[Allen Ginsberg in Vancouver, Canada, 1978, (a year later) - Photograph c. David Boswell]
Courtesy of the remarkable Naropa Audio Archives. We've featured Anne Waldman and Allen reading together before. Here's another one - a very early (August 1977) reading (introduced by Michael Brownstein) - a Naropa fund-raising event - Anne reads first.
Allen Ginsberg at the Naropa Institute on August 3rd 1977, reading with Anne Waldman -
[audio files here and here]
The tape begins with a short period of silence before the voice comes on of the m.c. for the evening, Michael Brownstein, announcing the particular and peculiar nature of the upcoming proceedings. "We're having a poetry reading tonight, including a lot of other things - namely a twenty-piece band will be riffing up with Allen Ginsberg in the second half of this event. In the first half...previous to an intermission, we will have Anne Waldman reading her poetry, along with Barbara Dilley dancing, so you're kind of getting four for the price of two-and-a-half or something.".
A few general announcements are then made (including the report of a missing dog! ("a small female lost Irish setter" - "Do you know what an Irish setter looks like? Do you know what a lost Irish setter looks like?") also announcement of an upcoming film-benefit (Stan Brakhage showing his films), and further fund-raising pitch.
Michael Brownstein introduces Anne Waldman.
At approximately five-and-a-quarter minutes in, Anne begins reading,
starting with "Demon Chant"- for Lee Worley and the Naropa Theater Ensemble ("demon in me,white woman demon in me/moving moving, see it moving through her.."),
followed by "The Tundra & The Waves" ("I went up to the ocean to see the tundra with my lover who loved the sun.."), "Talking Mushrooms"" ("the mushrooms say"..) , "Thirty Lines" ("If/I/can/gaze/at/you.."), "Love Poem" ( "This is an account where I have not mastered cinematic intelligence.."), "Clique" ("You nearly destroyed me...").
Then, "some political poems" - "Fuck-Up" ("You are an act involving an unintentional deviation from accuracy.."), "Plutonian Poem" ("Fuck Plutonium! - Love it? Hate it!.."), and two journal poems - "Journal Poem from New York" ("Keep rocking New York...") and "Things To Do On Caribou Road" ("Thick mist clogs canyon.." - including the lines - "Allen G calls from Denver airport enroute from Caspar, Wyoming to a state with an "M"/He got drunk last night with the Arts Council/"They never give us any money!") -
"Painted Ship On Which The Little Ships Ride" ("Tell me about when you had sailor's eyes.."), "Detail" ("Did you have to pay for a rejection?...")
There follows a longish pause (perhaps Barbara Dilley arrives on stage at this point?) - and then Anne reads (starting approximately twenty-four-and-a-half minutes in) the long poem, "Matriarchly" ("I gave this part away from me and does it come back to me?"... "I peck at the enormous switch to bring it on again") and "just a couple more works here" - ( a brief pause) - "Mirror Meditation" - "I'll read this for Barbara (Dilley) It's called "Mirror Meditation" - ("Look at my face/ you have aged me"..."You do this, do it, lead me astray") -
"Okay, one final piece" ..."We need a referee up here and a few towels", Anne jokes."This is part of a work-in-progress called "Skin Meat Bones" - Anne gives an early reading from "Skin, Meat, Bones"
Note: From approximately forty-two and a half-minutes in (when Anne's reading ends) until approximately forty-eight-an-a-quarter minutes in (when Michael Brownstein briefly introduces Allen there is a prolonged silence
At approximately forty-eight-an-a-quarter minutes in Michael Browstein introduces Allen and he begins, leading first with a long improvised chant of the classic Heart Sutra (Prajnaparamita, Perfect Wisdom Sutra) mantra - gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā
[Prajnaparamita personified - Sanskrit Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra manuscript written in the Ranjana script. Nalanda, Bihar, India. Circa 700-1100 - via the Collection of The Asia Society]
AG: "Th(is) program, brought to you by Naropa Institute, with many many genius students and teachers, is part of a continuing series in which we're trying to integrate meditation, intellect, energy, poetics, dance, good tongue, good breath, good fingers, good asses and sitting (probably impossible on a shoe-string anywhere else in the nation, or maybe in the world). So the evening is basically to demonstrate what we've accomplished in the four years that Naropa has been here [Naropa was founded in 1973], but also to remind you that we're all broke, and so this program tonight is part of a fund-raising campaign, also...."
[Allen continues his fundraising pitch (including further comments on the upcoming Stan Brakhage film evening), then turns to the programme at hand] - The programme for this evening. I'll read about twenty minutes of poetry, all short poems, and then we'll do a Buddhist country 'n western song (actually, gospel-style), in which you are invited to join in on the responses, "Gospel Noble Truths" (I'll announce them as we go along), a song of (William) Blake, "The Nurses Song", (which has a chorus that everybody can sing), a song dedicated to Bob Dylan and his samsara, "Lay Down Your Mountain", and last, a repeat from the last poetry reading last session of a long tune called "The Rune" with Buddhist-oriented language. Since most of us here are involved with Buddhism.
So, I'll begin with a haiku, written after sitting for three months, ten hours a day (half that time), ten hours a day at the Vajradhatu seminary, the first Vajradhatu seminary, the Vajrayana seminary, which Chogyam Trungpa conducted, sitting samatha style, focusing, or paying attention to breath, calming mind, observing thought-forms.
[Allen reading begins approximately sixty-four-and-a-half minutes in with "Teton Village"] - "Snow mountain fields/seen thru transparent wings/ of a fly on the windowpane" - Then, "two poems ("Don't Grow Old") regarding the death of my father last year, last year near this time (August). I sat with him a while as he was wasting - ("Wasted arms. feeble knees.." "What's to be done about death?..")
"In October last year (1976), Peter Orlovsky and I went to Land o' Lakes, Wisconsin to another Vajrayana seminary, doing long sitting and much study, and my conclusion was "Buddha died and left behind a big emptiness! - "Drive All Blames Into One" (That's a Mahayana slogan) - Allen reads "Drive All Blames Into One" ("It's everybody's fault but me.."). Then, "Hearing "Lenore" Read Aloud at 203 Amity Street" - "I went with a young friend to visit Poe's grave in Baltimore, tombstone, also visited a house where he lived, and this kid was so enamored of Edgar Allan Poe's trance mystique that he read a poem aloud in every room of the house and so while he was reading, downstairs in the sitting-room, I wrote this" ("The light still gleams, reflected from the brazen fire tongs.."). Then, Punk Rock - Punk Rock Your My Big Crybaby! , followed by " Kidney Stone Demerol Traum - ("inspired by Michael Brownstein's poetics) - "It's always acting like that beginning you get in your car and drive in the oppposite direction lock bumpers with a truck going backward, get out and taxi to the railroad station..". "suspicion!" - "I'm suspicious of any move you'll make").
"Two love poems. These are (the) two last poems here" - Allen reads, complimenting each other, the poems "I Lay Love On My Knee" and "Love Replied"
Finally, a music performance [complete with piano,violin and trumpet, the full twenty-piece orchestral accompaniment] of "Gospel Noble Truths" ("featuring the three marks of existence, the four noble truths, the eightfold path, which you can sing along with, instructions for samatha, or Zen sitting, and an accounting of the six senses. There is (there are) sing-along parts, which the musicians will be singing to, so where you hear them pick up, please do. The style? - the style is gospel - "Gospel Noble Truths")
The tape ends here, but the evening's performance picks up on another tape.
The audio for that continues here, starting approximately one minute in, with a rousing version of William Blake's Nurse's Song ("The text was William Blake's "Nurses Song", from "Songs of Innocence and Experience"). Next, beginning approximately seven-and-a-half minutes in, "Lay Down Your Mountain", "a song dedicated to Bob Dylan and his samsara" - "so the word "lay down" has two meanings - lay down, lay it down, drop it, drop - and also, like, lay down your story - and it changes in the middle") and, finally, from "Contest of Bards", starting at about thirteen-and-three-quarter minutes in, "The Rune" ("Last session, I had a long poem that was mixed with music, so this is a repeat, with same musicians and many more , the same song - Can you hear words, by the way? Anybody not able to hear words, syllables, distinctly? - Great. This is the last song" - Allen to his accompanists; "First piano, then violin introduction, and then six verses sung. When we sing, we'll be doing it all in unison, once the introduction's over, so everybody come in").
Following the performance, Allen then introduces the musicians [three decades and more on, please excuse any (inevitable) errors in transcription] :
The musicians - string section mostly poetry students Francis Slack on viola, Brian Muni on violin cello Richard Wurtz, Fred Rothbard tickling the ivories, Peggy Berkowitz, clarinet, Dan Rothbad, clarinet, David Wagner (bearded) flute, Ben Henderson, trumpet (and white shirt), the immortal Glenn Edwards on trumpet, lomg-haired Denis Hildenbrand on flute. 18-year-old Mark Fisher on guitar, Richard Roth saxophone (classics scholar saxophone), Charlie Pilau (guitar) - on tuba, William Weiss, Dorothy Sherman, recorder, on Tibetan bells, Randy Rieff, Leslie Leshinsky, bassoon - center (with moustache and goatee) Bill Roberts, head of the music section on bassoon - Bill Douglas, ok, I'm allowed one fuck-up. Bruce Hart?, third bassoon, Tasha Robbins and friends on guitar and vocals, Alison Bennett, Patsy Nicholas, - did I leave anybody out? - got everybody in - ok- thank you for your patience