Monday, July 28, 2014

Happy Birthday John Ashbery








John Ashbery





\
[John Ashbery, iconoclast, with a baseball-bat, from Rudy Burckhardt's Mounting Tension (1950); painted by Larry Rivers ("Pyrography: Poem and Portrait of John Ashbery II" (1977); photographed by Lynn Davis (c.1986); "L'Heure Exquise - collage by John Ashbery (1977); presentation of 2011 National Arts and Humanities Medal, February 2012, by President Barack Obama

Today is the great American poet John Ashbery's 87th birthday

We thought to celebrate with this - a vintage reading from 1963 in New York at The Living Theatre (reading from Rivers and Mountains, Some Trees, and The Tennis Court Oath, with an introduction by Kenneth Koch

Here's a more recent reading (from February 2013) at the Kelly Writers House 



(and here's a follow-up interview, (hosted by UPenn's Al Filreis), a day later 

The PennSound John Ashbery page (from which these two readings have been excerpted) is, truly, a quite extraordinary trove - hours and hours of Ashbery, we recommend you pursue further. 

Similarly, the remarkable Ashbery Resource Center (a project of the Flow Chart Foundation for Bard College)  









John Ashbery - Collected French Translations: Prose

Just published, this past Spring, from FSG, "a major publishing event", John Ashbery's Collected French translations

(Our note on his 2011 Rimbaud translations may be read here)

Ashbery's most recent volume is Quick Question (2012). A new book of poems, Breezeway will be forthcoming early next year.


Happy Birthday, John!

Expansive Poetics 90 - (Apollinaire and TS Eliot)



[Allen Ginsberg's Annotated Copy of The Waste Land]

AG: The comparison to "The Waste Land" of this (Apollinaire's "Zone"), particularly, "You are alone the morning is almost here/The milkmen rattle their cans in the street" ( "Tu es seul le matin va venir/ Les laitiers font tinter leurs bidons dans les rues") - does that remind you of (T.S.) Eliot? - "Wipe your hands across your mouth and laugh,/ In the vacant allotments women gathering garbage",  or something. Do you know the line? [Editorial note - Allen is quoting here, (slightly misremembering), the concluding lines from Eliot's "Preludes" - "Wipe your hand across your mouth and laugh,/The worlds revolve like ancient women/Gathering fuel in vacant lots"] 

And the panoramic aspect is very similar to lines in "The Waste Land" - Eliot has the line- "A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,/I had not thought death had undone so many./ Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled/And each man fixed his eyes before his feet,/Flowed on the bridge and down off the bridge and up St. Williams/To where St Mary Woolnoth Church kept the hours/With a dead stroke on the final stroke of nine." - Let me find it... "Flowed up the hill and down King William Street/To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours.." - [Editorial note - Allen, again, from memory, slightly misremembers the line] -  You know that passage in "The Waste Land" that was itself an imitation or adaptation of Dante's vision of hordes of the dead moving in Hell [Canto III, verses 55-57) - Si lunga tratta/Di gente, ch'io non avrei mai credito/Che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta" - "Such a long stream/Of people, that I should never have believed./That death had slain so many…")], another paraphrase of which we heard was Jerome Rothenberg's - the hordes of the dead moving around the Ring Street in Vienna, the other night). [Editorial note - the allusion here is to a poetry-reading given by Rothenberg, one of the "Visiting Faculty" at Naropa that summer] 

Let me see if I can find "The Waste Land". How many here have read "The Waste Land"? - Just about everybody knows a little bit. Yeah - page one-seventy-nine - Yeah - "Unreal City.." (which is a paraphrase of (Charles) Baudelaire, originally  the first modern.. Fourmillante citécité pleine de rêves." [Editorial note - Allen is quoting from the opening line of Baudelaire's poem, "Les Sept vieillards" in Fleurs du Mal ]-  does anyone know French? - "Fourmillante"? - cité pleine de rêves - sort of like mass moving, massive moving, bubbling city, city full of dreams) - "Unreal City,/Under the brown fog of a winter dawn/A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,/I had not thought death had undone so many./ Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled/And each man kept his eyes before his feet.." - That's a direct quote or paraphrase or translation of Dante moving through (the) Inferno - " Flowed up the hill and down King William Street/To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours/With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine." - [This is that one panoramic vision of the twentieth-century city as a city of the dead, or as a city where the dead flowed over the bridges, and where the traffic is a phantom traffic. So you get that first in Eliot. 

Here - the little influence of Apollinaire's "Zone" - "Unreal city/Under the brown fog of a winter noon/ Mr Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant/Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants.. ["currants" would be current drafts, or bank drafts, I take it?] - "C. i. f. London - documents at sight/ Asked me in demotic French/To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel/Followed by a week-end at the Metropole" - So it's (that's) very similar to.
(Apollinaire's) "Here you are in Marseilles amid the watermelons/Here you are in Coblenz at the Hotel of the Giant". ("Te voici à Marseille au milieu des pastèques/Te voici à Coblence à l'hôtel du Géant") If you check through Eliot and check back to Apollinaire you'll see the relationship, which is celebrated, and which then goes back, as you'll remember, to (Arthur) Rimbaud (remember when we had that kind of discontinuity and juxtaposition in Rimbaud, as well as some element of modernity? - and you also get the modern city in (Charles) Baudelaire, who's what? - eighteen-twenty? thirty? forty?  around the time of (Edgar Allan) Poe? or just after Poe? [Editorial note - Fleur du Mal was published in 1857]

So, from Baudelaire to Rimbaud, then Rimbaud to Laforgue, and Laforgue to Apollinaire, is a huge influence of modernity and modern consciousness acknowledging the modern city which then spreads from the continent to (Ezra) Pound and (T.S.) Eliot, and influences (William Carlos) Williams, and other also (Williams' application to America was to try and be totally up-to-date and just look outside, Pound and Eliot were picking up from classic writers and from French sources more, and trying to adapt Laforgue and Apollinaire into English). 

[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately  forty-nine-and-three-quarter minutes in, to approximately fifty-five-and-a-half minutes in ]  

Addenda: and here's Allen's hero, Bob Dylan reading a few lines from Eliot's Waste Land -



    

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Allen Ginsberg's Proust Questionnaire



The Proust Questionnaire is a questionnaire named after the one famously responded to by Marcel Proust (he actually took the questionnaire twice (once in 1885-86, when he was only a teenager, and again in 1891-92, with a different set of answers). Modern (twentieth-century evocations have included those by French tv host, Bernard Pivot, and, more recently, American tv presenter, James Lipton, and, as a high-point in the register of popular culture, for many years now, as a regular feature in the magazine, Vanity Fair.
It's from the latter (the March 1994 issue) that the following has been taken. This text also appeared in  Vanity Fair's Proust Questionnaire - 101 Luminaries Ponder Love, Death, Happiness and the Meaning of Life  (2009)    

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

AG:Excellent health. no flu, no leprosy.

What is your most marked characteristic?

AG: Incriminating eloquence.

What is your greatest extravagance?


AG: Poetry office with fax, Xerox and poetry archive

What is your favorite occupation?

AG: Writing poems in a bedside notebook.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

AG: Insanity, drug-induced or natural.

What is your greatest regret?

AG: I didn't accept a friend's invitation to get in bed naked in 1944

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

AG: Continuous cowardice

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

AG: Renew my body, set at 17.

Which living person  do you most despise?

AG: New York City's Cardinal O'Connor, for his gay hypocrisy, considering that his powerful predecessor Cardinal Spellman was notoriously gay.

On what occasion do you lie?

AG: To protect friends from my public life in poetry. Candor for oneself doesn't require snitching on others

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

AG: Virginity and/or cynicism and/or machismo

What do you regard as the lowest depths of misery?

AG: Co-dependency with madman or - woman

What is the quality you most like in a man?

AG: Intelligent beauty.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

AG: Sympathetic self-reliability.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Who are your heroes in real life?

What is your favorite journey?

AG: To Benares, the "oldest continually inhabited city in the world".

Where would you like to live?

AG: Sometimes Paris, sometimes London, sometimes Benares, sometimes San Francisco, sometimes New York.

How would you like to die?

AG: In Buddhist community peacefully, aged 100, in presence of a helpful lama

What is your motto?

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what do you think it would be?

What is it that you most dislike?

AG: Theopolitical nationalist "family values" TV hypocrites and their corresponding heads of state

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 183




"Jahweh and Allah Battle". We thank our good friend Steve Silberman for his reminder about Allen's "eternally prescient" 1974 poem


Jaweh with Atom Bomb
Allah cuts throat of Infidels
Jaweh’s armies beat down neighbouring tribes
Will Red Sea waters close & drown th’armies of Allah?

Israel’s tribes worshipping the Golden Calf
Moses broke the Tablets of Law.

Zalmon Schacter Lubovitcher Rebbe what you say
Stone Commandments broken on the ground
Sufi Sam whaddya say
Shall Prophet’s companions dance circled
round Synagogue while Jews doven bearded electric?

Both Gods Terrible! Awful Jaweh Allah!
Both hook-nosed-gods, circumcised.
Jaweh Allah which unreal?
Which stronger Illusion?
Which stronger Army?
Which gives most frightening command?
What God maintain egohood in Eden? Which be Nameless?
Which enter Abyss of Light?
Worlds of Gods, jealous Warriors, Humans, Animals & Flowers,
Hungry Ghosts, even Hell Beings all die,
Snake cock and pig eat each other’s tails and perish
All Jews all Moslems’ll die All Israelis all Arabs
Cairo’s angry millions Jerusalem’s multitudes
suffer Death’s dream Armies in battle!
Yea let Tribes wander to tin camps at cold Europe’s walls?
Yea let the Million sit in the desert shantytowns with tin cups?
I’m a Jew cries Allah! Buddha circumcised!
Snake sneaking an apple to Eden -
Alien, Wanderer, Caller of the Great Call!
What Prophet born on this ground
bound me Eternal to Palestine
circled by Armies tanks, droning bomber motors,
radar electronic computers?
What Mind directed Stern Gang Irgun Al Fatah
Black September?
Meyer Lanksy? Nixon Shah? Gangster? Premier? King?
one-eyed General Dayan?
Golda Meir and Kissinger bound me with Arms?
HITLER AND STALIN SENT ME HERE!
WEIZMANN AND BEN-GURION SENT ME HERE!
NASSER AND SADAT SENT ME HERE!
ARAFAT SENT ME HERE! MESSIAH SENT ME HERE!
GOD SENT ME HERE!
Buchenwald sent me here! Vietnam sent me here!
Mylai sent me here!
Lidice sent me here!
My mother sent me here!
I WAS BORN HERE IN ISRAEL, Arab
circumcised, my father had a coffee shop in Jerusalem
One day the soldiers came and told me to walk down road
my hands up
walk away leave my house business forever!
The Israelis sent me here!
Solomon’s Temple the Pyramids & Sphinx sent me here!
JAWEH AND ALLAH SENT ME HERE!
Abraham will take me to his bosom!
Mohammed will guide me to Paradise!
Christ sent me here to be crucified!
Buddha will wipe out and destroy the world.
The New York Times and Cairo Editorialist Heykal sent me here!
Commentary and Palestine Review sent me here!
The International Zionist Conspiracy sent me here!
Syrian Politicians sent me here! Heroic Pan-Arab
Nationalists sent me here!
They’re sending Armies to my side -
The Americans & Russians are sending bombing planes tanks
Chinese Egyptians Syrians help me battle for my righteous
house my Soul’s dirt Spirit’s Nation body’s
boundaries & Self’s territory my
Zionist homeland my Palestine inheritance
The Capitalist Communist & Third World Peoples’
Republics Dictatorships Police States Socialisms and Democracies
are all sending Deadly Weapons to our aid!
We shall triumph over the Enemy!
Maintain our Separate Identity! Proud
History evermore!
Defend our own bodies here this Holy Land! This hill
Golgotha never forget, never relinquish
inhabit thru Eternity
under Allah Christ Yaweh forever one God
Shema Yisroel Adonoi Eluhenu Adonoi Echad!
La ilah illa’ Allah hu!

OY! AH! HU! OY! AH! HU!
SHALOM! SHANTIH! SALAAM!

Listen to a recording here - and here's another version (approximately twenty-two-a-half minutes in on the second tape). The poem was included in the City Lights collection, Mind Breaths, Poems 1972-1977, and, of course in the Collected Poems. 

William Brother Antoninus Everson
[William Everson/Brother Antoninus (1912-1994)]

"I Have A Conversation with Allen Ginsberg" -  We've solicited them before - memorable conversations with Allen Ginsberg. Robert Haskell remembers a conversation with Allen regarding his (Haskell's) close friend and mentor, the sorely-neglected West Coast poet William Everson (Brother Antoninus-"..I was looking into gentle eyes look(ing) inquiringly and compassionately into mine, as the poet (Ginsberg) very sincerely asked me to, "Say a prayer for me too when you're at his grave.."

The Transnational Beat Generation

"While the Beats were deeply indebted to the American culture they both celebrated and castigated, from the very beginning Beat writers and their works were a global phenomenon..", writes  Erik Mortensen, in his cogent review, for EBSN, of Nancy Grace and Jennie Skerl's 2012 anthology,  The Transnational Beat Generation   
- That's something we're ever mindful of here at the Ginsberg Project. We, at least, try not to be too US-centric (NYC-San Francisco-centric?). Well, we try..

Here's David Amram (from a few years back)  en francais, talking about Jack Kerouac

.  

(Et aussi)  


Jack Kerouac

Meanwhile in Lowell, the debate continues about proper Kerouac civic recognition - notwithstanding this and this (the next LCK (Lowell Celebrates Kerouac) is October 9 -12, by the way) 

Six Cities to Live A Bit of Jack Kerouac's On The Road Adventure

Beatdom #15 is now on sale


David S Wills' Beatdom. The new issue of the magazine (issue#15) is now on sale, with a focus (coincidentally or otherwise) on war - "People think of the Beats as post-war, entirely separate and disinterested", Wills writes, "But we disagree. In this issue we explore the relationship between the Beats and war, from (Jack) Kerouac and (Allen) Ginsberg in the navy, to (William) Burroughs' intergalactic battles, to the influence of postmemory, to the British Beat movement as growing out of WWII, and we also talk to (Colonel) Gordon Ball about Allen Ginsberg teaching in the U.S.Army"

Cadets read Howl, February 19, 1991, Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Vir
[Cadets Read Howl, February 19, 1991, Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia - Photograph by Gordon Ball]

Alessandro Manca and Andrea Labate, along with saxophonist Massimiliano Milesi and bassist Roberto Frassini Moneta  will be performing their Beat Generation show in Bergamo on Saturday (and Pavia on Sunday)   






Today (July 25) marks the anniversary of a tragedy. Forty-eight years since the senseless death of the great American poet, Frank O'Hara