AG: So now, as part of our Russian program, I wanted to continue with a little more Khlebnikov, with the poem about laughter, which Richard Poe (sic) can pronounce (for us) in Russian. The text is on the first page of Khlebnikov in our anthologies, for those of you who have it. [to Richard Poe] – Can you stand up to do it, though. And roar it, you know.
Student [Richard Poe]: Roar it?
AG: Yeah. Part of the elocution is roaring.
Richard Poe reads Khlebnikov’s poem in Russian
О, рассмейтесь, смехачи!
О, засмейтесь, смехачи!
Что смеются смехами, что смеянствуют смеяльно,
О, засмейтесь усмеяльно!
О, рассмешищ надсмеяльных — смех усмейных смехачей!
О, иссмейся рассмеяльно, смех надсмейных смеячей!
Усмей, осмей, смешики, смешики!
О, рассмейтесь, смехачи!
О, засмейтесь, смехачи!
AG: One more time
Student: [Richard Poe]: Yeah
AG: One more time. It was great aloud.
Student(s): It sounds great, Richard
AG: It’s great. It sounds great.
AG: When you hear good music you want to hear it (again).
Student(s): Hear, hear
Student [Richard Poe] You want me to read this, this, this…
AG: Shall we take a vote?. One more time.
Student(s): Yes.. One more time, yes.
Richard Poe reads the poem again in the original Russian
AG [to another (Slavic) (female) student] – Do you do it (like this) at home, S? Do you know how to read it too? One more. One more version, in a feminine voice.
Student: Lets (perhaps) have everybody do it.. Everybody gets (a chance to read it).
AG [directing the Student] : Stand up and face there. Face the other side. Straighten your back, yes
Female student gives a third reading of Khlebnikov’s poem in original Russian
AG: Louis Zukofsky translated the Latin of Catullus into the equivalent English syllables or English words without regard for the meaning, so you could get the cadences and sound of the Latin of Catullus in English, and so I imagine if you tried the Zukofsky method with this it would be – “Oh smear it around, you smearers/ smear it up you smearers/so they smear with smears,/they smear lots smearingly,/Oh smear it up smearingly/Or the besmeared smeared-upon/the smear of the besmeared smearers/smear it out round smearingly/the smear of the smeared -up smearians,/smearians smearingly. smeary,/ smearification, /smearify,/smearolets,/Smear-up,/smear a bit/smear it around, you smearers,/oh smear it up you smearers” – That’d be somewhat close.
I thought what we might do (all) together is the next page (the Zangezi excerpt), for those of you that have it, for those who have texts – All sections beginning with (the words) – “Quiet! Quiet! He will speak..”
Student: Can we share that one (that book with you)?
AG: I don’t have another one here. This (part) is excerpted out.
Student: Oh, oh, that’s not the same
Student (CC): You can share mine tho’
AG: Yeah. Beginning with the actual.. I read it once, but, for those of you who have it, lets try reading (a group reading of it). I guess the basic thing would be to pay attention to the punctuation so that you know when to stop and breathe, so that we don’t run on. And take time between the words when there’s punctuation. So, beginning – one, two, three..
Allen and class read in unison (from Khlebnikov)
“Quiet! Quiet! He will speak/ Zangezi: Ring the glad tidings of the mind! /Sound the tocsin of reason, the big bell of the/mind: All the different shades of the brain will/ pass before you in a review of all kinds of/reason. Now! Everyone sing after me – I – Goum/Oum/Uum.. etc etc ”
Student (at the conclusion of the group reading) : Nice
AG: Well, it takes some kind of… How many people actually opened their mouths? Just a little chorus. Nobody else had the texts?.. How many people opemed their mouths?
Peter Orlovsky Opened their mouths and said “Voum”
AG: So it was about ten, I guess: We were pretty loud!
AG: Well, yes, because we were shouting.
Okay, well I’d like (now) to run over a couple more poems.
[Andrei Voznesensky (1933-2010)]
Peter Orlovsky: (Andrei) Voznesensky takes off from that because he has..the poem about the bells.
AG: Yes. Right. Exactly.
Student (CC): “Moscow Bells”
AG: Yeah, has anybody heard Voznesensky pronouncing “Moscow Bells”
Student (CC): Yes I do
AG: He gets up, he stands up, and it’s a thing about tolling the bells for all the artists of Russia, and for all the great artists of the past wo have died and he makes this gesture and he goes – “Vam, Skaromnekee, Vah-vam, Kay, Kallah-kallah, Vah-vam“ [Editorial note – loose phonetic description] (which is just the sound of the Moscow bells}
Student (CC): It’s on the ESP sampler and the ESP recording of Voznesensky [ Editorial note – The Lovebook Record – ESP 1067]
Student (CC): Yeah, records.. ESP discs
AG: I know it’s on a record
Student (CC): Yeah, that’s the label
AG: The phrase is ” “Vam,” I think, “Kahladniki, Kallah-kallam.” [Editorial note – again loose phonetic description] – I don’t know the exact phrases for the ringing of the bell – But, I guess, that (Voznesensky’s poem)’s a take-off from this, then.
Student (CC): Yes
AG: I had never remembered that. That’s Andrei Voznesensky’s most celebrated poem, actually, and the one he’s most famous for (like “Howl”, so to speak).
I’ve thought of a couple more.
Peter Orlovsky: Well, that’s his most celebrated public thing…
Peter Orlovsky: … that he can get away with poem…
AG: Well, it’s probably the strongest sound he’s got.
(Okay). A couple more things from Khlebnikov that aren’t necessarily in the anthology. 1922 – The New Economic Program came in (known as NEP) – I don’t think this is in the anthology – he wrote a little poem called “Stop Fooling!” [“НЕ ШАЛИТЬ!”] – He was putting it down, I think, because it meant the destruction of the small farmers, apparently, which was a very bloody, and wild, scene, and a few of his friends were involved in farming
[Allen reads from the English translation of Khlebnikov’s “НЕ ШАЛИТЬ!” (“Stop Fooling!”)] – “Hey, you sharp little con-men!/ The wind is in your head!/ In Pugachoivian sheepskins/Down Moscow’s streets I tread/It wasn’t for this we had/ The great truth on our side/So in sables and trotters/ All these mockers could ride/It wasn’t for this the foe/ Poured out his blood like water./So you’d be seeing strings of pearls/ On every street hawker./ No sense chattering teeth/ All this night long/ I will sail, I will sing/ Down the Volga, down the Don!/. I’ll set out in the blue night in my evening skiff./ Who’s beside me in flight?,/ Beside me? – only friends.”
[ ‘Эй, молодчики-купчики,/Ветерок в голове!/В пугачевском тулупчике/Я иду по Москве!/Не затем высока/Воля правды у нас,/В соболях-рысаках/Чтоб катались, глумясь./Не затем у врага/Кровь лилась по дешевке,/Чтоб несли жемчуга/Руки каждой торговки./Не зубами скрипеть/Ночью долгою —/ Буду плыть, буду петь
Доном-Волгою!/Я пошлю вперед/Вечеровые уструги./Кто со мною — в полет?/А со мной — мои други!’]
So it’s a declaration of individuality in the middle of the community, Communist, somewhat-forced, project. That’s an early comment on the NEP, as it was called, New Economic Program
Then there’s another poem which is kind of sweet – 1919-1921 – (an) almost Buddhist-like assessment of mortal suffering. It’s just five lines – “It’s your business, gods,/ That you made us mortal./ But we’ll shoot at you/ The poisoned arrow of sorrow/. We have the bow” – It’s really short and sharp – like a Gregory (Corso) poem. (It reminded me a little of one of Gregory’s “idea poems”) – [Allen proceeds to read the poem again] – It’s true enough – the First Noble Truth – Suffering.
I thought, when I was reading a lot of Khlebnikov and the laughter thing, I thought, if any of you know (Jack) Kerouac’s novel, Big Sur, the sound poem at the end of that (there’s a long sound poem, which is the sound of the ocean) is very similar. Yeah?
[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately six minutes in and concluding approximately nineteen-and-a-half minutes in]