Allen Ginsberg on John Wieners – part two

John Wieners, Gloucester, MA. 1999 – Photograph c. Jim Dunn

Allen Ginsberg on John Wieners part 2 – continues from here 

[Allen continues reading from “The Hotel Wentley Poems” beginning with a reading from  “A poem for early risers”] –  “I’m infused with the day” – Well, this is for people who’ve been up all night, “early risers” means people who’ve been up all night or (are) getting up at five a.m and going out to score on the streets for either ass or cock or junk or whatever, amphetamine(s).. – “I’m infused with the day/I’m out with it” – and then there’s a side-note “even tho’ the day may destroy me/Placating it/Saving myself”….”from the demons/ who sit in blue/ coats, carping/ at us across the/ tables..”  –  a couple of cops, maybe paranoid about the cops -“I’m infused with the day/I’m out with it/even tho’ the day may destroy me/Placating it/Saving myself/from the demons/ who sit in blue/ coats, carping/ at us across the/ tables. Oh they/go out the doors./I am done with them I am done with the faces I have seen before./ For me now the new./The unturned tricks/ of the trade: The Place/ of the heart where man/is afraid to go” –  <That’s a really great proposition – “For me now the new./The unturned tricks/ of the trade: The Place/ of the heart where man/is afraid to go/  It is not doors. It is/the ground of my soul…”… “..Oh put down/the vanity man the/old man told us under/the tent. You are over-/run with ants” – He’s quoting (Ezra) Pound’sPisan Cantos – “Man lines up for his/ breakfast in the dawn/unaware of the jungke/he has left behind/in his sleep…”…”…Like/ the clot my grandfather/ vomited/months before he/ died of cancer, And/ spoke of later in terror.”.  That’s a great ending. I like “the clot my grandfather/ vomited/months before he/ died of cancer, And/ spoke of later in terror.”
Then, the next one is “A poem for cocksuckers” – I guess they left it out of the Don Allen anthology! – It’s a great series. He wrote it all in the same night or the same week – “Well we can go/ in the queer bars w//our long hair reaching/down to the ground and/we can sing our songs/of love like the black mama/on the juke box after all/what have we got left./  On our right the fairies/giggle in theit lacquered/voices & blow/smoke in your eyes let them/it’s a nigger’s world…” – [Allen giggles]  “.. let them/ it’s a nigger’s world..” –  it’s so down! – it’s really great! – I haven’t looked at this in years, a couple of years, because I generally look at it in the Don Allen anthology, but the whole book is amazing! – “On our right the fairies/ giggle in their lacquered/ voices & blow/smoke in your eyes let them/it’s a nigger’s world/and we retain strength,/The gifts do not dersert us..”..”..Take not/ away from me the small fires/ I burn in the memory of love.

And then a poem for his boyfriend who had left him , “A poem for the old man” – “God love you/ Dana my lover/ lost in the horde/ on this Friday night/500 men are moving up/ & down from the bath/room to the bar.” – but he’s talking.. this is in his Boston accent, it’s “God love you, Dana my lover, lost in the horde on this Friday night, 500 men are moving up & down from the baa-th room to the baa” –  “from the bathroom to the bar”

Student: To the baah

AG: To the baah, yeah – “Remove this desire/ from the man I love,/Who has opened/ the savagery /of the sea to me” – because he’s a.. it’s a really sado-masochistic relationship they got there/ See to it that/ his wants are filled/on California Street/Bestow on him lar-/gesse that allows him/peace in his loins/ Leave him not/ to the moths/Make him out a lion…”…”Strip from him/ hunger and the hungry/ones who eat in the night” – it’s a really bitchy poem, in a sense. I mean, you know, he’s putting down “the hungry ones”, like himself! – “The needy & the new/found ones who would weigh him down..”… “I occupy that space/as the boys around me/choke out desire and/drive us both back/home in the hands/  of strangers.” –  So it’s also like this ambivalence, sort of tragic view of like a crowded Irish Catholic Boston or Cambridge, Boston queer bar, you know like a big queer bar with five hundred people in it, they’re all grasping and clawing at each other, and him lost, and him, you know, sort of picturing  his boyfriend as the sort of Genet hero in the bar there that everybody wants

Student: Was it Boston or San Francisco?.. California Street..

AG: No, well, maybe San Francisco then. Yeah, California Street you’re right, you’re right

Student: …The old Boston morality..

AG: Well, I don’t know. I’m confused whether… Dana, the guy that he’s talking about, Dana in “God love you Dana, my lover” I don’t know if he was from Boston or San Francisco. I think maybe it was his Boston boyfriend, maybe came out to San Francisco and then started in the big scene, cut out. Yeah, youre right I never noticed that, never got that straight

Then, does anybody know Edvard Munch‘s paintings?

Student(s): Yeah – “The Scream”

AG: Okay.”A poem for museum-goers” – So he’s building up into being in an Edvard Munch painting..  [Allen –  to the class] How do they sound?  They’re very moving to me.

Student: Scary to me

AG: It’s so sincere – and vulnerable, you know, like completely real, the language is very real, and.. but it’s..that funny stuff about “it’s a nigger’s world”, and stuff like that – Like, no other poet would write that frankly – or that ..what, I don’t know.. It’s got a certain tone that’s both Romantic and outrageous, and at the same time campy, and at the same time totally tragic. You know, it’s the essence of camp, and tragedy, and Americana, and On The Road, all mixed up in one. It’s amazing – “I walk down a long/ passageway with a/ red door waiting for me./It is Edvard Munch..” [Allen reads  “A poem for museum-goers” in its entirety]…”Now the season of/the furnished room. Gone/the Grecian walls & the/cypress trees,/plain planks and spider/ webs, a bed/only big enough for one,/it looks like a/casket.Death/death on every/wall, guillotined/and streaming in/flames”. – So, “6/21/58” – was is it? that’s June 21st (19)58 – previous one, “God love you, Dana my lover” was June 2oth, The “poem for cocksuckers” is June 20th, “poem for early risers” is June 20th, The “poem for painters” is June 18th.

Student: Gee, he was in a bad mood in those days!

AG: and.. the “poem for record players” is June 15th. Well, I don’t know if it was such a bad mood. He certainly was making things, writing, he was certainly in his utter pitch of reality, you know, prophetic of his own life.

John Wieners in Jack Powers‘ Joy Street Apartment, Boston, 1997 – Photograph c. Jim Dunn

Student: Did he think of himself first and foremost as a poet?

AG:  Yes

Student: Well, I wonder how that contrasts with what your friend said that he saw, like up in Boston at that reading where he was withdrawn and all

AG: Oh, that’s a.. Well, it was a poetry reading where he.. I think he was the guest of honor,where he was reading.. Well, it’s just that he was out of.. he was reading what he’d written but seemed to be out of contact. I have to bring that letter in.. It was very..

Student: Was that from (some young guy)?

AG: No, a guy from many years ago, James Waring, Waring. In fact, he sent.. this guy, he’s a magazine editor now, send me a little announcement asking for manuscripts which I  pinned up on the bulletin board.. [Allen resumes reading] -“A poem for the insane” – “The 2nd afternoon I come/back to the women of Munch/Models with god over/their shoulders, vampires,/their heads are down and/blood is the water-/color they use to turn on” – “blood is the water-/ color they use to turn on” – do you know these poems, by the way?

Student: No I don’t. You ever see Edvard Munch, the movie that they made?
AG: Actually,  I did, long ago. At this point Edward Munch is..
Student: It’s supposed to be playing in Denver
AG: I guess I don’t remember if I saw that movie or not
Student: It’s a long movie isn’t it? four or five hours?
AG: Of Munch?
Student (1) : I think they had a show at the Denver Art Museum of Munch
Student (2): Was there a reading there?
Student (1) I didn’t go to see it but…

[Allen resumes reading] – “Models with God over/ their shoulders”, this is the second poem from Munch, is that in the book? (in the Don Allen anthology)  “Models with god over/their shoulders, vampires,/their heads are down and/blood is the water-/color they use to turn on” – “blood is the water-/ color they use to turn on”- I love that line! – “The story is not done/ There is one wall left to walk, Yeah/ Afterwards – Nathan/gone, big Eric busted,/Swanson down. It is/ right, the Melancholy/on the Beach..” – Well, this is a picture of North Beach 1958 – Nathan was a painter, a young kid at the age of 2o who was a sort of …he and Meltzer, Dave Meltzer, and Richard Brautigan were all friends, you know, and Nathan was a painter as good as Meltzer and Brautigan were poets and they were real companions and something happened to Nathan. He had his paintings up in Vesuvio’s, across the street from City Lights bookshop, the Vesuvio bar, sort of a Bohemian bar they had paintings and he had his paintings there and they were amazing so it looked like there was going to be a generation of young kid painters coming up after the North Beach poets and then, within a year or two, he was in some local nut-house in.. I don’t know what happened to him, but here – “Nathan/gone, big Eric busted,/Swanson down. It is/ right, the Melancholy/on the Beach..”…”Melancholy carries/a red sky and our dreams/are blue boats/no one can bust or/blow out to sea./We ride them/and Tingel-Tangel/in the afternoon”‘ – “our dreams are blue boats/ no-one can bust” – funny!

Student:  How old.. I was wondering was he when he wrote these in 1958?
AG: Twenty-five?  I don’t know..
Student: 1934
AG:(19)34, so what would he be?…. where do you find that?
Student: It’s in the (table of) Contents
AG: ok – from (19)34 to (19)59-58 – 24? – Just 24! – 24? – 24 or 34? – no kidding! that young to be that good – 34, just gone through menopause!…no, 24-years old! that’s what’s so remarkable. It’s like Keats or something at that age

Student: I heard a story that he went to some political convention in drag
AG: Yeah, (19)72 – No, not in drag, he came in a bathing suit! – to the… He came out with the gay..see, there’s this group of..the Gay Lib group in Boston called Fag Rag …with Fag Rag newspaper, who actually published his most recent book (Behind the State Capitol or Cincinnati Pike, Good Gay Poets (1975)  and they brought this book down to the 1972 Miami Convention. They had just printed it, published by Fag Rag of Boston. Wieners came down with Charles Shively, who’s the editor, and a couple of other gay cats from Boston who came as part of (a) gay delegation to the protest movement, you know the Yippie Protest movenent with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin were there and then Ed Sanders had been there for months preparing it. Jeff Nightbyrd was there, Jeff Nightbyrd, who sits in the class was there and saw him..(they) all got busted together.

Student: He told the story (about) when  Peter (Orlovsky) went to court and he told them he was a farmer in New York.

AG: Yeah. Judge didn’t understand him, he was from Miami.

AG: So next is [returning to Wieners’ poems]  1959, a year later, a poem..

Student: What is “tingle tangle”?

AG: Some kind of European..some European melancholy…I don’t know exactly, it may be a title of a painting but I always associate it with … a musical sound like a music box..

Student: Because there’s a famous cabaret guy in Germany (Friedrich Hollaender) who had a place called Tingle Tangle

Student (2): I just thought that was a thing, “tingle tangle”, just a rhyming word..

AG: Lets write him and ask him. Can someone write Wieners and ask him what “tingle tangle” means? – 24 Joy Street, Boston – who..who wants to?

Student: I will.

AG: Ok. If we have any messages, we should send it – “A poem for trapped things” – (In fact, it might be nice if everybody sent him a note)

Student: He’d appreciate it?

AG: Who knows what would happen. (Maybe) he’d hitch-hike out here?

Student: In his bathing suit!

Student: How long has it been since you’ve see him?

AG: Oh, I saw him about two years ago..Whenever I’m in Boston, I make a point to visit ..Pardon me?

Student: So I heard (these days) that he was really depressed..

AG: Yes he is, as I was just saying

Student ..(and that) one could really deal with him, and…

AG: Not quite. There’s a fellow there named Jack Powers, who’s a big strong guy, who’s a social worker who ran a bookstore, Stone Soup. So Jack sees him all the time. Jack is his sort of  like connection-guardian-angel – so Jack, so that’s how it relates.

Student:   ….a fabulously sweet guy..

AG: Yes, it was the Stone Soup Gallery.

Student : (The(re) was (this) guy who..) he used to run readings there, (he) was a student here [Naropa] in (1977) or something….(I) read  in one of the newsletters about (him)…

AG Yeah, Pearson..his name was Pearson..who knew John, and..  Actually, the last I…

Student: Did Bernadette (Mayer) do anything up there?.

AG: Bernadette Mayer? – I don’t know.. Up in Boston?

Student – She was in the town of Lexington or something  {Editorial note – Lenox]  with her husband Lewis Warsh?

AG: Yeah, but I don’t know if they came into Boston to do anything.  They were living nearby, I guess. They had a..

Student: I was just wondering if they did anything to..

AG: I don’ t know if they were there permanently. I think they’re in New York now.

Student: They’re in New York now.

AG (as one of the students leaves):  I wanted him to hear that poem for trapped things. He might miss it – Yeah, he’ll be back..

Student: Did he meet…did  (John) Wieners meet (Jean) Genet?

AG: No, I don’t think so. Genet was at the (19)68  Convention.

Student: Yeah. So was he arrested in that madhouse?

AG; Wieners?

Student: No, Genet

AG: No, he wasn’t arrested. He got out, easily.

There is some account by Wieners of his meeting (Charles) Olson, I think, in the back of the (Donald Allen)  New American Poetry anthology – [Allen begins looking] …let’s see, I should’ve looked this up before -“From a Journal”

Student: (page) 445?

AG: 426 – oh, wait a minute, 445, he’s got a biographical statement, yeah that would probably give it – yeah, that’s good, it’s biography:

“Born on January 5  1934, I graduated from Boston College in June of 1954 and attended Black Mountain for the Spring of 1955 and the Summer of 1956. In between I worked in the Lamont Library in Harvard, until the day that Measure #1 arrived in Boston and they fired me”  – he edited a magazine called Measure himself –

Student: Allen, he was a student of Robert Duncan, I believe
AG Pardon me? –
Student:  I think he was a student of Robert Duncan
AG; Well, he was friends with Robert Duncan
Student: Well, no, because, I remember, he was at Black Mountain, and..
AG: Uh-huh, so he studied with Duncan at Black Mountain
Student: I’m not sure but I think so
AG:  Yes.  He had a magazine called Measure, and then actually, 1959, we had a giant Measure benefit in.. to raise money for Wieners to put out a second issue (edition) of  Measure, and we raised quite a bit of money. Everybody read.  (Robert) Duncan, I think I read,  (Gary) Snyder, it was a big..  (Lawrence) Ferlinghetti – “Monster reading”, I think it was called for Measure – the biggest reading we had in San Francisco, everybody was there, (Michael) McClureLenore Kandel, and I don’t know who else – And I don’t think it ever got put out, but everybody was satisfied that John had some money –

[Allen continues reading from John Wieners’  biographical  statement] – “I first met Charles Olson on the night of Hurricane Hazel, September 11, 1954, when I “accidentally” heard him read his verse at the Charles St. Meeting House They passed out complimentary copies of the Black Mountain Review #1, and I ain’t been able to forget” –

So, “A Poem for Trapped Things” which, now I think, at this point..they.. around this time, ( I’m not sure when it was exactly).. everybody, for some reason or other, around the Hotel Wentley, tried Asthmador , tried making a tea of Asthmador – anti-asthma herbal medicine, which had datura in it, and they all went completely out of their skulls for several months..and I don’t think John has ever been the same since. I think that actually scrambled his brains. It was the Asthmador.. I heard about that later, but he complained at the time that he couldn’t… you know, he wasn’t able to see, or something, or his nerves were shot,it broke.. his nerves were shot, it broke his body

Student: What is datura?

AG: Datura?  Stramonium I think is the active ingredient  Stramonium, or something like that.

Student: …Jimson weed..

AG: Locoweed

Student: Oh – The first time they ever discovered Jimson weed in Jamestown. All the people in Jamestown were trying to find something good to eat and they ate some of the Jimson weed and they were in another state for almost two.. two or three weeks, and they didn’t remember anything about what they did, or anything, and…

AG: Well, yeah, this happened.. I seem to remember when this happened ..(it was) a long period of time.  I don’t know if Wieners ever was the same. I don’t know what year that was. I think it was (19)50.. between ..either.. I dunno whether it was after Wentley? It might have been the early (19)60s, but I…
“A poem for trapped things” – I think this is a.. I love those early poems but this seems to be the ultimate essence both of imagistic poems and this Romantic tragic business  – “This morning with a blue flame burning/ this thing wings its way in/Wind shakes the edges of its yellow being/Gasping for breath/ Living for the instant./Climbing up the black border of the window/Why do you want out”….”I watch you/ all morning/ long./ With my hand over my mouth,” – So I don’t know what kind of state he was in then. He was living in a big old wooden Victorian frame house in upstairs second-floor back room with big huge bay windows overlooking, like, San Francisco roofs and fog, in the house of a painter,Wally Berman who’s quite a famous painter now. He moved to the West Coast and lived in Los Angeles, Topenga Canyon, a friend of George Herms, who had a combine showing here (at Naropa) at the Kerouac exhibit(ion) [Editorial note – an art exhibition held in conjunction with the Jack Kerouac On The Road Conference at Naropa earlier that year, in the summer of 1982] . So Berman is considered in Los Angeles one of the..sort of indigenous interesting artists from..of that period from the West Coast and specifically in Los Angeles where there are very few real painters. I mean, there are a lot of daubers but there are few, like, spiritual painters. So.. and he put out a magazine called Semina, which was a little collage magazine, cardboard covers glued together with the pockets on the insides, in which single poems, single sheets of paper, drawings or art works were put, maybe 20 0r 30, and he’d send them out free, 200 copies, to his friends. It’s called Semina. And this probably came out in that. But anyway,Wieners was living with.. in that.. with Wally Berman’s family, Wally (had a) couple of kids  –
so.. one of the original women who dressed in granny dresses

Wallace Berman’s cover for Semina 3 (the issue which featured John Wieners’ “Peyote Poem”)

Now the next is, continuing his work. Well, let’s see there are other poems, earlier poems in San Francisco. It’s sort of interesting..visions of San Francisco – “San Francisco” – night/ clubs.  The band (all black) starts at six/ A M to swing, A/-round nine, big Eric on guitar/ strings..” –  (“big Eric”  that must’ve been a musician) – “big Eric on guitar/ strings/ blue, B girls at  bar/ sit hair bleached/ silver,/ white,/ “I don’t know no/body and nobody knows me…””… “/ Dancing Irene lost her/ Slippers, black slacks droop, and gimp/glides a swan just/her and colored cat all over the floor/ Everyone knows/ she is the key to open/ your golden store/get us a cab even to ride/home in with/out a red cent./ Our eyeballs are cool,  I say “Look, man/ it’s the sun ” – A little picture.

Student: What year was that?

AG: (19)58? –  I guess before (19)58   – “‘Peyote Poem'”  “With no fresh air in my lungs/in the middle of/the night, inhabited by strange gods/who/ are they, they walk by in white trenchcoats/with pkgs. of paradise in their pockets/ Their hands”  – Amazing, how he makes everything so romantic – and then there’s “The Hotel Wentley..” – Those were a little bit before, (19)59 — “238 Cambridge Street: An Occasional Verse” – so in (19)59, he went back to Boston – “We’re back on the scene/ again with linoleum floors/and Billie H blowing the blues..”  “Billie H” (Billie Holiday)..”fine & mellow it is with PG/cooking in the kitchen” –  “PG” (“paregoric cooking in the kitchen” – paregoric, you know, you give for babies, you cook it down – well you cook it down and so the camphor does’t blow.. no, actually, it forms a crust on the top. Then you stick a needle through the crust of camphor and then you draw out the liquid and it’s pure opium, tincture of opium. I’ve seen (William) Burroughs do it many a time. – “We’re back on the scene/again with linoleum floors/and Billy H blowing the blues/fine & mellow..” -you know Fine and Mellow? Billie Holiday song? –  [Allen recites the lyrics, or, at least, his remembrance of them] – “My man don’t love me.. My man..  My man don’t love me, treats me awful mean,/ My man he don’t love me, treats me awful mean./He’s the meanest man that I’ve ever seen./ He wears hot drape pants, stripes are really yellow/ He wears hot drape pants, stripes are really yellow,/ but when he starts in to love me, he’s so fine and mellow” – Billie Holiday. So – “We’re back on the scene/again with linoleum floors/and Billy H blowing the blues/fine & mellow it is with PG/cooking in the kitchen,/Jennifer walking through the rooms/”What are you talking about/You know you’re gonna gt some”, -/She says to Melly but/it ain’t the same, baby/her old man’s in Mexico and mine/ mine’s a square in/San francisco while we/haunt an old city on the Atlantic/waiting in the night for a fix” – “haunt the old city on the Atlantic” –  “January 6th Nativity 1959”.

[Allen is briefly distracted by a knock on the door – Who’s there?  Yes? What’s up? They’re good.] 

” As Preface to Transmutations” Transmutations. This is now again, what?, 1959 – “How long ago Steve, it was..” (this is Steve Jonas, another poet, of the same ilk, same street, sort of gay street poet-junkie-thief – thief – Steve Jonas, a thief, who I think by now may be dead, by then 1959 (maybe) was dead.  [Editorial note – Stephen Jonas died in 1970, Talisman published a Selected Poems in 1994, this was supplanted by Arcana A Stephen Jonas Reader (City Lights, 2019)]  – “How long ago Steve, it was/we walked along Arlington Street/throwing words to the wind/Before junk, before jail, before/we moved to the four corners/of the world..”- So this is the old gang in Boston before, so it’s “how long”, this, a memoria poem -“How long ago Steve, it was/we walked along Arlington Street/throwing words to the wind/Before junk, before jail, before/we moved to the four corners/of the world/And you lived on Grove Street/and wrote poems poems poems/to the Navy, to Marshall, to/Boston Common..”…”Easter Sunday March/28, 1959, I look out now a back window/in San Francisco. 6 months in Danvers/How can the poem/shine in your eyes in those dark cells? – ” -6 months in Danvers” oh yeah, busted, I think, for robbery and so Danvers jail  – “How can the poem/ shine in your eyes.. “..”The street is long./It runs to the ends/of the earth./We are still/on it./But cannot see/or hear each other./What traffic drowns out/ all our notes”. So, 1959.

Jack Spicer's postcard, mid-1950s, announcing a reading of 5 Boston poets: Jack Spicer, Stephen Jonas, John Wieners, Joe Dunn and Robin Blaser

“Nothing has been so good since Bird died”- postcard/announcement from Jack Spicer – Charlie “Bird” Parker died March 12, 1955

“Act #2”  “I took love home with me,/we fixed in the night and/sank into a stinging flash..  – He’s gone and he’s taken/ my morphine with him” –  He’s gone and taken my morphine with him! – and then the next line is even nicer -“He’s gone and he’s taken/ my morphine with him/Oh Johnny..” (like Marlene Dietrich (dedicatee of the poem) –Oh Johnny du bist ein.. dun-da-da. – I don’t know if you know that song? … “Oh Johnny. Women in/the night moan yr. name”.. “Women in/ the night moan yr. name” – that’s a great ending.  June 8 (19).. 1959. So, a year after “The Hotel Wentley Poems“, exactly a year after “The Hotel Wentley Poems”

Student: Doesn’t seem like he’s improved.

AG: No but he’s out on the street and he’s writing.

Let’s see what else. Some funny stuff here. He’s got very good sound poems too, by the way – a book of prayers?,  a book of love poems to “Spanish Johnny”?  so let’s see.. That’s a very strange, a very brief one, like that –  “The Pool of Light” – “A shimmering fern leaf, two upraised em-/blems of gold/lift an instant trem-/blings revolved/ O Switzerland, O Schon castle, o land across/the Rhine” – So a little European day-dream in the middle of..

Now “Acts of Youth”, that’s really a.. this is a great formal tragic summary, in regular verse form, practically. I don’t think it rhymes but it looks like quatrains, and it looks like more disciplined and it looks like more, you know like  formal poems – ” [Allen reads the whole poem, audibly moved, by the end] – “(And) with great fear I inhabit the middle of the night” – great beginning! -“And with great fear I inhabit the middle of the night/What wrecks of the mind await me, what drugs/to dull the senses, what little I have left,/what more can be taken away..”…..”am I a marked man, my life to be a lesson, or experience to those young who would trod/ the same path, without God/ unless he be one of justice to wreak vengeance/ on acts committed while young under un-/due influence or circumstance..” – “wreak vengeance/ on acts committed while young under un-/due influence or circumstance..”! – “Oh I have/ always seen my life as a drama patterned/ after those who met with disaster and doom/Is my mind being taken away me./ I have been over the abyss before What/ is that ringing in my ears that tells me/ all is nigh, is naught but the roaring of the winter wind/Woe to the homeless who are out on this night/Woe to those crimes committed  from which we can walk away unharmed.” – and then Part 2  – “So I turn on the light/And smoke rings rise in the air/Do not think of the future, there is none. But the formula all great art is made of./ Pain and suffering. Give me the strength/ to bear it, to enter those places where the/ great animals are caged. And we can live/ at peace by their side. A bride to the burden that no god imposes/but knows we have the means/to sustain its force unto the end of our days./For that is what we are made for, for that we are created/Until the dark hours are done./ And we rise again in the dawn/Infinite particles of the divine sun, now/worshipped in the pitches of the night.”
I don’t know if I believe that – it’s really too much actually, quite beautiful, from such a darkness – it’s an amazing statement – It’s very..  it’s sort of corny, almost, but classic – it sounds classic, and it’s.. (the) first time I saw it, I thought, amazing, but, it sounds a little corny, but the more I look at it – and we rise so.. “Give me the strength/ to bear it, to enter those places where the/ great animals are caged. And we can live/ at peace by their side. A bride to the burden that no god imposes but knows we have the means/to sustain its force unto the end of our days./For that is what we are made for, for that we are created/Until the dark hours are done./ And we rise again in the dawn/Infinite particles of the divine sun, now/worshipped in the pitches of the night”- that’s the most Romantic statement of the 20th Century, practically, the most..sort of like (Percy Bysshe) ShelleyFollowing thatWhat/ is that ringing in my ears that tells me/ all is nigh, is naught but the roaring of the winter wind/Woe to the homeless who are out on this night/Woe to those crimes committed  from which we can walk away unharmed.”
It’s.. powerful. I don’t know if anybody else writes with such intense grief.

John Wieners, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA., 1997 – Photograph c. Jim Dunn

Romance , here’s a poem called..Romance.. “Tuesday 7.00 PM.” oh this is the romance of New York, (this is) Wieners digging the “Rhapsody in Blue” aspect of New York, like the Fred Astaire-Hollywood New York (“There is majesty in rose light/ across the sky/at twilight on Tuesday/afternoon/ When November night/ comes up from Central Park/ to surround empire towers/around dark/ trees wave/ in cold breeze/And I am lost beside the furs and homburgs/On Fifth and Fifty-Seventh Sts.”…”Haven of the heart/this is that new start/ long at last waited -/  journey to the stars, who stay/at the Chatham, Gotham and Pierre./ They stare from block of walled-in gardens/to penthouses with  glare of yesteryear/hard-eyed maidens scan the air/for slope of easy gentleman there..”…”Cased on windows hang the hopes/ of the poor in damask silk/ Yet blue for the touch of your hand/  who could lead me to the grand ballroom/and library bookcases cased in oak,/my dreams are there and pledged to/ be fulfilled as they go up in smoke.” –  That’s very clear, I guess. So, about now, he wants, not only  a hustler for a lover, but he wants a billionaire hustler who could lead him by the hand and let him live in the (Hotel) Pierre!

Student:… Was he (admired by) anybody in New York?.. I know that..
AG: Well, he was living in New York for quite a while.
Student: But I mean, (by) the (artists of the) New York School?
AG: Well, Frank O’Hara. Everybody. Yes, that was the whole point. Frank O’Hara said he was the great gay poet of the century
Student: Well, I thought that..
AG: Well yes, he’s just so old (fashioned).  But Frank liked him and gave him..
Student: His other poems. that you read earlier, it seemed like he was writing a poem off of his feelings of, like, Munch (Edvard Munch)
AG: Just those two.
Student: So he was in touch with paintings
AG: Oh, yeah – yeah  tho’ more of an older art. He wasn’t up on the latest, except with Wally Berman and the San Francisco painters, and I guess the..
Student: Well, at Fosters cafeteria (it) was...mostly (it was) painters there..
AG: Yeah, of course, there were painters, but they were all failure painters, the ones that he knew, see there wasn’t like the great painters of the New York School
Student: No, I didn’t want to say that. You never hear of Robert LaVigne or the other painters mentioned, more the people in the poetry circle (are the) mainstream artists.>
AG: Yeah, see the mainstream artists don’t know Wieners, I think, except as through, they might know him through..  Larry Rivers might know him through..
Student: Did he get into the New York crowd?
AG: No, no no, – only through..
Student:  Oh, he was primarily San Francisco.
AG: No, see, Boston, where he is now. San Francisco for a while, with painters who were great painters but not well-known, San Francisco with very good painters who were not great yet or well-known, “men of no fortune but with a name to come”, like LaVigne, who I’m sure, some day, will be very famous, and his paintings very precious.
Student: (Wallace) Berman?
AG: No, Robert Lavigne, a painter who was here this summer, who’s driving a taxi in Seattle now – Those two guys ought to get together! – Robert LaVigne and John Wieners – Lavigne’s driving a taxi in Seattle and John Wieners is..
Student: He’s not painting anymore?
AG: Yes. He paints but he’got to drive a taxi for a living
Er..Romance..gas “153 Avenue C” – back in New York, brief poem, like ..this is just like Sappho – Sappho in New York. You know “I lie alone in bed/the moon in Pleides is set .. the moon in Pleidias is set and I’m lying in bed alone – do you know that poem by Sappho? – “The night cold/ I lie abed/ drugged,/ The gas heater on,/I would it were/Off/ To snuff out my life.” – That’s it. It’s called “153 Avenue C”. This is probably around 1962 or so.

“Ancient blue star!/ seen out the car/window/ One blinking light/ how many miles away/stirs in the mind/a human condition/When paved alone/created of lust/we wrestle with stone/for answer to dust.” – whatever that (means) –  but I like that “One blinking light”..”ancient blue star seen out of the car window”.

Then a few.

Student: That’s from New York

AG: Well, no, I don’t know where that was. There are no dates on these further.  Then..”Deep Sea” “Dirt under my nails/ my hands hardcaked with/abuse of lust, despair / and drugs/ Night a foreign place,/ without sound or shadow/we lie abed awaiting pills/ to take effect”…….”Walls alive with pictures/ faces haunt the dark. Nothing to do/but go on led by a  flickering of a/ flame I cannot name”.

So that would carry us up to…let us say page 65 here. This book is [the 1972 Cape/Grossman edition of] Wieners’  Selected Poems

Student: What did Jack (Kerouac) think of John Wieners?

AG: Whom?

Student: Did Wieners ever meet Kerouac?

AG: Yes, once, in my kitchen. 1960. Wieners was down. In the sixties, no, let’s see, the mid Sixties, the mid ‘Sixties on East 10th Street, no on East 5th Street

Student: But did he ever mention his poetry to you..?

AG: No, it was in 19..   Oh, Jack (Kerouac) loved Wieners, yes.  Yeah, he thought he was the sweetest cocksucker on the earth.  That was his idea, or something like that, you know, like a cocksucker who wrote beautiful poems about sucking cock, or something.
But, they met. Wieners was already kind of… this was..once, in the kitchen on the second floor of Apartment 14 on 117 170? East 2nd Street, New York . (It) must have been 1960, or (19)59, Kerouac came into town. He had just..  He was drinking a good deal, and he’d just.. it was in the period of Big Sur probably, or just before, which is d-t’s (delirium tremens) and so himself was a little rocky. Wieners came down from Boston and was in the room in the kitchen, by the ice-box, and Jack kept.. Jack first saluted him, by saying, “Ah! suck my cock!” and Wieners.. you know, became not macho and funny, but funny, you know, drunk – “If you’re a big cocksucker, why don’t you suck my cock, I’m lonely, I’m horny” – but not serious.  And Wieners was totally silent (because he was in a sort of semi-catatonic state). So Kerouac said, “(So) you don’t love me huh?” – There was this cross-purposes of Kerouac coming on very strong, jiving him, but drunken, and Wieners… not realizing how totally sensitive and crushed and completely collapsed Wieners already was, until Jack became a little bit nonplussed when he realized that Wieners was worse off than he was (and in) pain.

“Shall Idleness Then Ring In Your Eyes Like The Pest?” (W.H.Auden) title of his poem – “Beware that breed of men who would eat/ you out/ Of house and  home, that other breed of flesh/and spirit, who would accept friendship/and turn it into lechery, parasitism, leprosy.”… “”I am ill and still there is no peace.”/In the night, they take away the moon,/And the dawn the sun. Covered over/with the hand of man is the dung of/the human heart.”  – I think this was to (Herbert) Huncke, because Huncke and Wieners were living together around that time.

Student: For real

AG- Herbert Huncke, yes and I think,  and I don’t know but I think, Huncke beat Wieners out of the junk, something of that (nature)

“Paul” It’s nice under your hands/ a stranger whom I ‘ve never met/ before tonight but twice/It’s nice beside you on the bed/where my heart bled for love./It’s nice to have you here/and having said that, dear/nice to feel your hands upon my hair/and nicer still, to know we will/ meet again, start off where/your girlfriend, mistress, what ever/she is, that sleeping bride/will not be on your other side” -Apparently, it was a three-some. He’s very frank! (unlike me, or other poets of the same ilk!)

[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-one minutes in and concluding at the end of the tape] 

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