John Donne – 3 – Go and Catch A Falling Star (Pondering the Mandrake Root)

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[Mandrake illustration from a 15thc. manuscript Tacuinum Sanitatis]

Continuing with Allen Ginsberg’s analysis of John Donne’s poem, Go and Catch A Falling Star

AG: ..Yes. She still wouldn’t remain true. In other words,  You got to “go catch a falling star”, “get with child a mandrake root”. Anybody know what that reference is?

Student:  (There was a note on it in the book)

AG: Well, yeah, but it didn’t give you the full thing. It’s the.. On the gallows tree, when.. as (William) Burroughs pointed out, when people’s necks are snapped when they’re hung (and also beheaded, I … Read More

John Donne – Go and Catch A Falling Star – 2

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Allen Ginsberg on John Donne 1980 Naropa class – Continuing from here

Go and catch a falling star, Get with child a mandrake root, Tell me where all past years are, Or who cleft the devil’s foot, Teach me to hear mermaids singing, Or to keep off envy’s stinging, And find What wind Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be’st born to strange sights, Things invisible to see, Ride ten thousand days and nights, Till age snow white hairs on thee, Thou, when thou return’st, wilt tell me, All strange wonders that befell thee, And swear, No where … Read More

William Burroughs – Creative Reading continues – 7

[William Burroughs. Photograph by Allen Ginsberg ]

William Burroughs on Creative Reading continues

WSB: Any further questions?

Student: What do you think of all these codes in Lord Jim. You know, he’s writing about all these kind of unexplained code and then, at the end, he’s… he’s killed, kind of, by the native’s code, and Brierly’s suicide that’s a kind of code. I’ve been kind of wondering what Conrad was thinking when he put all these open-ended codes of conduct into the book?

WSB: Yeah, well, so he says, faith in a fixed code of conduct. Now, this seems, … Read More

William Burroughs – Creative Reading continues – 6 (on Books & Films)

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William Burroughs on Books and Films

WSB: I’ve got The Treasures of Sierra Madre on here. Now that, it’s sort of axiomatic that good films are not made from good books. The Treasures of Sierra Madre, I think, is a much better film than it was a book (that is, I read the book after seeing the film. I found the book quite a disappoinment, it didn’t have the punch that the film had at all) . I was trying to think of a case of a really good book that has been made into a good movie, … Read More

Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 304

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[Allen Ginsberg “signing a book at Harry Smith‘s funeral with his montblanc pen”, 1991 – Photograph © Thomas Peters]

Michael Schumachers collection of miscellaneous Ginsberg interviews, First Thought, as we mentioned last week, will be published very soon. Meantime, it’s worth considering Schumacher’s other titles, his masterly distillation of The Essential Ginsberg (out from Harpers in 2015), his remarkable edit of the Ginsberg father-son letters, Family Business, (2001)  and his monumental biography, Dharma Lion (1994,recently re-issued by University of Minnesota Press in an expanded edition, 2016)

A recent review of the latter  the new edition … Read More

Bonnie Bremser

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Yesterday we spotlighted Ray Bremser, today we spotlight his sometime-wife Bonnie (nee Frazer) Bremser and the extraordinary document Troia-Mexican Memoirs (1969) (published in England as For Love of Ray (1971)), a “lost classic of Beat experimental writing.”

Heike Mlakar, in her 2007 book, Merely Being There Is Not Enough – Women’s Roles in Autobiographical Texts by Female Beat Writers, notes:

“The male-dominated Beat circle offered women only restricted freedom. For The Love of Ray, as well as the memoirs of other Beat women, criticizes the fact that women were doubly suppressed, by “square” society at … Read More

Remembering Ray Bremser

Allen Ginsberg on the above image:

Ray Bremser master poet returned to New York after eight years’ absence wrinkle-faced as before, to attend my “Rainbow Body Reading Series” at Brooklyn College & same night read at St. Mark’s Church Poetry Project. Next evening we did two poetry readings shows together for jazz-club Village Vanguard anniversary week celebrations. He left early next morning by bus, for safety from drink, to his upstate New York Utica apartment. Saw him this way the night before all these poetry scenes, at my house, February 21, 1995″

This poem (“Blood”) was recorded in … Read More

John Donne – (Go and Catch A Falling Star – 1)

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[John Donne (1572-1631)]

AG: Yeah, well, one thing that I was noticing, which gets introduced here more than before in Donne – contractions – like “find’st” (so you don’t have to say “findest” or “will find”, it’s just “find’st”, so it’s one syllable – “If thou find’st one, let me know” – da-da dad-a da-da-da – “If thou findst one, let me know” – So I get contractions out of that that I make use of in my own poetry. I made a lot of use of the same kind of contraction. Oddly enough, it’s vernacular (it looks literary on … Read More

John Donne – Intro

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[John Donne (1573-1631)]

AG: John Donne – Now begins something different from what we’ve been doing. So far, up to now, I have been getting involved with the lines as kind of rhythmic melody and rhythm (or “cadence” was the word that we finally came to, that I finally wound-up using (from Louis Zukofsky). And I think, historically, beginning with Donne, (but Donne is still sung and people wrote music to Donne), there begins here a kind of stiffening of the verse-form  (but Donne still is a melodic genius – but I don’t think Donne wrote his … Read More

William Burroughs – Creative Reading – continues – 5

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[William S Burroughs at the Bunker, New York City, 1985. Photo: Allen Ginsberg]

continues from yesterday

Student: Are you familiar with a story called An Outpost of Progress?

WSB Er…..

Student: It’s a (Joseph) Conrad short-story. And the last half of the movie (version).It’s straight Conrad – two totally paranoid traders, in the heart of the Congo, have a real Gothic Western shoot-out, They think that they’re leading each other on, (but…)

WSB: No, I haven’t, I haven’t read it yet.

Student:  (You really have to…)

WSB: Yeah, but there’s some.. there’s some very … He … Read More