Saturday, April 18, 2015

Kaddish, 1959, (the Robert Creeley Recording)

                            [Kaddish (50th Anniversary edition), Allen painted by Naomi, Allen & Naomi]

Allen's classic poem "Kaddish" has been featured on several occasions on The Allen Ginsberg Project (notably here, here, here and here).  Today, we're doing so again.

Today's version (noticeably missing Part II) - (low-, but nonetheless serviceable, fidelity) is from a recording included in the Robert Creeley collection (the collection of audiotapes bequeathed by the Estate) currently available on the University of Pennsylvania's unparalleled PennSound site. 

The tape, as UPenn's curators inform us, "appears to have been recorded at the Creeley's home in or around 1959", and runs for approximately twenty-eight minutes. As well as reading (from) "Kaddish", Allen also reads "Back on Times Square, Dreaming of Times Square", "Laughing Gas  (part 1)", "My Sad Self (for Frank O'Hara)" and "To Aunt Rose"

The entire reading may be heard here

Kaddish part I may be heard here

Kaddish part III may be heard here
Kaddish part IV here 
and Kaddish part V here

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 217

[Lawrence Ferlinghetti standing outside his "Banned Books" display at  City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, in the early 1950's]

The David Olio "Please Master" Censorship case - some update.  Steve Silberman, over at Our Allen, has been doing sterling work marshalling (sadly necessary) some defense.  An enthusiastic highly-regarded Connecticut high-school teacher lost his job. 

                                                                        [David Olio]

Here's word from someone not unfamiliar with defending Allen Ginsberg and free speech issues - Lawrence Ferlinghetti

"As the original publisher of Allen Ginsberg's poetry, City Lights Books fully supports David Olio as a high school teacher of poetry. We feel he was justified in showing in class a video of Ginsberg reading 'Please Master,' since students absolutely need to know this poem for a full understanding of Ginsberg's oeuvre."  (Lawrence Ferlinghetti)

and, with more detail and more depth, the esteemed Harvard poetry professor, Helen Vendler

Although Mr. Olio made use of a poem brought to class by a student, asking students to bring a poem to class does not violate the curriculum: on the contrary, it asks that the student make an investment in his own education.There are persistent efforts at censorship of material read in school, whether contributed by students or on a recommended list. To add Ginsberg's poem to school-censored works of Twain, Faulkner, Whitman, etc. is to deny the freedom to read what one likes, and share what one likes with others, which is the basis of intellectual life. Given what students are already exposed to via TV and film, Ginsberg's poem, which concerns a well-known form of abjection (whether heterosexual or homosexual) reveals nothing new. It may have been imprudent of Mr. Olio to feature it after a student brought it in, but it is certainly not cause for termination. Termination of Mr. Olio would announce that freedom of speech has been abolished in the school system. Mr. Olio might be counseled to remember the sensibilities of adolescents, but fear of giving possible offense should not curtail speech. Mr. Olio was not crying "Fire" in a crowded theater. He has taught in this school system for twenty years; his service to students for two decades ought to outweigh a single class incident, prompted by a student. And Ginsberg is a radically original and worthwhile poet; American students should know his work (but perhaps through a different poem)."  (Helen Vendler)

Here's further contextualization from Binghamton Poetry Professor, Joe Weil:

"..I think the teacher was taking a volatile subject and containing it in a classroom where it could be dealt with intelligently. There's room for Aristotle's catharsis - relieving a situation's worst possibilities by allowing some breathing room. Plato's censorship just makes such a poem into forbidden fruit. Better to deal with it. The teacher did the right thing by not faning the flames. And I agree with Ferlinghetti. This poem is essential to understanding both Ginsberg and the tradition of Blake/Whitman from which he comes.

In order to understand Ginsberg as an artist – and he is indeed recognized as one of his country’s most important poets – one has to consider his relationship with Neal Cassady. In “Howl”, undeniably one of the most important poems of the 20th Century, Cassady is famously described as “N.C., secret hero of these poems.” In the late forties, Cassady was the secret hero of another poem – a love letter of sorts – called “Dakar Doldrums.” In 1956, the year “Howl” was published, he wrote “Many Loves,” the first poem in which he explicitly named and described his relationship with Cassady. Towards the end of the poem he refers to Cassady as “my master.” The same year, in explaining and defending “Howl”, Ginsberg used the phrase “my master” to refer to Cezanne – an influence upon his art. Indeed, Ginsberg often used the word “master” to describe his literary and artistic influences throughout his letters. Cassady was not just a one-time lover over whom Ginsberg pined, and about whom he wrote dirty poems, but an important influence (again, a "master" in the classical sense) on his life and art as he was with Jack Kerouac." 

More updates - last week's "Howl" in L.A concert - Mandalit Delbarco's report for NPR news (complete with brief sound-bytes - including Jonah Raskin, on the impact of the poem) is well worth catching.

Here's Katya Lopatko's report of the event for the USC Annenberg Media Center. 

Meantime, in San Francisco - "The Six Gallery Reading" Redux - "Beat Explosion: The 6 Gallery and the Birth of the Beats", a 60-year-on re-creation/ evocation of the legendary evening of "Howl's" first public performance - "Wonder Dave" performed as Kenneth Rexroth, m.c., Josh Merchant performed as Allen Ginsberg. 
"It's not meant to be an exact replica of the night, but to capture the feel of what went on", Wonder Dave had previously explained. 
Notwithstanding, that didn't stop at least one audience member from expressing public, and quite explicit, vocal dissent.
Tony Bravo of the San Francisco Chronicle takes up the tale:

                                                [from Oakland, California, poet Josh Merchant

"I saw", Merchant began the famous opening lines to "Howl", "the dopest minds of my generation destroyed by madness", he colloquially updated. 
(and) Merchant continu(ed) substituting subjects like Islam, hipster beards, hip-hop, Hennessey, and gentrification, for Ginsberg's concerns of sixty years prior.
Although he elicited his share of cheers (as did Lisa Evans as Gary Snyder) one audience member stood up during the poet's final bow for reasons of the non-ovation variety. "Rubbish, just rubbish" (declared) the man (who did not want to share his name), 
(he) spat at the crowd, before marching up the cellar stairs, stopping, and waving goodbye to the readers with one finger."

Perhaps he was in search of a more participatory, more one-on-one experience. In that case, (in the very same city), he could not have done much better than participating in this - Evan Burton and Zachary McCune's enterprising experiment for National Poetry Month

                                                 [Evan Burton and Zachary McCune]
National Poetry Month in America continues - and the phone line is still up. 1-415-763-6968

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Meditation and Poetics - 76 - (Walt Whitman Lists - 4)

["The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane whistles its wild ascending lisp." (Walt Whitman)] 

Allen in his Naropa class continues his line-by-line examination of Section 15 of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”

AG [reading Whitman]: - “The one-year wife is recovering and happy having a week ago borne her first child,/The clean-hair’d Yankee girl works with her sewing machine or in the factory or mill/ The paving man leans on his two-handed rammer” – (that’s a good one!)

Peter Orlovsky [sitting in on the class]: Rammer?

AG: “...rammer”

Peter Orlovsky: What’s a “rammer”? You ram cement to make a…

AG: Well, maybe. It’s a two-handed instrument with a pole and then a flat bottom which would either…no, I guess, ram into the ground
Peter Orlovsky: Ram in?
AG: Like a..
Peter Orlovsky: A tamper?
AG: That would be the padding instrument, and then a rammer, I guess, a rammer would be ramming in. Maybe ramming down the earth?
Student: (But if..)
AG: Huh?
Student: If the earth doesn’t settle, you can’t fake it by using a rammer
AG: They call that “ramming it”?
Student: Tamping it down
AG: Tamping it. Probably he should have said “tamper”. But “rammer”, maybe, for those days – “The paving-man leans on this two-handed tamper” would be just as good…

“…the reporter’s lead flies swiftly over the note-book..” – (That’s nice, that’s like a movie) – “…the sign-painter is lettering with blue and gold” – (Great. So you’ve got some color in there to give it eyeball fleck) - “The canal boy trots on the tow-path, the book-keeper counts at his desk, the shoemaker waxes his thread” – (That’s terrific – “(T)he shoemaker waxes”. Of all the things that a shoemaker does, this is almost like drawing it down to that one thin line – “(T)he shoemaker waxes his thread”. You couldn’t get any more precise. You couldn’t focus the eye more precisely.)

Peter Orlovsky: What’s a “tow-path”?

AG: Along the canals, they would have in those days, before there were gas engines, I presume, on barges, or before there were tow-boats for barges, they were towed with ropes, and there was a path alongside the canal, and people, boys, were hired to pull the boat up on ropes. So that’s “tow-path” – T-O-W (not T-O-E) T-O-W path

“…(The) shoemaker waxes his thread” – (Well that’s the real good example) – “The conductor beats time for the band and all the performers follow him” – (He’s having fun here) – “The child is baptized, the convert is making his first professions” – (Well, since he’s got opposites, sort of (the child baptized, the convert making his first professions), he doesn’t have to be too specific, because the specificity here, you might say, lies in the contrast, the opposites”) 

“The regatta is spread on the bay, the race is begun, (how the white sails sparkle!)  - (So he’s got it right there – “how the white sails sparkle!” – that’s the gimmick there – as an exclamation)

Peter Orlovsky: What’s a “regatta”?

AG: A regatta is an assemblage of boats to go on a race, in a bay – Actually, see, there’s a lot of different ways of doing that too, of getting in that particularity, which Whitman or Kerouac or others have made use of. If you’ve written a more general line like, “The regatta is spread on the bay, the race is begun” (and) you still don’t have quite the full picture, you can say, “how the white sails sparkle!” – the afterthought, the afterimage in the mind’s eye, you just throw in as an exclamation point.

“The peddler sweats with his pack on his back, (The purchaser higgling about the odd cent)” – “”Higgling” is funny, also. Just the “higgling” is enough to get up a little bit of dramatic activity there) –“The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute-hand of the clock moves slowly,/The opium-eater reclines with rigid head and just-open’d lips” – (That’s pretty good, actually. That’s good observation, I would say, amongst us junkies!)

Student: Allen, do you want to hear one cut?
AG: Yeah
Student: “The camera and plate are prepared, the lady must sit for her daguerreotype”
Student: Daguerreotype
AG: “The camera and plate are prepared, the lady must sit for her daguerreotype”. That would follow properly on (from) “–“The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute-hand of the clock moves slowly” in that instant the photo is taken (I don’t see why he cut that out, because they make a nice pair -You can make a whole soap opera there - By soap opera, I just mean a familiar dramatic eternal family scene).

“The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on her tipsy and pimpled neck” – (The sound is great – the “bonnet bobs on her tipsy and pimpled neck” (and) that’s a complete Hogarth-ian caricature.) – “The crowd laugh at her blackguard oaths, the men jeer and wink to each other,/ (Miserable! I do not laugh at your oaths nor jeer you!)” 
“ The President…” – (Okay, what’s he going to do with the President? He’ll stop at nothing, this Whitman! – Why not? Since it’s all imagination and observation, he can go anywhere he wants in his mind) – “The President holding a cabinet council is surrounded by the great Secretaries” – (“(T)he great Secretaries” –that’s a funny (phrase), that’s a Kerouac-ian thing - (“(T)he great Secretaries” – And then, actually, maybe related to that, would be the (C)abinet councilor’s wives – “On the piazza they walk three matrons stately and friendly with twined arms” – (or it might be the piazza of  Asbury Park for all you know) – “The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of halibut in the hold” – (So he particularized the fish at least) – “The Missourian…”

I mean, how many of you [Naropa students] write poems where [you write something like] “I saw a bird cross the sky” (In fact, I was looking at a poem today, somebody was writing about “birds over the ocean”. And when I said, “Gee, bla-bla-bla, you know - “birds over the ocean?”. “Herring-gull”, she said - “Perfect. Herring-gull (you smell the ocean a little at that point) - So, – “The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of halibut in the hold”

“The Missourian crosses the plains, toting his wares and his cattle,/As the fare-collector goes through the train he gives notice by the jingling of loose change” – ( Boy, that’s good. That’s really nice. It’s so clear and so individualized, that piece of recollection, or remembrance, or noticing, or perception – “As the fare-collector goes through the train he gives notice by the jingling of loose change” – That’s something that only one guy could have noticed and put down (like (William Carlos) Williams noticed, “turn the spigot, waiting for the water to freshen – it’s of the same order of something-that-you-notice). It’s something real that you notice, that you get the point of, that you appreciate. You notice it and then you’re conscious of noticing it. And so you appreciate it. (And) so I would say that the poetics here is becoming conscious of what you already notice, or noticing what you notice – seeing what you see, or hearing what you hear – and that quality of humor that appreciates it. Because it is a humor thing. He “gives notice by the jingling of loose change”. I bet he laughed when he wrote that, realizing that, a hundred years later, people would recognize some clink of reality in it, some clink of Person, something that only a human being could do, (a machine can’t notice things like that – or you might compute them, but a machine can’t notice them, record them, and transmit them to other people over a hundred years – a little phenomenal crinkle), something that has to do with the senses, that only people with our senses would appreciate. And only people with developed senses would appreciate it or develop it into language or poetry so that others could relate to it and re-live it. It’s really not so much that the specific occasion, like the waxing of the thread, the jingling of the change, need to be familiar, or the whistling.. what was that? – “the whistling whine of the..”? – what was it?. (It’s a) rather interesting line. I forgot . What was that? Anybody find it? 

Student:  “His foreplane whistles..”
AG: What’s the whole phrase?
Student: “(H)is foreplane whistles its wild ascending lisp”
AG:  Yeah. “lisp”. It’s not only that we recognize the “wild ascending lisp” which we’ve heard, or the jingling of the coin, it’s that we recognize the quality of mind. It’s mind-to-mind. It’s reminding us of mind. Now everybody who writes poetry wants to remind everybody else of mind (and eternity and vastness and grandeur and blah and space - but you can only remind people of the mind of space by some detail within the space, which indicates that the mind is observing it. You can only indicate the vastness of reality by some little detail occurring accommodated in the vastness.)
Student: I don’t think.. I think there’s another way you can do it, through assorted music in the words that sort of conveys an emotion which can’t be captured by details (which) comes through, in a sort of song-like lyric, (in that case), it’s not really details that are so important, it’s the whole sound of the thing (which) conveys something (transcendent).

AG: Well, that's true.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Meditation and Poetics - 75 - (Walt Whitman Lists - 3)

AG [continuing to read from "Song of Myself" and quoting Whitman]: “The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill the Huron”. What is “The Wolverine”? Does anybody know?
Student: It’s a little..
AG: “The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill the Huron” – the Huron River, the Huron..
Student: .. River
AG:  ..River.
Student (2): Huron Lake
AG: Lake?  Lake.
Student: (It’s still, in parts of Michigan, a river.)
Peter Orlovsky [also sitting-in in the class]:  (And the) wolverine is a little animal.
AG: I imagine, but a wolverine doesn’t..
Student: (No, it isn’t the animal)
AG: It probably needs a footnote. Does anybody (have) an edition (of Leaves of Grass) with footnotes
Student It’s the name of someone who..
AG: Pardon me?
Student: It’s a guy who lives in Michigan  - Michigan Wolverines and Michigan Badgers
AG: Ah, it’s a guy who live in Michigan. There’s a real language detail. In this case, the precision and accuracy is in the quiddity of the individuality of the language, there, where he actually knew enough about the particular detail that they’re called..  What state is that, though? that area?
Student: Michigan
AG: Michigan
Student: It’s like the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines
AG: Right. It’s capitalized here.

“The squaw wrapt in her yellow-hemm’d cloth is offering moccasins and bead-bags for sale.”  - Pardon me?
Student: Did you skip a couple of lines?
AG: No, What have you got? Have you got something there
Student: Yeah
AG: Is that the first edition?
Student: Yeah
AG: Oh, let’s see what he left out. Loud.
Student: “The Reformer ascends from platform, he spouts with his mouth and nose”
AG: That’s great
Student: “The company returns from its excursion. The darkie brings up the rear and bears the well-riddled target.”
AG: “Well-riddled target”?
Student: “Well-riddled target”
AG: That’s shooting, their shooting spree, or shooting match. Or arrow, bow and arrow, whatever. Go on.
Student: “Darkie..”
AG: Go on. Any more?
Student; No, (that’s it)
AG: What’s that first line, though?
Student: : “The Reformer ascends from platform, he spouts with his mouth and nose”
AG: That’s pretty good.

Peter Orlovsky: He what?

AG: “The Reformer... he spouts with his mouth and nose.” - “The Reformer ascends from platform, he spouts with his mouth and nose” – (I guess he thought it was too vulgar or something, or too mean probably) – This next one is really good.

“The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with half-shut eyes bent sideways” – So it’s like a little pencil sketch. (Jack) Kerouac always loved that one - “The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with half-shut eyes bent sideways.” I think Kerouac wrote whole novels out of that line, actually. That is to say, the particular kind of taking some archetypal social detail, sort of half-campy, half-witty. Whitman, I’m sure, knew such connoisseurs and dug them as intellectual companions. But he’s making a sort of funny, archetypal humorous cartoon or fast sketch out of it (which also captures the particular vanity or pride or psychological self that would be discernible in such posture and eye attitude.

“As the deck-hands make fast the steamboat the plank is thrown for the shore-going passengers,/The young sister holds out the skein while the elder sister winds it off in a ball, and stops now and then for the knots” – (He might have said, “One woman holds out the skein while another woman holds out the skein, but he had a whole family picture there. “The young sister holds out the skein while the elder sister..” – so he laid it on thick.

Student: It’s still not that specific because it’s only “young”, (there’s no age for the sister), you just have to imagine the thing…
AG: It would be a little awkward to say “seventeen-year-old sister”, come on..
Student: I always wondered about that, though
AG: Okay..we’re agreed, there is a slight generalization there – “the young sister” – He could have had… What does “young” mean? – Okay.
Student (2): (How, though, to be more specific..)
AG: The… (Well,) what did young girls wear in those days? (that might have indicated the youth). The youthful (sister)..
Student:  Fair-cheeked?
AG: ..The big-bellied older sister? – Pardon me?
Student: Fair-cheeked?
AG: Fair?...nah  - ”fair-cheeked”, that’s a stereotype. No, something about the dress, or the posture, or, something that would indicate “young” (but there’s a limit to how much detail you can get). Well, there is no limit to how much accuracy (accuracy is unlimited, I think). This isn’t totally accurate, but since you’ve got a young sister and an old sister and a skein and they stop now and then for winding it off the ball, and they stop now and then for knots, you actually have some phanopoetic 3-D picture, if you want, in your mind. (phanopoeia – the casting of an image on the mind’s eye) ["the throwing of an image on the mind's retina", "throwing a visual image on the mind" - the term is, of course, from (Ezra) Pound's ABC of Reading