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
[ "Harry Smith's Birthday Party" - 2-color lithograph and screen print - 32 1/4 x 24 1/2 - limited edition for Gemini G.E.L, Los Angeles, by Allen Ginsberg, 1998]
["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