Spiritual Poetics – 2

Allen Ginsberg 1974 Spiritual Poetics class continues

AG; I began the class somewhat thoughtlessly, crudely, with vocalizing, so we’re all vocalizing together with some spirit. And, in a way.. there’s no reason that poetry.. or, there are reasons, but it would be ideal if the poetry we arrive at, writing, could involve us enough, joyfully or liv-li-ly enough, involve us enough that we could recite our own poetry with the same kind of spirit (as) that we sing, the same kind of abandon, dig it as much, actually dig our own utterances as much as we could our own non-sensical chanting. It’s a state that I’ve sort of arrived at over the years with my own poetry, and I’ve seen other poets arrive at (it) also, and I think it’s a good thing to keep in mind, because you immediately get the danger of bawling out bullshit. Or reciting in high, cracked tense nervous or tearful voice – over-tearful voice, or over-sentimentally tearfully voice reciting bullshit. “The police are after me. My best friend was busted..” –“THE POLICE ARE AFTER ME! MY BEST FRIEND WAS BUSTED! WHERE ARE ALL THE ROSES?” – which was typical of the poetry of the early ‘60’s – over-generalized, but shouted or howled . So that’s an obvious danger.

That’s an obvious danger, but if you noticed the voice came from somewhere in the top of the throat, rather than the center of the body, uh. That’s another interesting technical matter, for the voice, for the vocalization of poetry is that the best poets I’ve heard, or orators say, do speak from their whole body, and someone who commands attention and authority, very often, you notice, it’s a very subtle thing, it’s not so much what they’re saying, it’s that the voice comes from the center of the body, from, say, the heart chakra, which is a learn-able thing, I mean that’s something develop-able when you come conscious of it, when you do a lot of chanting. I think it develops naturally as you sort of solidify and mature. Some people have natural actor’s theatrical voices, but if you do something that’s really solid, like (Edgar Allen) Poe’s “(The) Bells”, you can do it: “Hear the sledges with the bells/Silver bells/What a world of merriment their melody foretells/How they tinkle tinkle tinkle in the icy air of night /While the stars that oversprinkle/ All the heavens seem to twinkle/ With a crystalline delight/ Keeping time time time/ in a sort of Runic rhyme/ To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells/ from the jingling and the jangling of the bells bells bells/ From the twinkling and the twangling of the bells. Hear the loud alarm bells, brazen bells/What a world of monody their bullshit foretells…” Do you all know that from grammar school, you all know Poe’s “Bells”? That was what I was brought up with for rhythm, actually. And it’s still a sound that’s really solid, and it’s what reminded me of “ Jaya-Jaya-Devi, Charey-Charo-Sari, Kucha, Juga-Sovita, Mukta-Hari, Veena, Nan-dee-tah, Pustaka Hastey, Bhagavati Bharati, Devi Namaste”. There’s a funny little rhythmic kick that used to be a little corny in poetry, cornily taught, possibly, sort of mindless, it wasn’t connected with sex, maybe, (because) it wasn’t connected to (Wilhelm) Reich or something, wasn’t connected with realization, self-realization, or realization of the whole body, but would be safe, I think, to turn children onto nowadays again.

So there’s vocalization, but to have vocalization you’ve got to have vowels and vowels make the vocalization easy – you’ve got something to vocalize. With a vowel you can use your whole lung. What is that called technically? – the assonance – the repeated musical use of vowels. Which they also used to teach but they didn’t teach (sort of) how much fun it was, or they didn’t teach that it was a form of yoga, or maybe they did but I wasn’t listening.

And people who are too mentally hung-up on what they are saying, and too careful in what they are saying, and not relying enough on their body and spontaneous mind, generally fail to appreciate the solidity and strength of their own organ-like tones and fail to appreciate that they can really swing with vowels also.

In other words, if you want to give yourself something to work with poetically, while writing, just remember a,e,ah,o,u, A-E-I-O-U, or any variation of the vowels you can. And for that.. If you look at a lot of classic great war-horses like “The Bells” or (Percy Bysshe) Shelley’s “Adonais”, or Shelley’s “Epipsychidion”, or “Paradise Lost,” Milton, a lot of really interesting, or vibrant, vibratory, stanzaic poetry, or blank verse, you find that it’s really solid chunks of vowels that you can get your glottis into, or wherever vowels issue from . One that my father taught me when I was young was some lines, I think, in Book 1 of “Paradise Lost”, which was: “Him the Almighty Power/Hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal void (ethereal sky)/ With hideous ruin and combustion down/ To bottomless perdition, there to dwell/ In adamantine chains and penal fire/Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent arms”. It was just a great voice exercise, a great vowelic.. I didn’t see it as such. I just saw it as this great streak of bopping, I guess. I never saw my father come on like that, you know, with such great vocal fire, or vocal force, with such breath. It was nice to see my father so animated. Is there a connection between the root word “animated” and breath?

Students: Yeah, sure

AG: Soul, I guess, and breath, I guess, mixed up somewhat. Soul is breath, in a way, they say.

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