Sunday, November 29, 2015

Allen Ginsberg and David Henderson at Naropa 1981 (part two)

                                                [David Henderson - Photo by Michah Saperstein]

                                                                         [Allen Ginsberg]  

Allen's 1981 Naropa Institute reading with poet David Henderson continues, (following the earlier disruption), with two poems - "Grim Skeleton"  and "Meditations at Lake Louise" ("Reflections At Lake Louise") (both from Plutonian Ode & Other Poems 1977-1980) -   and a third, "Thundering Undies" (sic), an imitation after the Roman poet, Catullus, (his poem 11), made in collaboration with Ron Padgett 
David Henderson, beginning here in media respresents a second set. And then Allen presents three more works ("Put Down Yr Cigarette Rag", "Capitol Air", and  "Broken Bones Blues"),  this time with musical accompaniment. 

AG:  "Grim Skeleton"  ("Grim skeleton come back & put me out of Action/looking thru the rainy window of the Church wall.."…"Agh! Who I'll read this to like a fool! Who'll applaud these lies")  

"Meditations at Lake Louise" (“At midnight, the teacher lectures on his throne,/Gongs, bells, wooden fish, tingling brass,/ Transcendent Doctrines…."….."Where can I go, how choose, Either way my life stands before me,/mountains rising over the white lake 6 am mist drifting between water and sky.")

and, last [before the break] a chain-poem written with Ron Padgett, 21 April, 1981 - I'm paraphrasing a Sapphic ode by Catullus - 

"tunditur unda" is the Latin - "where the wave thunders underneath" - "If you go way beyond, where the wave thunders, there are the Asia Minor shores. Go tell my old girlfriend, if you see her before I do, that she can go suck off all those.. three hundred characters on the Broadway street corner.. (if) she wants to. As far as my love's concerned. it's nothing but a broken flower, cut by the plough, at the field's edge.." - That's a paraphrase of the Catullus poem. "tunditur unda" is the Latin for the wave thundering underneath, so the title of this is -"Thundering Undies" - Thundering Undies! 

“Passing through Manhattan’s sodium vapor sidestreet glare/ With pink electric powder puffs overhead,/mmmmm, that Catholic churchwall’s old as Science/, tho’ Science is older, but O, please don’t tell me about it tonight./ no pain please in the strange spring light/tho' my baby's waiting on the corner with 160 pounds of meat/on her 148 bones all for sale for 25 bucks./ Furius & Aurelius, friends, now that we’re back in town, tell her/ to take cosmetics from the air, and let the dark blue city/ sift slowly down to where lamplight shadows her cheeks/ & her lips shine dayglo purple, moist with the sperm of her 300 adorers./ - O come let us adore her, weird Madonna of the street/and not in great shape either tho' we’re in far off Elsewhere/with our sad souls, angers and aching teeth! Too late for old loves,/ but a little nosegay of pansies cut by Time’s tractor where/ the pasture meets the dirt road and my heart meets the flower-bed/ dug up years ago to make East 12th Street where you float/ a little off the ground, thinking of the withered posy of pussy-/ willows, cox-stamens & rosepetal lips dumped in the garbage can/ by unthinking lovers that I used to sleep and giggle with/ crazed, hateful & disappointed Catullus."

At approximately forty-two-and-a-half minutes in, Allen declares: "We’ll take a break. We’ll take a break, ten minutes or so, and then David’ll come back, read fifteen, twenty minutes, and I’ll come back with a symphony orchestra [Editorial note - not a symphony orchestra, just a few accompanying musicians], and sing three songs."

[tape continues with David Henderson, catching him, in media res, reading from his poem, "The Exiled"] - ("…about a man without a country/that story/about this white dude who did something to America/something that made him have to sail the seven seas/never to touch land/never to have a country…"… "….to something farther away,/ materially across continent and water/ to nothing/ to nothing so real in its utter presence/ as to make him tremble/ at the scent of memory")

DH:  Thank you, thank you. This is called “Nobody” – Nobody -  (“For the Revolution, the Third World War, three eyes….Pan Africa forms, new Loa"

Speaking of Loa (which is a Voodoo term for Gods), there’s a woman I alluded to in the poems about New Orleans. Her name was Marie Laveau – and she was quite famous in New Orleans from the beginning of the19th century and almost until the end, a lot of interesting stories about her. This is a couple of ballads -  "Down in the Old Town, Old Mary, she know.."..."When there's fire on the shore/Mary, don't you weep no more") - 

Okay, this is called "Mexico City Subway Inaugeral"  - circa 1969 - ("Something did not tell me,.."…"It looked like a halo and I was afraid") 

"There was a photographer in North Beach who passed away recently who, actually, was lost out in the middle of San Francisco Bay and his name was Andre Lewis, and what was particularly important to me about Andre Lewis was that he was a person who made me feel very much at home in North Beach in San Francisco. He was an Afro-American photographer,, and he had a lot of.. (well, he still has) a lot of marvelous photos (especially of Bob Kaufman) and.. anyway, this is a poem written to the memory of Andre Lewis, Afro-American photographer of North Beach, San Francisco. It's called "In Greeting..", "In Greeting or Farewell" ( "He handled his camera like Nat Love"… "..captured so much, and maybe each other in greeting or farewell') 

"Okay, this is the last poem I'm going to read and people have told me, out in California, they said, "Well, you never write many poems about California". So I wrote a poem about California. It's called "California Thirteen" - I lived near a highway that was called California Thirteen and was actually Ashby Avenue, for any of you who know Berkeley"
[David Henderson concludes with a long poem]
("To rise with the rulers of the world.."…"into another world, into a third world, .Baha continuum of California town"]

[At approximately sixty-three-and-a-half minutes in, Allen Ginsberg returns

AG:  (The next) number will be a non-smoking, anti-cigarette, non-commercial, “Put Down Yr Cigarette Rag” (“Don’t smoke, don't smoke…")
This is followed by a version of "Capitol Air"  (" I don’t like the Government where I live"..)  and "Broken Bones Blues" ( "When you break your leg, there’s nothing to stand on…" ) with, as before, (see his rendition of "Birdbrain") improvisation - (" soul is a whore, my soul is no more"). 

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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Allen Ginsberg & David Henderson at Naropa 1981 (part one)

                                                   [David Henderson - Photo by John Sarsgard]
                                                                           [Allen Ginsberg]

Last weekend it was a triple-X reading, this weekend it's an interrupted reading. Well, we've had those, of course, several times before here on the Ginsberg Project (notably, with the participant, the agency of disruption, being a rambuncious Gregory Corso - see, for example here and here). It's not Gregory this time, but an oblivious insistent audience-member, who finally has to be escorted from the room, not before causing some considerable mayhem and clearly affecting Allen (he amends his first poem - "Birdbrain is a poet talking to you/Birdbrain interrupted the poet talking to you") - Allen loses his temper ("What a pleasure! It's just a pleasure to get mad like that! It's so rarely allowed") - and with some justification, it would seem, (even though he tries to maintain his composure - "The Buddhist thing is co-emergent wisdom, that's right, co-emergent wisdom..").

The transcript today takes in David Henderson, his co-reader,'s first set (Henderson is only momentarily waylaid by the heckler), through to the moment of distraction.

Tomorrow we'll have the rest of Allen's set and more poems by David.

Audio for the reading (including the uproar, beginning at approximately twenty minutes in and concluding approximately twenty-five minutes in) can be heard here

The reading (from June 24, 1981) starts off  (on the audio, approximately thirty-seconds in) with an introduction by Peter Orlovsky 

Peter Orlovsky:  "Good evening… Each poet.. Dave Henderson will be the first poet to read, and he’ll read for twenty minutes, and then Allen Ginsberg will read for twenty minutes, and then Dave Henderson will read for twenty minutes, and then intermission, and then Allen will sing some songs – and maybe Dave too!"

"Dave Henderson was born in Harlem, educated in City University in New York, the New School For Social Research and the East-West Institute of Cambridge. He was a founder of the East Village Other and editor of Umbra magazine. He has given numerous poetry readings and is widely anthologized. His work has been translated into French, Italian, Spanish and Chinese. His books include Felix of the Silent Forest (Poets Press), Da Mayor of Harlem (Dutton).. Introducing Da Mayor of Harlem  -  Introduction to Nothing (Best Company Press (uh?))  that’s the.. that’s the what?

DH: That’s the non-existent book I wrote!

PO: That’s the non-existent book he wrote….  [Editorial note - "Re Peter Orlovsky's intro" - "there is no such publication as Introduction to Nothing - (or Introducing Da Mayor of Harlem, for that matter) -  "All I did was say that it was non-existent. It was neither the moment (the time) nor the place to further deny an obvious misstatement" (DH, 2015, in recollection)] 

PO:  ..and a biography entitled Jimi Hendrix –Voodoo Child of the Aquarian Age  – David Henderson… [Editorial note - later re-titled "Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky],  The Low East (Is this from the Lower East Side of Manhattan?) - [Yes]  – aha! –published by North Atlantic Books, Richmond, California, "Dedicated to Langston Hughes/ And to Calvin C Hernton,  Eddie Krasnow, & "Max"   
And Dave has been living in Berkeley, and now in Manhattan – a very young, handsome eager fellow! – Dave Henderson" 

DH: "Thank you, and it’s a pleasure to be reading at the Naropa Institute and to be reading with Allen. I’m going to read some poems from New Orleans.
This is called "Burgundy Street" (Burgundy Street – if you’re from New Orleans, and you go to a street that looks like Burgundy Street and you say "Burgundy" there, they know that you’re from somewhere else – "Burgundy Street" –  (“Four stories high..”..”the train from Congo Square is lost”) 
This (next) is called – “In Williams” – (“In Williams I would drink all seven hundred springs of Texas…”..,”thread the needle, we’re gonna do it”)
and this is called  “The Murals of the Stations” (for Marilyn) – (“The mural of the train station tells of pain and passion..”…”ancestors from the sea, what look like roaches”)"

[Henderson continues] - "This is called Sonny Rollins (he’s a jazz musician – (“Sonny Rollins, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Rollins, seeking peace in the city…” “the most important thing to me is my sanity – refrain’)"
[Next, a longer, three-part poem] - "This is called “Time Zone Poem” (for Carol ( "By winter you find the sun down in the other river as the sky plays the hesitation blues…”there is blue funk in the near-unknown”)  -  Thank you

[The heckler is first heard here, throwing out the non-sequitor and uncontextualized comment -  "What do you think about the mercenaries in Africa?"]
AG: Oh, wait a minute, have we got to go through this? - No
[Heckler persists - "What does he think about mercenaries in Africa? [to David Henderson] Have you got any poems on that? It’s an important issue, you ought to be talking about it ,where the people are being murdered…"]
DH: I have a poem that I’m gonna read in the next set, alright?
This is called “Song of Devotion to the Forest” and it’s after the pygmies of the Ituri forest  (“This land is my block and my people..”.. and we love to sing, especially when you sing with us”)
This is called  “Alchemical Notebook #3 – (“War in Africa north will end the world as we know it”…”… “…he will be a bad muthafucka!”) 

[Heckler again - "He qualifies for freedom of speech. That’s what I qualify (for) too!]
DH: Okay
AG (to DH)  (joking!) You want me to beat her up?!
DH: She’s possessed! That’s great!  [he continues]
This is  a poem for a woman named Sally and her daughter. It’s called “Sally” (“Between two women, mother and daughter..”.. “... synchronizing eternity”)

Let's see, this is called " Alvin Cash - Keep On Dancing"and it’s for children of Intermediate School 55,  Ocean Hill, Brownsville, especially the ones who play hookey, like I did. I used to visit the school and I used to hang out in the candy store across the street when I wasn’t visiting and some of the kids there would be in there too  and they were doing the most amazing dances I ever saw. Anyway, the song they were dancing to was by Alvin Cash and it was called “Keep on Dancing” (“I Gotta Keep on Dancing..”..."I Gotta Just Keep on Dancing”)

[Heckler returns with an inaudible question]
DH:  To the what?
Heckler : (The) Sandinista (Revolution)?
DH: Oh, Allen has a poem on that!
[Heckler responds with another inaudible remark]

DH: (Okay) -  This is the last poem I’m going to read this set. It’s called City Island” (“Along summer homes near water barges.."... “...with love for no-one”) 

[At approximately twenty-and-a-quarter minutes in, Allen begins his set with a strict warning (to the heckler) - 
 AG: (You musn't) interrupt me, or I really will… I'll beat ya up, or something! I'll do something. I don't want to be interrupted. Period."
 [Heckler immediately interrupts]
AG: Goddam!... What is it?  The Buddhist thing is co-emergent wisdom, that’s right, co-emergent wisdom,
Heckler (I don't like people who) beat up on women, you know.
AG: (Well), I’m a fairy and I do!  
[Allen attempts to begin the reading with a poem] "What's Dead".."What’s Dead.."

Heckler: It’s a good thing you don’t have a wife or you’d kill her! 
AG: Please, please. I want to read poems now.
Student(s): Throw her out!
[Heckler interrupts with inaudible remark]
AG: Now you’ve interrupted me three times?
[Allen attempts to begin the poem again] - "What's Dead…"
Heckler: (You're limiting) free discussion.
AG: It is not free discussion! - I really will have you kicked out - or taken out – I won’t put up with it. Now either you shut up now or you get out..
[attempts resuming once again!]... "What’s Dead"
Heckler: Okay, whatever you say, I expect you’re gonna call the CIA!’
AG: [now exasperated] - I’ll put her out myself -  Goddammit! Just leave! – I won’t take it - [There follows the inevitable moment - the sounds of an altercation . The heckler shouts and rants The audience is clearly very much on the side of Allen ]
AG: [to heckler] You’re giving me a nervous breakdown..I can’t stand it anymore.. Except... I’m letting her do it again! I knew that would happen.  [to Assistant] - Well, I wouldn’t follow her around, Susan [sic], but I don’t quite know what to do.
Heckler: [returning to the fray with irony] -  Okay, ..let’s hear it here for freedom of speech!
Student(s): Go home!

AG: Wait a minute. I have an idea. Let’s take a vote. Hold on, hold on a second. hold on, no hold on. There are three alternatives -  either.. even.. let’s see now, (one), if you’ll be quiet you’ll stay (either she is quiet and stays), or, two, she can talk and stay, or three, go out. We can take her. I’ll take care of it, So, one, quiet-and -stay is my preference. 
Heckler: I would say...
Student:  Not sure if she can be quiet and stay..
AG: Okay..second..   Is that sufficient?  [Allen to Heckler] Would you be quiet and stay?
Heckler: Yes, well, but ..
AG: Would you be quiet and stay?
Heckler: If I...
AG: Yes or no?!!
Heckler: I will read a poem and..
AG: [previously pent-up frustration but now exploding in anger] - NO!! , No!  You will not impose your fuckin' bad poems on everybody!  No. I  won’t do it. The alternative.. The alternative is…
Heckler: Don’t be a petty monster!
AG:   . (to) a captive audience..
Heckler: Don’t be a  petty monster!
AG: No? Okay, you gotta go. Okay, finish the vote. Shall we finish the vote?  Okay - Three or two? Number Three! -  (Three was "out"!) – Three is "out" . Is that a majority?
Heckler: I want the microphone
AG [exasperated]: I’m not sure if I can handle it anymore!
Student: [to heckler]  It’s not your microphone, nobody else hear wants to hear you!
[Among great shouting and commotion ("easy, easy") heckler is finally - eventually - escorted out]
AG: I can’t stand it anymore! - too much! – for too many years...!

What a pleasure! It’s just a pleasure to get mad like that!  It’s so rarely allowed.   
[Allen is now clearly rattled and breathing heavily]
"Birdbrain" - [Allen presents a version of the poem, understandably, incorporating several additional lines relating to the interruption, alongside other minor amendments] - "Birdbrain is a poet talking to you".."Birdbrain interrupted the poet talking to you".. "Birdbrain is Allen Ginsberg".."Birdbrain is still screaming about it"..."Birdbrain is angry.."Birdbrain's heart is beating", "Birdbrain's heart is beating shallowly".."Birdbrain gets madder than anyone".."Birdbrain commits murders on people who interrupt poetry readings in 1981..")
… [continues & finishes the poem] "while the sky thunders"..

to be continued tomorrow - more Allen Ginsberg and David Henderson

Friday, November 27, 2015

Ashraf Fayadh Appeal - Urgent

                                                              [Ashraf Fayadh]

From a letter presented this morning (Friday November 27)  to His Excellency Shaykh Dr Mohammed bin Abdulkareem Al-Issa at the Ministry of Justice in Saudi Arabia from a broad coalition of human-rights groups

"We, the undersigned organizations, all dedicated to the value of creative freedom, are writing to express our grave concern that Ashraf Fayadh has been sentenced to death for apostasy. 

Ashraf Fayadh, a poet, artist, curator, and member of the British-Saudi art organization Edge of Arabia was first detained in relation to his collection of poems Instructions Within following the submission of a complaint to the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue. He was released on bail but rearrested in January 2014.

According to court documents in May 2014 the General Court of Abha found proof that Fayadh had committed apostasy (ridda) but had repented for it. The charge of apostasy was dropped, but he was nevertheless sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes in relation to numerous charges related to blasphemy. 

At Ashrad Fayadh's retrial in November 2015 the judge reversed the previous ruling, declaring that repentance was not enough to avoid the death penalty.

We believe that all charges against him should have been dropped entirely, and are appalled that Fayadh has instead been sentenced to death for apostasy, simply for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and freedom of belief…..It is our understanding that Fayadh has 30 days to appeal this latest ruling and we urge the authorities to allow him access to the lawyer of his choice.
We call on the Saudi authorities to release Ashrad Fayadh and others detained in Saudi Arabia in violation of their right to freedom of expression immediately and unconditionally." 

and this statement of solidarity by poets and writers released by PEN  International

"We,  poets and writers from around the world,  are appalled that the Saudi Arabian authorities have sentenced Palestinian poet, Ashraf Fayadh,  to death for apostasy.

It is not a crime to hold an idea, however unpopular, nor is it a crime to express opinion peacefully. Evdry individual has the freedom to believe or not believe. Freedom of conscience is an essential human right 

The death sentence against Fayadh is the latest example of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's lack of tolerance for freedom of expression and ongoing persecution of free thinkers.

We, Fayadh's fellow poets and writers, urge the Saudi authorities to desist from punishing individuals for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and call for his immediate and unconditional release."  

Here's a report from Amnesty International   (available in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic)

This case is most urgent. Please do all you can do to spread the word and agitate for/insist upon Fayadh's release.

Here's Fayadha, from 2013, on Saudi tv, discussing, Mostly Visible, a show of artists from Saudi Arabia that he curated in the Saudi city of Jidda  (He was also, that same year, with Edge of Arabia, involved in  curating an exhibition at the Venice Biennale) 

Mona Kareem's translations of Fayadha's "disputed" poems can be accessed here

This story is on-going.

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 246

 [Guillaume Apollinaire by Picasso]

Guillaume Apollinaire - Zone - Selected Poems - "The fruit of poet-translator Ron Padgett's fifty-year engagement with the work of France's greatest modern poet" -  
(a bilingual edition) - has just been published by the New York Review Books
Don't miss it.  

For Allen Ginsberg on Apollinaire -  see (for example) his 1975 Naropa class here 
(which includes, among other things, a complete reading and commentary on the title poem, "Zone")  

and here, here - (and, again, here)

 [Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918)]

"Guillaume, Guillaume how I envy your fame, your accomplishment for American letters/ your Zone with its long crazy line of bullshit about death/come out of the grave and talk through the door of my mind/issue new series of images oceanic haikus blue taxi-cabs in Moscow negro statues of Buddha/pray for me on the phonograph record of your former existence/ with a long sad voice and strophes of deep sweet music sad and scratchy as World War 1."   (from Allen Ginsberg - "At Apollinaire's Grave")

"America"  - "America when will you be angelic?/When will you take off your clothes/When will you look at yourself through the grave?/Whe will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites.."  We've been listening to and enjoying Robert Matheson's mix-up of double-bass and computer manipulation.   
"America, how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood."

No, we can not stop singing the importance of, and singularity of, John Wieners
Two recent manifestations, courtesy the Christina Davis and the Harvard Woodberry Poetry Room -
This - from 1962 (tho' written in 1955) - "Ode to the Instrument" 
(Robert Dewhurst's "Liner Notes", helpful annotations, may be found here)  

and this - (a recent "Oral History Initiative") - Dewhurst oversees a spirited discussion amongst John's friends - Ammiel Alcalay, Jim Dunn, Raymond Foye, Fanny Howe and Gerrit Lansing - memories of John.
  ["screen-grab shows Fanny Howe and Gerrit Lansing] 

Other "Oral History Initiatives" from the Woodberry Poetry Room include sessions on Charles Olson, Denise Levertov, Frank O'Hara, & others 

Michael Seth Stewart answers questions  - here  on editing John's journals (his recent City Lights edition) 

Jerry Cimino on rock musician Jimmy Page visiting the Beat Museum ("ogling all the manuscrips and letters and digging on Ginsberg's typewriter")

Paul Nelson's first-hand account of the recent 4th European Beat Studies Network Conference contains an interview with Polina McKay, one of the co-founders of the Network - listen to it here  

Four erstwhile Naropa faculty together for a recent reading in Woodstock, upstate New York - photo by Kim Spurlock