Allen Ginsberg in Baltimore 1973
Allen Ginsberg at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, October 1973
A vintage reading today from 1973 (see here) – Allen reads, principally, from poems that will appear in the collection, Mind Breaths
AG: (I’ve been here) pretty regularly about every third semester. So I’ve been here, I think, since the mid ‘Sixties, presenting sequentially, every alternate year, the new poetry that I’ve written in the last seasons. So that’s probably what I’ll do this time again. I was here about a year-and-a-half ago . So I’ll read poems written in the last year-and-a-half., since I was here in Baltimore at the Maryland Institute last time. So I’ll read poems mostly, actually, since New Years 1973 to this last month, and sing songs written in the last couple of…springs..since last spring and last winter, which means a lot of the material tonight will be preoccupied with broken bones, since on January 21st I slipped on the ice at my front door and had a spiral fracture of my right leg and went around limping in a cast for five months and on crutches, which was sort of a teaching in.. the problem was that I had been irritated at having to take care of some dogs in the barn and so I stomped out angrily to take care of them without putting on the right kind of shoes, out of impatience and blind irritation, and so got my immediate just desserts! (an immediate karma shot, so to speak). So a lot of the reference, then, will be just plain litetral reference to broken bones (and some songs – so both songs and poems will be preoccupied with that).
And the other thing I should explain is that I’ve been working with some Tibetan teachers, meditation teachers, in the last couple of years, and more closely this year, and so I’ve been doing varities of sitting practice and mantra practice (most of them very simple and easy-to-describe and not too mystical, not too complicated to explain now). For a long time… (The reason I’m explaining is that they are referred to in the poems, so it’ll be clear what the poems are about ).. I was using a mantra ah-aah- sha-sa-ma-ha (a Tibetan style, related to the Tibetan Book of the Dead actually, which some of you know about – some of you have heard of the Tibetan Book of the Dead?) – Would you.. those who… yeah… So that’s sort of part of the “whispered transmission” related to the Tibetan Book of the Dead – It isn’t in the book written down, it’s part of the oral tradition, from the.. from Vajradhara Buddha through Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, and the Karmapa lamas, through to the present time, an unbroken whispered transmission of how to use the mantra of spaciousness – AH! – to create space, or to open space, or to appreciate the spaciousness of the situation that we’re in – varities of it – ah! (crown), kaaa! (speech), shaa! (heart), thaaa! (belly-button), maaa! (genitals) aaaa! (anus) .
So, for different centers, different varities of that sound. So, to begin with the evening then with a chanting of AH! to open up a little space and then go on to a poem using the same mantra
This we haven’t rehearsed at all..so.. so we haven’t rehearsed this at all, So everything you hear will be fresh-born from spontaneous-minded space.
[Beginning at approximately five-and-a-quarter minutes in – accompanied by harmonium – and concluding at approximately sixteen-and-three-quarter minutes in – Allen begins with chanting and singing]
This is followed by the long poem – “Thoughts Sitting Breathing” – (“AH! – the pride of perfumed money, music food from China, a place to sit quiet/ “AH! – how jealous the million Pentagon myrmidons with billions of dollars to spend on Rock n Roll restaurants and high thrones in the sky filled with Electric Bombers – AH! – how jealous they are of the thin-stomached Vietnamese boy”…”All Space is fore-given to Emptiness -/From earth to heart, free space/for Causeless Bliss.”)
and (at approximately twenty-eight-and-a-half minutes in) – “What Would You Do If You Lost It?” (“said Rinpoche Chogyam Trungpa Tulku in the marble glittering apartment lobby…”….”None left standing! No tears left for eyes, no eyes for weeping, no mouth for singing, no song for the hearer, no more words for any mind”)
(off-mic comments (to unidentified accompanist) – “that was the first poem we did that we didn’t run over again” – “oh yeah” – “try it” – “sure”) –
Next poem, (at approximately thirty-six-and-three-quarter minutes in) (with guitar and harmonium accompaniment) – “Prayer Blues” [announced as “Broken Bone Blues”] (“When you break your leg/ there’s nothing to stand on…”….”JOD HE VOV HE /I submit to your Name.”)
[AG: (at approximately forty-six-and-a-quarter minutes, end of first tape) – “Could you hear the words? or was I too close, or was the balance alright for the syllables to be heard? – Could you actually hear it? Was there anybody who could not hear?.. over that side? ..ok..I’ll ty and make it clearer.. “]
[performance continues (on next tape), continuing with guitar and harmonium
“Everybody Sing” (“Everyone’s just a little/ bit it homo sexual/whether they like it or not..”…. “I’ll take you by the hand/and love you through the land/and ease your tender misery.”)
[(at approximately two minutes in on second tape) – “Broken Bone Blues” [announced as “Last Broken Bone Blues” – (“Broken Bone Bone Bone..” … “…& I’ll come down & bless you again.”) – concludes with the quotation – “Naropa, your clay picture of a body believing in an “I” deserves to be broken”
[(at approximately six-and-a-quarter minutes in, Allen resumes reading (three poems))] – “Yes And Its Hopeless” (“hundred million cars running out of gasoline/million coal stoves burnnig shale carbonmist over cities..”… ” …dead corpse of Myron the neighbor Farmer, the live corpse of Ginsberg the prophet/Hopeless.”)
“Under The World There’s A Lot of Ass, A Lot of Cunt” – (“a lot of mouths and cocks…” – “Dysentery, homeless millions, tortured hearts. broken souls”)
and, (from) “Returning To The Country For A Brief Visit“ (“Reading Sung Dynasty poems, I think of my poems to Neal/dead a few years now, Jack underground…”..strong as on earth”…”I do not know who’s hoarding all this rare work” – “Old One the dog stretches stiff legged..”..”I lift the book and blow you into the dazzling void”.. “Robins and sparrows warble in mild spring dusk”…”I always remember the spring I climbed Glacier Peak with Gary”..”You live in apartments by rivers and seas..”…When all these millions of people die, will they recognize the Great Father?”)
Next, [at approximately fourteen-and-three-quarter minutes in on second tape], a petition:”Mock Sestina – The Conspiracy Against Timothy Leary” (“The government charged Tim Leary with conspiracy/They kidnapped the philosopher from Afghanistan under arrangements prepared by the burglers of Watergate…”… “prison threats dreamed up by the burglers of Watergate”)
This is followed (at approximately eighteen minutes in on the second tape] – “Night Gleam” – We’re now.. we began in January, actually New Years Day was the first poem, that ah-aah- sha-sa-ma-ha shit on dharmakaya wipe-the-world away, that was New Years, and now we’re into July 1973 – England ‘ ) – (“Over and over thru the dull material world the call is made…”…”over and over thru the dull material world I make the call”).
[AG: I think we’ve been here one hour, so I think I’ll take a break now for about fifteen minutes and then I’ll go on from about nine-fifteen to ten-fifteen, and read poems from Summer until now, July through October, and chant a few more mantras.}
[At approximately twenty-and-a-quarter minutes in, the tape picks up simply ambient sound “….in an A-chord, I guess – an A chord – I might do something else – say his name? – does it say a name? – I think so – that’s a light…”]
[At approximately twenty-one-and-a-half minutes in, Allen performs “The Heart Sutra“] – “Tibetan..Er..Buddhist (originally Pali then Sanskrit) Sino-Japanese use and then English also. So the version I sing, or chant, is translated by Suzuki Roshi of the San Francisco Soto Zen temple – the Sutra on the essence of transcendent knowledge, the great highest perfect wisdom sutra. The mantra at the end of the sutra is gate gate, para gate, parasam gate, bodhi svaha, which we did before. This is a larger presentation of the same. The smallest presentation of the same information is the mantra AH! – the slightly larger form is – gate gate, para gate, parasam gate, bodhi svaha, larger form, or heart sutra [begins singing at approximately twenty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in, concluding at approximately thirty-minutes in – (“..that was the ancient presentation of most ancient news/als0 presented in the form of improvised blues/because we have our own spontaneous mind from which to choose/any of the nails of the universe or its nuts and bolts and screws”) …
[Allen then continues (from approximately thirty to approximately forty-three-and-a-quarter minutes in) with a remarkable extended spontaneous improvisation on Buddhism’s “Four Noble Truths” and “Eightfold Path”] – (“So I’ll begin with the First Noble Truth of those four… “)…
(“(I) made it (all) up..(right there, but) I never got it into a blues form properly”)
“Poem – What I’d Like To Do” – No, I read that earlier today, so..
[beginning at approximately forty-four minutes in] – “On My Illness” – (“Lord, heart, heal my right temple the bookshelf banged rising to fuck Peter embraced naked on the big wooden couch mattress..”…”lotus, scepter, book of..
[Then Allen reads from the title poem of “Mind Breaths”]
“(Thus cross-legged on round pillow sat in Tetin Space -/ I breathed on the aluminum microphone-stand, a body’s length away”… “…a calm breath, a silent breath, a slow breath breathes outward from the nostrils”)
[Then, beginning at approximately eight minutes in, (and concluding at approximately eleven-and-a-half minutes in) on the third tape]
So, now it’s 10.10, I’ll finish with a mantra…finish with “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”
[AG – Thank you – Hum Hum Hum – Followed by: ambient post-reading noise – Student: Do a little Blake? – AG: Well I’ve been going since 7.15 and it’s now 10.15, that’s three hours…That was pretty good – Bill..(sic) – thank you for the magazines – Could I put this together first, because otherwise I’ll lose everything?… thank you) – etc etc]
Audio for the above can be heard here