Saturday, May 28, 2016

Gary Snyder - 1994 at Naropa

[A section from "Mountains and Rivers Without End" - Lu Yuan (China, Qing dynasty, late 17th Century - handscroll ink on paper - from the Freer/Sackler Smithsonian Museums of Asian Art, Washington DC] 

Gary Snyder in 1994, reading at Naropa  - 

We featured a few weeks back a reading by Allen and Miguel Algarin from 1994 celebrating (among other things) the dedication of the Allen Ginsberg Library and the twentieth anniversary at Naropa ("Beats and Rebel Angels"). 
We continue today, with the second half of that reading, featuring Gary Snyder
(and - tomorrow - David Amram

Andrew Schelling: Welcome back. I’d like to first thank all the volunteers who ‘ve worked hard tonight to make this evening possible and to remind you that this is just the beginning of a month of poetry readings. The Naropa Institute would like to invite everybody here to come to the great show tomorrow night, on the front-range, the lawns, back of Naropa, about eight-thirty, we get to watch for Independence Day, the flowers blooming in the void, the city of Boulder’s fireworks, There are also after the fireworks, down at Boulder Theatre, Ken Kesey’s troupe performing “Twister", at ten o’clock, and various other readings throughout the week and throughout the month.
This afternoon at the opening of the Allen Ginsberg Library, I sat underneath one of the two largest sycamore trees in Boulder County and discovered I was sitting next to Gary Snyder, who looked up, as the thunderclouds rolled over, and said, “Looks like we might be rained out”, and I paused a moment and thought, “This is a man with whom you can really discuss the weather!” – and from there move on to geological landforms, watersheds, trees and flowers and their names, wildlife, and from there on to anthropology, Oriental languages, American poetry..  Back in the Paleolithic, our ancestors were talking seriously about the weather. One of the things about Gary’s poetry is that it returns you, again and again, in this economically predatory and media-dazzled world, to the things that humans have always talked about – love. work, play, poetry, friendship, community. I’ve seen many of you wandering around with his books under your arms or in secret libraries, books like Earth House Hold and The Back Country or No Nature or The Practice of The Wild, carrying them like secret documents of a society of the future . 
So, instead of enumerating his various achievements and books and awards and prizes, I’d like to say something to the residents of Colorado – For the last twenty years, Gary has stood the front lines against a steel-bellied, lock-jawed, beast known as the US economy, as it was set on carving up the landforms of California. That beast has slowly shifted its gaze and moved away from California and has descended here on us in the Rocky Mountains. We need to be on the front lines. This is a man who’s had a great deal of experience and his words are a call to vigilance there. Please welcome this ecological vigilante and poetic activist, our elder, Gary Snyder. 

Gary Snyder: I guess Andrew is talking about the Californication of Colorado that I hear about from time to time. Well, tonight, you know, there’s also a talk being given here in town on “Sacred Prostitutes”! – well, shoot, here we are! - us poets! – And I’m very pleased to be able to be part of this twentieth-year celebration for Naropa for the Jack Kerouac School and to do.. to be a friend, again, to Jack, to Allen, to be present, old comradely spirit, old memory of work together, delightful thought of a few more grey-haired years of work and play to do. Twenty years of Naropa. This coming year, a year from now, 1995, it will be forty years since I first met Allen in a cottage in Berkeley and forty years since the Six Gallery reading in San Francisco’s Marina where Allen first read “Howl”, and some of our little spirit got launched in the world, maybe not moving it, as Anne Waldman so graciously and optimistically says, for miles – but, give me a millimeter that’s real, you know, and I’m pleased with it.

Tonight I’m going to be reading from my present project, which is finishing up my long-time side-track, Mountains and Rivers Without End. This is also something that I started forty years ago . In fact, it was on the eighth of April. I came across this in my notes just a couple of days ago. The eighth of April, 1956, the Japanese painter Saburo Hasegawa, a friend of Alan Watts invited me to have tea with him in his apartment in San Francisco, and we drank tea and talked most of the afternoon about Chinese and Japanese landscape paintings, and in particular the great Zen monk and Japanese landscape painter – Sesshu (Toyo), who I was fascinated with at the time. Hasegawa gave me some marvelous insights into the mind of the Chinese and Japanese painters over a thousand years who had done that extraordinary landscape painting, and that is in my notes, where I first got the idea for a poem on landscapes, and landscapes of the world, and our mind as landscape, titled “Mountains and Rivers Without End”. All of the other poetry I’ve written through the years, in different forms and in different directions, has been a great pleasure to me, but my sweet secret project was to return, from time to time, as it came to me, and as it grew on me, to this other work, which I am now finishing up, and which is not, in many ways, like most of the poetry that I’ve done that you’re acquainted with.

Dogen Zenji once said, ”Who ever told people  that mind is opinions, thoughts, ideas, consciousness?”. “No”, he said, “mind is roof-tiles, fence-posts, tire-wheels, carriages, rocks, water, clouds”. Starting from there.
So with Saburo Hasegawas help and instruction, I went searching in some of the great museums in the United States, and later in Asia, for a type of landscape painting called “a handscroll”, or in Japanese a “makimono”. These are not the hanging paintings, but the paintings that unroll sideways. A series of such paintings have been done over the centuries, all with the same title. The title of all of these scrolls is  “Mountains and Rivers Without End”.  And so this is a poem, opening this series, about the earliest of those hand-scrolls, which is called “Endless Streams and Mountains” – (This scroll shows up in Jiangxi Province, when it was under the Jin Tartars. Even then the painter was unknown. It was just one of many handscrolls with that name. “At the end of the painting, the poem and the seals begin, it unrolls”. The owners of landscape scrolls put their own seal at the end of the scroll and then would write a poem. And each subsequent owner would write another poem and put another seal on it. And then, different owners would invite their friends to come look at it and they would spread it out for an afternoon and have tea. And then their friends, if they felt like it, would write another poem on it. And so new pieces of silk might be added onto the mounting at the end of the scroll, for as long as was needed, poem after poem. Discussing the scroll and appreciating it would go on through time.

“At the end of the painting, the poem and the seals begin, it unrolls./"- Wang Wen-wei saw this at the mayor's house in Ho-tung/town, year 1205./ He wrote at the end of it,/"The Fashioner of Things has no original intentions/Mountains and rivers are spirit condensed"/"..Who come up with/these miraculous forests and springs?/Pale ink/on fine white silk - Later that same month, someone named Li Hui added/ "...Most people can get along with the noise of dogs/ and chickens./ Everybody cheerful in these peaceful times/ But I - why are my tastes so odd?/I love the company of streams and boulders"/ - T'ien Hsieh of Wei-lo, no date, next wrote/"..The water holds up the mountains/The mountains go down into the water"/ - In 1332 Chih-shun added,/"…This is truly a painting worth careful keeping/And it has poem-colophons from the Sung and the/Chin dynasties. That it survived dangers of fire and/war makes it even rarer"/ - In the mid-seventeenth century one Wang To had a look at it, he wrote/"My brother's relative by marriage, Wen-sun, is learned and/ has good taste. He writes good prose and poetry. My broth/-er brought over this painting of his to show me"/ - The great Ch'ing dynasty collector Liang Ch'ing piao did not write on it or cover it with seals/Then it went into the Imperial collection/and stayed there down to the twentieth-century./ Chang Ta-ch'ien sold it in 1949/At the moment it's at the Cleveland Art Museum/on a bluff overlooking the steely waters of Lake Erie.     
I saw it in the 1970’s/Clearing the mind and sliding in/to that created space,/ the whole world a web of waters streaming over rocks/sky misty but not raining/I'm out on a lake/ or a river/coasting by/The trail enters the cliff from a stretch of gentler lands/wildlife and birds in hiding/must be mid-day/woods thin and trimmed/pine, some hard woods/brushy on the peaks/no farms but tiny cottages shelters gateways rest-stops, roofed but open work space/a warm and humid climate/set between cliffs/a flurry of temple roofs like clustered flowers/ a trail of climbing stair-steps curves back to the hills/five streams coming down from higher hills and basins back behind/big ranges behind these rugged little front hills/ pulses of low ground rocky uplifts/layered pinnacles aslant/A man sitting on a log hunched over/another, standing over him, raises a staff/a third, carrying a roll of mats, looks on/Just off-shore, two men in a tiny boat/A mile or so along, someome is fishing/They made fine bridges/A man with a shoulder load walks up a grade/Horsemen and walkers travel together/The trail ends at the edge of an inlet by a stream./Two moored boats and a boatman,/hills rise beyond the stream but no sign of further trails or dwellings/The beginning of the wild/The drifting boat has floated off the page./Brush, soft but dry, mooist but not misty./Step back and look at the whole scroll/It rises and falls/Stamp the foot, walk with it, clap, turn/The creek comes in/Ah, strain through boulders/Mountains walking on the water/Mountains, water ripples every hill/I step out of the museum./Low gray clouds over the lake/chill March breeze/old ghost ranges/sunken rivers come again/stand by the wall and tell their tale/Walk the path, slip the reigns, grind the ink, wet the brush, unroll the broad white space/lean out and tip the moist black line". [Editorial note - this early draft differs in some minor respects from the final version published by Counterpoint Press in 2008]  

What are these mountains and rivers on the earth? – The rivers are all just part of the water cycle, the water cycle being of course the rising of waters from lakes and oceans back into clouds, moving around over the planet as part of the climate system, precipitating down again as snow or water, and from the highest peaks on downward again, joining the streams, the watersheds, cutting the land, eroding the landscape, carrying sediment back out to sea, in a continual cycle. The cycle, it is said, is on a two-million-year scale, that is to say, all of the atoms of water in all of the oceans and seas are up, out, and around, once every two million years, excluding water that is locked up in glaciers in the Poles and in the mountains. Mountains, on the other hand, are generated by subduction, the grinding of plates against each other, the conflict of one plate against another giving uplift, or volcanic activity. And the subduction cycle is once every two-hundred-million years, roughly, that is to say, mountains will be back down under the water and back out again, or land will be down and out every two-hundred-million years. So we’re playing a two-million year cycle against a two-hundred-million year cycle here, dancing its way around. The old Buddhist images are mountains as ascetic energy and yogic detatchment and waters as giving compassion and giving it all away. So that Avalokitevara is the image of.. is tied to the metaphor of waters iconographically and Vairocana Buddha and his emanation
Chandamaharoshana  and a number of other Buddha emanations are associated with cliffs, rocks, mountains and asceticism – (and fire, also – volcanic fire) 

Here’s a poem for the water cycle [Editorial note - continuing, from "Mountains and Rivers…" - ""The Flowing"]  called  “Falls”  . This poem was written on a magical occasion at the base of Yosemite Falls in California – (Falls – “Over stone lip/ the creek leaps out as one/, divides in spray and streamers,/lets it all  go..”…..”I stand drenched in crashing spray and mist/ and pray.”

Grey eyes – the  eyes of Greek goddesses are often grey like grey-eyed Athena – Grey-green is the color of the Great Basin. The great presence, the great comrade, the great population of the Great Basin is Great Basin sagebrush. What a marvelous plant!  So firm! So clear! Stretching so far! – So this is a poem for sagebrush, and for the Great Basin. It’s called “Earrings Dangling and Miles of Desert “ [likewise, continuing, as all Snyder reads here, from Mountains and Rivers…]  - "Sagebrush (artemisia) is of the sunflower family or compositae. It is not related to sage,  salvia, which is in the family of mint. The Great Basin sagebrush, our biggest artemesia, Artemesia tridentata…"….. "“Farewell, Artemesia,/ aromatic in the rain,/ I will think of you in my other poems.”  

“Reeds" ("With This Flesh")  – “Why should we cherish all sentient beings?/ Because sentient beings/ are the roots of the tree-of-awakening/The Bodhisattvas and the Buddhas are the flowers and fruits/ Compassion is the water for the roots”  (that’s from the Avatamsaka Sutra) " I -  “A Beach in Baja –"... on the twenty-eighth day of September, 1539, the very excellent Senor Francisco de Ulloa, lieutenant of the Governer and captain of the armada by grace of the most illustrious Senor Marques de Valle de Oaxaca, took possession of the bay of San Andres and the Bermeja Sea….."….. “… - I, Pedro Palenzia, notary Republic of this armada, write what happened before me”  - "II - "Senora Maria Leree is ninety-eight years old/ rests in a dark cool room at full noon…"…." Where we breathe, we bow." - "III - (Eat yourself) -  "The bulls of Iberia - Europa loves the Father…"
... “with this meat  I thee feed/with this flesh I thee wed” 

And I’m finishing with this little epigraph..
"The Bear Mother" – She veils herself/ to speak of eating salmon/ teases me with/ " What do you know of my ways?"/ and kisses me through the mountain./ Through and under is layers, its/gullies, its folds:/Her mouth full of blueberries,/ We share.”       

Thank you.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at the beginning of the tape, and
continuing until approximately thirty-two minutes in]

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday' s Weekly Round-Up - 270

        [                                                                                             Allen Ginsberg - Photograph by Ken Sharp]

Ginsberg-week next week on the Ginsberg blog - celebrating his upcoming 90th birthday next Friday.

Meantime, great response so far to the recently-released 3-cd set, The Last Word on First Blues 

Don't miss Tom Semioli's extensive piece in Huffington Post  - Pat Thomas, the producer, is lauded and quoted - "This set is essential for all Ginsberg fans, and a great bookend to "Howl", especially for newcomers. You get a complete overview of the work of Allen Ginsberg - from his first great work to something that stands among his final major works"

"The Ginsberg Estate gets thousands of letters praising his poetry, I was the one guy who writes to them praising the music. They turned me loose in his personal tape archive at Stanford!  I spent years listening to hundreds of hours of Allen's music.."

Semioli notes this unfettered exuberance ("I was struck by how, to my ears, the collection reminded me of Dylan's joyous Basement Tapes.. Ginsberg is ebullient throughout the recordings, as are the other musicians. The passion, the humor, and the intensity of lyrics and melodies are irresistible.."   

Thomas - "Oh yeah, Ginsberg could not be embarrassed. He may be the purest performer of all time."
                                                   [Allen Ginsberg in 1984 with Pat Thomas]

Other reviews have been equally positive. Sean Jewell in American Standard Time (who describes Thomas as "Our man in the skies doing God's work") declares that "The Last Word on First Blues is proof that Ginsberg never stopped finding new ways to express himself". James Mann, in Ink 19, while acknowledging contemporary criticisms that it was "obscene and disrespectful", considers it to be "a worthy edition to Ginsberg's canon", "the definitive look at this example of Allen Ginsberg's genius", and, "really quite fun."

Our good friend Hal Willner is at it again. Speaking of "obscene and disrespectful" (sic), you possibly can't be more (cathartically) "obscene and disrespectful" than William Burroughs' Naked Lunch.  The Independent, this week, reports on Willner's new project - "Burroughs recited the most obscene passages from his non-linear free-flowing novel for an experimental album shortly before his death in 1997 but the project was "buried and put out of print very quickly". Now, more than two decades later, the audio is being dusted off…Canadian psychedelic soul singer King Khan..has composed new music to accompany Burroughs' recitations…The new album, named Let Me Hang You, after an episode from  Naked Lunch will be released on Khan's record label on 15 July."

For more on that (for the original story in the New York Times) - see here  

And one more on "obscenity", censorship, and provocative words - here's a troubling case reported last week in Myanmar

More on that case from PEN International - here and here 

"Dirty Ferdy, filthy ferdie, lousy louie, looney louie, lecherous louie, lazy louie. lucky louie, blu Lou, lispin' lou", as Neal Cassady, in the fabled Joan Anderson letter, famously describes him (keeping with that theme), today is Louis Ferdinand Celine's birthday.     

Terrible news to report regarding David S Wills exemplary site, Beatdom. "The website was hit by a major cyber-attack on Monday night. All 1,ooo posts, 2,ooo images, and 9 years of work were wiped out, and it has proven impossible to recover the lost data." Undaunted, Wills is hoping to rebuild the site from scratch, "start(ing) with recent posts and work(ing) our way back", "but a huge amount of material will prove impossible to replace". Beatdom and David have our deepest condolences.  Please support Beatdom in this time of difficulty by buying their magazine and books.

Jim Jarmusch's recent movie premiered a couple of weeks back at the Cannes Film Festival,  did we mention it evokes William Carlos Williams and Allen (main character, a bus-driver, who, matter-of-factly also writes poetry)? -  and the name of the character? - same as the name of his town - and the name of that town? - Paterson

The great Ron Padgett was consultant to the film, and poems by him are included. 

Next Friday, as well as being Allen's birthday, is, not coincidentally, the beginning of New York's ambitious Beats and Beyond programme. Some minor shifts and additions since last week when we announced the program. With so much happening, it makes sense to check up - here, keep up-to-date (Beat happenings every day, starting with a salute to the birthday-boy himself!) - Howl Happening!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Basic Poetics - Ballads - (Barbara Allen & The Baffled Knight)

Allen Ginsberg on Percy's Reliques and the Child Ballads continues

AG: "Barbara Allen" is another classic, You’ve all heard of… how many have heard of “Barbara Allen”?.. let’s.. I can’t imagine anyone hasn’t heard of “Barbara Allen” – I think Joan Baez sings that? – Everybody sings that (or every girl that has a guitar – in 1940 every girl that had a guitar sang “Barbara Allen”. And the classic lines are at the very end -
 "O mother, mother, make my bed,/O make it saft and narrow:/My love has died for me today,/ I’ll die for him tomorrow.” - “O mother, mother, make my bed” is sort of the feminine equivalent of  the…

Student: “Lord Randall

AG: “Lord Randall"...
And.. (it was a tolerant humor that “Lord Barnard” had when he repented, I thought, it’s amazing, a sort of objectivity, an tolerant humor and then an objectivity, how should he arrange the corpses).

In “Barbara Allen", I found, the whole plot is kind of a nonsensical mystery. If you read it all through, you can’t.. it’s this..
Apparently, the young boy has insulted Barbara Allen and then he’s dying, and she comes to his deathbed, and she hectors him for having slighted her, and he turns his face to the wall and dies, and then she goes home to her mother, and says, "O mother, mother, make my bed, my boyfriend died for me, now I’ll die for him". Obviously, a long story that is not being told there, I mean, it's a long novel. So it’s reduced just to the simplest archival moments within it.

Then, The Baffled Knight” a funny one, page one –oh-one. The rhythm in that, the rhythm in that is kind of interesting, That’s what I was picking up in that particular one. The plot is that the knight meets a lady in a hayfield, wants to make her, and she says, ok, 
if you take me home to my father’s castle, you can shall enjoy my maidenhead and  estate and all sir". So he takes her home, she goes home, locks herself in her castle and lassos him. And the moral of the story is, as she says, “And if you meet a lady gay as you go by the hill, sir/if you will not when you may, you shall not when you will, sir” - So, the rhythm, it took me a little while to figure that one out - “And-if-you-meet-a-lady-gay-as-you-go-by-the-hill-sir/, if you will not, when you may, you shall not when you will, sir",
because I was reading, " if you will not..".. "if you will what..".."if you will not/ when you may/, you shall not..", or whatever... but, then I figured ""if you will not when you may, you shall not when you will, sir" - then it falls into place - do or don’t..

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seven-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately ten-and-a-half minutes in]

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Percy's Song

[Dr. Thomas Percy (1729-1811), Bishop of Dromore]

We've been examining the ballad tradition here on the Allen Ginsberg Project. 
Here's Bob Dylan's "Percy's Song"

Percy's Song

Bad news, Bad news
Come to me where I sleep
Turn, turn, turn again
'Sayin; one of your friends
Is in trouble deep
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind.

Tell me the trouble
Tell once to my ear
Turn, turn, turn again
Joliet prison
And ninety-nine years
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind

Oh what’s the charge
Of how this came to be
Turn, turn, turn again
In the highest of degree
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind

I sat down and wrote
The best words I could write
Turn, turn, turn again
Explaining to the judge
I’d be there on Wednesday night
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind

Without a reply
I left by the moon
Turn, turn, turn again
And was in his chambers
By the next afternoon
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind

Could ya tell me the facts?
I said without fear
Turn, turn, turn again
That a friend of mine
Would get ninety-nine years
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind

A crash on the highway
Flew the car to a field
Turn, turn, turn again
There was four persons killed
And he was at the wheel
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind

But I knew him as good
As I’m knowin’ myself
Turn, turn, turn again
And he wouldn’t harm a life
That belonged to someone else
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind

The judge spoke
Out of the side of his mouth
Turn, turn, turn again
Sayin’, “The witness who saw
He left little doubt”
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind

That may be true
He’s got a sentence to serve
Turn, turn, turn again
But ninety-nine years
He just don’t deserve
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind

Too late, too late
For his case it is sealed
Turn, turn, turn again
His sentence is passed
And it cannot be repealed
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind

But he ain’t no criminal
And his crime it is none
Turn, turn, turn again
What happened to him
Could happen to anyone
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind

And at that the judge jerked forward
And his face it did freeze
Turn, turn, turn again
Sayin’, “Could you kindly leave
My office now, please”
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind

Well his eyes looked funny
And I stood up so slow
Turn, turn, turn again
With no other choice
Except for to go
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind

I walked down the hallway
And I heard his door slam
Turn, turn, turn again
I walked down the courthouse stairs
And I did not understand
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind

And I played my guitar
Through the night to the day
Turn, turn, turn again
And the only tune
My guitar could play
Was, “Oh the Cruel Rain
And the Wind”

Here's Joan Baez singing the song to Dylan (from the D.A.Pennebaker movie Don't Look Back - she continues on the soundtrack, singing Dylan's "Love Is Just A  Four-Letter Word")

Here's the incomparable Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention singing their version of the song back in 1969