William Burroughs Jr. Naropa, 1979

William Burroughs Jr. (William Seward Burroughs III (“Billy Burroughs”) (1947-1981)

Featuring today a reading that took place at Naropa Institue in August of 1979 – William Burroughs Senior and William Burroughs Junior reading together (along with John Giorno). We’ll feature today, William Burroughs Junior (William Burroughs Senior tomorrow). The introduction is by Allen Ginsberg and begins in media res

AG:  …a novel called Prakriti Junction, an account of his own consciousness and body and speech over the last few yearsHis reading will be followed by that of John Giorno
AW: No, no
AG: Oh Bill Senior – great! – side-by side
Then William Seward Burroughs Senior  will read – also from a recent and as yet unpublished work, likely, since Mr Burroughs is writing, working here in Boulder on the editing of his 700-page manuscript called Cities of the Red Night

WSB No it isn’t it’s called The Gay Gun (sic) (Editorial note – The Gay Gun” became The Place of Dead Roads)

AG: Yeah, he’ll be reading from The Gay Gun, but while he’s been here, he’s been working on Cities of the Red Night. And John Giorno will follow, John being a fellow meditator, member of the sangha, a disciple of Dudjom Rinpoche of the Nyingma sect, who, I think, is on his way to a retreat (on his way to a retreat? do you know?  – in Wyoming, I think) – John lives in New York City in the same building as William Seward Burroughs Snr., and the’ve known each other many years. So the life community is strong and intriguing  for those of you who don’t know them (most of you know their work one way or another). So the first reader, aged thirty-one, William Burroughs..

WSBJ: Thirty-two!
AG: Thirty-two now. That’s right. Just had his birthday. Read sitting? You gonna read standing?
WSBJ: Yeah, I can stand
AG: Yes and can those in the back and at the door particularly be not too gossipy, noisy, and at the back settle down

WSBJ:  …. I’ve got a number of things. I’ll just try and go through as much time as I have, rather than walk all over everybody else. Some of this is true, and some of this is my own stuff, and some of the things that are true are really pretty flippy. I heard this on the radio the other day, I was just minding my own business you know, listening, life was ok, and all of a sudden the radio comes on, and it goes, “A sister is accused of suffocating a baby boy in her convent bedroom and stuffing him into a waste basket”. Now that sounds bad enough, right? – But the clincher is that the DA calls this – quote – “a problem to the community and a difficult case” – um, there you go! – And here’s another true news flash (and then I’ll get into the other stuff) .  “Last night, the country’s newest, most efficient, most expensive, nuclear submarine dropped anchor and lost it” – So our boys, man!  Let me tell you, just give them the best and they’ll fuck it up somehow!  Here is one from two thousand years ago, I don’t know if you ever heard of the Jain saints?  They sort of schlopped out of the swamps a little before Buddha. And this is one of their sayings – if you can imagine such a thing -and it’s a quote – quote  ”He ducks the offender in cold water, or pours hot water over him, or singes him with fire, or lashes his sides sore with a halter, reed, rope, strap of leather, whip, thong,  thong of a whip, or he beats the offender with a stick, bone, fist, clod or potsherd” And here’s the clincher, “When such a man is at home, his people are miserable”. That’s two thousand year old wisdom! – This come over the radio. It actually happened to a guy, he was minding his own business and got clobbered. So I wrote this down in memory of the poor fuck – “O cruel radio, Mr Man, whose name I didn’t catch. How could you have known? How could you have been warned across the centuries that a man of your time would bludgeon you in primeaval ooze with your mastodon bones?”  – (guy had a mastodon bone sitting on his fireplace or something, and a guy come and killed him with it! – centuries, centuries – ). – See, I have to go through this as best I can. This is called “Translucent  Boy”  (“I could’ve been a pale and thin busboy…”…. “sometimes white, sometimes blue, sometimes there, sometimes not, reflection on the ceiling’).  This I kinda like, this is dedicated to John Steinbeck Jr. because in one of Steinbeck Snr’s books he described dogs grinning horribly with pleasure. which I thought was a great image. So..(I) toss this down –  “Cripes, Misty mountain, why do I have to spend the better part of my life..”  – (now it goes into rhythm) – “it’s a new dog… got them taking-over dry dog blues” –  This one’s a bit too personal… yeah, this.. I’ll tell you the title at the end because that kind of makes the point of the whole thing – (“I never was a gaucho in Argentina”…”before disappearing into night”) – It’s entitled “True Story”  – Let’s see, if I got a favorite here.. (Burroughs reviews his texts).. not too much..  that’s science-fiction.. yeah.. I’m.. – this has no title at all -“(” I’m definitely getting older, or wiser, or just plain chicken-shit..”. “myself I’m alive out of sheer luck, just like you”)  – Oh yeah, this is kinda fun, I don’t know where the hell this came from. It’s true but I never found out what caused it. I was so glad to get out of there that I never went back to see what the song’s was all about. But it’s something. This is called “ An Excellent Time” – (I’m walking down the street, right? And this turned into all kinds of craziness). Anyway – (“The hooker said, ”You into gaiety?”…”I borrowed a blanket so big that it even fit under me lying down”) –  And, pretty soon I’ll be home. –  (A) couple more haikus – Yeah, I’ll try this and maybe two more –  This is titled “The Party’s Over Boys” – (“Knives, most often do very precise things once they fit inside you..”…”there is no end to it therefore the party is over”)

I think I’ve got about seven or eight minute left – (continues reviewing texts) –that’s a bit too weird – This sort of winds up in air but it’s an interesting image. Everybody knows where the submarine shop up by Borders (bookstore)? This is where this happened. This is entitled “Don’t You Move A Goddam Inch” because (“I haven’t a ghost notion of where to go..”…” his voice goes into hoarse imitation of pig-butchering”) –

I think I’ve just about got this beat –I think I’ll do three more minutes – there’s a couple of things I wanna work in here… “Damn it all” – I love that..  See,”I wrote “Patience” four hundred times and then said “Damn it all” – Here I’’m.. I’m sure I’m wrong, I don’t know the correct form of haiku but.. whether it’s 7/5 or 5/7.. anyway ..(“Guru situation/How does one know this?/A blue peg sticks in the wall” )

I’m almost done – oh yeah here’s “A Suffering Creature And Rickery Environment”  (“Once there was, as well as can be described..”..”Rickety Environment rebuild itself to suit the customer”).
I’ll just swing around to the very last here (sic), there were a couple of good ones. I’m not sure if they’re even in this book (sic). It’s crazy as hell trying to keep track of what you write.. this terrible tendency to throw it out. Well, I rather doubt, you know…(flips through book) – oh, here it is! – There’s one for Neal Cassady – ok  these three and I’ll quit  – This is  “For Neal Cassady” (“I dropped my harmonica… (WSBJ accompanies himself at one point on this piece on harmonica) “old cowboy, older buddy, bridge crossing the Denver track”…”Neal, make us feel (it’s no wonder)”
And the last one I’ll chop off the top half just to get to the one thing that I really think is important. Now this character learned me a whole lot. His black hat (and he used to work over in the veterans side of Lexington, Kentucky, where you get your junky cure and stuff and he was terribly upset, he came to me one day and says, “Oh I just found out about my I-Q’s 60 – “listen, man, you’re smarter than most people” and proof is (this is a quote from him), he says, “Bill, I told you once, and I’m gonna tell you again, there are only two kinds of people in this world and that’s people you can deal with and people you got to handle. Now you just remember that, boy, and you save yourself a lot of grief”

applause – Burroughs concludes his reading

AG: William Burroughs Jr is the author of the book Speed, Kentucky Ham, and, as I mentioned, present work-in-progress, Prakriti Junction, full of the same courage as the texts he read you just now [Editorial notePrakriti Junction remained unfinished but was included in a posthumous collection of Burroughs’ writing (and writings open him), Cursed By Birth)
WSBJ: Could you translate Prakriti
AG: Prakriti is what?  A junction? What was your translation?
WSBJ: Primal chaos..
AG: Primal chaos
WSBJ: ..to which we all must return
AG:  Prakriti as primal chaos to which we all must return. What is the actual..? There’s also.. What is prakriti? – material – material nature – in (William) Blake’s terms Vala – the vision of nature, the shadowy feminine – Shadowing his father, William Seward Burroughs, who is the author of a great number of illustrious texts which have changed consciousness,….

to be continued tomorrow

Additional notes:

Cursed From Birth – The Short Unhappy Life of William S. Burroughs Jr. – compiled by David Ohle – see here,  and here

see also Figaro Lucowski’s  Born Amped

James Grauerholz on Billy Burroughs – here

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