Allen Ginsberg on Bob Dylan’s Desire

“Songs of Redemption” – Revisiting Allen Ginsberg’s liner notes to Bob Dylan’s classic 1976 album, Desire


Hurricane, the only innocent Hurricane. protest song: Pro (in favor) – Attest (testify for) the character case of Boxer Mr. Carter framed on bum rap Passaic County N.J. whom Dylan minstrel visited in jail. Doctor Poet W.C. Williams dying nearby said “A new world is only a new mind.” & spent life redeeming pure North Jersey language so later poets could sing “tough iron metal” talk rhymes

“They want to put his ass in stir
They want to pin this triple murder on him
…He coulda been the champion of the wooorld-”
& end plain as day
to live in a land where Justice is a game!”
so every Paterson kid will know News furthermore that
“Rubin sits like Buddha in a 10 foot cell.”

Big daily Announcement. song’ll hit the streets Supreme Courts’ll have coughed & weeped. Rubin Carter sprung pray God if there’s One in America – familiar harmonica pierces ears that just heard about

“criminals in their coats & ties…”

Old bards & Minstrels rhymed their years’ news on pilgrimage road – Visitations town to town singing Kings’ shepherds’ cowboys’ & lawyers’ secrets – Good Citizen Minstrel truth’s instantaneously heard. Big Sound in conscious generations. Local newsboy-prophet song echoes old youthful idealistic William ZanZinger poem. amplified alive. 1975. Dead protest? Woody Guthrie lineage road bards’ll still make us weep where there’s suffering to be sung.

Dylan’s Redemption Songs! If he can do it we can do it. America can do it. “It’s all right Ma I can make it.” Yes! with tough gold metal compassion. he’s giving away Gold again – but remember. good Anarchists. “To live outside the Law you must be honest.” Drunken aggressive beer bottles’ll never redeem anybody – But clear conscious song can. every syllable pronounced. every consonant sneered out with lips risen over teeth to pronounce them exactly to a T in microphone. snarled out NOT for bummer ego put-down but instead for egoless enunciation of exact phrasings so everyone can hear intelligence – which is only your own heart Dear.

Isis here recorded. the singer later developed onstage sung for weeks whiteface, big grey hat stuck with November leaves & flowers – no instrument in  hand. thin Chaplinesque body dancing to syllables sustained by Rolling Thunder band rhythm following Dylan’s spontaneous ritards & talk-like mouthings for clarity. “It’s only natchural.” So you can hear it! With two-part dialogue! Big discovery. these songs are the culmination of Poetry-music as dreamt of in the 50′s & early 60′s – poets reciting-chanting with instruments and bongos – Steady rhythm behind the elastic language. poet alone at microphone reciting-singing surreal-history love text ending in giant “YEAH!” when minstrel gives his heart away & says he wants to stay. Dylan will stay here with us! “You may not see me tomorrow.” So he now lets loose his long-vowel yowls & yawps over smalltowns’ antennaed rooftops, To Isis Moon Lady Language Creator Birth Goddess. Mother of Ra. Saraswati & Kali-Matoo. Hecate. Ea. Astarte. Sophia & Aphrodite. Divine. Mother.

Oh Sister. who’s he talking about? Eternal sister? Good citizen sisters. he’s still tender friend – lost alone loved like a thin terrified guru by every seeker in America who’s heard that long-vowelled voice in heroic ecstasy triumphant. “How does it feel?” And now come down from that Mountain of Sound. singing like a Biblical mortal

“Oh sister am I not a brother to you
And one deserving of affection?
And is our purpose not the same on this Earth
To love and follow his direction?
We grew up together from the cradle to the grave
Time is an ocean but it ends at the shore.
You may not see me tomorrow.”

Follows the first City Narrative. solid facts beating foreward with drums & violins – like a jagged short story. ballad sung by hero making hero of unlikely sensitive gangster Gallo. hard iron metal Villonesque stoicism & sympathy, with long lamenting refrain over name anonymous in 25 years Joey. with dialogue movie panoramic cold suns over Brooklyn – and your inside news the papers didn’t interpret for the murdered outlaw.

Black Diamond Bay’s also a short novel in verse. oldfashioned Dylan surrealist mind-jump inventions line by line. except D. says he’s reading Joseph Conrad storyteller. so hear continuous succession of Panama Hat Necktie details, exploding boilers & characters disappearing in tornados – Suddenly a big dissolve & you’re sitting with minstrel Dylan in L.A. household watching the same poem Cronkited on TV news: bard sings the awful movie where everybody loses & what can you say? My father age 80 also bowed his head & said, “What can you do?” under his breath. Interesting, this long real-life spy hallucination tale opening the mind – suddenly put back into the Samsara tube with a cynic lament. it’s hopelessness – the condition of World on its own bummer. not ours or Dylan’s – we’re only 25% responsible the Crazy Wisdom Lama says.

By the time Dylan made the great disillusioned national rhyme Idiot Wind
“… Blowing like a circle round your skull
From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol…”

he must’ve been ready for another surge of unafraid prophetic feeling – odd weeks seeking community he’d gone back to Other End Bleeker Street music house & jammed & drunk with ancient friend song improvisor Bob Neuwirth & also anonymous genius street studio guitarists drummers violin prodigies Rob Stoner, Howie Wyeth & Botticelli-faced little David Mansfield from New Jersey – stopped his red car in East Village for ravenhaired Scarlet Rivera walking with her violin case – giant adolescent T-Bone Burnett materialized from Texas. Steven Soles from Blues New York – Half-month was spent solitary on Long Island with theatrist Jacques Levy working on song facts phrases & rhymes. sharing information seriousness – Lots of high rhythmic art. like the fast Mexican 11 syllables beginning Durango “Hot Chili Peppers in the blistering sun” masterpieces emerged – Song became conscious poetry. the best you can say in total rhythm. allowing for mother’s radiotalk. allowing for the singer to open his whole body for Inspiration to breathe out a long mad vowel to nail down the word into everyone’s heart – That’s where you get the funny syncopation – waiting to pronounce the line just right as the music marches by. free. hopeless. jumping in and out the fatal chords. “We not make it through the night.”

“But he’s still like an electric bullet.” the Buddhist boy said. where’s the great slowdown tenderness where everyone knows where Dylan’s at under his minstrel Hat? Two songs his own heart-life sings alone. total. One More Cup of Coffee for the Road – voice lifts in Hebraic cantillation never heard before in U.S. song. ancient blood singing – a new age, a new Dylan again redeemed. at ease – A little bit like America now. not paranoid any more. it’s the real Seventies – (every generation-decade flowers in the middle. Poetry Renaissance 1955. Peace Vietnam Berkeley 1965) – for now the congregation of poets sings across the land with new old soul-joy. shit burned out. ego recognized & allow’d its place. pleasure-lust put aside with suicidal pain. heart stilled & singing clear. cantillating like synagogue cantor. “’fore I go down to the Valley below.”

How far has he gone? All the way from scared solitude inner prophetics – building on that mind-honesty strangeness – to openhearted personal historical confession. As Coffee for Road’s Semitic mode. Sara. is profound ancient tune revealing family paradigm – telling Wife & World the last secrets of solitary weeping art:

“Staying up for days in the Chelsea Hotel
Writing Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowland for you”

Who woulda thought he’d say it. so everybody’d finally know him. same soul crying vulnerable caught in a body we all are? – enough Person revealed to make Whitman’s whole nation weep. And behind it all the vast lone space of No God. or God. mindful conscious compassion. lifetime awareness. we’re here in America at last. redeemed. O Generation. keep on working!

Allen Ginsberg
Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics
Naropa Institute
York Harbor, Maine
10 November 1975


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