Saturday, August 1, 2015

Gregory Corso Interviews

Another of the summer's essential books (we're only just now getting round to profiling it) -
Rick Schober's stellar collection of the Collected Interviews with Gregory Corso - 
over a dozen pieces, plus an illuminating memoir-introduction by Dick Brukenfeld, (Corso's first publisher, of the 1955 Harvard volume, "The Vestal Lady on Brattle"), plus footnotes, index, dramatis personae...

a faithful capturing of that irascible, wayward, prison-smart, poetics-smart, uniquely vocal, unapologetic, Beat poet  

Corso, in 1980, to a patient and respectful poet-interviewer, Gavin Selerie:

"But if you take this tape here and transcribe it, people will read it on the page - they're gonna think I wrote that shit on the page. So that you better make sure, right off the bat, that I did not write this, that this just a talk one night"    

(Selerie gives him his "Shelleyan promise" that he will be faithfully represented. 
Corso needn't have worried)

In the course of this volume Corso gets to range on a vast array of topics, what he would characteristically get to describe as "the whole shot".
To take just two of the more focused moments (tho' Gregory's never anything less than "focused"!)

    [Gregory Corso - c.1958 Photograph by Harold Chapman]

From a fairly early (1962) interview with poet Anselm Hollo:

Anselm Hollo: Now "Beat Movement" means  what - that the movement that, lets say we gave a thrust to, was to be a movement of poets getting up reading their poetry, is that what you mean?

Gregory Corso: Oh well, that would be absurd - to get up and say, well here this is what I'm doing and now I hope everyone else does this - No, I believe that you have to have something to fall back on, you have to have it, and it should always be You - it should never Follow, from something else - that's where the danger of Fad and Monotony can get into it by the Relay…
Now "Beat Movement" if there was anything intended by that - to take the other angle - if it was something as a movement then it was for people to Wake Up! The poetry that was read by myself and Allen and a few others at the time was not altogether social , but a lot of it was Social - and a lot of it has come true: what we said - and a change in the Consciousness has happened.
Now a beat person in the United States is not a person who has a beard - exactly. The consciousness is changed by the beat  - it is entering the lives of people who go to college, who are married, who have children. They do not then, by their learning lock themselves up in a room and sleep on floors and don't take baths; that's not it - the Consciousness has altered there through everyone… it has changed completely now and taste has become refined,
What once took a hundred years seems to take a decade now; one doesn't read what was said but one listens to what is being said  - I think the main thing of the readings and the poems and all of it that came out was meant to aid and benefit man - to blend with the new consciousness! - It was to give sounding that Here it is and to get everything into that light, see it into that light. So therefore I think that the Beats really have done something tremendous and beautiful. And I'm only down on the fact that the beat today - who came up as beat  - are being Monsters of Frankenstein Replicas of the Mass Media - of the newspaper interpretation of Beat, But as for, let's say the original standards of the Beat -
and it's almost I think as important as the Early Prophets - what the Beat did was to speak of Love, and it was to benefit man, and nothing else.
It was Me - but in association with Everyone: the lyric poem itself is "I" but it associates with all Man, and therefore it is a compassionate form of Poesie. A poet is supposed to See: and what he Sees, he puts within himself - and records outwardly - in Poetry"

     [Gregory Corso, New York City, 1996. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

     [Gregory Corso, Boulder Colorado, 1985 c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

from Michael Andre's 1972 interview:

Michael Andre: In your poem, "After Reading "In The Clearing"" [in Long Live Man], you said - I can't quote it exactly - "Ginsberg is all I care to understand of the living". ["Poe is my only American poet sir/and my homeland were Greece and England/Shelley is my ichor - Demeter is my mother/And of the living Ginsberg's metaphor/is all I care to understand"] -  Is that still true?

Gregory Corso: That's probably generalizing too much. Allen's work o me is the sharpest thing that's being said. I like the early (W.H.) Auden, the "Christmas Oratorio" and "In Praise of Limestone". I really got to digging (Ezra) Pound. You say (Robert) Creeley. Yes, some Creeley is really fantastic. But then, I couldn't put everybody's name down.

     [Gregory Corso - Boulder, Colorado,  1985 c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

from a 1974 interview with  Robert  King (on the occasion of the University of North Dakota's Writers Conference):

Robert King: Your name, at least in the 'Fifties, was really connected with Ginsberg, more than any of the others we've had here this week

Gregory Corso: We were the two poets. They're novelists, you know [Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs]. And Allen and I were poets. When Allen and I read poetry; early in those days, he would read "Howl", very serious; and I was, like I said, giving the humor number. That's what saved it. It would have been too heavy otherwise. Gregory came over with his "Marriage" or something like that, and everybody was happy and laughing. So it worked, it was a nice balance. We were the poets, Allen and myself.

RK: So you complemented each other

GC: Oh sure, sure, sure.

RK: Ginsberg's really published a lot, has all these political connections, movement connections - he may be the most famous Beat. So you could be in a position to say, "Gee, I wonder if I should do more things like Allen".

GC: Right, and I did not. I stayed out of it in the Sixties and for good reasons too. I figured that was the route they'd taken, let thm go with it because something's going to have to happen after that; and conserve some of the energy, Gregory. Let Allen take care of it nice, ad he did. You know, this man's got all his strength and all his energy. You dig? I don't have to be throwing myself out like that. That's when Allen got to understand me. He was burnt up in the beginning, saying, "Gregory, where are you, man, like, help us along". I said, "No, this is where you've got to understand Gregory. This is what I do now. If I'm going to go towards dope, if I'm going to make babies like I did and all that, that's my shot.

Like we say (and there's  so much more) - an essential volume

      [Gregory Corso & Allen Ginsberg, Paris 1957. c Allen Ginsberg Estate] 

     [Allen Ginsberg & Gregory Corso, Tangier, 1961. Photo c Allen Ginsberg Estate]

     [Gregory Corso & Allen Ginsberg, 1989 - Photograph by Pamela Hansen] 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 229

[Spiderman and Allen Ginsberg cartoon - Tom Gauld]

From the current issue of Poetry magazine  – more Howl parodies – (we've featured several such before -  -  Amy Newman “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by wedding 
planners, dieting, in shapewear,/ dragging themselves in cute outfits through the freezer section for the semifreddo bender/blessed innovative cloister girl pin-ups burning to know the rabbi of electricity in poverty, obedience, in the dream stick of opium and the green Wi-Fi fuse.."

From the Paris Review - "Supplication to the Muses on A Trying Day" - quite a discovery!  - a hitherto unpublished Hart Crane poem - "Thou art no more than Chinese to me, O Moon! A simian chorus to you/and let your balls be nibbled by the flirtatious hauchinango…" 

Ai Weiwei being finally granted a passport – a not insignificant cultural moment. We send you back to 2011 and the Allen Ginsberg Project  here and here - and here

Auction news -  Christies First Open On-line auction this week (Post-War and Contemporary Art) featured three of Allen's Chinese photos (from his visit there in 1984). Here's one of them: 

[Caption: "Downtown Baoding, across from Department store, behind walled gate, this huge public garden's kept up - it was attached to some rich Merchant-official before Revolution - Photo snapped by student interpreter, everyone seemed interested. I liked the moon-bridge's mirror-mouth oval - November 1984.  Allen Ginsberg"]

The above photo went for an estimated selling-price of three-to-five-thousand-dollars 

The Kerouac letter from 1968 that we reported on earlier, in another auction (to Sterling Lord, detailing plans for his never-completed book, Spotlight), surprisingly, didn't sell, failing to meet its reserve price (ten-to-twelve-thousand-dollars). Another item, a 1953 photograph of him by Allen (with typically-detailed hand-written caption added), however, did sell (that one, for just over five-thousand-three-hundred-and-sixty dollars) 

On The Road mapped out and more. See more about Richard Kreitner and Steven Melendez's quaintly obsessive map-making here  

Sad news - the death this past weekend, aged 76, of the great English poet and translator, Lee Harwood. Robert Sheppard remembers him - here,  John Harvey - here.  Shearsman Books in 2004 published his Collected Poems (and his Selected Poems in 2008).  
Most recently, The Orchid Boat appeared from Enitharmon Press in 2014

Here's John Yau, from last November, on "Why I Am A Member of the Lee Harwood Fan Club"  -   Rest in peace, Lee.

                                                            [Lee Harwood (1939-2015)] 

Congratulations, Anne Waldman for the Lifetime Achievement Award  in this year's (Before Columbus Foundation's)  American Book Awards!

Congrats Levi Asher on twenty-one years of Literary Kicks!

Jonah Raskin on Peter Coyote

                                                                    [Peter Coyote]

Jed Birmingham on Carl Weissner

                                                                   [Carl Weissner (1940-2012]

& the new Beatdom - Beatdom #16 - is just out ( it's "the Money Issue").  Among the articles - Delilah Gardner - "Ginsberg in the Underground, Whitman, Rimbaud and Visions of Blake"; editor David S Wills on "The Burroughs Millions"; Hilary Holladay on Herbert Huncke, and essays on two key "Beat women", Hettie Jones and Bonnie Bremser, as well as a review of a book of Gregory Corso interviews (see our note on this tomorrow) 

Another of our film-recommendations - American Rimpoche - "exploring America's introduction to Tibetan Buddhism" (we've noted it before in the context of Gelek Rinpoche - but see further notes on it, a portrait of Allen's (and Philip Glass)'s teacher - here).

                                                          [Philip Glass, Gelek Rimpoche & Allen Ginsberg]

Thursday, July 30, 2015

William Burroughs' Proclamation - (Do Easy)

AG: Another proclamation -  from (William) Burroughs - this is somewhat a mindfulness proclamation - from  Exterminator! , page 57. (It features) his favorite character, Colonel Sutton Smith (he wrote another chapter of Colonel Sutton Smith this summer), sort of a parody of an English ex-military Zen man, so to speak, someone with perfect Western consciousness, or perfect Western mindfulness. But what's interesting in (that) Burroughs outline is a kind of precision and mindfulness very similar to, say, Zen gardening,or flower-arrangement, or archery. Burroughs' own system, which, with his usual humor, he even parodies - or he sets forth, and then parodies. You have here, also, Burroughs' accounting of returning to present consciousness and present space. So you could say this, to begin with….(is a) somewhat Vajrayana-stye parody of what he respects, which is total precision:

"A cold, dry, windy day. Clouds blowing through the sky sunshine and shadow. A dead leaf brushes my face. The streets remind me of St Louis… red brick houses, trees, vacant lots. Bright and windy back in a cab through empty streets. When I reach the fourth floor, it looks completely unfamiliar as if seen through someone else's eyes.  "I hope you find your way… red brick houses, trees...the address in empty streets.  Colonel Sutton Smith, 65, retired, not uncomfortablyon a supplementary private income...flat in Bury Street St. James's….cottage in Wales... could not resign himself to the discovery of Roman coins under the grounds of his cottage, interesting theory the Colonel has about those coins over two sherries - never a third, no matter how nakedly his guest may leer at the adamant decanter…"  - (Burroughs has a great sound, too) - "He can, of course, complete his memoirs…extensive notes over a period of years,  invitations, newspaper clippings, photographs, stretching into the past on yellowing dates. Objects go with the clippigs, the notes, the photos, the dates… A kris on the wall to remember Ali who ran amok in the marketplace of Lampiper thirty years ago, a crown of emerald quartz, a jade head representing a reptilian youth with opal eyes, a little white horse delicately carved in ivory, a Webly .455 automatic revolver….(Only automatic revolver ever made the cylinder turns on ratchets stabilizing like a gyroscope the heavy recall). Memories, objects stuck in an old calendar.  

The Colonel decides to make his own time. He opens a school notebook with lined papers and constructs a simple calendar consisting of ten months with twenty-six days in each month to begin on this day February 21, 1970, Raton Pass 14 in the new calendar. The months have names like old Pullman cars in America where the Colonel had lived until his eighteenth year… names like Beauacres, Bonneterre, Watford Junction, Sioux Falls, Pike's Peak, Yellowstone, Bellevue, Cold Springs, Lands End dated from the beginning Raton Pass 14 a mild grey day. Smell of soot and steam and iron and cigar smoke as the train jolts away into the past. The train is stopped now red brick buildings a deep blue canal outside the train window a mild grey day long ago.

The Colonel is jolted back to the now by a plate streaked with egg yoke, a bacon rind, toast crumbs on the table, a jumble of morning papers, cigarette butt floating in cold coffee right where you are sitting now. The Colonel decides on this mild grey day to bring his time into present time. He looks at the objects on the breakfast table, calculating, then moves to clear it. He measures the distance of his chair to the table, how to push the chair back and stand up without hitting the table with his legs. He pushes his chair back and stands up. With smooth precise movements he scrapes his plate into the Business News of the Times, folds the paper into a neat triangular packet, sweeos up plate, knif, fork, spoon and coffee cup out the kitchen with no fumbling or wasted movements, washed and put away. Before he made the first move he has planned a whole series of moves ahead. He had discovered the simple and basic discipline of D.E. - Do Easy. It's simple to do everything you do in the easiest and most relaxed manner you can achieve at the time you do it. He has become an assiduous student of D.E. Cleaning the flat is a problem in logistics. He knows every paper, every object, and many of them now have names. He has perfected the art of casting sheets and blankets so that they fall just so and the gentle silent sopoon or cup on a table. He practices for a year before he is ready to reveal the mysteries of D.E.   As the Colonel washes up and tidies his small kitchen, the television audience catches its breath in front of the little screen. Knives, forks and spoons flash through his fingers and tinkle into drawers, plates dance onto the shelf. He touches the water tap with gentle, precise fingers, and just enough pressure considering the rubber washers inside. Towels fold themselves and fall softly into place. As he moves he tosses crumpled papers and empty cigarette packages and crumpled papers land unerringly in the wastebasket as a Zen master can hit the target with his arrow in the dark. He moves to the sitting room, a puff of air from his cupped hand delicately lifts a cigarette ash from the table and wafts it into the wastebasket. Into the bedroom smooth movements cleaning the sink and arranging the toilet articles into a…..  "

AG: (So Burroughs) follows that little charade with a little essay. So this is like home-made American mindfulness:
"D.E. is a way of doing. It is a way of doing everything you do. D.E. simply means doing whatever you do in the easiest, most relaxed way you can imagine, which is also the quickest and most efficient way, as you will find as you advance into D.E."

If you think this Buddhism is paranoid, listen to Burroughs:

"You can start right now tidying up your flat, moving furniture or books, washing dishes, making tea, sorting paper. Consider the weight of objects. Exactly how much force is needed to get the object from here to there? Consider its shape and texture and function. Where exactly does it belong? Use just the amount of force necessary to get the object from here to there. Don't fumble, jerk, grab an object. Drop cool possessive fingers onto it like a gentle old cop making a soft arrest. Guide the dustpan lightly to the floor as if you were landing a plane. When you touch an object, weigh it with your fingers. Feel your fingers on the object, the skin, blood, muscles, tendons of the hand and arm. Consider these extensions of yourself as precision instruments to perform every movement smoothly and well.
Handle objects with consideration and they will show you all their little tricks. Don't tug or pull at a zipper. Guide the little metal teeth smoothly along, feeling the sinuous ripples of cloth and flexible melt. Replacing the cap on the tube of toothpaste…(and this should always be done at once. Few things are worse than an uncapped tube maladroitly squeezed, twisting up out of the bathroom glass, drooling paste, unless it be a tube with the cap barbarously forced on all askew against the threads). Replacing the cap, let the very tips of your fingers protrude beyond the cap, contacting the end of the tube, guiding the cap into place. Using your fingertips as a landing gear will enable you to drop any light object silently and surely into place. 
Remember, every object has its place. If you don't find that place and put that thing there, it will jump out at you and trip you or rap you painfully across the knuckles. It will nudge you and clutch at you and get in your way. Often such objects belong in the wastebasket but often it's just that they are out of place. Learn to place an object firmly and quietly in its place and do not let your fingers move that object as they leave it there. When you put down a cup, separate your fingers cleanly from the cup. Do not let them catch in the handle and if they do repeat movement until fingers separate clean. If you don't catch that nervous finger that won't let go of the handle, you may twitch hot tea across the Duchess.
Never let a poorly executed sequence pass. If you throw a match at a wastebasket and miss, get right up and put that match in the wastebasket. If you have time repeat the cast that failed. There is always a reason for missing an easy toss. Repeat the toss and you will find it. If you rap your knuckles against a window jam or door, if you brush your leg against a desk or bed, if you catch your feet in the curled-up corner of a rug, or strike a toe against a desk or chair, go back and repeat the sequence. You will be surprised to find how far off course you were to hit that window jamb, that door, that chair. Get back on course and do it again. How can you pilot a spacecraft if you can't find your way around your own apartment. It's just like retaking a movie shot until you get it right. And you will begin to feel yourself in a film moving with ease and speed. But don't try for speed at first. Try for relaxed smoothness, taking as much time as you need to perform an action. If you drop an object, break an object, spill anything, knock painfully against anything, galvanically clutch an object, pay particular attention to the retake. You may find out why and forestall a repeat performance. If the object is broken, sweep up pieces and remove from the room at once. If the object is intact or you have a duplicate object, repeat sequence. You may experience a strange feeling, as if the objects are alive and hostile, trying to twist out of your fingers, slam noisily down on the table, jump out at you and stub your toe or trip you. Repeat sequence until objects are brought to order…"    

[Audio for the above can be heard here at approximately twenty-three-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-four-and-a-quarter minutes in]  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Jack Kerouac and Hart Crane's Proclamations

        [Hart Crane  (1899-1932) standing in fromt of The Brooklyn Bridge]

AG: So it's one assertion, or one, say, magisterial mind -  The (very) last chorus [Chorus 242] of Mexico City Blues. Now, recapping from (Jack) Kerouac's magisterial point-of-view - instructions for creating a liberated society - (what was the phrase used by (Chogyam) Trungpa last night (sic)?, the name of Naropa?) - the creation of an enlightened society):

"The sound in your mind/is the first sound/that you could sing/ If you were singing/at a cash register/with nothingon yr mind - / But when that grim reper/comes to lay you/look out my lady/ He will steal all you goy/ while you dingle with the dangle/and having robbed you/  Vanish/ Which will be your best reward/T'were better to get rid o'/ John O'Twill, then sit a-mortying/In this Half Eternity with nobody/To save the old man being hanged/In my closet for nothing/And everybody watches/When the act is done -/  Stop the murder and the suicide!/ All's well!/ I am the Guard" - (So that's like a bodhisattva proclamation. So it's proclamation. As Väinämöinen's proclamation, that's Kerouac's proclamation (We've had Whitman's proclamation)

Here's a proclamation by Hart Crane - Much more strange. Does anybody know Hart Crane's poetry at all here? (He was) an American who committed suicide jumping off the fantail of a boat coming up from Veracruz, 1931, great friend of all the intellectuals of the (19)20's, lived in Greenwich Village. Perhaps the greatest American poet of the century in the old manner (which is to say, the classical, but he took the classical pentameter of (Percy Bysshe) Shelley to its extreme. and also to the extreme of abstraction,  and yet with such solidity and intensity that it formed some kind of whirlwind of breath (like Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind", with which we began this class). So, having startted with gentle breath, I'm now returning to the big wind.

The poem is called "The Bridge", which is a sort of modern epic, in which he picks up various Americanist local particulars, pays homage to (Edgar Allan) Poe, to Walt Whitman, to the Dharma Bums of his time, to the railroad track, to the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge, to the American Indians, to the mythology of the Machine Age, attempting to find a bridge between the old America known at the end of the nineteenth-century and at the time of his birth and the more craven commercial materialistic (and yet iron-shod) futurity that was prophesied by (William Carlos) Williams, (Alfred) Stieglitz, Walt Whitman and the others - cities interlaced with iron on the Plains, the Modern Age, as we know it - his little kind of cut-up, collage, section about the old winos and hobos on the railroad, called "The River" - So I'll read that first, because it's just a little sort of Kerouac-ian style, or Americanist style, Thomas Wolfe-style, nostalgia - and then get on to his heroic stanzas at the end of the poem in "Atlantis" 

[Allen begins by reading from Hart Crane's "The River" - ("Stick your patent name on a signboard/brother - all over- going west - young man - Tintex -Japalac- Certain-teed Overalls ad/and lands sakes! under the new playbill ripped/in the guaranteed corner - see Bert Williams what?/Minstrels when you steal a chicken just/save me the wing for if it isn't/Erie it ain't for mils around a/Mazda - and the telegraphic night coming on Thomas/a Ediford…"…."So the 20th Century - so/whizzed the Limited - roared by and left/three men, still hungry on the tracks, ploddingly/watching the tail lights wizen and converge, slip-/ping gimleted and neatly out of sight.  The last bear, shot drinking in the Dakotas/Loped under wires that span the mountain stream./Keen instruments, strung to a vast precision/Bind town to town and dream to ticking dream./But some men take their liquor slow - and count/ - Though they'll confess no rosary nor clue - /The river's minute by the far brook's year/Under a world of whistles, wires and steam/Caboose-like they go ruminating through/Ohio, Indiana - blind baggage -/To Cheyenne tagging…Maybe Kalamazoo…"…."Youngsters with eyes like fjords, old reprobates/With racetrack jargon,- dotting immensity/They lurk across her, knowing her yonder breast/Snow-silvered, sumac-stained or smoky blue -/Is past the valley-sleepers, south or west/ - As I have trod the rumorous midnights, too…" 

And, from the "Atlantis" section - This is like a pure music, pure breath. The imagery sort of pounded and hammered, like hammered metal. One image condensed upon another, and linked in a series of vowels - very powerful, perfect for blowing on. Perfect for blowing through - like a clarion. But the interesting thing is that finally it verges on such pure desire, or proclamation of desire, but with what object, finally? A bridge between dirty modernity and ideal antiquity, but still almost a suicidally urgent prayer that has no focus except he pure breath of wind that flows through it. The image is of the Brooklyn Bridge - "Through the bound cable strands, the arching path/Upward, veering with light, the flight of string, -/ Taut miles of shuttling moonlight syncopate/The whispered rush, telepathy of wires./Up the index of night, granite and steel -/Transparent meshes - flecklexs the gleaming staves -/Sibylline voices flicker, waveringly stream/As though a god were issue of the strings…."…."O Answerer of all, - Anenone, -/Now while thy petals spend the suns about us, hold -/ (O Thou whose radiance doth inhert me)/Atlantis, - hold thy floating singer late!/  So to thine Everpresence, beyond time,/Like spears ensanguined of one tolling star/That bleeds infinity - the orphic strings,/Sidereal phalanxes, leap and converge:/- One Song, one Bridge of Fire! Is it Cathay,/Now pity steeps the grass and rainbows ring/The serpent with the eagle in the leaves…?/Whispers antiphonal in azure swing."

Well, that's really (a) powerful piece of oratory, invoking a breath like (Percy Bysshe) Shelley's breath. Certain, sure, swift, almost inevitable sounding, grasping toward some infinity which probably resides in the infinite feeling of the poem itself, and the infinite oceanic feeling of the poem itself. He had to work on it a lot (in the sense of hammer it together,  revise and revise and revise) to get that total intellectual opacity, actually. Though if you analyze it, there's lots of symbolic hints and clues to piece it together into some kind of statement about modernity and desire and love and basically modern general ideas, or modern stereotypes, but set forth with such a chain of sound that you can simply use it almost as an orchestral or saxophone piece to blow on. And if you read it paying attention to the punctuation, you can approximate the exaltation ambitioned in the construction. [to Student] - You had (a question)?

Student; (What is the) name of this poem?

AG: Oh, this is (called), the "Atlantis" section of "The Bridge", by Hart Crane. A poem, "The Bridge" - section eight (VIII) - "Atlantis", (which has the epigraph: "Music is then the knowledge of that which relates to love in harmony and system" (Plato).  

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately four-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-three minutes in]