Following on from yesterday’s posting of Allen in Scotland in 1973, there’s a fourth and final video that we omitted, but include today just to give you the complete picture.
It consists of documentation of a press-conference (but with considerable intrusive ambient sound interference, not to mention amateur camera-work, making it almost impossible – indeed quite literally impossible – to transcribe – Listen hard and you can, perhaps, glean a few of the highlights.
Approximately sixteen minutes in, that conference concludes, and the focus shifts to Allen in a performance of the popular Hindu mantra, Om Namah Shivaya, accompanying himself on harmonium and with back-up by Victor and Allan, the two local guitarists.
The tape concludes with Allen announcing what he will read (the preamble to what was presented on yesterday’s tapes) and we hear the very beginning of his setting of William Blake’s “Spring“.
“(Is Tom here?). Well, is he supposed to set it off for me. Is he going to ring a bell or something? do you know? [turning to one of his accompanying guitarists] Your name? – Victor here from Glasgow,and Allan from Glasgow also. So we all met about an hour or so ago and have been rehearsing while you [the audience] were coming in. So, the music, (or that portion of tonight that will be music), which will be.. mantra(s) as this last [Om Namah Shivaya], there’ll be some..(what I’ll do next) some of (William) Blake’s Innocence and Experience set to tune(s) which can be chanted in unison. In other words, community singing. I’ll read poems written since I was last here (which was 1967), probably mostly of the last year or so, and sing some blues songs also, most of which we have not rehearsed so
that we’ll be improvising to some extent, or improvising musical parts.
Tom, do you want to begin the program, or is there any formal thing to be done? – Tom McGrath – since we started.. (I’ve an) old friendship with Tom McGrath, who’s working with the Scottish Arts Council (who was one of my first publishersin England, actually) and John Schofield here, who worked under the Traverse Theater in Edinburgh.”
“To (William) Blake. We haven’t done this so I’ll sing the verses, that’s three verses, which will be in G and C and which I’ll do unaccompanied, but where there’s a refrain that’s repeated you’ll join in. So I’ll repeat the refrain four times after (the) first verse, four times after the second verse, and then a longer, an infinite number of times after the third – “(To) Spring – a very slight lyric by Blake.You may not have noticed. It’s in Songs of Innocence – “merrily, merrily, to welcome in the year”
from the press conference (excerpts):
“In terms of this Buddhist scheme, ok, my outlook’s pretty close…My heart chakra is relatively open..through chanting, vocalization.. AH! – that’s the mantra, AH!… without being mystical about it..simply the relaxation of the breathing..no pressure”
“Well, yes, I’ve lately I’ve seen it for myself because I find if I really don’t smoke, (and maintain) a good diet, don’t (jerk) off, I get laid more!”
“and also general lightness of the body, lightness of mind, lightness of temperament. You just feel lighter”
“When you meditate you get skin itches.. If you scratch it itches more and more. If you don’t scratch it goes away within about thirty seconds”
[Question – What are your fears?] – “Ultimately, not too much, because, at this point,there’s not much I have to lose. Pain, I think more than anything else (is a problem to confront) and I had a great deal of that this year. I had a hernia operation in the last twelve months and then a very bad broken ankle – four months in a caste – so pain was the most difficult situation.”
[Question – Was that your first? – “No, no I’ve had other experiences but it was the one I was able to resolve. This time I got into it a little more by (the beauty of) prayer. In moments of pain, relieving my attention from the pain of the leg to the heart area, breathing lightly into the heart area and then singing to myself, singing mantras to myself..”
“..finding out everything I could figure out to pray to, from human beings to gods to teachers to swamis to yogis to chogyams..to faith-healers – and out-breathing..”
[Question – You said something before about looking into a camera’s eyes? – ” (Yes) In this situation, in this moment – looking into a camera’s eyes.”
“I had a really interesting experience ..last year…with a famous kundalini swami named Swami Muktananda..who was (recognized) by a lot of people as being a big deal – and is – (not a big deal like (the) Maharishi) – a technician, a great technician of what is called shaktipat, which is touching you, giving you a signal and turning you on, awakening the kundalini, the kundalini being certain body vibrations from the base of the spine all the way up to the crown of the head. So he was someone that I understood, that I was told was real in that area, and was competent and trustworthy. He was told to me (by) people that I trusted, namely Richard Alpert (Baba Ram Dass) and Swami Satchidanananda (whom I did know) and Swami Satchidanananda’s teacher, Sivananda Saraswati. So, within this family of gossips who all knew each other, Swami Muktananda was considered someone to learn from. I went to see him….We held hands and he looked me in the eye and I looked him in the eye, and it went on for a long time. And I was trying to figure out what he was laying on me. And I suddenly realized that his eyes were completely empty. He wasn’t laying anything on me. And that was precisely the teaching!”
“Later on, I checked back and that was the teaching – with no oppression, no story, no trip.. no fantasy…”
“..looking at it from another perspective, say, not looking at each others’ eyes but looking at flowers on acid – you can see faces or dragons, or you can see…
So the “no trip” trip on acid is…(the) indestructible one, everything else is subject to your fantasy and.. but not seeing..not seeing faces, not projecting, not tripping is ultimately the highest perfect wisdom..”
“so in that scene, trying to use this situation to try and make a little turn.. to where we would actually know what we’re talking about (whereas if we’re sending a message saying what that might be) or what’s really authentic, you know, and (then) it’s mystery again…
[Question (Ego) – … Is there anything, something in your poetry that you’re especially proud of? – “I try not to be (proud), If I catch something… In confronting that proposition, it’s interesting practicing traditional Tibetan yoga. Traditionally, you’re supposed to keep your mantras secret, but I’ve never been able to do that (so that my inhibit my development). On the other hand, I feel that poetry is where I deal with it. So everything goes into poetry.”
“I’m lazy, I don’t write enough”
“I find less occasion when I want to write, when I want to memorialize… Like, say, visiting Durham Cathedral with Basil Bunting . (Now) I was reading (William) Wordsworth last night and he had a poem about…(when) he went to see Sir Walter Scott, and he thought that was a big deal and he could write a big poem out of it (and he did write a beautiful poem about (meeting) Scott and that situation, and art, and friendship (and everything)) – and I didn’t have the heart or (intention) to write a big poem about visiting Durham Cathedral with Bunting and I was wondering about that – am I getting tired? – or, is it..”
“I mean, (also) a conversation with (William) Burroughs in the…station, or a conversation with a beggar man in the corner (also – different). So, finally everything… because everything’s equal. At that point, something can be boring, so..”
“In other words, having lunch with the Queen would be just as boring…as having lunch with Harry Fainlight (in fact, probably more exciting with Harry Fainlight! – more upsetting, because of the situation – that you’d have to deal with it more).
(Fainlight is a poet-friend of (Tom) McGrath’s).”
(Question – When you improvise do you…(embody) – “Yes, the inspiration it’s a certain embodient… Inspiration’s breath (and that drives it).. (So) there’s a certain point in improvising when the reading comes very easy, words come on the breath .. now it’s steady one-in-five times , it’s extended, sometimes it goes on for twenty-minutes or an hour (or more). And, after about ten minutes or so you might get a little tight force in your blood..”
” It’s a lost art.. the reason I’m talking about is it’s a lost art it’s the twentieth-century art of jazz and blues – George Melly (has done a little), it’s a “trad” form. Among poets it’s not considered a practical thing to do…”
(Question – Do you add to your improvisation? I mean do you improvise and (then) re-improvise Do you add (to) it? – ” Well, I guess that I’ve been doing it for about a year and I haven’t really got round to taking it down. I ‘ve got a few tapes…. It’d be an interesting project (but) it’d be a lot of work. It’s just as easy to write something down, to start over and write something down. In other words, you improvise and (so) why bother to write it down?, why not just … (No), In other words, the present moment is the most interesting thing, rather than.. the past, the present moment, in any case, where we’re sitting right now (or where we’re standing up singing) is the most interesting, because that’s where the whole body. mind, the possibilities (are)”
(Question – regarding releasing of the tapes with Bob Dylan – “I was eager to do it a first because of the glory of it! – but still, natural factors intervened (to do with Apple – (John) Lennon wanted to do it with Apple) then – and they even had the cover set in type and designed – then.. they never sent a contract. And then Allen Klein stopped answering the telephone, and Lennon and Klein severed their relationship, and around the same time, Klein sent me a message that they’d lost interest (and if that date had not been (met in) twelve months, then the impulse was gone (and my vanity kind of set in)”
“Then I got a letter from Dylan saying forget about contracts . Energy spent. No point going on, save songs for your friends, make your friends happy..’
[Allen to one audience -member – “I know you write for the newspaper” – “Yeah (but) newspaper people have all run away to meet deadlines” – Allen – “I said the wrong things then!”