AG: Well, there is a precedent for the kind of manic excitement and nervous neurological Ong-ed [sic] prophecy (of Philip Lamantia), and his big inspiration, aside from (Arthur) Rimbaud (who’s everybody’s big inspiration) was Antonin Artaud – a sort of 20th Century Rimbaud, whose biography you can check out – madhouses and shock and heroin and France.. He was a movie-actor, a theatre man, but most (of all) an extraordinary poet, and an extraordinary…
Student: There’s a very fine movie that’s showing at the University…where he does some very good acting in “The Passion of Joan of Arc“
AG: Joan of Arc, yes. He’s a movie-actor. His biography.. You can look it up in the book (or, as (Jack) Kerouac said, “You can look it up in the book, if the right words are important” – or if the right facts are important). What I want to zero in on (today) is.. he’s the author of a type of poetry which has influenced all American poetry – and French, subsequently – that is to say, an ear-splitting hysterical breath-phrase-screech prophetic style, in which each line is absolutely one solid penetrating breath. Each line moves forward like an hysteric in a madhouse, breathing deep, and then letting out a curse, or a cry, or an exhortation. I get a lot of my (own) style from Artaud ((allbeit) much watered-down). Lamantia (too) gets the style that you just heard, that you just got that little shiver of excitement, from Artaud. So I’ll read a little from Artaud, I’ll read a little of a.. no, I’ll read a long-ish poem of Artaud…which I’m not actually..
[editorial/transcriber’s note (regarding the initial copy of this tape – “here (at this point), the quality of the original audiotape further deteriorates”]
AG: …(which is) maybe a little long to get through. I haven’t done this too often. I’ll read a fragment of it, or in and out of it. He was in the bughouse, and he conceived that the natural state of man is free from all conditioning, free from papa and mama,, free from birth, free from earth, free from time, male and female, and that.. well, let him explain it himself. What’s interesting is that the poetry passes from intelligible vocables to pure sound. He’s one of the few poets who mixed straight declamatory excited language with self-originated mantric mouthings..
[Allen begins reading at length from Artaud’s classic 1947 work, “The Indian Culture”] –
“..And now,/ let me tell you/ all of you,/ you’ve always made me shit/ Why don’t you go fuck/ a prickly pussy/crab lice/of eternity/ Never again will I have anything to do with the ones who swallow the iron stud of life./ One day soon after I lost my mama-tit,/I met up with the ones who swallowed the iron stud of life/ and one of them wrestled me under him,/and god poured me back to it./ (THE BASTARD.)/ So that’s how they/yanked papa-mammy/ and the frying fat of je in it /Chri/ out of me, out of the sex/ the center of the great strangulation/which was yanked from this cross…”…”And that’s how:/ the great mystery of the Indian Culture/is to bring the world back to zero/always…”/…
I think this may have been written as a.. post/commentary to a series of shock-treatments in Rodez asylum (like), where, in another essay [“Van Gogh, the Man Suicided By Society”] he claims that, because of society, he was “suicided” (or killed, or died), lived in a death state for several hours and then returned from death. So this is his commentary on the experience of returning from death, and so he is, actually, in a sense, speaking above time. If you want to take that experience as a literal experience (which he did) When taken as a literal experience, it gave him so much hysteric power that he terrified all Paris in the (19)40’s, and became a great poet-hero, influencing Roger Blin, an actor, and influencing “Children of Paradise” (“Les Enfants du Paradis“), the movie, and…
Student: How was that?
Student: How did he influence Les Enfants du Paradis?
AG: He just influenced all the actors (and his main thing was theatre) to get them somehow off their ass (in)to another head – just as a person – everybody saw him on the streets, everybody talked to him, nobody…
Student: This was during the Occupation then? (that) all this was happening?
AG: (19) 44, I think it would have been. [editor’s note: Marcel Carne’s Les Enfants du Paradis was released in France in 1945, and in the United States (under the title “Children of Paradise”) in 1946]
[side one of the tape ends here – to be continued]
(An audio recording of this particular class (Ginsberg on Artaud part one) is available (starting at approximately thirty-one-and-a-half-minutes in, and running through to approximately forty-two-and-three-quarter minutes) – here)