[Peter Orlovsky with mama goat ("Shiva") and her baby, Cherry Valley Farmhouse, Cherry Valley, New York State - Photograph by Gordon Ball - Copyright Gordon Ball]
An "unusual" transcription for this weekend. From the very early days of Naropa (August, 1975), Peter Orlovsky's Naropa Class - "Poets Who Have Influenced Me". He concludes, "Well, I'm sorry I wasn't prepared. Maybe next year I'll be better prepared", but it is precisely the spontaneous un-prepared nature of the conversation (and the reading) that's so interesting. If you're listening to it on the audio, be prepared for several ponderous silences, rifling through books and papers, etc, (not to mention stumblings over, and mispronunciations of, words, especially foreign words - on several occasions he will ask the class how to pronounce a certain word, even enquire about that word's meaning). There is also the scatalogical (hey, it's Peter!), the candid confessions of drug-taking, and two singularly long "diversions" (the first about dental hygeine, the second, a detailed description of growing cider apples in Cherry Valley!). Peter's pedagogical chops, he's gleaned from Allen ("Who here's read X?, Who here's not read X?"). Esenin, Mayakovsky, Catullus, Apollinaire, Jack Kerouac. He also reads poems of Allen, and of his own, plays unique recordings (of Esenin and Mayakovsky) - "a big booming voice" (as he describes the voice of Esenin) - and, of course yodels!
PO: (Sergei) Esenin - have you heard of him before? You've heard of him? He's a Russian Imagist poet, committed suicide in, I think in 1930? - 1925? [1927, actually] - and was friends of (Vladimir) Mayakovsky, and there's a translation here by Cid Corman, that's called "The Tramp's Confession". I also have him down here on (LP) record too, him reading in Russian. So I'll read..I'll read..it's a poem called "The Tramp's Confession" [also translated elsewhere as "Hooligan's Confession", or "Confessions of a Hooligan"] - [Peter reads from Corman's Esenin]
"Not everyone can sing/Not everyone can be/ The plum that falls at others feet/Here goes with the last confession/ Professed by a tramp to you/ I mope around deliberately uncombed/My head, like a gas lamp, on my neck/ I get a kick out of lighting at night/The bare autumn of your souls/I enjoy the jeering stones thrown at me, hail of a farting storm/ I am happy to get a good hold of the swaying intestines of my hair/Then it's nice to remember/ A moss-covered pool and the harsh alder/And a father and mother who live somewhere/Who don't give a damn for my poems/Who love me like a piece of land, or meat/Or the thin spring rain that wets the green soil/They would come with their pitchforks to fix you/For every insult you hurl at me/ Poor poor peasants!/ It's true, you're not very pretty/And you still fear God in the bosoms of bogs/ Oh, if you could only get it through your head/That your son is Russia's best poet!/ Do you fear for his life with your hoar hearts/ When he buried his bare feet in the autumn puddles?/He strolls in a top hat now and polished slippers./ But he still lives with the old gaucherie of the son/ Of a village buffoon/As soon as he catches sight of a butcher's shop/He begins from a way off to pay his compliments/ And when he meets the coachman in the square/Minded of the manure of the fields where he was born/He is eager to bear the tail of every mare/ As though it were the train of a bride's gown/ I love my country/ I love her verily/Though the rest of her sorrows hangs from the willow trees/ The dirty snout of the hog I love/And in the calm night the throbbing toads/ I am sweetly sick of thoughts of my childhood/ The langour and mist of April evenings haunt my dream/ You could say that our maple to get some heat/Bent before the brazier of the dawn /Oh, how often I shimmied its brows to find the nests of magpie and jay/ Is it still the same, all green at the top?/And its bark as rugged as ever?/ And you, my friend/my faithful spotted dog?!/ Age has made a blind bark of you/And you haul about the yard dragging your long tail by/Oblivious to the scent of doors and stables/Oh, how I loved our mischievous games,/ The time I stole the crisp end of a loaf of bread/And we both took turns tearing into it/ Without ever disgusting each other/
I haven't changed/At heart, I haven't changed/ As cornflowers in the corn, the eyes grow in the head/Showing off gold straw, the palette of my poems/ I want to say something sweet to you/ Good night!/ Good night to you all!/ On the twilight meadows, the red sickle of the setting sun no longer swings/Right now I feel like pissing through the window at the moon/ The light is blue, so blue!/ In such blue light even dying might not be bad/ Who cares if I wear the eye of a cynic/With a lantern swung from the behind!/Good old Pegasus/ Who needs your easy jog?/ Some August such as this one, my fat head my self will drain drop by drop away/ in a wind of his foaming hair/ I want to be the yellow sail/ spread between the land/that we set sail for")
So he committed suicide in a Moscow hotel..he cut his wrists and wrote something on the wall in blood, something to do with Mayakovsky. I forget what exactly what it.. "Dying is.. er..er.. Living is nothing new, it's dying that's new", or just the opposite, something like that, [" V etoi zhizni umirat' ne novo,/No i zhit' konechno, ne novei" - There's nothing new in dying now/Though living is no newer." - or, in an alternative translation, "In this life there's nothing new in dying/But nor of course is living any newer"] - but let me play you so you get a sound of his voice
[Sergei Esenin (1895-1925) on his death-bed]
Student: Who is this?
PO: Sergi Esenin - Imagist poet from the (19(20's, 1919's.. [some delay as Peter sets the record-player up, then plays the audio recording of Esenin (in Russian) (actually, David Burliuk) reading this poem)
Arrivederci! - "Arrivedici" is "goodbye" in Russian. [It is, of course, "goodbye" in Italian] That's one word, the other word was.. ["malkova"? "makolva"?] - you see how long (it was) - Arriverderci! - [Peter blasts out the word and elongates the word] - as if he's, like, reading poetry to fifty thousand people with no microphone, you know. It's a big booming voice.
Student: Who is it again?
PO: That's Serge Esenin (Yesenin?) E-S-E-N-I-N - He married Isadora Duncan, went off, and.. He probably had some Russian mushrooms probably too, maybe, though he didn't write about it. I think he drunk a lot...
This is.. (I've) got another.. I was in Yugoslavia, I think we stopped off, and they were selling his book of poems in the square. He (Esenin)'s well liked in Yugoslavia.
Then, the other Russian that I read a bit is Mayakovsky, and.. has anyone here heard the Brooklyn Bridge poem? - are you familiar with the Brooklyn Bridge poem? Well, he came to the United States somewhere in the early (19)30's, late (19)20's, and he fell in love with the Brooklyn Bridge. He walked across the Brooklyn Bridge - [Peter proceeds to read Mayakovsky's Brooklyn Bridge in translation] - "Give Coolidge,/ a shout of joy!/I too will spare no words/about good things.."..."Brooklyn Bridge, yes, that's quite a thing!" - 1925 -
Well, are you familiar with "At The Top of My Voice"? - I think Allen said he read it here last year. This is.. I guess poems like this one started getting him in trouble with the Communist hierarchy - [Peter reads Mayakovsy's "At The Top of My Voice" - "At The top of My Voice - First Prelude to the Poem - My most respected/comrades of
posterity!/Rummaging among/these days'/petrified shit"..."When I appear before the CCC (Central Control Committee)/of the coming/bright years/by way of my Bolshevik party card/I'll raise/above the heads/of a gang of party hacks/ all the hundred volumes of my/ poets and rogues/ all the hundred volumes/ of my/ Communist Party poems" - [The translation is close to, but veers away occasionally from, the Hayward-Reavey translation]
That's 1930 - Then he committed suicide right after that.
This is called "Past One O' Clock"
[Peter proceeds to read Mayakovsky's "Past One O'Clock"] - "Past one o'clock. You must have gone to bed.."..Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars./In hours like these one rises to address/ The ages, history and all creation"
- And then he put a bullet through his head.
- So we have Mayakovsy's voice, Allen has a record of it - [Peter next puts on an audio recording ("Mayakovsky's voice") of, allegedly, Mayakovsky]
[Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)]
Student: Who's giving this reading?
PO: Mayakovsky. Vladimir (Vladimirovich) Mayakovsky.. He did a lot of posters about the Revolution and.. and this is his voice. I don't know what poem it is now. I'd have to get... my father knows Russian, I'd have to get him to translate it ["An Extraordinary Adventure"]
[Peter plays the recording (audio) of "Mayakovsky" reading]
Student: Have you seen any Eisenstein films?
PO: Yeah, I've seen four or five Eisenstein films
Student: Does that remind you...that was kind of like sounding like the soundtrack of one of his films
PO: Oh yeah
Student: Sounds like Ivan the Terrible!
PO: (Andrei) Voznesensky, who I've seen read. Are you familiar with Voznesensky's poetry at all? Is anyone not familiar with Voznesensky? Well, Voznesensky's the same as Mayakovsky today. City Lights put out a book of his poems called..
Student: Red Cats
PO: Red Cats. [Voznesensky - and Yevgeni Yevtushenko and Semyon Kirsanov, all translated by Anselm Hollo - is indeed featured in Red Cats (1962), but, perhaps, Peter is thinking of Voznesensky's stand-alone collection, Dogalypse, published, also by City Lights, ten years later] - and Andrei Voznesensky..he comes and reads and he also, when he reads his poems, he reads from memory, and he reads in a very.. Rooskii...[Peter stretches and shouts the word] - he reads in Russian, and then someone translates, but he reads in a very big full bouncy iron voice, full of penetration. I have (the) book of poems to read it's called Red Cats its in the City Lights Poet Pocket (Pocket Poet) series..And he was an architect, and then he switched from architect(ure) to writing poetry, and he's got..
[Peter becomes momentarily distracted - "There goes our exams, burning in a safe like the red needles..the silver needles on a compass, turning around crazily. There, the flames are coming out of the architectural window buildings like red-assed baboons going up into flames. Our exams, Karen, are all going up into flames!"]
....then he (Mayakovsky) wrote another poem about when he was traveling in the United States - Why do they do that, people in America, when these children go to ask for trick or treat during Halloween, why do they put razor blades in oranges and glass in cupcakes? , he wrote a poem about that.
But I always liked that line of Esenin - "Right now, I feel like taking a piss through the window at the moon" . It's a nice..nice line. And "The rust of the Russian sorrows hangs on the willow tree, sorrows of.. the rust of Russian sorrows hangs on the willow trees". - " I love my country/ I love her verily/Though the rest of her sorrows hangs from the willow trees"
[Gaius Valerius Catullus (84 BC- 54 BC)]
Then, let's see, then there's ..are you folks familiar with Catullus?, a Roman poet..who's not familiar with Catullus, in the class? Well, I got this book at the Earth.. at the bookstore here, I think they've got another copy left (they're at the bookstore..Plants, "Books & Plants"..
Student: How do you spell that?
C-A-T-A-L-L-U-S - Just about..thirty-four years before Christ. He's a very dirty Roman poet, very dirty, very raw, very.. drunk a lot, I guess, and "Malest.. Allen always used.. I don't know, when I first met Allen, in 1954, he used to read this poem to me a lot - "Malest Cornifici Tuo Catullo" - Cornificius Catullus.. Cornificius, Catullus, your friend is sick,/ by Hercules, man, mighty sick, bad off,/and getting worse every day and hour/ and what condolence have you given him as easy a little thing as that?/, I'm irked with you, my love nests this, some little word of condolence please/ more sad than the tears of Simonides"
.. then Allen wrote, from that he wrote this one - "Malest Cornifici Tuo Catullo" - "I'm happy, Kerouac, your madman Allen's/finally made it, discovered a new young cat"..."It's hard to eat shit without any visions,/ when they have eyes for me it's like heaven"
Student: I thought you said he was a poet before Christ
PO; No..er..yeah..er..thirty..nineteen.. I mean, thirty-four BC
PO: Yeah ..Catullus is 34 BC.. no , I'm sorry, let's see, [consults book] - "who lives, it seems, from about 84 to 54 BC", between 84 and 54 BC - 54 BC
Student: Who wrote the last poem?
PO: Allen wrote that one. He wrote it about me, in a letter, poem I guess, to (Jack) Kerouac.
Student: Oh I see, alright.
PO: Now there's another one. There's a lot of different translations of Catullus and they seem to be getting better and better. (Louis) Zukofsky did some interesting translations of Catullus, I think word for word [word for sound - homophonic] so the sense is quite..to make sense of it, is quite different - [note - Celia Zukofsky's contribution to this work should not be underestimated]
[Peter reads a translation (not Zukofsky's) of Catullus' "Egnatius quod candidos habet dentes" - Because Egnatius has white teeth,/ he smiles without a stop/ and should it come to trials/ where lawyers rule the courts to tears,/ he smiles. Suppose a mother mourns her only son,/ he smiles. Whatever it is, whatever he 's done, whatever it is,/ he smiles. It's a disease, not elegance, I think, nor does it please/. So, good Egnatius (E-G-N-A-T-I-U-S - how do you pronounce that? Ignateus? Inatius? Eggnatius?) - So, good Egnatius, I must give you warning,/ were you a Roman Sabine (what's a Sabine? Tibortine (what is a Tibertine?) - or frugal Umbrian (well, the Umbrian Valley), or fat Etruscan/or dark Lanuvian with big buck teeth/ or a Transpadine, to bring my people in, or/one of any group that cleans its teeth with water/ Constant smiles would still displease./ Nothing's as far from tact as tactless grins./ But you're from Spain and Spain's the spot/ where teeth are scrubbed and red gums rubbed with what is pissed the night before into a pot/ so that your teeth tells by its higher shine/ how much you've drunk the dregs of bedroom wine."
Student: What is that you're reading, Catullus?
PO: Catullus - Yeah - Poems by Catullus. Then, he's got another one here, about giving his love a thousand kisses and another thousand more, and then another thousand after that, a thousand.. It's straight talk, writes down what's (in) his head and what's happening to him.
[Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918)]
Then I'd like to read you..well have you read Guillaume Apollinaire's "Zone" poem? Who's not familiar with that poem? - Zone? - Well, Allen was just telling me this was a poem that affected T.S.Eliot (T.S.Eliot liked it a lot and..
Student: Is that Catullus again?
PO: No, this is Apollinaire. One of his well-known poems is "Zone", and it's.. let's see,it's... it's free verse and..oh, what's the word for, how would you describe this writing?, it's free verse, but it's also, association, I guess.
PO: No, Free association, no, it's not automatic writing.
- [Peter reads Apollinaire's "Zone", in its entirety [despite stumbling on several words and the audiotape drops off at one point - The translation of the famous concluding couplet here is "The sun is a severed neck" - (compared with Samuel Beckett's "Sun Coarseless Head" or Ron Padgett's "Sun throat cut", Roger Shattuck's "Sun a severed head", etc)
Student: That was all of "Zone"?
PO: That was "Zone", yes, all of "Zone". I think so. That's what's here.
And he wrote a poem like raindrops falling down the page - [rifles through papers]
[Peter Orlovsky and Jack Kerouac, on the beach, Tangier, 1957 - Photograph by Allen Ginsberg - c. The Estate of Allen Ginsberg]
And I'd like to read you a couple of poems of (Jack) Kerouac's ..Mexico City (Blues). Who here has not read Kerouac's Mexico City Blues?
Student: Not all of it.
PO: Who has not read any poems of Kerouac's at all? - Mexico City Blues is put out by Grove Press. Mexico City Blues - 242 Choruses - There's also an (LP record of this, it's on record too, with.what's that artist, the pianist who plays..
Student: Steve Allen?
PO: Steve Allen (playing), Kerouac reading some from.. reading some prose pieces the Mexico City Blues
Student .. some people were talking about.. I don't know what it is, but (it has) a bunch of people in it and Kerouac...
Student (2): Pull My Daisy
Student: Yeah, Pull My Daisy.
PO: Pull My Daisy
Student: Is that still around?
PO: Oh yeah, they show it at the universities from time to time, yeah, it goes around. It's a story..Robert Frank's.. Robert Frank, a filmmaker, in Third Avenue, around Ninth Street in a loft, was.. made a film. I was in it. Allen was in it. David Amram was in it..another artist, Larry..
PO: No, Larry Rivers, no, [Peter's confused, Larry is in it, goofing around with his saxophone, playing the role of "Milo"], that friend of Larry Rivers, artist from Brooklyn who's in it, [editorial note - not clear who Peter's thinking about here - Richard Bellamy, perhaps?, who plays the key role of "the Bishop", tho' Bellamy was more a downtown Manhattan dealer, than Brooklyn artist] - and then I think Robert Frank's son, Pablo is in it [Peter's at least right in his recollections here]. And it's in a loft and we're all goofing around, doing different things, and then Kerouac's.. then the film is finished, and then Kerouac sees it, and Kerouac gives a description of what he sees and improvises on what he sees.
Student; Wasn't.. Ken Kesey made a film too?
PO: Ken Kesey made a film of the buses as they drove across country
Student; Yeah, and they went to visit Kerouac? and they made a film there with Kerouac? I haven't seen the film, I just heard about it.
PO; Did they get to see Kerouac?
Student: I don't know. They just went in there and it wasn't very good. It wasn't..
Student (2): It's not in the book [Electric Kool Aid Acid Test]
Student (3): Yeah, It is in the book. They did get to see him.
PO: Not in his home, in the city maybe?
Student (3): Yeah
PO: Not his home, because Kerouac's mother wouldn't let anyone, wouldn't let anything like that happen in the house.
Student (4): Even when Allen...
PO: - Huh? - They wouldn't let me and Allen come. I had long hair and his mother said to.. because my mother used to live in Northport, Long Island, right nearby,maybe eight, ten, twelve blocks away, and I used to come over when I had short hair. They even had a house closer to my mother's in Northport and we used to go over there and talk and read and.. Then, years later, when we came back again, they moved to a further part of town, a smaller house, and we had long hair and his mother wouldn't let us in at all. so.. she wouldn't let Allen in.. and then we tried to see him a year before he died, in Massachusetts, and he.. we went with Panna Grady who was.. but we couldn't get in the house, his mother wouldn't let us in the house. We were going to meet him around a couple of corners in a bar, but we didn't, it didn't work out
Student: Is she still alive? 
PO: I think she's still alive, or is she dying now or still alive?
Student: She's got one foot under Saint Pete
PO: She's in the hospital now?
Student: No, it's just a phrase "One foot under Saint Pete"
PO: She was a grouchy.. home-mother She didn't make friends too much. Or maybe she did? I don't know. I don't think she didn't make too much friends. She..
Student: She always had that cat?
PO: She had a cat, yeah
Student: The record that you were talking about. Was that Kerouac actually reading his own poems?
PO; Right, yeah, he's reading from Mexico City Blues and he's reading from, I think, prose pieces (maybe something from On The Road). But you should hear it, you'll get a sound of Kerouac's voice, and..
Student: Do you know anybody here who has it?
PO: No, I don't, no. Probably Allen will bring it out, Allen will bring it out (to Boulder) next year. You could ask Allen - Maybe tonight at the reading [sic] where to get it, or...
This is a poem that I like that I've often heard Allen read of Jack's - "The wheel..." - it's Chorus 211 - [Peter reads "Chorus 211" from Jack Kerouac's Mexico City Blues -
"The wheel of the quivering meat/conception/Turns in the void..."..."Poor! I wish I was free/of that slaving meat wheel/ and safe in heaven dead - and also Chorus 230 ("Love's multitudinous boneyard of decay.."... "Like kissing my kitten in the belly/The softness of our reward").. There's something, on the record, that I wanted to read, but I don't know if I can find it, let's see [Peter rifles through the pages] - Well, it's about "them bacon and them eggs", them bacon and eggs, lay it down on table, lay them bacon and eggs down, oh-ba-di-di-boop-bop - I think it's up here.. yeah, [finds it] - "GOOFING AT THE TABLE", (80th Chorus)" - ""You just don't know"/"What don't I know?"/How good this ham n eggs is/"If you had any idea /whatsoever/How good this is/Then you would stop/writing poetry/And dig in"/"It's been so long/since I been hungry/it's like a miracle"/ Ah boy them bacon/And them egg -/Where the hell/is the scissor?/ SINGING" - "You'll never know how much I love you" - [Peter continues to Chorus 81] - Mr Beggar & Mrs Davy - /Looney and CRUNEY/I made a pome out of it,/Haven't smoked Luney/& Cruney/In a Long Time./ Dem eggs & dem dem/Dere bacon, baby/If you only lay that/down on a trumpet,/'Lay that down/solid brother/'Bout all dem/bacon & eggs/Ya gotta be able/to lay it down/solid -/ All that luney & fruney" - [and Chorus 82] - "Fracons, acorns & beggs/Lay it, all that /be boppy/be buddy/I didn't took/I could think/so/bepo/beboppy/ Luney & Juney/ - if - /that's the way/ they get/ kinda hysterical/Looney & Boony/Juner and Mooner/Moon, Spoon, and June" - [and Chorus 83] - "Don't call them/ cat men/ That lay it down/with the trumpet/ The orgasm/Of the moon/And of June/ I call em/them cat things/ "That's really cute,/ that's un"/ William/Carlos/Williams"
PO: "William/ Carlos/ Williams" - 80, number 80 (that was the end of the (sequence)..
Student: Last phrase?
PO: Yes, that was the last.. "If you only lay that/down on a trumpet,/'Lay that down/solid brother" - I'm sorry, that was the 83rd Chorus - I call em/them cat things/ "That's really cute,/ that's un"/ William/Carlos/Williams" is the last..
PO: That "un" -U-N - That "un", that "un" - U-N - He's got the "That's really cute, that un" in quotations - and then, at the bottom of that, "William", and the bottom of that "Carlos" (and) "Williams"
I think he wrote these in a pocket notebook so they're very.. they're.. they.. "don't they call them" is four words, so it's, like, probably a very narrow notebook, a pocket, or a shirt breast-pocket notebook.
[Jacques Prevert (1900-1977)]
So those are the poets that have influenced me. And then I read Jacques Prevert (Peter, amusingly, unintentionally, mispronounces his name - Jacques Pervert!) - He wrote nice poems, very clear picture-like poems. Is anyone familiar with Jacques Prevert? Do you remember any of his poems by heart?
Student; Not by heart.
PO: You remember any lines?
Student: The one about how terrible is the sound of a hard-boiled egg on a zinc counter, "terrible is that sound in the heart of the man who is hungry" [from "Lazy Morning" , in Prevert's Paroles - the poem concludes, in the translation by Lawrence Ferlinghetti - "It's terrible/ the faint sound of a hard-boiled egg/cracked on a tin counter/ that sound/it's terrible this noise when it stirs in the memory of a man who's hungry"
PO: "And terrible is that sound of?"... "In the heart of the man who is hungry?". He had a lot of pictures, City Lights also published him.
Then Henri Michaux was very good too for writing about..the trains on the tracks and.. writing story-poems, you know, sort of..
Student: Yeah, a poem about his penis called "My King"
PO: Who's that?
Student: It's really funny about his penis, " I shake him again and again like an old plum tree, and his crown wobbles on his head"
PO: Well, I've got something in the New American.. I've got a poem here in the Don Allen anthology. It's called (the) "Second Poem", and then I wrote something on.. a biographical note - [Peter reads his biographical note - "My biography was born July 1932. Grew up with dirty feet and giggles. Can't stand dust so pick my nose.."..."This summer got to like flies tickleing nose and face. I demand piss to be sold on the market. It would help people to get to know eachother. I.Q. 90 in school, now specialized I.Q in thousands"] - Well it's a biography. That wasn't on poetry
Student: Will you read a poem out of that (book)?
PO: Yeah, sure I wrote this in Paris in 1957, and it was just sort of a lucky thing. Let's see now, did I write in a book first, or from the typewriter? - I don't know. Sometimes you write a poem from the typewriter, straight, other times you write it in a book, you know, a notebook, with pen, or.. [Peter begins reading "Second Poem "- "Morning Again, nothing has to be done,/maybe buy a piano or make fudge/At least clean the room up, for sure like my farther [sic]/I've done flick the ashes and buts [sic] over the bedside on the floor" - then stops] - But now I should really (re)consider because, my father, when I was about eleven years old, used to wipe his ass with a rag and he'd stick it behind the toilet bowl when we lived in Flushing, Queens [class explodes into laughter] I mean it's..now, if I would write the poem again you know, I would throw in that line, because he was really a dirty fuckin' slob! - he was dirty, he would wipe his ass, and (then) my mother would come by and pick it up, and - phew! - (and) I remember seeing her doing it one time, you know - but he had these Russian mannerisms, manners, you know, that there's really.. He would smoke in his room (he had a little room in there) - And it was the first time we had a house, but it was a real messed-up house, because my mother would stay up all night long and sleep all day, because she was deaf, and so, this... it turned our teenage life inside-out. So we never did any homework, you know, I mean, it was just a horrible, it was a real mess - but my father added to it, weird, because he would go into his room (and, like turn The Inner Sanctum on on Sundays, all Sunday's we'd listen to these horror stories on the radio, you know, in the late (19)40's, Inner Sanctum, The Shadow, The Clock, Fat Man, all these other mysteries, you know and he would just.. the ash-try was just at the side of the bed, and he would just lay back and read these mystery, you know, outer-space books, you know, stories, you know, and he'd lay back, and he'd push the pot over and you'd see this whole row of ashes, you know, it was just..a mess. But..
"At least clean the room up, for sure like my farther/I've done flick the ashes and buts over the bedside on the floor/But frist [sic] of all, wipe my glasses and drink the water/ to clean the smelly mouth"
See, one of these poems I'm going to write now is how I stopped.. I was in Sharon Springs, up in New York State, buying - it's a Jewish community, where the Hassidic jews come to rest up from the city, and this young kid (I think from upstate New York) walked in and he smiled, and you could see that his two side teeth were rotten, so instead of saying "Hello" to him, I said, "How's your teeth?" - I said.. "Your teeth. You know you've got to brush your teeth three times a day, right after you eat, and, at the end of the day, you have to use dental floss. And he didn't want to, quite want to, talk to me about it, but I said, "See, you gotta take care of your teeth, they're the best thing you've got, and it costs more than a million dollars". And he said, "Yeah, I know, the dentist, he's not too good to me", he said. I said, "What's the matter?". (so he was trying to tell me, but I could see (that) he was a little..a little bit of... displeased, but then, when he got.. he still wanted to talk, because we were talking and he was saying that his dentist was no good). But he DOES NOT brush his teeth three times a day! - Imagine that, a young kid, eighteen years old, and he doesn't brush his teeth three times a day! I mean, it's sad, it's pathetic! - So, whenever I see a young kid, you know, and I'm next to him in line, or something like that, (and) I've got a minute to.. it's his teeth that I take a look at, you see
Student: Like a horse!
PO: Like a horse, right - It's better than saying "Hello, it's a nice day, it's hot, it's going to rain, I wish it's going to rain" and stuff like that, you know, I miss being .. It's a little hard, because, you know, the kid, being the kid, thinks you're putting something on him, but you have to go with a certain amount of sincerity, you have to develop a certain amount of concern for the actual guy's teeth. Once he perceives that you're not messing around, with nothing beyond, that you only care about his teeth (which is something that he cares about, because he's young), then you're on real ground, see, you have nothing to.. See, I was with a guy, Paul Burk (?) who was an electrician, who was with me, and then, when we came back to the farm, he said, "You know, don't you think you were being a bit impolite?, (and I said) "No, I thought I was being helpful." And he said, he thought I was being... and probably in a.. But if you have enough experience.. but you've got to get the experience (and) the only way to do it is to.. you know, I mean, is talk about someone's.. to look at someone's teeth.
Student: Did you have bad teeth when you were young?
PO: I..I wish to god that someone had come along when I was fifteen years old, I wish someone did it four times a week in different stages (because I used to ride the train back and forth from Jamaica to Long Island, to Northport, Long Island, and I wish strangers on the train had said "Let me see your teeth, by the way", "Open your mouth wider, I can't see nothing" and then they would hit me with the solid thing about teeth, you know, I mean - but yes, my middle teeth have started to go bad! When I was fifteen, my mother would say "Fifteen dollars for the dentist?!"- "Oh!" (I think the whole bill came up to one hundred and fifteen dollars - when I was fifteen), and you know, it's insane, it's really insane. But I think there's a lot of poems to be made of teeth, because a lot of young people just don't take care of their teeth and they don't brush three times. The latest dental information has been a.. the last dental discovery, in the last couple of years, has been, brush your teeth after you eat, three times a day, right after you eat, and at the end of the day use unwaxed dental floss. And if you don't do that, you're gonna get.. you're gonna have a lot of cavities, you can have receding gums. And I've started to get receding gums.
Student : What toothpaste do you recommend?
PO: Whatever's cheap. Colgate, you know - but you just use a little bit of toothpaste. You don't use much at all. You just use a tiny drop of toothpaste, just a little drop, you don't need too much at all. Do you know what I mean? About a quarter of a finger-nail - that's all - You just use very very little toothpaste - a little toothpaste goes a long way.
Student: Do you know where they have the highest amount of cavaties per area?
PO: What areas?
Student: Like, do you think that the water people drink has an affect on their teeth?
Student (2): It's mostly diet
Student : It makes sense. The water.. with all these chemicals in it..
PO: I don't know. I know if you eat too much sugar and candy and stuff and don't brush your teeth after you eat, then you get it.
Student : You get it?
PO: You get decay - you get decayed teeth and you get receding gums
Student: And now you've got all the chlorine in the water that you drink and stuff like that..carcinogens..
PO: I don't know much about that. Probably. Probably so
[Peter resumes reading (and completes reading) his poem] - "Time for another cigarette and then let the curtains rise, then I notice the dirt path makes a road to the garbage pan"... "My life and my room are like two huge bugs following me around the globe/Thank god I have an innocent eye for nature./I was born to remember a song about love - on a hill a butterfly makes a cup that I drink from, walking over a bridge of flowers"
Student: What's the name of that poem?
PO: Second Poem - Second.. I was just sitting at a typewriter (or) a notebook pad ..room and having a good time, giggling to yourself a lot, you know, and writing whatever comes into your mind, or whatever you get all excited about, or whatever is..whatever appears to you funny or odd, or..
Student: Why is it called "Second Poem"?
PO: It was the second poem I wrote. It was the second poem I wrote . I wrote the first poem (which is about the same size, a little bit different) and then (the) "second poem", and then, from then on, I ..the third poem was about.. er..I think..on the way to work, using the subway in New York City (I wrote poems on the subway, and I wrote poems working in the Mental Hospital, and..
Here's a poem (from) Gregory Corso's "Gasoline". I wanted to read some poems of his, but I don't have it (a copy of the book) with me. There's a poem called "Dirty Ears points a knife at me" ["Birthplace Revisited"] - "I pump him full of lost watches". These two torpedos from Brooklyn are after him - ["The garbage cans haven't stopped smelling/ I walk up the first flight, Dirty Ears/aims a knife at me.../ I pump him full of lost watches"]
Student: You weren't writing poems when you were younger?
PO: No, I wrote when I was... I was writing dreams when I was eighteen, I wrote those poems ("Frist" and "Second" Poem] when I was twenty-four, or something .. (twenty-seven? twenty-four?), twenty-seven, in Paris.
Student: Have you written anything recently?
PO: [pause] Yes, I'm writing some now - about the farm, I'm working on a farm - and no, I haven't (much), because I've been working on the farm and I just.. I'm supposed to.. I got more excited working on the farm, so I have.. and, just lately, I 've been able to get up at five o'clock in the morning, quarter-to-five in the morning.. See, I've stopped reading the New York Times. If you stop reading the New York Times, you get to bed early, and when you get to bed early you get up early, but when you get up early, you work all day in a..
Out in the fields, you know, it's difficult to write poems. You have to break the day, I think, up, to now.. I'm going to break.. work on the farm in the morning, and in the afternoon do writing, break it up that way, because you just get very tired. You have to have..
Student: Where's your farm?
PO: Upstate New York
PO: Near Cherry Valley, New York -
[Peter then glances at a sheet of paper] - What's this? - "Next Visiting Poets class - Jackson MacLow - Wednesday at one p.m".? What's it say on the bottom? - "Poetics of Chance and the Poetics of Simultaneous Spontaneous Spontaneity..
Jackson MacLow: Oh, oh, oh, they must have sent it over.
PO: This is Jackson MacLow here, who is going to read.
JM: I just thought of the title for the seminar on Wednesday..
PO: So the title is called?
JM: "The Poetics of Chance and the Poetics of Simultaneous Spontaneity -
(or The Sacred Heart of Jesus!)
PO: Right - and where is that at now?
JM: Right here.
PO: Right here, Wednesday at one.
JM: We might as well, since I've broken your (flow), I am having a rehearsal here at three thirty of two pieces and I'm especially looking for good players of pitched instruments
PO: Jack..Jack, who used to.. I went to Mexico City with (Jack) Kerouac and Allen (Ginsberg) and Gregory (Corso), we all went down there for a couple of months, and Jack had a room up (at) the top and I came up one night with a.. and watched him write a poem, and he said, "This is how I do it, Peter", and he opened up his notebook and said, "Every hour I write a poem - (no) "Every hour I write a line". He was smoking away some pot. Every hour I write a line, and then he would think of a line, you know, and at the end.. So every hour he writes a line so at the end of the day he's got a poem
Student: That's where Desolation Angels came out of..
PO: In Mexico? and..
Student: ..other places. Tangiers also.
PO: Is there Tangiers in Desolation Angels?
Student; He was in Mexico and he was in Tangiers and he was in Paris and also going baxck to New York - all around. Sometimes up in the country..
PO: Well, Jack always had a notebook, little notebooks that he'd write down from... [long pause]... He would talk all the time, there's no stopping him. He would talk and talk and talk..
What's this one here? - 127th Chorus - "Nobody knows the other side/ of my house/My corner where I was born/dusty guitars/ Of my tired little street where/with little feet/I beetled and I wheedled.."..."Where I lived a myriad kotis of millions/Of incalculable be-aeons ago/When white while joyous/was also/ Center of lake of light" - [pauses - continues to rifle through the book] - 84th Chorus - "SINGING - By the light/Of the silvery moon/I like to spoon/To my honey/I'll/Croon/Love's Dream"..." - 85th Chorus - "Do you really need/the right word/Do you really need/Of course it's all asinine.."..."That's a poem/The poem/Will end/Asininity" - 86th Chorus - "Take your pick,/If you wanta commit suicide./ [Peter mis-reads this first line to begin with, to much laughter - "Take your prick/ if you wanta commit suicide"] So that we'll know/What it woulda been/like without life.."..."Beware/The Share/is Merde/Air"
[William CarlosWilliams (1883-1963)]
Student: Did you ever meet (William Carlos) Williams?
PO: Yeah I met Williams. Allen took me to meet Williams. We went and talked and I went and left a.. we met up twice, I think, and he read my poems. and he said he liked them, He said I had a lyric quality or a lyric gift and to keep.. he encouraged me to keep writing. And I think he had.. did he have a stroke? I think he had a stroke then, and he was sort of looking out of the window worried about things going on out there that he. .he was a little bit slowed-down from the stroke, and I think Allen went to see him about something now.
I just remember this was in Rutherford, New Jersey.
Student: Did Kerouac come?
PO: No, I don't think Jack made it with us that day or something or other
Student: You never saw him?
PO: Gee, I don't know. That's a good question.. I don't remember.
Student: I think Allen once mentioned..
PO: Did he? - Maybe years ago
Student; I know Allen...Allen gave him the manuscript of On The Road
PO: Did Williams read it?
Student: Yeah, liked it.
PO: Then Kerouac wrote a lot of haiku(s) - "The winter flies.. or the winter fly in a medicine cabinet has died of old age. ["In my medicine cabinet/the winter fly/has died of old age"]. He wrote that out in Northport, that haiku
Student: I just read Visions of Gerard and there's a line in there - he's talking to Gerard or something, or Gerard is talking to him about a dead fly in the medicine cabinet and Allen read us that haiku out of his Journal.. So I just picked that up also..Is that the same haiku? no?
PO: Same line.
Jack took mescaline, I think, a couple of times and I think he fell backward in a swoon of golden eternity, a golden flood, a golden flood, it took him, - I think he wrote about it also
Maybe it's in Scripture of the Golden Eternity or something like that
Student: What was he taking when he wrote Mexico City Blues? (I heard he was taking morphine)?
PO: No, Jack didn't take too much morphine, no, maybe wine or beer, a bennie or two, but..
Student: Yeah, the story in Kerouac, Ann Charters' Kerouac, is that it was mostly marijuana and benezedrine and the guy he was with was (on) morphine, and they...
PO: Jack.. Garver, Bill Garver
Student: Yeah Bill Garver. And that Jack Kerouac would just write a line of his and when he'd heard Garver saying something, he just scribbled down what Garver said, and that's where it all comes from, pretty much a cut-up of words, thoughts..
PO: Yeah, Garver was still.. I think he winds up.. I think we left him and he was clawling out his window..He had a basement.. He didn't want us to leave. We had to leave that moment, to drive, back in a car, to New York, and he didn't.. he was clawing at the window..he didn't want us to go. He didn't want us to leave. (I think) he was worried about getting his morphine, or something like that.
I took a lot of morphine by mistake in India. I really booked up my time in India by shooting up morphine, I had a very bad habit shooting up morphine a lot. It's a shame because I probably would've done a lot of writing in India. I just wasted a lot of time. I was so obsessed with morphine thatI had gotten.. I was taking some Indian singing lessons, and was taking some sarod lessons, and Allen threatened to throw my sarod out the window. He was going to grab.. he was about to grab it and throw it (out) if I didn't promise that I wouldn't take no more morphine. But..
We met Henri Michaux and talked about mescaline. He was taking mescaline then. And I shot some mescaline up in the arm. It was.. but I got very scared and crawled under the bed-sheets, shaking and what-not, you know.But..
And then we [Allen and I] had taken some, I guess, some peyote, and climbed up a Half Dome mountain in Yosemite National State Park, high on peyote, which was very good. And..
Student: See God?
PO: No, but I saw the mountain.. face of the mountain side walls, which looked like elephant-skin, and the mountain walls looked like they were living and growing, and dying at the same time, so it was very awesome, to look at the side of the Half Dome mountain walls
Frank O'Hara's poetry I like a lot too.. There's sort of a feeling that he's writing a poem as he's walking down the street. There's a poem.. he's got a poem about ..Second Avenue (New York City), where.. I think Allen expressed interest one time, he would like to, you know, just walk around New York City with a pencil and paper and write, you know, write what he sees, you know, but here he doesn't..hasn't gotten around to it, because he's been very busy, but that would be a very nice thing A very nice thing to do is to take a long walk around New York City ((or) wherever you live, and write a poem about what you see along the way.
So Frank O'Hara, you get a feeling that Frank O"Hara does that, like in (that) Second Avenue poem..
Student; But you never did?
PO: I've never taken a long walk and written, no. I've written, while I've gone to work, on the subways. I've written a poem about a.. I wrote it on.. let's see, I wrote it on the subway
[Peter reads section 2 of "Poems From Subway to Work" - "Let the subway be our greek meeting place/ because there's where everyone goes..".."Some angry woman throws a baby into my lap./I look at the Pepsi-coala [sic] sign and drink water in my mind/Then the rush for the doors and crowded platforms./No snow or yelloo [sic] leaves in the dark iron subway"]
And then, Jack, too, would lay down against a building and write. He'd always be jotting things down and..Allen, I was with Allen when he wrote "Howl" (or was I? was I off at school or something?) but he had a desk at 1010 Montgomery Street [in San Francisco] and he wrote..I think he wrote that at a desk, you know, full of.. concentration.
And, well, what other poets? [long pause].. hmm, lets see..
Anne Waldman (in attendance): Was your experience with Allen reading the poems aloud, or reading them yourself aloud, or reading them in books?
AW: Did you hear...you used to hear Frank O'Hara read?
PO: Yeah, we (heard) Frank O'Hara read - or Allen would read it to me. Allen used to read (to) me a lot. He used to.. We'd walk around San Francisco and recite Hart Crane, going through the Broadway Tunnel in San Francisco (or the Brooklyn Bridge). Allen knew a lot of it by heart, Hart Crane by heart, and Catullus by heart, and.. who else did he read? - Catullus and.. We met..
Student: Are you going to read your apple-juice poem?
PO: Apple-juice poem?
PO: Gee, I don't know What kind of poem is that? Where did I read that at?
Student(s): It's a song..
AW: It's about making apple juice (at) the farm
PO: Oh yeah - Gee, I don't know, I've got to.. I don't remember it. I think this Fall we're going to jar a lot of apple juice. There's a lot of wild apple trees around and I'm going to jar a lot of apple juice. (This time I've) promised. I have to do it. I think you've got to boil (it) for ten or twenty minutes and give it a water bath, You cover it up and you boil it for ten or twenty minutes. Yeah, there's a lot of wild apple trees, apples around. I think at one time we got a hundred. I think with Denise (Mercedes [his then girlfriend] me and you, and Julius [his brother], and someone else, we collected about.. we collected one hundred and forty-five gallons of apple-juice.
AW: So that's about twenty-thousand pounds (of apples)!
PO: All wild apples, all wild apples. And then we bought these...we bought these two big barrels, that Allen paid for, rum barrels, but they were apple-cider barrels, but they were fifty-five gallon drums, two fifty-five gallon drums we brought, we bought one twenty gallon drum, we bought one ten gallon drum, and when you fill up..
Student: Did you let it ferment?
PO: Well, I never knew how to take care of the stuff so we filled up the two fifty-five gallons. We took it to a cider press who pressed it for nineteen-cents a gallon. We filled up the two fifty-five gallon drums and then we put it in the barn or on the porch. It was so heavy to move, you know. It weighs about five-hundred, no, it's more than five-hundred, pounds, it's around seven-hundred pounds, so you can figure it out mathematically, you know, it's very easy to figure out, but it's.. it's too much. You just can't buy a fifty-five gallon drum. You can do it. I guess. You get two boards and you push it out - (It's) good to work with fifty-five gallons, it really gives you something to think about (instead of playing with all these jars and containers, you're doing it all in one fifty-five gallon drum, it's really a great idea, I love it myself). The problem is how, when you put it there, the cork and.. well they put benzoate to keep the stuff from going bad, but it only stays a couple of weeks before it all goes bad, so you have to jar it. You have to boil it in containers and then boil it in glass jars and jar it, with good caps, to make it last all winter long. So I guess we're going to have to do that with it, you know, instead of these big fifty-five gallon drums or twenty-gallon druns or ten gallon drums.
Student: Are these the small green apples, or..
PO: Green apples, yellow apples, red apples, small apples, biggish apples, not-too-biggish apples (because they're wild - all the hundred and forty-five gallons is wild apples.
Student: Up in Maine, they leave fifty-five gallons of it.They bury it, and during the winter, and when it gets cold, it starts freezing, and, in various centers, what's left is all the alcohol and it's almost pure alcohol with little taste of apples in it - That's one way of doing fifty-five gallons.
PO: I'm sorry, say that again, What do you do now?
Student: Okay, they take a fifty-five gallon drum and fill it full of cider, apple juice, and then they leave it out in the winter and it freezes
Student: and as it..and it starts on the outside and it freezes in.. but it starts fermenting (the alcohol doesn't freeze)
Student: The alcohol gets caught in the center of this massive frozen..
PO: So what's that good for? alcohol? or for apple cider?
Student: It's good for drinking
PO: Drinking apple cider?
Student: For drinking apple-alcohol, apple-whisky, "applejack" it's called.
PO: Well too much stuff gets you drunk, gets you weak, you know. You gotta..
Student: You don't have to drink it, you just have to smell it! - because it's pure
PO: Jack (Kerouac) used to drink a lot, you know..
But (so) there are many translations of Mayakovsky's (poems). There's a lot of.. there's different.. there's not too many of Catullus. This one is by Arthur Swanson
Student: You want another one?
PO: Then I wrote some sex experiments, where you get in bed with your lover and you put a typewriter where the pillow is and, as soon as you do something, you say, "Just a minute" (you type a line), and then you've got a sort of history poem of a love scene between you and your lover, of what you were doing or what the other one was doing or where were your....
[tape ends - but continues on new tape]
Student: Have you seen Jaws, the film? It's playing right around here;
[ long pause] -
So the main thing in writing is.. keep writing every day, you know, don't stop writing, write as much as you can, and write it, you know, and then type it up, so you can see it more clearly, that helps also, and so, in effect, you're sort of re-writing it, twice. The more you write, the more you get good at it, the more easy it is, it's like yodelling - [Peter breaks into a vigorous yodel!] The more you do it, the more you really get faster at it, or you slow down, or you..
Student: How do you do that?
PO: Do you folks write here? - Just by doing it, you know, working on the farm, doing it, you know
Student: Can you sing us a song before you close down shop. Do you have your guitar or banjo with you?
PO: I don't have, no.. [Peter then breaks into a brief improvised acapella version of "All Around The Garden" - "All around the garden, May 30th, 1973/Only planted 600 feet of Edable [sic] Pea Pods/Oh lord, how lazy can I be?" - ending with statistical delineation of "300 feet of red, white and yellow onions, 300 sweet basil transplants, and 120 feet of modern hybrid tomato transplants..200 feet of mustard greens.. a dozen egg-plants..a dozen peppers..a dozen celery..a dozen cabbages.. a dozen brussel sprouts.. a dozen broccoli, and a couple of kinds of winter squash.."
Student: Where is your garden?
PO: Up in Cherry Valley. It's not my farm, it's.. Up in New York State, yeah.
Student: How did you get the money to buy it?
PO: It's the Committee On Poetry corporation. (Allen) Ginsberg went around and gave dozens and dozens of readings.
Student: A lot of acres?
PO: Seventy-five acres.
Student; Where's Cherry Valley located?
PO: It's two hundred miles, two hundred and fifty miles, north of New York City.
Student:Who's taking care of the garden now?
PO: There's a young couple who are watching the famhouse.
Student: (Deep in the valley?)
PO: No, it's 3,000 feet elevation.
Student: Is it strictly organic?
PO: Yeah. Everything's organic bred, yeah.
I want us to go.. There's a college nearby. I'd like to go and study soil agronomy, so I know more about balancing the soil out, but it's all organic right now.
Gordon Ball, who has been working with Allen for years, was a farm manager and he studied up on it and got, ordered, organic fertiliser and found.. and then we took the soil samples to an organic agronomist, who wrote a prescription for the garden and we followed his prescription. Could we have gotten it mixed up? Now, I don't quite know, I don't know the correct..how many pounds of phosphate to apply..I've got to figure out so I don't imbalance the soil, the mineral content.
Student; Do you have any animals?
PO: We did. We have animals, yeah. we had cows, had a big baby pet pig, chickens and ducks, and a couple of geese.
(Robert) Creeley came by one time. Creeley dropped by on his way from Buffalo, dropped by.
Student: How is he?
PO: Creeley? He's fine, I think he smokes too much. He's getting his.. He's fine he's..
Student: Are his teeth (out)?
PO: I wasn't into teeth then too much. It's only lately I've gotten into teeth I don't know, I guess he's alright. He's a smart fellow, he can take care of his teeth.
Student: (But) his eye?
PO: Bob's eye?
Student: What happened? Why does he have a patch over his eye?
PO: I don't know, I don't know.
Student: He lost it?
PO: He lost it, yes? Do you know how he lost it?
Student: I thought it was a Joyce face
PO: There's one Allen used to read [a Catullus poem] , it's called "O Hymen, O Hymen" - Does anyone know that poem? [Peter is presumably refering to the repeated line - "Hymen o Hymanaee, Hymen ades o Hymanaee! - in Catullus Poem 62] - They've got the words here in an asterisk, (so) I guess they.. Well here is this, "...Cornifici Tuo Catullo", only a different translation - [Peter begins reading] " Sick at heart Catullus, your dear friend, Sick at heart that labors to beat on.."A little something please, a word or two?/More full of tears than old Simonides" - and (then) that other one ("Egnatius quod candidos habet dentes") - " Somebody told him once he had fine white teeth/So now he smiles and smiles and smiles"... "The higher the shine on your gums we see/ the more we know you have drink of pee"]
That's an old custom you know. Russian saints they drink piss. The main monk gets high on mushrooms and the lower monks wait in line for the bottle of piss to pass to them and they drink it to get high. Mushrooms are very expensive. A good mushroom is hard to come by.
I used to do it, not all the time, I used to do it. I was taking amphetamine, like a dope, and I'd shoot up and I'd think, "My god! maybe I'm throwing something away with my piss, you know, so I'd drink my own piss, you know - I don't know, I got such bad amphetamine.. I was really insane to talk about it. But we used to.. At one time, I brought my..a little spool of my shit to Kerouac and (we were living on 2nd Street (New York City), and Kerouac had just come back across from the West Coast with Lew Welch and a Japanese writer-poet, now what's his name, )
Student: Albert Saijo
PO: Albert Saijo, right, and they were all excited about cleaning your asshole with water, and.. in fact they had wrote something in (it) (in) a little book called what?
Student: Trip Trap
PO: Right. Trip Trap. And Eleanor Roosevelt, in her big bloomers... (probably why she squirms on the seat so much because she doesn't wash her asshole with water..) had a smear of dirt of asshole, you know.
Student: Speaking of assholes, what did you do with your stool?
Student: What did you do with your stool?
PO: I showed Jack - at some part in some conversation, you know, something or other, I don't know, I .. but that was when that Trip Trap was... - What time we got? Three o'clock?
Student: Three o'clock
PO: Is it close-up. Yeah? - Well, I'm sorry I wasn't prepared. Maybe next year I'll be better prepared
Audio for the above may be heard, via the Naropa Audio archives, in two segments here and here