Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years Eve - A Quick Retrospective

[Janus - The (Roman) God of Looking Forward (to the Future) and simultaneously Backwards (to the Past)]

Bidding adieu to 2014, we look back on some of the Allen Ginsberg Project posts of the past year. Well, they're all important (you should spend quality time in our archives), but here's (and they are, we stress, admittedly, kind of random) a few "selected highlights": 

January saw Allen's class on John Wieners, Robert Creeley's Selected Letters, Fernando Pessoa, Pete Seeger, and that photo-sale to the University of Toronto

February  - William Burroughs' birthday (well, the whole year actually, it was the William Burroughs Centennial), Neal Cassady's birthday too - and don't miss our tenderest Valentine

Kerouac's birthday, Ferlinghetti's birthday, Corso's birthday, in March 

April, we began on the Russians - Mayakovsky, Akhmatova, Esenin

May - Gary Snyder, Bob Dylan, and Walt Whitman all have birthdays

June - Allen Ginsberg's birthday - and Peter Orlovsky has a new (posthumous) book - and Allen shoots the breeze with Ram Dass, gets agitated in Ireland, gives a stunning reading in Portland  

July - Alex Katz, John Ashbery, Guillaume Apollinaire and Paul Verlaine

August - Andre Breton and Jack Kerouac and Jazz with Sam Charters

September - Antonin Artaud, Nicanor Parra at 100, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen (at 80)

October it's John Lennon, John Sinclair, Lenny Bruce, and another rip-roaring archival reading (this time at Texas State) 
oh, and not forgetting Gerd Stern and the Joan Anderson Letter, Gelek Rinpoche turning 75, Dylan Thomas (if he'd been alive) turning 100

November - Francesco Clemente in India, Meditation and Poetics, Allen (rare footage from Scotland)

December - More meditation - Vintage Beat Generation - The Lion For Real

and the show continues…

See you next year!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Patti Smith's Birthday

Patti Smith's birthday today. 
Patti Smith, who has done so much to spread the word about Allen.

For starters see here, here and here.

Here's our note on her last year's birthday - here 

A "renaissance woman", as Variety recently described her.  

Tonight sees the second night of her annual New York City date (a second night - sold out, naturally) - in the East Village at Webster Hall 

Fresh back from a meeting with..

and much-reported-on gig singing for..  the Pope, Pope Francis, at the Vatican

Patti Smith incanta al concerto di Natale

tho', of course, this wasn't the first time - she did the very same gig last year 

Here's Patti speaking on spirituality. 
No, she's not a Catholic, but..
"But the imagination and the mind of man is so interesting and captivating. So I am attracted to religious arts from all faiths, from the poetry that comes from it. I'm attracted to the prayers and the vestments that people wear, but I don't mistake these things for the absolute principal.."
"I look at these things as the beauty of man's imagination. However, no matter how many times it's said, or (how) simplistic it sounds, everything stems from love. If someone wanted to understand Christ's teachings for instance, it's based on love and to love one another. Everything else could fall away - the dogma, the art, the churches, everything. It's basically to love one's self, to love one another, to love the earth.."

The Variety article highlights her crucial (and similarly spiritual) involvement in Darren Aronofsky's 2014 Biblical epic, "Noah".  "Mercy Is", her song, (which appears on at least three different occasions in the film - in the end, in a stunning arrangement performed by Patti with The Kronos Quartet), is up for consideration (and may very well win) an Oscar in 2015 in the Best Original Song category

Here's the song:

Here's more on Patti and that "Noah song"

Hear a beautiful accapella version of the song here.

2015, by the way, will be the 40th anniversary of Horses and plans are afoot for big celebration

And then there's Just Kids  of course (and that's Hollywood-bound)

and a possible follow-up - "sort of in present tense".."I wanted to write a contemporary book", she tells Rolling Stone, "or write just whatever I felt like writing about, and it's things going from literature to coffee to memories of Fred (Sonic Smith) in Michigan.".. "It's whatever I felt. I hopped on a train and kept going"

and there's the new fiction (here's a snippet):

and, while we're at it, some old non-fiction

Speaking of vintage Patti, here's Patti reading poetry at the St Marks Poetry Project in 1972

Four decades and more. The muse persists . Happy 68th birthday, Patti! 

Monday, December 29, 2014

More Lion For Real - Gregory Corso's Story

[Gregory Corso]

Another Lion For Real sampler. How about "Gregory Corso's Story"?

Allen's description -  "A little anecdote the poet (Gregory) Corso told me around 1951", "Bill Frisell's delicate setting turns around  this memory of buried innocence." 

Bill Friesell, guitar, Marc Ribot, banjo, Ralph Carney, clarinet, Steve Swallow, bass

Gregory Corso's Story

The first time I went
to the country to New Hampshire
when I was about eight
there was a girl
I always used to paddle with a plywood stick.

We were in love,
so the last night there
we undressed in the moonlight
and showed each other our bodies,
then we ran singing back to the house.
Moonlight by Maxfield Parrish

Sunday, December 28, 2014


        [Eric Drooker - illustration for The Ballad of the Skeletons, as it appeared in The Nation, October 23, 2012] 

More Lion For Real amplification.  More early Ginsberg lyrics  - today's offering - Refrain


To hear his 1989 version, see here

Sleeve note: 
"Among the earliest writings in this suite, echoing late Yeats' style. "Shadow changes into bone," was my Kerouackian motto, 1948, intending to say that eternal prophetic poetic intuition (shadow) will turn out to be real (bone). Having heard (William) Blake's voice I was headed for the booby-hatch for a season. Michael Blair's arrangement's midnight reflectiveness fits this rhyme's mood and meter"

Marc Ribot's on guitar (it's his solo), Steve Swallow's on bass, Michael Blair is on guitar, "marimba, shakers (and) clay pot"

The air is dark, the night is sad,
I lie sleepless and I groan.
Nobody cares when a man goes mad:
He is sorry, God is glad
Shadow changes into bone

Every shadow has a name
When I think of mine I moan,
I hear rumors of such fame
Not for pride, but only shame,
Shadow changes into bone.

When I blush I weep for joy,
And laughter drops from me like a stone:
The aging laughter of the boy 
To see ageless death so coy.
Shadow changes into bone.

"Shadow changes into bone" - he had written earlier - "Shadow changes into bone" was my symbolic language for meaning, thought, high intellectual thought, ambition, idealized desire, and that it can actually come true and you do get to see a vision of eternity which kills you. So shadow, mind, insight, changes into three-dimensional bone."

[Eric Drooker - illustration used for Planet News: Allen Ginsberg Memorial at The Cathedral Chutch of St John the Divine, New York, May 14 1998]

"Shadow changes into bone", we might also mentioned here, was the name of the very first "Clearing House For All Things Ginsberg", the Ginsberg site, in the early days of the internet, before The Allen Ginsberg Project. Tip of the hat to the prescient "Mongo BearWolf", the site's administrator (the site's long down but are you still out there?) 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Complaint Of The Skeleton to Time

Continuing with our re-visit and amplification of the Willner-Minzer  Lion For Real - see here, here, here and here

1997 - The Lion For Real

- here's another early (1949) lyric - "Complaint Of The Skeleton To Time"

Sleeve note - "1949 lyric influenced by Thomas Wyatt's "My Lute, Awake!" & Wm Butler Yeats' "Crazy Jane" - part of The Shrouded Stranger of the Night concept conceived same time as (Jack) Kerouac's Dr Sax. Gary Windo's free jazz sounds a variant of drunken Mexican Day of the Dead dancing skeleton band" 

Take my love, it is not true,
So let it tempt no body new;
Take my lady, she will sigh
For my bed where'er I lie;
Take them, said the skeleton,
But leave my bones alone.

Take my raiment, now grown cold,
To give some poor poet old;
Take the skin that hoods this truth
If his age would wear my youth;
Take them, said the skeleton,
But leave my bones alone.

Take the thoughts that like the wind
Blow my body out of mind"
Take this heart to go with that
And pass it on from rat to rat;
Take them, said the skeleton,
But leave my bones alone.

Take the art which I bemoan
In a poem's crazy tone;
Grind me down, though I may groan,
To the starkest stick and stone;
Take them, said the skeleton,
But leave my bones alone.

Bones, bones, bones - it's a perennial (eternal) motif  

Here's (from 1995) the Ballad of the Skeletons 

Here's Broken Bone Blues

 & more bones tomorrow!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas - William Burroughs - The Junky's Christmas

William Burroughs' centennial draws to a close but not without the necessary December treat of  The Junky's Christmas.   

You can watch The Junky's Christmas here

This story originally appeared in the 1989 collection, Interzone and in the 1993 recording Sparse Ass Annie and Other Tales

Burroughs' reading on that occasion serves as the narration for a film from the same year (directed by Nick Donkin and Melodie McDaniel and produced by Francis Ford Coppola), essentially claymation, but Burroughs appears in live-action footage and the beginning (with a book - those haunting facial close-ups!) and at the "banquet scene" at the end.


Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Allen Ginsberg - Christmas Gift


I met Einstein in a dream
Springtime on Princeton lawn grass
I kneeled down and kissed his young thumb
like a ruddy pope
his fresh face broad cheeked rosy
"I invented a universe separate,
something like a Virgin" -
"Yes, the creature gives birth to itself,"
I quoted from Mescaline
We sat down open air universal summer
to eat lunch, professor's wives
at the Tennis Court Club,
our meeting eternal, as expected,
my gesture to kiss his fist
unexpectedly saintly
considering the Atom Bomb I didn't mention,

New York, December 14, 1972

Allen Ginsberg - from Mind Breaths - Poems 1972-1977

Documents handwritten by Einstein on his visit to Japan donated to Keio University library

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Inscriptions - 2 - (More Inscriptions)


[Allen Ginsberg - Two "Ah Sunflower" inscriptions (for Eero Ruuttila, 1975, and David Cohen, 1992)]

Following on from yesterday, here's a few more drawings and inscriptions (from the Allen Ginsberg Drawings and Inscriptions Gallery

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ginsberg - Scribble

[Kenneth Rexroth  & Edith Piaf]

Here's the very first poem that opens "The Lion For Real"  (published in Reality Sandwiches) - Kenneth Rexroth and Edith Piaf - a brief but poignant lyric,  Scribble

Steve Swallow' s on piano, Michael Blair on guitar, Ralph Carney on clarinet.

Allen's sleeve note - "Casual note, a long melancholic affectionate 1956 thought about the late irascible Bay Area anarchist Poet, Kenneth Rexroth, might be 4 A.M. in the soul that Michael Blair's music mirrors"
Rexroth’s face reflecting human
           tired bliss
White haired, wing browed
           gas mustache,
                flowers jet out of
                      his sad head,
listening to Edith Piaf street song
           as she walks the universe
                with all life gone
                and cities disappeared
                      only the God of Love
                            left smiling 
Berkeley, March 1956
Here (added bonus) a recent translation of the poem into Spanish:


A cara de Roxroth refletindo a cansada
           beatitude humana
A cabeleira branca, a sobrancelha arrebitada
           o bigode tagarela,
                as flores rebentando
                      de sua cabeça triste,
a ouvir as cantigas mundanas de Edith Piaf
           como se ela passeasse pelo universo
                com toda a vida ida
                e as cidades desaparecidas
                      somente o Deus do Amor
                            ficou a sorrir
Berkeley, março de 1956

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Shrouded Stranger (Three Renditions)

The Shrouded Stranger

Last weekend we featured two tracks from the Michael Minzer-Hal Willner-produced Lion For Real - "To Aunt Rose" and "Lion For Real", this weekend, a couple more - 

First, the very early lyric (from 1949) -  "The Shrouded Stranger"

Shadow Death From Nowhere.jpg

The Shrouded Stranger

Bare skin is my wrinkled sack
When hot Apollo humps my back
When Jack Frost grabs me in these rags
I wrap my legs with burlap bags

My flesh is cinder my face is snow
I walk the railroad to and fro
When city streets are black and dead
The railroad embankment is my bed

I sup my soup from old tin cans
And take my sweets from little hands
In Tiger Alley near the jail
I steal away from the garbage pail

In darkest night where none can see
Down in the bowels of the factory
I sneak barefoot upon stone
Come and hear the old man groan

I hide and wait like a naked child
Under the bridge my heart goes wild
I scream at a fire on the river bank
I give my body to an old gas tank

I dream that I have burning hair
Boiled arms that claw the air
The torso of an iron king
And on my back a broken wing

Who'll go out whoring into the night
On the eyeless road in the skinny moonlight
Maid or dowd or athlete proud
May wanton with me in the shroud

Who'll come lay down in the dark with me
Belly to belly and knee to knee
Who'll look into my hooded eye
Who'll lay down under my darkened thigh?

"The song of the Shrouded Stranger of the Night", Allen can be heard at the beginning of this 1970 reading at New York's 92nd Street Y, reading from it here

A 1973 recording at Salem State's remarkable Jack Kerouac Festival may be heard here

The 1989 Lion For Real version may be listened to -  here 

Sleeve notes: "A Blakean Lyric, drawn from a childhood boogeyman sex dream under Paterson, N.J. choo-choo train Broadway overpass, my best 1949 rhymed poem. (Jack) Kerouac liked the genius of "I hide and wait like a naked child/Under the bridge my heart goes wild'. Marc Ribot's setting captures the railroad shuffle bones wispy phantom rhythm - Till this version I never realized the strangers gasping graveyard groan was a Hungry Ghost's hopeless cry for sexual help"

addenda - here's the poem both in English and Hungarian - and a menacing rendition by the Hobo Blues Band

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 202

Embedded image permalink
                                     [Allen Ginsberg, 1994, San Francisco - Photo by Jay Blakesberg]

Jay Blakesberg's wonderful photograph of a pensive Allen. It was Robert Frank's advice to Allen, the photographer (advice that he always took to heart and would tell other people) - always, in portraits, if at all possible, include the hands.

             [Allen Ginsberg and Robert Frank, 1986, New York City - Photograph by Peter Hale] 

News from the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa - the 2014-2015 Allen Ginsberg Visiting Fellow has just been announced, and it will be - Kevin Killian - Kevin's visit will begin, on Friday February 6, with a lecture titled "The Color in Darkness", the following Monday events will continue with a reading and a book-signing.

[Kevin Killian]

"Joan Anderson letter"  news - No auction (as originally planned) last week. Now the letter sits in legal limbo. David S Wills' piece, in Beatdom, "Reconsidering the Importance of the Joan Anderson Letter" is timely musing and well worth reading - "Beat fans and scholars are often guilty of perpetuating myths", Wills writes, and, "in order to take the movement seriously one needs to be critical and ask questions that are often unpleasant".. "now it is time that we ask whether the letter was as important as (Jack) Kerouac claimed. We need to acknowledge that Kerouac's obsession with (Neal) Cassady often blinded him to his friend's flaws, and that Cassady was far from a saint. Indeed, it is hard to imagine the contents of the letter - once published - living up to the hype."…"None of this means we should ignore the letter by any means, but rather that we should be skeptical and not carried away by the excitement of its discovery".  


[Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)]

Beat scholarship - last month's European Beat Studies Conference in Morocco is now just a memory.  Here's an "unofficial video record" (warning - if you can bear the highly disorientating soundtrack!)

More on the great Jim Koller, who's passing we noted last week.  A gathering of memories and notes by friends may be found here. Here's another video (this, with his son, Bertie accompanying him on banjo and guitar and with an interview with fellow Maine poet, Steve Luttrell)

Jim, poignantly, wrote (ahead of time)  his own "Last Will and Testament"  - "I want only blue sky over me/I want the clouds, so many/of them variations, passing/changing as they pass./ I want the blackest nights filled with turning stars/I want birds to find me,/want the hot breath of animals./ The wind too shall pass,/on its way to places/I have been." 

[James Koller (1936-2014)]

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Meditation and Poetics - 24

AG: So there was the first Imagist school which said, "Sight is where the eye strikes", "Direct treatment of the object" (that's from (Ezra) Pound's little easy, "How To Read" - "Direct treatment of the object, with as few fuzzy words as possible. As we concentrate on the breath, or as we're one with the breath, so one is absorbed in clearly seeing a situation, a person, a look, a broken flower in a vase - or "so much depends/ upon/ a red wheel/ barrow/ glazed with rain/ water /beside the white/chickens" - you know that? (William Carlos) Williams? - "so much depends/ upon/ a red wheel/ barrow/ glazed with rain/ water /beside the white/chickens" - So much. So much of one's own consciousness depends on seeing it clearly, or rendering it clearly, or being there with it precisely in some way that it's clear. It's not just a vague thought but you actually see it and not try and day-dream up another universe,

So that was sort of..sort of..Imagism. Then Objectivism was the next literary school, which said you don't just have to look at wheelbarrows, you can also include your thoughts because your thoughts are objects just like wheelbarrows. So that was Objectivism.  Does that make sense?

Student:  Yeah.

AG: Yeah?

Student: "The Red Wheelbarrow", that's more nebulous than Imagism, because it's "so much depends upon.." - so that's being included as a personal thing, whereas  Pound's thing..

AG: "The apparition of these…"
Student: "..faces in the crowd"
AG: "Petals on a wet, black bough". Okay, Pound was trying to be really totally objective, Imagistic. Totally objective. So his sample great Imagist poem was, as quoted, can you quote it again?
Student: (How does it begin?)
AG: "The apparition of these faces in the crowd.." 
Student: "White petals on a…"
AG: "Petals on a wet.."
Student: ("..wet..")
AG: " bough". It's in all the anthologies. It's the period piece, sort of, (like Williams' "Red Wheelbarrow')

But you're right, Williams included a thought - So much depends upon - a red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater beside the white chickens. So that's what made it an Objectivist poem, because he included his thought. But, there again, the point I'm trying to make is that thoughts, since you can wake up from them, drop them, separate yourself from them and observe them, thoughts themselves, then, can be treated as objects, just like wheelbarrows and trees, right? - Does that all make some sense? Is there anybody who has some practical objection? 
Okay, well, it's not very precise really. It's what they were saying in 1923 or (19)30 or (19)40..actually, what were the years of the Objectivists? That would be (the) (19)30'

So Louis Zukofsky put together what he called an Objectivist anthology (Pound had put together, in 1923, an Activist  (Active) anthology, I believe). I don't know if any of those books are available [here in Boulder, Colorado]. They might be in the University of Colorado Library, and they're really, historically, interesting. If you go back, you'll see what those active groups were doing and how they got together and it'll give you some insight into what's going on now when groups of poets get together to form a school or make an anthology or make a magazine. They're sort of modern twentieth-century standards, high standards, for that kind of activity, because they actually sharpened perception among a group of poets and were like a sharp axe which went into the public head. (They) actually did make changes in perception in the larger social community. So there's the Activist Anthology by Pound and (an) Objectivist issue of Poetry magazine edited by Louis Zukofsky. Some of this is recapitulated in a recent anthology by Jerome Rothenberg. Does anybody know the name of it? Anybody?

Student: Versions of the Sacred?
AG: No, no
Student: Technicians of the Sacred?
AG: Technicians of the Sacred  is..
Student: Versions of…
AG: No, [pointing to Student] - what was it you had?
Student: America- A Prophecy
AG: No, there's another odd little book. I think Rothenberg did it. I think it's in our library here. Do you know, Sam? [points to Student, Sam Kashner] - It's sort of, like, an anthology of (19)20's and (19)30's
Student (Sam Kashner): I think it's Revolution of the Word
AG: Right. Is that Rothenberg? - an anthology called Revolution of the World -  That was what? - the phrase used by Eugene Jolas, who edited Transition magazine, which was the big magazine, publishing a lot of (T.S.) Eliot, a lot of Pound, James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake (at that time known as "Work in Progress") 

[Audio for the above can be found here, starting at approximately eighteen-and-a-half minutes in, and concluding at approximately twenty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in]