Allen Ginsberg in Vancouver, 1985

From the Lenore Herb Archive held at The Crista Dahl Media Library & Archive, VIVO Media Arts Centre, Vancouver, Canada

Allen Ginsberg in Vancouver, 1985

The reading takes place in celebration  of the publication of Collected Poems 1947-1980 (1984)

Robin Blaser gives the introduction –

RB: I don’t want to hold up. I want to get to Allen myself, and he tells me he has many new poems. But this is a celebration of the publication of the Collected book, and an occasion on which, I would like to… well, you know, somebody said, this is terrible, you know, “When somebody is as well-known as Allen Ginsberg, what do you say?  And they said. “Why don’t you say “Allen Ginsberg is so well-known I’m going to talk about myself for a little while””.  Alright, what I wish to say is that Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder come to mind every morning when I greet the Buddha. Allen gave me a  little… I would call it a prayer, a meditation piece – Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum – that I say each morning when those two men come to mind. Gary translated it for me as “Mind-Speech Body Diamond Teacher Lotus-Power Hum”.  So Allen’s very present now. This Spring, before I knew that Allen was coming, before any copies of the Collected Poems had arrived here, I had a class, a marvelous group of young people, twenty-eight, reading Robert Duncan, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg, (Michael) McClure, (Denise) Levertov. and so on, poems. We read together and it was a companionship that I enjoyed enormously   So thirty years later, I asked them if they would read “Howl” and respond. It turned out to be the occasion of the course. It was actually ecstatic. It was a kind of demand, and I only..  I brought things, but I don’t want to hold out, so I’m only going to take one example. One young woman, who throughout that course, hung on to her gentle and generous Christianity throughout, wrote Allen a poem. When she read it to us, I asked her to give me a copy and I would give it to Allen. She did not, but it went something like this – “We don’t have to live in this world./ We can live in another./ But you stick by your guns, Allen Ginsberg.”

AG: Working with Gary for the third time here in Vancouver, we’ll begin with some music. Gary Cramer (a friend of Warren (Tallman)’s. [to Gary] Thank you for coming here. It’s an interesting situation, should be fun. I have lots of new poems, a lot of old poems that I haven’t read before.  So we’ll begin with music.  I should apologize to Robin Blaser for laying a trip on him with Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum – because I didn’t know what I was talking about (and probably should apologize to the gentleman.. to the group of .. the Hare Krishna-vites for getting mad at them and swearing up and down in their temple today, saying there was no God anyway!)

So, a statement of Gospel Noble Truth –  the three marks of existence, four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, instructions for sitting, and a review of the six senses – sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, and mind (which Gary and I played I think once before when I was here).  [Allen performs  “Gospel Noble Truths”]

A little more music. “The Little Fish Devours the Big Fish” – 11pm Inter-Continental Hotel Bar, Managua, Nicaragua, January 25th 1982 – (“When the troops get their poop at Fort Bragg…”.. “Hypocrisy is the key to self-fulfilling prophecy”) – (and) –“Airplane Blues”.   (“Nothing here to complain of white clouds here in the sky.. “  Hearts full of hatred will outlast my old age”)

I’ll read now from Collected Poems, a collection of poems, 1947 to 1980.  Summer of 1947, New York  –“In Society” (I was in Columbia College and awkward, didn’t know w hat kind of clothes to put on, my pants were baggy. (“I walked into the cocktail party room…” … “inspired at last, dominating the whole room”)

(Next) I’m reading “Green Valentine Blues”, Chiapas, 1954,..or singing acapella (the first, or second song I wrote, that’s published here) – (“I went in the forest to look for a sign..”…   “My Green Valentine”).

I guess I should’ve explained that the first poem (“In Society”) was a dream.

[Allen next reads a long erotic poem dedicated to Neal Cassady]

1956, published for the first time in a chapbook in New York, Pequod chapbooks by Arlene Dahlberg, and then published here –“Many Loves”. (with an epigraph from Walt Whitman – “Resolve  to sing no songs henceforth but those of manly attachment”)  – (“Neal Cassady was my animal…”.  “…and I lay here naked in the dark dreaming”)

[Allen next reads in its entirety “Kral Majales”]

Since it is May, beginning of May, a poem appropriate to that time, “Kral Majales”, written May 7. 1965   Since  some friends from Prague are here who ran an interesting café called ICafé Viola where poetry by myself and  (Lawrence) Ferlinghetti and others was recited till the tanks rolled in – Kral Majales  (“And the Communists..”  …” on a jet seated mid-Heaven”)

Next, “from a series of poems called “Don’t Grow Old” – two short poems and a song, “Father Death Blues” (but first) “Put Down Yr Cigarette Rag” (since I quit smoking a couple of weeks ago, I can sing it with a clear conscience )  (“Don’t smoke, don’t smoke..”.. “don’t smoke, don’t smoke.”)

[Allen continues] – From this book (sic) , complete as .at… 1976, as Warren Tallman requested, several poems from a series on the death of my father, Louis Ginsberg, poet. “Don’t Grow Old”. (“Wasted arms, feeble knees…” ” …it was a glue factory”.. “Will that happen to me?.. “mixed up with stones”) – (And) my father died. Those were written while I was attending him. And I was at Naropa Institute, flew back for the funeral – “Father Death Blues”, song, written on the airplane over Lake Michigan, July 8, 1976

[Allen performs “Father Death Blues”]

Next, October 1983, (so, going beyond the book to some poems written in ’83 and ’84  (and, maybe, 1981 to present)) – “White Shroud”

In 1960 I wrote a long poem called “Kaddish” on my mother’s death, and teaching at Naropa Institute this summer assigned as homework to have a dream in the manner of Edgar Allan Poe and write it in rhyme and also write a narrative poem. So that night I went home and had a dream and this is the dream, called “White Shroud”. My mother’s name was Naomi Ginsberg and the poem “Kaddish” was about her death in Pilgrim State Hospital, a mental hospital on Long Island.

[Allen reads in its entirety, “White Shroud”] – (” I am summoned from my bed to the great city of the dead…” ..”“I kissed him and filled my pen and wept”

[Tape ends with a number of edited snippets]

November 1984, at various times, visiting the dead in China…”  “This is..  The title of this poem is, “Written in My Dream By William Carlos Williams”. I met Doctor Williams in a dream. He wrote a poem and when I woke up copied it down”. So. (“As is/your bearing/ a common truth…”…”..take your chance on your accuracy…) [Allen reads partially from the poem and also from “Student Love” ( “In twenty years, pot-bellied, bright-eyed..”… both of us weeping at a hospital bedside”) – [and fromIt’s All So Brief”] “It’s all so brief I’ve got to give up/ Books, checks, letters, even the ache in my teeth..”

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