Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Walt Whitman's Birthday

[Walt Whitman (1819-1892), April 15, 1887, NewYork City - Photograph by George C Cox - courtesy the Bayley Collection, Ohio Wesleyan University & The Walt Whitman Archive]

What thoughts I have of you tonight Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon. 
         In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations! 
         What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!—and you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons? 

         I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys. 
         I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel? 
         I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective. 
         We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier. 

         Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight? 
         (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.) 
         Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely. 
         Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage? 
         Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe? 

It's that time of the year once more - May 31st, the birthday of Allen's great hero, (our great hero), Uncle Walt, "dear father, graybeard…courage-teacher.."

Previous birthday salutes on the Allen Ginsberg Project for Whitman can be found here, here and here

An early note (a class transcription from Naropa, 1975) may be found here

Further transcription from Allen's 1976 "Spontaneous Poetics" classes at Naropa may be found here, here, here, here, here, and here
With additional classes (Whitman and the Calamus Poems, Whitman and William Wordsworth) - here and here

[A lock of Walt Whitman's hair!]

In addition:
A four-part transcript from Allen's 1981 class, "Expansive Poetry" - here, here, here & here

and a transcript of Allen's contribution to  1988's "Voices and Visions" (see below) - here

As always,  a shout-out to the incomparable Walt Whitman Archive and to the invaluable Whitman Web

Now, through to June the 4th, scholars are gathered at the University of Exeter in England for the Ninth International Whitman Week Seminar and Symposium

Here (from Horace Traubel's  19o6  With Walt Whitman in Camden - Volume 1 
Thursday May 31. 1888 -  W's birthday. Dropped in on Mickle Street on my way to work in the morning. W in bed but awake. Little talk. I kissed W. My congratulations. He was very fine about it. "Seventy years -  seventy failures - seventy successes - which do you say?" "It amounts to success, whatever may have been the failures by the way." "Good! Good!" I asked W: "And don't every life amount to success?". He looked at me an instant and then said, "I see what you mean. Yes - every life amounts to success", I hurried off, W calling after me: "I'll see you at Tom's; don't fail us at Tom's. In the meantime, see Ferguson - bring me something from Ferguson: I am hungry for something from Ferguson".

Happy Birthday, Walt.

Here's Allen (with poets Galway Kinnell and Sharon Olds) on the Charlie Rose show, on the occasion of the Centennial (1992), talking about Whitman

                                                [Allen Ginsberg with (portrait of) Walt Whitman - Photograph by Misao Mizuno]

Monday, May 30, 2016

Peter Orlovsky Parinirvana

It's Peter Orlovsky's parinirvana again. Remembering Allen's life-time love, Peter.

Check out these earlier postings on the Allen Ginsberg Project - here and here

See also here and here  

also, noticing his passing - here

and (recommended) - Steve Silberman's touching 2010 elegy - here 

and Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's memories -  here

The New York Times & Washington Post obituaries

& Tom Clark's memory-posting - here 

Ann Charters in the English Bookshop in Stockholm in 2014 recalls, in some depth, her relationship with. and memories of, Peter, reading from Bill Morgan's book, Peter Orlovsky - A Life In Words (including a reading of Allen's "Malest Cornifici Tuo Catullo" and "Sunflower Sutra" - for their Orlovsky connection, and a reading by her husband Sam of two of (Jack) Kerouac's Mexico City Blues

Rose Feliu Pettet recalls Peter Orlovsky here  - and further video moments from St Marks Poetry Project's 2010 memorial  may be glimpsed  here

Here's the unforgettable voice of Peter singing "
You Are My Dildo" (sic)

and an odd-little-item, a Peter Orlovsky rehearsal tape (Peter making several attempts at a version of William Blake's "A Dream" (from Songs of Innocence) ("home, home, home"), as well as, (half-recognizeable), a paean to Tibetan saint, Milarepa (to that unforgettable tune of  "You Are My Dildo")

Here's Peter as a saint or holy man (or, at least playing one!), Rick Shaw (sic), in rare footage from Marc Israel's 2001 film, Frankenstein's Little Monster

More Orlovsky on the Ginsberg blog: 

Here's selections from the beautiful Ginsberg-Orlovsky letters, Straight Hearts Delight

Here's a 1975 reading with Jackson MacLow

and here's a challenging"triple X" reading

Here's Peter, continuing to be sex-positive (from Constanzo Allione's Fried Shoes And Cooked Diamonds

and more rare footage of Peter reading - here

Sunday, May 29, 2016

May 29 - Harry Smith's Birthday

Harry Smith's birthday today.  Learn more about the unclassifiable maestro and treat yourself to a viewing of his remarkable Early Abstractions - here 
 (and/or Heaven and Earth Magic - here)

"You shouldn't be looking at this as a continuity. Film frames are hieroglyphs, even when they look like actuality. You should think of the individual frame, always, as a glyph, and then you'll understand what cinema's about" 

An example of an early Harry Smith painting  (Algo Bueno,  c.1951)  

and two more recent paintings (Untitled, c.1977)

and  (Enochian Tablet, circa 1979)

and here is Untitled, from the previous year

This past year has seen the publication of the first two volumes of The Collections of Harry Smith Catalogue Raisonne  (we eagerly await more)

Volume 1 is the Paper Airplanes

Volume 2 is the String Figures

An interesting note (2016) in recent anthropology

A continuing, unsurpassable, abiding musical achievement 


Allen remembers Harry here  - and here - and here

Gerd Stern remembers Harry - here

Tarot cards (Harry and the occult)  from the Harry Smith Archive at the Getty Research Institute


Lee Bridgers Musiek and Rani Singh immortalize some (just some) of Harry's remarkable (and not-so-remarkable)  objects.

M. Henry Jones's re-creations - on Harry, the filmmaker

 &, via M.Henry Jones - and to finish off with - priceless footage of the irascible Harry himself.

David Amram - 1994 at Naropa

                                                                     [David Amram]

                                          [David Amram at Naropa, 1994 - Photo by Seth Brigham]

continues from yesterday (1994, Naropa, Allen Ginsberg celebration)

***[Audio  can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-two minutes in, and concluding through to the end of the tape]

DA: Not only to honour Allen, who I’ve known over forty years, but also to honor the era  that Allen and I came out of. Some of the people who aren’t here this evening to realize that..that we’d all like to thank them for what they did for all of us in this century.. Speaking of people that I was blessed to know in my life - Charlie Parker, whom I met in 1952, played with, Dizzy Gillspie, who I met in 1951 and played with until he passed away, the painter Franz Kline, who encouraged Jack (Kerouac) and Allen and all of us to stick to what we were trying to do many many years ago when no-one else was even interested, the great composer Edgard Varese, and thousands of other people along the way whose names sometimes have been forgotten but whose hearts were pure, giving and sharing, who appreciated the fact that in this country we had not only a beautiful European tradition but a tradition of indigenous ways of speech, indigenous musics, a tradition of spontaneity and improvising and overcoming and joyfulness, the genius of Native American, African-American cultures, as well as people from all over the world who came here to make this incredible polycultural continent something unique, all the people who are here this week, [a week of Naropa 20-year celebrations],  all the poets are celebrating that.

So we’re going to celebrate that in the old tradition and you’re going to hear the members of our band. From Denver, originally from Latin America, New York City, and now gracing the Rockies with his genius and presence, one of the best musicians I met the year I lived here in (19)92,  Mr  Isidro Aybar

Playing the drums is someone else I met during that time (she’s going to be here tomorrow playing with a gamelon group, she’s a true Renaissance person in music, she plays all the beautiful world(s) musics beautifully_ – Jill Frederickson)

Someone I met in Taos in about 1981, when I was playing there, and he came down and we hung out all night and hoped to see one another, and managed to ever since (he had one of Denver’s great restaurants, he’s one of Denver’s great musicians, he’s also a drum-maker, he works counseling children in Denver to help them to overcome their problems  as a true healing person, as a musician as well. Many of you in the audience will recognize him from knowing him most of  your life, because he’s one of the greats and he’s right from twenty miles from here, Mr Jose Garcia

And for the young folks in the audience, those of you who might have seen Maynard G Krebs in Dobie Gillis, or heard about it, we can finally, as we honor Allen and open up a new library of information, take the great mis-information of Dobie Gillis and the bongos and put that in the MacIntosh trash-can forever in the great computer of Life, because the bongos are a sacred instrument from Africa, and when I did the first jazz-poetry readings in New York City with Jack Kerouac in (19)57 – (we had done that at parties constantly and..) - only those who loved and were beloved were allowed to play the bongos. And in the middle, Jose’s going to switch from the congas to the bongos to show you young folks what the bongos really are, which is a beautiful cultural instrument. So, goodbye Maynard G Krebs, goodbye Dobie Gillis, and hello reality as we enter the twentieth-century and this concert tonight and all week long can help to clean up that mistake in history. So lets forget about the stereotype and dig the music of Jose, finally coming all the way from New York City with me, one of my friends for forty-one years now since we met – in the US Army, believe it or not,  and he’s still a young man - he played with Tito Puente, Machito, the Metropolitan Opera and does just about everything – the heart and soul of our music  - Maestro Victor Venegas

                                                        [Allen Ginsberg playing bongos]

The music is spontaneous and so are the words. So for all the poets here, this is for you. I thank you for the evening in Naropa, Boulder, Montuno

[At approximately thirty-seven minutes in, the music begins - Cuban-Latino music - David Amram improvises]

"Well here we are in Boulder, Colorado on a beautiful July night . We heard Gary Snyder, the genius from the Nuyorican village [Miguel Algerin] and Allen Ginsberg out of sight. We say to the poets and the people of Boulder, Colorado, as well, if you want to write poetry, paint, play music, and you know you got a story to tell. Let those who criticize and take away your inspiration, throw it in the can as well, because if you’ve got something in your heart, it doesn’t have to be bought, it’s not something you have to sell. You can make it up like people used to do when Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey so long ago. And no-one said, “Homer, there wasn’t any commas or punctuation (in )something which has no place go . Because when Jack wrote On The Road in (19)57, Gilbert Millstein gave it a great review and Allen got so bummed out he went over to Europe and the other critics didn’t know what to do. Old Truman Capote said he was typing and not writing, he got so insanely jealous, he was freaked out of his mind. And now forty years later, Jack’s books are in the coffee-houses all over the world for all of humankind. In eleven languages that fills up the hearts and souls, of everybody all over the world.  I guess it shows if you’re pure and true in your heart, your literary human flag can be unfurled. So have hope, don’t be a dope, Don’t believe what other well-meaning people tell you. Just try and check out your own feelings of reality and perhaps your own sensations of truth . As Miguel sung to you a little while ago, in the first half of the program about HIV and all those others, we want to say here tonight, in Boulder, Colorado, to all you sisters and your brothers. Be strong, stay along, tell your children to sing their song , and have the freedom to believe in spontaneity. And if we do that in the twenty-first century, finally America’s going to be the land of the free…" 
[the piece then continues - instrumental break - the individual musicians take solos, before (at approximately forty-seven-and-three-quarter minutes in), Amram returns to rapping and improvising]

“Even if they played the music in the 1950s, don’t let it make you feel any older, don’t ever feel bad about yourself, don’t weep on anyone’s shoulder, don’t let bad vibes discourage you and make (them) feel colder. Just remember you’re here tonight to celebrate Allen and Jack (right live in Boulder). So we rejoice with all of you, and we say before the song is through/we’re so glad to be (here) to be back, and also come one more time through, So for all you poets and painters and writers here in the evening tonight, being in this celebration for this week is truly out-of-sigh . It means we’re honoring our people before they’re retired or expired. We’re taking in the club and putting it down and making it like to be lighter/So we’re going to take it tonight and thank you all for being here because the music comes from the heart and soul that makes it out-of-sight..."

Thank you. Thank you. Jack used to call that spontaneous prose and we emptied out many a loft and many a party and the second shift came in and they left too. We kept on wailin’ So we hope that all of you will, and tell your children and grandchildren to do that too because having fun is not that complicated..

                                            [Jack Kerouac takes over the drums - undated photograph]

[At approximately fifty-an-a-half minutes in, the set continues]
We would like now to bring out three wonderful  musicians to do another song . As you know, Allen came from Newark, New Jersey, the East Coast. I came from Feasterville, Pennsylvania, population two-hundred, brought up on a farm on the East Coast, and Jack came from Lowell, Massachusetts, which was then a much smaller town, also in the East Coast.  All of us dreamed of the West, of the Rockies, of Colorado, as a place we thought, maybe, we’d get to some day, even if only in our dreams, and, for all of us, it’s been a very very beautiful experience. I came when I was fourteen years old the first time, played with big bands, hitch-hiked out during World War II (it was one of the great experiences of my life just to be here then) Jack and Allen, of course, felt the same way and that’s all been documented. Some of the most beautiful music in the world comes from this part of the country, and this is the song we’re going to play. It uses the frame-drum, it uses the Šiyótȟaŋka, the recording flute, the Lakota-Sioux recording flute, the rattle, and the voice. This melody was taught to me by Floyd Red Crow Westerman (and many of you have seen him in the movie Dances With Wolves and other films, but I’ve been playing with him for twenty-four years and long before there was a Hollywood, long before there was a Philadelphia Orchestra, for which I used this melody that I’m going to play for you in a piece I wrote called “Trail of Beauty, long before there was a Europe, there was, is, and always will be a Native American culture. We’d like to honor that  (something Jack always talked about because in French-Canadian roots in his family, there were native people (and he searched and tried to find that, and he never did, but in his heart he knew it was there – so we’re honoring Jack’s memory too with that, and all the native people’s memories who have made this such a beautiful continent for us boat-people to come over and be fortunate enough to live in and bring our families up in and have a better life than we ever did in the old country. So it’s for that, that we want to welcome three wonderful people.

From Minnesota, now living in Mill Valley, California, (he) drove all the way here with his friend Deidre to be part of this festival. He has rock-gardens he’s designed all over the country. He’s a singer, an actor, a poet, a designer, (he) went to law-school in Boulder. He’s a pretty incredible person, and he’s from the Lakota people  - Mr Geoffrey Carpentier

and two young people who were brought up reading Jack’s books, Allen’s poetry, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti,  Ken Kesey, all  the people that were here this week  (in fact, my daughter was wearing a Charlie Parker t-shirt this afternoon), they’re fourteen and ten – and they’ve been blessed to know some of the people I was blessed to know, I want them to come up and play on this song too – and, parents, if you’ve got kids, as soon as they’re born, they’re old enough to be musicians – Alana and Adam Amram

[Amram and company, at approximately fifty-three-and-three-quarters in, perform  mastincala wacipi, or Rabbit Dance Song]. 

                                                                    [Lakota Cedar Flute

Following that, at approximately fifty-six-and-a-half minutes in, Amram declares:]
We’re going to do a piece now that.. just before Geoff (Carpentier) comes back to read a poem – we did this afternoon for the dedication of the library, dedicated to Allen and to a whole era of people who  helped so much to give us something to put in that library. It’s music from the Khyber Pass, where Pakistan and Afghanistan meets. This afternoon I did it with the two flutes from the Khyber Pass. I’m going to do it with the three flutes as well because that’s very commonplace there. Some of the beautiful music I learned in the mountains there when I was on a concert tour a long long time ago  and wanted to bring back home to share with all of you here. So from the mountains of the Khyber Pass to the beautiful hills in Boulder, Colorado, for all of you, two flutes and then three flutes from the Khyber Pass
[This piece begins at approximately fifty-seven-and-quarter minutes in and concludes at approximately sixty minutes in]
Thank you thank you so much

                      [David Amram in New York at The Five Spot in 1957 - Photograph by Burt Glinn]

Back in the Spring of 1957, poets from San Francisco, Philip Lamantia and Howard Hart got together with me. Cecil Taylor and I (who will be here later this week) and opened up the Five Spot at the end of 1956, beginning of 1957. Jack used to come down all the time and Philip and Howard would talk to him and he decided that he would like to  join them in the first jazz-poetry reading ever in New York City  (of course, we had many many of them at people’s houses, parties. There were also people who, hopefully, the literary historians and the ethnofunkologists will begin to recognize, like the great Lord Buckley, jazz poet supreme (I wrote a saxophone concerto called “Ode to Lord Buckley” and his wife wrote back and eventually a book’ll be written about him and he’ll be discovered forty, forty-five years later too, and be just as good, because he was beautiful and beauty never fades but, Lord Buckley, King Pleasure, the calypso singer The Mighty Sparrow, and Homer, of course, who wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey, accompanied by a lyre, were all outstanding jazz-poets) but, this was the first time we’d ever done it in New York City, officially, we did it at the Brata Art Gallery on East 10th Street – the place was jammed, and we did some more ar Circle in the Square Theater, and then it became written up in Time magazine, and suddenly those that did it were shocked at what it was supposed to be and dropped out of the picture because that wasn’t what we were doing in the first place. But history has a strange way of riding the boat so. Geoff Carpentier is going to come out and read two of Jack’s poems and we’re going to back him up in two exquisite passages from On The Road, one of which has some beautiful  writing about Colorado, we’re all so happy to be this week with all of you -  Geoff Carpentier - Jack Kerouac’s poetry -  
[Geoff Carpentier, joins David Amram and reads from "On The Road"] -  “And here I am in Colorado! I kept thinking gleefully. Damn! damn damn, I’m making it!…."…"I stumbled along with the most wicked grin of joy in the world among the old cowboys and Beat bums of Larimer Street".
“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievably  huge bulge over to the West Coast"…."I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty, the father we never found. I think of Dean Moriarty."

        [Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, David Amram, Allen Ginsberg (& Gregory Corso with back to the camera]

"We have time for just about one more piece, because they do have to end so we’re going to do a very short one (we had a lot of music to play for you, but, one of the famous Zen sayings is “Less is more”. So we’re going to end with a short version..thank you for coming.. this is music for a film that was done as a home-movie, little did we realize that thirty-five years later, it would be examined by archaeologists, historians, philosophers, cinematastes and just regular down-home folks, as an example of the culture of the 1950’s (or lack of culture of the 1950’s, depending on your point of view!)  ) . It was really just fun and Allen, Gregory (Corso), Peter Orlovsky, Larry Rivers, myself, a lot of other people who never were actors and proved it by their non-performances  got together to hang out in Alfred Leslies loft and the genius of Robert Frank’s filming, and Jack’s spontaneous narration, which he refused to alter, and I hope some of the music that I wrote made it look like we really had planned something. They’re going to show it here on Tuesday and we really hope you can come and see it. It’s a lot of fun, and this is the song from it, we’re going to end with this song, doing the long unexpurgated spontaneous rap Boulder version (and if you like to get this one, you can get it - we have our records out front, there’s one called Live At Music Fest” [sic] that we did spontaneously, that actually came out pretty well, (and) some of my symphony records, instead, if you want to get those, based on Native American and folk musics of the world - if not, turn on your tape-recorders and bootleg this one yourself, because everyone else has, for the last thirty-five years!, and we’re not upset about it, because we all have jobs, and are going to survive anyway!)  So, we hope that you enjoy it. We thank you for having us here."

[David Amram returns to spontaneous rap-rhymes]
"About three or four months ago, my daughter said,”Daddy, you’re a sap,/ you sit around talking about Jack Kerouac and all those others and you never even listen to MTV and rap/ Well I said, “I listen to Arrested Development and all those other cats and I really think they’re pretty groovy, really pretty cool/ I mean, they’re so hip in their own presentation they could even get a gig teaching at the Naropa school.
But I think that rapping probably went back a long long way. In fact know very well that it did./ So we’re going to hear a little bit of the ol’ primeval rap, we’re going to take
the 1950’s and lift off the lid./ You’re going to hear a little music that we used to do spontaneously long ago, with the words in the very beginning/ by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady who really did a winning/ combination of the eclectic, the European, the African, the Asian, the Native American and the slang/ They upset all the critics back in the 1950s when they thought we should all suffer a big bang/ and be blown away and have to stay another day/ and never come back to bother anybody other/ 
and we should tell every sister, every aunt, every uncle, every mother, every brother/ just to stay away and get a day-job and stop writing poetry, stop writing music, stop having so much fun/ and realize that life is just a  struggle and a Republican battle in which you can never be lost or won/. Well, fortunately, the times have changed/, and here, home on the range, in Boulder, Naropa, this afternoon, and this evening as well,/ we’re going to have a final story and listen to ol’ Pull My Daisy, what a story to tell!" – and here we go now…
[piano melody introduces Amram singing] - "Pull My Daisy/ tip my cup/all my doors are open/ Have my heart / for coconuts /all my eggs are broken/ Hop my heart /harp my lights/seraphs hold me steady/ Hip my angel/ harp my lights,/ lay it on the needy/Hop my heart /harp my lights/seraphs hold me steady/Hip my angel/ harp my lights,/ lay it on the needy."

"Well, when Jack and Neal and Allen and I wrote this song back in 1959, we never thought we’d be in Boulder tonight/, and seeing a sold-0ut house thirty-five years later is truly out-of-sight/ and Jack is somehow here, celebrating from Heaven and down to earth a spontaneous cheer/ and Neal’s digging the story as well because he’s the one who always had the stories to tell./ And so we’re glad that all of you could show up and share a sup from freedom’s cup/ Because "Pull My Daisy" doesn’t mean that you’re crazy, it only means that you know what’s down and up,/ so here in Colorado, on this beautiful night, we hope we’ve given inspiration to some,/ make you want to pursue your own dream, go where you come from./ We’re so glad to all be here and share with Allen Ginsberg the cheer,/ something that has a lot of cheek/ is called Allen Ginsberg Week/ Because he deserves it, oh so much/ and where are those critics in their lunch,/ while they’re at it, criticizing their bunch (they’ve got a job to do)./ So we say for everybody here tonight/good luck, don’t ever despair, it’s never wrong or rough on luck/ Because the sails of liberty are unfurled, you could become unwhorled/, and here at Naropa that’s all that you curl/– Glad that you can have it today./There’s not too much more to say,/ since “less is more”is the wayThere’s only one thing to keep us away./ Let’s listen to Isidro Aybar play…"
[Isidro Aybar and the musicians take instrumental solos before Amram returns with:]
 "Pull My Daisy/ tip my cup/all my doors are open/ Have my heart / for coconuts /all my eggs are broken/ Hop my heart /harp my lights/seraphs hold me steady/ Hip my angel, harp my lights,/ lay it on the needy/Hop my heart /harp my lights/seraphs hold me steady/Hip my angel/ harp my lights,/ lay it on the needy." - [song ends in mid-scat, just a few moments from the end]

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-two minutes in and concluding at the end of the tape]