Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) – (Come All Ye)

AG: “Come All Ye” – Well, the form of the “Come All Ye” (was what) I was interested in here. Do we have (that) here?

Bruce Martin: The which?

AG: “Come All Ye”

Bruce Martin: Oh yeah. (T)here it is.

AG: Yeah. “Edwin” – “Come all ye wild young people” – I love that. “Come all ye wild young people/ And listen to my song/ I will unfold/ concerning gold/ That guides so many wrong. No, okay. See, I’ve never read that. But I wanted that first stanza which is “Come all ye wild young people/ And listen to my song”. And (then) there’s also a whole strain of Australian ballads of the wild Australian boy, wild young people (which is interesting, that it’d be such a classical conception, that there would be young people and you could say, “Come all ye wild young people” – I’m going to sing a..

Student: Allen, could you wait?

AG: Yeah

[side one of the tape ends here – tape continues with side two]

AG: It’s an interesting one, because it’s sort of a bodhisattva form, telling everybody to come and hear the dharma, or the village, come here and..hear what you’ve got to say, if you’re just bringing the news for your town. [Allen then proceeds to sing, with harmonium accompaniment, in its entirety, “New York Youth Call Annunciation] – “Come all you Jewish boy friends/ That live here in New York/For years we have been reading/ Your delicatessen talk/ Now it’s time to enter in/ Our bodies and to scream/ Now it’s time to wake up in/ the International Dream”…”O come ye children that grew up/ New York around your ears/ This century ends with brimstone/ or else your tender tears/Gather vigor in heart/ Gather intellect into your brains/ When God stiffens your spine/ Only emotion remains.” – I had an interesting experience with that, actually – in terms of rhythm. I found that in writing, I had written it just by ear, by an instinctive ear, without attempting to find the constant rhythm. It comes like..[Allen claps his hands in time with the rhythm] – “Come all you Jewish boy friends/ That live here in New York/ For years we have been reading/ Your delicatessen talk/ Now it’s time to enter in/ Our bodies and to scream/ Now it’s time to wake up in/ the International Dream”.

So it’s a [Allen illustrates this time with finger-cymbals] – one, one-two, one-two, one. One, one-two, one-two, one. What is that? Do you know? ) A(ny) musicians here? – There’s one and two and three, four, one and two and three, four – “Come all you Jewish boy friends/ that live here in New York” – It was odd because, in writing it, I had absolutely no idea that there was an absolutely consistent count. I knew there was a count in my ear, somewhere. In my ass, or somewhere, there was a total consistency, but in working with some studio musicians, the guy who’s playing mandolin (David Mansfield) came up with a perfect paradigm, a perfect exact count that would run from beginning to end through the whole tune and be perfectly in time and keep me perfectly in time – (which is normal, for one song, one should be able to do that anyway). – or.. which means what?.. If you familiarize yourself sufficiently with some kind of rhythmic examples (the examples of rhythm, as I was doing with (Sir Thomas) Wyatt, the other day), if you get those built into yourself and listen sufficiently to poetry, or hear it read aloud properly, you’ll get it by osmosis, or it’ll enter your nervous system, and then it’ll be useful to analyze.

But the intellectual analysis can’t substitute for having the body rhythm, or for having the example in your body, by having absorbed the full flesh of the poetry in your body. The intellectual knowledge of the rhythmic bones or the analytic knowledge of the rhythmic bones, will not substitute, I don’t think, for, actually, taking the whole meaty structure of the bone into your body. So I would recommend, if you’re interested in developing any kind of classical practice of poetry, the only thing you can do is  – read it aloud, vocalize it (not read it by the eye-page but vocalize it) or have it read aloud to you, or find someone who can hear it to read aloud (to) – For instance, you were noticing the difference between my reading – [Allen turns to Bruce Martin] – and your reading of the ballad. You were stumbling, I couldn’t understand that – because, you know ballads pretty well and you know that “Young Tam Lin”, and it was, apparently, so hard to adjust to the thing, but, once you get that, there’s some unconscious thing. Once I had gotten about a third of the way through that poem, somewhere unconsciously, I found where the balance was line-by-line, and was then able to relax, and then build on it, without ever having read that before. I find I can do that with poetry and I think that (it) comes from having just been used to reading it aloud, and checking out little hovering emphases and accents as I go along, and just figuring it (out), basically, as beginning with just pronouncing things as they might sound if you were talking for real, finding out where the accent for the verb and the object is, or whatever, just finding out where the words would fall with emphasis, if you were doing it for real, (but you’ve got to actually think fast to be able to improvise properly on it in the reading aloud). Yeah?

Student: Did you do that melody first and then set your words around that, or did you get a little verse and then try and fit a melody to that?

AG: It can be either way. I’ve done melody first and I’ve done words first. Generally it’s about some equal division so that it’s really in the center. (For) that particular one, I was at a concert of Happy Traum and his brother Artie Traum, and a whole bunch of Woodstock musicians, and I think they did a “Come All Ye”, (and) so I simply picked up the rhythm from something that they had done.. Probably.

I was surprised how few people could actually write something in decent rhythm, in regular rhythm. I had assumed that everybody knew how to do that, but I think, in the last twenty years, the practice of writing in rhythm has so fallen away that it might almost be worth turning reactionary and getting a whole study of poetry beginning again with “This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,/ Bearded with moss” – like they used to – Just teaching iambic and trochaic and anapestic and dactylic. If people don’t know that any more then maybe it’d be worth doing. In fact, I might even do that one time or another, though this class is primarily spontaneous and improvised poetics. It’s possible also to improvise on regular meters as well as free verse. In fact, it’s easier on regular meter).

I’m still back in history because I want to be (partly because of the lack of familiarity with historic, older material) and I’d like to work slowly forward. I guess, even in this five-week thing [Editorial note – the Spontaneous Poetics Course of 1976], we’ll end up with (William Carlos) Williams and (Charles) Reznikoff and some Kerouac, but I’d like to get there through time. It’s building up to that. That’s in case anybody’s impatient to get to the 20th century friends. Is that really important that we do that? I might take a vote sooner or later. Do you want me to move on to (the) 20th Century?, or go through this material? –But there are some people here who don’t even know this material,and (in) a lot of, say, Kerouac or Corso, there are, as I said last time, certain echoes of older, archaic material so that you won’t really appreciate how funny Kerouac is unless you know this earlier matter. Of course there’s some real scholars here who know all this to begin with.

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