Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 104

An interesting note by self-confessed “bourgeois philistine”, Lewis Lapham, to appear in the upcoming Winter 2012 issue of Lapham’s Quarterly. This, from a slighty-adapted version posted at (the complete essay, “Raiding Consciousness: Why the War on Drugs Is a War on Human Nature”, is well worth reading). Lapham, here is looking back, recalling, his “one experiment with psychedelics in 1959”:

“Employed at the time as a reporter at the San Francisco Examiner, I was assigned to go with the poet Allen Ginsberg to the Stanford Research Institute there to take a trip on LSD. Social scientists … Read More

Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) – 17 (Thomas Wyatt 2)




[Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) – medallic profile in oil after a lost drawing or painting by Hans Holbein the Younger, c.1540 via The National Portrait Gallery, London]

AG: As well as this other (poem of Sir Thomas Wyatt) – “Forget not yet the tried intent/ Of such a truth as I have meant” – I’m going to read it sing-song, just to get the sing-song out of it (because Wyatt is, actually, one of the greatest of all the writers of sing-song).

Student: Is it in the ballad form?
AG: No, this is … Read More

Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) – 16 (Thomas Wyatt 1))


[Portrait of Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) by Hans Holbein the Younger (1498-1543 – black and colored chalks, pen and ink, on pink-primed paper, 37.3 x 27.2 cm (circa 1535-1537) Royal Collection, Windsor Castle]

AG: John Wieners hardly anyone has read. Ed Dorn..and Basil Bunting has been read (according to Allen’s (unofficial) class survey) by five people. That’s why I brought up the Bunting..

So what I think I’ll do – I’ve done this for some of the (student) papers – in the next day or so, I’ll write up a reading-list of one or two key, interesting … Read More

Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) – 15 – (Basil Bunting)

[Basil Bunting (1900-1985) photograph by Jonathan Williams]


There’s a modern ballad by Basil Bunting which is worth listening to. The reason we got onto ballads, incidentally, is purely by accident. It was just that I had to begin somewhere in this course. Jack Elliott was present and Helen Adam was present. It was a good place to jump in with a form that was familiar to you now from pop or folk music, and, at the same time, it’s an archaic form, so we could start back in time and go back to the Scottish ballads and … Read More

Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) – 14 (Allen Ginsberg)

[Cover for Allen’s book Luminous Dreams,Zasterle Press, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain, 1997]

AG: Okay, I want to go on with ballads a little. [To students] If you wrote a ballad at the end of the class, can you hand it in, with your name on it, and your address or phone-number too, so it doesn’t get lost? I can look them over and I can bring some in and read some next time. I’ll read mine, before anybody else does. It’s not a very good one. I wrote it this morning. I had a dream, woke up with a

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Helen Adam (1909-1993)

We’ve been featuring these past two weeks now, Allen in conversation with the balladeer, Helen Adam.  Here’s rare footage of her performing one of her own ballads, the classic (and hilarious!)  “Cheerless Junkie’s Song”  (from Ron Mann’s 1982 movie, Poetry In Motion)  

and here’s the audio from her June 1976 Naropa Institute reading with Robert Duncan. Allen, in his introduction, confesses and declares:

“Helen Adam’s work was always a puzzle to me when I first got to San Francisco because she was writing straight classical rhymed ballads and I had come off my own father’s … Read More

Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 103

[Peter Orlovsky & Allen Ginsberg at 9 rue Git le Coeur, Paris, aka “The 
Beat Hotel” December 1956. Photo  c. Harold Chapman/TopFoto]

The Beat Hotel – You’ve read the book? You’ve seen the film? Now listen to the radio-program. Professor Andrew Hussey, dean of the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP), “tells the story of how a dirty, run-down hotel in the medieval heart of Paris became, in the late 50’s and early 60’s, a bohemian mecca, attracting some of the most important figures of the Beat Generation”. This BBC link will be up … Read More

Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) – Helen Adam 7

Student: Isn’t it [the jump cut in the ballad form] a model of the mind essentially, because the mind jumps like that?

AG: That’s the way the mind works, yeah. The reason that poetry’s like that is because it’s faithful to the actual operation of the mind. Mind goes like that. 
That’s why (William) Burroughs’ cut-ups,(which are jump cuts or juxtapositions)  are so appropriate to 20th century Einstein-ian measurements of mind. That’s why haiku are so clear, because it jumps one image to another image, almost disconnected (although the mind makes up the connection, or sees the connection, or … Read More

Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) – Helen Adam 6

Allen Ginsberg’s 1976 Spontaneous Poetics class at NAROPA Institute on ballads (with guest-lecturer Helen Adam) continues
Student: Are the old ballads conforming to the old speech?
AG: “Why does your brand sae drap wi’ bluid, Edward, Edward?” . Sure. Just like Kerouac conformed to Okie speech, the old ballads confirmed to their speech. Probably a certain amount of inversion, but, I think, when you hear them pronounced vigorously, they sound about right for talk. In other words, if you keep your ear into talk, too, when you’re rhyming, you get something interesting.
Student; Wasn’t there sometimes, though, more … Read More