Allen Ginsberg and Philip Whalen 1975 Naropa Reading

Philip Whalen, Anne Waldman, and Allen Ginsberg, Naropa Institute, 1975 – Photograph by Rachel Homer

Continuing with our vintage audio recordings. Here’s Allen and Philip Whalen at Naropa, June 18, 1975. The introduction is by Anne Waldman (Anne’s intro on the Internet Archives version, embedded above, is preceded by a couple of minutes of typically assiduous Ginsberg sound-checking, which the archivists at the Naropa School have, mercifully, spared us. For the full, uninterrupted version of the audio, go here)

AW: Welcome to the Wednesday night poetry readings at the (Jack) Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. (It’s) a great pleasure to introduce Philip Whalen – and Allen Ginsberg too – Allen most of you know, he’s the head of the Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics – the flesh of the disembodied school! Philip Whalen and Allen Ginsberg met on a corner of First Street and Mission Street in September of 1955 at the Key Terminal and Allen was with Jack Kerouac and Philip was with Gary Snyder – a pretty heavy meeting! Philip Whalen has been a poet, is a poet . He’s been a poet to me, especially, and a teacher, and a friend. He’s also a Zen novice priest and you can catch him in his full regalia, his monk’s regalia, walking to Karma Dzong before nine in the morning, most mornings. He’s in residence at Naropa this week, and is lecturing tomorrow at the Visiting Poets class at 1.30. Philip has been a constant source of energy and inspiration for a whole generation of younger poets and we were checking out his poems in dark basements in New York in 1965 and ’66 [in New York] at The Poetry Project. He’s the author of On Bears Head, Scenes of Life At The Capitol, Severence Pay..and two novels, Imaginary Speeches For A Brazen Head and You Didn’t Even Try

Allen (Ginsberg) is the author of The Fall of America which won the National Book Award in 1974.He’s also a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and, I’m just gong to… this is a quote from Allen – from somewhere [it is, in fact, from Allen’s essay, “When the Mode of the Music Changes, the Walls of the City Shake”– “Skill of freedom of composition” which will lead Poetry to the expression of the highest moment of the mind-body – mystical illumination..” ..(I think) that has something to do with the inspiration behind the Kerouac School. Philip will read first and then Allen. Glad you’re all here.

PW – glub. glub. – I want.. is this operating?, I guess? – glub. glub.. [tests mike] – [begins his reading] – “This is a lovely poem that dragged a friend of mine to the extent where he wouldn’t talk to me for about seven years in a row” – Whalen reads “20.VII.58, On which I Renounce The Notion of Social Responsibility”. (“The minute I get out of town/My friends get sick, go back on the sauce..”…”Mind a revolving door/My head a falling star”)

AG: [interrupts, typically concerned about the acoustics] – Can heard syllable by syllable? Is the sound alright in the back? Raise your hand if you can not hear.

PW: I think everybody hears more or less, anyway. I think that..I think they’re they’re wondering why it is, as usual. (It’s a) terribly discouraging, terribly discouraging business. Quite often people are so busy trying to figure out why I’m saying it, that they don’t pay attention to what it is (that) I’m saying. We all miss the boat in both directions, but it’s alright.

[Whalen continues]

“Denuncuiation, or, Unfroked Again” (The trouble with you is..”,,”you don’t think/You simply worry./ I sat down in my house and ate a carrot.”

“Hymnus Ad Patrem Sinensis” (“I praise those ancient Chinamen..”…Happy to have saved us all.”

Something Nice About Myself”” (“Lots of people who no longer love each other/ Keep on loving me/ & I/ I make myself rarely available”)

[Just under 8 minutes in, Whalen reads the important piece, “Since You Asked Me “]

“This was a manifesto from 1959. Every once in a while people ask me for manifestos and I have to write one. I couldn’t bring myself to write this one buy a friend of mine typed it for me while I dictated it, a press release for October 1959” – (“This poetry is a picture or graph of a mind moving..”..”, “I do not put down the academy but have assumed its function in my own person, and in the strictest sense of the word – academy; a walking grove of trees” … “..a lens focusing on a sheet of paper, Or the inside/ of your head. How do you like your world?”) – “and, finally [also from 1959]” – “Awake a moment/Mind dreams again/Red roses black-edged petals” – “Quite a few years later [1964]” – “Late Afternoon” (“I’m coming down from a walk to the top of Twin Peaks/ A sparrowhawk balanced in a headwind suddenly dives off it:/An answer to my question of this morning.” (I forget what the question was, it was something insoluble until that moment anyway. It was quite wonderful because it was sitting there in the middle of the air and he got tired of being there and he dove off into some other air, very easily and very simply (went away”)

The Great Beyond Denver” (“The pattern for the trip/ I put crux ansata in my mouth..”…”At first daybreak the River Platte appears” – (That was about an airplane ride, actually) – “Theophany” (“Pig-face gods nudge each other, snickering…”)

Retake 20.X.63 From 7/III.63” – (“Imagine the first part all written out in French..”)

“This..this (next) poem is an overheard one. I mean, it’s actually.. I simply wrote down what I was hearing out in the hallway of this house that I was living in at the time. And the.. and it’s actually verbatim reporting” – Whistler’s Mother (“Mother and Ed are out in the car/Wait til I put on some clothes”..)

[PW: ..Strange, trying to figure out the prosody of that, would take you a little while.

AG (makes a valiant attempt) : da-da-da- da-da-da da-da-da da-da-da da-da-da da-da-da – clothes]

PW (continues): “A Recall” (“Color of the Sun/Color of the Moon/Color of the Dog…”)

“Homage to WBY” (“after you read all them books..”..”Thin sheets of gold with bright enameling”)

“Saint Francis Lobbies Allen G” – (“unsuspected hairpins & inside Gaffney receptions..”..”Where’s the Russian Philology?/ scrolls and fur”)

“Song” (“That little man/Is a bad little man”)

“Three Mornings” (“Fog dark morning..”)

“Epigram” (“That boy he star-/ted to be/a poet but/he stuttered”)

“Tennis Shoes” (“So quiet..”..”stay away from the city/ walk in the mountains”..”Button your fly, the policeman says, walking away, picking his nose”)

For Brother Antoninus” (who has now gone backing to being Bill Everson again, I can’t change the poem, tho’) (“Did these leaves know as much as I? They must”..”..Who will/ Pray for us who are less than stone or wood?”

“The Coordinates” (“I was tired yesterday. It was your mother’s birthday..”..”These are the kind I have now.”)

“The Prophecy”(“The present assailable at any moment”…”IT SHALL NOT STAND”

[(PW to AG – Did you keep track of when it was that I started? AG (You’ve got) another five minutes) – PW resumes]

”The Idol” – (“A gold woman with a condor’s beak”..”.Dots and squiggles justify/ The air and space I occupy”)

“Tara” (“This bronze Tara this bronze lady”..”We seldom treat ourselves right”

“Success Is Failure” (“They said, “Po Chu-I, go home.”…”Po Chu-I was never here, he never came to Kyoto”)

“Dewey Swanson” (“..ran lunatic in the midst of our/ canoeing trip”… “from the time he first/started acting funny”)

“In The Center of Autumn” (“Too hot, the sun’s/Too hot..”.. “Orpheum theater/ Wallace, Shirley and Tosh Berman”)

“The Madness of Saul “ {“Everybody takes me too seriously/Nobody believes anything I say”)

“Larry Kearny at Stinson Beach” (“Ice Woman says, “You’re in the way!/ You’re in the way!”…”Why don’t you look/ Where you’re going?”

[Allen breaks in again – AG (to PW): May I read a couple?, I have the book -. PW: Which one? – AG: Regalia.. – “1967 Philip Whalen” – Allen reads (sic) “Regalia In Immediate Demand!” by Philip Whalen (“Necklace of human bones/ Cup a silver-mounted cranium/Thigh-bone trumpets/ A skull drum/ Dear President Nixon, you are welcome to Lhasa!/ And where is dear Mr Edgar Hoover?”)]

[At approximately twenty-four-and-a-half minutes in, Allen continues with his own reading, reading, principally journal (journalist) derived pieces] – “Cynadide Water in Pittsburgh” – (“Cock Rockerfeller”!), “Reading The Newspapers Can Drive You Mad” (“..The Chilean Ambassador Denies Ignorance!…”) “Freedom of Speech/ I’m an Average Citizen/ Scared Of The Cops” (cf “Hum Bom”!)“So what I’m reading were mostly poems written in sickness in the last two or three months.” – he continues – “These are fragments from a weekly news magazine” – “Calvin C Cook. Retired Secretary RSN, says “Why let yourself be happy when you’re no damned good” – “Last night Allen Ginsberg, Signal Corps,Poet, Trainee..” – “Chicago Futures, or Written On a Hotel Napkin” (“Wind mills churning windy city’s rooftops antennae..”..)

At approximately thirty-and-a-half minutes in, Allen picks up his harmonium – “Two songs, written recently, one.. The first in the style of..Pete Seeger, from April 21, (19)75, I guess, that’s over a year” – sings [with some slight changes to later published versions] (accompanied by harmonium) – (Come along, Come along), End Vietnam War, and “Guru Blues” (“I can’t find anyone to show me what to do..”..”and the revolutionaries are angry for government grants..”..”The world of joy is empty, the dukkah is so dense”..”I can’t find anyone/ only you Guru.”)

Thirty-eight minutes in – “One last… “Blood Bath” – “This is the hospital, at the height of an attack of herpes simplex, the nerves of the head” (“It was a lazy fairy, a-bumpin down the line..”… “O what a blood bath!”..”It was a Secretary/of State… “It was a mighty nation, blessed in eyes of God”…”Blood bath, blood bath, United States of Wrath..”)

Allen concludes with “two final (unaccompanied) poems” – “Swallowing Poison” (“Telephones, addresses, dim ringing bells through apartment wall..” “Swallow that headline, swallow more poison” ….”Putting down the habit of commanding was his subject”…”Those drums marching up the backbone of East 12th Street New York”….”),
and, a long dream-notation – “Went – Midnight Dream” (“New York Hospital”, Saturday midnight”) – (“Went with LeRoi Jones, Imamu Amiri Baraka on a Newark street… “After a decade not conversing with each other I asked him how his aesthetic interests were satisfied these days. “Well, honey, you just have to guess from here on out, but they are aesthetic, my interests. He pulled over a collection of “Ray Bella Brown” dresses, art nouveau from the mid 20’s” ..”You ain’t heard of dresses till you’ve heard of Ray Bella Brown dresses” – “How do you feel about the whole gay scene now? – Well, it has its own design, he says with a dry smile” – “We’re all against capitalism, I said”.. conversation interrupted by New York hospital midnight doctor..”)

(“The Ray Bella Brown of the dream”, Allen points out, “doesn’t exist, it’s an invention of the dream, it’s not an historical entity”).

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