Allen Ginsberg at Fredonia, 1974

[Allen Ginsberg c.1974  – photo: Elsa Dorfman]  

More from the extraordinary Stanford archive. Allen Ginsberg at Fredonia (State University of New York) 1974 – here

At Allen’s request he’s introduced by the somewhat tongue-tied (and gloriously inept) ” head of the Student Arts Group” – “Have I got her name right?…”
Student: Thank you. – It isn’t an autograph…  [a propos to what?] – Ok… Mr Ginsberg has asked me to introduce him, as a poet, as I’m sure you all know. He has recently written The Fall of America and has received the National Book Award of poetry for it. He’s a member of the national Academy of Arts and Letters. He has written two books which will be out this month entitled  Allen Cerbatum? (sic) , which are lectures and..
AG (correcting): Allen Ver-bat-im
Student: the- ?
AG: Verbatim
Student: Oh,  lectures at colleges, which are lectures at colleges transcribed, He’s also written Visions of the Great Remember-er..which is a commentary of Jack Horowitz (sic!)
AG: A commentary on Jack Kerouac’s recent popular prose.
Student: He’s working on Timothy Leary‘s jailing for social activity, (Jail Notes) and this is the first time in half a year that he has given a show on the East Coast. So I’d like everyone to..(turns to Allen)..  No?
AG: No, well it’s a poetry reading.
Student: Poetry reading. so I would like everyone to make him… everyone please make him welcome and I’d like to introduce Mr Allen Ginsberg.
[applause]

AG: So.. begin.. Lets try to begin with… since this is also primarily a music school so there’s probably a lot of musicians here who know harmony), begin with a mantra which is less complicated than with what I was doing, with single syllable (which is appropriate to be in a poetry reading) with, a Tibetan and Sanskrit mantra for purification of speech, (as well as appreciation of the space that we share together both in the whole, in our heads or in our bodies, in the whole, and outside, so limitless space), a traditional  mantra used in Tibetan Lamaist Buddhism, in, actually, in the same line of study as Milarepa, the transmission, whispered lineage transmission, and the mantra is AH!. So what I’ll do I’ll use a three-chord sequence, and, since you’ve already got the mantra AH!  completely memorized, join in, it sounds good, (particularly if you get into a good chorale) – Allen tunes his harmonium]   A major –  (Allen proceeds to chant “AH! mantra for approximately ten minutes)

The AH! is a purification of speech in the sense that if you actually breathe as slowly as that  (abdominal breathing, for those of you who play bassoon or tuba), and breathe slowly, then there’s a certain body-lightness that comes, even maybe a little tingling of hyper-ventilation and a blank-out of other thought-forms and a concentration in one area, (both mentally and physiologically), on the breathing, and on the relaxed breathing so, from that point of view, it’s purification of speech and recollection of breath and, since poetry is articulated breath, it’s a proper mantra for poetry readings).

[Allen begins the formal part of the reading appoximately fourteen minutes in]

AG: So what I’ll read is from poems written in the last year. [1973] [Allen begins with    “Returning To The Country For A Brief Visit – (“Reading Sung Dynasty poems, I think of my poems to Neal/dead a few years now, Jack underground…”..strong as on earth”…”I do not know who’s hoarding all this rare work” – “Old One the dog stretches stiff legged..”..”I lift the book and blow you into the dazzling void”..“Robins and sparrows warble in mild spring dusk”…”I always remember the spring I climbed Glacier Peak with Gary”..”You live in apartments by rivers and  seas..”…When all these millions of people die, will they recognize the Great Father?”) – [Allen follows this with]“On Pablo Neruda’s Death” (“Some breath breathes out – AH! – Adonais, Atlantis…”..Some breath breathes not at all”) –

I spent last November, about three months last Fall, in a Buddhist seminary, doing meditation, mostly on breath. I’ve been continuing with this theme with you all evening, talking about breath, still.  So..The meditation was a.. paying attention.. a Tibetan form of mindfulness called shyiné or samatha, a branch of basic mindfulness meditation  which involved sitting back straight, ears aligned with shoulders, straight ahead, eyes open, paying attention to the breath leaving nostrils and dissolving into the space in front So, like, not paying attention to the in-breath, but just the out-breath, in order to, like, put attention outside so there wasn’t, like, a meditation for kicks, or for enlightenment, or for anything, it’s simply an appreciation of where I was sitting and the space where I was sitting.              So, in the course of doing that ten hours a day for several weeks at a time. (I)  had a lot of thoughts (including that last little poem – “some breath breathes not at all”, and thought of a long poem). The place was Teton Village, Wyoming, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in a cafeteria that we’d made over into a meditation hall

[Allen next reads Mind Breaths”, the poem,  in its entirety] – (“Thus cross-legged on round pillow sat in Tetin Space -/  I breathed on the aluminum microphone-stand, a body’s length away”… “…a calm breath, a silent breath, a slow breath breathes outward from the nostrils”) – [pause] [followed, with harmonium accompaniment] – “The Dated Blues”  (aka “Stay Away From The White House”), I wish you well” – written December (19)73, (reflecting the) political situation of the time. The text, which includes (Gerald) Ford and (Nelson) Rockerfeller is of December (19)73, also – (“Stay away from The White House, stay away I wish you well/Stay away from The White House, stay away I wish you well/Stay away from The White House, or you’ll go to Vajra Hell…”… “Stay away from nirvana, your ambition makes you blind/ Stay away from Brahmaloka you can only grasp the wind/ Stay away from every heaven, you’ll wake up in suffering mind”…”Come down, yeah-yeah, come down to earth right here/ Fredonia Township make your mind icy clear/ Come down to earth, Merry Thanksgiving, and I wish you a happy New Year.”)

(and then the requisite acoustic concern)

“I’m not sure about sound. Could you hear all words? Raise your hand in the back if you could not.. So, the back part, am I too close to the microphone? – {audience responds] No, your mind is wandering when we’re trying to focus the actual sound. So..the..  Am I too close for the back? or, is the harmonium too loud? If I’m too close, raise your hand, if it sounds like that. Is the harmonium too loud?  Am I not singing slowly enough?, am I not articulating clearly enough?”

[Allen continues]  – “Jahweh and Allah Battle”  (Jahweh with Atom Bomb/Allah cuts throat of Infidels”… “Both Gods Terrible Awful Jahweh Allah!”… – OY! AH! HU! OY! AH! HU!/ SHALOM! SHANTIH! SALAAM!”)

“A Curse and Exorcism” –  (published in Wait Till I’m Dead, with minor alterations, as, simply, “A Curse”)

“You’re going to grow old white haired withered, gasping/, stretched on sick-room bed helpless conscious oxygen/ tent paralyzed/ Several days secure immobile protected in near coma/ Fortunate karma, family billions, born to power/ wealth nurses richest doctors in the world/ unguents, attendants, gases, needles, morphines, private/ suites – / Then suddenly realize no help – coma spreading through/ brain nerves/ – your power Powerless your money sand dream-time/ illusion/ Lonely as an arthritic-handed charwoman washing the floor in a skyscraper/ You stare at the ceiling which disappears, board rooms and derricks/ extinct with your eyelids/ Remember the pain and suffering you caused others/ Power Head! / Stop & Frisk laws on your deathbed conscience! No- /Knock you introduced to the Nation 1963/ Anyone’s head bashed to the door — police in his own/ home no warning —/ fragile in hospital sheets remember your tough-/ mouthed Violence Governor/ Built insubstantial buildings highways drained liquid/ chemicals/ out of earth to spread over unsuspecting mortals/ poisoning their air/ Crazy cars roam the landscape lonesome scared of your/ police — You worshipped petroleum bank’s/ money monopoly with your brothers —/ Your anger ordered massacre guards and prisoners/ Attica Prison yard/ How you hid in your Albany mansion reading papers on your lap/ willing Mass Murder in Jail while junkies screamed to Stop/ their Torture How you screamed back a year later in front of Labor/ Unions to send junkies to death!/ Yea you money addict power fixer petroleum pusher/ grow whitehaired sickened frail someday, body pained,/ gasping for cancer morphine/ on deathbed remember Ego’s actions & hatreds/ Strangle to death as I will Governor, no guards protect/ you/ Die blind wondering where the President went, where poetry went, body went, money went, thought went —/ Reborn a red necked cursing gas station attendant on/ thruways paved in Hell/ Because you pounded the table for mandatory death penalty for junkies 1973/ You energy-junkie Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller be reborn/ in your own image.”

I spent the summer in the Sierra Mountains with another poet, with a bunch of poets, Peter Orlovsky and Gary Snyder, and a bunch of other people, building a… learning some carpentry and ditch-digging and building a cabin. So these are poems from May or June on and involved with that, with work, basically.

[Allen reads/concludes with early versions of two poems from Sad Dust Glories]

  “Tapping..” – This is called “Energy Vampire” (“Tapping star drill into Newport concrete foundation sill…”..”…This inspiration proves I have dreamed”) – “this inspiration proves I have dreamed” (the last line, “this inspiration proves I have dreamed) is from Rimbaud. ”Charity is the key”, he said, “This inspiration proves I have dreamed” (La charité est cette clef. – Cette inspiration prouve que j’ai rêvé!).

“Writ in Moonbeam” (the universe/ as it grows/ larger, a monster,/devours/More and more /children/ of its own/ greep whistle/locust.”

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