A Night With Allen Ginsberg – Allen Ginsberg’s reading at Loyola University, New Orleans, 1990. An eye-witness recalls: “The overflow crowd filled up the aisles and the outside lobby, so he (Allen) invited audience members to sit on the stage with him. (we see them on the stage there)/ He also (that same visit) did a meditation workshop, and his Collected Poems had just appeared so he spent a whole afternoon signing copies and illustrating each with a drawing”.
My father was a poet, Louis Ginsberg (who) was quite a good poet and was in all the old anthologies that I used to study in high-school – Louis Untermeyer’s “Modern American and British Poetry” . He died in 1976, philosophic-minded, not in great pain (tho’ he had the cancer – he was quite old, he was eighty). So there were a few poems I wrote on taking care of him at the end of his life – helping him bathe or helping him get around the house and working with the problem of somebody very old, bidding farewell to life. So I’ll read a few of those, and a song, written on his death, called “Father Death Blues” (and the general title is “Don’t Grow Old”) – “Wasted arms, feeble knees..” – My father died and flying back from Boulder to Naropa I wrote a threnody and death lament – Father Death Blues – [Allen performs this (“Father Death Blues”, with harmonium accompaniment] – “Near the scrapyard, my father will be buried….”
If you’re on can you see if you’re blocking the view of anybody. No, just be aware of the space behind you. I think you are. So it might be possible for everybody to move up just a little, make a little room so that those that are on the edge there an over there are not discommoded by your presence, just be aware of the space around you – like a space-awareness exercise, so.. panoramic awareness, what is going on around you, an old Buddhist trick
So, beginning 1955, Sunflower Sutra – [Allen reads “Sunflower Sutra” in its entirety – “I walked on the banks..]
So some short poems – “Irritable Vegetable” (Don’t send me letters, don’t send me poems, too busy to write poems..” “You’re a hypocrite who eats hot-dogs!’ – Some one-line single.. one-line single simple declarative sentences [“136 Syllables at Rocky Mountain Dharma Center”] – “Put on my shirt and took it off in the sun walking the path to lunch” – “A dandelion seed floats above the marsh grass with the mosquitos” – “At four a.m, the two middle-aged men sleeping together holding hands” – “In the half light of dawn a few birds warble under the Pleiades” – “Four skinheads stand in the street light rain talking under an umbrella” “Caught! shop-lifting ran out of the department store at sunrise and woke up” – These Two (“That tree – “I don’t like that car under me, it smells of gasoline”. The other tree next to it, “Ah, you’re always complaining, you’re a neurotic, you can see by the way you’re bent over!”…) – Why I Mediate (“I sit because..”… “.. I sit for personal world revolution”) – “Arguments” (“I’m sick of arguments – “You threw the butter in the pan” – “I did not” – “You let it melt on the stove”…”Why don’t we turn off all the loudspeakers?)” – “Prophecy”(“As I’m no longer young in life and there seem not so many pleasures to look forward to, how fortunate to be free to write of cars and wars..”.. “….throw away all useless ties and pants that don’t fit”) – “Moral Majority” (“Something evil about you…”… “I’ve seen God as much as any man on earth and he doesn’t look like you alone, he looks like me too..”… “Big mouth full of good cheer, not money, honey”)
The last poem..I was thinking one longish poem and one song and I’ll be done. This poem is called “White Shroud” which is also the title of the book White Shroud. The big red book I was reading from is Collected Poems 1947-1980 and there’s overed 1980-(19)85 here [in White Shroud] and then there’s a whole bunch of stuff here that’s new, including that little Bush-Noriega calypso. Here, a more serious, interesting,poem. In 1960, I wrote a long poem called “Kaddish”, (a) Jewish funeral word, elegy for my mother who died in 1956 in Central.. in Pilgrim State Hospital, mental hospital in New York (which was one of the largest in the world at the time, I think, twenty-five or thirty thousand people, and “Kaddish” was a narrative story of my difficulties as a kid with my mother who was having nervous breakdowns, creating a chaotic situation that I wasn’t able to handle, except in the poem, (I) tried to recreate that – and I had it typed up by an old girlfriend [Elise Cowen] who said, “You’re not done with your mother yet”. So.. in (19)83, when I was in Boulder, October 5th, I had a dream, at about six a.m., and woke.. (it was sort of like a dream-vision)..and woke, and immediately wrote it down, and this is the dream (like the William Carlos Williams dream). more or less exactly as first scribed in a notebook, called “White Shroud” – Let’s see, I’ll read.. well, I won’t explain further, but, reflecting on the sort of grief, or guilt, I felt about my mother dying alone in a mad-house – White Shroud – [Allen proceeds to read the poem in is entirety] (I am summoned from my bed to the great city of the dead..”..”I went downstairs to the shady living room where Peter Orlovsky/ sat with long hair lit by television glow to watch/ the sunrise weather news, I kissed him and filled my pen and wept”