Saturday, November 30, 2013

Poetry and Madness at Esalen 1968

"Losing Your Mind To Come To Your Senses" - today some vintage audio from the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, from the 'Sixties (1968) - Poetry and Madness - a symposium - The panel (introduced by research psychologist Julian Silverman) consists of two psychiatrists, John W Perry and Claudio Naranjo and two counter-culture heroes, Allen and Alan Watts. 
Allen's contribution begins approximately fifty-and-a-quarter minutes in.

Julian Silverman: It has been said that at least certain kinds of schizophrenics and poets are in touch with the same things - except the psychotic makes a bigger pest of himself. What do you have to say about that?

AG: I would like to present some symbols for (the) goddess or the bodhisattva of compassion. It’s the sutra Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo 

[Allen proceeds to recite]  

Kanzeon na mu butsu
yo butsu u en
yo butsu u en bup po
so en jo raku ga jo cho nen
kanzeon bo nen
kanzeon nen nen ju shin
ki nen nen fu ri shin.

[Bernie Glassman's translation: "Kanzeon! At one with the buddha/Related to all buddhas in cause and effect./And to buddha, dharma and sangha./ Joyful, pure, eternal being!/Morning mind is kanzeon/Evening mind is kanzeon/This very moment arises from Mind/This very moment is not separate from Mind"]

     Following this chant (at approximately fifty-three minutes in), Allen continues with a long ecstatic poem (an early version of the concluding section of "Television Was A Baby Crawling Toward That Death Chamber", beginning with the lines "What are you doing eccentric solitary in this Longshoreman’s Hall? a mad vagrant Creep/ Truthcloud sans identity cloud - It's Paterson all right..." ... "O Widen the Area of Consciousness! O/ set my Throne in Space"...(and concluding) " - Telephones connect the voids island blissy darkness scattered in many mankind".

     Julian Silberman (approximately six ty-five-and-a-half minutes in) - We would like at this time to invite the audience to ask questions or make some short pointed comments that would invoke some stimulus in us. Anybody with a question, comment, something that you’d like to hear the panel talk about ?

The first question relates to the mystic Gurdjieff (Questioner: Does one exist or does one.. AG: One waves one's hand!) - Claudio Naranjo addresses the question first, followed by Alan Watts (Gurdjieff, he declares, was "a magnificent old rascal")

At approximately seventy-seven minutes in, Allen is asked about Subud - AG: I have very little first-hand information. I’m a member of Subud  I’ve been opened and I’ve been at latihansbut after having spent three weeks or so outside the door in order to get my Subud card and attending first latihans I didn’t return (back) due to the pressure of other business and, so I don’t know what went on after that..

John Perry next addresses the issue of chronic schizophrenia.

At approximately eighty-eight minutes in, Allen is asked about Scientology - AG:  I have no direct experience of it except through (William) Burroughs who has experience.. William Burroughs in London, who was involved in it for the last six or seven years, first theoretically, and now, apparently, involved directly with the.. whatever organization there is in London. He’s written a very intelligent pamphlet on it, which I think the Scientology groups are circulating. The basic theory is that if you will get up and repeat, sit down and repeat, over and over again, the images to which you are attached, through repeating them several dozen times, and having them played back and fed back to you, a feedback is set up which, after a while, eliminates the obsessive affect connected with the imagery, so that, after a while, you begin to look at it objectively, or without compulsive affect, or without hysterical affect. Burroughs, at the moment, swears by it as a method of  clarifying sensory consciousness, and so I think (that) the way he’s using it, or the way he’s interpreting it, or, perhaps, the way it’s actually (currently) being practiced in England, it may be a very useful mechanism.

Alan Watts: It was announced in the San Francisco Chronicle today that two American students of Scientology were not allowed to enter Great Britain by the immigration authorities.
AG: Well, probably, they didn’t have enough... They probably didn’t display enough affect in relation to the off(icers)..  (to) the uniforms they wore, the images of the uniforms, or the flags they were confronted with.

Question (from the audience) - Has anybody actually ever proven that reality exists? - Watts responds and delights the crowd with a nonsense rhyme - 

Coming, at approximately ninety minutes in, Allen makes a clear, bold, statement. 

AG: Yeah, there’s a funny kind of confusion here. It’s as if most of the panelists were talking to an audience of solid citizenry, believing psychiatrists, instead of, what I presume it is, a number of people who consider themselves schizophrenic, psychotic - but viably so! – So how many here actually consider yourselves viably psychotic? Will you raise your hands? – or have had psychotic experiences, or in present state?!  And how many consider themselves, like, completely normally sane and, like, not to be categorized? Is there anybody that..  yeah, what I mean is that the tone or affect of most of the addresses here have been as if it were not recognized that we are all in (a?) conspiracy together to manifest the experiences that we have had as being more real than that which is taken to be sanity by the official sane makers – and I think that one problem with Doctor Perry’s address was that he was still referring to the deplorable conditions that we are all suffering as if  we were… sympathetically, but still hiding his light in a bushel.

At approximately ninety-two-and-a-quarter minutes in (from the audience)  - I’d like to ask Mr Ginsberg about the...possibly the  difference between re-educating old ideas and assassinating them..   (the microphone then starts humming - Allen: Say "aum'  (and) it'll cuts feedback sometimes) - Questioner:  I'd also like to ask about methadrine [metamphetamine]... 

AG: The question [clarifying for the audience] was the difference between assassinating ideas and..? re-educating.. also the dangers of methadrine – "Speed Kills" – That was (just) one weekend of methadrine. I’m almost sorry to have the word (methadrine) in the poem (Television was a Baby...)  lest it lead tender and immature bodies to go to terrible consequences, because I think that methadrine is a serious plague on consciousness at the moment, or on bodies at the moment, so it’s a big bring-down, as it’s used continually. Yes, obviously, it’s a big drag. As for re-education versus assassination, in terms of the old idea of  Yahweh, what I’m finding, as with this particular incident (taking methadrine for a weekend), that the methadrine (combined with some heroin, combined with some psilocybin actually  - not just methadrine), plus some benzadrine pill(s) (and) several days writing continuously, what I find myself doing is, going into situations, (either catalyzed by drugs, or without drugs), in which there is a more radiant consciousness, a flip-out, or a psychotic experience, or, as Greta Bibring, who’s an old Freudian would.. described it as a disintegration of  the ego and descent into the id, but I always find that I wind up re-integrating. or returning to normal, as this specimen poem did, slightly altered, so that I find that the best upaya (sic), or most skillful means for dealing with the unconscious is to go take a bath in it, distrust all conclusions, come back with whatever is useable, and not insist on anything. So that would eliminate Sirhan Sirhan's assassination style.

Questioner : I missed that. I don't understand. First, I don’t understand if you said "re-integrating" or "reiterating"..
AG: Re-integrating.
Questioner: Was it "i-d" or "i-t" ? 
Questioner: Re..?
AG: She said.. oh, she, being, a sweet old lady, who was analyzed by Freud...
Questioner: I thought it was a pun on "id", but it wasn't right?
AG: No. I wasn't thinking of..
Questioner; Well, right at that point I'm thinking..I didn't understand from there on.
AG: Understand what?
Questioner: Except for the baths. I understood something about a bath, but..
AG: I haven't bathed in days. I'm at a loss...
Questioner: I didn't undertand that, either.
AG: I haven't taken acid for a year. I'm at a loss. 
Questioner: Well?

At approximately ninety-seven minutes in, Allen continues. 

AG:  You had a question yes?

Questioner: Yes, some of you have touched on poetry and music as expressions of altered states of consciousness. and, like, the reverse, maybe you know?. I can use dance, chant, playing music as ways to alter my consciousness but I don't know except by listening to Allen recite ways of using poetry to change the way that I'm experiencing the world.Maybe you have ways of using poetry or language that put you through changes, and whether you want to answer that by describing what you do or doing it, I don't care, but what sort of things do you know about (and) what have you done?

 AG:  I’ll give a short (answer).. The classical thing is that John Stuart Mill said, that in the.. after a period of great depression, after he’d read (William) Wordsworth ..but during a reading of Wordsworth, he suddenly had a very fantastic experience by the ocean and began a new life, incipit vita nova for him, as a result of language. I had a similar experience with (William) Blake, (George Barker also reported a similar experience with various poems of Blake). A lot of people report that from my poetry, oddly, from Arkansas, it’s an old experience that, apparently, certain linkings of  sounds, plus, concomitantly, possibly, the breathing necessary for pronunciation of those sounds, plus the concomitant associational electrical discharges in the brain, can, apparently, catalyze  an altered metabolism and an alteration of consciousness, through little poem(s),..little lyrics, short (as Blake's "(The)Sick Rose" or "(Ah!) Sunflower"), or longer, through long shamanistic chant-type poems, such as Dylan Thomas', or Hart Crane’s "Atlantis", or say, specifically, (Percy Bysshe) Shelley, if one were to pronounce the "Ode To the West Wind", paying careful attention to where the commas fell, where the breath-stops fell,  and pronounced the lines as they came out, not stopping until there was a comma, or a definite breath-stop, you’’ll find that your breathing is altered, and your consciousness is altered, so there’s a secret machine, a physiological machine, involved in poetry that comes in ( like, unless you’re aware of it, it’s secret).

John Perry is asked about the distinctions between LSD and schizophrenia, Claudio Naranjo addresses this also.

There follows another slightly bizarre interchange  
Questioner: I'd like to ask a question about the American flag there [points to the American flag] and people coming here and speaking under the American flag..that's murdering people generally right and left, and people coming here to contribute one, two, and three, these three-dollar war bonds that (the) United States army puts out, only to support this effort, and I wonder why individuals of this sort would consider people who might have made communication with people from other planets (not myself, but the possibility that they might), to consider these individuals psychotic, when the very individuals themselves are contributing, either through these war bonds with George Washington's picture on them, or something similar, to what might be a, possibly a, psychotic episode 
AG: May I address myself to that.  I think that..the question again is.. the word is upaya, skillful means. This convocation, as far as I understand, was conjured up in order to validate the rightness of insanity and that insanity was actually sanity, and show that it was really more true than the thinner consciousness of everyday life, so it was considered skillful means to wrap ourselves in the flag in order to propose insanity to the nation. That was all. So that people wouldn't get scared. So they'd think it was patriotic so therefore it'd be okay. It's done under the auspicies of a tax-exempt foundation so no money of the evening is going to pay the government for the war. So I don't think there's any actual problem
Questioner persists:
But what's the difference of the basic essence of.. I mean, what's the difference between a twenty-dollar bill and a (tacitly supportive of the war) war bond?
AG: Oh, you're calling money itself into question, not merely the flag
Questioner: Well, I was thinking of it, I don't know if I was all by myself.. 
AG: Well, that I don't know. I'm not getting any money for this. So you'll have to ask the Esalen Big Sur people   
Questioner: Oh, I'm asking a question, not for my money back.

The debate continues - Audience Member: Well, Marshall McLuhan said that the.. something like "the natural condition of man is schizophrenic" - well, what if it is? 
John Perry:  "I have to take my light out from under that bushel you were talking about Allen. No, I object to that. I don't remember him [McLuhan] saying that, frankly, it's not the natural condition.." - Alan Watts: "The word "schizophrenia", as a matter of fact is one of the most ill-defined terms in psychiatry.." -  Watts quotes Shakespeare (from "The Tempest") - "so it was all nonsense, but how beautiful!" 

Audience Member asks about "induced psychotic experience" - John Perry: "We're talking about a disorder of mind which is not something we want to induce.." - Allen chimes in: "   
And the tendency of the conversation was toward the fact that it was not necessarily a dis-order but another order.." - Watts: "The most common psychotic experience is falling in love".."All inspired vision of poetry, of drama, of dancing and of music is a certain kind of madness, but there is madness and madness, just as there is a difference between nonsense and bunk"..

A question is addressed to Claudio Naranjo about "the shaman" ("the archetype of the modern day psychotic?") 
A question is address to Alan Watts - "How do you do it?" - Watts: "That's the wrong question"
Claudio Naranjo is asked (re the relationship between the artist and the schizophrenic)  "Why is the artist coping and the schizophrenic not? What makes the difference?" - Naranjo quotes R.D.Laing's double-edged formulation -  "there is nothing to be afraid of" (illusory fear)  - 

"So how can the artist help the psychotic deal with this reality?" - Allen comes in here (at approximately one-hundred-and-thirty-one-and-a-half minutes in)

AG: The obvious way would be for artists to conspire to redefine reality, to manifest an expanded sense of reality, in such a way that it is socially communicable, in such a way that it can be articulated also in social forms, so that everybody can agree on it, so that, actually, people who are having expansions of consciousness, which are defined socially as psychotic, or sick, or wrong, or mis-interpretations, can find a place in a slightly looser sense of reality - or through.. like, the general hipness to the fact that reality is a matter of interpretation and a matter of admission of  consciousness, or interpretation of phenomena, rather than the way things “actually” are. Once a psychotic understands that his insight is real, then it’s just a matter of manifesting it, and focus, rather than pushing and insisting by violence on his insight..but of using proper upaya [sic] for articulating his awareness, like.. he thinks he’s God, say? – well, of course he's God!..(but) to go around and.. or, I thought I was God, so I ran around Columbia University telling Mark Van Doren and Lionel Trilling that I was God, in such a way that they got frightened, 'cause I was telling them that in such a way that it made it sound like they weren’t!  I didn’t define it in such a way, or articulate it in such a way as that included them in, in a way that didn’t threaten their sense of their own being. (Well, like, (to) push the boundaries of definition back for the society at large, or for those who can be tuned in, and create a larger and larger populace of communion, or communication, within a larger consciousness . So in other words, the helpfulness of their artistic manifestation is that people who think that they are lonely nuts can realize that they’re not alone, and that, actually, as (Antonin) Artaud said, the official society is a giant conspiracy to suppress the awareness that we’re all aware of, and which is called "the unconscious", to the extent that people are put into a hypnotic sleep-state, so that they won’t be aware of what we are actually aware of.

"The artist, John Perry suggests,  seeks out.."  –  AG: "That might not be such a good idea, that might be a big compromise. You know, it might be that, from another point of view, it might be  someone who doesn’t try to mediate between the different forms of language consciousness of the artist is mediating between different forms – image- or language- consciousness - and playing.. like walking a fence and playing both sides (as I am, obviously, when I read that poem). It might be that someone who is not attempting to compromise the insight is socially more valid in the long run, (at least in this stage of our society)  

John Perry: But, I think the primary problem with the definition of psychosis is that.. (Henry Stack) Sullivan talks about the attempt  to cope at what is essentially a failure at being human, a failure at being anything  that one could respect being, and this is the thing that many clinicians have noted about the man in the throes of madness, in which he's engulfed, thrown into this space, and has not the wherewithal to deal with whatever he's swamped in, whereas the artist really is capable of..

AG: Yeah and what I’m saying is (that) what we’re dealing with is the fact that we’re not really human, I mean that's just an arbitrary definition, you know, like a proposition.. I don’t think anybody here [Allen looks out at the audience] accepts that really seriously – Are you human?

John Perry:  Well one thing that I have to hold on to is my self-esteem. It seems to be that in psychosis, I have none, and whatever that..
AG: We’re all too fucked up to have any of that left, I think.
John Perry [to Allen]: But.. you’ve got enough for about three people, you know.
AG: Not by..not by that kind of....trick, no.
John Perry: Besides all, besides everything we've said tonight..
AG: You know, I’m finally objecting to the use of the...
John Perry: Sure..
AG: ..categories that the panel's proposed.. to the pejorative use of the language, to begin with, in terms of the language – "schizophrenia","psychosis". It seems to me obvious to everybody, almost everybody here, that the psychotic.. what is called the psychotic experience, is a large-scale experience of cosmic consciousness, that its interpretation socially, sometimes gets fucked up, (either from one side or the other, either the receiver or the sender), that it’s a language difficulty, that it’s impatience that gets involved, but, basically, it must be understood that what has been called all along "madness" or "psychotic experience" is an experience of the great planetary consciousness, which is like common, so common among us today, that it is ridiculous to talk .. in the old psychiatric terms, this is what Laing has been saying all along, this is what all of us, sort of basically agree on, but I don’t see why we’re still hanging on to that ..dualistic..  
John Perry; I think when Sullivan is speaking of human-ness, maybe, in this context, we can speak of passionate-ness better... the artist lives a passionate life...
AG:  I don’t think that there’s much difference. There’s the question of like..there’s like hundreds of cats on Haight Ashbury, incapable of  articulating socially what I’m articulating, who have a very clear, definite, passionate, very deep experience of anything I’ve experienced, or anything we’ve experienced. The society has not yet changed enough to accommodate their lifestyle and their consciousness. I think that the society will have to, in as much a.. the closed, limited, consciousness  in which the society is run is, obviously, self-destructive, I mean, is destroying the whole organism. The enormous eruption of what are called psychotic or schizophrenic experiences is caused by that cracking down, break(ing) down of the structure under its own weight. I think a passionate life (that was just defined) is lived by an enormous number of people. There need not necessarily be an articulation of it in artistic form, at this point, historically. I feel sort of like a Alan Watts! mediating to the squares, mediating to the so-called "sane" people.
John Perry: Well, the ability to communicate that is a gift, it's a special talent for some people, but I think the "cats" you're speaking of are living at least in that impassioned kind of world, maybe (and that isn't the same as the schizophrenic state then - or the pre- schizophrenic state..
AG: Well, I don’t know, (the) schizophrenics I’ve known… [laughter – "that’s the next symposium"] have been more impassioned than you or I, I think, in a deep, in deeper states of passion than we’re displaying now!
John Perry: But as a result of getting in touch with it through their...
AG: ...even gibbering down the street, bopping away, screaming at the police, even, even the most ratty-looking flower-children on Haight Ashbury are in, like, a funny kind of excited contact with their immediate environment that we’re not, that we haven’t displayed toward the audience even. 
John Perry: But I think, for me now, the problem is, how do I integrate what the value of psychotic experience is in such a way that I can make significant changes in the establishment's way of regarding madness, altered states of consciousness. And I think to polarize it in such a way that there's no distinctions to be made prohibits me from doing anything as a scientist working in the field. And I can accept all the things you say, but then I don't know what to work with.
AG: Well, belief in the ultimate value of the.. belief in one’s own senses, in one’s own super-saturated senses, or one’s own unconscious senses. Real self-confidence winds up giving a demenour which is reassuring in the exercise of madness rather than dismaying. In other words, just go through your madness more cheerfully -  and one of the problems of the psychiatric terminology is that it’s not a cheerful enough approach to madness, I think.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 154

"America, I am the Scottsboro Boys", Allen famously declared in one of the many memorable lines in his classic 1956 poem, America.  This past November 21 (last Thursday) the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles granted (some eighty years later!) posthumous pardons clearing the last of the group of nine black youths wrongly scapegoated and imprisoned for allegedly raping two white women. The case, one of the key cases in American jurisprudence, had immense consequences (it was fought all the way up to the Supreme Court) and was a crucial and important milestone in the development of the modern Civil Rights movement.   
Belatedly noting the passing (this time last week) of the incandescent "force of nature", truth-teller, Wanda Coleman, the "unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles". She was 67. 

Here is a recent interview with her by Mariano Zaro

Here (courtesy of our good friend Michael Lally) is some vintage Wanda (from the 1983 LA spoken word compilation "English as a Second Language"


Something On Paper, the first issue of the Naropa Jack Kerouac School's new on-line poetics journal is now up, and features Lynn Hejinian, the inaugural "Allen Ginsberg Visiting Fellow" (her lecture "Wild Captioning"), Alice Notley (interviewed by Michelle Naka Pierce), and much else besides - see here  

Here's a rare treat - Peter Orlovsky (we'll be featuring him here again soon) - reading "Write It Down, Allen Said" ("1961 bus ride from Damascus to East Jerusalem..") - recently surfaced on You Tube

Hey, how come no-one is bothering to use our "Comments" option?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Thanksgiving Prayer


Time once again for an old favorite - Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 
ok - tell it like it is, William!  (with film footage/juxtaposition by Gus Van Sant

"Thanksgiving Day November 28 1986"

Thanks for the wild turkey and
the passenger pigeons, destined
to be shat out through wholesome
American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil
and poison. 

Thanks for Indians to provide a
modicum of challenge and

Thanks for vast herds of bison to
kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves
and coyotes.

Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until
the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.
For nigger-killin' lawmen,
feelin' their notches.

For decent church-goin' women,
with their mean, pinched, bitter,
evil faces.

Thanks for "Kill a Queer for
Christ" stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the
War Against Drugs.

Thanks for a country where
nobody's allowed to mind his
own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the
memories-- all right, let's see
your arms!

You always were a headache and
you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest
betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams. 

and here's Robert Covington's more literal version

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Manhattan Poetry Video Project 1984

Rose Lesniak's Manhattan Poetry Video Project, from 1984 (three poetry-videos, Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, and Bob Holman) was, unquestionably, pioneering in its time. This was a good decade-and-more before the United States of Poetry, and the subsequent rise and development of now-ubiquitous video technology (a good two-decades-and-more before, even, the baby-steps of You Tube!)
Allen's contribution, reading "Father Death Blues", is particularly poignant, because the film shoot was on Ellis Island (the old Ellis Island, before it had been refurbished and given its $156 million make-over/restoration)
"Father Death, Don't cry any more/Mama's there, underneath the floor/ Brother Death, please mind the store.." 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Allen Ginsberg Is Sidney The Lawyer

It Don't Pay To Be An Honest Citizen, Jacob Burckhardt's 1985 movie with Reed Bye, Yoshiko Chuma, David BrisbinVincent D'Onofrio, and cameos by both Allen ("Sidney the lawyer") and William Burroughs ("Paul, the neighborhood mafia don" [not included in the excerpt given here]), is a curiously-dated, rarely-seen, but priceless, "lost", underground "Beat" treasure. 

The plot revolves around (the charmingly-wooden) "Warren" (Reed Bye), a documentary film-maker, the titular "honest citizen", (victim of a late-night mugging, with the resultant theft, not only of his money but, of his precious stolen film - He desperately needs to retrieve the footage of his (doubtless earth-shaking) documentary about pigeon-racing!) 

"I'm a painless lawyer", Allen (Sidney the Lawyer) declares. "Guarantee? Who can guarantee anything? The glories of our bludgeoned state are shadows not substantial things. There's no armor against Fate. Death lays his icy hand on Kings.  Sceptre and Crown must tumble down and in the grave be equal, made with the poor crooked scythe and spade, (and even rolls of film that are home-made, I'm afraid)"

Great to see Allen in an acting role (and in a dapper suit and tie!) 

Burroughs (in his segment) is equally elegant too.

For more on It Don't Pay To Be An Honest Citizen - see here 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Jonas Mekas - (October 1987 - Allen Ginsberg)

From October 1987 - from Jonas Mekas' Video Diary.    See here for the Video Diary 

Allen reads from Cosmopolitan Greetings,  despite the indifference of little Sebastian, in Jonas Mekas'  studio/loft/home. Allen takes over the camera and, with curious and roving eye, surveys the work-space of Jonas, impresario of the Anthology Film Archives, "pack rat of the avant-garde".
"I seem to be making an inventory of your apartment.", he declares. "I don’t suppose you have done this yet have you? No? Well this might be interesting – But there's “all kinds of junk”, insists Mekas – "No, it’s just the inventory of how you work."
Approximately fifteen-and-a-half minutes in, Jonas recollects – "Allen got so interested, so gaga, about my video camera - (he said) “Could you get one for me? - I’m going to Israel next week, (actually in three days, he said), could you get one for me, so I could take some footage on my trip?" - so I said, "Sure, We’ll try", so I called my Sony friend [Kiki Miyaka]. I said, "Could I.. could you arrange one for Allen Ginsberg.. he’s going.. you know, he could use one camera also, (he) could bring you some footage". So (s)he, said, "Well, sure, yes, why not?, you know. So I got the camera from Sony, another Sony,for Allen, and he went to Israel and a month or so later, he’s back and I meet him on some occasion, and so I ask him, you know, "What happened ? got some interesting footage, I hope, on your trip?". He said. “No, the first day I arrived in Israel it was stolen, my karma, my camera ,was stolen!" - there went Allen’s footage and there went the camera! – and that was that – the story of Allen’s video. I don’t think he ever got a video camera after that [his and Steven Taylor's footage of the hand-held little Sony is, of course, the basis for the remarkable "Household Affairs" movie] - but he did, of course, everybody knows, he was very very obsessed with still..taking still pictures of.. and they’re very very unique, there’s lots of pictures of his friends..and they are quite, I mean, it’s..I don’t have to tell you that they are’s quite an amazing record of Allen’s friends.

I will tell you there is a little funny story connected with Allen’s photographs. Hiro Yamagata, the Japanese painter, artist, he came..he was passing (through) New York and he said..would I meet.."Could you introduce me to Allen? He was..(he had a project to (be) painting portraits of some people that he considered the most important people of the 20th century.) So I said, "Sure, I will introduce you to Allen" called Allen and said.."Hiro Yamagata..I don’t know if you know him but.. he would like.. a famous artist, an important artist, he would like to meet you and..and do your portrait" . (Allen replied) “Surely, I can meet him. I could meet him tomorrow. I happen to have a show at NYU (New York University), a show of my photographs so he could..I could meet him at my show". So I tell this to Hiro..I arrange a meeting there, actually I take him to the show and introduce him to Allen and he.. Allen then takes him around, showing his photographs and explaining, and I have to do something else, so I say "Goodbye, see you tomorrow, see you another time", and there I go. And then a few weeks later, I call Allen about something and he says, “Oh thanks for introducing me to Hiro”, and I say "Good, good, you know he’s going to paint your portrait” – "No no no, I don’t know if he’s going to paint my portrait, but he bought my entire show! – my show..he bought all the photographs in my show, my new photo show!" – That was.. that little anecdote about Hiro and Allen. They became actually very good friends, Allen wrote an introduction to Hiro’s book (with (a) Mercedes car painted, car with flowers all over a Mercedes, an amazing project and Allen wrote the introduction to the catalog to the exhibition – Yamagata – and he really came also at (when) Allen died. He was present at the gathering of all Allen’s friends. So that’s it. Oh Allen!
As a coda, Jonas (discovering an old business card) credits Kiki Miyaka of Little Magic for provision of the video cameras.

[Hiro Yamagata - Earthly Paradise 1993-97 - Installation View of Mercedes Benz220A Cabriolets at the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, 1997]

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ron Padgett's Collected Poems

It's a red-letter day!  (or, to be accurate, a red-and-black letters day, on a plain cream-white background!). Coffee House Press have just published, in one 800-plus single volume, The Collected Poems of Ron Padgett. "Ron Padgett's poems", writes Anne Waldman, "are essential and Ron Padgett is a genius". She goes on,"His poetry is masterful for its panoramic humanity and mind-stopping verbal wit, its breathtaking power and beauty. We want to stay with the person in these poems all day long, to be changed by the possibilities palpitating from the smallest increments of our existence to the most sublime as they leap from Padgett's brain on to the page. This inspiring tome (the Collected Poems) is the transcendent friend". Alice Notley acutely observes, "The poet makes superlative use of the directive writing consciousness - often automatic pilot - to tap the unconscious for memory, vision, emotion, and the unexpected and indefinable. The poems speak backwards and forwards in time, to self, to family and friends, to poetic technique, to the birds caged in the chest. It is so lovely". 
David Lehman's early review for Publisher's Weekly, we've already mentioned, but here it is again - here
Here's Curtis Faville in The Compass Rose
Here's John Yau at Hyperallergic

Recordings of Ron on Pennsound (including a reading at the Kelly Writers House from 2003, and a reading, recorded in his East 13th Street, New York City home, in 2009, as well as an interview with Amy King) can be accessed here). 

Will Edmiston and Nicole Wallace's interview (an oral history) for the Poetry Project may be accessed here       

Juniors at Barnard College prepared a little overview and documentary interview. That may be viewed here

Via translators Olivier Brossard and Claire Guillot, his collections, The Big Something (Le Grand Quelque Chose)  and You Never Know  (On ne sait jamais) were recently translated into French for Joca Seria Here's Ron and Claire's bilingual reading from On ne sait jamais 

and here's a second occasion.


Ron's French presence. We'd be amiss if we didn't mention his extraordinary skill as a translator, notably of Guillaume ApollinaireBlaise Cendrars, Pierre Reverdy (but also a host of others, Valery Larbaud? - Pierre Cabanne's interviews with Marcel DuChamp?.. In 2001, the French Ministry of Culture honored him with the designation, Officier dans L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres).

Here's Ron's account of  his visit to Pierre Reverdy's birthplace.

His edition of Apollinaire's poetry (he's already translated a considerable amount of it) is scheduled to appear in 2015.  

Ron's editorial/curatorial presence. Here's just three essential volumes

Here's his image (and Allen's image, and Kenneth Koch's image) via the hand and eye of Larry Rivers

[Ron Padgett, Kenneth Koch, Allen Ginsberg - cover design by Larry Rivers for Paul Cummings' Catchword Papers volume, Making It Up (1994)] 

Speaking of Kenneth Koch, Ron edited this - Kenneth Koch - Selected Poems, in 2007, for the Library of America's American Poets Project 

Thirty years before (getting on forty years before!) he edited this (with David Shapiro) (Barbara Guest's absence notwithstanding, still one of the great, seminal anthologies)

An Anthology of New York Poets (Signed)

and how could we not utter the words "Ted Berrigan"?

[Ron Padgett and Ted Berrigan (1968) painting by George Schneeman]

or  "Teachers and Writers Collaborative", (where he worked, tirelessly, as publications director, for over twenty years). 

Readers might not be familiar with this book (and should be) - an interesting text to have alongside The Collected Poems

The Straight Line: Writing on Poetry and Poets

We wanted to include at least one graphic-collaborative piece. How about this?

["Life is a Dream" by George Schneeman and Ron Padgett]

and one poem:

Nothing in that drawer

Nothing in that drawer
Nothing in that drawer
Nothing in that drawer
Nothing in that drawer
Nothing in that drawer
Nothing in that drawer
Nothing in that drawer
Nothing in that drawer
Nothing in that drawer
Nothing in that drawer
Nothing in that drawer
Nothing in that drawer
Nothing in that drawer
Nothing in that drawer

Ron recently answered ten questions posed by Travis Nichols in The Huffington Post
(and seven more posed by Max Minckler at Riffle

Ron's poems "mingle the nervy sophistication and cosmopolitan experimentalism of a thriving international avant-garde art tradition with a kind of hillbilly twang that's unmistakably American", his friend, the poet Tom Clark, once declared.

You owe it to yourself to possess a copy of his Collected Poems

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman Reading (Naropa, April 1977)

Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman

We've already featured them reading together before - from 1974 here, and from 1976, here, but here, from 1977 is vintage audio of Allen and Anne Waldman reading. Allen begins, thanking his sponsors and setting out his plans.

AG: We owe thanks to Naropa and Peter Lieberson and Meg for arranging this luxurious space for us to orate in, because, actually, it turned out to be a nice situation. I'm going to begin where I left off last summer (1976) in poetry reading with a series of poems on my father's death - called  "Don't Grow Old"  and then continue up through poems written in the last few months" 
Allen begins reading - "Don't Grow Old" ((1) "Old Poet, Poetry's final subject glimmers months ahead.." (2) - "He'll see no more Times Square" (3) "Wasted arms, feeble knees..".. "I read my father Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" (sic)" - (4) "Will that happen to me?/Of course, it'll happen to thee") - (5) "Near the Scrap Yard my Father'll be Buried" - (6)  "What's to be done about Death?/ Nothing, nothing..")

He continues.  "In Ocrober 1976, I attended the Vajrayana.. the seminary (with Chogyam Trungpa in (Land O' Lakes) Wisconsinand one of the slogans being taught (there), one of the the Mayahana slogans, was "Drive All Blames into One", which is the title of  the (next) poem - "Blame" or "Drive All Blames Into One" - Allen reads "Drive All Blames Into One"  ("It's everybody's fault but me/ I didn't do it, I didn't start the universe..."). 

"In January I went to Baltimore with a young poet and  visited..and read all through William Blake's Complete Works up through the Prophetic Books  and also visited Edgar Allan Poe's grave in the center of Baltimore, and also a house on Amity Street in Baltimore where Poe had lived, and enthuse and excite the young friend, I wrote a couple of Poe poems - "Poe in Dust" ("Bones groan maliciously under Baltimore sidewalk..")  and  "Hearing Lenore Read Aloud at 203 Amity Street". 

"Then I embarked on a longer poem, the commencement of a longer poem, since I'm fifty, time to write an epic, so this is the beginnng of an epic poem called "The Contest of Bards" - "The Argument" (as in longer poems with chapters so that you don't get confused, with one paragraph brief scenario, in advance so you can follow the play" - ("THE ARGUMENT - Old bard lived in solitary stone house at ocean's edge three decades retired from the world. Young poet arrives naked interrupting his studies & announces his own prophetic dreams to replace the old Bard's boring verities..") - Allen then begins to read from the opening of  "Contest of Bards" ("And the youth free stripling bounding along the Hills of Color/And the old man bearded, wrinkled, browed in his black cave"), concluding (at approximately twenty-and-a-half minutes in  with "The Rune" ("Where the years have gone, where the clouds have flown/ Where the rainbow shone/ We vanish..")  

"I think that's the end of the time that I have so I'll finish with one poem following a similar vein, modelled on some rhythms in a song in (Thomas) Campion that I was teaching at Naropa" - Allen concludes with "I Lay Love on My Knee" ("I nurs'd love where he lay/I let love get away/I let love lie low/I let my love go....For all time is our wealth").
The second reader is Anne Waldman.

Starting at approximately twenty-four minutes in,  Anne Waldman reads.
AW: "The first thing I'd like to read is a piece of sympathetic magic that was written of Billy Burroughs Junior when he was sick in the hospital in Denver. It's called Billy Work Peyote  ("Keep it moving Billy, Keep it moving"....") 
Approximately twenty-six-and-a-half minutes in - "This is a recent walk poem, which is an experiment that we do in some of the writing classes and this is written with Jack Collom in a class in Nebraska, in a high-school in Nebraska, and the point is you walk around and then you come back and record what you've overheard or seen, or what you think you've overheard, and you also include those images that come out of sort of deja vu or association. It's called "Walk Around Time" - Anne reads "Walk Around Time"  ("Girl bouncing red ball..".....raising arms to stretch"), then, at approximately twenty-eight-and-a-half minutes in  "This is a poem for Rocky Flats - called "Plutonium Poem" -Unfortunately they just discovered something over there called "curium", which is about three hundred times as bad as plutonium..well, "caesium", but also curium - curium and caesium, I haven't quite figured those out yet but this is plutonium" - Anne then reads "Plutonian Poem" ( "Fuck Plutonium! Love It? Hate It? .."... "... poor, sad, monster eyeballs, reincarnated for a quarter of a million years!") 
At approximately thirty-and-a-quarter minutes in, Anne shifts to reading shorter miscellaneous works -  "I'd like to read a series of recent little letters and they're sort of not works" - "This (first one) is "Dear Teflon" ("Dear Teflon to put a new tread on worn pneumatic tire...", concluding, "Love, Insane Digressions"  (and) "this is "Dossier"("I try living in the country for a change..."). The next letter is "Dear Hard-Hearted" ( "I have confidence in your ability to pay.."..."Silent Spring Equinox")
"And these are from a sort of Journal collection, recent, just short poems - "Eyes at Rest and Equilibrium" ("I wish you my heart..") - "This is for William Burroughs Senior, it's called "Rogue" - and also for the Hotel Boulderado  ("In secret complicity...")/ Then,"Thirty Lines"  ("If I can gaze at you.."), "Evening" (Peggy Pagano lights another cigarette.."), "Allen" ("he'll be there/ boisterous but  never lie down"), Untitled ("Today you walk to post-office.."), "Portrait of Languishing" ("Behold I come weeping"), Untitled ("I have this abnormal fear.."), "Landcsape With Dream" ("Everywhere the house...") - "Edwin lung trouble University Hospital..", "You mean nothing to me but noise..", and "Steven" ("It's evening soup on the stove, glamorous night..").
She concludes (at approximately thirty-nine minutes in) with three final pieces - 
"This is a little prose story. It's called "Brinks of Fame - Monologue"  ("They sit eating their salad in silence..").  "This is a little poem called "Girls", also out of New York paranoia" - "Girls" ("If you live by water, Gabrielle, you lucky person..) - "and this is a hissing poem called "Lady Tactics" ("She, not to be confused with.." - "..not to be confused with sentimental, or sly")

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 153

[Doris Lessing (1919-2013), in Philip Glass' kitchen, New York City,  March 10, 1990 - Photograph by Allen Ginsberg c. The Estate of Allen Ginsberg]

Nobel-prizewinning author Doris Lessing, who died last week, aged 94, recalling, in her typically acerbic, typically no-nonsense way, "an amused get-together with Allen Ginsberg and some fellow Beats" - 
"They turned up in London, a whole lot of them, and I went to meet them" [this would be 1965, perhaps?]. "I thought they were extremely likeable, but that isn't how they wanted to be seen. I thought then, and think I was right, that they weren't as frightening and as shocking as they wanted to be. They were mostly middle-class people trying to be annoying"
Very well, Doris. 

We like the excuse of running this clip again. On being informed of her Nobel prize:

"I'm delighted to win them all. It's a royal flush!"

Denise Levertov's Collected Poems  (with delightful Samuel Palmer cover) have just been published (or rather, on November 29th, will be published) by New Directions
More in the weeks ahead on that.

Jonah Raskin's interview with Michael McClure on the occasion of the City Lights re-issue of his Ghost Tantras may be accessed here.

A couple of weeks ago Diego Luna presented his reading of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" at the Festival de la Palabra in Torreón, Mexico. Pictures from that occasion may be viewed here

Juanjo Guarnido, graphic novelist, continues his Blacksad adventures (a new installment has just been published in Paris. Chad Lowell, the lion, is Jack Kerouac, Billy Sorrow Burroughs (William S Burroughs) is the flamingo. Abe Greenberg (Allen Ginsberg) is the bison! 

Joanne Kyger (who's birthday we celebrated earlier this week) recently put up for sale, via New York's estimable Granary Books, a collection of materials relating to her long-time friendship with the writer (and fellow Bolinas-resident), Richard Brautigan. A prospectus (including numerous intriguing annotated photo-reproductions of some of the items) may be profitably viewed here

The bulk of Joanne's papers, incidentally, are in the capable custody of the UCSD (University of California, San Diego) Mandeville Special Collections Library.

(Doris Lessing's papers are in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin).  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Another Ginsberg Meme/Jane Kramer

November 21 - Elsa Dorfman's photo and Allen Ginsberg's signature - now another November 21 rolls by. 

Today, we thought we'd take time off to address another of those pesky memes. You know, "famous quotes of Allen Ginsberg"? - but when and where, and, did he actually say these things? We've already tried to address the "Follow your inner moonlight..." (did he say that? - well, he sort of did, the nature of the meme is that it's going to proliferate anyway!) So how about "Whoever controls the media controls the mind" or "Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture" (both variously attributed to Allen, or, if not to him, to another iconicized 'Sixties legend, Jim Morrison)?   

Well, it looks like we've got the culprit. 

Jane Kramer - August 24, 1968, her long Allen Ginsberg feature in The New Yorker (subsequently gathered and included in her 1969 book for Random House, Allen Ginsberg In America

The book continues to remain popular and in print. Here's the 1997 edition (with a refurbished cover and a "new introduction by the author"

 Page 86, Allen quoted (significantly, at the height of the Vietnam War) :
"…anybody can write the script the way he wants. The warfare’s psychic now. Whoever controls the language, the images, controls the race. Power all boils down to whether McNamara gets up on the right side of the bed. And who’s McNamara anyway?"

Who's McNamara? - Well, quite literally, see his Wikipedia entry here.
More revealingly, see Errol Morris'  extraordinary 2003 documentary, The Fog of War

Note the subtle differences, (mis-remembered differences?) between the original and its propogating meme version - "race" (race for power? race for dominance? global arms race?) - and "the media" (which is indeed both "language" and "images", but now (and particularly in this internet age/new communications age) something even more than that.

Echoes here too of Marshall McLuhan -  "The Medium is the Message"  (first coined in 1964, or  "The Medium is the Massage", as his 1967 book-title punningly redefined it). 

Allen said so many remarkable (quotable) things. Can we not mindlessly repeat the same tired old memes (over and over again),  Facebook and Twitter-users?