Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Cassady-Kerouac "Joan Anderson letter" - "the seminal piece of literature of the Beat Generation" rediscovered

[Catalog cover for the upcoming (December 17 2014) auction of the Golden Goose Press Archive Collection at Profiles in History, Calabasas, California]

The legendary Joan Anderson letter (featured on The Allen Ginsberg Project only a month or so ago) has emerged! - in its entirety! - after a sixty-or-more year hiatus! 

AP's John Rogers reports today that the "16,000 (word) amphetamine-fueled stream-of-consciousness" note to Jack Kerouac from Neal Cassady will be part of a December 17 auction at Joe Maddalena's Southern California auction house, Profiles in History.

 "It's the seminal piece of literature of the Beat Generation", Maddalena is quoted as saying, "and there are so many rumors and speculation of what happened to it". 

Turns out it didn't disappear on Gerd Stern's Sausalito houseboat, as was previously asserted. It made its way (sent by Allen and unopened!)  into the archives of the long-defunct Golden Goose Press (erstwhile of Columbus, Ohio, later of Sausalito - publishers of Robert Creeley's first book of poems!) and was within a whisker of being thrown out into the trash, before "the operator of a small independent music label who shared an office with publisher Richard (Wirtz) Emerson came to the rescue". "He took every manuscript, letter and receipt in the Golden Goose Archives home with him". 
And there it stayed, until a mere two years ago, when "Los Angeles performance artist Jean Spinosa..found the letter as she was cleaning out her late father's house.. "He didn't understand how anybody would want to throw someone's words out".

The extraordinary story of the re-discovery of this letter is quite a story!  Here's Jerry Cimino of the Beat Museum's account (having previously been sworn to secrecy). 
As he notes, the on-line catalog "with all the photos and important details", "probably goes live on Monday"

More to come. 

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[Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac]

Saturday, November 22, 2014

William Burroughs and Ken Kesey - 1978 at Naropa

[William S Burroughs]

[Ken Kesey]

Vintage audio - William Burroughs and Ken Kesey reading at the Naropa Institute on July 19, 1978

Kesey begins/reads first

click here

Ken Kesey: This is a piece calledAbdul the Bulbul. [Editorial note -  published as “Abdul and Ebenezer”] It was published a while back [March 1976] in Esquire. It’s a piece from a work that I’ve been doing for some time called The Demon BoxThe Demon Box is a way of trying to write a novel, and keep your mind scattered upon raising four teenage kids, and whatever else you have to do. I conceive of the novel as not being bound like a novel but in the form of pamphlets in a box that are about the same people, and, to some extent, about the same theme, which is the demon that is in us, and in the United States,and just in the dark. It’s called "Abdul the Bulbul”

(Kesey also points out that the “Stewart” in the story, “is not Stewart Brand”. “Often people think that.. no, it’s my dog, Stewart”)

(The text of "Abdul and Ebenezer" may be accessed here)

Following Ken Kesey’s reading, there is a brief silence before Allen comes on (at approximately forty-three-and-a-half minutes in - recorded in media res), to introduce William S Burroughs

AG:  ...on this charmingly historic full house at..the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics series of poetry readings at the Naropa Institute... is the older writer, William Seward Burroughs, who, like Ken (Kesey), is compassionately lending his name, his power, and his intelligence, genius, to our school of poetics. William Burroughs lives here all year round (as does his son, the author, William Seward Burroughs Jr) who lives at Yeshe House. It is appropriate that William Burroughs read here, he being a co-writer and friend to Jack Kerouac. Kerouac and William Burroughs wrote an unpublished novel back in the early.. in the late (19)40’s And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks, each one contributing alternative chapters, on the basis, I think, of a news-broadcast that Burroughs had heard and told Kerouac (about), or heard when he was younger maybe, which was that a..  there’s a fire in the St Louis Zoo (which is where Burroughs comes from) and the news announcer ended the account of the fire in the zoo with the (announcement)  “..and the hippos were boiled in their tanks”!  Burroughs’ next major work was Junkie, written in (19)49-1950-(19)51, published under the pseudonym William Lee, and that was the inaugeration of his formal career as a man of letters (in this case, anonymously, because, in those days, it was actually dangerous to publish a book with the title “Junkie” – at least the publisher thought so and I think authors and friends thought (it was) best to be anonymous on this one), followed by Yage Letters (correspondence with myself, a manuscript put together in New York in 1953), followed by the grand book Naked Lunch (which made an immediate impression world-wide and caused Norman Mailer to admire Burroughs with the praise that he was, if anyone, showing signs of genius in American prose, the one unique person as a novelist, Burroughs was the one person that Mailer could see directly, with a fire of that much intelligence, (as Kerouac had thought that..had said often that Burroughs was “the most intelligent person he knew on earth”). Soft Machine, Nova Express and Ticket That Exploded followed (written..begun in Europe, using part of cut-up meditation process, cut-up of your own prose work, or mixed, peppered in, salted, sugared with New York Times or Time magazine or Arthur Rimbaud or Shakespeare’s Tempest as a way of putting your mind out on the page, cutting it up, as you might have a gap between thoughts and a reshuffling if you were letting go of thoughts in formal Buddhist meditation style. Burroughs’ prophetic and practical Yankee ingenuity had found a way of putting his mind out on the table to cut it up. That was a trilogy of novels. There was a long interview which many of you may not know about called The Job (which is a giant book-length interview with all of Burroughs’ opinions on.. (everything), from Heaven to Earth, Exterminator!, a novel, Wild Boys, another novel- all of these, Job, Ticket That Exploded, Soft Machine, Wild Boys, all provided all sorts of cultural imagery which was picked up by the younger more sensitive rock people, and so, they were actually, in England, bands called Soft Machine, (and) Wild Boys (There’s) enormous satire in his work, tremendous clear solitary meditation, and, because of that, prophecy. He’s just finished his magnum opus of the last decade, Cities of the Red Night, a book which those who have seen have said is his most powerful work of his life (so) showing that one grows wiser, greater, and more powerful in age (rather than the current CIA-FBI rumor that people just get punkier when they get older) Cities of The Red Night is now being typed for publication. So, I hope you’ll welcome William Seward Burroughs

William Burroughs (beginning at approximately forty-eight-and-a-half minutes in): Can you all hear me? – I will start with my panacea for the world’s ills  - [Burroughs begins reading "My Own Business" (subsequently included in The Adding Machine - Selected Essays (1985))] - “The trouble in this world is caused by about ten to fifteen percent of the inhabitants and getting rid of these fuckers would precipitate a paradise. Yes, if everybody could just mind his own business"…"what we call evil is quite literally a virus parasite…(and)  “hell hath no more vociferous fury than an endangered parasite”..."Probably the most effective tactic is to alter the conditions on which the virus subsists".."I was on the panel with some old fuck called Magnus Pyke…")

At approximately sixty-one-and-a-quarter minutes in, Burroughs presents another selection (also later included in The Adding Machine, "Bugger The Queen" -  "This piece that I’m about to read could not be published in England. I talked to the man who organized the festival and he said “no I’d never get another cent from the Arts Council" – [Burroughs begins] - “I guess you all read about the trouble the Sex Pistols had over there in England over their song "God Save The Queen (It's a Fascist regime)". Johnny Rotten got hit by an iron bar wielded by HER loyal subjects. It’s almost treason in England to say anything against what they call  “OUR Queen” – I don’t think of  (President Jimmy) Carter as “our President”, do you? – he's just the one we happen to be stuck with at the moment. So in memory of the years I spent in England and in this connection I’m reminded of an old Dwight Fiske song, a sort of a bread-and-butter letter, "Thank you a lot Mrs Lousberry-Goodberry for an infinite weekend with you... (five years that weekend lasted)...For your cocktails that were hot and your baths that were not.." - (cocktails and baths gravitate towards a room-temperature in England) - So, in fond memory of those five years, I’ve composed this lyric which I hope someday,someone will sing in England. It’s entitled “Bugger The Queen” – “My husband and I” (the Queen always starts her spiel that way) -   My husband and I/ the old school tie/ Hyphenated names/ Tired old games/ It belongs in the bog/ With the rest of the sog (“bog” is punk for the W.C.) – Pull a chain on Buckingham/ The drain calls you”MA’AM” (you have to call the Queen, "Ma’am”, you know)." - "The audience takes up the refrain as they surge into the streets singing "BUGGER THE QUEEN"!  Suddenly a retired major sticks his head out of a window showing his great yellow horse-teeth as he clips out "Buggah  the Queen". A vast dam has broken. It's like in Ireland where they have a form of life known as The Gombeen Man. Now a Gombeen Man is a blackmailer, police informer, receiver, money-lender. In small villages, he often runs a shop and leans on the scale when he comes to the punch line.."Well now, Lord Brambletie, I always say that what a gentleman does in his own house is a gentleman's business, but there are those as thinks otherwise…"  (Lean…lean..lean)... 
"..for an Englishman, making it in front of the Queen's picture is like trying to have it off with a Gombeen Man at the foot of your bed..."Don't mind me - like a spot of fun meself you know""..."Now to come right out and say someone is a Gombeen Man is admitting you have something to hide, some reason you can be blackmailed, and so a good Gombeen Man may string it out for years before the moment of truth, when everybody looks into his neighbor's eyes, and says… "Did he lean on you?""…"The Queen is the fountainhead and motherlode of a snobbery that poisons the dank air of England with a smell of brussels sprouts cooking to a soggy green paste”…"Prince Philip comes out to say that after years of being the Royal Consort like a bloody stud horse, all he has to say is, "BUGGER THE QUEEN!"" …  "It's like a re-make of the Magna Carta. Owing to a power-shortage the Queen signs her abdication by flickering torchlight…and "good riddance to the Gombeen Woman"

The third selection (beginning at approximately seventy-one minutes in) is introduced by Burroughs“This short unpublished piece [Editorial note, later incorporated into The Place of Dead Roads - "The Count de Vile"]  is based on actual experience. I once was stranded on an island near Venice and had to wait five hours for dinner because the servants always eat first. I did actually know an Italian Count named the Count de Ville in the diplomatic service and when I asked him if he was going to have another appointment, he said that “I do not know if they will give me another assignation” – “An old gentleman was standing by the fire-place. At the sight of me, his thin face lit up and glowed with incandescent charm”. ..”  the old chateau crumbled into the oily waters, jugged hare, portrait galleries, the lot, erased like an error”

At approximately seventy-eight minutes in, Burroughs reads his final piece – "Now this last piece is derived from a rather enigmatic phrase that I heard in a dream – “Where Naked Troubadors Shoot Snotty Baboons” – so I elaborated this little piece here – “Boys in cod-pieces and  leather jerkins carrying musical instruments from the Middle Ages invade...”...”If these walls could speak what tales they could tell"

As an encore  (approximately eighty-one-and-a-half minutes in), Burroughs ] reads  “a short piece from Cobble Stone Gardens, "American Express"  - ("BJ? – that frantic character was drummed out of the industry. He invites Nick Shanker of World Films and Philip Granger of Amalgamated over for a possum dinner and he is boiling a yellow tom cat in a bidet full of piss heated by two leaky blowtorches…"…. "North wind across the wreckage weed grown tracks iron stairways rusted through a maze of canals and swamps overgrown dams and locks flaking stucco houses vast hot dogs and ice cream cones covered with vines…"). 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 198

Tonight, Allen Ginsberg in the Netherlands/1983 Revisited - Hans Buhrs, Joep Bremmers, Eddie Woods, Jacq Palinckx, The Mondriaan Quartet…..

Allen Ginsberg & Mondriaan Kwartet 1983

this Sunday at La Commune Cafe in Oakland, California - Michael McClure and Diane di Prima, and Ouroboros (Sheldon Brown, Clark Coolidge, Andrew Joron, Joseph Noble)

Gary Snyder recently appeared in Berkeley to celebrate Norman Waddell's translations  of Zen master Hakuin Zenji (Hakuin Ekaku) 's Poison Blossoms From A Thicket of Thorn -
He (Hakuin) is best known for the famous Zen koan, "What is the sound of a single hand clapping", (which, Snyder points out, is actually poor/inaccurate translation, since the koan, in the original Japanese, "never included a(ny) reference to "clapping"")

               From New York - The Q & A following the recent showing of Howard Brookner's Burroughs - The Movie at the New York Film Festival (featuring Aaron Brookner, Jim JarmuschTom DiCillo, and James Grauerholz) just went up on You Tube and may be accessed here. 

Blandine Longre's translations of selected poems of Gregory Corso -  The Happy Birthday of Death (with an introduction by Paul Stubbs and an afterword by Kirby Olson) has just been published in a fine bilingual edition by the Black Herald Press in Paris


More American-poetry-in-France. Don't miss the increasingly formidable [sic] "Collection américaine" of the Nantes-based  joca seri publishing house, edited by Olivier Brossard. This imprint, specializing in translations of the classic "New York School" poets has published groundbreaking French translations of John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara and Ron Padgett, amongst others. Its most recent title - Il est douze heures plus tard - Stéphane Bouquet's translations of James Schuyler (with a cover illustration by Joe Brainard)

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The (third) European Beat Studies Conference just concluded this week in Tangier, Morocco. We'll be reporting more about that in the weeks to come. 

Patti Smith performing at the Vatican - worthy of note

Van Morrison's City Lights book (poetry/song lyrics) has just been published by Faber in England

Bob Dylan remains…. Bob Dylan 

See You Later Allen Ginsberg!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Meditation and Poetics - 8

Sumi-e painting of meditation

AG: So during that time we were silent, a number of events took place but the major one, I guess, is when that first big breeze blew in with a good deal of sound from the outside -- papers flew a little bit, but there was this big statement from the outside coming in, which is similar to our own breath, actually. Strangely enough it was part of it.  We were breathing and then the world was breathing in on us.  But that was, for me, the most ... in the stillness of mind of sitting, relative stillness of mind, because I was thinking a lot.  (You can imagine what I was thinking - What are we doing here? and what am I doing here doing this?, etc.,  and will it work? and won't it work? and what is there to work, anyway?) All of a sudden this great breeze of fresh air, which is irrelevant to all of our thoughts  (came in) - did everybody notice it? -  Is there anybody that didn't notice the big fresh air breeze that came in?

Student:  I was too far away from it

AG:  Yeah.  Yeah.  Well, that was a real nice ... well, you came late, anyway. 

AG:  Ok, so, looking back on it, on that whole five-minute episode, that big breath was, I thought, the poetic statement, or the first thought, or the main event, or the main icon that one might work from to write a poem, if you were going to, from that five-minute period, choose among the objects in your mind what was really interesting, what was happening, what was most significant, what was most poetic.  That breeze through the window and the sounds that went with it, the little bit of disarray that went with it, the surprise that went with it, the hint of the vast, gigantesque outside world breath, the suggestion of an entire universe out there, as well as a parallel to our own breathing, that struck me, as poet, as being, like, the moment, the epiphany for that.  Not that we're necessarily supposed to be looking for epiphanies, because we're doing a contradictory thing here.  In sitting meditation, if you use it for anything, like stopping Plutonium or writing poetry, (either way), if you use it, then actually you're thinking about that.  So you're still thinking.  So you're really not taking a vacation from thought.  You're not really dropping thoughts and paying attention to the breath.  So it's a very tricky process that we're proposing here -  things unattempted-yet, in prose or rhyme, in any history, as far as I know - to figure out how can you work with meditation and, at the same time, work with poetry.

But there is a subtle parallel between regular kind of poetry writing, with this problem, the paradox.  Do you all understand the paradox?  If you're actually sitting, paying attention to your breath, then what are you doing looking for poems?  Or how do you go about getting poems out of it if you're not going to be bothering with poetry?  Because the whole point is don't bother with the poetry.  And the other thing is don't bother with the breath, either.  Just pay attention to it, or be with it, but you're not supposed to bother with it.  You're not supposed to bother with the poetry either. 

But poets, when they're writing poetry, aren't actually trying to look for poetry, anyway.  It's just that they recollect the big breath that came through the window.  It wasn't as if they were looking for a subject, it's just that a subject arrives, like the wind.  Out of your control.  It arrives in consciousness.  So, in a sense, there's no need to try and make up something; (to) make up a subject for poetry.  It's simply what is happening already and what you notice is happening.  What you notice most intensely happening, or what you see most clearly happening, is the natural thing for you to write about.  In other words, you just write about what you already know, in a sense.  Or, not what you already know, but just write about what naturally takes place. So you don't have to strain, in this kind of poetry, to write poetry.  You don't even have to know how to write poetry.  In fact, you don't even have to write poetry.  In fact you stop writing poetry, for the purpose of this class, and what writing you do or vocalizing might be vocalizing mental events.  Or trying to find some equivalent language for events of ordinary mind.  Ordinary mind, ordinary consciousness.  What goes on of its own nature, rather than what goes on because you would like to make something pretty, like a poem. 

So the old problem in writing poetry for poets has been not to force it, also.  Sometimes you might have some great idea and do it.  But most student poetry and young poetry, and most of my own poetry writing, is trying to look for something to write about and constantly getting some kind of stiff, awful abortion out of that, because it's ambition being written.  You're writing your ego, I'm writing my ego, I'm writing my ambition to write a poem, rather than notating what actually happened. 

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-three minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in]