Monday, October 14, 2013

NJTV New Jersey Poetry Hommage

In this 1986 footage (from the New Jersey Public Television tv magazine show, State of the Arts) Allen is filmed in his East 12th Street New York City apartment, against the backdrop of his cubbyhole library), The segment begins in media res, with him reading from "Howl" (from the classic "Moloch" section) - "What sphinx of cement and aluminium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains an imagination? / Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness!  Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!?Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!..."
The occasion?  - the publication of the new, fully-expanded, edition of Howl ("Original Draft Facsimile, Transcript & Variant Versions, Fully Annotated By Author With Contemporaneous Correspondence, Account of First Public Reading, Legal Skirmishes, Precursor Texts and Bibliography") - "Ginsberg thinks the majestic format is quite appropriate for his majestic poem, which he feels has built up a cumulative power since the (19)50's": 
AG: "The vision of the hyper-technological megalopolis, a hyper-rationalistic society destroyed the earth itself, that has grown more and more monstrous until we now have demonic industries and monstrous bombs and big cancer-producing oil flatts and chemical pollution of the Passaic River near where I grew up."

The particularly New Jersey context of this footage - New Jersey Public Television - and so, evocations of Paterson, William Carlos Williams, and of the poets' New Jersey poet teacher father, Louis Ginsberg :
AG: "So I was trained in classic lyric poetry but then I began to be interested in modern form, in which regular New Jersey Rutherford Paterson speech idiomatic vernacular rhythms and diction were used to talk the way my mouth talks normally when I'm talking to my mother or you or talking to the lamp-post!"

Allen reads a section from his singularly New Jersey-focused poem, "Garden State" - "They haven't reported the end of Jersey's gardens/much less the end of the world/Here in Boonton they made cannonballs/ for Washington, had old iron mines./Spillways, coach houses, trolleycars/ran through Newark, gardeners dug in front lawns/Look for the news in your own backyard,/over the whitewashed picket fence/fading signs on the upper stories of red brick factories left over from 1910/The data terminal people stand/ on Route 40 now. Let's get our/ stuff together, let's go back/ Sunday's and sing old Springtime music/ on Greystone State Hospital lawn."

This is followed by a reading from his poem (in the collection, White Shroud)  "about teaching children in China about Walt Whitman" - ("I Love Old Whitman So")  "I skim his leaves beginning to end this year in the Middle Kingdom/marvel his swimmers huffing naked on the wave/and touched by his desperado farewell, "Who touches this book touches a man"/tip the hat on my skull/to the old soldier, old sailor, old writer, old homosexual, old Christ poet journeyman,/inspired in middle age to chaunt Eternity in Manhattan/and see the speckled snake and swelling orb earth vanish/after green seasons Civil War and years of snow/ white hair."

AG: "So...that's two New Jersey poets hommage - from a third New Jersey poet!"

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