July 12 1995 – Part One (Ginsberg, Blaser, Brown)

Anniversaries. We love anniversaries.  July 12, 1995.  The above group-reading at Naropa, twenty-two years on. The above six were joined by Steven Taylor (on several pieces, as accompanist) and Andrew Schelling and Max Regan giving introductions).  The tape begins in media res with Allen reading  from his “visionary dream”  of the past January (January 14. 1995) , followed by “Newt Gingrich Declares War On “McGovernik Counterculture” , “The Ballad of the Skeletons”  (“Skeleton Keys”),  and “New Stanzas For Amazing Grace

Allen Ginsberg: “(Poetry America was born before us & will live after us — and would’ve been visible for every eye to see but for the scientists of poetry & sociologists of Academy measuring the vast)  mind with monkey calipers & teaspoons of ink —

“They took the Romance of the Road & built tunnels & superhighways & set robot cars in motion & airplanes so distant in the cloud you wouldn’t know if you were crashing in Bardo Ecstasy of just flying to Chicago on a boring business trip with a roomful of yuppies with laptops measuring the hunger of the crowds below in negro cities watching detectives crash cars on television to sell you a puptent full of glass armor eyeglasses, snooze suits, hermetic closets & after dinner mints.

“Meanwhile the vast fields beckon the open skies look down & yawn full of Angels & God sits watching us traverse the crossroads by Jimmie’s little vast farm wherein Grecia & Asia sit in the backyard while the kitten plays with the fishbowl on the kitchen window —

“So these Academy Daddies did their job on my literature & now if anyone can read it’s only box tops on the videoscreen or laptop cardgames to sell you insurance while you sit home with your head in the fireplace & your feet in the basement laundry machine, washmachine & dryer to you Mr. Fuddy, I’m home in our Deathless Valley I’ll tell you top that!”

So Kerouac raved & prophesied & continued down his path thru the farm fields cursing the Academics who distorted his vision of America in the world — I trudged uphill marveling at his energy & enthusiasm and devotional madness as I resolved to get back to my home for a little more sleep before saying another word.”

“Newt Gingrich Declares War On “McGovernik Counterculture” – “Does that mean war on every boy with more than one earring on the same ear?/against every girl with a belly button ring? What about nose piercing?  adiamond in right nostril?”….”…Poetry slams, is poetry countercultural, like a Third Party?/ Isecology pro or counter culture? Astronomy determining the Universe’s age & size?/Long hair relativity, is Einstein countercultural?’

“The Ballad of the Skeletons” – “Said the Presidential Skeleton/I won’t sign the bill./Said the Speaker skeleton/Yes you will..”… “Said the TV skeleton/Eat sound bites/Said the Newscast skeleton/And to all a good night”     [note – this version is extended and differs significantly from the version that was eventually published in the posthumous 1999 collection Death and Fame]

“I’ll finish with a song. Ed Sanders, early last year asked his poet-friends to make  “New Stanzas For Amazing Grace” (Anne Waldman, myself, and many others)  – “I dreamed I dwelled in a homeless place/Where I was lost alone/Folk looked right through me into space/And passed with eyes of stone…”

Allen’s reading concludes at approximately twelve-and-a-quarter minutes in.  He is followed by Andrew Schelling

AS: Thank you, Allen Ginsberg , poet-laureate of Boulder – and Manhattan – and the world. Thank you. Our next reader is also a poet-laureate, Robin Blaser, who left San Francisco nearly forty years ago to take up residence in Vancouver, last month was feted by the city of Vancouver, and a whole unruly string of Yankee poets came up from the South, across the border to Vancouver to celebrate Robin’s 70th birthday and a life-time’s work gathered up in his Collected Poems, The Holy Forest. Now, Vancouver’s an interesting city for an American, it’s not quite predatory enough, it’s not quite paranoid enough, but we had a big banquet one evening for Robin at an old post office a very lovely, elegant building , and some Canadians came up and made Robin the poet laureate by, quite literally, taking the laurel crown, a crown woven of laurel leaves, and placing it on Robin’s head, and I was clutching my Yankee skepticsm and shuddered at such an obvious gesture. I would look away and think I’m going to look back and wince, and every time I turned around the crown of laurel leaves fit Robin so perfectly. He has a classical profile. I can’t think of another poet who would actually wear with such dignity that crown. I felt I was in the presence of Pindar or Dante. Anyway, the secret behind this is his work backs up those qualifications to wear the laure crown. So please welcome, here from Vancouver, our great poet, Robin Blaser  (there follows approximately a minute’s silence – at approximately fifteen-and-three-quarter minutes in, Robin Blaser begins)

RB:  Okay..good.. Well, we better get to work, after that.  I just want to read one piece. It lasts a few minutes, it’s not awfully long. It’s called “Even On Sunday”, playing off the Melina Mercouri film, Never on Sunday, so its subject is fairly obvious, but it’s meant to be a message, sent everywhere, considering the Supreme Court’s view of Amendment Two. I think some things ought to be remembered by the Court, and by those everywhere, including Colorado, who have proposed such an amendment. The bastards are against the existentially given and Government has no business being against the existentially given. Now, having had my tantrum, let me turn to my poem – “Even on Sunday” – “I don’t know anything about God but what the human record tells me – in whatever languages I can muster – or by turning to translators – or the centuries – of that blasphemy which defines god’s nature by our own hatred and prayers for vengenance and dominance…..”…”going, gone into the corpus Christianum with its sadly separated body and soul / among these voices, I think of Montaigne; Embraces remembered (or still/vaguely hoped for) are ‘our final accolades’/  in whose arms/  even on Sunday”

Robin Blaser concludes at approximately thirty and a quarter minutes in, and Andrew Schelling introduces next, Lee Anne Brown

AS: Our next reader tonight, Lee Anne Brown has been coming to Naropa for about ten years, first in the capacity as a student, now has emerged in her own right as a remarkable poet. Dear lady, Lee Anne Brown has just won the New American Poets Prize, sponsored by Sun and Moon Press. which will publish her new book, Polyverse, in Spring of 1996. She’s just about to run out of Boulder, fly off to FraAnce to the Royomaut Foundation, a twelfth-century abbey outside of Paris to collaborate with other, translators, poets,  and other multi-media artists. Please welcome Lee Anne Brown

LAB: Hi. Thank you for coming. I’ve been looking forward to this reading for a long time.  As a way to start my section, I’d like to do an Invocation. Sometimes I sing Emily Dickinson. This is to Joe Brainard and to Marjorie Keller. [Lee Anne sings Emily Dickinson’s (1065) ” Let down the Bars, Oh Death -/The tired Flocks come in/Whose bleating ceases to repeat/Whose wandering is done -/ Thine is the stillest night/Thine the securest Fold/Too neat Thou art for seeking Thee/Too tender, to be told.”

And now I’d like to do my three (sic) versions of  Amazing Grace, after Allen (with Steven Taylor [accompanying on guitar]). The first one is by me, the second is by me and Lisa Jarnot, and the third is by Bernadette Mayer –  (“Amazing grits, how sweet the red-eye.”….”….iced tea with lots of lemon, mint crushed” – .”Amazing Space, how intergalactic the  worm-hole….”…”was triple another quantum reality”  “Amazing Grace..”….” got to bed again together in Apartment 9B”)

Okay, this is a new poem that I wrote for my manuscript coming out. I’m going to try to slip it in at the last minute, “Resistance Play” – (“All I need is a little resistance/ to come/ to terms..”…”your register of pleasure, you”) – And, this is a poem I wrote during the banquet, the birthday banquet for Robin Blaser, between the salmon course and the sorbet. This is a Present Bow which only uses the letters of that person’s name to make the word – So it’s “Present Bow – Robin Blaser” (“Able laser sear in rose…”..”robe and born”) – This is a very small poem – “After Sappho” (“So many people advise me against you/How glad I am we could not resist”) – “Pledge”  (“I pledge allergy…I pledge allegory…I pledge allelomorph…”..live by the gizmo gal lawyer”) – And this is from my workshop, we did an exercise like this, each of these sections contains exactly the same words ) (“Love..”) –  This is a “Poem for Lisa (“The car return-trip… “..”keeping going) – This is “A Bird Flew By With A Vowel In Its Beak” (“It was A and A says O and O says Yes” …”denotes Rimbaud”  –  And this is a request  (..”with a milkweed pod…”  .”..but haven’t fucked yet”)   -Okay, and that’s the beginning of a long work, as you could tell – I did that for Allen, after he wrote a line for every lover he could remember (I don’t know if he got all of them), and also, Bernadette wrote a great poem, Bernadette Mayer, “First Turn to Me…” it’s in couplets,  of different instances of making love.

(&) This is my last poem. It’s a game that you can all play, next time you go out for a Chinese or Vietnamese food and you get a fortune cookie. I want audience participation please. At the end of each line, please say “in bed” – The name of the poem is “Embedding Preferences” – (“You have the rare ability to recognize ability in others.- in bed!”…..”Be prepared for a sudden needed and happy change of plans – in bed!”)    – Thank you very much.

to be continued

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