Monday, December 2, 2013

Expansive Poetics - 1 - (An Anthology of Twentieth Century International Heroic Poetry)

We begin today a new Naropa transcript. Transcription from 1981 of Allen’s "Expansive Poetics" class.

 AG: (So).. the idea was what to teach [at Naropa] this summer. Leslea Newman or someone had complained it was time to move on to something more exciting, I’ve never taught, or rarely taught, my own writing. I usually taught the things that influenced my writing, so I never did teach anything like Howl” until last term when I handed out a xerox of the original manuscript, (or) the original work-sheet, to the class, and discussed the basic method of composition. Kind of crazy language, putting crazy language together to arrive at combinations like “hydrogen jukebox”, and I was explaining that it was based on William Carlos Williams practice of paying attention to detail, but taking the highlights of those details and recombining them, in a way, free associatively, that the mind suggests, spontaneously, at the moment, during the composition.
And we got into some of the general rules, or suggestions, or working practices, for how you make up that kind of mad mouthings of phrasing, which is more or less where we will pick up in this class –  sort of on the angle of how you get really strange interesting language out of your own mouth, how you find it, and how you can write it down. And the idea was to do a survey of  20th Century inspired, heroic, loud-mouth, hot-air, bombastic, elevated, interesting, modern, post-Einstein-ian,  extremist, imaginative, un-grounded, flighty, lunar, crazy-wisdom poetry.

And so, since last year, preparing for that, I’ve been going  through.. First of all, I looked back and tried to pick out and xerox every text that I knew from childhood that was in that line and that contributed to my own style in “Howl” and “Kaddish” and later poems. And, primarily, that meant a couple of key works – Guillaume Apollinaire’s “Zone”  (which is a long poem, five pages or so, that he wrote around World War I, from which T.S.Eliot drew to write “TheWaste Land”, and from which I drew to write “Howl” and “America”, from which almost all poets in Europe drew), it was an inspiring poem that affected writing in Hungary, in Yugoslavia, in Russia, in America, South America (it affected (Pablo) Neruda), it affected all the poets from the (19)20’s on).
Another great warhorse of that kind is (Federico Garcia) Lorca’s “Ode To Walt Whitman” ("Oda a Walt Whitman"). (Another, major symphonic, bombastic, charming, is Fernando Pessoa’s “Ode To Walt Whitman” ("Saudação a Walt Withman)). And then there’s WaltWhitman himself..  (Pessoa’s Portuguese). And then there’s Whitman himself, as the first breakthrough artist into a modern consciousness and into an expanded consciousness. 

So those were the key poems that I had in mind that influenced me and a lot of other people. So it’s le style internationale, the international style of the 20th Century. And there is an international style that’s free verse, that’s not rhymed, that’s easily translatable from one language to another, because it’s based on pictures (like Imagism) – pictures and facts. It’s re-combinations of pictures and facts, imaginatively, or surrealisticly, but it’s not rhymed, and doesn’t have the old stanzaic structures that the original languages featured mostly, so that it’s easy to translate, because it’s like prose-poetry, after the fashion of (Arthur) Rimbaud’s prose-poetry or Whitman’ prose-poetry.
So I was trying to assemble an anthology of international-style open-form, expansive, heroic-sounding, poems. And so we have a stack this thick [Allen indicates a large book] which is being assembled now. I xeroxed it from dozens and dozens of books, and then several of my teaching assistants (and) apprentices have been working on cutting it up and putting them into some sort of uniform page style, and pasting them up so that they can be xeroxed and used as a text for the class – namely, The Naropa Anthology of Twentieth-Century International Heroic Poetry [such anthology was indeed compiled]. And this afternoon, I think we’ll be doing some pasting up of the last of it, and then we have to make an index and the index will probably divide it up – the contents in the front will be 19th Century precursors, who will be.. (Alexander) Pushkin, (Walt) Whitman, Herman Melville, (Charles) Baudelaire, Emily Dickinson, (Thomas) Hardy and Edward Carpenter, and (Arthur) Rimbaud – little fragments of them – and WilliamJennings Bryan, the 19th Century orator – they will be the 19th Century precursors, at the moment, and I’ll just touch on some of that – and Percy Bysshe Shelley also. So maybe (I’ll) spend a week on that.

Then from then on, I've divided it up into countries by language and country, chronologically within each section so that we have French, the Dadaists Surrealists, and post-Surrealists, representatives of the international movements in Russia, Acmeists, Imaginists - that would be (Vladimir) Mayakovsky and (Sergei) Esenin and (Nikolai) Gumilev and (Anna) Akhmatova and (Velemir) Khlebnikov - a number of poets whom I'd never read before but began picking up on, because I liked Essenin and Mayakovsky as great Russian loud-mouths, but I never read their companion and girlfriend poets, and they turned out to be really interesting , like Khlebnikov - some kind of combination of (Peter) Orlovsky and (Gregory) Corso, actually.

Then I will cover some Spanish language - (Federico Garcia) Lorca and (Pablo) Neruda and (Vincente) Huidobro - (that is, Latin American and Spanish) - German - an inadequate representation of the German high style (Some (Bertolt) Brecht, some (Hans) Enzensberger, some Paul Celan - if there's anybody here who knows German, they might be able to contribute).
Then, English language, or English "apocalyptic" poets, and American, from (Ezra) Pound on. Some American poets, actually, from Walt Whitman on, through Pound and Eliot and Williams, and some relatively unknown Americans, who are breakthrough artists, like Samuel Greenberg and Marsden Hartley (who were related poetically to Hart Crane, and (who) we'll deal with). 

Student: Is that Hartley the painter?

AG: Yes. Marsden Hartley is a great poet and we have a xerox copy of his only, out-of-print, book of poems in the library. And there are several samples of his special poems xeroxed as part of the anthology.

So..The poets covered, among others, will be.. I'm reading them now in just chronological rode, mixing their nations, (Constantine) Cavafy, Greek, William Butler Yeats, Marcel Proust - (a page or two of Proust, his crucial page of epiphanies) -  (I've included some prose where it reaches poetry - or where it influenced me (or Jack Kerouac, or William S Burroughs), where it has some universal influence). Ford Madox Ford (as recommended by Ezra Pound, for some of his poems), Gertrude Stein, Marsden Hartley, Fernando Pessoa, Wallace Stevens, Guillaume Apollinaire - (these are the order in which they were born actually). (James) Joyce (the first and last page of Finnegan's Wake), William Carlos Williams, D.H.Lawrence, Hans Arp, (Ezra) Pound, Blaise Cendrars (a French Surrealist), Kurt Schwitters (German Dadaist), Jaime de Angulo (Spanish and California genius linguist), Edith Sitwell, Bartolomeo Vanzetti (an anarchist - who was electrocuted, I think, in Boston - his death-speech, which is a great text), T.S.Eliot, a page or two of Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller, Samuel Greenberg (who died at the age of twenty-three on Welfare Island, and we have his last poem, on a postcard to his brother), Vladimir Mayakovsky (one of his major works. "At The Top of My Voice", plus his suicide poem-note), Vincente Huidobro (who was a friend of (Guillaume) Apollinaire and who went back and studied and wrote in Chile), Louis-Ferdinand Celine (several pages of Journey to the End of the Night, prose). Antonin Artaud, some Dadaist manifestos by Tristan Tzara, a few samples of poetry by Andre Breton, the leader of the Surrealist group. ((Federico Garcia) Lorca's "Ode on a Bullfighter" [actual title, "Lament for the death of a Bullfighter" ("Llanto por Ignacio Sanchez Mejias")]  and "Ode To Walt Whitman", the end of (Bertholt) Brecht's "Mahagonny" opera, the colossal section of Hart Crane's "Atlantis", a few pages of Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe, a brief poem by Kenneth Fearing (who also wrote in an open verse style), "Que desperate el lenador",  that's "Abe Lincoln, the Rail-splitter, Wake Up" ("Let The Rail-Splitter Awake") by Pablo Neruda, a brief poem called "The Groundhog" by Richard Eberhart, some sections of (W.H.) Auden's longer poems that have a rhetorical power, from "The Sea and the Mirror" (in For the Time Being), a relatively unknown poem about the urban city by Ben Maddow, which only can be found in Oscar Williams' anthologies, selections from (Charles) Olson's "Maximus", (the) opening pages of Our Lady of The Flowers by Jean Genet,"Fern Hill" by Dylan Thomas, a piece (to be selected) from William Burroughs, David Gascoyne, (a British "apocalyptic" 1939 poet - "Christ of the Revolution and of Poetry"),  one great section of one poem only by Robert Lowell, Duncan (Robert Duncan), (Jack) Kerouac, Philip Whalen, then living poets [sic - Whalen was, of course, living at this time], Kenneth Koch (who'll be here [at Naropa], incidentally, and reading soon. He'll be reading.. I think it's up on the bulletin board), Frank O'Hara [no longer alive - sic], Lew Welch [ditto] John Ashbery, Philip Lamantia, Hans Magnus Enzensberger (German, a long poem called "Foam" ("Schaum"), saying that "I too am a member of  (We are all members of) the international mucous membrane network" [ the actual line, in Jerome Rothenberg's translation is "who isn't mixed up with the international mucus membrane cartel?"), Gregory Corso's "Power" and "Bomb", something of Gary Snyder's, Ed Marshall (who's work only exists in little pamphlets and in the Don Allen New American Poetry (anthology)), Michael McClure, (Andrei) Vosnesensky, Ted Berrigan, Diane di Prima, John Wieners,
John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Bob Kaufman.

So that'll be the two terms. How far into it we'll get, I don't know.

[Audio for the above may be heard here (for the first minute-and-a-half, Allen enumerates some of the previous Naropa courses he's been teaching) - this first segment concludes at approximately fourteen-and-three-quarter minutes in] - It may also be accessed via the Internet Archive here and here via Open Culture]   

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the deep, rich reading I enjoy daily on the AGP- there is so much to be found here. Hey, and congratulations- 900 members. I love "Expansive Poetics 1". Let's have more.