Spontaneous Poetics – (Reading List 4) (Antonin Artaud, Ted Berrigan, Philip Whalen)

Allen’s 1976 annotated reading-list continues with comments on Antonin Artaud, Ted Berrigan and Philip Whalen. 

AG: Antonin Artaud. The text I like best is “To Be Done With the Judgement of God”Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu – in which he describes his experience in a bug-house, and how he died on the (electric) shock table. (It) contains among the first mantric, pure sound syllables to be screamed as part of recitation. In other words, he finally gets to a speech that transcends any common sense and gets into pure sounds. “Da kiss ka tell canta la die canta lel o wit did dees so ept to lah” – Sounds like that. Mixed  in with his French. Are there translations of… yes?

Student: What is the title of that?

AG: “To Be Done With the Judgement of God” – to be finished, once and for all, with the judgement of God – Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu – And I think it’s in the City Lights anthology of Antonin Artaud, which we have in the library.
Almost anything he did is interesting, because he was, after Rimbaud and Apollinaire – everybody knows, or most people know, Rimbaud as the big hot mind, punk suicide poet -and the next inheritor of all the grandeur and apocalyptic freak-out suicide power is Artaud, in the 20th Century. Not necessarily the best poet (maybe Apollinaire is better, or there may be other poets), but Artaud was the most piercing, penetrating mad-head of the century. He was a big influence on me, I know. And I think (Artaud), prosadaically, could be one of the most important influences, once you get his method, because he’s one of the few French poets whose lines on the page are adjusted to the heavings of his breath. Each line, in that poem, is a discrete cry or shriek, exclamatory utterance. So his measure is interesting, It comes right out of his body. The measure of his lines is interesting. For those (of  you) involved in the theatre, he has a very famous book, The Theatre And Its Double, which has been very influential on all American theatre, almost..

Ted Berrigan. I like his Sonnets. They’re easy to get into [turns to Anne Waldman, who is also attending the class] –  What other..?

Anne Waldman: They’re out-of-print [1976].

AG: They are? But they would be anthologized in..where would you pick up his poems in anthologies that we have in the library, Anne?

Anne Waldman: (The) New American Poetry has a few [editor’s note – no, it doesn’t] – and the New York Poets anthology

AG: Yeah, your anthologies, The World Anthology – and America-A Prophecy – (and) is he in that Milton Klonsky anthology you got there?   What other single bravura piece?

Anne Waldman: Any poem in Many Happy Returns 

AG: Is that a book or a poem?

Anne Waldman: A book. Corinth.. It’s no longer.. It was in the library.

Student: Bean Spasms.

AG: Bean Spasms, yeah, with Ron Padgett. It’s a collaborative book. Do we have that here, yeah?  Well, you get his taste from that. Bean Spasms is the title of the book.

Student: And he has a book called In The Early Morning Rain.

AG: Do you know his work?

Student: Yeah, I can bring it in, my copy, to the library..

AG: Yeah, what I’ve done, is the books that I like, like the Mayakovsky, that are precious, I just put them there on the shelf. They can’t be taken out but they can be read there..

Student: He (Ted Berrigan)’s going to be here, in the second session, for a short time, (I think).

AG:  Actually, a bibliography on Berrigan will be handed out by Al Santoli, (who’ll be preparing bibliographies on all the poets, early, before they come through) will also be teaching here. (And I should say, here, now, I’m not sure what my fate (will be) here in the next coming weeks, because my father is dying, and can’t get out of bed any more, and I may be having to go home. And I don’t know when (I’m just waiting for the phone-calls to tell me). And I have arranged that Philip Whalen come and take my place if I have to leave. I know I’ll be gone for the second session (and I may have to leave any minute, or any day, or any week)..I can’t miss my father’s situation now. So if I go, Whalen will get a plane from the Zen Center in San Francisco and be here). His work is…

Anne Waldman: On Bear’s Head

AG: Well, we have several books. A large collection, On Bears Head, that is in the library. Like I Say. There’s a little thin orange book that I’ve forgotten the name. I guess it’s Like I Say.

Student: Scenes of Life In The Capital

AG: Well, there’s that, but there’s also.. that’s a long poem

Student: Severance Pay

AG: Severance Pay. Severance Pay

Anne Waldman:  There’s a new book coming out called The Kindness of Strangers

AG: Who put that out? –  Okay. What I wanted to say was, in Severance Pay, if you look for a little poem called “Regalia in Immediate Demand!”, you’ll get a brief, ten-line, swift kick-in-the-mind. To paraphrase it – something like.. “skull cup” (description of various Tibetan thigh-bone horns and skull cups, all sorts of traditional Tibetan regalia, and then it ends, “Dear Mr Nixon, welcome to Lhasa! And where is your friend J. Edgar Hoover?”, or “where is dear Mr Hoover”? – Also “Sourdough Mountain Lookout” is a nice, long poem, built on basic principles of composite composition, like Pound, out of Williams, out of Pound, out of Williams’ Paterson, which was an early text, which I think we mentioned (Michael McClure and I mentioned (it) at the reading the other day) – one of his early, very easy poems to get into.

Student: That’s in the (Donald) Allen anthology.

AG: Yeah, that’s in the Donald Allen anthology. So you can get a good fast early sampler of Phil Whalen from the Don Allen anthology

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