From the incomporable Naropa University Archives, another vintage audio tape this weekend – (from June 25, 1979) a reading that took place in Denver, (Colorado), featuring Allen, alongside Kenneth Koch and Anne Waldman
Anne’s voice (a brief excerpt from a poem and a brief note of introduction) begins the tape, before Allen speaks)
AG: Thank you Anne, thank you everyone for coming. When I speak.. The sound-system here is real good, so when I speak, you can hear? everybody? Justin [sic] you can hear? every syllable?, every consonant? – Okay. What I’m going to do is mostly read poems of the last year or so. However, I wanted to go back to a poem typed-up only this year for the first time, a composition from 1958 by Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, and myself, called “Nixon” (from 1958) – and the footnote – I found this in my papers this year – says “This poem was written in a bar on Broadway, New York on 110th Street, Manhattan, over beers, during a visit to town by Kerouac, likely after the Vice-President’s celebrated “Checkers Speech”, [Editorial note – the “Checkers Speech” dates from several years earlier, September 1952] at a time when Kerouac was besieged by Esquire, Vogue, or other slick magazines, to write “timely” articles on subjects that the editor then thought modish. On this visit, he had refused to write a – quote “critique of American women” – unquote – and the transcript ends with his wry world-weary cry – “We ought to make fifteen-hundred dollars right now, write a big attack on American women!”. That’s what the big gay editors, or the faggot editors, of Esquire of those days wanted (or the macho editors, they were, actually). In other words, it was modish at that time – “Let’s have an article on American women? What’s wrong with American women, Jack?” . That’s the way magazines are run. I guess you know. Sells copies.
[Allen reads “Nixon” in its entirety] – “Nixon has a pillow in his mouth in the kitchen. Nixon has chickenfeathers coming out of his fly….”…”Nixon doesn’t know Lafcadio.”
That was all we had to say about Nixon. It was nice because it was 1958 and high-hearted, friendly
“Lack Love”..This is.. these are poems, beginning February 1978, so, it’s the last fifteen months – “Lack Love” – [Allen begins reading his erotic poem] “Love wears down to bare truth/ My heart hurt me much in youth”… “Hear my heart beat red in bed/Thick and living, love rejected”
“All The Things I Got To Do” – [This is followed by Allen’s long litany of distractions] This is May 1978 – “All The Things I Got To Do” – “I remembered when I sat down to meditate after weeks wandering streets of iron thoughts, I have to go back to my own universe, Buddha-imagination… “….”…edit the Shambhala Talking Poetics and read up on my file on nuclear poison.”
“A Pleasant Afternoon” – June 18, 1978 – “One day three poets and sixty pairs of ears were sitting under a green striped Chautauqua tent in Aurora listening to black spirituals, tapping their feet, appreciating the words flying by…”and the tent flapped open-hearted and spacious and didn’t fall down”
“What’ s Dead” – or “What’s Dead “Clouds- dead, movies, dead shadows….”….”shadows left behind. These were the musings of the Buddhist student, Allen Ginsberg”
Next, (starting at approximately twelve minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-three-and a quarter minutes in) Allen reads Plutonian Ode
– “writtten at the night before, at.. about a year ago, written about a year ago the night before an arrest sitting meditation at Rocky Flats Nuclear Facility.
“What new element”.. “gone beyond me into wakened space – So – AH!’
[Allen follows this with a few brief related poems]
This is.. (these are).. area poems… a few poems of this area. A month later, after we were up at Rocky Flats – Nagasaki Day [August 9] , last year (which will be coming around (again) in August – and I think there’ll be more demonstrations there, (and) I’ll probably get busted again, and others will be meditating on the tracks, so, any of you who are particularly sensitive to this kind of social meditation are invited up. I guess the Rocky Flats Truth Force will be announcing that.). These are haiku or one-shot perceptions, while being arrested
“Cumulus clouds float across blue sky/ over the white-walled Rockwell Corporation factory /am I gonna stop that?”
“Rocky Mountains rising behind us/ Denver shining in morning light/Led away from the crowd by police and photographers.”
“Middleaged Ginsberg and Ellsberg taken down the road/ to the greyhaired Sheriff”s van – What about Einstein? What about Einstein? Hey Einsein, come back!”
“In Golden Courthouse” – (Kerouac has a line in Mexico City Blues – “I want to go to golden” – very abstract – written here – “I want to go to golden” – and I wound up going to Golden Courthouse!) – “Waiting for the Judge, breathing silent/Prisoners, witnesses, Police -/the stenographer yawns into her palms’
And, later, we went to visit the manager of the Rocky Flats Plutonium Plant, and we found out that the basic mantra of those who were creating the plutonium is – quote “Give us the weapons we need to protect ourselves” – unquote – “Give us the weapons we need to protect ourselves”/the bareheaded guard lifts a flyswatter above his desk/…whap!”
A green-letter’d shield on the pressboard wall/ “Life is fragile, handle with care” -/My Goodness! this is where they make the nuclear bomb triggers!”
September (19)78 – “Fake Saint” – I left…Summers, generally, I teach, as now, at Naropa Institute’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. (for those of you who don’t know the occasion of this reading, because.. Kenneth Koch is teaching there for this week, and Anne Waldman is co-director, and I’m co-director) – And in September, last year , I left Boulder and went out to the West Coast and stayed with Gary Snyder. And this is a poem written in a notebook, riding along the road, up into the Sierra Mountains, a couple of hundred miles north of San Francisco, or coming down from his mountain retreat – “Fake Saint” – “I am Fake Saint, magazine saint , Ram Dass, who’s not a fake saint consciousness?- Nobody…… ” “uncertain as incense”..
“And I’ll finish with one.. (with) two poems, relatively brief. I had a series of love poems. This was the most recent series of adventures, that were all put in Skelton-like, Skeltonic-like, stanzas – “Love Returned” – “Love returned with smiles three thousand miles to keep a years promise”..”Some nights are left free and love’s patient with me”.
And I’ll finish with a brief poem, (from) this Spring, Brooklyn College, I went to teach, substituting for a poet I like, John Ashbery, in a writing class. And it was the first time I’d ever taught in a formal university, with a tie and a coat – “At Brooklyn College” – (“You used to wear dungerees and blue work-shirt, sneakers, or cloth-topped shoes, and ride alone on subways, young and elegant, unofficial bastard of nature, sneaking sweetness into Brooklyn./ Now tweed jacket and your father’s tie on your breast….” …”have a good time workshopping brain-mind in the Avery room in the student office building.”
The next poet will be Kenneth Koch. Anne, will you introduce Kenneth?
AW: Kenneth Koch reading next. Kenneth is the author of many books of poems including The Art of Love, Thank You and Other Poems, The Duplications. Also the author of the novel, The Red Robins (which is coming out as a play as well, and appeared in..was presented in New York last year) and books on the teaching of poetry-writing, Wishes, Lies & Dreams, Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? and “I Never Told Anybody – Teaching Poetry-Writing In A Nursing Home). We’re very pleased to have Kenneth Koch visiting this week at the Kerouac school in Boulder and he’ll also be reading Wednesday night at the Public Service Building with three younger poets, so that’s Wednesday night at 8 o’clock if any of you are interested in that. Kenneth has a wonderful sense of humor and beauty. It’s as big as the sky. Please welcome Kenneth Koch
KK: Thank you Anne. After I read there’ll be a five-minute intermission and then Anne will read.
The first poem is called “The Magic of Numbers” (“The Magic of Numbers – 1 – How strange it was to hear the furnitue being moved around in the apartment upstairs!…”…”The magic of Numbers – 7 – I was twenty-nine and so were you. We had a very passionate time./Everything I read turned into a story about you and me, and everything I/ did was turned into a poem”)
The next poem is called “The Circus”. It refers to a poem I wrote about thirteen or fifteen years earlier called “The Circus’. I wrote the first poem… well, this poem explains the circumstances of writing the first poem. The people in this poem are all real – “The Circus” (“I remember when I wrote The Circus/I was living in Paris, or rather we were living in Paris..”… “And this is not as good a poem as The Circus/ And I wonder if any good will come of either of them all the same”)
“The next poem is called “The Boiling Water” (“A serious moment for the water is when it boils..”….”That is enough. For the germ when it enters or leaves a body, for the fly when it lifts its little wings”)
I have.. I have one more poem I’m going to read, it’s called “Our Hearts” . It’s in nine parts, each as long as a sonnet, fourteen-lines long, they’re not at all sonnets) – “Our Hearts” – ( I – “All hearts should beat when Cho Fu’s orchestra plays “Love”….”…but usually without the time/Or power to change anything (sometimes – maybe a fraction – if so it’s amazing!) then off we go.”)
AG: We’ll have a ten-minute intermission then Anne Waldman will be on. And so those of you who have never heard her, I would suggest, stay, she’s a great orator, fantastic voice. So, ten minutes.
[Dual-portrait of Anne Waldman – from “Face of A Poet” (1972) by Alex Katz]
This reading (with the second half), the Anne Waldman half) will continue tomorrow
[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at the beginning and concluding approximately sixty-three-and-a-half minutes in]