Alice Notley on Allen Ginsberg’s internationalism continuing from here
AN: I will now totally speed up with my list. But first I will go to sleep and dream I lose my purse (I learned to record my dreams from Allen and Jack Kerouac) but then I realize I am dreaming so I haven’t really lost it with all my bank cards and such – do I still have my identity, and my credit? (I in fact don’t have a credit rating.) Thus having awkened, in the dream, I am now sitting talking to a woman whose vocation is to teach Old English. And Allen is there. I then really wake up remembering that Allen once told my mother that I was a genius, when I introduced her to him in 1977, at the Basil Bunting (British poet) reading at New York’s 92nd Street Y – a statement that was helpful to her to remember while I was poor (am poor) and unstatused. I say New York’s 92nd Street Y though I am giving this talk in New York because I am writing it for everyone, and Allen would never assume his reader knew where the 92nd Street Y was, which city, having a readership among Bangledeshi poets in long white robes, French German Swiss Spanish Korean Peruvian Italian Chinese Belgian Russian Dutch Japanese poets and scholars for example, whom I have met, as well as among my Mohave Desert mother, a fundamentalist Protestant Christian of Northern European descent with some Cherokee. We, Ted (Berrigan) and I, gave her Raphael Soyer‘s etching of Allen, kept on her wall until her death six years ago, because she also admired Soyer’s work, another Russian Jew transplanted to New York, with whom I once discussed the poetry of Marina Tsvetaeva, the great Russian poet, modeling for him in his studio in 1970…there is only one interconnected, possibly damaged world.
So the next poem up is “Northwest Passage,“ from 1969, with its history-book title. This poem I hadn’t attended to before is a gem, written in Boise, Idaho on a supposedly specific day April 24, 1969, describing local pollution, beauty, companies and industrial reach – money and industry creating a financial, materialistic Northwest Passage across the continent, though by now, 2018, a veritable true Passage has been created by the pollution Allen describes, since thepolar cap is melting. “We just invented throwaway Planets! Allen’s poem screams prophetically. Boise data is dovetailed with the ongoing saga of Sirhan Sirhan (whom I once passed in a high-school corridor) – the assassin of Bobby Kennedy, and news from Europe “May Day parade cancelled for Prague/ says Police Radio to/the old King of May faraway -” that being Allen: “And I am the King of May” (“Kraj Majales“, 1965). And the Vietnam war goes on. Allen is able to handle all of this information from so many lands and places and crisis centers through his metrics, that he worked on so hard throughout his youth, keep everything in air floating musically, that’s how you do it: “Green salt waves washing Wall Street/ Rain on gray sage near Standard/ Oil junction Eltopia,/ Static at Mesa! Yodeling ancient/ Prajnaparamita/ Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate/Bodhi Svaha!/ Way Down Yonder in the Bayoux/ Country in Dear Old Louisian,/ Hank Williams chanting to country/ Nature, electric/ wires run up rolling brownplowed wheatfields – / Wallula polluted! Wallula polluted! Wallula polluted!”
I’m moving on, I’m a travellin’ on (wrong Hank – mine’s Snow) through my ten poems fast now, I’m running out of pages. Next poem, “Reflections at Lake Louise“, 1980, the Naropa Poetry Wars, hey I was there! I understand these lines – “Scandal in the Buddhafields/ The lake’s covered with soft ice inches thick./Naked, he insulted me under the glacier!/ He raped my mind on the wet granite cliffs!/ He misquoted me in the white mists all over the Nation” – Nation in italics, the political rag. Allen has officially become a Buddhist by now, with a Tibetan guru, Trungpa enscandaled, whom he co-exists with in Boulder, Colorado, at Naropa University, with Anne Waldman, of course: “She coordinates the J.K. School/ of Disembodied Poetics with/ the left pinkie and a/nervous breakdown full of personal/perfumo”. Who is not an internationalist? except all of America right now. I’m trying to remind you that the World exists. Or does it? Those lines turn it all to geologic eras older than people and their tiresomeness of being shocked – human disgrace, what a funny invention!
The concluding segment of this talk – Alice Notley on Allen Ginsberg – will appear tomorrow