Monday, September 30, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics (W.B.Yeats - 1)

File:William Butler Yeats by George Charles Beresford.jpg
[William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), July 15, 1911 - Photograph by George Charles Beresford, from the collection at the National Portrait Gallery, London]

Philip Whalen and Allen Ginsberg, at Naropa Institute in 1976, discussing W.B.Yeats

PW: I found that one, that poem about your dewdrop

AG: Where?

PW: It’s right here.

AG: What page?

PW: Page two-four-nine.

AG: Yeah. (Do) you want to begin with that, or do you want to begin with your…

PW: I want to start at the beginning

AG: Okay, let me tear (off) a piece of paper..[for a bookmark]

PW: Yeah. (S0) (W.B.)Yeats started out in life as a very traditional poet, and then he became more and more conservative as time went on. Ezra Pound tried to reform him in about the year..1911 or (19)12, somewhere around in there, and took credit for giving done something to Yeats’ head and made him get rid of, a whole bunch of out-of-date adjectives, and get rid of the Celtic Twilight and a lot of plush and firbolgs and things that used to invest his verse. But Yeats changed Pound’s head, I think, more than the other way around, because Yeats keeps sneaking back into Pound’s lines every now and then, or, at least, keeps haunting him. You remember in the Cantos, in the Pisan Cantos, [Canto LXXXIII], he’s haunted by the voice of Will, old William, or, as it might be, “the wind in the chimney”, how he saw the “great peacock/ in the proide of his oyyee” (which goes back to a poem that I’m not going to talk about right now).
But in the old days he was busy being mystical and Irish and beautiful, and beautiful in the sort of pre-Raphaelite-ish sense. His father was a painter, and then his brother Jack became a painter also, and Yeats himself studied art, studied drawing and painting, and that’s how come he met A.E., his great friend, and other mad, magical, crazy, spirit-type poet . What was A.E’s name, I forget…?

AG: Alfred Russell, or something? [George William Russell]

PW: Russell, yeah, A.Russell – but he was always called A.E. ligature, actually, which was short for Aeon, that is to say, one of those strange spirits that hang around in Manichean mystical systems. He used to write very beautiful and charming stuff with rather elegant, uptown, vocabulary, and, or to write sort of fake Irish sentimental trips -“Who Goes With Fergus?”  (W.B. Yeats’? “Who Goes With Fergus?” ) – Now this is interesting, because the hero of Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man, Stephen Daedelus, is all hung up on this poem, and I think it’s quoted both in the “Portrait..” and maybe a line of it is in Ulysses [PW reads “Who Goes with Fergus” –“Who will go drive with Fergus now/And pierce the deep wood’s woven shade…”… “For Fergus rules the brazen cars./And rules the shadows of the wood/And the white breast of the dim sea/And all disheveled wandering stars”.

AG: Who’s Fergus? Do you know?

PW: Fergus was one of those characters in the cycle of stories and songs about Cuchulain, as far as I know it. Aengus, on the other hand, is a love-god, a Celtic love-god.
And this one,  maybe somebody knows who made up this tune for it. I don’t (know) whose tune it is, but I learned it from Lew Welch

PW recites/sings “The Song of Wandering Aengus” – “I went out to the hazel wood,/Because a fire was in my head,/And cut and peeled a hazel wand/And hooked a berry to a thread”…”And walk among long dappled grass/And pluck till time and times are done/The silver apples of the moon,/The golden apples of the sun”

AG: That’s very poetic – “Silver apples of the moon”

PW: Yeah

PW: Yeah, yeah, Pound stole all of that for the…

AG: Do you know that? - “I carried the sun in a golden cup/And the moon in a silver bag”? - That’s sort of real faery-like

PW: Yeah, and that’s in one of the late poems, too, after he was supposedly gotten over all of this trip. 

All through his life he wrote sonnets, which are very beautiful and very interesting, technically. The earlier ones are rather a more traditional kind, like this one
[PW reads “Never Give all the Heart] – “Never give all the heart, for love/Will hardly seem worth thinking of..”…”He that made this knows all the cost,/For he gave all his heart and lost”.

AG: Basically, his early and late poems are extremely sentimental, actually. I picked up a lot of the sense of poetic comradeship, or bohemian comradeship, or life-long dramatic friendship, from a whole series of poems that Yeats wrote. He was in love with various celebrated beauties, including an actress, Maud Gonne, who was also, like, a wild revolutionary figure. There are a lot of poems just talking about the passionate quality of friendship and how everybody is going to grow old together and get wiser, or fall apart, but, nonetheless, the shining eyes of friendship will be the final reference point for some poetic life mystery. So there’s an early poem that starts it. There’ll be, later on, others, but.. [Allen reads “The Lover pleads with his Friend for Old Friends” – “Though you are I your shining days./Voices among the crows/And new friends busy with your praise,/Be not unkind or proud,/ But think about old friends the most/ Time’s bitter flood will rise,/Your beauty perish and be lost/For all eyes but these eyes”] – That “old friends, the most” is..

PW: It’s used as an epigraph

AG: Yeah? who used that?

PW: (Ezra) Pound, Pound used it as an epigraph

AG: “old friends, the most”. Yeah, for what? what did he use that for?

PW: Ah.. what.. Ripostes was it? Do you remember? Was it..?

AG: Yeah, I guess one of his post World-War 1 books [Lustra (1916)], as a little epigraph. “old friends, the most”,”the most”, yeah.. You got anything other?

Head and shoulders profile of a dignified older woman with hair swept back and a slightly prominent nose. Underneath is the signature "Augusta Gregory".
[Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory (1852-1932)]

PW: Yeah, well, another early one (early Yeats) is again a scene - this time a sort of mythical scene, because he was always interested in stories of places and Irish history and Irish folklore. At one point, he used to wander up and down the countryside with Lady Gregory, collecting folk tales from old people, but then he liked to invent, also, with that feeling in the background. He would invent his own a lot of the time – like this poem, called “The Three Hermits” – [PW reads Yeats’ “The Three Hermits”, in its entirety] – “Three old hermits took the air/By a cold and desolate sea,/First was muttering a prayer,/Second rummaged for a flea..”..”..the third,/Giddy with his hundredth year,/Sang unnoticed like a bird” – And that’s followed by another beggar poem – [PW begins to read Yeats’ “Beggar to Beggar Cried”] – “Time to put off the world and go somewhere/And find my health again in the seas air” – Now, you notice how the rhythm is, all of a sudden, much snappier, much more colloquial, how he shifts over from this sort of funny, magical, or mythological, type of formal speech into actual speech  - [PW begins again and continues with the poem] – “Time to put off the world and go somewhere/ And find my health again in the seas air”/ Beggar to beggar cried, being frenzy-struck,/ And make my soul before my pate is bare”/ And get a comfortable wife and house/To rid me of the devil in me shoes/ Beggar to beggar cried, being frenzy-struck/ “And the worse devil that is between my thighs..”…”And there I’ll grow respected at my ease,/And hear amid the garden’s nightly peace/Beggar to beggar cried, being frenzy-struck/ The wind-blown clamour of the barnacle glass” 

AG: Those kind of poems, with the refrains, were a big influence on me when I was writing rhymed verse earlier. I did a poem (which is in The Gates of Wrath) ["Complaint of The Skeleton to Time"] that begins: ““Take my bones”, what is it?/Take my love, it is not true,/Pass it on to something new/Take my lady, she will sigh/For my bed wher’ere I lie,/Take them, said the skeleton/But leave my bones alone.” – I (then) used that “take them, said the skeleton/But leave my bones alone” as a refrain after every verse.

[to be continued]

[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately one-and-a-quarter minutes in and continuing to approximately fourteen-and-a-quarter minutes in] 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Voice of W.B.Yeats

Happy Birthday William Butler Yeats
[W,B.Yeats (1865-1939)  Photograph by Howard Coster]

In preparation and anticipation of a whole series of readings from, and remarks on, W.B.Yeats by Allen, (in tandem with the erudite and always entertaining Philip Whalen), here's Yeats recorded voice (famously available on the old Caedmon records) and continuing into the digital age, and famously beginning with "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" ("I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,/And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made,/Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee/And live alone in the bee-loud glade". Here it is recorded in 1931 - and here it is recorded five years later - and here a third (1937) recording. 

Here's Yeats introducing the poem on October 4, 1932:   

"I'm going to read my poems with great emphasis upon their rhythm, and that may seem strange if you are not used to it. I remember the great English poet William Morris coming in a rage out of some lecture hall where somebody had recited a passage out of his "Sigurd the Volsung"."It gave me a devil of a lot of trouble", said Morris, "to get that thing into verse". It gave me a devil of a lot of trouble to get into verse the poems that I am going to read, and that is why I will not read them as if they were prose. I am going to begin with a poem of mine called "The Lake Isle of Innisfree", because, if you know anything about me, you will expect me to begin with it. It is the only poem of mine which is very widely known. When I was a young lad in the town of Sligo, I read Thoreau's essays and wanted to live in a hut on an island in Loch Gile called Innisfree, which means Heather-Island. I wrote the poem in London when I was about twenty-three. One day in the Strand, I heard a little tinkle of water and saw in a shop window a little jet of water balancing a ball on the top. It was an advertisement, I think, for cooling drinks but it set me thinking of Sligo and lake water. I think there is only one obscurity in the poem. I speak of noon as "a purple glow" ["there midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow"]  I must have meant by that the reflection of heather in the water."

Here's "The Fiddler of Dooney", recorded that same year:

"A couple of miles from Innisfree, oh, four or five miles from Innisfree, there is a great rock called Dooney Rock, where I had often picnicked when a child, and when, in my twenty-fourth year, I made up a poem about a merry fiddler, I called him "The Fiddler of Dooney", in commemoration of that rock and of all those picnics. The places mentioned in the poem  are all places near Sligo." 

Even earlier, two stanzas from  "Coole Park and Ballylee", recorded in 1931

Jack B. Yeats, Boat on Coole Park Lake

and here, from 1934, "The Song of the Old Mother"

and here's a lecture for the BBC, recorded in 1936, "On Modern Poetry"

and here, as a bonus, W.H.Auden  on Yeats - with his elegy - "In Memory of W.B.Yeats" - "He disappeared in the dead of winter.....The day of his death was a dark cold day"

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 145

One Hundred Thousand Poets For Change, Michael Rothenberg & Terri Carrion's extraordinarily ambitious annual global manifestation of poetic solidarity and commitment to cultural transformation, initiated in 2011, takes place again - tomorrow!

Numerous events are planned, world-wide. For further information see here, here, and here.

Among them, as the organizers point out, at least fifteen different events in the San Francisco Bay Area alone (including this one):  

 & Gary Snyder, Robert Hass, and others will be performing in Berkeley (as part of this umbrella) at the 18th Annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival

The requisite Daniel Radcliffe updates. Here he gives us a quick sketch of the Beat Generation (real quick - "these are broad strokes I'm making") and recommends W.H.Auden (two poems - "(O) Tell Me The Truth  About Love" and "As I Walked Out One Evening") and Robert Frost (Robert Frost? not Gregory Corso?)

carolyn cassidy and neal cassidy, taken by jack kerouac

[Carolyn Cassady & Neal Cassady - Photograph by Al Hinkle, Estate of Carolyn Cassady ]

Carolyn Cassady's passing last week. She had a few intemperate things to say about Allen over the years, but there's no denying her devotion to the flame (and the flame of the most incandescent of them all - Neal Cassady!) . Here's the initial AP wire notice (as it appeared in The Washington Post). Here's her obit note (by John Leland) from The New York Times, here's Elaine Woo in the L.A.Times and here's (from the UK) Terence McCardle in The Independent and  James Campbell in The Guardian.  
Here's Phil Hebblethwaite's memoir in Vice 

Jerry & Estelle Cimino's 9oth birthday tribute, this past April (from the web-site of The Beat Museum), may be accessed here.

[Federico Fellini (1920-1993)]

An article in Israel's Haaretz alerted us to the little-known Allen Ginsberg-Federico Fellini connection - via his friend and collaborator, Gideon Bachmann. In  January of 1956, "Fellini was supposed to travel from New York to Hollywood to attend the Academy Awards ceremony, where (his film) “La Strada” would win an Oscar for best foreign language film. But New York was hit by a heavy snowstorm and Bachmann was one of the few people able to navigate through the snow-covered metropolis, thanks to his old military jeep. So Fellini, Bachmann and Suzy (Bachmann's partner at the time) did a tour of the city; his two American hosts showed him the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem and introduced him to Allen Ginsberg, Shirley Clarke, Robert Frank and Susan Sontag, all the Beatniks who were Bachmann’s friends during that period (in those days, Bachmann, as well as being a film aficionado was a popular radio host). In the end, Fellini wound up staying in the Big Apple for ten days. Over the course of his visit, he and Bachmann became good (indeed, life-long) friends".

Elvis Costello, on being tongue-tied in front of Allen (the date 1978, the location, the (Upper) West Side of New York) - "Allen Ginsberg was at that gig, because he wanted to meet The Clash and I could barely open my mouth to speak to him. "It's Allen Ginsberg!" (a star-struck Declan babbled) - Yes, Elvis, it's Allen Ginsberg! 

Watch/Listen: Elvis Costello and the Roots:

Bob Dylan Mood Swings?

Musings on the legendary Trocchi - Alexander Trocchi - Andrew Hodgson looks at the misperceptions and limitations placed on the man  (drawing from, among other things, the Ginsberg-Trocchi transcripts) here.

[Alex Trocchi (1925-1984)]

Oh heck, Kill Your Darlings, just a little bit more. The movie now has its own official web-site (just opened) - see here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - (Emergency Fund Raising)

Naropa's financing in its early days, was precarious, to say the least. We've already published an earnest (and also entertaining) fund-raiser/funding appeal - here. Allen breaks off his August 6, 1976 Spontaneous Poetics class with an even more urgent emergency call   

AG: And there's something I wanted to say before we get to any more lifted hands, because we had a big teachers' meeting yesterday, about money, to consider money - because this whole scene is going to fold, unless we do make enough money to keep it going, and what, apparently, is required, by next Thursday, is twenty-three thousand dollars... by Thursday-night... which breaks down in the school to seventy dollars a student, which.. in other words, the teachers decided to go out into all of their classes and ask the students to see if they can magically invent seventy dollars by Thursday, that is, one way or another, like from your parents, or going out cutting grass, or get it out of the bank, or borrow it from your neighbor. What that will do is actually get the school through to the end of the term (It's not like the school will be closed, because it'd be more expensive to close and then have to pay every student their money back before the end, so it'll drag on to conclusion, but unless, by the end of the term, actually, forty-six thousand dollars.. and, unless, next Thursday, twenty-three thousand dollars, there will be just a total financial disaster - The bank will be fore-closing on loans). Now, the faculty (debated yesterday), what can we do?, like, couldn't we have some sort of...  the urgency of it is, the actual extreme nature of the problem.. it's taken for granted that somehow or other we'll get through - but we won't! The whole point is that it's a community school, a community enterprise. Eighty-five percent supported by the faculty and students, financially. It's not supported by the government or by foundation loans, as most schools are. Most schools are supported by government or annuities from trustees or foundations. This is one of the rare schools that is actually self-supporting. So it's, in that sense, a vital community. In other words, everybody's got to.. it's our own making. It isn't made from the outside. There's no deus ex machina, it's our own situation.  That's why they get so heavy about people paying to get into classes. Like, I'm having to work free (and a lot of the other faculty are doing what they're doing free). So for me, it's.. I'm having to give money to support this. Like, last term I gave five-hundred dollars - and cut out my salary. So I'm actually doing this for the pleasure of doing it, as (instruction to the) students (that) are here, not being an accredited school, for the pleasure of being here If we can get through this session, paying back bank loans, it means that we'll be able to continue the school indefinitely. This kind of crisis won't be perpetual. Once we get through this year, then there will be government grants and foundation grants, and it'll be a lot easier to get long-range loans, once it (Naropa) has established its third year of going, because there are foundations and government people supporting it. So, in other words, it's not a continual drain forever, but there is this crisis, over the next couple of weeks, where we've got to raise money. So if any of you have the capacity to come up with seventy bucks, or more, or less, any money that you can throw in, would be really useful. 
We didn't know what suggestions to make. My suggestion was to send everybody that wanted to out with a tin cup and go begging, like (in) the movies, which would be sort of interesting, But they didn't think that was the proper Buddhist style.
If the money isn't raised by Thursday, there probably will be one day soon (where we'll have) a large, maybe friday-the-thirteenth, big get-together jamboree upstairs, with the whole school, planning together, trying to figure out what to do. It'd be kind of interesting, You know, poems, music, everybody talking, to sort it out - like, a complete mass meeting (which I think would be a good scene anyway, whether or no there (was) a crisis). Yeah?

and from a talk, a couple of days later: 

 So, the crisis which we’re in the middle of (which is a minor financial crisis - I think that the amount of money needed is about the equivalent to the salary of one college professor in one university) is a relatively minor matter. And obviously for all of us there is an open future in this situation. And so it’s worth all of our effort now, and time and care and attention and good heart, to get in touch with whoever we do know that has a little money, (and) get the money together. Since the amount is not very great (I think it’s under a hundred dollars each), if we actually do work on it, it probably isn’t going to be too difficult or painful to ask (in fact it might be kind of delightful to get on the phone and get money from) upper-middle-class uncles, doctor-teachers, lawyer-musicians, cousins-who-have-a-friendly-hear-towards-you, or who’ve heard about your meditation, heard about your art, come up out of your own bank accounts – I don’t think it should be too hard and it should be a pleasure to do, because if we’re able to do it, as an American poet-bard, I would say we (will) have succeeded in founding, perhaps, the strongest prophetic art community seen in the Western World since Bohemia was first conceived.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-four minutes in and continuing through to the end - and here, beginning approximately ten-and-a-quarter minutes in, through to the end

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 141

Trungpa Rinpoche
[Allen Ginsberg and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche,  Macky Auditorium, Boulder, Colorado, May 5, 1972]

AG: Did you have your... Yes?

Student: Yeah, I would like to know, who, besides yourselves, is a contemporary [1976] influence in your writing?

AG: On me? Okay, well, very strongly, Chogyam Trungpa (Rinpoche) at the moment, pushing me towards improvisation, blues, or towards improvisation - like making a poem right on the spot, without relying on a pen, on a piece of paper.

Student; You already have so much, probably, so much clearly-studied discipline, you know, in the back of your mind, that that's...

AG: Yeah, but I was afraid to go out in the water and swim. In fact, I didn't actually compose onstage an original poem, without accompaniment from music but just straight compose a poem, until this year, for the first time, at the age of fifty, actually got up and had the chutzpah to start making up..

Student: What did you make up?

AG: I'll read you the poem, because it's interesting..

Student: What about (the one) in Santa Cruz?

AG: I did one with music, (but that was with music, so I always had a crutch, you know. I could sing the blues, or try and rhyme it, or there was always some kind of formulaic device to sustain it). But I never tried actually. I never had the courage to just get up and do a poem without a preparation, until a reading which I gave with LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) in New York City, on July 13th, no, no, May 6th. (And someone later sent me a tape of it, so I transcribed it). The subject... We were... It was a benefit for the Eighth Street Bookstore in New York, which had burned down. And just before I got on the platform, Eli Wilentz told me.. well, they'd heard that there was a couple of people hanging around  who had lit a match to some trash in front of the bookstore. So the poem I improvised at the beginning of my reading was.. 

"Spring Night, four a.m, garbage works by the glass windows, two guys light a match, smoke rolls over Eighth Street where spade queens walk lipstick looking for a taxi, pull out their handkerchiefs, coughing against the black dust rising from out of Imamu Baraka's latest volume of poems. The Whole Earth Catalog up in flames, sizzling. Water pumps, methods for baking home-made yoghurt, crackling. Red fire spreading over San Francisco's communal catalog. Herbert Marcuse exploding in flames, Howl fiery volume after volume over the precipice. Fire spreads through the Skira catalogs, Rembrandt's canvases curled around, holes appear in priceless Van Gogh. Golden statuary smoke-covered, smudged Venus de Milo. Up on the front shelves, in the embers, Andy Warhol's Philosophy from A to B, Tennessee Williams' autobiographical life, in ashes, William Carlos Williams' poetry follows him to a white dusty grave. Shakespeare himself leaves not a rack behind."

Well, all I did, in fact, it was an easy out, because I figured, well, it's a situation, then all I've got to do, 'cause I know that bookstore well, is just run in my mind, while I'm up there standing, through all the titles or sections, and just sort of pick out a book or two, and then that.. any book.. like Rembrandt.. browning, canvases curled in flame.. any book will suggest itself.. like Marcuse exploding in fire, Howl, fiery ..any book that will come to mind will, automatically, suggest its own karmic fate in a fire. And so, actually, you can make a catalog, or list, poem, on the spot, standing up. So I got up and did that. And that was the first time I'd ever done that without music.

Student: (It) sounds like it was a really sort of freeing thing for you, and I'm trying to figure out..

AG: Yeah

Student: ... what it was freeing you from?

AG: Well, the anxiety that I had to prepare a classroom lecture. The anxiety of thinking that I had to have something there on paper to rely on, that the mind wasn't sufficient.

Student: Even though that's what gets you (to) your paper in the first place.

AG: Yeah, but at least you've got time to halt and make mistakes, and cross things out, and consider it for several weeks, whereas if you... See, when you get up, you have to accept the first thing that comes to your tongue (otherwise you get tongue-tied, you get self-conscious). So you have to accept the first thing that comes to your tongue, and, naturally, the horror that everybody has (is) that it's going to be their snot, their piss, their sweat, their self, their ugliness, their horror, their own personal..whatever. Self-conscious. So that the first improvised poem is always about snot, or something, or "green armpit poetry" (or if it's not about snot, it's about clouds and flowers, just as bad!). If it's not something dense, it'll be something so abstract and pink that it doesn't make any difference anyway! So to get a human grist, (it) requires a certain un-self-conscious balance-of-mind, so that you're not going to get into a circular feed-back nervousness and present just the worst anxiety-trips possible, which is what most people do at first - or the most idealistic, non-anxiety-trip possible - just to get a balance of anxiety, so it's actual dense flesh...

So the whole point is you've got to accept the first thing that comes to your mind, without forcing it. Otherwise you stop, and then you think, "Well, will this thought be better, or that thought be better?", or "Should I talk about the electric lights?, or, no (wait a minute) they don't have electric lights" - so you never get the line out! You get everybody bugged, saying, "Get the hook and take him off the stage!"  

Student: I understand that, but I think that there's a difference between someone who's had a lot of discipline and has all of the things that, you know, that somewhere along the line you've really developed.. 

AG: [suddenly, to student]  Ronny?, how old are you, Ronny? 

Student [Ronny]: Twenty-one

AG: Twenty-one. No discipline at all. How much discipline can he have? Make up a poem!

Student: Make up poem?

AG: Get up and make up a poem

Student: "The sweating dehydrated forest in this room. Let's get out of here. I want to go to the trees"

AG: Right. He's only twenty-one, so how much experience could he have?

Student: I still think there's a difference, but..

AG: Well, no, actually..

Student: .. I understand what you're saying.

AG: ..I think it's a question of the attitude. See, he accepts his mind. He accepted his mind (just like a good meditator, in a sense). He accepted his mind. "Let's go out, let's go to the trees" - you know. Well, he said it, before he thought whether it was good or bad. Or he shrewdly knew it was alright, but he said it. But that's part of the general intelligence, everybody's basic Buddha-mind, it's general intelligence, that he shrewdly saw in advance what he was saying and knew it was okay, because it came from him. What else could it be but ok because it came right out of him..? And it was real solid. "Let's go to the trees", which is, like, a funny line in poetry,"Let's go to the trees" - And it was perfect, the "sweating lights", you know, the sweating... so he did it, and it didn't require being fifty years old and (being) an old whore-y poet. It just required an alertness and attentiveness to his own mind and a sort of.. that kind of funny, jive-y body-rightness of acceptance, of self-acceptance. 

Student: I guess what I'm trying to do is balance the discipline from some of the poets that you've been reading (here), with the real spontaneous stuff that's also been going on around here. And sometimes it's hard..

AG: Well, yeah. I think that, as the West gets more and more accustomed to bardic utterance, or spontaneous utterance, there'll be less anxiety about it, and there will be forms to fill out. It becomes like writing a sonnet..

Student: Just a different form.

AG: ...after all. You just get up and do that - but involving the body a little more, perhaps. So it's interesting that here (at Naropa)  we have an academy that specializes in that, despite the heavy anchor-drag of my reading hours of Wordsworth on end! - 

(Audio for the above can be found  here, starting approximately twenty-one minutes in and concluding approximately thirty-four minutes in) 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 140 (Rilke)

[Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)]

AG: I (know) a couple of lines (of German)  - " Du bist wie eine Blume/so..schon und.." (Heinrich Heine

Philip Whalen: I'd like to take the Rilke out of .. as much German as I've absorbed, totally out of the air, and out of the imagination, and what-not, to look at the Duino Elegies and so on, and get some comfort and charm out of the sound of the things as they go by. But, as far (as).. if you asked me to render a single line, I'd be.. I might recognize some lone word, or something like that, but otherwise, I'd be totally flummoxed, I wouldn't have any idea.

I do the same thing with Lorca. Although I can guess better at Lorca because it's nearer to a Latin trip, but I enjoy looking at the Lorca texts in Spanish. But we all learn from the same people. From Rilke and Lorca and Thomas Mann and from (Marcel) Proust, and..    

AG: I never could get much out of Lorca. Just a continuous breath..

Philip Whalen: Oh, there's a thing about weather..

AG: ...The Duino Elegies, but that's all.

Philip Whalen: Yeah, but in Lorca, there's a thing about the smell of things and the shape, the colors of things, and about the weather, about how hot it is and how cold it is, which I find really nice.

AG: I've always seen him as a bad influence on people. They get really.. sad and romantic.

Philip Whalen: It's very thin, it's really thin stuff  the Lorca materials are, I think, but still they're very pretty. The Rilke thing is very.. it gets smeary

AG: I'm sorry. I was talking about Rilke.

Philip Whalen: Well, he tends to smear..

AG: Yeah.

Philip Whalen: far as I can see. And he's like Richard Strauss, he gets.. exactly, he gets imprecise and floppy around the edges, and it just gets pretty.. and, I think it's wonderful that..the greatest thing about Rilke is that he died after picking a rose and getting stuck on one of the thorns. What actually happened was that it turned out that the wound from being poked by this rose-thorn didn't heal up and he actually had leukemia, but they didn't know it until right that minute, or a couple of months later, when he still had this hole in him. He was actually dying of leukemia. But it was quite wonderful to be pricked by a rose and die. I always thought more kindly of him on that account.

And also, when  I was in the army, a friend gave me a copy, a little single volume of the Letters To A Young Poetwhich I treasured. I really thought that was some of the wisest, most marvelous, most inspiring stuff that anybody ever said about the calling of being a poet.. were these letters that he'd written to..very stuffy, actually.. letters to this young kid who was writing to him about, "How do you be a poet?", and, "I'm discouraged", and "Please tell me what to do next?", and so on. And Rilke wrote these very studied and very careful, very beautiful, replies to him, and I don't know whether the kid ever amounted to anything, but they..

AG: No, he didn't.

Philip Whalen:  ..but the replies are much more.. and I do like the prose... the thing I was talking about yesterday, about writing prose with the care of poetry, where the Malte Laurids Brigge's right on top, every minute, right now. Right on top of each event, each particle is going by, he's right there with it. And so it works a lot better than a lot of the poems, except.. I don't know. That's quite wonderful where that angel comes in and grabs him in the first Duino Elegy..and says, "Shape up" (and, poor sap, that took him twenty years to shape up there!)

AG: Has everybody here read the Duino Elegies? Anybody not? Well, you might go and check out at least the first. "Who, if I cried would hear me among the angelic orders?" it begins, in one of the old translations. At least read the first elegy - Duino Elegies by Rilke. There's a new translation, which I'll put in the library.

Philip Whalen: Yes

AG: by Alfred Poulin Jr., an old..  (The) (Stephen) Spender-(J.B).Leishman (translation), did they give(that to) you?

Philip Whalen: Yeah, that's an old one

AG: It's probably (the best)

PW: What's her name? Mrs Herter Norton did rather better, I thought.  M.D. Herter Norton 

(Audio for the above can be found here, beginning at approximately sixteen-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-one minutes in)

Monday, September 23, 2013

John Coltrane

love supreme manuscripts

[John Coltrane  (1926-1967) - live version and sheet music for "A Love Supreme"]

Allen, in Partisan Review, in 1971, [speaking of (William Carlos) Williams]:

"The influence was that originality of taking the materials from your own existence rather than taking on hand-me-down poetic materials, speech units, rhythmic units and trying to adapt your life to them - you articulate your rhythm, your own rhythms. The concept of that led, in the 'forties, to Abstract Expressionist painting and (Willem) de Kooning and (Franz) Kline, it led, in music, to Ornette Colman and all, and uh.. who was a teacher there? - the guy who died two [actually, four] years ago - John Coltrane. It was the same rediscovery of individual soul's impulse that led into Coltrane."

Tip of the hat to the ever-informative Open Culture for reminding us that 87 years ago today in Hamlet, North Carolina, marked the birth of a legend - John William Coltrane, "'Trane". 


Spontaneous Poetics - 139

File:Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Tower of Babel (Vienna) - Google Art Project - edited.jpg

[Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526-1569) - Tower of Babel (1563), oil on panel, 44.8 inches x 61 inches at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria]   

AG: I wanted to find out... Let's see.. I  took over the space just as Philip Whalen was going to discourse on the languages that he spoke - and read...

I butted in. I was interested in hearing.. ((I want to) switch again, just a moment)..because, I was conscious (that), when I began my sentence about (reading) (Federico Garcia) Lorca, [editor's note, he means Rilke] that I was answering first. 

[Allen turns to Philip Whalen].  There you are!  (So), What languages do you read?  (to hearken back twenty-five thoughts!)

PW: I can read English and I can kind of fake it through lots of French, and I can read Chinese and Japanese dictionaries, so I can check out, I'm able to check out what translations are like, relative to what the dictionary says. But that doesn't really amount to much, because all any proper sinologist will tell you is that the dictionaries that we have to work with are very, very poor equipment, that you actually have to be able to use Chinese dictionaries in Chinese in order to really check out this stuff. But it's fun, in any case, to use the Mathews Chinese-English dictionary to cross-check the various translations of Chinese poems, or to use the Nelson dictionary to cross-check on (R.H.) Blyth's work in the haiku books that Allen was talking about, or other books where you have a bilingual text. It's just entertaining to do, and it makes you feel somewhat closer to, maybe, to what's going on.  But I can't claim to read much of anything, except English, and, about half the time, I've found out, when I was in college, that I wasn't really reading English very attentively, or very carefully, very closely, and so I had to learn - that was one of the things I learned there was something about what "close reading" was (although I don't think that that's really the answer to anything - I really don't believe in the idea of "explication de texte" so much). (Jack) Kerouac used to talk about "word-slinging", about (how) (Herman) Melville was a real "word-slinger".

AG: That was my phrase! He got it from me.

PW: Alright. Well, he borrowed from you then, but, in any case, what was important was that something built up fast, or it got by fast, and, sometimes, you don't want the details, what you want is a general effect, or what the author was driving at as some big general balloon, as Allen calls it, instead of the precise, detailed thing. You can look at a passage from Melville and take it all to pieces and  do that kind of number on it. My friend Don Carpenter said that he sat in a class with Walter Van Tilburg Clark out at State College in San Francisco, where they literally did take apart Moby Dick, page-by-page, and found why each word was there, and what each word meant, and so on.

I doubt that when he wrote it that Melville knew what he was doing. I  mean, he said that it drove him crazy, writing the thing drove him mad, and, from my own experience, I have a number of times I have written a piece which, years later, somebody came up to me and said, "Gee, you sure did something wonderful at this point in the poem". And I'll say, "What are you talking about?". And they say, "Well, where it says here so-and-so, and so". And I say, "Oh yeah?  -  Well I just wrote it that way. I don't know. I didn't intend anything at all at the time, except that I had some idea, and it came down, and that's it, and there it was, and it's all over with. I didn't have all that "malice aforethought" about it, all those complications that you found there. It's interesting that you found them, and they clearly are there, aren't they, but, boy, I didn't build them there. I mean, I didn't do it on purpose. It just came out that way". So it's very difficult to say anything about how that works out.

AG: Do you know any Latin?

PW: Oh yeah, listen, when I was in high school, I did Latin..

AG: I had a little Latin too

PW:  ...for several years and also studied French in high school, and then I kept it up, and then when I got into college, I did Russian for a while and then went back to French again.

AW: Did Russian affect your ear at all?

PW: No, it's too close to English, although it has some wonderful sounds in it that are very exciting and charming sounds, but I don't think that it had an permanent effect. But the real effect that it had was to remind me - I'd be trying to think about the Russian word for some particular object and I would immediately think of the French word, but I couldn't remember the Russian one. Or sometimes, later, I could remember the Russian word  but not a French one, which is very annoying.
But doing Buddhist studies, it turns out that a lot of it is in a dictionary. I mean, you just simply have to be operating.. whether you know the languages or not, you find yourself operating in Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, and Pali, (and a little bit of Mongolian thrown in on the edges), so you have to.. you find yourself responsible with having to deal with five languages that you don't know anything about, and it's very entertaining, because you gradually learn something by fiddling around.
It's another place where you have to compare translations, where you take a term used in Buddhist philosophy, and some guy back in the 19th Century, who didn't know a hell of a lot of Sanskrit, gave it some English equivalent, and so you get used to seeing that in translations of Buddhist scriptures, but then, later on, you come upon later translators who have learned more about Sanskrit philology and what-not and give a different interpretation or different meaning, and so on.  And then, scholarship. Buddhist scholarship is done in a whole bunch of modern languages, though not too much of it exists in English [editorial note - this is 1976]. A great deal more exists in French, in Russian, and in German. I can't do any German at all. I can't even fake German, but...

(Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning approximately ten-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately sixteen-and-a-half minutes in ) 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ginsberg-Cherry-Rowan - Buddhism in Song

[Don Cherry]
Picture of Peter Rowan
[Peter Rowan]

[Allen Ginsberg]

Don Cherry at Naropa in August of 1976. We featured him yesterday, we thought to include him again today, alongside Peter Rowan (who we’ve previously featured here) in a discussion (and performance) of Buddhism–in-song.  Audio for the occasion is here
Allen begins with a couple of his songs (Gospel Noble Truths and Guru Blues), beginning first with some spontaneous improvisations on the Prajnaparamita, Heart Sutra

Transcription follows.   

AG: ….Do you know "Gate gate, para gate, parasam gate, bodhi svaha  - so I just made up one verse last night when we were talking [ Allen begins tuning his harmonium and then starts singing] –
“I’m gonna study mind and breath now that I’m gonna be age fifty/I won’t be in America forever, some day I’ll go away/I’m gonna see my mama, my papa and my grandma/gate gate paragate parasam gate bodhi svaha”
“I’m gonna come in and teach my poetry and also teach (attitude)/ Gonna make up the words out of spontaneous mind and sing them all to you/Gotta come out of the back of my ear and come forth from my mouth, ah ha ha / gate gate paragate parasam gate bodhi svaha
It would be kind of interesting to start up a new genre of song/ Come find the old-time ancient blues that (Don) Cherry’s grandma sang all along/ same time thinking of the sufferings/ of my  old insane mama/ passing through – sing  gate gate paragate parasam gate bodhi svaha

I had a.. Not making use of Buddhist terminology, but trying to make use of Buddhist conceptions, I wrote a gospel which put together the three marks of existence - suffering, change and – anatta (soul-lessness, or no soul, or no ego – anatta) – the Four Noble Truths – Suffering, Ignorance as a cause of Suffering, End of Ignorance - and the fourth Noble Truth, the way out, the Eightfold Path on the dharma wheel, the eight spokes of the dharma wheel, which are…you all know that? – formulaic matter – Right Vews, Right Inspiration, Right Speech, Right Activity, Right Labor, Right Energy, Right Mindfulness, Right Meditation  - and then I included a stanza giving instructions for sitting, standing and laying down (which are, like, the three possible things we can do with the body, laying down.. lie down, sit, or stand, sort of samatha instructions, or basic mindfulness instructions) and then a run-down of the five senses, or six senses, Sight, Hearing, Taste, Touch, Smell – and Thought – six. So..

[to Peter Rowan] – Shall we tune up? – My “A” is…  [to Don Cherry]  - You wanna play bells? – The rhythm’s easy – gospel-style – I’ll try and keep the rhythm regular, and Don.. most of you saw Don Cherry the other night ?  [Allen sings “Gospel Noble Truths”, Peter Rowan provides the echo/response] - Erm.. see, what else is there? . I had other, “Guru Blues”, that.. which I had recorded – or recorded, so I’d like to play that. That was tending to take Buddhist material and lay it on sort of a devotional to the guru , and mix it up with totally modern Pete Seeger-ish or faggot-crazy poetics, so, put it all together, like, the devotional material and the Buddhist terminology, (and) American ecological preoccupations. So, this is “Guru Blues" – [Allen plays a recorded version of the end of “Gospel Noble Truths”, followed by (recording of) “Guru Blues”] - That was sort of more blatant, in that it was direct use of any kind of terminology that came into my head like direct Buddhist.. The.. but the.. both.. most of the melody, and the first stanza, actually, came in a dream. I, literally, wrote it in a dream, saw it written in a dream, or sang it in a dream, and then woke up almost instantly and wrote out the first stanza then copied.. copied the form to continue.

[to audience]  - So anyway, actually, all three of the poet-musicians here on the floor, on chairs in front of you, have all been occupied, in some extent, over the last few years in trying (to)..  how do you translate dharma into communal language? (Don) Cherry, actually, doing it in terms of, to some extent, in terms of classical, classical Black blues (but family music, for children), Peter (Rowan), in terms of do did you make it a private practice?, at the same time how did you get up on a public stage as a folk singer and..?

PR: Well, it depends on the situation, really. Some situations you can be a lot freer with combining, you know, actual dharmic things, like prayers in Tibetan and dharmic instruments, you know, subtle instruments. Some situations are open to that. Other situations you ‘ve gotta.. you’re playing in a bar or something like that, so you play what you’ve recorded, and stuff like that..To me, dharmic music is where there’s room for inspiration in the actual creation within the material, you know, at some point in the compoisition, to do something that hasn’t been done, that you don’t know what you’re gonna do..

AG: Do you think of of it in terms of, like, creating on the spot, or?

PR: Yeah.. or a framework, you know, because that’s inspiration and intuition and all those things come into play when..  In some situations people aren’t asking for that and if you give it to them it just doesn’t.. you know.. It depends, you know. That’s the magic of it..

AG: What’s the furthest out you’ve got as far as combining American form, American pop form and  Buddhist doctrine?

PR: Who’s doctrine?

AG:  ..or Buddhist presentation. At the same time, American.. disguised in American.. have you ever tried that? (no?)

PR : Not in.. not in the way that you actually took deep doctrine and translated…

AG: Yeah, I tried to translate it

PR: Yeah I’ll just play something that.. [to Don Cherry] Were you gonna say something, Don?  

DC: No go ahead

PR: I wrote this after a seminar on Naropa, about four years ago at the Tail of the Tiger, Karme Choling, and then I wrote the part that will follow it. I read (Chogyam) Trungpa Rinpoches book Born in Tibet  and friends of mine were in Nepal and they were sending back letters describing how the Khampa army of Tibetan herdsmen were being pretty much slaughtered by the Chinese, and the Nepalese were siding with the Chinese, and this is all part of the spreading of the dharma. The lamas would never have left Tibet if they hadn’t undergone this terrible suffering to that whole country. It’s not doctrine so much, it’s just my feelings about it.

AG: Yeah, I heard this. This is a funny combination of Wild West, Western ballad, cowboy ballad, (or outlaw ballad), and esoteric Buddhist history
[Peter Rowan begins singing – “I’m an outlaw on the run/John Law swears I’m running guns/joined the rebels in the mountains of Tibet/ for the coral and the turquioise I can get..”…”o Naropa!”…” sweet little dakini, she came dancing on the mountain./I’m gonna let that Rapture capture me”.]

AG: I like that line – “Milarepa was a..?", "Milarepa was a yogi"?– how did you use it? how did you use Milarepa there? It just sounds like some country 'n western.. rapist!’

[Peter Rowan puts on mock Southern accent]  “Mila-rape-a was a yogi”

DC: Giving all that love.

PR: Giving all that love, right .

Student: You know that song “I’m proud to be a Yogi from Muskogee”?

PR: No! – It’s happening…

AG:  [to DC] What kind of reaction do you get from musicians when you introduce mantra?

DC: Yeah, well that’s one of the reasons that.. you know, you have to live what you do and do what you live.
And if you’ll be trying to learn the dharma and enter the  dharma  and go out into (that other) world, you have  to try to do it in a positive way, and  by trying to write compositions with the mantra is a good way of  trying to suddenly..  because [to AG], 
I remember the first time when we met, you gave me the first mantra which was..

Student: Excuse me, you can’t be heard at all.

DC: Oh yeah? – Well (you know) what they say, - “you gotta listen”! – [DC then, purposefully, whispers] - what I’m saying is the first time Allen gave me a mantra, which was om mani mani maha muni shakyamuni ye soha , that to me, was very powerful, I remembered, and I worked upon it and worked upon it..
And then I remember Kalu Rinpoche and him giving me the first mantra - om mani padme humand it was very powerful, and I felt that I should share that with other musicians (and) that it’d be just as powerful to them, and it’s a seed, you know – and so, working with you, and I asked Kalu Rinpoche. I said, “I’m working with children, what would be the best way of working with children at the beginning,  and he said, "om mani padme hum”, and teach it to them and let them realize that it brings a happy feeling. So that’s the way that I ended up trying to.. incorporate it into the music.

AG: What I figured was.. what you were doing was using the..taking the rhythm of the mantra

DC: Yes

AG:  and then just building, building (up)

DC: Yes 

AG: Using that a seed and building up

DC: the form.  It’s very strong and goes into different times and..but it’s very strong.

PR: And Kalu Rinpoche talks about the sound of mantra, and many people chanting mantra, as the sound of millons of bees buzzing, the sound overlapping, like ocean waves.

AG: See, Peter (Orlovsky)’s a student of Kalu also, oddly

DC: Yeah, yeah

AG: It’s funny . Amazing. Peter Orlovsky got.. took his refuges from Kalu too. 
I got one last song I want to lay out. Again, application of dharma. Running around with the Rolling Thunder Review, Dylan said he believed in God, and, you know, and was carrying too much weight for.. and he said “I’ve been up on the mountain”, and.. We had a long conversation and he said he’d been up on the mountain, and God (had) said, okay, you’ve been up on the mountain now go down - come, see me, check in, later, you know! – I’’m busy! (so) check in.. So he was carrying a mountain around with him, I thought, so I thought good Buddhist advice was.. [Allen concludes with his own   “Lay Down Your Mountain”