AG: Well, let’s get on to the actual texts, finally. One line I liked (page 39 0f Selected Poems).. did any of you get to read any of this? in advance? – Raise your hand if you did. Anybody not familiar with it at all? Are these books unavailable or something? They were in the library, or two of them..
Student: No, they are walking off the reserve shelf.
AG: There is a back. You have to go in the back and look. It’s the same thing, except you go in the back. It’s dismaying, I don’t know why she (the librarian did that, but..
Student: Somebody took the..(rearranged the)..
Student: Philosophy, Psychology (section)..
AG: Ah, oh, it’s really hard..Well..
(So). At the end of a poem called “Intersection”, there’s one great line. (“my house in the cracks of the pavement !”) – A lot of this was very much influenced by grass. This.. the dates on these I’m not quite sure actually, let’s see if they’ve got them.. (19)48-(19)61 – Trance Ports, it’s called (the section of the book is called Trance – T-R-A-N-C-E – Ports, ports of call in trance, also transports – (a) pun. So this section of the book would be our own time, or there’s the time we’re studying, so I’ll just go through some of that section. It’s at the end of one poem, an earlier one – [Allen begins reading] – “I’m thinking then/ a chain of words/ breaking at the fistfall of words.. – it’s page 38 – “I’m thinking then/ a chain of words/ breaking at the fistfall of words/ I’m thinking green funnels of light..” – he’s high on grass – “I’m thinking green funnels of light/sifting white water/flown in blue/that cut a breast of honey to free the air/ Here/ take my breath/out of all the cities I haven’t seen/from quick pleasures I haven’t noticed/ from a room without doors I wouldn’t want to leave…” – So it’s very contradictory, the opposite of ..sort of funny negatives – “out of all the cities I haven’t seen…”…”..In a secret room I dream/ the eye of the father closing/the eye of the mother closing/ the eye of the daughter/ opened” – almost naturalistic, the old folks die, the young folks live, (it) could make sense if you wanted, or, it could just be Surrealist movies – “They look to the winter sun/ that lifted a golden reef into the clouds…”….”I’m thinking/ going down the street” – “going down the street” becomes Surrealist – “I’m thinking/ going down the street” – and there’s some kind of tea-high, grass head – “I’m thinking/ going down the street/not long to be seen/ not wide enough to be missed/ my house in the cracks of the pavement!” – that’s a very interesting image, the idea of, you know, somebody – everybody’s gotten high? – like your house is in the cracks of the pavement, that your attention is so microscopic that you get lost in the cracks in the pavement, you know – “My house is in the cracks of the pavement” – also, it’s like.. there’s a Whitmanic statement too, you could say, that my house… or “Saxifrage is my flower that splits the rocks”– or a (William Carlos) Williams statement – What would that mean? sort of like a free spirit, or American Indian spirit, or free spirit, not exactly a hobo spirit, but a spiritual spirit, that inhabits all places and goes everywhere and doesn’t have a home, doesn’t have a bourgeois home, doesn’t have a middle-class home, has no habitation but the cracks in the pavement – or it could be…It’s like “I pump him full of lost watches” – My permanent home is in the times cracking up the city. It could be..
Student: Saxi-frage means break-rock.
AG: Yeah, uh-huh. I didn’t know that – frag, yes, frag-ment.
Student: Sax is rock
AG: Sax. Is that Latin?
AG: What’s the noun?
AG: Saxum? And what’s the verb?
Student: Fractar – Infraction
Student: I think Frag you get Frago Frago or Fraga Fraga… Frago Fraga or Fractus
AG: Because Fragere (frangere) is the infinitive
AG: Saxifrage. That’s a line of Williams, you know. “Saxifrage – exclamation-point -is my flower that splits the rocks”. You know, the little things in the pavements of Rutherford, New Jersey, the little flowers. That’s probably earlier, and..
“Man is in Pain”. Now this one on page 48 was published in the first City Lights Journal. So now we’re beginning to catch up to the integration of all the groups.. The City Lights Journal was a magazine edited, I guess in (19)54, by.. it still continues, but the first issue was edited by Ferlinghetti and a fellow named Peter Martin who, until about a month ago, ran a bookstore called The New Yorker Bookstore up-town at 89th Street in New York City at Broadway.
Student: It went out of business?
AG: Just recently with the decline of the book business. What?
Student: (He) couldn’t hold the rent on that place.
AG: No. And he was the nephew of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Chairman of the Communist Party, or Secretary of the Communist Party and the son of Carlo Tresca, a famous Anarchist, killed by Mussolini, so he was like… you know Reds? ..he was like the next generation, direct bloodline of that group. So it’s interesting, there he was editing City Lights Journal, and publishing “Man is in Pain” – [Allen reads “Man is in Pain” in its entirety] – “Man is in pain/ ten bright balls bat the air/falling through the window…” …”ten bright spikes nailed to the door!” – “spikes” – this may have something to do with junk, and junk-pain and Christ, Christ-pain, the spikes. But also the tone of it is very similar to the Surrealist movies of Jean Cocteau, the movies of Dali’s, Chien Andalou, Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of A Poet were there making Surrealist appearances, like ten spikes suddenly appear on a wall or tennis-balls float backward into the air, back into the net, or.. all the images here, “the naval hook caught on the stone quarry” [“Man is in pain/with his naval hook caught on a stone quarry”] are all Surrealist images.
But then.. So this seems like just poetry or sort of, you know, dredging the unconscious, or combining the unconscious, or getting interesting allusive. But then, it gets almost cosmo-political or psycho-political – “Terror Conduction” – where you begin to get modern robotic.. he great fear, so to speak – [Allen reads Lamantia’s “Terror Conduction” in its entirety] – “The menacing machine turns on and off/ Across the distance light inflicters active infinities …”like icebergs/like music/like boats/like mechanical toys/ LIKE/ RAINING/ SWORDS!” – It’s sort of like an apocalyptic.. and the words that I was emphasizing, “LIKE/ RAINING/ SWORDS!” are all in caps on this, if you look, see the capitals. And he reads sort of that way.
Then the next is really good – “Put-down of the Whore of Babylon”, and that’s where, for me, Lamantia really came together, not merely as a Surrealist (“at the bottom of the lake, at the bottom of the lake”) but a really modern sociologic Surrealist, poet. So this is a “put-down of the Whore of Babylon”, which is to say, 20th Century mechanical heavy-metal culture – [Allen begins reading] – “Put down!” – so the title is “Put down!” or “A Hex”, a sort of magical hex, which, by this time, he’d be..”Put-down “High-voltage mires [sic] got into her jaw/ as she devoutly lit up her spine in front of Mammon/” – I think this is a misprint for “wires” actually – “as she devoutly lit up her spine in front of Mammon/…. “On the slopes of the Sierra Madre de Chihuahua/they dance night fires /cross themselves by mirrors” – you know, this is the Tarahumara Indians
Student: Is this Mexico?
AG: Yeah. Tarahumara and Chihuahua – that would be, I guess, Northern Mexico…
Student: Seventy-five miles or a hundred miles from Juarez?
AG: Lower, I think, maybe a-hundred-and fifty. There’s a.. No, actually, Chihuahua that could be.. no, actually, I was there a couple of months ago. That’s where the Tarahumara Indians are, and Antonin Artaud, the great French Surrealist poet, went on a Voyage au Pays Tarahumaras (Voyage to the Land of the Tarahumaras) and wrote a little book about that. The Tarahumara Indians take peyote, and have for centuries, and have rituals of gathering the peyote. So he went there to take peyote with them, in the early (19)30’s, I think.
AG: Antonin Artaud, yes. And in 1944, an English translation of his Voyage to the Land of the Tarahumaras was published in Transition magazine. and Transition magazine was a kind of carry-over, hold-over of the twenties and thirties avant-garde and James Joyce’s Ulysses and parts of Finnegan’s Wake, and Pound’s Cantos were published intermittently in Transition magazine
So later, there’s Artaud’s Voyage to the Land of the Tarahumara.. Artaud was a Surrealist, film-maker and film-actor also. Do you know Artaud? Have you heard of Artaud? Antonin Artaud – A-R-T-A-U-D
Student: I have that book, but it’s out now.
AG: Which was?
Student: I don’t know..
AG: Oh, Voyage To The Land of Tarahumara.. yes
Student: Well, I don’t know if it was that title. It just said something…
AG: Well, there’s an anthology put out by City Lights
Student: No, it was just a specific single book..
AG: Oh, okay
Student: …which gives (an) account of (him) eating peyote and..
AG: He was paranoid. So his problem was that he got to think that he.. (that) they were deliberately not showing him the rituals of how they went out and gathered the peyote. (probably because they thought this honkey can’t walk, or something! – because they have to walk hundreds of miles up and down)
But anyway. So.. that’s the source of this imagery, actually. Although, Philip had lived in Mexico City for a long time also, so he’d probably been around there too – “On the slopes of Sierra Madre de Chihuahua/they dance night fires/cross themselves by mirrors/blood shot emaciated men who – they themselves tell us/ FELL FROM HEAVEN! / dance – light fires – eat bitter earth fruit/in a sense like manna – O man! O man! -/ the spit of plant lice..” – “the spit the plant lice” – that’s directly from Artaud – “or black markets.in a pearl at the unheard sound..”…”NO!/NO!/NO!/not for this panic of idols coning our time/by flase angel clocks/but for the descended dove we make it to live!” – “We make it to live!” – So that was like a real manifesto, and reading, he was real vigorous and you’ve got these “NO! / NO! / NO”! – like attacking his nervous system..He’s Italian, very much Italian, from San Francisco. And also, the other part of his background is that there was this great Anarchist circle that Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan, Thomas Parkinson (now Professor), Lamantia, Bill Everson, pacific-poet,printer, (Brother Antoninus), all had together in the thirties and forties, the forties in San Francisco, which led to what was called the Berkeley Renaissance, 1948, where Duncan, was studying Mediaeval history and symbolism and theology, and Timothy Leary was a young psychology student, who knew Jack Spicer, the poet (Spicer was there) and Harry Smith, the filmmaker-painter-archivist-anthologist was inventing the first machines that later turned, through Jordan Belson and Gerd Stern, turned into the light shows that later developed into the mixed-media multi-sensory thing that flourished in the ‘Sixties in San Francisco and then spread around the world.
Student: Will we still be (studying) some of this?
Student: Allen, What are those Artaud? Journals? or what?
AG: A book called Journey to the Land of the Tarahumaras — [editorial note: the translated title in English is The Peyote Dance]
Student: And City Lights just put it out?
AG: I don’t know who puts it out. I think it’s either in..
Student: I bought it in the Boulder bookstore.
AG: Right now? Is it available?
Student: I have it somewhere..
AG: No, what he needs to know..how to..
Student: Just go the Boulder Bookstore and ..
AG: You think they still will have it? after these years?
Student: I bought mine about three years ago or something
AG: So, it’s not likely they’ll still have it. So what I was suggesting is, there is a large book of translations of Artaud by Helen Weaver, Kerouac’s old girlfriend of 1957, about the time he was writing that poem on Heaven, published about five years ago by.. what’s the Catholic company?..Farrar Straus, I think ..(the) Farrar Straus anthology of Antonin Artaud, it’s about five hundred pages and it may have that in it also. [Allen turns to Student again] – You don’t remember the publisher of your pamphlet?
Student: It was a book, I don’t know.
AG: A book? A big thick book?
Student: Yeah, I have it in my box….I can go through it, or I can go to the Boulder bookstore
AG: That might be Helen Weaver…That might be Helen Weaver’s book …if it’s a hardcover?
Student: A paperback, a nice pretty psychedelic. yellow cover
Then there is.. So anything of this period of Lamantia is very thick and rich like a plum pudding, with this kind of [Allen begins reading].. ‘Mild below Saturn..shades in the meadow enlighten the cows…sea.. dogs howled… undeciphered glypghs.. blue and gold.. – very sort of interesting poetic images. Then there’s the famous “Morning Light Song”. The.. This poem (“Morning Light Song”) is maybe, for this period, his most vigorous and energetic run, in terms of a continuous stream of energy coming to a climax, just like that – “NO NO NO” – but it’s like a little orgasm in the poem, it just builds and builds and gets to be a blow-out – You’ve heard this haven’t you?
AG: Oh you never heard it? – well, it’s a great.. As he read it, it was really interesting, I’m reading more or less in.. not so much in his voice but in the rhythmic style.
Around this time he was moving into a.. a period of Christ-adoration, I would say. As an old Catholic coming off junk and going into (the) chaos of the poetic scene. he was.. (he was one of the readers.. he did share with us, during that period, before the Catholic phase (and junk phase probably later, for a while), in Mexico and Spain, he was part of that community that read with (Kenneth) Rexroth and (Philip) Whalen and (Gary) Snyder and myself and (Michael) McClure. So that in San Francisco there was this really interesting brotherhood, McClure and Lamantia – John Wieners around at that time too. And, like, there was quite a bit of converse between us (also)
Oh, before we get to that, there’s a very strange.. well, they’re so good.. (we) don’t really have much time, I hate to… but there’s some memorable phrasing in the one (“For Real”), before it (“Black Tom kills if you snitch on him..”). But there’s one phrase (which) I like the best (which) is – “I came with Thee, anointed One into mechano hells”..”into mechano hells at/ desecrations of the Lily”..”mechano hells” – “I came with banquet of lovers at ruins of Tenochtitlan/ swam the Hellespont of antique mystery/ landed on shores of Mu Atlantis Babylon/made fast for pool of the underworld..” and so forth…”(I) ate at tables..”, “(I) ate from tables of undersea gardens..” – sort of classical Surrealist poetry stuff
“In the silence of holy darkness, I’m eating a tomato” (like the tomato becomes a Surrealist object in the middle of this) – [Allen resumes reading] – “In the silence of holy darkness…”.. “Saint Dionysus reminds us of flight to unknowable Knowledge/the doctrine of initiates completes the meditation!”
completely, like somebody excited, you know, it’s really on (I don’t know what he was on, actually, there – but on anyway!) – This is “There is this distance..” Page 60 Selected Poems, Philip Lamantia, City Lights, 1967, First Printing
AG: Ok – (then) that book, Don Allen book, in Philip Lamantia is very lacking, because it doesn’t have all these really great poems. These are really amazing poems and they’re not in any anthology and they will blow any high school kid’s mind if he got to check them out. What?
Student: Are you talking about the..
I will not be involved with people I call true distance,/ I invite you only to the door of horror/Laughter/ I keep stoning you with black stars” – (I) keep stoning you, throwing black stars at you…”.”Christ is superior to Apollo/bodhisattvas are drunk with being God/ he who is living lives only the living live/ I will hate and love in the Way..” – the Taoist way – and this – “A theater of masked actors in a trance/according to the virtues of sacred plants” – so this is all based on getting high – [Allen resumes reading the poem] – “There are those dying of hunger/mankind is sanctioned crime/ men should not die of hunger..”…”the Bomb/ in its mushroom flower actions round a dumb Black Angel cloud” – That’s really tremendous, prophetic, cutting to the heart of the whole “Meccano hell” Capitalism/Communism …“Ranka uraniku bahaba” [Allen attempts the sounds again] – “Ranka uraniku/ bahaba hi olama/sancu pantis droga/harumi pabunaka”….
Student: Is that him speaking in tongues?
Student: Yes, I think so.
AG: There’s a tortoise going so slow, you know, that half the time, half, cutting space in half, by-half-by-half-by-half, so you never get there. Zeno, the Eleatic.