Sunday, September 21, 2014

Leonard Cohen

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[Leonard Cohen and Allen Ginsberg - "An encounter with Leonard Cohen after a poetry reading at the Wiltern Theater  in Los Angeles. c.1988 - " Cohen was in the audience and Allen was in the lobby signing books after the show.  They couldn't stop talking" - Photograph courtesy Frank Beacham]

It's Leonard Cohen's birthday today. He's 80 years old.

Robert Sward: You once said that "the angels of mercy are other people". What does that mean? And what is the relationship between angels and language?

Leonard Cohen: I don't know. One of the things I always liked about the early Beatnik poetry - Ginsberg and Kerouac and Corso - was the use of the word "angel". I never knew what they meant, except it was a designation for a human being and that it affirmed the light in an individual. I don't know how I used the word "angel". I've forgotten exactly, but I don't think I ever got better than the way Ginsberg and Kerouac used the word in the early 'fifties. I always loved reading their poems where they talked about angels. 

 (Leonard Cohen, 1984 - from an interview with Robert Sward)

Here's some early Leonard Cohen, a CBC interview (with Adrienne Clarkson) from the mid '60's

and more early - very early -  Cohen - Donald Brittain's 1965 documentary - Ladies and Gentlemen...Mr. Leonard Cohen,

While we're at it, here's links to some other Cohen documentaries - Leonard Cohen in 1970 at the Isle of Wight and Tony Palmer's 1974 Bird On A Wire  (revealing documentation from the 'Seventies)
and, more recently (but only the trailer, unfortunately) Lian Lunson's 2005 over-view,  I'm Your Man

One documentary that's riveting and should on no account be missed is this -  Spring 1996, Leonard Cohen as a monk - about his time spent in the mid 'Nineties at the Mount Baldy Zen Center, forty miles east of Los Angeles

Here's a 1988 BBC interview, and here (in two parts, here and here ), Cohen, from that same year, on French tv.

Speaking of French tv, here's an over-view made four years later

and here's  Peter Gzowsky's 1994 CBC radio interview. There's a part two, three, and four here, here and here

And there's more…

There's something utterly  delightful in the dynamics between him and his pretty Scandinavian interviewer - from 2006 - (allowing him to flirtatiously open up) - see here, here and here

and from Pierre Tétrault's documentary film of the same year, (about his  (Tétrault's) schizophrenic brother, Philip), "This Beggar's Description"

Philip Tétrault:  Do you know, if you ever quit as a Zen Buddhist, you could be a Professor at McGill in English.
Leonard Cohen:  Yeah, I really look forward to that! 

 -  sitting in the park, shooting the breeze with Leonard!

Allen and Bob Dylan, believe it or not, are a part of the backing-track of this (the title track to the 1977 Phil Spector-produced Death of A Ladies" Man) - and this (how could we forget this!) - Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On


There's a brand new Leonard Cohen record out (out this very day, in fact!)  - Popular Problems - Here's a cut from it - "Almost Like The Blues"

Leonard Cohen - Popular Problems

More poems from Leonard Cohen -  here, here, herehere and here 
- and a reading from his novel, Beautiful Losers ("God is Alive, Magic is Afoot") - here

Here's two contrasting renditions of "Suzanne" (one early, one late)

His astonishing speech  in October 2011 at the Spanish  Prince of Asturias Awards ceremony - "Poetry comes from a place that no one commands, that no one conquers. So I feel somewhat like a charlatan to accept an award for an activity which I do not command. In other words, if I knew where the good songs came from I would go there more often."

More Leonard Cohen resources here - here - and here

Happy 80th Birthday, Leonard!

    [Leonard Cohen meets Allen Ginsberg, Los Angeles, 1988 - Photograph by Frank Beacham

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Joni Mitchell

[Joni Mitchell and Allen Ginsberg on Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue tour, 1975 (from Sam Shepherd's Rolling Thunder Logbook (1977)]

It was Allen, of course, who introduced Joni Mitchell to his "friend of spirit", Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

She came late to the rolling cavalcade 


but stayed to the end.

As she candidly confesses (in Readers Digest of all places!):

trungpa rinpoche
[Chogyam Trungpa painted by Joni Mitchell]

"... I went on Rolling Thunder and they asked me how I wanted to be paid, and I ran away to join the circus: Clowns used to get paid in wine — pay me in cocaine because everybody was strung out on cocaine. It was Chögyam Trungpa who snapped me out of it just before Easter in 1976. He asked me, “Do you believe in God?” I said, “Yes, here’s my god and here is my prayer,” and I took out the cocaine and took a hit in front of him. So I was very, very rude in the presence of a spiritual master.

Albert tongue out

...His nostrils began to flare like bellows, and a rhythmic breathing. I remember thinking, What’s with his nose? It was almost hypnotic. ... I assume he went into a breathing technique and a meditation. I left his office and for three days I was in awakened state. The technique completely silenced that thing, the loud, little noisy radio station that stands between you and the great mind.

….The thing that brought me out of the state was my first “I” thought. For three days I had no sense of self, no self-consciousness; my mind was back in Eden, the mind before the Fall. It was simple-minded, blessedly simple-minded. And then the “I” came back, and the first thought I had was, Oh, my god. He enlightened me. Boom. Back to normal — or what we call normal but they call insanity.

I wrote a song about [this] visit I made to him called “Refuge of the Roads.” [subsequently released on the record Hejira]. I consider him one of my great teachers, even though I saw him only three times….[Later], at the very end of Trungpa’s life I went to visit him. I wanted to thank him. He was not well. He was green and his eyes had no spirit in them at all, which sort of stunned me, because the previous times I’d seen him he was quite merry and puckish — you know, saying ‘shit’ a lot. I leaned over and looked into his eyes, and I said, ‘How is it in there? What do you see in there?’ And this voice came, like, out of a void, and it said, ‘Nothing.’ So, I went over and whispered in his ear, ‘I just came to tell you that when I left you that time, I had three whole days without self-consciousness, and I wanted to thank you for the experience.’ And he looked up at me, and all the light came back into his face and he goes, ‘Really?’ And then he sank back into this black void again 

[Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche]

[Joni Mitchell - Self Portrait]

Refuge of the Roads
 "I met a friend of spirit/He drank and womanized*/And I sat before his sanity/I was holding back from crying/ He saw my complications/And he mirrored me back simplified/And we laughed how our perfection/ Would always be denied/“Heart and humor and humility”/He said “Will lighten up your heavy load”/I left him for the refuge of the roads/I fell in with some drifters/Cast upon a beachtown/ Winn Dixie cold cuts and highway hand me downs/And I wound up fixing dinner/For them and Boston Jim/I well up with affection/Thinking back down the roads to then/The nets were overflowing/In the Gulf of Mexico/They were overflowing in the refuge of the roads/There was spring along the ditches/There were good times in the cities/Oh radiant happiness/It was all so light and easy/Till I started analyzing/And I brought on my old ways/A thunderhead of judgment was/Gathering in my gaze/And it made most people nervous/They just didn’t want to know/What I was seeing in the refuge of the roads/I pulled off into a forest/Crickets clicking in the ferns/Like a wheel of fortune/I heard my fate turn turn turn/And I went running down a white sand road/I was running like a white-assed deer/Running to lose the blues/To the innocence in here/These are the clouds of Michelangelo/Muscular with gods and sungold/ Shine on your witness in the refuge of the roads/ In a highway service station/Over the month of June/ Was a photograph of the earth/Taken coming back from the moon/And you couldn’t see a city/On that marbled bowling ball/Or a forest or a highway/Or me here least of all/You couldn’t see these cold water restrooms/Or this baggage overload/ Westbound and rolling taking refuge in the roads"

Here's some more recent Joni - Her interview with Jian Ghomeshi for CBC broadcast last year

Here's Joni Mitchell interviewed by Morrissey

Here's the BBC footage from 1970 - live in concert - Joni Mitchell Sings Joni Mitchell

Tomorrow: Leonard Cohen's 80th Birthday
Joni Mitchell hugging Leonard Cohen,,,    This photo of Joni Mitchell hugging Leonard Cohen was taken in 1967

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 190

"We Are Continually Exposed To The Flashbulb of Death" - The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg 1953-1996 continues at the University of Toronto Art Center. Barbara Fischer, the director of the Center discusses the exhibition and the extraordinary trove of photos - here.

The William Blake Trust is trying to save William Blake's cottage and are launching, starting today, an on-line crowdfunding campaign. Read more about this very worthy cause here. and here.       We have until Halloween (the 31st of October)  

Cottage in Blake's Milton

And more poets and fund-raising projects - Lawrence Ferlinghetti in San Francisco’s North Beach has been spearheading the planning for a North Beach “writer’s piazza” - which, despite initial doubts, might actually see fruition.

Naropa’s 40th anniversary celebrated in the local paper – The Boulder Daily Camera 

A couple of weeks ago,  we featured respectful silent footage of Allen's "resting place" - the Gomel Chesed Cemetetry in Newark. Here's another "resting place" (sic) - Anne Waldman visits the memorial spot for the old "Dharma lion" at the Shambhala Mountain Center, near Red Feather Lakes, Colorado and sends us the following shot:

As ever, we cannot recommend too highly the extraordinary resources at PennSound. Here's a recent addition - from the WBFO radio program, "Stonewall Nation" (from 1978, courtesy the tape collection of Robert Creeley) - Allen talks about talking to his family about coming out - The whole program is instructional - (on being closeted, on desire and compassion, on the (anti-gay, mercifully rejected) Briggs Initiative of '78, on the Beats and Nature, on Rocky Flats and plutonium - plus a rousing rendition of "Everybody Sing" - ("Everybody's just a little bit homosexual, whether they like it or not..") - It may be listened to, in its entirety, here.  (Open Culture has a note on it here)

George J Apostolos]

and - breaking news - a newly-discovered trove of Jack Kerouac letters (seventeen complete letters, two postcards and seven substantial fragments) written from New York City to his Lowell childhood friend George J  Apostolos between 1940 and 1941 - see more about this  here, here and here   

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cross Worlds

Cross Worlds

"Transcultural Poetics", global action, cross-cultural activity, is something we're very much in support of here. Transcultural Poetics, the new anthology from Coffee House Press, drawing from the wealth of material available in the archives of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa is thus a timely, welcome and inspiring collection. It celebrates, as the publishers declare, "the leap, the engaged jolt of creation and recognition that cultural hybrids and transcultural alliances and associations spark". "In essays, conversations, and Socratic raps, it celebrates, interrogates, and annotates the vital work poets perform when they write across borders". As the poet and teacher Ammiel Alcalay writes: "We are in need, more than ever, of this kind of archival attention, as even our recent past gets consumed by the present. This "news that stays news" [the phrase is Pound's, of course] moves from Allen Ginsberg on Aboriginal poetics to Vietnam, the Mayan classics, Puerto Rico, African America and the need for gringos to encounter the world as seen through Arab and other eyes." 

Poet and performer,Tracie Morris: "Contemplative, illuminating unusual, and global, Cross Worlds is an excellent compilation of the confluence of global systems and renowned workers/players/experimenters of language and culture"…"..evoking human interactions beyond our construction of nations and states", and "prompting us to think about our connection to the planet itself and all its inhabitants". 

Allen's contribution on Australian aboriginal poetics (from his lecture on July 23 1976 on "Spontaneous Poetics") has already been featured here on The Allen Ginsberg Project in a two-part post and we'll draw your attention to it -  here - and - here 

Mawalan, sitting 1959 by Margaret Tuckson & Djan'kawu creation story 1959 by Mawalan Marika

Other notable contributions include Jerome Rothenberg (interviewed by Anne Waldman & Laura Wright), Pierre Joris (on "Arabic Poetry and the International Literary Scene"), Victor Hernandez Cruz (on "Geographical Distortions  - Culture, Politics and Diversity"), Judith Malina (and Hanon Reznikov) of The Living Theater (on "Love and Politics"), Margaret Randall ("Piercing the Walls"), Linh Dinh (on "The Deluge - Contemporary Vietnamese Poetry), cultural anthropologists Barbara and Denis Tedlock (he on translating the Popol Vuh, she on "Hidden Female Shamanic Traditions"), Cecilia Vicuna, Cid Corman...
The book is dedicated to the late great Anselm Hollo