Another from the Naropa Archivesthis weekend – John Ashbery and Dick Gallup in June of 1976 (Allen does the introductions, noting that, in fact, Ashbery had already read there the previous year, giving a reading with W.S.Merwin). In this reading, he reads a selection of poems from his collection, Houseboat Days. Dick Gallup gives a rare reading (mostly from poems that would appear in his collection Above the Treeline – subsequently reprinted, with additional poems, a quarter of a century later, in the Coffee House Press collection, Shiny Pencils at the Edge of Things)
AG: The third reading of this Summer writing program of the JackKerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, third all-star reading of the season with Dick Gallup and John Ashbery, who are friends, representing to some extent what was once called “TheNew York School” of poetry (tho’ John is from Sodus in New York and Dick is from Oklahoma, but Dick counted John Ashbery as one of his teachers). John is a friend of Frank O’Hara and Kenneth Koch and many of the painters and poets in New York in the early (19)50’s, where I first encountered him in New York City, and so formed a very powerful group of intelligences working in the expanding art world and mind world, post-war America. Friends of painters, friends of Abstract-Expressionist folk, of ( Willem) de Kooning, and ( Franz) Kline and Larry Rivers, and.. I think originally from Harvard, wasn’t it? – [to John Ashbery] – Did you go to Harvard with Frank O’Hara? – same time? – Kenneth Koch?] – So, there was, like a community, from the (19)40’s came down to New York from Harvard, just as from Columbia there was a community of ( Jack) Kerouac and myself and William) Burroughs (, hanging around the Village and, in the early and late (19)50’s, the Cedar Bar . His books, as published, were Turandot and Other Poems, The Tennis Court Oath (Wesleyan University Press, 1962), The Double Dream of Spring , Some Trees (published by Corinth Books, [which is a whole series of books, CorinthBooks , they published an early set of poems of mine [ Empty Mirror ] and LeRoi Jones ( Amiri Baraka )’s poetry,and (Jack) Kerouac’s Scripture of The Golden Eternity] , Rivers and Mountains ( Holt, Rinehart & Winston , i n (19)66 ), Three Poems ,(Viking Press, 1972), and a celebrated Self Portrait In A Convex Mirror (Viking Press, 1975), which won Pulitzer Prize this year, National Book Award prize, and also (National) Book Critics Circle prize, so, what’s really elegant is to be able to welcome John here (as well as Dick) for the second year in a row. So we’ve begun establishing a longer-range family relationship here (at Naropa) in Boulder, as some kind of poetic family relationship had already been established in the sangha of poets in the Big Apple.
And in that sangha , younger, in the late (19)50’s a group of poets came in out of Tulsa, fluttering up with The White Dove Review ,edited by Dick Gallup and I think it was Ted Berrigan ?.. or Ron? – Ron Padgett – So, I was engaged in correspondence with Ron, and indirectly with Dick (Gallup), back in (19)58, as was (Jack) Kerouac. We all sent in poems to Tulsa, Oklahoma for The White Dove Review . And then Dick came to New York and.. I think White Dove.. was 1959, Dick went to Tulane for three years, and in the streets of New York as a school, and Columbia (graduated Columbia in 1968). Big Sky Press published Above The Tree Line – will publish- a big long collection of poems, Above The Tree Line (those’ll be his poems from 1970-1975 – Big Sky Press, edited by Bill Berkson , out there in Bolinas, California. In 1970 Harper & Row published a hardback book of poems (some copies of which may still be available in paper cover) – Where I Hang My Hat , and in 1976 , the Toothpaste Press in West Branch, Iowa, published a pamphlet, The Wacking of the Fruit Trees. He’s living in California now, Dick Gallup, with a ten-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son. He’s had long years experience, teaching poetry in the schools to children. He conducted a poetry workshop at St Marks Poetry Project back in 1969 and (19)70, and is..among his major influences have been John Ashbery and Ted Berrigan and Frank O’Hara, as well as ( Robert) Browning and Ben Jonson .
As the evening wears on, probably, there may be an intermission. Earlier poetry readings from Naropa are on sale at the back at the booths, on cassette, a rare reading of my own of Howl , a reading of ( Chogyam) Trungpa and Anne Waldman , and a mixed-bag anthology of tapes (which will be available all term) as well as Sitting Frog magazine (a lot of the work of students of last year’s poetic activities) for three bucks in the back. We’ve had (Robert)Duncan, the first reading, and Helen Adam representing an old tradition of West Coast poetry, Duncan’s method was a kind of divination into language. My own method, having read last week, and (Michael)McClure’s, is also involved with hearing.. transcribing the language that we hear in our head – and (John) Ashbery is, perhaps, the most brilliant inheritor of a tradition of recording present consciousness, the divigations, bravery and brilliances, innocencies, irrelevancies, jumps, gaps, contradictions, of a consciousness during the time of writing. So, actually, from a Buddhist point of view, an advanced inspector, mindfully aware of his own mind, consciousness, language. So..
I don’t know who will begin.. Who wants to? Who’s first? – Oh, okay, then Dick (Gallup) . Well, lead the way – and I’ll get out of the way
[At approximately seven-and-a-half minutes in, Dick Gallup begins reading]
Dick Gallup: Thanks Al..[ glances at microphone – ridiculous!] – I’m going to read some poems vaguely in chronological order (if you give or take five years) The first poem is “String Quartet” (“The darkened mills of intricate compassion/Are lifted from silence”…”Into the technical night full of technical anti-freeze/To clutch the broken bowl”).
This is followed by some further attention to the microphone (“I have to do something with this thing so that I can hear what’s.. (move it) to the right? – to the right?..I.. yeah – (not that it helps much”).,
Then – ” This is called “ To The Other Side of the Mountain” ( “The pillow is for sleeping/keeping the unending appointments..”…”..snow ready to fall, past the veranda railing, to the ground”).
“This is a poem I wrote called “ Folding Cash” (“Blasted yellow peaches are sitting/On the arm of the armchair”..”And when I touch you/I feel the money coming/Down from the bank/And into my pockets)”
“A short poem called “The Feast” – “The Feast” – (“There’s another way/Without using nature/As a crutch/You got another head/Inside that one/Climb out of the soup/It’s only the first course.”)
“This poem is called “ Marksman First Class” (“The table lamps burn through the night/Birds call to each other across the meadow”…”The great-grandchildren of pioneers/Yawn and go to bed/Their lives like sawed-off shotguns”)
Maybe I should stop there. This is the last poem that I’ll read. It’s called “ Destination Moon ”. And the poem is dedicated, I guess, or it’s to, for, or something of the sort, Ted Berrigan, who thought up the title, Destination Moon”, (although it was a movie in 1950), but I wrote this poem last December when I was leaving New York City. I wrote it on the 23rdof December 1975. It’s sort of sentimental but I like it – “Destination Moon” (“The snow blows in the silence/Like lazy money that/Crosses my eyes/Which try to follow each bill across the street light”…”Soon I’ll hold the syntax in my head/Under a roof with a sky above/Instead of friendly human soot”)
Thanks – John is going to read next/now, and I would just like to say that I consider it a great pleasure to read with John because, as Allen mentioned I said, I consider(ed) him one of my teachers – and I feel I’ve learnt a great deal about the art of writing poetry from John Ashbery. It’ll be a pleasure to listen to (him).
There is a brief stretch of silence before John Ashbery begins reading, at approximately forty-four-and-a-quarter minutes in
John Ashbery: I’m going to begin by reading some recent poems and then perhaps a few earlier ones. The first one is a kind of bicentennial poem. It was commissioned for a catalog of a show of paintings of the American landscape which is circulating around the country. (I believe it’s now in Washington, where it opened recently). It was commissioned by the Department of the Interior and ran into some difficulty when I finally sent it in because they didn’t want to pay for it because whoever..I don’t know, some bureaucrat.. saw it and said that, even if he knew what the title meant, he wouldn’t know what the poem meant! So I.. And then I found that most people don’t know what the title means (although it’s a very ordinary, or to me anyway, very ordinary word) – “Pyrography” – it’s that old wood-burning kit that you used to have as a child, making pictures on leather book-bindings and wooden box-lids and so on – “Pyrography” (“Out here on Cottage Grove it matters/The galloping wind bulks at its shadow…”.. “Out toward the junctions and to the darkness beyond/To these bare fields, built at today’s expense”’
“This one is called “ Collective Dawns ”, the name “Grettir” (“Night of the world, Grettir is coming back to us”) refers to the hero of an Icelandic saga – Collective Dawns” (“You can have whatever you want/Own it, I mean. In the sense/Of twisting it to you..”..”Know it and fall to the ground, though no doom/Says it through the long cool hours of rest/While it sleeps as it can, as in fact it must, for the man to find himself.”
“The Couple in the Next Room” ( “ She liked the blue drapes. They made a star/At the angle. A boy in leather moved in..”…”Another day. Deliberations are recessed/In an iron-blue chamber of that afternoon/On which we wore things and looked well at/A slab of business rising behind the stars”)
“ Variant” (“Sometimes a word will start it. like/Hands and feet, sun and gloves. The way/Is fraught with danger, you say, and I /Notice the word “fraught” as you are telling/Me about huge secret valleys some distance from/The mired fighting..” -and the rest of the poem is in quotation maks being spoken by another speaker – “ – but always, lightly wooded/As they are, more deeply involved with the outcome…”…”Until the whole thing overflows like a silver/Wedding cake or Christmas tree, in a cascade of tears”.)
This one has.. It’s called “ Wet Casements”. It has a quotation from (Franz) Kafka at the beginning, from “Wedding Preparations in the Country”, the first line of that story – “When Eduard Raban, coming along the passage, walked into the open doorway, he saw that it was raining, It was not raining much” – “Wet Casements” (“The conception is interesting: to see, as though reflected/In streaming windowpanes, the look of others through/Their own eyes.”…””I shall keep to myself/I shall not repeat others’ comments about me.”)
[John pauses, to rifle through some papers]
“This one, I had some things that seem to require footnotes, which I’m very much against, as a rule, but I wrote.. anyway, it has a lot of French words in it and things that might be explicated, The only really important ones are the words “carte du Tendre”, (“A carte du Tendre in whose lower right-hand corner..”), which is a kind of allegorical map of the country of Love, “chalets de necessite” (“chalets de necessite on its sedgy shore”) is a French comfort-station, usually built in a rustic style, like a chalet, “algolagnic” means sado-masochistic, (“The asparagus patch of algolagnic nuits blanches..”) “garance” (“the puckered garance satin/Of a case..”), which is the name of the heroine of Les Enfants du Paradis , also means a dark rouge, red. I think those are the only ones that I really care to have anybody be certain what they mean. In the middle of the poem, there’s a conversation between two women, Aglavaine and Selysette (which are/were characters in a play by (Maurice) Maeterlinck of that title, which I haven’t read), But, anyway, they seem to be having a long conversation about the poem and the person who’s writing it, (whoever that may be). It’s called “Daffy Duck in Hollywood” – I assume everybody knows about Daffy Duck. I’ve always identified with Daffy Duck! There’s one Daffy Duck movie in which he ends up saying, in which he captures the Tasmanian monster because there’s a big reward and he says, “I may be a coward but I’m a greedy little coward!” Anyway, he’s the protaganist, in a way, of this poem – “Daffy Duck in Hollywood” (“Something strange is creeping across me..”…”Always invoking the echo, a summer’s day.”)
“I’ll read, I guess, three more. I had one about a String Quartet that I wanted to read because of Dick (Gallup)’s [sic], but I don’t seem to have that with me, I won’t read that one. This is called “Street Musicians” – “Street Musicians” (“One died and the soul was wrenched out of the other…”…” …smeared on the landscape to make of us what we could”)
[The evening concludes with a brief note from Allen]