Montreal, 1969, Kaddish

Last week we featured a recording of (some selections from) “Kaddish” from a recording made back in 1969 at the University of Arizona. The recording featured today is from that same year, 1969, and was recorded at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal, (and remastered and restored by the Yiddish Book Center, Francis Brandt Yiddish Audio Library)

It begins with the cymbals clash and a few moments of Hare Krishna and ritual chanting before..preliminary announcements are made – (“Can we rearrange..? Why don’t you relax for a moment while we rearrange the stage..)

At approximately two-and-a-half minutes in (second segment), an announcement is made:

Student Announcer” “We would like to ask you to do something for the Free Health Clinic on Jean Masse. The Free Heath clinic is a volunteer non-profit organization whose main point is to serve students who need medical and other types of health in the Montreal area, especially around McGill. Now the Free Health Clinic is in desperate need of money or else they may have to cut off their operations and those students who use the Free Health Clinic will not be able to do so. So I would ask, very much that, as you file out today, if you could give just a quarter, or fifty cents, or a dollar. And if everyone in this room would do that it would go a hell of a long way to seeing to it that the Free Health Clinic does not fold. Now, Allen, would you lift the bucket please? If you’d just, as you walk out, dump whatever you want to give into that bucket, I hope you can fill up the bucket, I know that Allen would really appreciate that as well – for the Free Health Clinic

Now is that the closed-circuit tv back there? over there? Is it working? Alright, anyone in the back who wants to go downstairs into the cafeteria area they can watch the performance on closed-circuit tv instead of standing way back and not seeing anything….

Allen Ginsberg, October 1969 – Photograph by Cecil Lockard

At approximately four minutes in, Allen is introduced (with, it has to be said, a somewhat equivocal introduction)

Introducer: “I don’t suppose Mr Ginsberg really needs all that much of an introduction. I think he’s provided quite a one already, Tonight he’s going to be reading his poetry and then afterwards hopefully he’ll field some sort of a rap session in which he’ll entertain questions from the audience. It’s rather incongruous I suppose for a (the) debating union – and Hillel to sponsor Mr Ginsberg, but we decided that despite the fact that he’s probably not much of a debater, perhaps even less of a Jew, we decided to bring him in anyway, so I give you Mr Allen Ginsberg

AG Can you hear me in the back, There’s a lot of people here. My voice is a little bit cut from shouting into the microphone. Since I was invited here partly by Hillel, I’d like you go back in time to 1961 and read a piece of Kaddish, written in (19)58 actually, read a piece of Kaddish, written ten years ago (sic), Kaddish, which is a Hebrew synagogue lament or requiem for the dead, in this case, my mother Naomi Ginsberg – and, on this occasion, for Jack Kerouac. [Editorial note: Jack Kerouac, it should be pointed out, had died a few days earlier]. Can you hear me in the back? is the sound system adequate for you? Will you raise your hands in the back if you can hear – ok. I’ll try to speak articulately syllable by syllable …(If the sound people can keep track of these, I can’t entirely…well I guess it would be best over here, wouldn’t it?…

Approximately six-and-a-quarter minutes in (on this second segment of the tape) , Allen begins with the opening section of “Kaddish” –

Section I – (“Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village….”Last change of mine and Naomi – to God’s perfect Darkness – Death, stay thy phantoms!”)

followed by Section III (“Only to have remembered/Only to have not forgotten the beginning in which she drunk cheap sodas in the morgues of Newark…”….”Creation glistening backwards to the same grave, size of universe, size of the tick of the hospital’s clock on the archway over the white door.”)

followed by Section IV (“O mother/what have I left ou/O mother/what have I forgotten..”…”with your eyes/with your eyes/with your Death full of Flowers”)

Then, Hymnnn – (“In the world that he has created according to his will Blessed Praised..”….””Blessed be Thee Naomi in Death! Blessed be Death! Blessed be Death!/Blessed be He Who leads all sorrow to Heaven! Blessed be He in the end!/ Blessed be He who builds Heaven in Darkness! Blessed Blessed Blessed be He! Blessed be/He! Blessed be Death on us All”)

AG: (I’ll read for about) half an hour then, maybe at nine o’clock or so. we take a break, stretch, those who want to (press on) can and I can read for another half hour or so, or do some chants of Buddhist mantras, sing some of (William) Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, and read poems up to the last few days, up to last night, say…

to be continued…

[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at the beginning and continuing to approximately twenty-four-and-three-quarter minutes in into the second segment]

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