

AG:  (He's) more conceptual. Wordsworth has very good examples of direct experience. In the "Poems of (the) Imagination", oddly enough, you get both - You get some direct experience in Whitman, say, in that little glimpse where he's holding hands with his friend, and you also get a number of very great moments in Wordsworth of direct perception, also (usually around 1801, 1802, 1803 - he died in 1850, remember)

[Audio for the above is available here, starting at approximately thirty-eight-and-three-quarter minutes in, and concluding at approximately fifty-five minutes in]   

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 121 (Whitman and Wordsworth Comparison)


There's an odd "personism" (like in late Frank O'Hara) that you get in Whitman (or Whitman established the personalist, which sustained him. In other words, he was dealing in direct phenomena, observation of his own nature and his own senses and his own thoughts and the thought-forms of his mind, whereas there was a funny solidification in Wordsworth, where it was no longer quite personal but everybody became abstracted and generalized, until, so, finally, he was having to accept or reject ideas, rather than observe the flow of ideas, let us say. 

One little later political note by Whitman, then I'll go back to Wordsworth

"Thought" ..    ..write a poem...    "Thoughts", ok  [Allen reads from Whitman's "Thought" - "Of public opinion/Of a calm and cool fiat sooner or later (how impassive! how certain and final!)/Of the President with pale face asking secretly to himself,"What will the people say at last?/ Of the frivolous Judge, of the corrupt Congressman, Governor, Mayor, of such as these standing helpless and exposed.." - That's the same of the later extension of this line - "of such as these standing helpless and exposed" - in (Bob) Dylan'"..even the President of the United States/ Someday must have to stand naked" (or the direction of Dylan's thought is the same as that phrasing of the President with pale face secretly (questioning) himself, Whitman (by) knowing himself is able to know others. Just knowing that everybody exists in the world of subjective fantasy, phenomena, daydream, maya, solidity, passing thought, so that he's able to get inside other consciousness and know(ing) that it is as empty as his own, so to speak - [Allen continues with "Thought"] - "Of the frivolous Judge - Of the corrupt Congressman, Governor, Mayor - Of such as these, standing helpless and exposed/Of the mumbling and screaming priest - (soon, soon deserted,)/ Of the lessening year by year, of venerableness.."..."Of the envelopment of all by them, and the effusion of all from them." - (Of public opinion, he's speaking).

Well, an odd sense, compared to Wordsworth's take on the phenomenal universe. Whitman was able to go back and forth, say, between form and emptiness, or between despair and hope (knowing them to be, so to speak, like veils of thought, part of a continuous stream of thought). Wordsworth had the hallucination that he had lost contact with his own consciousness, which Whitman never did. 

[Audio available here, beginning at approximately thirty-four-and-three-quarter minutes in, and concluding at approximately thirty-eight-and-three-quarter minutes in] 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 120 (Calamus Whitman)

File:Acorus calamus1.jpg
[Calamus or Sweet Flag]

Well there's a funny kind of humor in Whitman that gives him a more ample mind than Wordsworth in his disillusion. I think partly because his original revolution was more deeply grounded in Nature, or his own body, and his own desire. And he had, from the very beginning, some sense of sunyata, or emptiness, hollowness, trickiness, about his own thought-forms, and his own passions, and his own attachments. In laying out his own story, to begin with I read a little prose paragraph, where he says his most rank or direct political statement was in the sexual or erotic passages of "Calamus". Even in there, when he's loosening his desire, when he announces, [from "Scented Herbage of My Breast'] - "I will say what I have to say by itself/ I will sound myself and comrades only, I will never again utter a call, only their call,/ I will raise with it immortal reverberations through the States/I will give an example to lovers to take permanent shape and will through the States,/Through me shall the words be said to make death exhilarating./Give me your tone therefore O death that I might accord with it..", he announces that he's going to not only talk of his own direct loves and deaths, but also encourage "the love of comrades/(with) the life-long love of comrades" - [Allen continues - from "For You, O Democracy"] - "I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of America, and along the shores of the great lakes and all over the prairies"
[and from "These I Singing in Spring"] - "And this, O this shall henceforth be the token of comrades, this calamus-root shall/ Interchange it youths with each other! let none render it back!)" - 

[A lock of Whitman's hair]

In the midst of that insistency, there's a little poem, "Are You the New Person Drawn Toward Me?" - "Are you the new person drawn toward me?/To begin with, take warning, I am surely far different from what you suppose?/Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?/Do you think it is so easy to have me become your lover?"..."Have you no thought O dreamer that it may all be maya, illusion?" - So he's able to look on himself, see through himself, in the sense that all phenomena are tricky, questionable, playful, open, needn't be solidified by an idea into obsessive nightmare (as they did somewhat become with Wordsworth, who, on top of it all, did have a non-Maya-ic God, a solidified God, or some solidified notion of eternity, that was continually haunting him) 

Student: What poem was the last one?

AG: "Are You the New Person Drawn Toward Me?" from (the) "Calamus" section (of  Leaves of Grass). Yeah?

Student: Isn't that a departure from what you had read before, in the sense that he was identifying with the cosmic self and kind of still hanging on to that notion of...

AG: Well, its more like that's his tendency. His tendency is to identify with a cosmic self and hang on to that notion and empathize to the extreme end of the universe, but there's also these holes in his mind..

Student: Yeah

AG: ..which he expresses very clearly every once in a while - early and late. That's what makes him so much like (a) Sutra, in a sense, or some representative of Actual Mind - that he doesn't really insist, obsessionally, on any final image - perhaps, urge ("procreant urge" or urge to transformation), but then, finally, that sense of urgent desire becomes identified with the notion of change, really. In a sense, he's always switching around. He's smart enough to switch around. He switches technology. Desire then can be, later on, used as change. So it's an alchemical, or tantric, transformation of thought-forms. What might begin with a little love glimpse can be transformed, say, into a glimpse of passing farewell, (instead of a glimpse of attachment).


[Whitman and friend, Harry Stafford, a New Jersey farm boy, late 1870's]

There is a poem called "A Glimpse" that I've always liked because it's actual life-like, from "Calamus" (I want to get back to Wordsworth, but while we're here) - [Allen reads Whitman's "A Glimpse", in is entirety] - "A glimpse through an interstice caught.."..."There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little, perhaps not a word." - That's so accurate a description of what really does happen between "I''s and between souls that it's kind of a miracle..

Student: Can you read that again?

AG: Yeah - "A Glimpse". This is also (from the) "Calamus" section. You've not heard this? How many know this little "Glimpse"? - or had heard it? - There's a lot of very brief glimpses like this in Whitman that are so reflective of actual soul-incidents that we all have (the kind of soul-incidents that composes the entire structure of (Jack) Kerouac )"s writings), actually) - the recognition of desire, or recognition of soul, or recognition of soul-energy and exchange of  energy (though in Kerouac, as in other poets, there was a disillusion in that, finally. You know, he thought it might all be maya, illusion). [Allen reads the poem again] - There are a few.. he generalizes. This is almost Kerouac-ian.

This next poem is "A Leaf... - "Leaves of Grass" - ...For Hand in Hand" -  "A leaf for hand in hand,/ You natural persons old and young!...."..."I wish to infuse myself among you til I see it common for you to walk hand in hand." - 

tape ends here and then resumes with Allen reading

'"To a Western Boy" -  "..many things to absorb I teach you to help you to become a pupil of mine/. Yet if blood like mine circle not in your veins/ If you not be silently selected by lovers, and do not silently select lovers,/ Of what use is it that you seek to become a pupil of mine?'' -  "Oh you whom I often and silently come" - "Oh you whom I often and silently come where you are that I may be with you./ As I walk by your side or sit near or remain in the same room with you/Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake is playing within me"

Well, everybody recognizes that. Everybody's had that experience, haven't they?  Has anybody not had that experience? 

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-one minutes in, and concluding approximately thirty-four-and-a-quarter minutes in (note silence between tapes (at approximately twenty-nine-and-three-quarter minutes in, resuming at approximately thirty-three-and-a-half minutes in)]

Monday, August 19, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 119 (Wordsworth - 6)

تستطيع أن ترى الصورة بحجمها الطبيعي بعد الضغط عليها
[William Wordsworth (1770-1850)]

Allen's Spontaneous and Improvised Poetics Naropa lectures of the summer of 1976 pick up again on August 4th, 1976

AG: I want to continue a little bit more with Wordsworth, because what I did was leave him with disillusionment with the French Revolution. (I left him) with his troubles, his political troubles, which are similar to the troubles that we've got [USA, 1976 - sic]. I was looking over "The Prelude" yesterday, where he continues, at great length, about his disillusionment, and I'll read you just a couple of sentences from that (because it's not likely that you'll get to read his huge, long, autobiographical poem, "On the growth of the poet's mind", "The Prelude") - [Allen begins reading] - "This was the time, when, all things tending fast/ to deprivation, speculative schemes -/That promised to extract the hopes of Man/ Out of his feelings, to be fixed thenceforth/ For ever in a purer element -/Found ready welcome. Tempting region that/For Zeal to enter and refresh herself/Where passions had the privilege to work,/ And never hear the sound of their own names./But, speaking more in charity, the dream/ Flattered the young, pleased with extremes, nor least/With that that makes our Reason's naked self/The object of its fervour. What delight!/ How glorious!..." - But then, later on, he (Wordsworth) noticed if "..Nature's self,/ By all varieties of human love/Assisted, led me back through opening day/ To those sweet counsels between head and heart/Whence grew that genuine knowledge fraught with/ Which, through the later sinkings of this cause/Hath still upheld me, and upholds me now/In the catastrophe (for so they dream,/ And nothing less), when, finally to close/And seal up all the gains of France, a Pope/Is summoned in to crown an Emperor -/ This last opprobium, when we see a people,/ That once looked up in faith, as if to Heaven/ For manna, take a lesson from the dog/Returning to his vomit, when the sun/ That rose in splendour, was alive, and moved/ In exaltation with a living pomp/Of clouds - his glory's natural retinue -/ Hath dropped all functions by the gods bestowed,/And, turned into a geegaw, a machine,/Sets like an Opera phantom". "Thus, O Friend!" - he's talking to his friend (Samuel Taylor) Coleridge -  "Through times of honour and through times of shame/ Descending, have I faithfully retraced/The peturbations of a youthful mind/Under a long-lived storm of great events-/A story destined for thine ear..."

[Timothy Leary (1920-1996)]

I got a letter from Timothy Leary the day before yesterday, talking about what he was interested in, speaking of these kind of political reversals and he was saying...well, first of all..  he was interested in doing something now that he's alright [- sic - editorial note: a few months previously, April 1976, Leary had been released from his jail sentence by the then Californian Governor, Jerry Brown]  (and) Alexander Solzhenitsyn is (now) in Switzerland.. and.. what about Patti Hearst? [Patti Hearst and her kidnapping by the Symbionese Liberation Army - another contemporary news story] -  "Free Patti Hearst" was his immediate response, because, thinking that she's been kidnapped by both sides and (put in prey) by both sides. "Why is she in jail?" - And he also said "Free Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt" [Richard Nixon's White House "Plumbers"] - Leary trying to free Liddy - that's a total reversal. Yeah? 

Student: Could you make a  little statement about the switch in your relationship to Leary?

AG: Well I'm just talking about switching.. Actually, I'm in good.. I like him..

Student: (But what I hear...)

AG: No, but that's all newspapers.. Mass hallucination of newspapers. Mostly. Ninety percent of it. We've been in contact. This letter was interesting, fitting in here. What I'm trying to do is point out how similar the problems we have now [1976] are to those of disillusionment, change of mind, adaptation to reality, that Wordsworth had to deal with. How did he do it? And how did Whitman do it? - [Allen next reads Whitman's "To a Foil'd European Revolutionaire"] - "Courage yet, my brother or my sister!/ Keep on - Liberty is to be subserv'd whatever occurs,/That is nothing that is quell'd by one or two failures, or any number of failures/Or by the indifference or ingratitude of the people, or by any unfaithfulness,/ Or the show of the tushes of power, soldiers, cannon, penal statutes./ What we believe in waits latent forever..."..."Did we think victory great?/ So it is - but not it seems to me, when it cannot be help'd, that defeat is great/And that death and dismay are great" - In a way, he had a much more ample psychological attitude than Wordsworth, because, I think, Whitman's revolution was founded on a revolution of spirit, I think, (which is) deeper than Wordsworth's sense. So when the external revolution that Wordsworth was backing failed, I think he thought all human liberty was defeated, and what was necessary to come to was some kind of conservative guarding of feeling (he's constantly worried about disordered feelings), whereas Whitman maybe gets freaked out and gets really mad, but is actually interested in exploring further, including the feeling of death and dismay.

[Walt Whitman (1819-1892)] 

Student : What book was that in, that particular poem?

AG: It's "To a Foil'd European Revolutionaire" in "Autumn Rivulets" in "Leaves of Grass" (in the Modern Library edition, you'll find it on page 292)  

And Phil (Whalen) loaned me his Whitman Complete Poems. (There) is a vast song of political disillusionment and personal disillusionment called "Respondez!". Do any of you know that? The one of reversals? - It's sort of a great litany  (and, [points to student], while we're at it, could you get Christopher Smart from the library? - "Rejoice in the Lamb"?) - I don't know what the occasion was. (It was originally put in "Leaves of Grass" and then he took it out, because, I think, he was ashamed of the bitterness of it). Probably at the completion of..  a comment on the blood-letting and fratricide of the Civil War, because he does begin mentioning that. "Respondez" - French, you know, "Respond", "React", in a way. [Allen reads Whitman's poem "Respondez!" in its entirety] - "Respondez!  Respondez!/(The war is completed - the price is paid - the title is settled beyond recall!/Let every one answer! let those who sleep be waked! let none evade!/.."..""Let the limited years of life do nothing for the limitless years of death/ (What do you suppose death will do, then?)" - Actually, it's a complete description of reality as it actually is. It's the inverse of his prophecies about America and his political ideals, so it's a very active description of particular now. Especially now, when he says, "Let books take the place of trees, animals, rivers, clouds!" - cutting down forests to make books. It's really quite literal. 

Student: Allen, did you say that was originally part of Leaves of Grass?

AG: It was originally in Leaves of Grass but I think he was ashamed of it, or thought it might disturb tender youthful sensibilities, so he took it out in a later edition. It says here [Allen reads from book] - "Made its last appearance in Leaves of Grass of 1876". In other words, it was in, but then was (expurgated) at one point.

[Audio for the above can be found here, starting at approximately two-and-a-quarter minutes in and concludes at approximately twenty-one minutes in  (his reading of "Respondez" begins approximately twelve minutes in and concludes approximately twenty minutes in)]