Catching Up – (Ben Jonson, John Donne)

Ben Jonson (1572-1637) & John Donne ( 1572-1631)

1980 -Allen was absent and unable to teach one week, so poet Dick Gallup took over his Naropa “Basic Poetics’ class. Allen, on his return, was eager to find out what happened.

AG: What happened with Dick (Gallup)? How was the class?

Student: It was funny

AG: What did you take up?

Student: Everything.. (John Donne),  (Ben) Jonson….

AG: Did he do the Ben Jonson poem on Shakespeare?

Student: No, no, he gave us some background about their lives.

AG: Good, because I don’t know anything about that.

Student He gave a little bit of history (can you remember the name of…?)

Student (2): That was from Hugh Kenner

AG: Uh-huh.  Kenner? – on what?

Student: (He read to us from a book)

AG: Is that good?

Student: Well it was just biography, biographical text..not anything more than we did in the (previous) sessions.

AG: Is there anything in his introduction?  (I haven’t read it) .

Student:  Well, maybe I had a different..   oh, this is the English….

AG: Is that the Norton anthology?

Student: ..this is the English Literature  (Norton anthology)…

Student (2); (He started but) it was very long…

AG: Yeah, I’m scanting all that historical and biographical and background philosophical material (which is probably a big mistake), and if I knew something about it I’d probably fill it in, but I know so little and (so) I’m confining myself to their dates of death and birth, practically, and just examining the texts. What poems did you cover? (I should know that, so that I won’t.. so that I don’t re-go-over anything) . Do you remember?

Student: John Donne’s Song?

AG: Oh yeah (so) what did he say?

Student: He said it was pessimistic…

AG: What other poems?

Student:  (I don’t remember. He just talked about the notion of (a fresh convention).

AG: Yeah, I didn’t really cover Donne hardly at all, (so) it’s a good thing he did some more of that . I just did a few pretty poems but I didn’t get into his philosophical…

Student:  “To the Reader“…  “On my First Son” ..  (“Of Death”.,  (some others..))

AG: Yeah

Student (2):  “Inviting a friend for dinner”.. [“Inviting a Friend to Supper”]…..

AG: Ah, ‘cause I never did that one.,, How was that,  “Inviting a Friend to Supper,  was that interesting?

Student: Yes

AG: I’ve never read it through.

Student; Yeah, that was pretty good.

AG: I’ll get to it again.  I guess that. .it was that one “Ode to Himself” that was Ted Berrigan’s favorite, the one about “Where dost thy careless lie,/ Buried in ease and sloth?” – The last line of that….did you read that one?   He’s talking about high art would rescue him from his sloth, or that he should get on writing really exquisite poetry better than all those Bob Dylans (sic) with their “false baites/ Of worded balladry

(I don’t know if you saw that. Its on page two-six-two.. “What though the greedy fry/Be taken with false baites/ Of worded balladry,/ And think it poesy?” – “What though the greedy fry (small fry)/ Be taken with false baites/ Of worded balladry,/ And think it poesy? – “Think it poesy”!

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately one-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately five minutes in]

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