A continuation from Lenore Herb’s enlightening video-recording of Allen’s 1985 reading in Vancouver – see here
From the Lenore Herb Archive held at The Crista Dahl Media Library & Archive, VIVO Media Arts Centre, Vancouver, Canada
Allen is accompanied on this occasion by the guitarist, Gary Cramer
The tape begins in media res, with Allen reading from (a pre-publication version of) his poem “World Karma” (….burying his armies alive/Later Ming tombs buried excavator architects/& Mao officially buried 20,000,000 in Shit Freeze & Exile. much Suicide…”..”Russia had Czars and Stalin, all Yiddish poets shot August 12, 1952, in Lubyanka basement, everybody got drunk afterward,/everyone still whispers on street corners/America forever democratic, lawless sheriffs shot Indians, bad men, good men, chinks kikes niggers and each other”…”we had to Get Back to America lets Stand Up Tall/ so we can insulate rest of the world”…”other side of Eternal Dreamtime I vote for Australian Aborigines!/ Let them run the world after Hi Tech’s annihilated all other species & genetic strains/from whale to donkey sperm.”)
So I’ll finish with two poems and then we’ll be done – “Memory Cousin” (again, a pre-publication version) – “Memory Cousin” (“After long absence, I returned from the land the dead/ to visit my stepmother in her suburban apartment./ I looked from a distance, was it a mental hospital/standing on a grass plain far from Manhattan’s skyscrapers/after crossing Washington Bridge, or Jersey’s track houses/ risen gigantic during my exile in China..”… “If go away now I’ll be gone forever, Peter,/ Stepmother Edith, Aunt Honey & Leo, Aunt Clara/ and Uncle Abe, my brother Gene & Connie & the kids,/ I may never see them again. Here are their living eyes,/here’s the end of the Immortal Dream.”)
And I’ll finish, last poem, March 1985 (again, pre-publication) – “The Guest” – (“I’ve a pain in my back/ Fifth lumbar & sacrum/ Kidneystones alas alack/ can’t drink milk calcium/ High blood pressure about/salt I can’t eat/ at my age no red meat/ sometimes I get gout…”…”Next night we hugged and slept/ Chaste again and affectionate/ I answered the phone all day but kept/ winding him in my mental net—/ He wasn’t excited by my body/ I couldn’t expect his sexual love/ After this week would I approve/ his visiting, if I had to sleep lonely?”)
I’ll finish with a sing-a-long by William Blake – “The Nurse’s Song” – The line at the end can be repeated, like mantra, or like chorus – “All the hills echo-ed” -)”When the voices of children…”…” “All the hills echo-ed”) – [thunderous applause] [Allen returns for an encore] – We’ll finish with William Blake’s “The Tyger” (Tyger, Tyger..”… “..fearful symmetry”) – Thank you. It’s late. Good night. Thank you.