["Jewel Heart Center, Ann Arbor Michigan, Philip Glass, Gelek Rinpoche & Allen Ginsberg, November 17, 1989" - Photo inscribed "for Philip" by Allen Ginsberg]
Philip Glass is 78 years old today
Words Without Music, his long-awaited memoir, will be published this Spring
As a teaser, Philip Glass is interviewed here, last January, by Marc Zisman for Qobuz, the French commercial music streaming and downloading service, on the occasion of Le festival Nouveau Siècle de Saint-Étienne, organized jointly by l'Opéra Théâtre and the Museum of Modern Art
Some previous Glass-on-the-Ginsberg-Project here and here
Happy Birthday, Philip!
Saturday, January 31, 2015
Friday, January 30, 2015
[Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg]
Next week (next Tuesday) Bob Dylan's new (Frank Sinatra-inspired) album comes out, Shadows In The Night.
Here, here, here and here are some early reviews
and another one here
His recent interview for AARP (American Association of Retired Persons - sic), "his first interview in nearly three years", where he discusses the disc (and his feelings about aging), may be accessed here
The lyrics (none Dylan's own), thoughtfully transcribed, are here
Here's a rather frenzied presentation of Allen's "Cosmopolitan Greetings" (the title-poem of his 1995 book), to the soundtrack of the French electronica group, Air (Amour Imagination Rêve). ("Alpha Beta Gaga")
Speaking of John Wieners (as we were the other week) - essential reading - A selection of his letters and poems to his friend (and sometime Black Mountain mate) Michael Rumaker were recently made available by Ben Mazer's The Battersea Review
Thursday, January 29, 2015
[Audio: March 21 1974 at SFSU (San Francisco State University - Charles Reznikoff reads a selection of his poetry (introduced by George Oppen) - in front of "a whole crowd of poets in San Francisco who knew something"]
Our serialization of Allen Ginsberg's (Summer of 1978) Naropa class on Charles Reznikoff continues here:
AG: (So) (Charles) Reznikoff starting down into the subway (on page 110, Volume 1)
- (15) "In the street I have just left/the small leaves of the trees along the gutter/were steadfast/ in the blue heavens./Now the subway/express/picks up speed/and a wind/blows through the car/blows dust/on the passengers/and along the floor/bits of paper-/ wrappers of candy,/of gum,/tinfoil/pieces of newspaper..." - [Well, it was just a little something he noticed - "bits of paper-/ wrappers of candy,/of gum,/tinfoil/pieces of newspaper..." It could have gone on into some big rhapsody but he realized that was about all he saw, so he cut it off and put three dots there (which reminds me of what (William Carlos) Williams said, which I repeated - bettter to have just one active phrase, or some active language, or some active perception, than try and build a lot of bullshit on it. I mean, there's no need to write a big long poem. You just had that one glimpse, then leave it there. Don't cling to it. You don't have to develop it any further. It's there, self-existent, unborn, undevelopable, just hanging there in the air.
Student: Did Reznikoff try to publish before (that New Directions book)?
AG: Yes, he published his own work. And New Directions published.. I've forgotten when, but look at the New Direction book(s). Well, actually, in this, there's Rhythms 1918, which he published himself, Rhythms 1919, self-published, Poems 1920, Uriel Accosta, 1922 -(Plays), all done by himself. Then probably something done by the Objectivist Press (I mentioned it yesterday) in the (19)30's..
Student: Samuel Roth
AG: Yes. Samuel Roth. Then By The Waters of Manhattan - Selected Verse, 1962 -that's the date of the New Directions book, I guess
Student: Was he very well known during his time?
AG: No, totally unknown. Poets knew him. Ezra Pound read every book he ever wrote. Basil Bunting knew him. Louis Zukofsky knew him. These are the Objectivists. George Oppen knew him. Carl Rakosi knew him. Robert Duncan knew him. I didn't know him very well until, I'd say, about 1970, (19)65-(19)70. I went to see Ezra Pound in 1965 and asked him what he read, and, apparently, he was doing the I Ching, and the only time I got a rise out of him, I said, "Did you see Basil Bunting's new book?", and he wouldn't talk but gave a big head-shake (he was really alert to that, and he would be alert to Bunting and he would be alert to Zukofsky and he'd be alert to Reznikoff and a few other poets, Williams, anything they'd put out - his old friends, naturally).
Reznikoff was hadly known. Anne Waldman and the New York St Marks Poetry Project used to invite him to read and he'd give readings. I gave a reading there and the church would be full, Reznikoff would give a reading and maybe they'd be thirty people, twenty people, me and Peter (Orlovsky) and fifteen other people. Ron Padgett. He'd read this stuff that was so pure that we'd weep, and there was nobody there. This old man, this seventy-eight-year-old man. Very humble. Reading it, like he had these old poems, that he took out, and very carefully marked, which ones he was going to read, and worried whether people would listen to him, and was he talking loud enough?, and not wanting to bore anybody
Student: Allen, he gave a reading at San Francisco State (Poetry Center)
AG: When was that?
Student: It was shortly before he died. [1974 - see above]
Student: It was very well attended. A huge crowd and he..
AG: Yeah, by then - and in San Francisco..
AG: A whole crowd of poets in San Francisco that knew something.
[Audio for the above may be heard here, starting at approximately two-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding approximately six-and-a-quarter minutes in]
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Continuing with Charles Reznikoff
What I want to do, since we've got (a few) minutes, is some brief poems that he did in 1934
"Jerusalem the Golden was published by the Objectivist Press from 10 West Thirty-Sixth Street, New York in 1934. The Press consisted of Reznikoff, George Oppen and Louis Zukofsky. It was an outgrowth of Zukofsky's editorial work for the "Objectivist" number of Poetry (magazine) (February 1931) and An Objectivist Anthology published in France in 1931 by George and Mary Oppen under the imprint "Two Publishers""
"The Objectivist Press is an organization of writers who are publishing their own work and that of other writers whose work they think ought to be read.
The wrapper also listed an Advisory Board consisting of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, with (Louis) Zukofsky as "Sec'y". Already in 1934 the Press had published Williams' Collected Poems, with a preface by Wallace Stevens and Reznikoff's prose work Testimony, with an introduction by Kenneth Burke."
What's interesting about this set is (from) (19)34, (the) poems about the New York subway. In terms of domestication into poetry, domestication of modern imagery into poetry, here is one of the best examples of taking everyday ordinary-mind experience and actually making immortal-perception language out of it. I was noticing the first of these, number 6, there's a little bit element of abhidharma abstraction, that is, the examination of the senses until you begin to realize the emptiness of senses, sort of.
Student: (On what page?)
AG: Pardon me?
Student: What page?
AG: Oh, I'm sorry. Page 108. Number 6
"From my window I could not see the moon/and yet it was shining:/ the yard among the houses -/ snow upon it,/an oblong in the darkness - (That's not very interesting, it's just sort of Cubist abhidharma, maybe. Okay.
(8) - "The wind blows rain into our faces/as we go down the hillside/upon rusted cans and old newspapers/past the tree on whose bare branches/the boys have hung iron hoops,/until we reach at last the crushed earthworms/stretched and stretching on the wet sidewalk." - (I think that's the first time that wet-sidewalk-earthworm effect has ever been entered into poetry, into the great ledger of images), Then…
Peter Orlovsky: (..that's a snow verse, that's the winter..)
AG: Right. One would have been snow, one would have been winter - "(T)he crushed earthworms/stretched and stretching on the wet sidewalk." - the snow has melted, maybe.
"(10) - These days the papers in the street/leap into the air or burst across the lawns -/ not a scrap but has the breath of life:/these in a gust of wind/play about/those for a moment lie still and sun themselves." - That's a little bit like (William Carlos) Williams' one about the paper rolling over and over - unlike a man. Do you know that? The brown paper being rolled over and over like a man in the street by the wind. Did I read that here? - "The Term"? - Did I read that poem by Williams here? [class suggests not] - Oh, Well, we'll see what they're both doing at the same time. It's called "The Term" (perhaps the terms of his perception, actually) - (Page) 409 of the Collected (Earlier) Poems:
A rumpled sheet
of brown paper
about the length
and apparent bulk
of a man was
rolling with the
wind slowly over
and over in
the street as
a car drove down
upon it and
crushed it to
a man it rose
with the wind over
and over to be as
it was before.
Everybody follow? - Is there anybody who didn't get it?
Student; Read it again
AG: Okay - A rumpled sheet/of brown paper/about the length/ and apparent bulk/of a man was/rolling with the/ wind slowly over/and over in/the street as/ a car drove down
upon it and/crushed it to/ the ground.Unlike/a man it rose/again rolling/ with the wind over/and over to be as/it was before.
Peter Orlovsky: How come he called it "The Term"?
AG: I think it means the terms of his poetry - that this kind of observation, that this kind of spirit.. "(W)ind" - this suggestion of spirit - the wind - he mentions the wind but he relates the wind, or he describes the wind, in terms of the paper) So, the paper is the term to describe the invisible wind - or the paper-and-the-wind is the term to describe the direct perceptions of his mind and the present attention of his mind there. And the present attention of his mind, seeing directly this paper, seeing how it looks, and describing it well, is the term of poetics for him - I think. Does that make sense?
(Robert) Creeley has taken this title - "The Term" - and used it also. In other words, it's the idea of presenting an object like that and saying, "This object is my term of poetry. In my terms, poetry is as follows - "A rumpled sheet of brown paper", etc - "These days the papers in the street/leap into the air or burst across the lawns- /not a scrap but has the breath of life:/these in a gust of wind/play about/those for a moment lie still and sun themselves."
Okay, now (next) we get to the subway.
[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-six-and-three-quarter minutes in]
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
[Allen Ginsberg - Autograph and Typescript Working Draft of a portion of the 1967 poem "Wales Visitation"]
AG: I want to follow that up [that reading and discussion of Wordsworth's "..Tintern Abbey"] with a poem of my own related to that, taking off from Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey", approaching a similar problem, or taking a similar approach to the problem - in this case, how to deal with phantasms, thought-forms, furies, monsters, of an acid trip, in poetry. First of all, how to deal with the problem of in that exalted, or high, state of acid or psychedelic space - how to write poetry to begin with, how to approach poetry. Is it possible to approach poetry? Is it self-contradictory? - and what would be the path to stabilize the poem, so that it wouldn't just become hodos chameliontos, the continually changing chameleon of mind-trips.
Student: (Where is it self-contradictory?)
AG: Pardon me?
Student: (I don't quite get why it would be self-contradictory.)
AG: Well, I see that it was more, my approach to it, originally, was self-contradictory because - taking an acid trip, and then wanting to gain something, bring back a poem, maybe a poem about God or something, see God and bring back a poem! - pay your mind, see God, bring back a poem, cash it in to The New Yorker, get a hundred dollars, take the money and run back to the next..universe. Certain earlier poems did have that problem in that..(in a poem called "L.S.D." ("Lysergic Acid") in the book Kaddish, which was 1959).
So here, ten years later, that problem (of self-consciousness) somewhat is resolved.
Also, the problem, that everyone may be familiar with, of, you get high, one way or another, (and you have) guilt in making a work of art, feeling that, why try and reproduce the universe when the universe is already here? In other words, why imitate it? What is this big art business? do you just want to be a big egotist? just to write a poem? It's all clearly spread out before you. So that's a typically self-conscious (and, actually adolescent) view of art, based on an egocentric view of art to begin with. Sure, if your art's egocentric and your motive's egocentric, why bother?
So this poem somewhat cuts through those and resolves a lot of those problems. (It's) done somewhat in the landscape and style of Wordsworth, (in this case, Black Mountains in Wales, near Lord Hereford's Knob - that's a mountain in the Black Mountains in Llanthony Valley, which was a place where Eric Gill and a group of 1920 communard socialists, (a) Christian communal group had a fine-printing establishment - they made big hand-made books (that was part of, like, the hand-crafting back-to-nature movement of the (19)20's, similar to what we had in the 1960's. Capel-Y-Ffin is a little chapel in there)
So this is written in the fifth hour of an acid trip.(I) might as well discuss it in advance. The strategy here, then, or the attempt here, was, rather than bring back God, just (to) look out of my eyes and see what was in front of me - instead of chasing it in a fashion. And I had to find some center. I wound up doing a little bit of zazen by then, so I was actually doing some breathing, or centering myself on breath. So my mind became somewhat immoveable and no longer prey to fantasy. So, a return to breath, and the breath becomes the symptom in the poem, finally.
Allen Ginsberg - Wales Visitation
[Allen begins reading "Wales Visitation"] - "White fog lifting and falling on mountain-brown/Trees moving in rivers of wind/The clouds arrive/ as on a wave, gigantic eddy lifting mist/above teeming ferns exquisitely swayed/along a green crag/glimpsed thru mullioned glass in valley rain -/ Bardic, O Self, Visitacione, tell naught/but what seen by one man in a vale in Albion/of the folk, whose physical sciences end in Ecology,/the wisdom of earthly relations,/ of mouths and eyes interknit ten centuries visible/orchards of mind language manifest human…" - (in which I was referring to that "green to the very door" - "orchards of mind language manifest human" - but that's too abstract, so I got down to earth again - "of the satanic thistle that raises its horned symmetry/flowering above sister grass-daisies' pink tiny/bloomlets angelic as light-bulbs -" -(I was just following thought-forms that rose) - [Allen continues reading] - "Remember 160 miles from London's symmetrical thorned tower/& network of TV pictures…"…."my skull and Lord Hereford's Knob equal,/All Albion one./ What did I notice? Particulars! The/vision of the great One is myriad -/smoke curls upward from ashtray,/house fire burned low,/The night, still wet & moody black heaven/starless/upward in motion with wet wind,"
What I would compare for Vipassana aspect, that is, the insight. Wordsworth has "green to the very door" and "sportive wood run wild". My equivalent physical perceptions were the little thistle raising "its horned symmetry/flowering above sister grass-daisies' pink tiny/bloomlets..", that little "horned symmetry". And "sheep speckle the mountainside, revolving their jaws with/empty eyes." - If you've ever looked at sheep..exactly.. "revolving" and "empty eyes", in the sense of… because this was the acid making everything seem empty - I could say "unborn" eyes (unborn - you couldn't fathom them, anyway) - I liked "sheep speckle the mountainside", I thought that was the best piece of external detail noticing
Student: (Although why "speckled" instead of "dotted"? - "sheep dotted (the)..")
AG: Mountainside. Well, because they speckle it. Because, looking across the mountainside, on the other side of the road - they were "speckled" (more speckled than "dotted") - "speckled", in the sense of, you might be speckled with freckles, you know, not just black dots there, all different colors)
Also I thought for Vipassana perception of detail, the wind, whose "softest breath/ moves every floweret in the stillness on the valley floor" - (There's a lot of little flowers being moved by this one wind) - "(T)rembles lamb-hair hung gossamer rain-beaded in the grass" - (because that takes an almost-microscopic, closely-detailed eye,to see - the lambs leave their hair behind on the thorns, and on the grass, as they rub - Its hangs, gossamer, trembled by the wind, and beaded with raindrops. You've got to look close to see that.
The ideal of that was a line of Wordsworth's that I heard that was given to me or pointed out to me by Louis Zukofsky (who was a friend of (William Carlos) Williams and (Charles) Reznikoff). who pointed out this one very interesting line in Wordsworth - "the star-shaped shadow of a blossom, cast on a stone" - in a field. He's walking in a field, and he mentions "the star-shaped shadow of a blossom cast on a stone". What does that mean? It means a clear sky with a big sun, a green field is conjured up, some little tiny flowers. But him walking along so attentively and so precisely eyeball-focusing that he can actually see, under the flower, the star-shaped shadow of the flower cast on the stone. So you have both the vast sky suggested as well as the almost minute particular detail. Almost so subtly you wouldn't see it unless you were seeing everything, unless your eye was there. "Sight is where the eye hits" is a phrase of Zukofsky's.
"Sight is where the eye hits". Wordsworth's eye was really hitting particular spots.
Student: What about the "green atoms"?
AG: Oh that's poetic bullshit - "Green atoms shimmer in grassy mandalas"
AG: It's a mixture of blah-blah-blah - Green atoms shimmer in grassy mandalas" - Nowhere near as good as "sheep… the next line.
Student: I'm wondering how that…because that's...supposed to be.. I mean that's an actual experience, right?
AG: It's a bad line..
Student: Okay, right
AG: Very simple...except, you can get away with it if you've got enough elements, with green, with grass
Student: Can you say that line again?
AG: Green atoms shimmer in grassy mandalas" - Not too bad, it's a bit..Surrealist, you know.You got the green grass, and it's an in-joke for acid-heads
AG: You read it to the Optimist Club (sic), they might not understand that - They'd understand.. "(S)heep speckle the mountainside, revolving their jaws with/empty eyes", (that) they'd get!
There's a lot of fake lines, because I still had the hint of some omnipresent Great Mind in here - and I still haven't quite emptied that out. So I was still looking for some evidence of some kind of mystical experience, a little bit. But I was smart enough always to come back to breath and abandon the "One being so balanced, so vast" - (And the only way I got away with saying "One being" was that I was able to point out that there was this one single sort of ebbing of the tide atmospheric and weather going back and forth in the valley and I was able to actually describe it. I mean, I did see the mist coming down and rising (as on an ocean surface, or as in the moving of a great tide in the Bay of Fundy, let us say. So, there is that element of the airy atmosphere that gives a suggestion of pantheistic unity if you can describe it perfectly. You're better off if you're not trying to plaster pantheistic one-mind unity on the top of the Universe with it. You're better off just trying to describe the details. It's the unborn aspect of it, the emptiness of it, that really gives you the final space,shudder, space-thrill.
[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately fifteen minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-and-a-half minutes in]
[Addenda - "Visitación de Gales” - the poem in Spanish translation - may be read here]
[Addenda 2 - Philip Glass (whose birthday it is on Saturday) gives it an exquisite setting here]
Monday, January 26, 2015
[Tintern Abbey - Gothic Cistercian Abbey Ruins on the River Wye in South Wales - immortalized in William Wordsworth's poem]
[Poetry and Meditation - Allen Ginsberg (from the Summer of 1978, lecturing at Naropa (then Institute, now University) continues:]
(William Wordsworth). (That's) a little earlier than Percy Bysshe Shelley. William Wordsworth's "Lines Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey On Revisiting the Banks of the (River) Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798" - that's, I guess, when Shelley was a kid. (William) Blake was just publishing "Songs of Innocence" (not "..Experience"). Wordsworth was a mature poet (who was) already practicing, already gone down into his art, already into his own practice, already looking back a little, in fact. He had visited this place, I think, before with his sister - [Allen proceeds to read, in its entirety, Wordsworth's "..Tintern Abbey"] - "Five years have passed, five summers, with the length/Of five long winters; and again I hear/These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs…"…"That after many wanderings, many years/Of absence these steep woods and lofty cliffs,/ And this green pastoral landscape were to me/More dear both for themselves and for thy sake!"
So, in the beginning he's talking basically about, again, ordinary mind and the qualities of ordinary mind and calming the passions, but the really remarkable thing is that, at the very beginning, the sketching of the external universe, or the external world (actually, the pastoral world) is so exact it's almost uncanny. There are a couple of phrases in here that have stuck in people's minds as really workable descriptions of wild nature - like "These hedgerows, hardly hedgerows, little lines/Of sportive wood run wild" - like a fast sketch, it's almost like, you know, a fast Van Gogh brushstroke to get that line. - "Of sportive wood run wild"
And then, "these pastoral farms/Green to the very door" - which, I think, is one of the greatest lines in English - Green to the very door" (on account of it means that those people who have lived there so long and are so much aware of the landscaping and their own door and their own pasture, and so delicately protective of it, so dignified with it, that, actually, they haven't messed it up. As you can find it in Wales (sic) and other places in England, the field comes "to the very door" and is "(g)reen to the very door". You walk on a carpet of green, perfectly cut and cultivated, grass. Grass is cultivated for centuries right up to the very stone, the lintel of the door, or the step - "Green to the very door" - With that one phrase, you have a whole mind, a whole society, a whole social existence, a whole relationship with nature projected. That always struck me as being in Wordsworth one of the sharpest pieces of eyeball noticing ever written down (either by Wordsworth or anyone). I would say Vipassana there - insight into sort of luminous fact, or a luminous insight into a luminous fact, or clear insight into a luminous fact that is so factual that it goes beyond itself and actually tells you the whole story of the whole society. There are, actually, in this town [Boulder, Colorado] a few lawns that are "green to the very door". I check them out, whenever.... It's like "water freshening", you can tell how much attention is actually paid to lawn and human habitation and door-sill, if you check out that how stomped with mud is the approach to the door. Or, it takes a special pastoral aesthetic to want that "green to the very door". You can walk out bare-foot..
With Wordsworth, however, it does lead.. where the quietness and attention comes from when he begins to describe it, it, finally, again, does come, as with Shelley, back to the breath (or the word "spirit", used almost interchangeably with "breath", and almost like a quietening of breath, or (see, as he's talking here), almost a suspension of breath) - "that serene and blessed mood,/in which the affections gently lead us on - /Until the breath of this corporeal frame/And even the motion of our human blood/Almost suspended.." - "Almost suspended" - Well, that's an experience that we've all had. Particularly (with) sitting. Not that you stop. It's just that the breath becomes even and the calm becomes so clear and unruffled, there's that suspension of mental activity."
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at the start of the tape and concluding at approximately fifteen minutes in]
Sunday, January 25, 2015
["The Ballad of The Skeletons" - 4-color screenprint - 29 7/8" x 35 1/2" -limited edition for Gemini G.E.L, Los Angeles. by Allen Ginsberg, 1998]
from an interview with Steve Silberman, 1996
..And (then) a series of lithographs I did at the Gemini G.E.L - a great, very elegant printing establishment in Los Angeles. I was there in residence for about a month-and-a-half this year, and produced six images which they'll make into a portfolio. One of them was an illustrated "Ballad of the Skeletons," which they made a special edition of 100. They cost $1,500 each, on this really good paper, with a signed edition and what not. So those are out, and there are five other images.
from an interview with William Turner
WT: You have just completed six prints for Gemini G.E.L. I don't recall having seen any graphic work before. Is this a new endeavor for you?
AG: I have done prints twice before. A portfolio with Nam June Paik, John Cage and two others, a portfolio to raise money for Nam June Paik's world broadcast of 1984 ["Good Morning, Mr Orwell'], and I did another through Nam June again, just one, with many artists. Nam June introduced to someone in Paris who liked my little Buddha sketches, so I did one.
Here I began getting a little more technical with collage, etc. The next thing I might do would be to make a photo-collage, like (Robert) Rauschenberg's, using my own photos [Editorial note - sadly, never completed].Maybe making a big assemblage of everybody connected and semi-connected with the various generations of the Beat Generation, using my own photos, collaging them together. I've seen a lot of assemblages like that, though usually they've got a lot of bad poets and they're not accurate.
Sid [Sidney Felsen, director of Gemini] mentioned that he had been making some prints with Rauschenberg now composed only of photographs. I've done some collages before but always overly orderly things with (William S) Burroughs popping up large.
WT: You obviously love to draw as well, and were intensely focused on your printmaking at Gemini, is another artistic career blossoming?
AG: I like writing better. It got a bit much between photography and music and operas and rock n' roll, (but) it's like a vacation. I can do it and not have to be around New York.
"The Ballad of the Skeletons", it should be pointed out, represents not only a triumph by Allen Ginsberg but a triumph of collaboration. As Ruth Fine in the National Gallery's Catalogue Raisonné has noted - ""The Ballad of the Skeletons" represents a complex and multifaceted world through a presentation of interwoven text and image. The handwritten poem gathers many polar viewpoints and is illustrate with an aggregate of drawings contributed by nine artists representing many different styles. This collective spirit, celebrating art as the product of multiple imaginations, viewpoints and sensibilities revealed in the same entity, ehoes the spirit and substance of the Gemini workshop."
Contributers to "The Ballad of the Skeletons" include George Condo, Julian Schnabel, Hiro Yamagata, Wim Wenders, David Hockney, Ed Ruscha, John Giorno, Steven Taylor and Raymond Foye.
Saturday, January 24, 2015
[Allen Ginsberg at Gemini G.E.L artists studio, Los Angeles, July 24, 1996 - Photograph by Sidney B Felsen]
Some weeks back we put up a post about Allen's artistic hand with signed editions, with book inscriptions, but, as we noted there (or did we?), that was just the tip of the iceberg. In 1996 in the very last year of his life, in L.A., he became feverishly engaged, for a while, at Gemini G.E.L, Sidney Felsen and Sidney Grinstein's legendary artist's lithograph workshop, and produced six extraordinary images (limited editions). Here are four of them (the other two we'll post tomorrow)
["Untitled 1" ,1998 - Allen Ginsberg - 2-color lithograph and screenprint, 23" x 28 1/2" - limited edition]
["Untitled 2", 1998 - Allen Ginsberg - 7 color lithograph and screenprint , 23" x 28 1/2" - limited edition]
["Untitled 3", 1998 - Allen Ginsberg - 6 color lithograph and screenprint , 30 1/3" x 23 1/4" - limited edition]
["Untitled 3", 1998 - Allen Ginsberg - 4 color lithograph and screenprint , 23" x 28 1/2" - limited edition]
Friday, January 23, 2015
[Allen Ginsberg in 1959 - Photograph by Joe Rosenthal for the San Francisco Chronicle]
"Baby-faced Allen Ginsberg revealed" is the headline. At the end of last year, staff archivist Steve Cooney went looking through the voluminous archives of the San Francisco Chronicle and came up with this shot (see above) from a series of photo-negatives that had been maintained but had never actually run in the paper - "I struck gold", he declared. "The contrast between the cleanshaven Ginsberg with a full head of hair quite conservative in length and his more familiar rabbinical hippie image shined a light on the changes in social mores that the Beat Generation helped to ignite."
The "more familiar rabbinical hippie image"?- something like this, perhaps?
Ginsberg on Blake. We've drawn attention, on numerous occasions, to the remarkable 1969-70 MGM recordings. Our good friends at Open Culture recently did the same to those materials - here
and Ginsberg-on-the-web - Ginsberg on Whitman - Allen's essay, "Taking A Walk Through Leaves of Grass" (that was originally published in 1991 in The Teachers and Writers Guide to Walt Whitman) was recently re-published on the Academy for American Poets site
Caught in a somewhat noisy Wisconsin diner, Ginsberg biographer Michael Schumacher holds forth with some book news (he also speaks of his memories of waking up in New York City in Allen's apartment next to a larger-than-life David Cronenberg mugwump, and some recollected Allen Ginsberg-William Burroughs banter over Allen's depiction in Cronenberg's filmed version of Burroughs' Naked Lunch)
"I've just finished editing a "greatest hits" collection, so to speak, the best of his poetry, the best of his essays, interviews, just about everything, even his photographs, and it was a great project, I was happy to do it, and it'll be out by his publisher, HarperCollins here pretty soon, a couple of months [The Essential Ginsberg - a brand new trade paperback, will be published by HarperCollins under their Harper Perennial imprint, publication date has been announced as May 25]
AAA - Alan Ansen anniversary today. For more on Alan Ansen - see here
Thursday, January 22, 2015
"A young negro is bending over a pressing machine/ in the tailor's shop on the corner/the white steam rising into his face"
Well that's, more or less, mostly, what I mean by something seen in a moment of inattention, or open-mindedness (that is, attention to what's there, but inattention to… there's no purpose, no purposeful attention, just open mind), something seen that within itself has elements of magic (the white steam rising into the negro's face) but something that you would not necessarily be able to figure out is a poem until it recurred maybe several days later, or an hour later. You would have seen it and then the image would have returned to your mind.
In the process of sitting meditation such images do recur often, nameless pictures, pictures that have no name and no attachment, sort of unborn pictures, that is, pictures once seen that have no particular interpretative meaning, and yet have a kind of clarity that makes them, so to speak, eternal, in that they'll recur over and over and over, until your death bed. Very often in sitting, a number of very early traumatic scenes will arise that you don't count as part of your official history but which are definitely a part of it, which return and recur over and over, as life reveals itself, as you get older and realize that they were actually early determining traumatic fixation moments. During sitting (or any other moment of inattention as well as sitting) they'll likely rise, and it's a question of recognizing them, (not necessarily getting attached to them, but just recognizing them), and realizing that they're being offered to you to appreciate and make use of, if you want, for aesthetic purposes (that is as a picture, or a haiku, or a poem). It's the other parts of your mind that you're not intending that are poetry. It's sort of the.. what rises on its own without your effort, what, naturally, rises because it's intrinsically exact and precise like - "A young negro is bending over a pressing machine in the tailor's shop on the corner/The white steam rising into his face" - It's something Reznikoff must have seen once or twice but was so clear.
So why didn't he make a big poem out of it? Well, he made a little poem out of it. Because, at this point in American mentality, American poetic mentality, it was just the beginning of time, the beginning time of just trying to explore mind itself, explore natural, simple, straightforward, direct poetics. There was an argument between (William Carlos) Williams and (Ezra) Pound. Pound said, "I'm interested in the finished aesthetic product. You're only interested in the raw material - and (so) you're not a real poet, you're just interested in the raw material, you're just collecting a lot of raw material". And Williams wrote him back and said, "Absolutely, yes, that's it, that's it, I have no idea what poetry is, I have no pre-conceived notion, I'm just collecting. I'm observing mind, observing speech, observing the raw material, collecting specimens of raw material, like a scientist, collecting specimens. Perhaps some later generation will be able to make use of these. Perhaps they will be of some importance, as indicators, or sign-posts, or helpful experiments for a later generation, but it will take many many generations for America to develop its own poetics, that is, making the break from English poetics and standard (conventional) metric meter. It will take many generations for America to evolve its own forms of poetry and its own poetic mind, as distinct from the already-developed English poetic mind." So Williams was just interested in gathering specimens, and all these folks were just interested in "isolate flecks", as he says, "isolate flecks" [Editorial note - The phrase is, of course, from Williams' "To Elsie"]. So they were all doing the same thing around the same time. If this (Reznikoff) is 1934, if you look at Williams around that time you'll get some similar thing.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
[Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976)]
"Once a toothless woman opened her door,/chewing a slice of bacon that hung from her mouth like a tongue"
- The most hideous image in American… and the most memorable (it's one of the most memorable things I've ever read) - "Once a toothless woman opened her door,/chewing a slice of bacon that hung from her mouth like a tongue" - You can really see it - And then his comment - "This is where I walked night after night;/this is where I walked away many years."
That was his [Charles Reznikoff's] life - but a life so full of fine perception of what was there that when we read it now (this is, like, fifty years later, or fifty-five years later [or more]) it's totally present. His perception is totally present. His emotion is totally present. The emotion.. Imagine the emotion in relation to that kitten ["Kitten, pressed into a rude shape by cart wheels/ an end to your slinking away and trying to hide behind/ash-cans"], the emotion in relation to the dog with the swollen udder ["A bitch, backbone and ribs…her swollen udder nearly rubbing along the pavement"], the horror and disgust of the toothless woman with the slice of bacon. Those are emotions, and everybody's yakking about how they want to show emotions in their poetry. The way he's done it is simply by being totally accurate to what stimulated the emotion in him, by observing so completely clearly - or by being so present - or by not trying to generalize it, but (by) trying to recall, or reconstitute, the sensation. By gathering the data that caused the sensation, the objective external data that caused the sensation, he's been able to reconstitute that sensation in us. It's like (Paul) Cezanne trying to reconstitute the sensation of space in his canvases. Here, by reconstituting the data, the primary sensory data, he's been able to transfer that emotional affective blood-gush into our bodies.. Yeah?
Student: In a way, he suggests that you have these emotions. In a way, he says, you should have these emotions..
AG: Well, he's not really asking. He's presenting it with such clarity that you can't help but have it - like him
Student: But there's some ways (that he's using ) sentimental language. He's kind of forcing...
AG: Any other way would be forcing it. Here, the astounding thing is that the precision or objectivity - the objectivity of his approach - strangely results in a totally subjective fountain of tears. When I was reading that poem about the kitten, when I realized that thing again, I could hardly get through it. And I've wept over him any number of times. Alone, or reading it aloud, because the emotions are so.. not so strong (but) so clear. That's what so tragic - that it's all so clear - the truth is so obvious - that there is a truth so obvious, that relationships are so true, so visible, that the tragedy is so unobstructedly seen, that there's no wash of sentimentality over it, or no wash of excuse, or no attempt to deform it, or no attempt to egotize it and make it romantic. It's just there where it is, and where it is is just so pure and beautifully so, you can't help but cry, because it's life. And it's just like your life or anybody's life. Instead of him trying to gild the lily. He's not trying to gild the lily. So it's a kind of anti-poetry, not trying to gild the lily, but had it ever been tried before, I wonder? I don't think before the twentieth-century it had ever been tried - a writing of poetry which didn't try to gild the lily, which actually just tried to present relationships as they are - objectively, with the images - objectively.
[Philip Lamantia (1927-2005)]
The reason I'm talking like this is here (particularly, say, Naropa, but anywhere), we run into all sorts of younger poets, or older poets, who insist on forcing emotion, who insist that the way to emotion is by getting drunk and beating you over the head with their wine bottle, or by insisting that the only way you can do it is to gild the lily with so much heavy gold that there's no lily left but there's a lot of gold, or that things are so important that you've got to deal with them as (if) they were universal abstractions, and you can't tell about your toe-nail! You are not important but the emotion is somehow so important.
Well, I haven't really defined it but I think you all know what I'm talking about, so I will try to define it. That is to say, (that) there is an idea that, I am a poet, and poetry is hard, because beauty is difficult, because you've got to make it up, because only a poet can make it up, so therefore you've got to take all the shit I lay on you and, I got to get drunk to make it up so it'll be really beautiful, and it can't be seen except through the eyes of the poet, and, anyway, it can't be seen, so what the fuck, so therefore you've got to use curse words and abstractions to transfer the emotion over to the other side, to the other reader, and the emotion is generally aggression, really, against the language, against the reader, against everybody, instead of non-aggressive description of what actually was there, so, like, a more humble approach of what's there, in detail.
I keep running into younger poets here (like those two guys that were here the first day that had their (Jack) Kerouac wine bottles) whose conception was an abstraction, whose conception of what the scene was here was an abstraction. The second and third days they came down, actually. They were recognized. They came down, got a little more grounded, were actually interested in what was going on. But their approach originally was that it was all fantasy rather than real. And so the approach of certain poets is that poetry is a fantasy, rather than something real - real, in the sense of… Yeah?
Student: But, say something like, for example, (the poetry of) Philip Lamantia, where it gets way out there and is something that's not real. Would that be..
Student: … a comparable quality to this?
AG: I think this is even better than Lamantia maybe - but Lamantia is a great poet - Hart Crane is crazed language.
Yeah, there is that. We'll get to that in the Mahayana and Vajrayana portions. But what I'm trying to establish is the ground. And, in a way, the ground is as good as the end, the path or the fruition. The ground is as good as the crazy stuff. Because, actually, the real answer is that Lamantia couldn't be crazy without being grounded first. That is, his craziness wouldn't be interesting unless it was based upon real apprehension of the rhythms of his own speech, real mastery of that, on the use of American speech and slang mixed up with classical references, so that the Surrealism comes with that juxtaposition and with the basic down, hip attitudes and basic realism of his intellectual playfulness. He's already grounded so therefore he can get up there and play around. It isn't egotism on his part, or let us say, it isn't trying to force it so much. It isn't trying to force it on the basis of ignorance of the ground. So, basically, when I said Hinayana-Mahayana-Vajrayana poetry, I was saying, "Let's start on the ground" (and for "ground", I'm pointing to (William Carlos) Williams and (Charles) Reznikoff - and getting through Reznikoff real slowly)
"Howl" is basically based on (William Carlos Williams) and yet you get "hydrogen jukebox(es)" - But it's "hydrogen" and "jukeboxes". It's a hydrogen bomb and actual jukeboxes observed, so I abstract the elements from the real things. So the real interesting Surrealism is, simply, you abstract from something and you take elements from here and there but you take elements from real scenes. You don't make it up in your head or out of other words. Well, you make it up in your head, obviously, but I mean you don't imitate somebody else's craziness. You draw your craziness from your own ground - or you draw your complicatedness, or you draw your exuberance, (exuberant complications with exuberance and with complication), from a real solid ground, rather than. .just having trained in the ground (or not even trained but acknowledged the ground, with a sense of humor).
First you acknowledge the ground with a sense of humor, then you can go anywhere, as long as you know what's there. Because then everybody knows you're sane. Then you're playing on the basis of , "Okay, we acknowledge the ground, the ground is there, now let's make-believe it's not there and write about angels". Okay. Then it's pure play. And it's trustworthy. But there's the other guys where the ground is not there - "There's only me and I'm an angel and I'm going to write about angels and fuck you if you don't listen to my poetry!". So then you say, "Ah, well, fuck him. He's just another bullshit artist, instead of somebody who's actually making a pretty thing"
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-six-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately fifty-six-and-three-quarter minutes in]