Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Basic Poetics 4 (David Cope - 2)

AG: Another corollary to - "The natural object is always the adequate symbol" (Ezra Pound) . The corollary is by (Chogyam) Trungpa here - "Things are symbols of themselves"-  they stand out in their own stark obviousness, he says, if you see them (so it's a quality of your own attentiveness and perception, grounding your mind on objects, fastening your mind on objects, and focusing  your attention single-mindedly that makes it possible for you to see things as symbols of themselves, without need for things being a symbol of something else). Just.. In order to see a tree stand in its own eternal form, in the space of eternity, all it requires is to forget about eternity and just take a look at the tree, very clearly.  

Like, as follows - [from David Cope's poems] -  "thousands of opera goers spill into the street,/ a clatter of footsteps/ shouting at taxi-drivers"

And here's a more mysterious one - "We sleep" - "we sleep./There are engines, hoarse shouts,/ a procession half in shadow, moving along the  streets." - I'll start again - "..there are engines, hoarse shouts,/ a procession half in shadow, moving along the streets. - (does anybody know what that is, because I haven't been able to… it's something. It's an accurate register of something, and I've never been able to figure it out) 

Student: Read it again

AG: "we sleep" - it's like a riddle, I think that's a riddle - "we sleep./There are engines, hoarse shouts,/ a procession half in shadow, moving along the  streets."

Student: He's talking about (how) it's night, and, you're not aware that it's going on but, life is going on

AG: No!!!  You're missing the whole point!- It has to be not a generalization at all he's interested in, it's probably a fire-engine. I'm trying to figure out what kind of engine, not "life is going on"! - Jesus, I've been talking for an hour, without making any…
 No! - please read. .. [Allen reads the poem again, slowly] - "..There are engines, hoarse shouts,/ a procession half in shadow, moving along the  streets."

Student:  (Horse and cart?)  

AG:   H-E-A-R-S-E

Student: (It's a parallel to the people traveling?) 

AG: No, I think it's, literally, people shouting.  The engine? - I figured it may be some kind of...

Student:  (fire engine?)

AG: That might be..  garbage-collectors? -   but what's interesting about that poem is that there's something real going on, something ordinary, like either a fire-engine, or fire in maybe the block darkened, or burnt-out, or something, or..

Student: Garbage-collectors?

AG: Garbage-collecters seems to be the closest to.. actually, I mean, you see, the whole point I was trying to make was something real, rather than a generalization. In fact, I'm just not interested in generalizations and I don't think the human mind is either. It may be that this civilization, which is bent on suicide, has gotten itself up into a place where it can't subsist on anything except the food of generalization, and that's why it has cancer and is about to blow itself up! - But, just sort of keeping the mind down to what's real, rather than..

Student: Read it again 

AG: "we sleep.."  - Actually, I'll read the one before, so we get.. Actually, there are three poems..three poems called  "Music" . The first I didn't think was so good so I didn't read it, but, since that last one is so mysterious, maybe, the other two will cast light on it - The title - "Music" - I -  "a group of children walks thru Central Park/teaching the world to sing/in perfect harmony" -  [a little poem] - II - "thousands of opera goers spill into the street,/ a clatter of footsteps/ shouting at taxi-drivers" - III - "we sleep./There are engines, hoarse shouts,/ a procession half in shadow, moving along the streets."

Student: (Engines..)

AG: The engines? -- heard in his sleep - literally, sleeping  - And then he wakes from his sleep, I guess

Student: (And..?)

AG: "thousands of opera goers spill into the street,/ a clatter of footsteps/ shouting at taxi-drivers"Maybe I'll write him and ask him? - Why not? - Ask the definite article  - I'll write him, find out what it is. It's very suggestive, because it's just almost on the surface of obviousness but it isn't quite, and it may be that that's why it's so interesting, it's that he has actualities there - "engines, hoarse shouts,/ procession half in shadow" - but he doesn't.. you know, like, it's just left under the surface, it doesn't have to become enough to become labeled.

[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-six-and-half minutes in and concluding at approximately fifty-tw0-and-a-quarter minutes in]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

DC replies to Allen in Eternity, October 2015 "Discussion around "we sleep", here's the background. On my first two visits to NYC  (1971 and 1972 or '73), we stayed at my younger sister's place which she shared with two or three other young professionals - their apartment, somewhere in the 7o's, three or four blocks from Central Park, very different from the kind of life I was leading then. As a country boy, I've always been amazed at the late-night life of cities - in NYC, the trucks, taxis, jackhammers, etc, running throughout the night, filling the canyons with their low rumble,and the late night procession of crowds moving below. I still have a distinct memory of waking late at night and looking out the window at these crowds moving below, "half in shadow" and thinking to myself of  "the silent cortège  in (Ezra) Pound's "The Coming of War: Actaeon". That image of the city's nocturnal procession and the memory of it summoning that half-impenetrable but deeply-memorable image from Pound's poem were among those that popped up quite naturally as something important to record. So that's the tale. It's nothing deep or difficult, just an experience that set me off and which seemed one of the better things I'd written back then."

Monday, October 12, 2015

Basic Poetics 3 - (David Cope - 1)

                         [David Cope - Photograph by Allen Ginsberg - © The Estate of Allen Ginsberg]

AG: Now,  I want to skip on to a modern poet called David Cope, who's about thirty years old [Editorial note - this is in 1980] who writes, very much, specifically in this tradition of "minute particulars", specificity, ordinary mind reality. And I have.. For various reasons, I'm reading through all of his poetry right now, (which consists of little, funny, hand-made, home-made mimeographed books of poems that he's put out). The first one that I got was…

Student: Is that Cope - C…

AG:  - C-O-P-E   …was The Stars  by David Cope, copyright 1974, Nada Press - Nada Press - It was sent to me from Nada Press - slash- bar - Big Scream Magazine - Big Scream - 696  48th Street South East Grand Rapids, Michigan. And then, I'd liked the poems and I wrote him and got a couple more copies. And then every year he sent me a new book. 

So..it was 1978 and this is 1976   '75-6-7-8 - new poems, February 1978, Neon Eyes,  True Love, May 77 - Poems, 1979then a few poems I got in the mail the other day.  

This is more or less what he thinks he looks like. [Allen displays a self-portrait by David Cope] - Actually, he looks much more mild than that - He makes his own drawings….

So what I would like to do now for the rest of this reading… (What time is it now?)

Students"  A quarter to..

AG: (We have till nine-thirty) -  is read you through the complete works of David Cope
 - 0r selected, (the) selected - not everything, just...  What I was reading this for was to look through his work and find what was tangible, in the sense that I've been preaching. He is influenced by Williams and Pound and Reznikoff. (and included among these is a really beautiful elegy for Reznikoff). And, in some respects, he's almost indistinguishable from their practice, which may seem imitative or a drag, but, on the other hand, I don't know anybody else, in the entire United States, who can write like that, that clearly and that closely, and that directly, about ordinary mind, particular noticings, and make them magical through his attentiveness. In other words, the poetry and the magic, or the spiritual aura, comes from the quality of attentiveness. So that you see a thing so clearly that you see its relations to other things, and that's an advanced perception, it becomes an advanced perception, or an uncanny perception, (the sort of thing you might have on LSD
if you were looking at, you know, like things, rather than clouds, not faces in the clouds but relations between dewdrop and spider-web and spider-web and grass where it's hanging, and the flora and fauna -  in other words, the microscopic observation of minute particulars, rather than imaginary daydream-y constructions). So, for this particular quality of minute particular, minute particularity, or close observation, I like David Cope, and, actually, City Lights is publishing a selection of maybe about thirty pages of his [Editorial note - this publication, however, never materialized]. So I was reading through to find what are the best thirty pages out of all this work. So I'll start reading. I've been looking over it over the last couple of years and I checked out the ones I like. So I'd like to read some of them to you. 

(From) his first book called Neon.. no,  "The Clouds", (19)74, I guess this is:  

"The dark buildings/ yellow fog over the hills/ rush hour/ the angry drivers stuck/ at every exit"

"The ancient bandleader leads a serenade/while balancing on one foot;/ old women still dream he's the one/ their white fat arms reach for him/ as he staggers among the flying streamers."

"All night the snow fell;/ In the yellow dawn the white flashes" - [the white snow flashes] - across the fields!/ already there are tracks,/ heading into the sumac and sassafras - [he didn't say "heading into the woods", he said "heading into the sumac and sassafras" 
They got up in the yellow dawn [he got up, looked out the window - It's not well-put "the white flashes" - "the white flashes/ across the fields", actually, the white snow.

"The Line-Up" - "arriving customers take a number;/there is the expression of permanent boredom,/the shuffling feet./children are given dimes to start up the hobby horse,/ yawns.  everyone stares at the floor/or at the clerks./there are no conversations./
a man walks off with a package,/ the jostling for his counter space begins" - [That's really amazing - "the jostling for his counter space begins" - So it's the quality of attention there.    In other words, this is an ordinary scene that everybody's been in, except he's noticed that "children are given dimes to start-up the hobby-horse" - he knew the name of the thing - "the hobby-horse", that cost a dime - "A man walks off..", but "the jostling for his counter space begins" is really an uncanny piece of awareness, just simple awareness, and ability to get it down on a piece of paper, not that it takes that much ability, but the ability is to be aware of such subtle a thing, or to notice it as an event, of our own lives, you know, an everyday event of our own lives, "the jostling for (a) counter space", for his counter space" 

"The Ferry" - "The city lies wrapped in its mist./ the iron cages of buildings rise thru fogs and fumes" - [Actually, for a straightforward realistic line, that'san amazing line - "the iron cages of buildings rise through fogs and fumes" - so, it might have come out of the Moloch section of "Howl", might have been written by (William) Blake, in the twentieth-century - "the iron cages of buildings rise through fogs and fumes"  - "the sky is clear and blue;/ the gulls plunge behind the boats - [that's also a piece of noticing]  - "the gulls plunge behind the boats" - generally gulls do plunge in the fantail, looking for garbage, you don't often see gulls plunging in the front, or on the side of, a boat. They almost always go to the back. I don't know if he knew that but he noticed something about where the gulls plunged, so it's actually an accurate contact with what's observable -  "the gulls plunge behind the boats/gasoline slicks float out to sea,/ thick & iridescent/ past mothballed carriers/ & garbage scows returning  to the docks" - mothballed aircraft carriers...

Student; Can you read it again?

AG : "The Ferry" [Allen reads the entire poem]  
 - That's really packed-in. A ferry-ride. He's got the whole.. It's like a Chinese, a little Chinese painting, you know, with a few soft sketches, a tremendous amount of subtlety, and knowledge of nature. Like "the gulls plung(ing) behind the boats"  and the "mothballed carriers". The "iridescent gasoline slick is a little bit like "the (fat black) fungus that (once) was chewing gum" [in Charles Reznikoff's poem]. It's an archetypal thing that you see on streets..

"Empty Street" - "the yellow flashers point away to the left;/an empty street…"…."an old man stands against a No Parking sign,/ grinning, without teeth" - "Empty Street " 

This is so closely related to Williams' practice, or Reznikoff's, that it's amazing.  And you could say the guy's just imitating, except that you can't imitate that, you actually have to use your perceptions. In other words, you have to go back to organic nature. You can initiate their method, but it isn't so much imitation as actually practicing their method. 
It's  like saying, "Aw, you're just imitating Buddha", when you sit and do... Iif you're sitting and in meditation practice, you could also be accused of imitating Buddha!  (In fact, there is a poem by Ryokan saying "Well all I'm doing is sitting imitating Buddha).  If he is imitating, but he is imitating something so elemental that it involves his own eyeballs, and his own sense-perceptions, and his own basic mind. So I'd say it's… If you could possibly succeed at imitating this style of writing, you're writing something universal, clearly. I don't think you have to worry about imitating, in that sense.

"All the hip people hurry into (the) bars./ it is a cold, rainy night./over the streetlight black clouds move slowly/ gusts of wind blow the signs up & out."  - [that's not so important, but "over the streetlight black clouds move slowly" has a kind of uncanny space-reality]  

"The Evidence" - "For seven months, the Central City Police Department .." ["the Central City P.D.", actually]  "For several months.." - called "The Evidence" - "For seven months, the Central City Police Department has kept/ a two-inch piece of human ear in a freezer/ while the state prepares its case/ against the man who bit it off/the assailant & his victim were friends/out for a night on the town./late in the night a fight erupted; one kneed the other in the groin,/they threw beer bottles at each other/across the barroom and finally came to fisticuffs/when the police separated them,/ the unusual bit of evidence was found on the floor"

"January" - "The clear red light of dawn!/ Snow falls in the sunlight/the air shines with crystals" - [This is real simple. It's almost like a little haiku. It's not quite pointed sharp as a haiku, but there is some  perception there that's interesting  "snow falls in the sunlight/the air shines with crystals"  - That particular fairy.. fairy-scatter of light from some crystal, all over the air" is not very often been reported in poetry. (there's probably something in Shakespeare - I've seen that). You know where.. you know what he's talking about? -  "Snow falls in the sunlight " - dawn - so - "..clear red light of dawn/ Snow falls in the sunlight/the air shines with crystals" - [I don't think he's really got it down clearly enough, but (he) at least approaches a particular perception that almost everybody's had, that lives in the north]

"Prophecy" - Well,  two "Prophecies"  - One - "Ford arranges his news conference/ in the library, with a fire;/ he wants it to seem like FDR./ today, he prophesies a tax break./ he calls (for) the end of recession!" -  Two - "the coach: the steelers are gonna win/ because they're hungry!/the steelers are gonna win/because they didn't have no breakfast today!" - It's called "Two Prophecies"  - The deft juxtaposition is funny - One is President Ford at a news conference. -  "..he prophecies a tax break./ he calls (for) the end of recession!". Actually, what's funny about that, it's really. . It's really a precise, humorous pointing-out the absurdity and fatuousness of Ford's propositions, merely by repeating them, by taking them down - "today, he prophesizes a tax-break./he calls (for) the end of recession!" - At the end of the day, it's obviously a.. hot air (and he doesn't have to say it's hot air!) - "No ideas but in things" - All he has to do is put the thing down and it stands out stark in its own obviousness.

[ Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-one-and-three-quarter minutes in, and concluding at approximately forty-six-and-a-half minutes in]

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ginsberg Reviews Dylan

 Our good friend, Randy Roark has been going through his archives and been posting some selected  "finds" over on that invaluable Facebook page, Our Allen. Here's one of them. Allen's typed-up and hand-written notes on Bob Dylan's 1979 release, Bob Dylan at Budokan (Dylan-o-philes please note, this appears to be only a partial annotation, covering, two out of five titles from side one, all of side two, and three out of six titles from side three - the recording was released as a (four-sided, twenty-two track) "double-album")

Randy Roark writes: 

"One of my jobs as an apprentice was to type up Allen's journals. Later I would bring the typescript to Allen, he would make changes in pencil, I would go home and type up a clean copy. I mostly threw Allen's corrected pages away (literally several hundred of them) but saved some that were personally meaningful to me. Here's Allen's comments upon first hearing the live album "Bob Dylan at Budokan," written five days after its official U.S. release". 

Randy, helpfully, provides a transcription:
Love Minus Zero: Perfect rhythms again, whistles scoring the syncopation against words.

Don't Think Twice: Breaking up the phrases with extreme exasperation from overmuch practice--playfulness, freedom, accuracy, in reggae.

 Maggie's Farm: Eliminates terminal repetitions of refrains--old declaration of political independence, gutbucket saxes against squealing violins "They say sing while you slave/I just get bored.

"One More Cup of Coffee: Delicate ended conversation congas drums & instruments. 

(Like A) Rolling Stone: Massive symphonic peaen of civilization loneliness--"When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose"--another great Rolling Stone!

I Shall Be Released: Zigzag Christ tone descending from the "waaall"

"Is Your Love in Vain(?): Simplehearted compliment from man at extreme realization of his own destiny & wanting secure lover. 

Going Going Gone: Salvation's his preoccupation. 

Blowing in the Wind: Tender authority to this anthem; with chimes. 

Just Like a Woman: Pronounced delicately. 

Oh Sister: Lost the melody, found the syllables distinct Ah hum--oh huh! n'uh huh!

(All Along The) Watchtower: Girls hold the document or tonic, whatever & sing counterpoint. "Life is but a joke."

Heard April 28, 1979 Sunday   

And here's as an addenda, another gem - a page from Allen's journals (October 1975) re Rolling Thunder

Saturday, October 10, 2015

"Still Howling"

Michael Anderson's composite Allen Ginsberg head summons all to the UK "Still Howling" event today at the "recently reopened, post-industrial building", The Wonder Inn, in Manchester, England.

Organized by Simon Warner and Manchester-based artist Roger Bygott, the event runs from 2-11pm, and features a symposium with Barry Miles, Michael Horovitz, Steven Taylor and Peter Hale, plus poets Christina Fonthes, Elmi Ali, and others.

Steven Taylor's participation on this occasion is likely to be pretty poignant (he was born in Manchester and grew up there before emigrating with his family to America in the mid-'Sixties). He's scheduled to not only appear on the panel but also accompany the performance by Michael Horovitz, plus perform his own solo set (including the British premiere of his short choral work, "Footnote to Howl")

Read an interview pre-the-event with Steven Taylor here

                                                                     [Steven Taylor]

[Allen Ginsberg and Steven Taylor in Boulder, Colorado, July 1989 - Photograph by Chris Funkhouser]

               [Allen Ginsberg's harmonium, bequeathed to, and now in the possession of, Steven Taylor]

There will also be a series of musical performances "paying reference to Ginsberg and the Beats", by spoken-word artist Heath Common (with the Lincoln 72s),  Dub Sex front man, Mark Hoyle, singer-songwriter Chris T-T, and Mancunian ("Mancadelic") band. the Isness (an off-shoot of "Manchester's best new guitar band" (as one site has described them), Folks).

MC for the evening will be "city legend", C.P.Lee 

The climax of the evening will be a reading/performance of the poem ("Howl") in its entirety by the actor George Hunt. Hunt delivered it memorably on a 50th anniversary in 2005. This will be a reprise. 

                                               ['Howl" - Listen to the poem here, here, here and here, for example]