Allen Ginsberg – Ecologue & Interview with Allen DeLoach

Another from the trove of Stanford video recordings. This time Allen in Buffalo (Buffalo State, circa 1971), reading and being interviewed by Allen DeLoach – see here

The video is introduced as follows:

“Allen Ginsberg may be this planet’s most renowned poet . Considered by many of his contemporaries to be one of the most important poets of his generation. His poem “Howl” is probably as important a literary documentation of his generation’s spiritual condition as “The Waste Land” was for the previous generation. His major writing has been influenced by Biblical writing, by William Blake, Walt Whitman, Christopher Smart, and William Carlos Williams, and, most recently, by his involvement in Tibetan Buddhism. He is presently studying meditation with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado, and is the director of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at The Naropa Institute. As a major figure of the Beat Generation, he has consistently been a proponent of individuality in lifestyle as well as in poetic style. During the late “Sixties and  early ‘Seventies, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky spent considerable time farming and writing in Cherry Valley, New York. “Eclogue” is a product of that period. Among his many published volumes are Empty Mirror – Early Poems, Howl and Other Poems, Planet News 1961-67, Kaddish and Other Poems 1958-1960, Reality Sandwiches, The Fall of America – Poems of These States  1965-1971, Mind Breaths, Poems 1972-1977, Indian Journals, Journals Early ‘Fifties, Early ‘Sixties.

Allen DeLoach is a poet and writer and photographer and a multimedia performer. He has traveled the United States extensively, giving presentations of his poetry visual intermedia shows. He is also editor and publisher of Intrepid magazine and nmerous anthologies including The East Side Scene – New American Poetry 1960-1965. Associated with the Beat writers, his relationship with Allen Ginsberg began in the early ‘Sixties and includes Ginsberg’s period on the Cherry Valley Farm. De Loach has also been concerned with ethnopoetics as an attention of his own work for many years, spending a great deal of time living and working on the Hopi reservation with writers and artists such as Michael Kabotie whose painting is shown on this program.

DeLoach’s forthcoming book is entitled Mudhead Kachina – Poems and Photographs of Hopi Land.”

The video features Allen, (following a chanting of the Buddha Shakyamuni Mantra  – Om-Muni-Muni-Maha-Muniye-Soha), reading, in its entirety, “Ecologue”, his long-poem focusing on his Cherry Valley up-state farm period, (subsequently included in the collection, Fall of America)

Helen Vendler, from her 1973 review, in the New York Times, of Fall of America :

“This book..in the midst of a lot of ephemeral poetry, contains the supreme summing-up of this decade, a perfectly finished 14-page poem called “Eclogue.” Ginsberg has bought himself a farm and lives there in a tragi-comic mixture of live animals, killed animals, cows who eat his Blakean sunflowers, batteries that fail, detergent-fouled creeks, the Pleiades, the day’s radio news, memories of the dead, books, rain, returnable Ginger Ale bottles, quarrels, abashed recollections of Marie Antoinette playing milkmaid, bugs on the potatoes, thoughts of Ezekiel and the F.B.I., Indian Summer and The New York Times.. The poem has all the earnestness and absurdity of the commune movement in it, the despair of a “return to nature” combines with a horror of “civilization”: it walks a tightrope between the intimate and the international, it embeds in every phrase (except, perhaps, in its rather strained prophetic beginning) the incompetent New Yorker trying out country life. But it pits against that initial comic incongruity the tale-within-a-tale of the poet frightened by death and ennui back into the company of the hillsides and the stars.”

– “In a thousand years, if there’s history, America will be remembered as a a nasty little country….”  …..”Black Magicians screaming in anger Newark to Algiers,/How many bottles and cans piled up in our garbage pail?”

The reading begins approximately four-and-a-half minutes in and concludes at approximately twenty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in

The tape is profusely illustrated with photographs of Allen and the inhabitants of Cherry Valley taken contemporaneously by DeLoach ( “a kind of visual equivalent of precisely what the poem was..”, as he notes)

The reading of the poem is followed by a short interview (transcribed below)

For more on Allen and Cherry Valley – see here

and for an alternative reading of the poem – see here – (“Eclogue”, written after reading fragments of Philip Whalen’s “Scenes of Life at the Capital, so this is “Scenes of Life in the Sticks”!)

AD: Allen, that poem [“Eclogue”] was written in 1970.

AG: Right.

AD: And your discussion of improvised poetics which you did in Cherry Valley in 1968. a main concern for you centered around the concept that the line is a measure of thought. and you go on to say that the way of organizing the poem is an intellectual logic which follows the precise forms of the movements of the mind.

AG: Right.

AD: And then you say that  the poem is a logical scientific notation of events. Could you talk about the montage structure of “Eclogue” and the structural comments you made in “Improvised Poetics”?

AG: Yeah. Now this poem was written, lying in bed, say, in the evenings, before going to sleep,  waking up in the middle of the night (like it describes in the poem) taking down the thoughts that were  running through my head when. was I was sort of half-asleep-half-awake, or when I was walking around the house – the thought-think. What I was trying to do was make a time capsule, like a…montage, you said, or a jump-cut sequence of thought-forms that were characteristic of my mind that Fall, September through the Fall, 1970, picking up newspapers, radio headlines, events in the barnyard (the cows, the pigs), letters from friends So it makes a collage of a kind but it’s a collage written, let’s say, sitting up on a couple of pillows, under a gas light, flies buzzing around, trying to remember what I was thinking a second ago. So each line is, like, a seperate think, and they’re organized into a dis-continuous thought (just like the mind works). So if you’re daydreaming in bed that’s what you come up with, some structure like that, jumping from..pictures of the Earth as seen from the Moon to recollection of your friends in jail, or resentment and anger at the agent-provocateur of the secret police in America, or terror of the realization of the end of the world coming with (the) Atom Bomb, or, moment of hope, and then maybe, at the end of this, end of the ‘Sixties, 1970, considerable despair realizing it’s pretty hard to keep the World going.

AD: Terrific. This montage concept and this selective process is very similar to the processes that you’ve used all along, and you’ve even, coming across the country in 1965, used a tape-recorder..

AG: Yes

AD:   a Uher, and doing that same process, using a click,

AG: Yes, I used a tape-recorder, then, in this case, I was just using my big..actually a big notebook, I don’t have it here, but..a big notebook about this size that I kept by my bedside to record thoughts, record random thoughts, but it’s the same as like taking a tape-recorder into your brain but you’re doing it with the ends of your fingers and arms

AD: But all of the thoughts and images in the writing were particular and concrete

AG: Yeah, you’ve got to fix your mind on some kind of real and definite things, otherwise you just get a lot of vaporous la-di-da about you – “Police state comin’, mama – I can’t help you!”  – You actually have to hear a specific siren and then stick your head out the window and see Orion and then zig-zag…zig-zag Cassiopeia

AD: So that selective process came as an evolutionary process for you in the writing, and learning how to pay attention in the same way thatyou had to learn how to develop your mind, you had to learn how to sit and meditate

AG: Yeah..finally… I finally woke up one morning at the farm and thought, “Gee, these thoughts I’ve been thinking are real interesting. Maybe if I just took them down, without tryng to fix them up, just  took them down clearly, specifically, then maybe they’ll make some sense?”.  Ten years later they make sense, in the sense of it was what I was thinking then, and it’s interesting to look..  it’s like a journal (in fact, it was a diary, it was a diary-poem)

AD: And the photographs that we’ve been watching, that I took all during those periods..

AG: He took ’em!

AD:… that I took, yeah.. Actually, they’re a kind of visual equivalent of precisely what the poem was… I mean, the mind’s eye paying attention to inividuals and objects and

AG: Preserving the details.  ..specific details.. “Minute particulars”, says William Blake. “Pay attention to minute particulars. Take care of the little ones” -Pay attention to minute particulars. Take care of the little ones” –

AD: And the other part you said was interesting was..(William) Wordsworth says, “a poem is the overflow of “emotion recollected in tranquility“. So picking up on that..

AG  I was trying to recollect on the spot! – not very tranquil, actually

AD: “Oh no!”

AG: Wel, actually,  that was the sound of a pig, actually, what a pig sounds (like), squealing, sounded like, you know, like the irrevocable realization that her jaw was broken forever and might not recover,,

AD: And did

AG: Well, she did, yes…..

 

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