1980 Naropa – Ginsberg-Clausen-Whalen reading

Allen Ginsberg, Andy Clausen, Philip Whalen

July 23 1980 at the Naropa Institute – Allen Ginsberg, Philip Whalen and Andy Clausen (Anne Waldman introduces Allen and Philip, Allen introduces Andy Clausen)

courtesy of the Naropa Archives, the audio can be accessed here and here

Anne Waldman:  Welcome to this second session (of the) Jack Kerouac reading-series opening, and tonight we’re going to be hearing Allen Ginsberg and musicians, and Andy Clausen, and guest-poet Philip Whalen….. The order tonight will be Allen reading and performing first, then Andy, then Philip, each about twenty-five minutes, then we’ll have a break, and then they’ll all come back and do a short set. So I’ll introduce Allen first – Allen Ginsberg – noble Kerouac School co-founder and co-director, Allen Ginsberg – diamond-tongued warrior and statesman, Allen Ginsberg – international jet-age poet, flying off to antic Rome, Allen Ginsberg – queer poet journeying behind the stern Iron Curtain, Allen Ginsberg – local, Bermuda-d, bicycling, Blake prof, Allen Ginsberg – harmonium-hand, Allen Ginsberg – Sapphic mouth-harper or Whitmanesque fusillade-head, Allen Ginsberg – smiles at troubles, Allen Ginsberg – fights headaches meditating, Allen Ginsberg – answering mail, head bowed at desk, through icy Mapleton Street window, Allen Ginsberg “abjures rough magic” (you seen his white box?) – Allen Ginsberg – crashing tiny cymbals, Allen Ginsberg – chanting a triple spondee – Sweet Daddy kindly Ginsberg in my heart – Allen Ginsberg on stage Naropa Pearl Assembly Hall, July 23rd 1980″  –

AG: So, I’ll be working here tonight in a sort set with friends and students (some poetics students, some music students, and some drop-out students). So, Glenn Edwards on trumpet (we’ve worked together, we’ve played together here for years, three or four years), Tom Miller on guitar, and Rick Severin (one of my apprentices who also teaches music, writing poetry) on guitar also, and  (I’ll) begin with an “oldie-but-goldie”, Guru Blues [Allen begins, at approximately three-and-a-half minutes in, with a rendition of “Guru Blues” – “I can’t find anyone to show me what to do..”..”I can’t find anyone, only you, Guru”] – “Could you hear the trumpet? ..How many could not hear the trumpet?..In the back, they could not hear it – (Next), “an English 15th Century song”, “I Syng of A Mayden” ( “I Sing of A  Maiden”), to the Virgin Mary, 15th Century English religious lyric, which I set to music this Spring [1980] for the “Basic Poetics” class. Phil Whalen says that there are earlier versions that he’s heard. So this is “I Sing of A Maiden/ That is Matchless” (makeles, without a mate) – She chose to have the King  of her Kings for her son – (“King of all kings/For her son she chose”) – [Allen begins this rendition approximately nine-and-a-quarter minutes in] – (Next), “out of studies of Thomas Campion and such English songwriters” – “Love Forgiven”‘  (“Straight and slender..”..gives love to cold clay”) – Next, (unaccompanied), “Everybody’s Fantasy” (“I walked outside and the bombs dropped lots of plutonium all over the Lower East Side. There weren’t any buildings left, just iron skeletons..”..,”charred Amazon pine-trees for hundreds of miles on both sides of the river”  –  (“Oh terrible prophecy!”), and (at approximately seventeen-and-a-half minutes in), “Las Vegas, Nevada” – (“Gambling with Language”) – (“Aztec sandstone water holes..” … “because they don’t know how to gamble like mustangs and desert lizards”), and “Love Continued” (“After fifty-three years I still cry tears, I still fall in love…”…”My skin still trembles, my fingers nimble”) – “Two Haiku(s)” –  (“A tall student walks down the mall in full moonlight/Passing silent window-displays/ Where a naked mannikin observes her fingernails” – (and)  from Tubingen Hamburg Schlafwagen (sleeping car)  – “Building lights above black water,/ Passing over a big river bridge and tower/, Mmm, fairy-land! must be Frankfurt!”) – Allen reads next “Verses Written For Student Anti-Draft Rally” (“The warrior is afraid, the warrior has a big trembling heart, The warrior sees bright explosions over Utah…”…”awaiting orders that he press the secret button to blow up the cities of Earth”)  – “I’ll finish with one poem and one song”. At approximately twenty-two-and-a-half minutes in, he reads, “the Sapphic stanzas, “written as a classroom exercise at the end of the last session, the end of the Spring session”  (poignant graphic sex poems) – “Red cheeked boyfriends tenderly kiss me sweet mouthed under Boulder coverlets…” -and, for the song, (with musical accompaniment)) “Gospel Noble Truths” – “Anybody who wants to, sing along, the mantric refrain will appear on its own”  (“Born in this world/You’ve got to suffer..”.. “and you die when you die”) – [Allen’s reading concludes at approximately thirty-and-three-quarter minutes in]

AG: The next poet, of three geniuses tonight, is the great orator, Andy Clausen, whom I’m particularly pleased with as a poet because he was a friend, or acquaintance, of my old lover, Neal Cassady, and I think he’s inherited some of Neal Cassady’s energy and intelligence and generosity of spirit (certainly in his spirit meaning breath, or wind, rising out of the body). He’s a laboring poet, a working-man poet, a family poet (he’s got a couple of kids, a wife, Linda, who writes as well, a daughter who writes as well). He’s worked in many jobs. Born in Belgium, raised in the North West, has worked in Oakland as a hod-carrier (and also as a master at poetry-readings) and worked in Houston as a taxi-driver (and also as a master at poetry readings), now working here at Naropa, on and off, substitute teaching for the other poets, and hanging drapes with Charlie Ross, the ever-present manager at poetry-readings. He’s written a lot of new poems here. And we all know each others’ work for many years. So please welcome Andy Clausen

Andy Clausen begins his reading  (approximately thirty-three minutes in) with a blues (accompanying himself on the harmonica) -“Well I woke up this morning/and that was pretty good”… “I rolled over and I touched you/ the very best way this old boy could” – At approximately thirty-four-and-three-quarter minutes in, he reads “a recent little poem” “Strangely quiet, lovely crimson-assed mandrills with multi-colored African-mask Picasso faces wait in ambush..”… “the spectacular visions and odors of the jungle”, followed by “a longer one” (which he describes as “kind of like “A Song of Myself”, so whenever I stop you can figure that’s the end of a poem, see – there’s a lot of poems within the poem)”,”and it’s called “From The Top of My Lungs – An Open Letter To The Russian People”  (“The ultimate threat is being openly discussed…”….”forcing us to kill or be killed”). Next he reads “Short Arm Inspection”… (“How many people here know what a short arm inspection is? – Wild! – You’ll find out!
Peter Orlovsky: Where was that Andy?
Andy Clausen: That was In MCRD  (Marine Corps Recruit Depot), San  Diego). (Next), “here’s an old haiku of mine that I like” – “Up went the antenna/ In went the sound/But the bird was gone” and, finally, “Early and Dirty (“The daffodil admiring cedar leans serene…”..”because someone who tried and died early and dirty”)

At approximately fifty-six-and-three-quarter minutes in, Anne Waldman introduces Philip Whalen.

Anne Waldman: It’s a very great honor and pleasure to have Philip Whalen currently as company, as teacher, as guest-poet in residence with the Kerouac School this session. Philip Whalen’s poetry tracks incorruptible on its own terrain. Philip will be teaching his own class which is entitled “In The Pressure Tank” all session, and it meets three times a week, (if) anybody still wants to get in on that, I would advise it, And he’s also going to be teaching the mysterious play Pericles (the week of August 4th, for the rotating Shakespeare lecture class). I learned today in Philip’s class that his grandfathers were named Gus Whalen and Sammy-Bush (?) – and he’s also got the great Buddhist grandfathers. Philip was ordained a Zen Buddhist monk in 1973 at the San Francisco Zen Center. He’s the author of the immortal line “What we know of the world is the mind’s invention”, [Editorial note – the line is from the poem Sourdough Mountain Lookout” and more accurately reads – “What we see of the world is the mind’s/Invention and the mind/ Though stained by it, becoming/ Rivers, sun, mule-dung flies -/Can shift instantly/A dirty bird in a square time”] –  and he’s probably the only poet that, on the publication of his book(‘s account), that his publisher had to call out the tactical police force in New York City. This was in..  I can’t remember the year exactly, maybe (19)71? – (no) – (19)69 – And all these poets in New York had been eagerly awaiting, finally, this big collection of Phil’s book [On Bear’s Head] and it was..it came out in hardcover, published by Harcourt,Brace and Janovich, priced at $17.50. (In those days, that was really too much!).  So a whole bunch of us went up and, with great ..actually, beautiful signs, designed by the painter George Schneeman, which said things like “$17.50 sucks!” and…  My mother was there and (was) nearly dragged away by the TPF (Tactical Police Force) , and they just didn’t know what to do with us. But I think it had, maybe, some effect, because then the paperback came out at a . .it was under four dollars so.. barely under four dolls.. and it’s still in print, so ..that would be one book I’d be eager to get, if you don’t have that yet. Also Scenes of Life At The Capital, Severance Pay, he has two novels, You Didn’t Even Try and Imaginary Speeches for a Brazen Head, The Kindness of Strangers, Decompressions, wonderful,wonderful books, run out and buy them. He’s also going to be having a big..a new collection out from Don Allens Grey Fox Press called Enough Said. So, enough said, please welcome Philip Whalen.

Philip Whalen reads (beginning at approximately fifty-nine-and-a-half minutes in) Enough Said has a preface written after Don asked me to write a preface on the 26th of April – The most interesting thing about this book is that it was written under ideal conditions..”
[Allen breaks in – PW: Allen says can you..is the machine (amplification) audible in the rear? anyplace? no? – AG: Raise your hand if it’s not. If you can’t hear, raise your hand. – PW:Uh-huh – AG: Is there any way of raising.. – PW: It’ll be alright. Don’t worry. I’ll try to stand closer to it. It’ll all pick up and then break everybody’s ear-drum! – It’s ok, I think] –

“Past ruin’d Ilion” (which is part of a poem by (Walter) Savage Landor) is the title of this (first) thing – “Garden Cottage #1” was the name of the little cottage that I was living in for about a year-and-a-quarter. It sat up in the upper garden at Tassajara and now they’ve built the new temporary zendo right in from of it so it’s all jammed in there” (“Chill morning moonlight garden..”) – “Back To Normalcy” (“My ear stretches out across limitless space and time”) – “I Used To Work in Chicago” (“In a private collection/Hans Memling or Dierck Bouts..”) – “The Laundry Area” (“In that place you have to wash your own clothes with a washboard and stationary tub, so the laundry area” – “Each time I hang up a washboard..”) – “Tears And Recriminations” (“How charming the sticky sweat..”) – [PW is momentarily distracted by applause – “None of this stuff is interesting enough or charming enough to warrant such frequent interruption, I don’t believe..so..just ride with it temporarily] – This one is called “Waste, Profligacy, Fatuity” (“We get ourselves ino a mess when we say/”Thank God that’s over”… “To think that anyone could SAY such a thing, much less write it down”) –  “Discriminations” (“Earliest morning hot moonlight..) – “This one is..very complicated. [“Wandering Outside”] If you ever saw the movie called Gate of Hell, you would have seen the story, the first part of the story of  Mongaku Shonin in it that I talk about at the end – (“Purple flags for the luxurious color…) – This next one is called “Homage to St. Patrick, Garcia Lorca and the Itinerant Grocer” (“This was written for a friend of mine, Mark David Schneider who is also a monk”) – (“A big part of this page (a big part of my head)/Is missing…”) – “What About It? (“When I began to grow old I searched out the Land/Of the Gods in theWest…”…”Anyway, to devote time in return for a place/That makes us accessible to them”) – “Cynical Song” (“You do what you do/Fucky-ducky..”) –“Can’t You Be A Little More Selective?” (somebody asks, is the title) (“When you break it/Make sure it comes apart/Stop at nothing…”) – And this one goes on for a couple of pages, this one is called “Treading Water” ( “insist there be a voice, then listen…”) –“The Inspection of The Mind in June” (and “Inspection of the Mind” is a translation of the term, sesshin ) –  (“All of me that there is makes a shadow…”) – “Treading More Water” (“It is very hard to understand that /We are where we are at..”)  – This one is called  “I Can Look Any Way I Feel Like” ( “Unless you have one lifetime friend/Whose business is the production of “lewd shows”, for example…”) – This one is very hard, this is “The Holding Pattern” (“Invidious joys all sealed in veins/On top of the mailbox..”)  – “What? Writing In The Dining Room?” (“One long table supported by three sets of winged lions..”…”The little dog has gone to live in Visalia/Everybody misses him, of course”)

[Tape cuts from Philip Whalen to Allen Ginsberg again, quite sharply, at approximately eighty-two-and-three-quarter minutes in ]- Allen reads a series of short connected poems “Meditations at Vajrayana Seminary Lake Louise, Canada, 1980” (“At midnight the teacher lectures on his throne/Gongs, bells, wooden fish, tingling brass, transcendent doctrine, non-meditation..”…”mists drift between water and sky”) – [Equally sharply, tape segues into a performance (with harmonium and accompanying musicians) of “The Rune” (from “Contest of Bards)]

A second tape here, presents some additional poems by Philip Whalen and Andy Clausen at this reading, beginning with Whalen  – “Horrible Incredible Lies – Keith Lampe Spontaneously” (“THE NEXT WOMAN THAT COMES THROUGH HERE…”..”TO RECOVER BETTER WHEN THE STARS COME OUT” – That’s what he said, don’t ask why) – “Public Opinions” (“Peter Warshall says that the slow loris moves..”) – “The Turn” (“Walking along Elm Road..”) – and this one is another friend speaking spontaneously, quote –  “I Told Myself” – Bobbie Spontaneously” (“I TOLD MYSELF THAT I WASN”T GOING TO GET HIGH TODAY…”) – and one last number… “Growing And Changing” (“WHAMP, WHAMP, WHAMP/and squeal of skill-saw”)

[Andy Clausen concludes the evening, (bringing all his pages to the podium)] – “Don’t let this frighten you, I brought this all up here because it’s easier to find that way. Well, I can do “..Chicago”? or would you like Sports? boxing? race-track?  –
AG: No, something serious
AC: Something serious, Allen wants something serious. My soul! – ok, I can do this one.It’s a conversation with a lady in it. There’s gonna be some places here and some streets named that are not in New York, it’s another city. I’m a clown here. Should I do this? – Yeah, I think I will -“Conversation with A Lady I took to the airport and loved Austin, Texas, and I was driving a cab (these are part of the cab poems, so you’ve got the scene) – “Another old lady, Another person who can’t keep up..”..”made out to taxi company, uncashed forever”) – and this (second one) is from.. a little prose-piece that’s under my real name, Andre Lalou, The Belgian – ha! – ok, we’ll skip the first..nah, it’s kinda short, we’ll do this – “Last Night in Chicago” ((and) this’ll be it) – (“We’ll take Jerry the hand truck operator..” – “..All that’s down there is hillbillies”. “They fuck”, I said”).

[reading concludes]

AG: Can you, when you leave, can you take your little trash buckets and glasses and paper cups filled with cigarette ashes and your cigarette ashtrays and empty them in the trash barrel outside in the lobby. In other words, pick up your little things. Thank you. Kitchen Yoga.

Addenda: Here, in case you missed it, is another (earlier, 1975) Philip Whalen Naropa reading

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