Allen Ginsberg Reading in Baltimore 1978 – 2


Mind Breaths: Poems 1972-1977, the volume of poems by Allen Ginsberg published in 1978 by City Lights

continuing from yesterday

AG: So, actually, I was in the hospital and I actually went out of my skull, I was full of antibiotics and fever and it seemed like it was about time to take a meat axe to that dirty Jew’s skull or something, (that was what I was telling my poor Jewish brother about Kissinger). So, finally, I wound up in a sort of state of punk ecstasy. So two poems about sickness, one a description and one a blues (which we’ll improvise, since we haven’t done that time) – [Allen begins with the poem, Hospital Window]  “At gauzy dusk thin haze like cigarette smoke/ribbons past Chrysler Building’s silver fins” – [poem continues on the  second tape] – “Fresh warm breeze in the window, day’s release/ from pain, cars float downside the bridge trestle/ and uncounted building-wall windows multiplied a mile/ deep into ash delicate sky beguile/ my empty mind. A seagull passes alone wings/ spread silent over roofs<” – That’s really like a still-life, basically, or a still life of New York City. That idea of a still-life, or a sketch (this is a sketch, like Kerouac practiced a lot actually, taking a painter’s pencil and fixing himself before a wall or a window or a chair and actually trying to describe language-wise the shadows on the chair. There’s a… He was hanging around with (Willem) de Kooning and (Franz) Kline in New York and painters, Dodie Mueller, Grace Hartigan actually, in those days, in 1951-2, in the long opening there’s a lot of sketches like that, opening a long book called Visions of Cody, about seventy pages of little sketches of Hector’s Cafeteria on 42nd Street and all the food in it, of the dust on a coat-rack on the Third Avenue El, like a little Rembrandt-ian sketch of some shadows sticking out of the wall. This was like in the middle of a total intemperate freak-out, an attempt to fix my mind on something outside of my eyeballs and describe . At the same time I wrote a.. “Sickness Blues”

(To accompanists) – Want to try and improvise it? – It’s easy. It’s a 1-4-1-5-1…there’s no rhythm, no rhythm.. So it’s just sort of answering the.. do it in A?… I guess it’s sung here, but.. it fits with that other poem – [Allen continues to tune harmonium] – (“O Lord I’ve got the sickness blues, I must’ve done something wrong…”…”I got the sickness blues, you’ll miss me when I’m gone”)

[tape breaks, and then continues, in media res, at approximately seven-and-three-quarter  minutes in] – “..and remembered a few incidents and so wrote them down as haiku – “Sitting on a tree stump with half a cup of tea/Sun down behind mountains/Nothing to do” (Nothing to do!) -“Not a word./ Not a word/Flies do all my talking for me” – “Fly on my nose/I’m not a Buddha/There’s no enlightenment here” – “Against red bark trunk/A fly’s shadow/lights on the shadow of a pine bough” – “An hour after dawn/I haven’t thought of Buddha once yet/Walking back into the retreat house” – “”Walking into King Sooper after Two-Week Retreat” – “A thin red-faced pimpled boy/ stands alone minutes/ looking down into the ice-cream bin” – (that’s instant karma! – already – “A thin…” – (that’s King’s Supermarket) – “A thin red-faced… A thin red-faced pimpled boy/ stands alone minutes/ looking down into the ice-cream bin”.

Oh here’s another song – [to accompanists] – Want to play some more? – This is regular, this is regular melody, regular rhythm. I’ll do one that.. We just sort of got together this afternoon so we’re improvising for you. I’ll do one stanza..and it’s a basic county ‘n western, basic county ‘n western. [To accompanists] – Let me do a stanza and then.. sing a stanza, hum it, and then you can pick up..[At approximately nine-and-quarter minutes in on what has erroneously been listed as Tape 1 side A, Allen performs Gospel Noble Truths(“Born in this world/You got to suffer”…”Die when you die/Lie down you lie down/Die when you die”)

AG; I’m reading poems in chronological order so we’re up to January 12th, 1976, my father dying, a series of poems called “Don’t Grow Old”, the title coming from a situation where, weakened, tho’ not in pain, with cancer, lethargic, unable to move very much, Peter Orlovsky, (who’s a friend of mine), and I, took care of him for several months, on and off, spacing that with my stepmother, and one night, putting my father to bed after bathing him, he slumped on the bed, (we were helping him put on his pyjamas), and he looked, with a rueful smile, at Peter Orlovsky and said, “Don’t ever grow old” – Don’t ever grow old”

It was actually prefaced by a dream, actually, so I’ll read the dream first, which is not formally part of the poem –“Dantean, the cliffside whereon I walked/ with volumes of Milton & the Tuscan Bard enarmed/ Highway prospecting th’ocean Sludged transparent/lipped to asphalt built by Man under sky./Far down below the factory I espied, and plunged/ full-clothed into the Acid Tide, heroic precipitous/Stupidly swam the noxious surface to my goal/An Oil platform at Land’s End where Fellows watched/my bold approach to the Satanic World Trade Center/ Father dying tumored, Industry smog/.o’erspreads dawn sky, gold beams descend/on Paterson thru subtle tar fumes, viewless./to wakened eye, transfused into family meat/ Capitalism’s reckless industry cancers North Jersey”

“Don’t Grow Old” – My father was a poet so I’m addressing him as a poet – (“Old Poet, Poetry’s final subject glimmers months ahead…”…”What’ll happen to my bones?/They’ll get mixed up with stones”)  “Father Death Blues” – “Hey Father Death, ..” – And my father died at that point, I was in Naropa, studying at Naropa Institute, at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado, teaching, so I flew back… on the way home, flying home to (the) funeral, (I) wrote a song -[beginning at approximately twenty-one  minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-five minute in, Allen performs “Father Death Blues”and, continuing with the sequence –  “Near the Scrap Yard my Father’ll be Buried/Near Newark Airport my father’s be/Under a Winston Cigarette sign buried..”….. “What’s to be done about Death?/ Nothing..”..”Not go back to Naropa teach Buddhist poetics all summer?/ Not be buried in the cemetery near Newark Airport some day?”

(Next) – Poems written now 1976 October. There’s a Buddhist slogan – “Drive all blames into one” which means if you’ve got a big argument – “It’s your fault, its your fault, it’s your fault”, put it all in one stinky ball and take it and then get on with trying to figure out what to do next because blame is empty anyway, so “Drive All Blames Into One”  (“It’s everybody’s fault but me/, I didn’t do it. I didn’t start the universe.”… “I was red faced my self was naked I got hot I had a hard-on”

Haunting Poe’s Baltimore” – two poems – written a year ago in town (Baltimore) – You know, the church where Poe’s buried, where Poe’s grave is, grave-marker? – “Poe in Dust” – (“Baltimore bones groan maliciously under sidewalk..”…”heavy-bound and manacled upon the city’s heart”) and “Hearing Lenore Read Aloud at 203 Amity Street” (That’s where Poe had a house here in town. I went with a young friend who read a little poem, who was, like, a Poe fanatic, read a poem of Poe’s in every room in the house and “Lenore” downstairs. Anybody here been to the Amity Street Poe House at all? – Yeah.. A few.. .Actually, it’s a kind of interesting little spot because he actually wrote things there- (“The light still gleams..”… “I have writ this ancient riddle in Poe’s house in Baltimore”).

[At approximately thirty-one-and-a-quarter minutes in Now I’m going to read a series of, like, four or five short poems then figure out what to do next.We’ll, take a break, naturally but.. So it’s three love poems (everything I’ve been reading except those early (19)67 things are in a new book that came out January 1st called Mind Breaths

Oh it’s probably around somewhere. They haven’t got it from City Lights yet? No?. It’s easy to get. City Lights books have been around a long time. It’ll arrive some time next century! – arrive some time in the last century.

Love poems – two of them are in this book and one I wrote the other night – one I wrote the other night and I haven’t tried reading aloud yet, there, it’s sort of a series, same thing, same rhetorical style or same rhyme style, taken from Skeleton and Wyatt and Dylan (Bob Dylan) and Campion, those song-style rhymes – “I lay love on my knee…” – The title first, “I Lay Love on My Knee” – (“I lay love on my knee…”…. “For all time is our wealth”) – “Love Replied” – (“Love came up to me/ & got down on his knee..”…”Hold me close and receive/ All the love I can give”)  – And then there’s a sequel, maybe a little cruder – (“Lack Love”) – “Love wears down to bare truth/My heart hurt me much in youth…”…”Thick and living, love rejected”).

[At approximately thirty-eight minutes in on side one (actually side two), Allen reads in its entirety his poem, Punk Rock, Yr My Big Cry-Baby]

Okay, it’s 9.30. We’ve been going now an hour and a half which is usually the length of a reading set or something like that. So let’s take a break, and those that are fulfilled, or want to go home and make love, or do something, welcome, those who wish to stay, I have one single long long long poem, which I wrote last year here in Baltimore (most of, and some in Washington) in a single…in three sets of writing, (which is, like, the major poem I’ve written, I guess, since “Kaddish”), which, if we have time, I guess I’ll read. So.. but that’ll take about half an hour to read, just one single poem, with a long song in the middle and end of it (or as part of the poem). So you’re welcome to stay or welcome to go.We’re both free of each other now and can go on to art and leisure (I got nine-thirty. I’ll start again at a quarter to ten)

to be continued

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

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