continuing from yesterday – The 1986 Faculty Poetry Collaborative Reading
Anne Waldman : Ed Sanders – graduated from NYU with degrees in Greek and Latin. He’s a poet-novelist-musician-inventor of strange electronic instruments. He plays the quilt frame . He was the founding member of The Fugs,a political rock group most of you know from the Sixties, which has been reactivated (very active now), traveling around. He’s written an opera with Steven Taylor entitled Star Peace, which premiered in May in Syracuse and is going to be performed in Oslo in the next weeks. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1985. He’s author of Fame and Love in New York and Tales of Beatnik Glory, Volumes I and II, in addition to three novels. His most recent pamphlet is called Hymn to Maple Syrup and he has a Collected Poems coming out from the Coffee House Press. He has recently recorded an album with the Fugs called Refuse to Be Burnt-Out, a tape entitled “Keeping The Issues Alive”, and a record entitled No More Slavery. It’s a great delight and pleasure to welcome him back to Naropa Institute after too long a time, please welcome Ed Sanders. Thank you.
[Ed Sanders appears approximately sixty-one minutes in]
ES: Thank you. Well, we’ll.. I’ll start out with a few poems using my various little musical instruments, and then, after I do a few poems, Steve Taylor will come up and we’ll even do a rock number, and then we’ll do some various ballads that we’ve been working on, love songs and so forth. And then we’ll close and we’re going to bring back The Naropa-All-Star Quartet there for a string version of the title tune from the album, No More Slavery
[sound of electronic pulse-lyre, electronic gadgetry, tuning up] – “They came when the Tsar banished the Yiddish theatre in 1882…”) – [Ed begins with a reading of “Yiddish-Speaking Socialists of the Lower East Side” ]
[At approximately seventy-six-and-a-half minutes in, Ed presents some of his equipment] This is called “the talking tie” [sic] – and this is called “the singing quilting frame” [sic] –
I was going to a poetry reading in upstate New York and you drive through the wonderful lake country up by Tupper Lake. I was driving through Tupper Lake and found this nice.. (item) there (I think it’s a quilting-frame, or an embroidery-frame), at a craft shop at Tupper Lake, New York, a few months ago, and I thought I… I went to Radio Shack and got a bunch of transistors and stuff and bought a Yamaha music computer, and, anyway, I hooked it up and it’s…[Ed demonstrates the sound] – and so it’s… I’ve got it tuned to F-sharp major because it’s the chord-system I like to sing to, but it’s just spaced…it’s randomly programmable. With this you can put any series of nine notes in here. I’m sort of learning how to play it now so.. (The problem with having all these instruments is that you have to develop chops for them, so I’m working on it). And you can get all kinds of sounds, like this is a harp (plays harp sound,s trums) and then you get individual.. (plays individual notes) – and then I get, you know, the bells of… the DX7 bells (plays bell sounds) – those of you who have the DX7, and then I like this violin patch that Yamaha makes (plays that) – So I’m going do a section, a hymn from the opera Star Peace, sort of a version of the final hymn – a question of how much male aggression do we want to put into a universe that we barely are beginning to understand. It’s called “Hymn to Star Peace” and it’s dedicated to Gary Snyder (“Arise, O Star peace, arise, arise..”)
“Well, so I’ll end this part with all these instruments. Anybody.. afterwards, if you want to see them, I can show them to you – a “show-and-tell”. I have many more I couldn’t bring with me from Woodstock.”
“So this (next song) is sort of dedicated to some brothers and sisters, mostly brothers, in the poetry world who’ve passed on, a little too soon. So the names in here are just some… the guys who died of various maladies, too soon.- One jumped out of the building near the UN, one was run over by a subway, and one died of complications of needle habit. And it has a Latin phrase – “Noli in spiritu combueri, which is, of course, the Latin for “Refuse To Be Burnt-Out” – [Ed performs “Noli in spiritu combueri” and, at its conclusion, announces, “Steven and I will do some tunes together”] – [There is a brief pause while instruments are being set up]
[The next stage of the show, (starting at approximately ninety minutes in), is songs – three songs – by Steven Taylor]
ST: Okay there’s a whole bunch of premier stuff on this program tonight. This is a premiere. I’m going to try working with the tape. And this is a lyric that I wrote.
Allen always gave me lots of good advice about my poetry, and one of the things he said was, “It’s easier than you think! – You just look outside your skull as if you’re looking through a window and put down the pictures. And when you pause, don’t think of the words but to see the picture better”. So this is a result of that advice
[Steven sings his first song,”Picture of You”, a compendium of visual perception(s)] – (“Hand moving on the Uptown E-train…”) . This is followed (at approximately ninety-three-and-a-half minutes in) by a second song, “Like A Star” – “This is called “Like A Star” and there’s a quote at the bridge, “Vaya la niña divina!”, which means “Go, divine child!”, and it’s from a poem by Jose Marti, a Cuban poet, which has all kinds of personal significance) – (”In the cities…”).
The third and final song was “written by a friend of mine, a poet in New York, he’s a native of Detroit and this is like what it’s like to grow up in an industrial..what do you call (them)? …corporate parks” [Audience member enquires, “What’s his name? – ST replies, “Alright..George Moore] – Some silence before the song starts up (at approximately ninety-nine minutes in) – (“Watching the furnaces light up the sky…”) – & after the song, more silence]
[Ed Sanders then returns to the mic]
ES: Okay this (1986) is almost the twentieth anniversary of the Psychedelicatessen, which sprouted on Avenue A and 10th Street in the summer of 1967 and there was a young woman who was wont to stand outside of the Psychedelicatessen holding a peacock feather in the left hand and a piece of incense in the other hand. And her name was Sherry Bendel, who had run away from home after her mother had heard, on the local Pacifica radio station, that she had just taken her History Regents (exams) on acid. However, Sherri Bendel has come a long way. She’s now Dean of a prestigious medical school.
So this is for you, Sherri. I won’t tell them your real name.
– [Beginning at approximately one-hundred-and-seven minutes in, Ed & Steven perform a version of the Fugs’ “Slum Goddess of the Lower East Side”]
ES: Are we going (on) too long? _ I don’t know.. What shall we do now?
Audience: Star Peace
ES: Well, no, you’ve got to come to Oslo for that. I thought we’d do.. since I.. well, in 1977, and I guess the last time I was here, I began, under the urging of my … the guy that kept me from operating an eskimo-pie franchise in Kansas City! – Allen Ginsberg – urged me to get into singing again, after I’d gotten out of it for years. So, this is a poem by Sappho that Steve and I are going to sing in the original Greek (it’s a four quatrain poem) – and I’ll do a translation – it’s for the.. the love poem..about watching a person get married – “Equal to the Gods” – “Equal to the gods/ is the man who sits/in front of you leaning closely/and hears you sweetly speaking/and the lust-licking laughter/ of your mouth, oh it makes/my heart beat in flutters/ When I look at you/Brochea, not a part of my/voice comes out/but my tongue breaks,/ and right away/ a delicate fire runs just beneath/my skin./ I see a dizzy nothing/my ears ring with noise/the sweat runs down/upon me, and a trembling/that I cannot stop/seizes me limb and loin/o, I am greener than grass, and death soon here”
[Ed follows this with a second classicly-inspired poem] – “This has an epitaph also from a Greek person, from Heraclitus, I won’t bother you with the Greek, but it’s to the effect of “You can’t go in the same river twice” – and it starts out with a four-quatrain poem from.. in “The Songs of Experience” by William Blake – (“The Lily”) – (“The modest rose puts forth a thorn..”)
“Algernon Swinburne was a bit of a dour cat in his later years when he was holed up with Watts-Dunton and whatever his name was.. But this is from “Atlanta In Calydon“. It’s in the.. We did this in 1965, for the hell of it, in a little recording studio on Forty-Eighth Street, and I’ve sort of revived it. It’s not my personal philosophy really, but it’s an interesting philosophy – (“Before the beginning of years/, There came to the making of man/ Time, with the gift of tears/Grief, with the glass that ran..”… “His life is a watch or a vision/Between a sleep and a sleep”)”
“Alright, we’ll do two more and then…It’s been a pleasure being here again at Naropa. I’ve had a great time. So you can sing along with this one. It’s got one of the all-time hook-lines for the Anti-Nuclear War movement –“Ban The Bomb”
“Alright, we’ll bring on the Naropa All-Stars – it’ll take a couple of minutes to set it up but we’ll get it cracking here just as soon as we can.”
“(This) song-poem was inspired by reading the love letters of John Keats to Fanny Brawne when he was first discovered.. or when his consumption became apparent, around 1819 and 1820 and some of the most beautiful love letters and the most saddest in the literature. And it has as an epitaph a quotation from a poem by Charles Olson – “O souls, burn/ alive, burn now/ that you may forever/ have peace, have/ what you crave” – (“I remember seeing you upon the trembling bed and neither one constrained by will to shove the other’s soul..” – “No more slavery” –
Bye-bye! – The Naropa All-Stars, folks! –
ES: An encore wasn’t in any way predicted, but we’ll do..the first poem that William Blake ever wrote, in his first notebook, when he was between about thirteen and fifteen. and it’s the four-quatrain – “How sweet I roam’d from field to field…” (“How sweet I rom’d from field to field,/And tasted all the summer’s pride..”…”Then stretches out my golden wing/And mocks my loss of liberty”) – Thank you..
[Anne Waldman thanks the participants]
– and Ed Sanders, thank you for the beautiful sounds.AG: And tonight, I think we witnessed some of the combination of Naropa Institute’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and the union of poesy and music, the refinement out of our suffering of an exquisite beauty which transcends our grumpiness and despair.
AW: Thank you William Blake and Sappho.
AG: So, in order to continue, the refinement of beauty out of our lives, we’ll have to continue with Naropa Institute, and the communion of poets, and to do that, we’ll have to seek for gold, which is the sign of our majesty
AW: Here here!
AG: And so, as Anne, earlier, asked you to participate, to help in sustaining Naropa Institute with your contribution, please do help us to continue for the next century
AW: Thank you audience too. Goodnight.
[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-nine-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at the end of the tape. This tape (also including the first half of this reading) supplements the tape-source cited here)