[Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Dick Gallup, Anne Waldman and Michael McClure at Naropa Institute, 1976]
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) Kerouacand 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, in (19)66), Three Poems,(Viking Press, 1972), and a celebrated Self Portrait In A Convex Mirror (Viking Press, 1975), which won Pulitzer Prizethis 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 sanghaof 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 Tulanefor 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 Frogmagazine (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)”
“This is a poem called “Beneath the Surface of The Field”(“Often I’ve thought words/Exist in vast reaches of meaning”…”Beyond the architecture of bone/Arch as a keystone cold as stone”)
“This is a poem I wrote called “Christmas Poem”, in which I try to imagine that Santa Claus was a woman and then I would write a poiem addressed to Santa Claus, but it’s not Mrs Santa Claus – “Christmas Poem” (“Your eyes give a little bit/You know..”…”You are a goddess on a god’s birthday/Your voice is on the radio when I turn it off/You are your own electricity/And you turn me on.”)
“Okay, and to go with that, this is is a nasty poem (to go with that one). This is a poem called “You” (“You don’t know if you’ve got what it takes/ To walk down the street in the morning”…”I couldn’t help you/You wouldn’t let me in.”)
“This is a poem called “Comet Tails” – “Comet Tails” (“It looks easy from a balcony/the patterned rushing we see..”…”And the foundation of a house/Set in a field of starlight.”)
and this is a poem called “Private Dick” – “Private Dick” (“I was eating dinner in a diner without a front door..”/ ..”Stupidity, I tell myself, is just a state of mind”)
“Brains By Lamplight” (“Love is a sand land/A sand lady/Running through a glass/On a glib tongue/Eating energy”…”Maybe I should learn to bite”)
“This is a poem I wrote called “Corvette Dude” – I don’t really know too many people who drive Corvettes – “Corvette Dude” (“He runs in the surf trailing/Reflections in the wrinkled surface..”…”Roses grow in his empty wallet/ He picks the petals off the hot/Pavement of the freeway/And keeps trying”)
“And this next poem is called “Raising Water” – “Raising Water” (“Passing by the trees of the reservation..”..”Reserved/For our own water supply/For everyone’s water supply”)
“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 is a poem called “Things To Do” – Things to do. Five things to do. Five – (“Modulate your feelings/make the spaces real/keep the intellect in tune/charge your batteries regularly/remember what happens.”)
“This is a poem called “Making With the Clicks” (“clicks” being kilometers) (“Like a child wiping boogers off its face/ This world shrugs off my thoughts..”..”My stereo tape deck/My nickel plated automatic/And $4,000 dollars worth of Dodge truck”) – That is a New York City escape story! – Who stepped on it? Well, I guess I took that foot off.
“This is called “Threading the Needle” – “Threading the Needle” (“Terrific clothes are more than vain..”…”That place outside your skin”)
“Chasing Snakes With A Stick”(“In other words/You asked for it/No shining days up ahead”…”The children have been sent away unwanted/While all the lonely people/Ride rollercoasters/In the dark”)
“No Planned No Parenthood”(“Have you noticed how gloomy everything becomes/Thinking about the future in terms of today”…”You will regret it/But they won’t”)
DG: Let’s see…I’ve just got a few more poems I want to read to you. I think there’s.. Okay this is called “Lights Float on the Water” (“Stop sail/Walk in a trance across spider-web..”…”The world is strong,/Reinforced by cables between the species”) ..So much for that. I have a couple more. I have no idea how long I’ve been reading
AG: Not very long
DG: I don’t think so, either..It doesn’t seem like very long,
AG: Three minutes
DG: Three minutes? Something like that..
DG: This is a poem I wrote called “Charged Particles” (“Bright red, where the sky dips towards heaven…”…”along a new highway with burlap-covered signs”)
“For some reason I really wanted to read this next poem. It’s called “On the Meat Wheel”. I wrote about a strange mess.. a strange method – a messy method, and this is what came out, a sort of long process – “On the Meat Wheel” (“At the edge of the forest, she sings/With her pale lips…”…”You’re a pip, they say, if you can breathe”)
AG: What was the method?
DG: The method was I wrote about a page-and-a-half of prose off the top of my head, and then I cut that up into about twenty-five pieces and put it back together, and then I cut out the parts which didn’t pertain, and then I put it into lines and made a poem out of it. I think that’s what I think I did.. I hadn’t done.. I hadn’t written a poem in that fashion in..oh, between five and seven years, and so it was very interesting to do.”
“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”)
“I think I’ll read two more poems and that’ll be the end of this. This is called “What The Dickens” and it has a character n it whose name is Steinmetz, who was an electrical engineer who made millions of dollars for General Electric. He was a dwarf, almost, a dwarf with a slight hunchback, and he lived reclusively in Schenectady in New York. I’ve always identified with him because..for some reason – “What The Dickens” (“It’s nice to sit down in the evening/With the rain out of doors/And the dog lapping water from the toilet bowl/To a dinner given in your honor”/ Everyone sits around in the dark/Trying to guess who’s speaking from the sound/Ah! Mr Steinmetz is here. Hear the thunder..”…”Reading a newspaper headline,/”FIREMAN CHOP DOWN BLEAK HOUSE”)
[Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1865-1923)]
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”’
“Bird’s–Eye View of the Tool and Die Co.” (“For a long time I used to get up early,/20-30 vision, hemorrhoids intact..”…:”..You turn/To speak to someone beside the dock and the lighthouse /Shines like garnets. It has become a stricture”).
“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.”)
“The Wrong Kind of Insurance” (“I teach in a high school/And see the nurses in some of the hospitals.”… “Each night/Is trifoliate, strange to the touch.”)
“Unctuous Platitudes” – (“There is no reason for the surcharge to bother you./Living in a city one is nonplussed by some/Of the inhabitants..”..”..Every invitation/To every stranger is met at the station.”
[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) Maeterlinckof 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”)
“This one is called “Friends” and has a quote from Nijinsky’s Diary at the beginning, which is “I like to speak in rhymes,/because I am a rhyme myself” – It also has other lines from Nijinsky’s Diary collaged here and there in it (though, actually, not the ones that sound as if they were quotations from Nijinsky’s Diary) – “Friends” (“I saw a cottage in the sky/I saw a balloon made of lead..”… “The feeling is a jewel like a pearl.”)
“This one is called “Business Personals”, (It’s the last one I’ll read), which, you probably know, are those ads that come in between the personals and the classified ads in the “want-ad” section of newspapers sometimes. They don’t seem to be either “Business” or “Personal”, and I think I was wondering about that problem when I started to write the poem. “The disquieting muses again”, the words that begin the poem, refers to a painting by (Giorgio) De Chirico, which Sylvia Plath also uses as the title of a poem. – “Business Personals” (“The disquieting muses again; what are “leftovers”?/Perhaps they have names for it all…” …”It will dissipate like the pale pink and blue handkerchiefs/That vanished centuries ago into the blue dome/That surrounds us, but which are, some maintain, still here”.
[The evening concludes with a brief note from Allen]
AG: You want to read any more, Dick? – no – ok – Next week’s reading wil be Diane Wakowski and Anne Waldman and tomorrow night, Chogyam Trungpa, a poet and dharma chakra teacher will be improvising here, and I think tomorrow night’s dharma lecture will be open to all members of Naropa Institute who don’t have enough money to take his course.. So those of you who have been studying other fields who haven’t yet had a chance to lay eyes on Trungpa or attend one of his lectures are invited for a general mass meeting of the entire school here tomorrow night to discuss the situation of the school entire and also to hear original dharma.