Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Allen Ginsberg Punk Rocker (part two)

[Allen Ginsberg and Joe Strummer, backstage at Bonds International Casino, Times Square, New York, June 10 1981 - photo c. Hank O'Neal.]

Note: These posts - "Allen Ginsberg Punk Rocker" (parts one and two) first appeared on The Allen Ginsberg Project on June 23, 2011, and, due to technical problems, are now being re-posted

As Allen recounts it: " (In 1981) I was listening to a lot of punk, and I'd heard about The Clash from Steven Taylor. I went backstage once at their 17-night gig at Bonds Club on Times Square and Joe Strummer said, "We've had somebody say a few words about Nicaragua and (El) Salvador and Central America [they were promoting their album Sandinista at the time], but the kids are throwing eggs and tomatoes at 'im. Would you like to try?". I said, "I don't know about making a speech, but I've got a punk song about that." Simple chords, we rehearsed it five minutes and got it together".. "They led me onstage at the beginning of their second set, and we launched right into the guitar clang. It's punk in ethos and rhythmic style for abrupt pogo-dancing, jumping up and down, but elegant in the sense of having specific political details. First stanza drags a little, but there's one point where we all get together for two verses, an anthem-like punk song. Only one tape exists [not entirely true, actually] taken off the board. They gave me a copy and it's been sitting around all these years like a little toy."
- and again: "So, we rehearsed it for about five minutes during the intermission break and then they took me out on stage. "Allen Ginsberg is going to sing". And so we improvised it. I gave them the chord changes.".."It gets kind of Clash-like, good anthem-like music about the middle. but (then) they trail off again. The guy, who was my friend (Charlie Martin?) on the soundboard, mixed my voice real loud so the kids could hear, and so there was a nice reaction, because they could hear common sense being said in the song. You can hear the cheers on the record..."Capitol Air" was written (in 1980) coming back from Yugoslavia, oddly enough, from a tour of Eastern Europe, realizing that police bureaucracies in America and in Eastern Europe were the same, mirror images of each other finally. The climactic stanza - "No Hope Communism, No Hope Capitalism, Yeah. Everybody is lying on both sides.." We didn't play the whole cut because we didn't have enough time, but they built up a kind of crescendo, which was nice, when the whole band came in".

Joe Strummer: "Yeah, we have something never before seen - and never likely to again either. May I welcome President Ginsberg, come on (out) Ginsberg!"

This recording appeared, a decade and more later, on the 1993 CD box-set, Holy Soul Jelly Roll: Poems and Songs 1949-1993, and can be listened to here.

The upshot of this Bonds gig was further involvement with The Clash. When the band came back through New York six months later, Allen visited them in the studio and was invited to tighten up the lyrics, and indeed to perform, on one of the tracks, Ghetto Defendant, (subsequently included on their fifth studio album, 1982's Combat Rock).

Yes, listen carefully, at the end, that is Allen - gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi, svaha - voicing the Heart Sutra.

Allen Ginsberg Punk Rocker (part one)

Note: These posts - "Allen Ginsberg Punk Rocker" (parts one and two) first appeared on The Allen Ginsberg Project on June 23, 2011, and, due to technical problems, are now being re-posted

The Sex Pistols Anarchy In The UK was released on November 26 1976.
Less than six months later Allen Ginsberg was playing San Francisco's
premier punk venue, Mabuhay Gardens.
Dirk Derkson, the legendary promoter, recalls:

"I told Allen Ginsberg on the night he came to the Fab Mab to see Jim Carroll
that I thought punk rock was today's poetry. Two weeks after, Ginsberg showed
up with his band and we put them in for a couple of nights!".
Allen was already familiar with the New York punk scene - "I like The Nuns", he
wrote referring to one of San Francisco's more prominent punk bands. "They're
like Kabuki Theater. I've been to CBGB's 15 or 25 times but now I think that the
Mabuhay is a better scene. CBGB's is a bit tired".

(Peter (Orlovsky)'s girlfriend, Denise Mercedes, was a member of The Stimulators,
frequently featured at Hilly Kristal's CBGB's, so this gave him plenty of insight).
Steven Taylor, Allen's accompaniest, was also an important conduit. As he recounts
in his absolutely-indispensible text - False Prophet: Field Notes From The Punk
Underground: "My interest in contemporary pop music had been on hold for five
years by the time punk became a presence in the New York area...But some time in
1978... a friend took me to a local bar to see The Ramones. At first the dangerously
overcrowded smoky bar room made me feel claustrophobic but when the band came
on I heard pure hilarious rock 'n roll and it was as if someone had turned the lights on in a room that had been getting gradually darker for five years."

Steven, it was, who turned Allen on to The Clash (of which more anon). He also began simultaneously with his own band, joining up with Stephan Ielpi and The False Prophets.

Allen's first "punk" recordings were two classic screeds, "Birdbrain" and "Capitol Air".
Here's Birdbrain, as recorded in 1981, with the Denver band, The Gluons.
and here it is in an alternative version, recorded in San Francisco that same year, with Marc Olmsted's band , The Job.

- and here's footage of the man in action - "Capitol Air" (from Ron Mann's 1982 film documentary, Poetry In Motion).

Tomorrow, part two - "President Ginsberg" (sic) - Allen meets Joe Strummer. Allen gets to play "Capitol Air" with The Clash.

Expansive Poetics 113 - (Marsden Hartley - 3 )

AG: Ah, here's a trillium. It's got a little

Student (CC): Flower

AG: Uh-huh. Pass it around. Pass the little trillium around - [Allen continues reading Marsden Hartley's poem on Lewiston, Maine] - "Drama number one,/ The image of all that was going to come after:/the death of the white kitten - /wrapping it carefully in something soft -/laying it gently in a wooden saltbox -/ fastening the lid down" - [(And you notice, that when he's writing, he uses dashes (because it's one thought after another thought after another thought, he hadn't anticipated a long sentence, he's just.. he could have used a comma, he could have used (a) semi-colon, but like a painter, making his sketch, just a thought - dash - a thought- dash)] - "fastening the lid down / burying it deep in a hollow with tears,/and my sister Lillie May joining in the rites./ There were toboggans in winter, made of end to end/joined barrel staves, seat in middle, gliding/dangerously into the Asiatic valleys below" - [(And that's pure Kerouac style, that is to say, the exaggeration, and the "Asiatic" mysteries of his mother-in-law's closet, or something, when he was seven years old] - "Scene-shifting a little later, the pasture a/deep religious memory;/ the Androscoggin/forever flowing solemnly through my brain,/coursing in and out of my flesh and bone/as it still does, sacredly./ There was Dr. Alonzo Garcelon, always known to us/ as "Dr.Gasselon", flying through Haymarket Square/behind his racing steed, spitting tobacco juice/as he went, and the amazing vision of his beautiful/daughterEdith, at church of a Sunday morning/Mamie Straw and Lizzy Janes, sharp images of a day/so somehow past -/Miss Janes at the organ, pumped by a boy at the/back, out of sight - with the Ascension of Christ/over us all in not too good stained glass, as we/sang magnificats and epiphanies - and/ "Lead kindly light amid…""Lord lettest thy/servant depart in peace, according o thy word". Skinny Jinny…" - [(See, this is totally American, finally. You couldn't anywhere get this off as a study of English poetics, or Surrealism even. You'd have to maybe know some blues (you could get it out of the blues) - "Skinny Jinny" - but you'd just really have to be a kid in America to write that - so it's actually the first accomplished  Americanesque diction] - "Skinny Jinny was a tall, dark-clothed woman with/her thin arms akimbo under her black shawl,/wan-white, frightened of the solitudes that/enveloped her being, we children running madly for/home when we saw her - because "she has a butcher's knife/under her shawl" - as if she hated little children and/maybe she did - so many do." - [(And that's the kind of personal side-remark you get in (William Carlos) Williams too)] - 

So Williams and he were close friends. They liked each other. Williams loved his paintings, and he (Hartley) loved his poetry, at, at the time that this book came out, and later

[Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)]

Student (CC): About what time is that?

AG: Well the book came out in 1945, and god knows when these… maybe he did.. so many were written.. I don't have any… There's so.. little information about Hartley. He was gay and he was a huge gawking fellow, and ungainly, and had a tough time finding lovers, and was friends with Hart Crane also, and had sort of (a) private life so that the literary intelligensia and the artistic intelligensia didn't know him except as this big huge guy, who was very very sensitive, very tender, and would weep all the time, and painted like a storm, and was friends with the old guy, Alfred Pinkham Ryder,

Ryder had a studio on Fourteenth Street (around between Seventh and Eighth Avenue on Fourteenth Street, on the south side of the street, in New York). And, of course, that's where all the Bohemians were hanging out in those days, too, so he would have made special visits to Ryder. Ryder lived like the Collyer Brothers - he had this loft which (was) crowded with old fading paintings, that were already cracking because he didn't mix his paints right, according to the museums, and they have now to be preserved, and they're darkening a great deal.  And Hartley was a kind of private person like Ryder.

[Alfred Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917)]

Student (CC): You really

AG: I don't know when these poems were written. 

Student:  (You can really get) Williams out of it.

AG: You can hear Williams.

Student (CC): About what time did they know each other?

[William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)]

AG: Well, they would have known each other back in nineteen fifteen-sixteen-seventeen - -  nineteen oh-four or oh-five, I think - University of Pennsylvania. So they (knew) each other - (William Carlos) Williams and (Ezra) Pound) went to school with Marianne Moore and  HD  (Hilda Doolittle), and so they were a gang together in school. And Pound was taking out Hilda Doolittle, and Williams was in love with Hilda Doolittle also.
Then Williams would have gone to.. I think he went to Germany to study a little medicine, and then he came back, and then he was living in Rutherford, New Jersey, and going across on the Hudson Ferry ((or) the Hoboken Ferry, or the Fort Lee Ferry) to New York to go to Greenwich Village, and to go to art galleries, and to visit Alfred Stieglitz and his friends there, and his girlfriends, and go to art shows and painting shows like a young kid writing poetry  but still in touch with, apparently, a great gang of people at that time (and it turned American poetry upside-down, just like, fifty years later, that whole collaborative gang that included the San Francisc0 poets and Gary Snyder and (Robert) Duncan and (Robert) Creeley and (Charles) Olson, turned America over once again, in terms of modernizing it, updating it, updating the syntax, the diction, the relativistic measure, the dissociative aspect, putting that in to equal the dissociation of the mind) 

[Gary Snyder]

[Walt Whitman (1819-1892)]

File:Edwin Arlington Robinson 1888.jpg
[Edward Arlington Robinson (1869-1935)

This was maybe a more powerful gang than the later 'Fifties gang, because they had to start with the heaviness of (Walt) Whitman, and the heaviness of Edward Arlington Robinson, and a lot of poets who wrote in strict English verse-forms, and they had to update the diction, and hear a new rhythm for the first time - as new. Williams' work (of) hearing new rhythm was as great a breakthrough (certainly, if not more, but certainly) as great a breakthrough as Kerouac's hearing a new rhythm, and that's a major cultural-historical alteration in consciousness, considering the great sentence in Plato - "When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake" - when people's perceptions change, their perception of government changes, their perception of the State changes. When people's perception of music and diction and rhythm and language changes, perception of the State changes (which is what happened in the 'Sixties again).

You get all this in these early evidences, (crude though they might seem to an academic teacher).  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Expansive Poetics - 112 (Marsden Hartley 2 & Flowers)

AG: The first poem that we have at the beginning of the American section of the anthology (except for (Walt) Whitman), the first one that we got to put in there is a direct straightforward description of Lewiston, Maine ((Marsden) Hartley’s home-town) and a poem about Lewiston, Maine. He just realized one day as a big painter in New York he could go back and write about Lewiston, Maine, and not have to be ashamed of it, because that was a fit subject-matter.

And that was exactly what Alfred Stieglitz would cream over, because it was something that Stieglitz was looking for,  and (William Carlos) Williams was looking for – indigenous American evidence - what kind of mentality, what kind of culture, what kind of psyche, what kind of god, what kind of dreams, what kind of politics, what kind of tragedy, what kind of strike-breaking, what kind of closet-queen homosexuality in a small town, what the teacher thought, what we lived like (rather than imitating a foreign model). Because they realized, around 1900, that we had to invent our own art, finally, if we were ever to express whatever America was, as distinct from Europe. And there is (there are) some big distinctions.

So there's a whole literature on this subject. Van Wyck Brooks wrote huge volumes of historical research on the flowering of New England, trying to go back to find out what actually happened back there, how many slaves did (President Thomas) Jefferson own, actually? What was behind the patriotic flag-waving of the Declaration of Independence? What was the personal story and how much  is it like our own in the twentieth-century, where we have to strike out on our own - artists, separating out from the commercial America that Whitman had prophesized and denounced. So, actually, in a way, the individual artist was in the position of America breaking off from England - it was the individual artist breaking off from Sinclair Lewis'  Main Street society.

And so, at this time, Hartley is describing Lewiston, Maine - "I admire my native city because/it is part of the secret sacred rite/of love of place" - and that's the first announcement -  "sacred rite/of love of place" - which is not very different from the notion taught here (at Naropa) by the Buddhists and their dharma art shot of sacred world - taking your own ash-tray as  sacred, your cigarette as sacred, the table as sacred, the teaching of the class or the listening as sacred, driving a car as  sacred, your own love affairs as sacred, and treating the world as a sacramental relationship (which, basically, was the nature of the relationship, say, between me and Peter (Orlovsky) and (Jack) Kerouac) and (William) Burroughs, which still, you can see, to some extent, consistently prolongs itself in our relationship) - that is, treating each as sacred monsters, or sacred characters, in a one-and-only-time play that won't be repeated), that notion of sacred America that Whitman proposed and that, after Whitman's disillusionment,  and the disillusionment of World War I (with the Socialist Eugene Debs put in jail for resisting the war) and the growth of monopoly capitalism, it was still the attempt of these artists to make a sacred world for themselves.

So he begins -   "I admire my native city because/it is part of the secret sacred rite/of love of place" - [and, in those days, "secret", because only a few rare individuals had that understanding and glorified their lives that way] - "My childhood which was hard, it is always/hard to be alone at the wrong time/brought seizures of intensity to the years,/ the harsh grinding of the mills rang in/my ears for years.." - ["The harsh grinding of the mills rang in/my ears for years", that's a great line -  "The harsh grinding of the mills .."]  - "…and a sordid sort of music/came out of it,/I return to instances that are  the basic images/of my life as it now is./ I go back to the Franklin pasture which for/us children was the Asia and Africa/of our first impressions" - [and in that line you have all of Kerouac actually, all of Kerouac's hyperbole and sacred treatment of childhood, and the play places of childhood, and the secret games of childhood. It's a great announcement, actually, "the secret sacred rite", because it (was) only (a) few people in America (who) understood that secret of sacredness in those days (although I think it's more understood now)]

Then the second and the next little, forth and fifth, lines, if you read it and you've read a lot of Williams, you'll realize how close his diction and Willliams' are - or his syntax, how close his syntax - "My childhood which was hard, it is always/hard to be alone at the wrong time.." - when you realize this was written way back when in the century. For someone to be talking in a poem just like you would talk if you were an old grandmother (or you find some old man, rocking on a porch in Boulder, that survived the last sixty years - " "My childhood which was hard, it is always/hard to be alone at the wrong time.."

Then - "brought seizures of intensity to the years" - [there, you can see the painter. The painter was really not (a) professional poet, " seizures of intensity to the years", however, it's pretty descriptive, however, it's a little bit abstract ] - But then, immediately, (he) gets back to the thing - ""The harsh grinding of the mills rang in/my ears for years" - [which is an early evidence of the twentieth-century in poetry, when you have the "harsh grinding of the mills" as the most beautiful image (and, actually, a very vivid image, for the sound)]

[Marsden Hartley (1877-1943]

And then, "a sordid sort of music/came out of it" - [So there's a tremendous humor and tolerance there] - "and a sordid sort of music/came out of it" - "But "I return to instances' - [so he's going to go back to the details - "No ideas but in things" - the facts - "Franklin pasture"] - "Spring/and myself walking with my father along the/edges of a cool clear stream, gathering watercresses/ trilliums, dogtooth violets, and in/the fall - at times - mushrooms.." - [(Both he and Williams were not completely amnesiac-blind (as I am) to, actually, the names of local flowers and recognition of them. And recognition of the "sacred..love of place" is (recognizing) what flowers grow where in your back yard, and your home town, and your front yard, on your driveway. You'll find "trillium" in Williams, also "dogwood" (I don't know about "dogtooth violets"."] - [Allen addresses the class] Does anybody know what a dogtooth (is)? Is that a common word, do you know.?  "dogtooth violets"?

Erythronium Dens-Canis Japonicum (European Dog Tooth Violet)

Student (CC):  Dogtooth. I think it's just a variety of violet 
AG: Is that a Maine variety or is that New England?
Student (CC): I don't.. Yeah, I imagine it is.
AG: Have you heard of it?
Student (CC): No, I had not heard of that. I would think that, like many common names, it's probably not.. no longer commonly used.
AG: Yeah, it's probably a local common name
Student: It's a dogtooth in Colorado
AG: They call it dogtooth?
Student: Yeah, yellow dogtooth violet
AG: Ah, so it's still..
Student: It's a mountain flower
Student (CC): So it's still..
AG: A mountain flower.
Student (CC): So it's still..
AG: A mountain flower.
Student (CC): Um-hmm
AG: What is trillium?.. I never did..
Student (CC): It's a three-leafed plant
AG: Uh-huh
Student (CC): And there's quite a few species.
AG: Green? or it's got (bits) on it
Student (CC): Well, actually, it has a lot of red in it, so you get these things with blood trillium and painted trillium… which have red streaks in them, or red.. similar.. slightly poinsettia-like looking.

Red Trillium

AG: Uh-huh. And you got more coming up.. [Allen continues reading] - ["…and in/the fall - at times - mushrooms,/white violets and blue, growing on little hillocks/with trailing evergreens and boxberry leaves/with pink edges of baby-tender leaves"] - [(which is nice - "baby-tender leaves"  - he's a big suffering faggot - "baby-tender leaves")] - "and here and there, pushing up out of the snow,/the arbutus, or, as we call it, Mayflowers/ Drama number one."] - [(The tone of this is so much like Kerouac, or like sacred Beat writing, or Beat writing that emphasizes that element of self-magnification, glorification of one's own sacred life or sacred world)]