[Gregory Corso teaching at Naropa - Photograph by Rachael Homer]
We've mentioned it before but wanted to mention it again - the new book/booklets by Gregory Corso (two short volumes), emanating from the inestimable Lost and Found (Cuny Poetics Document Initiative) - Naropa Lectures 1981 - (edited by William Camponovo, Mary Catherine Kinniburgh and Oyku Tekten, with a Preface by Anne Waldman, a Foreword, an Afterword, and a Vade Mecum - Guide to the Lectures).
Several of Corso's idiosyncratic and enlightening lectures have been transcribed here on the Allen Ginsberg Project, but not these ones.
As the editor's explain, "..the description for his Fall 1981 course titled "W327 Visiting Poets Class" informed that "Mr Corso (would) teach a course according to his interests at the time" - for three academic credit hours. Given the implausibility that any of Corso's cosmological historiography would fit within three neat credits, the looming scope of Corso's five-million-year curriculum lets us imagine that the Summer course was a proving ground for scaling his interests in the classroom. The phrase "at the time" in the course catalog suggests that salience was king; what needed to be taught, addresses, or workshopped at the moment would receive his earnest attention.
For the course, ten students were officially registered, but twenty-one showed up to the first class. After determing attendance through roll call -"everybody who's here, raise your hands" - Corso suggests he take the first ten students registered, unless anyone happens to be particularly excited by the material. In response, one student quips, "That depends on what you plan to work on". Corso fires back, "I told you. I'll give you five mil back - five million B.C. up to the present time and I'll give it to you fast."
A mercurial range of reference ensues as classes meet regularly, discussing, The French Revolution, time-travel, Shelley, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Count St. Germain, the Beats, and Heidigger. In these lectures, Corso consistently reinforces the course aims - to integrate historical and artistic knowledge in ways that inform and influence each other.By exploring the synergies of poetry, art, architecture, science, magic, and culture, he covers the entire pre-historical and pre-modern past in those short summer weeks…"
Anne Waldman, from her introduction - "Gregory was optimistic. His revelatory transmission was about knowledge, consciousness, the shift in the brain not the skull with morning glory seeds. And we learned to appreciate the Cro-Magnon. You had to "know stuff" as a poet. Make quantum leaps. Learn to "scry". Check out the Biggies: Tommy Aquinas, Venerable Bede, Villon, Chaucer, Dante, Malory, Cimabue. Gregory threw out "shots", as he manically scribed the names of radical luminaries on the chalkboard. He wanted to convey transformational alchemy, zap you with his magic wand, his chalk stick. The chalk wore down: the Emerald Tablet, Hermes, Apollonius of Tyana, John Dee. (Jack) Kerouac is suddenly Gilgamesh in his white robe needing to write "it" all down , in cuneiform. Gregory was urgent about these transmissions. One got accustomed at receiving these flashes along a historical trajectory he had thought much about. That sustained him. Part of his acoutrements. It was his psycho-physical being at work, listing the ebb and flow of history…"
"See what I'm gonna try to do in this class is give it to you fast. We're not going to stick on prehistory. I'll give it to you fast and then show you the art of the prehistory, what they created and all that. Words? No. You don't get no..no poesy yet.. But you get the idea of poesy. And once you get this in your head fast - it may take you years to go through anthropology school to get this shit - I'll give it to you fast - once you've got it, and you can graduate with it…"
"We can do this in five classes up to the year one. Future, I don't go for. Future, I know shit about the future. I'll take you up right to the present. The past, I know. The past is easy.It's already laid out. This make sense to you?..
"…remember, there's nothing you can tell human beings that they don't already know. They know. They can't express it . So when you express it really fine in a poem - You see, "Oh yeah, I understand that". That's called "illumination". You're waking up something in their heads that they already got there, but if they don't understand it, then what you're saying is bullshit…"
"…if you don't feel I answered you right on the Persian shit, you can fine me. If I try to get away with.. if I say, "Ok, that's enough, let's go to the bar", or something like that, you can fine me. That's why the University of Paris is a great university. Very early on it's called the liberal university. Not the church running it. And they had the good teachers like Aquinas, who came from the church…"
You can't afford to miss Gregory's "crazy wisdom" pedagogy
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
[Gregory Corso (1930-2001)]
GC: Now there's a story about this one, though. (Allen) Ginsberg and I were going to see Henry Miller, and we were in…. this was in (19)56, and we were going to see Henry Miller, and we didn't get to his house, who we stopped to see was (Edward) Weston, the photographer, a very old man, who took lots of pictures of William Carlos Williams and all that, Edward Weston, and pictures of Carmel, out there, and dead birds, and what-not. Well, it was raining, and when we were visiting him, when we were leaving, he says, "Don't get wet. I was a bohemian once!" (and the smell of prunes coming out of the house!)
[aside to John Logan] - Hey Logan, do you know about Weston, right?, in Williams' day? pictures of Williams? (He's the one who spoke about Williams very beautifully to me - he died about six or seven years ago)
JL: Guess not
GC: - Weston? - alright - a damned good photographer. Where is that poem you're talking about?
(GC: Are you sure?)
JL: Page twenty-eight [in Happy Birthday of Death]
GC: Alright. This is an admission now, I tried to remember, when I put Ginsberg on, just getting him on, I don't exactly know what he said, because I..I was never like (Jack) Kerouac, (man-alive, did he record so beautifully! I mean, he could go ten hours with you and he could get every word correctly). And I know we start walking along the highway and then suddenly we just start flipping out and screwing (about) ...not seeing nothing or anybody, just talking as it were...
okay… "Poets Hitchhiking On A Highway"
"Of course I tried to tell him/but he cranked his head/without an excuse/I told him the sky/chases the sun/And he smiled and said:/"What's the use"/I was feeling like a demon/again/So I said: "But the ocean chases/ the fish"/This time he laughed/and said: "Suppose the/strawberry were/pushed into a mountain."/ After that I knew the/war was on - /So we fought:/He said: "The apple-cart like a/broomstickangel/snaps & splinters/old dutch shoes."/I said: "Lightning will strike the old oak/and free the fumes!/He said: "Mad street with no name."/I said:"Bald killer! Bald killer! Bald killer!"/He said, getting real mad,/"Firestoves! Gas! Couch!"/I said only smiling,/"I know God would turn back his head/if I sat quietly and thought"/We ended by melting away/hating the air!"
[The above excerpt is part of an upcoming release by the UK-based Ragged Lion Press, from their series of "original, previously unreleased literary recordings" from the collection of the late Allen DeLoach. The recordings are and will be released as mp3s. A limited edition CD run (with extra material, including a booklet with previously-unpublished photographs of the author) is planned for later, in the summer. See notice of other Ragged Lion Press audios here]
[Edward Weston (1886-1958) - Dead Bird, Point Lobos, 1942 - via The Center For Creative Photography, University of Arizona]
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
[Fernanda Pivano and Allen Ginsberg]
Following a little detour on Shakespeare and Gregory Corso, Allen has a brief reminder for his 1980 Naropa "Rotating Shakespeare" class
AG: And I was to remind you that 'Nanda Pivano will be teaching the Visiting Poetics class tomorrow, I think, a survey of the impact of American Literature on Europe, (particularly Italy as an anti-authoritarian culture import or something like that.
I don’t know what she’ll cover precisely but (there) will likely (be) recollections of Alice Toklas and (Ernest) Hemingway and Ezra Pound and. (to Fernanda Pivano). who else? - or what do you think you will be covering?
NP: I don't know. I'll try to tell about how the Fascists were forbidding American Literature, how the Italian people tried to have a multi-cultural society..
AG: Yes. It’s interesting to me because (of) suspicions latent in Beat literature that it was supposed to be set up in advance as a bulwark against American Fascism, (which was my conscious effort, back in the (19)50s and (19)60s - to leave behind some sort of literary time-bomb that would explode when people started closing down with police state, censorship, and all that, some time-bomb that was already placed in all the schoolbooks so that it would be there permanently, and, at least, stand as some sort of mental wall against American police state constriction.)
She (Nanda) does have the actual experience of being in a fascist state and seeing the impact of a kind of funny free-thought of Hemingway, and other American writers, on the intellectual rigidity of the Fascists and then the social rigidity. And she’s had to live through that, so she actually has a history of, in a sense, what’s going to come to us,that might be useful to know, maybe.
"..Than other princes can.." [Editorial note - Prospero to Miranda - "Here in this island we arrived; and here/Have I, thy schoolmaster, made thee more profit/Than other princes can, that have more time/For vainer hours, and tutors not so careful."]
Yes.. what time are you doing it? what time is that?
NP: They told me six o’clock.
AG: Yes. Okay.
Student: Where does it take place?
AG: Here, It’s the Visiting Poetics, I think.What room was that?
NP: 104. They told me 104.
AG: Yes, it’s the usual.. it’ll be the last meeting of the "Visiting Poetics".
[Allen Ginsberg and Fernando Pivano, 1961]
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirteen-and-a-half minutes in, and continuing to approximately sixteen minutes in]
[Allen Ginsberg and Fernando Pivano, 1961]
Monday, May 2, 2016
An "out-take" from Allen's 1980 Shakespeare lecture
AG: [in media res].. a text. Does anybody know what I’m reading?
Student: (I know)
AG: Well don’t say.. or, I might as well say it.. I’m going to read some (Gregory) Corso in relation to Shakespeare’s language. Corso, on an elegant theme, similar, an elegant and archaic theme, that is - "Clown"
And I’ll read a few passages from a very long poem (with the title being "Clown") - So it’s all variations on the notion, or idea, the central idea of clown, (clown-hood, adressing a clown, clown acts), with the idea of Gregory as a clown himself, the poet as clown, and this is all his different little takes or imagination..imaginings of what his.. what his role could be.. or is, or was, or might be.
“For commoners I put things on my nose/ and tip-toe with the grace of gold “ –'I put things on my nose/ and tip-toe with the grace of gold “ - So you could take that right out of Shakespeare - 'I put things on my nose/ and tip-toe with the grace of gold “ - It’s amazing how rich Gregory reach of language is when you compare it with Shakespeare – and it’s unlike any other poet that I know in that (quiet) respective crisp, a crispness, like in Shakespeare. "For those I love I sit sad by stained glass…"
"It is time for the idiot/to pose a grin and foot on the deadline" - (sort of what the clown does, the idiot clown, does) - "It is time for the idiot/ to pose a grin and foot on the dead lion" - "to pose a grin and foot on the deadline"
Student: That's in riddles
AG: Yeah – "to pose a grin". Well, actually, what he’s doing, he’s using the word “foot” as a verb, I think.. or it’s ambivalent.. ambiguous - To pose with a grin and put his foot up on the carcass of the dead lion? - but he’s got "to pose a grin" - "to pose a grin" and pose a foot – to pose a grin and foot on the dead lion.
"Time to grow a mustache.." - "Time to grow a mustache; suck gin/and win with the hard-to-get-lady/Time to return from star trek/and scrub the earth - (that is to say, come back to the earth, like Prospero from magic, and come back to the human, “Time to return from star trek/ and scrub the earth."
Then some comments on if the clown should die - ("I still don’t know if the clown should die", is the beginning of this)
“If the clown were dead/ the month of August would we weighed/ with sacks of sour wheat/Dead the cloud,they'd be havoc!/The angels' jeweled apse/would collide/and smash a ray of doves!/ Fauns would lay waste the wood/ with faun-chewed babes!" - (fauns would turn into, like, cannibals eating babies!) - "Fauns would lay waste the wood/ with faun-chewed babes!" "Oily melancholy fits the black boot/now that the clown thinks to die" - (So ,"Oily melancholy fits the black boot/now that the clown thinks to die") -
"The punches of winter knocked out a herd of deer/Winter left the wood like a plate of chicken bones" - (that ‘s a pretty interesting Shakespearean similie – Winter left the wood like a plate of chicken bones" - Gregory was really proud of that. He thought that was one of his great lines of all time – “Winter left the wood like a plate of chicken bones” (because it’s such a delicatessen image).
Student: (That's the way the trees were too, Winter following Autumn)
AG: Yes, very apt. "The naked clown shivers by the snowy brook" - (so the clown, "to die", wood, "like a plate of chicken bones", and "the naked clown shivers by the snowy brook") - "Hold on clown!/Every stone is cosmos;/ every tree made of laughter stuff./Paint wide your mouth white!/With rlm leaves that make fake ears!/Redden your nose with lizards!/Be ready!/ Spring will soon step out from behind a tree/ like Eve from the side of Adam/ Tang-a-lang boom! Fife feef! Toot!" - (so he’s got the whole circus-band, or whole circus-like clown-band reduced to six syllables – "Tang-a-lang boom!…"). I remember he worked on this line for about a week, or, you know, had different versions of it for a week, trying to reduce the entire sound of the little toy band of the clown to – "Tang-a-lang boom! Fife feef! Toot!" - he cut out the horn too -"Fife-feet", he put down, like, "feef" was the sound of the fife, so "Fife-feef" and "Tang-a-lang boom" is the triangle and the drum - (all at once!) So you have the drums, the fifes, and the trumpets entirely in six syllables - Tang-a-lang boom! Fife feef! Toot!" which is a little bit like some (little) Shakespeare burthens or refrains, you know like “Tu-whit/ Tu-who” or whatever the burtherns (sic) are. Yes?
"Winter, that I’ve been your clown;/ that I’ve read your beady scripture” – "beady scripture"? - I hold no grudge/My joy could never wedge free/from sorrow's old crack" -
"Of course the unicorn will be killed/ so don't think your red nose/your flabber mouth/your million-dollar laugh won't" - (won't be killed - of course, the unicorn won't be killed - "so don't think your red nose/your flabber mouth/your million-dollar laugh won't") - This is one of the most tailored of all Gregory’s poetry in terms of reducing all the main ideas to the most accurate and precise and economical, and, at the same time, most colorful or active phrasing (like “your flabber mouth” is, like, a perfect description of a clown mouth, a big flappy clown mouth - “your flabber mouth” it’s like…)
Let’s see, what else…
Let’s see, what else…
"The clown is dead!/ Pass along the highway of 1959 - all clowns are dead!/See the great dumps of them swarmed by seagulls/their tufted hats frayed/their face noses and ears smoldering,/their polka-dot coveralls darkening/underneath the sunfairy's final nighthorn./The helly ringmaster cracks his whip!/The circus's great mercy shoots fire!/Acrobats gnaw their wires!/Skeletal apes twist meatless bananas!/
The lion trainer's bony jaw!/Hotdogs and coca cola for the charnel!/Elephant trick dust on the purgative scale/ Fifty shrouded clowns pile out/ from a tiny tomb." - "Fifty shrouded clowns/ pile out from a tiny tomb" - (that’s like a taking off from, you know, when you’re in the circus, and about fifty clowns pile out of a little car, taxi cab (and he's got - "Fifty shrouded clowns/ pile out from a tiny tomb". It’s so funny! – the reversals – all of it reverses here. So it ends, "But/ I am not always a clown/and need not make grammatic/Death's diameter" - (In other words, I don’t have to explain in complete grammar, in long sentences, how big, wide, death is) - "Death, like a monkeys tail,/ wraps down spirally on a rising,/ever rising pole./ How to climb and sit on the turret/away from the breath of the sick/away from the souls who sleep/in Death's cylindrical kick -/Ah,/this surfeit of charlatanry/will never leave my organic pyx/thank God" - (I’ve forgotten what "pyx" is – does anybody know?)
Student: Yeah pixel?
AG: Pyx – P-Y-X. I used to know, It’s some..
Student: It’ some kind of church implement. I can't remember right now.
AG: Church? Yeah ..or organic pyx So this surfeit of clowning, surfeit of false charlatanry will never leave his nature, "organicl pyx, thank God!"
Well, the point I was trying to make is that certain elements of Corso have a Shakespearean accuracy and proprietry (like Shakespeare’s soliloquys) - or, like some of the more vigorous Shakespeare ..what do you call it? – orations, when somebody.. Gonzalo here (in The Tempest) was giving big orations.
This is (like) Gonzalo’s speech on Man, [from"Man"] on the nature of Man:
This is (like) Gonzalo’s speech on Man, [from"Man"] on the nature of Man:
“The good scope of him is history, old and ironic;/Not modern history, unfulfilled and blurred -/Bleak damp fierce thunderous lightning days;/Poor caveman, so scared of the outside,/So afeared of its power and beauty,/Created a limit, and called that limit God - 'Cell, fish, apeman, Adam:/How was the first man born?/And why was he ceased being born that way?/ Air his fuel, will his engine, legs his wheels,/Eyes the steer, ears the alert" - (that’s very Shakespearean) – “Eyes the steer, ears the alert;/He could not fly but now he does -/the nails hair teeth bones blood/All in communion with the flesh/The heart that feels all things in life/And lastly feels in death"– and so forth.
- Well, “..the eyes, the eyes/ The penis is a magic wand,/ The womb greater than spring” – "I do not know if he be Adam's heir/Or kin to ape" - (I guess that’s, all, probably, imitating Shakespeare?) – “I know not he be Adam’s heir/ Or kin to ape” probably, would be the Shakespeare phrasing - "I do not know if he be Adam’s heir/ Or a kin to ape” - but "Adam’s heir or a kin to ape” is, like, right out of Shakespeare cadence and condensation – “No man knows: what a good driving mystery,/ I can imagine a soul, the soul leaving the body,/The body feeding death, death simply a hygiene/I can wonder the world the factory of the soul/The soul putting on a body like a workman's overalls (cover-alls) - And so forth.
Well, it's just a little reminder of Gregory’s genius compared to Shakespeare. He can stand up well read next to Shakespeare. and there aren’t many poets that can. (In fact, he’s) practically the only modern poet I know who.. one of a few, (a few phrasings by different people), that really look witty, and compare wittiness of condensation through Shakespeare
Student: There's a massive scope there.
Student: It's the scope in Shakespeare that's massive....
Student: It's the scope in Shakespeare that's massive....
AG: Well, oddly enough, you know, like, the poem, ”Clown”, is a very long poem, which covers the whole subject of charlatanry, clownhood, double-mindedness, drunken, alchoholic fuck-up Gregory clown buffoon, which covers that whole… that’s a big scope (yeah, sure, he didn't write big historical plays (tho’ Shakespeare…Gregory did actually).
Student: (He has some) tiny light, you know, these little poems that seem to have an airy quality that….
AG: Well, Gregory wrote one little song that's airy, that's here – see if I can find it. There was one that comes to mind instantly, actually, strangely enough…[Allen searches] ...well let's see now… It ends "I dip my pink"..I don’t know if I could find it actually without going through a long…
Student: Is that what it's called?
AG; It ends on, "I dip my pink" – It’s just a little tiny song, sort of like “Come Unto These Yellow Sands”, almost.. I don’t know, I’ll find it, sooner or later. I’ve got to teach him this afternoon, so I’ll find it. [Editorial note - the poem that Allen is looking for is "I Dream In The Daytime" (from Elegiac Feelings American) which ends "I cringe my sink/I gloom my stove/ They leave me pink/I dip my glove"]
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at the beginning and continuing until approximately thirteen-and-a-half minutes in]