Allen Ginsberg & Peter Orlovsky in Warwick (England) 1979


Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, 1978

Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky read and sang a selection of their poetry at Warwick Arts Center on November 6th, 1979. The performances were recorded (along with a further performance at the University of Warwick that night, featuring English poet, Tom Pickard). Steven Taylor was also on hand to provide guitar accompaniment.

The recording from the Arts Center is our feature this weekend and may be listened to – here

The reading begins with a performance by Allen (on harmonium) of two songs by William Blake – “My Pretty Rose Tree” and “Spring

AG: “A flower was offered to me”..on my pretty rose-tree, a flower was offered, “Such a flower as..”Such a flower as May never bore”, the month of May never bore, therefore an unearthly flower, or, at least, an ethereal flower, or a non-attached flower, not stuck, an un-stuck flower, flower in the air, I guess. [Allen sings “My Pretty Rose Tree” (“A flower was offered to me..”…”And her thorns were my only delight”)]

PO: Hold it, hold it – Could you hear in the back the words? all the words?

AG: All the S & M about thorns and everything? – Okay Spring”  [Allen sings “Spring”, including improvisation (.”Merrily, /Merrily, merrily to welcome in the year” – .”Merrily, /Merrily, merrily to welcome ourselves here, to welcome Warwick here) – (“Sound the flute!/ Now its mute/Bird’s delight/Day and night”….”Merrily, merrily we welcome in the year”)

Does anybody have any particular preferences as to what poems I read? No.. so..what we will be doing – we have (the time now at) five-twenty, or so, read on until six-fifteen. Peter Orlovsky has a book of poems so he’ll read some too. Has anybody got any particular requests because I have all my..

Student: “Wales Visitation”

AG: Wales Visitation, sure enough. Written, in the fifth hour of an LSD trip on the Black Mountains of Wales .Llanthony Valley, July 29th, 1967 – “Capel-Y-Ffin”, you may know, as Eric Gill and a group of communards in the (19)20’s had a work commune there , where they did a lot of printing, printing books, and furniture-making..and.. So there’s a place, “Capel-Y-Ffin, there, an old chapel – “Visitatione” is the name of the perigrination that the Welsh bards used to make from valley to valley telling who married the king’s daughter or what the latest gossip was (“White fog lifting & falling on mountain brow..”…”..moody black heaven/starless/upward in motion with wet wind “) … That’s about two-thirds exact as written at the time and then, the next night, a couple more phrases floated back in – phrases like “sheep speckle the mountainside, revolving their jaws with empty eyes” (which is about the most accurate line in terms of, like, you can see that – and also, (it)  suggests something that’s kind of uncanny, like nobody’s got a soul anyway, eyeing the sheep -especially if you’re high on acid! – “with empty eyes”) – those kind of lines are mostly written first impressions – “First thought, best thought”

Tom (Pickard) has mentioned several times.. I think some of my poems are taught here (in some class or other), and the likely ones would be “Sunflower Sutra” and (A) Supermarket in California”  – So I’ll read those, (which are early poems, 1950… Berkeley 1955.. they’re more like.. they’re little texts (that) you’d be most likely to run into if you were studying Modern American Poetry in anthologies). [Allen begins, at approximately thirteen-and-a-quarter minutes in with a reading of “Sunflower Sutra” ] – “Sunflower Sutra” – “sutra” is “suture”, joining together, so “sutra” is a discourse, joining mind, used in Buddhist terminology, usually used, (as) a Buddhist “sutra” – a discourse or sermon by Buddha.   ““Sunflower Sutra” (I walked on the banks of the tin can banana dock …” …”…the shadow of the mad locomotive riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tin can evening  sit down vision)

“Then, two early poems, written as part of the same inspiration, sitting around lonely in Berkeley a year later. One called “A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley” and then the original manuscript written down with a poem which is better known – “A Supermarket in California”  (but they’re actually both part of the same sequence or same thought. So I’ll read them both in sequence)

“A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley” (All afternoon, cutting bramble blackberries off a tottering brown fence ..”…”an angel thoughtful of my stomach, and my dry and lovelorn tongue ”… “What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman…” …and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe”)

And, I think, later.. is there any other thing I should read? Any specific text that I should read?

Tom Pickard: “Mugging

AG: Pardon me? – “Mugging”, okay. This is jumping..(forward) – “A Supermarket in California” and these poems,  is 1955 …so, jumping to twenty years later – Same station – different city, New York City – [At approximately twenty-two-and-a-half-minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-nine-and-a-half minutes in, Allen reads “Mugging”] –  Mugging  (”Tonite, I walked out of my red apartment door on East tenth street’s dusk…”… “…old lady with frayed paper bags/sitting in the tin-boarded doorframe of a dead house”) 

AG: Peter, want to read?

PO: This [points to his book] is my first book of poems in twenty years and if you buy a copy I’ll plant you a nut tree. You tell me what kind and show me where to plant it and give me a shovel and I’ll dig the hole and we’ll plant together – or I’ll plant you an apple.. apple trees, persimmon fruit trees, or quince bushes, or mulberries, or raspberries, or blueberries, or blackberries, or jam berries. The name of the book of poems is called “Clean Asshole Poems and Smiling Vegetable Songs” –

[Peter begins acapella,  at approximately thirty-and-a-half minutes in – “Woe – It’s Waring Time Again in the Armey” (WOE – It’s waring time again in the  Armey/and the sargent sees/that far away look in my eye..”…   “…but I was young & strong/ & could take it”), followed by, “& The Tea Will Seem Golden” (“OH. oh mama, where did you go..”..& we’ll pat bellies again and tickle each others feet”)

Then – “Lepers Cry” (“When in Benares/, India in 1961 Summer I was/flooded on my morphine mattress…”…”..Lazzey/Lazzey Bastard of selfish/Human Creap Sleep”) and “America, Give A Shit! /New York City – Get Your Shit Together”   (You have to sit and think this thing out, Peter-/How many pounds does my city shit & piss a day?”… “…looking up/ at the clear blue sky/listening to mama’s human fertilizer song).”

Peter concludes the reading  at approximately forty-seven-and-three-quarter minutes in with two songs, (the first with guitar accompaniment, the second with banjo (and song-stick & vocal accompaniment by Allen – and some spirited yodeling!) – “Keep It Clean In Between” – (“Keep it clean in between when you’re sitting on the green”) –  and (” This is called) “Feeding Those Rassberres [sic] To Grow” – Do Raspberries grow here? Do you got a raspberry bush? Two raspberry bushes? Five? Ten? How many you got? –  ( “5 years ago up in New York State/Planted 50 feet of the Rassberry Gate..”)  –

Student/Organizer:  Okay, I’m afraid that’s all but will you give another round of thanks to Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky and Steven Taylor.

The second Warwick 1979 reading (featuring Tom Pickard) will be featured here in the coming weeks

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