Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 291

The big news today. Upcoming on the Ginsberg site, we're working on a number of upgrades and changes. Stay tuned (and bear with us as we iron out all of the issues of transition). Starting next week, we'll no longer be with blogger, the blog will be accessible, instead, via a newly-vamped and considerably-improved site. We anticipate a few problems vis a vis access to some of the older posts (the archives), but, don't worry, we're on the case with this and we'll have everything back up, accessible and better-than-ever, before too long.

Meantime, a quick Friday Round-Up

                                                                   [Tom Hayden (1939-2016)]

Tom Hayden's passing this week. We continue to mourn.
The New York Times obituary is here, the LA Times obituary is here 
Here is Democracy Now! 's memory and celebration
Here is his 30,000 word Port Huron Statement (the key text that he was instrumental in drafting in 1962 for the SDS) - Tom Hayden, a prescient voice of conscience against the Vietnam War.

Several decades later -  August 2 1993, Allen to Gary Snyder:
"Returned tonight from Naropa - saw Tom Hayden who was addressing our Ecological Studies section. We mentioned Peter Warshall's work in unbuilding a dam in Maibu. Hayden said he'd got the money out of state legislature for some project (but hadn't met Warshall except maybe briefly). Interestingly, he seemed to've moved (as an ex-Catholic) to spiritual ground for ecology, focusing on local politics. Knew your work and had read Rick Fields (who was present at the lecture) - strange circles.." 

Strange circles.

Looking back to December, 1967
Alan Ziegler (who we've featured here before) posted, earlier this week, a delightful Allen Ginsberg remembrance - "Tales of the Sixties: Allen Ginsberg's Three Days In Schenectady". Among the recollections:

(Bob) Dylan's Scarf: "Allen notices the album jacket for Dylan’s John Wesley Harding propped against our stereo speaker, and points to the scarf worn by one of the people standing next to Dylan. “Dylan gave it to me,” Allen says, extending the scarf he is wearing". (and) Dylan's Poetry: "We discuss (Bob) Dylan as poet: “ ‘The motorcycle black Madonna two-wheeled gypsy queen!’” Allen declaims. “That’s as good as anything I’ve written!”
Uncle Allen: "Allen walks by the poster of him wearing an Uncle Sam hat. He stops, backtracks, and signs his name on the ribbon."
Bathtub: "I awaken in the middle of the night and step into the bathroom, startled to see Allen Ginsberg in his underwear crouching over the bathtub. He is washing his blue jeans."

For more sacred and profane revelation, (crumbs, but nonetheless interesting crumbs) - see here

[Postcard from Allen Ginsberg to Alan Ziegler: "Dear Mr Z, I don't know my schedule as it's made up by others while I stay home & avoid correspondence and do my work - poesy, solitude as much as I can get. See you I guess, there. I'll keep your address & number. Thanks for good cheer - Allen Ginsberg"]

Congratulations to Allen's (ex-) student, Paul Beatty, 1989 alumnae (MFA) of Brooklyn College, winner of the prestigious 2016 Man Booker Prize  
" Allen Ginsberg’s generosity, his oddball stories, and his boundless love for poetry and process, always left me grateful and thinking, ‘I didn’t know you could to that

’                                                                             [Paul Beatty]

and, still in the environs of the UK,

Allen's reading of "Who Be Kind To" at the Albert Hall in 1965 at the International  Poetry Incarnation is featured in this brief clip from BBC radio - here

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Spenser - Like As A Huntsman..

                                                           [Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)]

AG: Okay, next - (Edmund) Spenser! - We'll have a little bit of Spenser anyway. Page one-sixty ---page one-sixty . I thought that one long sonnet, an odd sonnet he's got there. We'll take one sonnet anyway.
Did we do this? Did we do that Sonnet 67 [Amoretti LXVII] ? on page one-sixty? - Well, it's kind of witty and kind of interesting. Since we haven't much of Spenser, lets just… Can somebody read that sonnet aloud? somebody who's got the…Could you perhaps? [Allen turns to Student (Pat)] Well, Pat (sic), I think you've got the language, maybe, try that one? Sonnet 67? 
[Student (Pat) reads]

Like as a huntsman after weary chase,
Seeing the game from him escap'd away,
Sits down to rest him in some shady place,
With panting hounds beguiled of their prey;
So after long pursuit and vain assay,
When I all weary had the chase forsook,
The gentle deer return'd the self-same way,
Thinking to quench her thirst at the next brook.
There she beholding me with milder look,
Sought not to fly. but fearless still did bide:
Till I in hand her yet half trembling took,
And with her own goodwill her firmly tied.
Strange thing, me seem'd, to see a beast so wild, 
So goodly won, with her own will beguil'd.

AG:  It's just a little… Remember that "They flee from me that sometime did me seek'. Again the image of the deer being caught, the lady as a deer. Psychologically, this is very interesting because…I don't know reading it this first time you have a chance to dig what he's saying but imagining his lady to a wild deer that he'd been chasing and chasing (or had loved, let's say), been chasing and chasing, and finally, "like a weary huntsman", sits him down to rest and, sweating, in the shady place, the panting hounds, like, "beguile-ed of their prey", vain assay, long pursuit  gave up, gave up on it  - "When I all weary had the chase forsook…" - all of a sudden, then, once you give up, then it comes to you - "The gentle deer return'd the self-same way", and.. but.. so there's a psychological thing about anybody who's laid too heavy a trip on a girl or boy trying to make them and found them offended and running away in the opposite direction, and then, calming down and giving up, and sort of abandoning the grasping, finds that, now that the great barrier of anxiety and frenzy has dropped, there's some open space for the other person to come in, look around, and make friends or relate a little bit. And, you know, perhaps somebody who did like him but was scared by all of his insistency.
So the great line is, "Till I in hand her yet half trembling took". So it's that moment of trembling gentleness that he's arriving at (so, which is really… I imagine everybody's experienced that in a love relation - that moment of balance when both are realizing that the situation is okay, and then the feeling comes to the eye and to the heart, and there's a trembling in the body, and the opening up of… oh, delight, I guess, painful delight?) . You don't have to… In other words, you don't have to push because it's all there coming to you and if you make any push it'll chase it away again. So I like "Till I in hand her yet half trembling took/And with her own goodwill,  her firmly tied' - Just intelligence there.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventy-eight-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately eighty-three minutes in] 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


          ["My Lady Greensleeves" - Dante Gabriel Rossetti  (1828-1882) - oil on panel  33 x 27.3 cms (1863) at the Fogg Art Museum (Harvard University), Cambridge, Massachusetts]

AG: And has anybody ever... everybody knows Greensleeves don't they? Has anybody ever heard all the lyrics of Greensleeves? - They're here? - Are they in our book here? 
Is Greensleeves in this book? -  I think so  - It's of the same time and from one of these Miscellanies - A Miscellany from 1584 called "A Handful of Pleasant Delights", where Greensleeves first was printed. Is it listed in the book? - in our book? (I have it in others). 

No, apparently not. Is anybody interested in hearing the entire Greensleeves? - just as a poem - to hear the words? Does that make sense? - We know it as a song
I mean, I know it by heart as a a couple of stanzas but.. 
I have a couple of different versions  [compare, for example, the version above by The King's Singers] - (You can) (see if there's any difference between them)

"Alas  my love you do me wrong,/ To cast me off discourteously/ And I have loved you for long/ Delighting in your company/ Greensleeves was all my joy/Greensleeves was my delight/ Greensleeves was my heart of gold,/ And who but my Lady Greensleeves"

[So, if you read it that way, you get "who but my lady Greensleeves" - who but my lady Greensleeves?]

"I had been ready at your hand/ To grant whatever you would crave,/ I have both wagered life and land,/ Your love and good-will for to have./ I bought three kerchers to thy head/ That were wrought fine and gallantly;/ I kept them both at board and bed/ Which cost my purse well-favour'dly/ I bought thee petticoats of the best,/ The cloth so fine as fine might be:/ I gave thee jewels for thy chest/ And all this cost I spent on thee./ Thy smock of silk both fair and white,/With gold embroidered gorgeously;/ thy petticoat of sendall right;/ And this I bought thee gladly./ Thy girdle of gold so red/ With pearls bedecked sumptuously,/ The like no other lasses had/ And yet you do not love me. /Thy purse and eke thy gay gilt knives,/ Thy pin-case, gallant to the eye;/ No better wore the burgess' wives/ And yet thou wouldst not love me!/ Thy crimsom stockings all of silk/ With gold all wrought above the knee/ Thy pumps as white as was the milk/ And yet thou wouldst not love me!/ Thy gown was of the grassy green,/ Thy sleeves of satin hanging;/ by which made thee be our harvest queen/ And yet thou woulst not love me!/ Thy garters fringed with the gold/ And silver aglets hanging by/ Which made thee blithe for to behold/ And yet thou wouldst not love me!/ My gayest gelding thee I gave./ To ride wherever liked thee./ No lady ever was so brave;/ And yet thou wouldst not love me!/ My men were clothed all in green,/ And they did ever wait on thee;/ All this was gallant to be seen;/ And yet thou wouldst not love me!/ They set thee up, they took thee down,/  They served thee with humility;/ thy foot might not once touch the ground;/And yet thou wouldst not love me! / For every morning when thou rose/ I sent thee dainties, orderly,/ To cheer thy stomach from all woes;/ And yet thou wouldst not love me! / Thou couldst desire no earthly thing,/ But still thou hadst it readily/, Thy music still to play and sing;/ And yet thou wouldst not love me! /And who did pay for all this gear,/ That thou didst spend when pleased thee?/ [Me!],/ Even I that am rejected here/ And thou disdains to love me!/ Well!, I will pray to god on high,/ That thou my constancy mayst see,/ And that, yet once before I die,/Thou wilt vouchsafe to love me!/  Greensleeves, now farewell, Adieu!/. God I pray to prosper thee!/ For I am still thy lover true;./ Come once again and love me!.."

That's a real…that's really working at it. And then there's "Greensleeves was all my joy,/ Greensleeves was my delight;/ Greensleeves was my heart of gold,/ And who but my Lady Greensleeves."

The quality of the poetry here is terrific, detail by detail, stanza by stanza. No wonder it's such a..  (I mean) century after century, it's been a pop hit. So maybe that's, in some respects, just maybe the one familiar pop song which has been a pop hit over and over again.  (Thomas) Campion never came back (except to intellectuals and cognoscenti), but Greensleeves, almost everyone knows (at least, in the 'Sixties, everyone was into this). It's amazing. If you want… So, in a sense, it's an ideal, as a song, it's an ideal, because it's perennial, comes back. It seems to survive..

Student: The melody's so haunting.

AG: The melody is excellent - but the words.. But also there's something about the "Greensleeves was my.. all my joy" [Allen begins singing]  I mean, the words.. fit. The words are suggestive, that "Greensleeves" is something like pastoral and green,echoing in the back of the brain, "Greensleeves", some archaic archetypal feeling about it. And the faintly?? the feeling - " do me wrong to love me so discourteously", "to cast me off discourteously, for I have lov-ed you for long" "And who but my Lady Greensleeves",  "Delighting in your company"...

I don't suppose we hear it very often the whole thing. So..

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventy-two-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy-eight-and-a-half minutes in]

Addenda:   - Julian Bream -  Ralph Vaughan-Williams - Jimmy Smith - a crazy techno version, and...

John Coltrane

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Thomas Vaux - The Aged Lover Renounceth Love

  [Thomas, Lord Vaux (2nd Baron Vaux of Harrowden) (1509-1556) - by Hans Holbein, the Younger  (1497-1543)]

Well, ok, so we've had Tichborne, and then there's another similar poem that's not in this book by Lord Vaux. (Baron Vaux) "In the Sixteenth (Century)…  In this Oxford book, it has a little note about how people published in those days:  - "In the Sixteenth Century Courtly poets didn't usually publish their work as soon as it was written. Copies of their verses circulated among their friends and often manuscript collections made up by their admirers got in the hands of enterprising printers. These miscellanies were then issued with such fanciful names as A Gorgeous Gallery of Gallant Inventions, The Forest of Fancies, The Phoenix Nest and A Poetical Rhapsody"  - So a lot of great great poems by great poets were first read in these little miscellaneous collections, and one, similar to  "The Lie" and Tichborne's Elegy is "The Aged Lover Renounceth Love" -  (and in Hamlet, apparently, the First Gravedigger sings a little bit.. this was a popular song of its day. And in Hamlet, I think, the First Gravedigger quotes it, when they're digging the grave. So: "I loathe that I did love" ("I loathe that which I did love", "that which I loved" "that I loathed I loved") 

"I loathed that I did love/In youth that I thought sweet, As time requires for my behove,/Methinks they are not meet./ My lusts they do me leave,/My fancies all be fled/And tract of time begins to weave/Grey hairs upon my head/ For age with stetaling steps/Hath clawed me with his crutch.." -  (that's really good - "age has clawed me with his crutch") -  "And lusty life away she leaps/As there had been none such/My Muse does not delight/Me as she did before;/My hand and pen are  not in plight,/As they have been of yore./ For reason me denies/This youthly idle rhyme;/And day by day to me she cries/"Leave off these toys in time" / The wrinkles in my brow/the furrows in my face/Say, limping age will lodge him now/Where youth must give him place./The harbinger of death/To me I see him ride/The cough, the cold, the gasping breath/Doth bid me provide/ A pickaxe and a spade, / And eke a shrouding sheet,/ A house of clay for to be made/For such a guest most meet.." - (that's what they quote in Hamlet - "A pickaxe and a spade/And eke a shrouding sheet".." - how's that for a popular song?) - "Methinks I hear the clark/That knolls the careful knell" - ["careful" - full of care] -  "Methinks I hear the clark/That knolls the careful knell/And bids me leave my woeful warm,/Ere nature me compel./My keepers knit the knot/That youth did laugh to scorn.." - [He's making fun of his perplexity - the knot of age when he was a kid and that  "My keepers knit the knot/That youth did laugh to scorn/Of me that clean shall be forgot/As I had not been born" - [same thing as the Tichborne - the Tichborne, let's see - "My youth is spent and yet I am not old,
I saw the world and yet I am not seen"  and "My tale was heard and yet it was not told"] - Of me that clean shall be forgot/As I had not been born" - "Thus must I youth give up/Whose badge I long did wear/ To them I yield the wanton cup./That better may it bear. / Lo here the bared skull/By whose bald sign I know/That stooping age away shall pull/Which youthful years did sow/ For beauty with her hand/ These crooked years hath wrought,/And shipped me into the land/From whence I first was brought./ And ye that bide behind/Have ye none other trust?/As ye of clay were cast by kind/  So shall ye waste to dust".  

So, like really direct. So, like, all these poems are really messages, messages from the grave, sent out to us, warning, you know, "Watch out!" or.. (the famous one is "Be careful of the day", or "Woe the day", you know). Be thinking about where you are, what you've got, right now because it isn't going to last . So this is like the extraordinary bubble-like miracle but it's not going to be not at all glued and permanent, and (is) subject to instant disillusion. But also, it's kind of..  I think that the glory and majesty and romance of Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi and the vampires and all that lies some(how),  like there's a hint of the living dead,  in a way.  So they're just telling you what the real score is anyway. And that's why everybody's really scared, because it's just a walking skeleton, you know, talking skeletons, telling you where the action's leading - in any case.  So these are like little talking skeleton poems, the skulls mouthing mysteries.

Student: You mentioned that in "Blues Gossip" something in your First Blues, book, something about that,  choosing, choosing death in order to..

AG: Well, I was talking about (Bob) Dylan there.  I didn't quite mean quite death there,  I meant instead of fame, or further glory, or giant stadiums, you know, like giving it up, in order to be free of the hang-up of it. Being free of the hang-up of fame. Death of fame as a way out of some of the mental prison that he got into. As I remember. I think tht was what I was..   It wasn't a literal death, like this, it was psychological I was referring to

 [Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-five minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy-two-and-a-quarter minutes in]

Monday, October 24, 2016

Tichborne's Elegy

                                                      [Chidiock Tichborne (c.1562-1586)]

AG: One thing we forgot was  Chidiock Tichborne's elegy (on page one-three-two). That has a really pretty tune. I overlooked it last time - (one-thirty-two of the Norton (anthology)). Written in his own hand, in the tower, before his execution. So, he only had a few.. like..  that day to live. So what did he have to say? - It's really great and it's on the same line as Sir Walter Raleigh's "The Lie" (remember we did that.. ""Tell men of high condition,/That manage the estate,/Their purpose is ambition... give them all the lie." - "Tell flesh it is but dust, tell time it is but motion ["Tell time it is but motion;/Tell flesh it is but dust"] - So this is Tichborne's version of last days

"My prime of youth is but a frost of cares/My feast of joy is but a dish of pain" (which must be.. is actually true, he's sitting up there waiting, suddenly realizing he's going to get it, from here on there's no way out - "a dish of pain" (the food he's eating - he looks at it and is nauseous, probably)

"My prime of youth is but a frost of cares/My feast of joy is but a dish of pain"  "A dish of pain" is funny, actually, it's a Surrealist line, image - "a dish of pain" - ("Give me a dish of pain!"  - "What do you want to eat?" - "I'll have a dish of pain!") 

Student : (What kind of) dish?  I assume they had a dish or something, you know… after the guillotine chopped off the head, there was, like, a dish..

AG: Yeah  probably, yeah. Yeah, it's probably literal.

Student 2:  They didn't use guillotines then, (in those days) it would just be an axe

AG: Axe, yeah, well…(and) a basket - "My feast of joy is but a basket of pain" - 
[to Student]  - You know anything about Tichborne, particularly, personally, in terms of his life?

Student: Do you know why he was executed?

AG: No, no I don't know very much about him historically. I suppose he insulted the Queen or whoever, or didn't pay his debt, or screwed somebody's wife at the wrong time, was caught cocksucking under Windsor Castle roof, or something. No, probably political, I bet he was a spy or something. I don't know.  [Editorial note - Tichborne was executed in 1586, along with several others, for his part in the Babington Plot, a plot to murder the reigning Queen, the Protestant  Queen Elizabeth I, and replace her with the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, who was next in line on the throne]

But the opposition, line by line, is really great, you know, like presentation of what the possible hope is, you know the pleasure of being yooung and happy and pink-cheeked and all of a sudden "dish of pain", and in every line it goes through. And so because it goes through with this statement and counter-statement, statement and counter-statement, line by line, it's a great form . In fact, this is one of the great forms that runs through English poetry, like a proposal and a counter-proposal, all done really fast. In a way, it's similar to Raleigh's "..Lie" (Tell love it is but lust/Tell time it is but motion"), and we'll get more of these poems, as time goes on, with this sort of, like, formula, almost, of a presentation of the immediacy and vividness and delight of life, and then, all of a sudden, this knife-cut in the middle of the line saying how really horrible it is.

And it's very similar to a basic Buddhist notion (except this is the English version of the basic Buddhist notion) of First Noble Truth, (that (Jack) Kerouac was really interested in. and centered in on) which is the essential suffering and painfulness of existence - that existence contains suffering. The Buddhist form is, like, (a little formula I repeat every day before I do meditation prostration things), is "Fortunate to be born in human body. Difficult to achieve, free and well-favored. But death is real. This body will be a corpse." -  (the next thought! - It's like a present-day "aha!, life is over…"But death is real", "This body will be a corpse" - It's absolutely literal. I mean, the more you… All you have to do is break your leg once and you recognize that, you know, or, (get) run over by a truck and get your teeth broken, or your nose broken.

"My prime of youth is but a frost of cares/My feast of joy is but a dish of pain/My crop of corn is but a field of tares/And all my good is but vain hope of gain;/The day is past and yet I saw no sun,/ And now I live and now my life is done./My tale was heard and yet it was not told,/My fruit is fallen and yet my leaves are green/My youth is spent and yet I am not old,/I saw the world and yet I was not seen;/My thread is cut and yet it is not spun,/And now I live and now my life is done./ I sought my death and found it in my womb./I looked for life and saw it was a shade,/I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb./And now I die, and nowI was but made;/My glass is full and now my glass is run,/And now I live and now my life is done. 

The "now" is great because, you see, it's like, he's going to be executed that night, maybe - or was it on the eve of his execution that? -  well, maybe a week before he was executed, but maybe that night.  But it's absolutely..  I mean, you don't have to be executed to get that, for it to be true (because you're going to be executed either way, you know, you're going to die, in one way or the other). And now… except..  the particular poignancy of "My youth is spent and yet I am not old/I saw the world and yet I was not seen" - that's really sweet, it's everybody in Wichita, Kansas - 'I saw the world and yet I was not seen"  - You know, it's like.. It's actually the great American lament, or "Elegy in A Country Graveyard" by Thomas Gray

-  the "Full many… " ["Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen"] about all the "lipless Milton's", or something, something like that, ["Some mute inglorious Milton [sic] here may rest"], all the great generals and epic poets that lived and died in this little country town unrecognized because they never did anything, but, you know, had the same mentality and the same ambition, except, maybe even wiser - What is it..?  "Full many a youth..?" "Full many a flower is born to fade unseen.."?  How does that go? Does anybody know that? "Full many a flower is born to fade unseen..? - Does anybody know that? Country Churchyard Elegy?  No?  Anybody hear of it ever?

Student: Yeah

AG: Yeah..let's check it out..There's one.. just because the theme is interesting - Grey's "Elegy (Written) in A Country Churchyard"

Student: (Page)five-oh-eight..

AG: Five-oh-eight - Actually, it's a pretty great poem. I'll just find one or two (lines)..oh yeah, line fifty-three (page five-oh-nine) - he's in a country churchyard, he's looking at all these graves, and saying, "Wow, all these people lived and died.." - "Full many a gem of purest ray serene,/The dark unfathom'd caves of oceans bear;/Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen.." - just like that..that reminded me.."I saw the world and yet I was not seen" - "Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen/ And waste its sweetness on the desert air." -  "Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast/The little tyrant of his fields withstood/Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,/Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood"  (that's just those two, two lines) 

Student: The age of heroism.

AG: Huh?

Student: The age of heroism.

AG: Well, it's sort of the anti-hero here.  Then the epitaph at the end - "Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth/A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown./Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth/And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.." (Well, also.. then it gets a little more charmingly sentimental )- just the notion of that "Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen". 

But here is the flower (Tichborne) "born to blush unseen", as he's saying, ("I saw the world and yet I was not seen"), and yet, at the last moment, he uttered this one perfect piece of music and sense, which has come right up to Casey Junior High School (classroom)  [location of the class], 1980. So he actually got his soul up to emit this little burst of perfect appreciation of the earth, of his existence. 
But what for? I wonder why he.. Why would anyone want to emit a bust of melody on their own existence just before they were going to get their head chopped off by an axe?

Student: What's the answer?

AG: Well, it's just an interesting thought. I wasn't saying there was no answer or is an answer, there's just….

Student: Nothing else of his has ever been found?

AG: Pardon me?

Student: Nothing else of his has ever been found?

AG: No, I think there's quite a bit of scribblings that he did in his life and probably some's very good, (if this is that good, there's probably other..). Actually, I've never checked out.. I've known.. This poem I've known since childhood and.. because that refrain is so beatiful - "And now I live and now my life is done" - both at once  - "And now I live and now my life is done" or "Right now I'm living, and in a minute my life will be done" - but I like the way he emphasizes "and now my life is done", in the sense of  "and now" meaning "the next minute", "at any minute, my life is done", or "right at this minute, I realize that my life is done", ("even though I'm living, I realize that it's all over, no way out")  

So.. But the mentality then of that utter moment of, at the verge of death, what would people do? - I don't know if I would be able to write a poem. I might get mad, get involved with real anger and stuff, you know, cursing out everybody and screaming and get shit in my pants,  or cower in the corner, or try to make up to my captors. I don't know, but he, apparently

Student: It's difficult to say.

AG: Yeah, but, apparently, he had the..  some kind of presence of mind, that's exhibited here, that's amazing, to make it so right (I mean, a piece of philosophy that's so right, anyway) - lamenting that he's going, but the lament here, there's nothing self-pitying or sad in it - it's just sort of a statement of the emotional poignant actuality of the scene and really is an appreciation of how "fortunate to be born in human body, difficult to achieve, free and well-favored" (he realized it was), right on that moment. Well, it's like a warning. So it wasn't..  So he was saying, like, "I really realize this now, and so I'll make this poem to warn other people to really appreciate what they've got while they've got it" -
But it's just a poem in anthologies, so who gives a shit anyway! - I mean "just another pretty poem in an anthology" -  But this is his death note!, suicide note, or, you know, last thing, manuscript found in a bottle sent out to eternity!  
So it's good advice, and it's not..  But it's funny, all these guys around this time (Elizabethan times), get that same cutting-through, intelligent, insight into the brevity of existence and the poignancy of existence, the mortal flash of it, and also the ["Age and age's evils, hoar hair/Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death's worst, winding sheets, tombs and worms and tumbling to decay"]

 "dust's old-age and ages evil's ruck and wrinkled dying drooping deathwards tombs and worms and winding-sheets and tumbling to decay", all that kind of...  (that's Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1880)  - death and death's worst, age and age's evil's, dying drooping death and death's worst…. I've forgotten… I had it right the first time..  what is it? a dying drooping death and death's worst age and age's evils ruck and wrinkle dying".. "ruck and wrinke aging.." is..  oh, I forget, I'll have to play back the tape to get it again. (It's) probably in here [in the anthology] - "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo". That was… it's not in there, I think… One line from   "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo" by Gerard Manley Hopkins - "Age and age's evils, hoar hair/Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death's  worst, winding sheets, tombs and worms and tumbling to decay" - It's one line!  - 

So all these guys around the Elizabethan times get this cut through life, you know. It's not like nineteenth-century poetry, where people are sort of gloomy in the middle of the afternoon and write these huge long endless poems about all the little details of the Autumn afternoon and the long Winter evenings, and everything seems to be permanent and eternal and go on for ever and ever. These ones have "Tell love it is but lust;/Tell time it is but motion,/ Tell flesh it is but dust" and it's very abrupt (like that other one of Raleigh's "Turns snow and..milk…" "snow and silk and milk to dust" - that still is a great line - "Turns snow and silk and milk to dust", remember? (page one-thirty-seven)?  - "Turns snow and silk and milk to dust

[Audio for the above may be heard  here, beginning at approximately fifty minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-five minutes in ] 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Reverend Howard Finster

 [Allen Ginsberg sitting on a Howard Finster chair in Paradise Garden, Pennville, Georgia, 1988]

The Reverend Howard Finster, Baptist preacher and internationally-renowned folk artist passed away 15 years ago. This year (2016) is the Howard Finster Centennial. A centennial show is currently up at the Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, Virginia (up until February 5, 2017)

A colorful and ubiquitous figure (particularly in the 1980's) and extraordinarily prolific (it is estimated he made over 46,000 individual art works), he claimed to be divinely inspired.

[Howard Finster - Self Portrait as a Young Man - 29000.344 (Finster's 29,344th art work), via Nina Laden, created, as he recorded, May 14, 1993]

Howard Finster:  " day I was working on a patch job on a bicycle and I was rubbin some white paint on that patch with this finger here, and I looked at the round tip o' my finger, and there was a human face on it…then a warm feelin' come over my body, and a voice spoke to me and said, "Paint sacred art""  

Each individual art work was conceived as a divine gift, but perhaps his greatest achievement/creation was in Pennville, Georgia, his immediate environment - Paradise Garden  - You can take a video-tour of the place - here, hear Howard speak of it here
 (and more unedited footage of the location here and here)    

Curious how, here on the Centennial, his influence appears to have waned just a little bit. Norman Giradot, author of the most recent biography, Envisioning Howard Finster - The Religion and Art of a Stranger from Another World, addressed this earlier this year - "Whatever Happened to the Late Great Folk Artist Superstar and Cultural Hero Howard Finster?
and Philip March Jones addresses similar concerns    

Friends gathering in the Garden at this years "Finster Fest" remember him

Here's poet Jonathan Williams' remembrance of him 

And Allen?  -

From John Turner's 2009 article in Raw Vision magazine - "When Allen Ginsberg Met Howard Finster"  

JT: I curated a retrospective on the work of the Reverend Howard Finster for the Museum of American Folk Art in 1989. The poet Allen Ginsberg came to a pre-opening party of the exhibition for a :meet and greet" with the artist. He told me that he had been down to Paradise Garden in Georgia a few years earlier, but that Howard wasn't giving sermons to visitors that day, He said that he enjoyed seeing the artwork in the Garden, took many photographs and bought a Finster cut-out in the gift shop. He asked me if I could introduce him to Howard and I said, "Sure, my pleasure". He then motioned me to the side of the room, where we continued our conversation. He said, "I want you to introduce me as a homosexual. Tell him that I was born that way". He went on to tell me that several of is friends who were familiar with Finster's work thought that he was anti-gay and that in some of  his paintings he had written that AIDS was God's revenge for homosexuals. Now the stage was set in a way that I hadn't anticipated and potential trouble was brewing - it was up to Finster to give a good or bad "performance".

 I brought Allen up to the table where Howard was signing exhibition posters and motioned to him that I wanted him to meet someone. I knew Howard well enough by then (having written a biography on him) to know that he was impressed by celebrities (from wrestlers to politicians) even if he didn't know who they were.

So I said, "Howard, this is a famous poet. He writes poetry, like you do. His name is Allen Ginsberg. He is a homosexual. He was born that way". Howard turned his head away very slowly and paused for what seemed an eternity and then looked directly at Gimsberg and said, "What is, is". 
A smile came over Ginsberg's face and he said, "I'm glad to make your acquaintance. Can I take a few pictures of you?"

A while later I took a cab with Ginsberg over to the Paine-Webber building and gave him a tour of the exhibition.

                          [Sculpture in Paradise Garden - Photograph(s) by Allen Ginsberg © Estate of Allen Ginsberg]

AG: "I think Finster is a poet; Why not? Bob Dylan thinks of himself as a poet primarily, more than that as a musician. Finster writes verses and there are inspired moments in the verses. There are moments when you get "genius" phrasing that is extraordinary. For example, the phrasing on his one particular tower ("Castle of Words") has  "..the door to the other world is to step through your shadow". That is somewhat Blake-ian"

"It is always laboring to read through any of his paintings or the books he has written. He doesn't edit. Maybe someone needs to make a printed edition of Finster's writings, like Blake's, with rge "genius" just in boldface so that people can scan."

"His writing is very repetitive and primitive in the sense of the religious message. I find his constant fundamentalist Christian core a little bit repulsive and obnoxious, even provincial for a man of such scope and energy. I don't myself follow the Western notion of  a monistic reference point to the universe. So that is a bit of puzzlement to me how the grander scope of his visionary insight became solidified to the more limited notion of  Christ, Heaven and Hell.
Because there are so many vast religions, including Buddhism, which he apparently admires, which don't require that conceptualities [sic] and solidification. The Hebrews used to say, "You can't make an image of the divinity. You can't reduce it to a word, because no image or word can displace the event of the universe."

"Finster also has this evasive "above the battle" insight that you might find in Gregory Corso, or (Pablo) Picasso. He obviously has seen something and understands something, but when it is spelled out in certain detail politically, morally and ethically, you are not certain where he stands.

I thought that was a very tolerant answer for someone who reviles sodom in his art. There was also a certain capacity for "negative capability" there (what (John Keats) called the ability to hold contradictory ideas in mind, "without an irritable reaching out after fact and reason". 

"His misuse of certain words and mis-spellings is very charming - dyslexic. It gives additional insight and that insight is from his own brainpan rather than imitative from other people or ideas in books. From that you get the impression of raw thought.

(William) Blake successfully combines word and image. So does Adolf Wölfli. I'm a photographer and I write long haiku-like captions on my photographs, so I'm interested in the conjunction of word and image. All through China and Japan there were calligraphers and ink brush geniuses wgo would write long and short poems accompanied by landscape paintings. Many of his drawings, such as the partition of his skull ("My Brain Is Like A Wire House") are parallel to the tantric arts, which delineate the chakras and even explain them. Some of his work even reminds me of acupuncture charts.

His paintings are fantastic. There is a certain amount of eidetic trickery, that is to say, seeing faces in clouds. It is very conscious and has a sort of confidence, like Blake had with those imaginative projections. They are in a sense as real as any other "takes" on the appearance of the phenomenal world. Blake also believed that the human imagination was one of the major elements of human form. Blake had it divided into body, feelings, art, intellect, and imagination.
Imagination is the great loophole, which will deliver people from being idiot savants, like (Albert) Einstein or Edward Teller. It can also deliver mankind from its muscle-bound materiality and hyper-sentamentalist love. Howard believes in his own imagination and now the question is, "to what extent does he actually find himself surrounded by three or four dimensional worlds when he opens and closes his eyes"?  I don't know. 

I had the experience of having visionary transport and even hearing voices myself. Those experiences were certainly crucial experiences in my life. So I don't doubt that they have the dimension of other phenomena. On the other hand, there is an old Buddhist phrase, "If you see something powerful, don't cling to it. If you see something beautiful, don't cling to it."
Emptiness is the grand palace. There is no Heaven and Hell, Howard seems to be clinging to his visions, so there is an element of the shadow of evil. There is always this little question of Finster, "Is he nuts? Is he another neurotic genius or is he a supreme visionary?" I would have to say that he is a supreme neurotic genius, which isn't so bad.
Howard is able to communicate the energy of living in the world with an unobstructed imagination. Certainly the exuberant beauty of his work is moving, like (William) Blake's, who says, "Exuberance is beauty."

                                                      [Allen Ginsberg and Howard Finster]

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 290

                                                  [Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)]

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's birthday today
 - from Richard Holmes' definitive biography:
" (William) Wordsworth called him "the most wonderful man" he had ever known; but many subsequent biographers have been skeptical. It would seem possible to write an entire book on Coleridge's opium addiction, his plagiarisms, his fecklessness in marriage, his political "apostasy", his sexual fantasies, or his radiations of mystic humbug. 

And indeed, all these books have been written. But no biographer…has tried to examine his entire life in a broad and sympathetic manner, and to ask the one vital question; what made Coleridge - for all his extravagent panoply of faults - such an extraordinary man, such an extraordinary mind."

Allen noted the "mystic humbug" (not exactly) - the Neo-Platonism and gnostic wisdom  derived from, in good part, Thomas Taylor's highly-influential translations. (Taylor was also a conduit to Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Blake)

and, as for the drug-use?

Allen, from the 1971 Partisan Review interview:
"What went on in the Humphry Davy household on Saturday midnight when Coleridge arrived by foot, through the forest, by the lakes?"
"Laughing Gas" - Nitreous Oxide - We now know quite a lot about that encounter: 

from Coleridge's notes concerning his nitreous experiments:

"The first time that I inspired the nitreous oxide, I felt a highly pleasurable sensation of warmth over my whole frame, resembling that which I remember once to have experienced after returning from a walk in the snow into a warm room. The only motion that I felt inclined to make was that of laughing at those who were looking at me…."   

And here's Allen's 1959 reading the first part of his 1958 poem "Laughing Gas" ("High on Laughing gas/I've been here before/The odd vibration of  the same old universe..") 

We quoted last week Allen's 1996 Bob Dylan Nobel recommendation, but kudos should also be properly offered to his friend and editor, Gordon Ball
As he notes here, in this Washington Post piece:

" was in August of 1996 that I first wrote the Nobel Committee, nominating Dylan for its literature prize. The idea to do so originated not with me but with two Dylan aficionados in Norway, journalist Reidar Indebrø and attorney Gunnar Lunde, who had recenly written Allen about a Nobel for Dylan. Ginsberg's office then asked if I'd write a nominating letter (Nominators must be professors of literature or linguistics, past laureates, presidents of national writers' groups, or members of the Swedish Academy, or similar groups). Over the next few months, several other professors including  Steven Scobie, Daniel Karlin and Betsy Bowden endorsed Dylan for the Nobel. I would go on to nominate Dylan for the next dozen years. This year he finally won." 

And also from the Washington Post  (Hillel Italie's AP story) - Lawrence Ferlinghetti's response - "Bravo for Dylan" - "Ferlinghetti told AP that he had "always considered Dylan a poet first.He had said that decades ago he had hoped Dylan would release his material in print form through the publishing arm of Ferlinghetti's celebrated City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. Alas, Ferlinghetti said, "he became famous" and lived on as "a song and dance man"

Joan Baez's response to the news - "The Nobel Prize for Literature is yet another step towards immortality for Bob Dylan. The rebellious reclusive unpredictable artist/composer is exactly where the Nobel Prize for Literature needs to be. His gift with words is unsurpassable. Out of my repertoire, spanning 60 years, no songs have been more moving and worthy in their depth, darkness, fury. mystery, beauty, and humor, than Bob's. None has been more of a pleasure to sing. None will come again."
Tom Waits -   "It's a great day for Literature and for Bob when a Master of its original form is celebrated. Before epic tales and poems were ever written down, they migrated on the winds of the human voice and no voice is greater than Dylan's."
and this (ever-astute) from another poet-troubador, Leonard Cohen - "To me (the award) is like pinning a medal on Mount Everest for being the highest mountain."

Dylan's own response? -  Well, he's remained very much in character, by not giving a response, being purposefully enigmatic ("The Nobel Prize Committee has given up trying to reach Bob Dylan, five days after he became the first musician awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Dylan, 75, is yet to respond to the accolade")

Allen's response? - Well, we're grateful to George Drury and our good friend Charles Bernstein over at PennSound for this remarkable piece of prescient audio ( "I'm reading Bob Dylan's Writings and Drawings book", Allen declares), recorded 1974 in Buffalo, upstate New York
-  ("On Reading Dylan's Writings""A Poem For The Laurels  You Win":
"Now that it's dust and ashes/Now that it's human skin/Here's to you Bob Dylan/A poem for the laurels you win/ Sincerest form of flattery/Is Imitation they say/I've broken my long line down/To write a song your way/ Those "chains of flashing images"/That came to you at night/Were highest farm boy's daydreams/That glimpse the Angels light./ And tho' the dross of wisdom come/And left you lone on earth/Remember when the Angels call/ Your soul for a new birth./ It wasn't dope that gave you truth/Nor money that you stole/--Was God himself that entered in/Shining your heavenly soul."    

The Pompidou Center's Beat Generation show is now down - but, great news, it resurfaces again, in a slightly-scaled-down version, next month at ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany (Jean-Jacques LebelPhilippe-Alain Michaud and Peter Weibel will be the co-curators)

William Burroughs in China - Following on from his Kerouac one and Ginsberg one, David S Wills delivers another installment of Beat-Generation-in-translation - Chinese book-covers  

Cause for celebration. Next Tuesday (the 25th) is Allen's teacher, Gelek Rinpoche's birthday.

                                                                            [Gelek Rinpoche]

For previous Gelek Rinpoche postings see here, here and here

And, for those in the New York City area, make a note of this -  Saturday November 5 at The Great Hall of Cooper Union - a White Tara Initiation, led by Gelek, free and open to all (seating is limited so registration to reserve space is required)