Allen Ginsberg Reading in Baltimore -1978 -1


Allen Ginsberg, performing at the Maryland Institute College of Art via MICA Digital Initiatives Unit

Last weekend we featured a reading by Allen at the Maryland Institute of Art dating from 1969 (one of a number of extraordinary tapes recently digitalized and made available on-line by the Institute’s Decker Library). Today we feature another from that trove, Allen reading and performing at that same venue almost a decade later. Once again, alongside his own work, (accompanied by the ubiquitous harmonium, and a hastily picked-up, confessedly under-rehearsed, guitar-player – “Hoppy from The Moronics”), he performs versions of William Blake, and effusively and energetically chants mantra.

The reading begins with some ambient sound and an introduction by poet-painter-teacher, Joe Cardarelli. Cardarelli starts off with a request for people not to smoke, or, if smokers, to go outside to smoke, since the air-conditioner in the hall isn’t working.

[Please note in the accompanying audio, sides one and two have been erroneously reversed. We revert here, in our transcription, to the correct (chronological) order].

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry, Mr Ginsberg isn’t going to be here tonight and I’m going to have to (replace him).  (I’m well-prepared!). No, All seriousness aside, a lot of people are choking to death in here and it would be probably good not to smoke because the air-conditioner isn’t working…

Audience member; You better tell someone.

…and so, run outside while I make the introductions, and chain-smoke too fast, and swallow the filters..


Joe Carderelli (1944-1994)

Joe Carderelli: I think we’re ready to begin. I’m Joe Carderelli, I teach English here.

Audience Member: Was that the introduction?

Joe Carderelli: Yeah, that’s it! –  I’m not sure what the reasons are, or were.  Part of the reasons were probably going to Catholic parochial schools, so.. I..  Most of my friends were Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans and African-Americans, and we had the school Sisters of Notre Dame, and they were very strict, especially on grammar and discipline. And, consequently, when I was in grade school, I used to be naughty and misbehave and often couldn’t come home from school until I’d finished punishing assignments, say, to write five thousand words. And, I knew, you know, how to use the language, through the grammar drills, but sometimes they wouldn’t tell me what to write about, and, I didn’t realize it at the time, I thought it was just bullshit, but actually, I was forced to use my imagination, and I had to turn my punishment (into)…. I had to make my punishment pleasurable. Well, at that time, I didn’t know that it was imagination, it was just my way of goofing around and making a five thousand word composition go fast, especially when I didn’t know what to talk about. And, the same pattern started in high school. I never thought of myself as a punk, I was more of a kind of a drape or a hood (and, I actually used to sing in acapella in a group, the DC Diplomats, in front of a candy store). And, because of my education, I did know how to read, and, inside this candy store was also a paperback-book rack. And I used to go in there, and I liked to read books about juvenile delinquency (sic), (to) get ideas. One day I was in the drug store and… (I also liked to read novels for sex, and a little science-fiction).. but.. it was the summer of 1959 and it was a People’s drug store, and (in it) this exact book,


this very book – [Carderelli displays worn paperback ] – I’ve had it ever since then – it’s the first paperback release of The Beat Generation and The Angry Young Men. It cost fifty cents at that time. It’s published by Dell Books. Probably because it said “Angry Young Men”, more than “Beat Generation” (I didn’t know what Beat Generation was, but it looked good, and perhaps I had heard some notice in the media, maybe some of these names I recognized), I don’t know why. Possibly I looked in here and saw some sex, but, anyway, a result of picking up this book was that I read… one of the.. most of it in there is prose but there is “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg and… because that was… I don’t know..why.. but I read that before I read much of the other stuff in here. And it was with buying this book and reading it that for the first time I was able to relate my punishment and my bullshit to the idea of literature (because everything that was required reading in high schools.. well, at least at that time, I didn’t engage in it other than it was history, it didn’t have much to do with (my) real life, and on finding this book, in a sense, and reading “Howl” for the first time, part of me was born – and.. that’s why – he might like to deny it, but – I think that Allen Ginsberg is, I don’t know, my spiritual father, at least.

AG: Yes I would  like to deny it!  It’s sort of a responsibility. I never wanted children.        Don’t look back…

I didn’t mean to be rude. It’s just that..

Joe Carderelli: I was going to read a bit of “Howl” out of this book but the entire section of “Howl” seems to be missing! – The main idea that I wanted to say I can almost remember, and it has this, towards the end of “Howl”, with the last line of the first part of “Howl”..

AG: …absolute heart of the poem of life…

Joe Carderelli;  Absolute heart of the poem of life

AG: “,,butchered out of their own bodies…”

Joe Carderelli:  Butchered out of their own bodies… “good to eat a thousand years’’ – Allen Ginsberg


Allen Ginsberg in 1978

AG: Thank you , thank you Joe.  [Allen introduces his accompanists] – On my right is Hoppy from The Moronics, and Kirk, who goes here (Maryland Institute) too. So we met up this afternoon to rehearse a little bit. And I want to begin with two songs by William Blake (I’ve been here five times now, thanks to the sympathy or courtesy of Professor Kinter And over the.. I guess it’s almost eight years or so that I’ve come back and forth, passing through here, I’ve been singing some of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. I think “The Lamb” is the most famous of those songs and I’ve sung that here (tho’ I don’t think I’ve done that with any kind of musical accompaniment) and “The Tyger” is a song I have not sung here, because I’ve just been working on that over the last month or so. They are.. So, you’ve got a lamb and a tiger. So they make a set. I’ve been working on Blake for about ten years, trying to get all of the Songs of Innocence and Experience tuned. “Tyger” is the hardest because it’s, in a way, rhythmically the simplest but also it’s the most horrific numbered of all of Blake’s songs, and we finally worked out some version of it that’s physiological, involving heart-beat, and maybe some breath – interpreting it like the “Tyger, tyger” as bom-bom, bom-bom, heart-beat. I’ll begin with “The Lamb” . “The Lamb” has a tag line at the end, “Little lamb God bless thee”, which can be used as mantra, chanted over and over again (I think we may have done that here before, I don’t know. Yeah). I’ve done that with “All the hills echo-ed” and “Spring” with “The Nurse’s Song” and “Spring”.

Let’s see what are we doing that in? – G? – Also, if.. I’ve got this harmonium here, and Kirk’s got his guitar, what we need to check out is if you can hear both and that it’s reasonably balanced, if the drums.. (the drums won’t be mic-ed but I guess you’ll be able to hear those) But if you can’t hear words, syllables,vowels and consonants, let me know, we can always fiddle with microphones.

(Allen to accompanists) You have to play close, I think,pretty close. I guess you keep track of that and if it doesn’t sound right, move it around for him, while he’s playing

(Starting at approximately nine-and-a-half minutes in on what has erroneously been listed as Tape 1 side B) Allen performs “The Lamb” (“Little lamb who made thee..”) (and, at approximately fifteen-and three-quarter minutes in), “The Tyger” (“Tyger, tyger, burning bright…”) – You were supposed to sing along, but we’re just practicing

(At approximately nineteen-and-three-quarter minutes in),  Since we’ve got musicians here (we’ll do) “Dope Fiend Blues” (this I worked out this year [1978] as a shuffle, of some sort…) –(to accompanists) How fast shall we go?  – (“Yes, I’m a dope-fiend, I don’t believe your laws…”…..Hey rich dope-fiend when you gonna change the laws?/Hey poor dope-fiend, join the Socialist Party (sic) because/they’re going to legalize existence, everybody ride a big white horse” – (Could you make out the words?) (Particular words). I was sort of mouthing and spitting and shuffling .Could you…  Anybody who could not hear (the) words, raise your hand. Actually, you could hear syllables? Amazing! – Okay..)

ah-mantra(Next) – I’d like to try, finally, musically, mantra (which we’ve done here before, actually done here together before) – AH! (appreciation of the space where we are – AH (measure of breath) – AH (purification of speech, since this is a poetry reading). It’s also something that’s good for community, in the sense that everybody can do that, it’s not hard to memorize the words – (to accompanists in the (chord of) G?…  (AH mantra is chanted from twenty-five to approximately thirty-three-and-a-quarter minutes in

(At thirty-three-and-a-half minutes in, Allen declares): I’m going to read mostly here new poetry, poetry of the last couple of years, but I want to go back to some unpublished poems of 1960, (19)61 and (19)63 (I’ve been working, checking out old manuscripts and old notebooks and recovering things I’d written years back, at a point when I was trying to add sections to “Howl” (which is a poem that probably most of you know, enough of you know, and (that) I’ve read here before), and there were a few fragmentary sections that ..Joe Carderelli doesn’t know because I never published them and Bill Kinter or anybody, just little fragments of trying to name names. So I had a whole series of poems called “The Names”, this is a piece of it – [Allen begins at approximately thirty-four-and-a-half minutes in]: – Bill Burroughs in Tangiers slowly transfiguring into Sanctity, season after season, no God save impersonal solitude/Mad Shiela shaking her head on a couch in Frisco, soft tear on her face half a year, 60 sleeping pills and blue asphixiation -/ Connie, much too drunk, slapped in my apartment by plainclothesmen & strangled in an alley by a lonesome hood/Natalie redhaired in a bathrobe on the roof, listing sinners’ names for the Government in an amphetamine haze, police scared her to the fire-escape, her body on the pavement broken in the papers -/Elise, trembling by the phonograph with a Bible in her hand, the Book of the Dead in her family wall reading her thoughts aloud, and her poor unmarried body broken on that ground on Manhattan Heights/Ray Bremser, running state to state, trapped in Hoboken Vera Cruz, rat-tat-tat Poetry defense, frame-up for reformatory, he thinks the cops are real/One Harry Honig home-made carried a laughing-gas mask & bomb for ten years. back in New York the Kosmos exploded for/ John Hoffman too, ecstasy of the black sun, Mexican peyote or infantile paralysis/Iris, suicide, delicate ships of paint fading into brown ocean universe – her long-headed junk – delicate girl’s penmanship of Orient small cats unfolded knees/ New York & West Coast grim as the A-bomb deathwatch is set/ Nobody knows the way out of the Time trap maybe Burroughs, maybe Jack in/ Florida drinking with Joe McCarthy’s ghost, grieving death of his mother who isn’t dead, scribing notebooks won’t be read till cold war’s lost by all”

And the other fragment is November 23rd, 1963 – a poem I typed on the typewriter. And it was sort of lost for a long while..and Charlie Plymell (who lived here in Baltimore) found it. He printed it in a little magazine he’d hand printed in San Francisco. So November 23rd 1963, which is the date of (President) Kennedy’s death – {“Alone/ in that same self where I always was/with Kennedy throat brain blooded in Texas/the television continuous blinking two radar days/with Charlie muttering in his underwear strewn bedroom/with Neal running down the hall shouting about the racetrack/with Ann with her white boy’s ass silent under the Cupid thigh/with Lucille talking to herself, feeding the pregnant cat Alice/with Anne mourning her pockmarked womb & the hard muscled chest of her Lover/With David’s red wine fireplace casting shadows back to the Duchess farm-boy faggot of Wichita, on fire in mainstreet/ with Lance with his crummy painting & leopard blue breast seeking to buy a motorcycle to crosscountry smiling & wan/with the manuscripts of nutritious Roselle the New York suicide on the round mahogany table near the kitchen/with Leroi Jones’ white-eyeballed war-cry unread, babbling in postmortem blue-sneer/with myself confused shock-fingertipt on the rented typewriter/with Alan with horses’ teeth metafysika demirely insisting he was intensely so over coffee/with Glen o’ the lisp & Justin the olding bluejacketed man-love off in autos to Mexico cactus hope/with the the fat lady with babe in the auto, feeding  & grieving her adolescence’s backseat/with “Go to Hell” spoke on the street corners down hill in dark November night/ with Judy’s blood in the furnace building up weeks before in campus-forest headlines, white-haired parents on Television/with Christopher running around in raincoats talking fast about his eye sockets seeing true streets of 60s/with Jaime phoning collect from New York insulting his lonesme Cunt/with Nemmie insisting she was drunk & insulting on the couch & Marko with a bandaged tendon hanging in front of his gaptoooth/ with Hubert in beret &  tweed beard absolutely sober on meth-freak newspaper splatter rorschach universe, drinking milk/with Jordan on the phone suave and retired jobbing invisible mandalas upstairs from the technicolor gutter/ with Larry white-haired chewing his teeth nodding in chairs weak & amiable lost the pointlessness/with the cat curled in white fur in the kitchen chair/with the transistor radio silent weeks on the typewriter desk/with the novels Happiness Bastard Sheeper from Tangiers Wichita Mad Cub Yesterday Today & Tomorrow/with Now, with Fuck You, with Wild Dog, Burning Bush Poetry, Evergreen C Thieves Journal Soft Machine Genesis Renaissance Contact Kill Roy, Etc/with spaniards appearing at the doors to know what’s happening, you wanna score or am I the sacred fear the meth-head fuzz the insect trust or delicious Jose/with Robert in his black jacket & tie deciding to make a point of his courtesy over the kitchen linoleum/with the Ghosts of Natalie & Peter & Krishna & Ram intoned on the shag rugs in the darkness of abandoned-rooms/with Blue Grace in typescript stepping out of the taxi  on the wall, and letters arriving from Malaga & Chicago/with me breaking off to rush in to the other room where Adam & Eve lie to get my hair spermy.” – It’s like little fragments of past autobiography.

[Allen continues with an introduction to the reading of his poem “Hospital Window” ]           – “I’ll begin with poems (from) two years ago, so (then) I’ll read on to the present – I was a… I got real angry and wound up sick in a hospital, for various karmic reasons, and woke up looking out the window, and started taking notes on what the universe looked like outside. New York Hospital, 72nd Street, East River.. “At gauzy..”  This was written May 20th at the time of the Mayaguez crisis – Anyone remember that at all? – or (has) that phantom faded into memorial history, memorial cello-time. (Henry) Kissinger and (Gerald) Ford bombed the entire Eastern hemisphere because they got mad one morning over coffee!

Audience Member: Menopause

AG: Pardon me

Audience Member: Menopause

AG: Yes. A menopausal blood bomb.

to be continued tomorrow

[Audio for the above maybe heard here, beginning at the beginning of tape one, side B (sic – not side A) and concluding approximately forty-two minutes in]   

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