On Mexico City Blues – (Chorus 41)

Allen Ginsberg’s 1981 Naropa lecture on Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues (on the 41st Chorus) continues from here

AG: If you haven’t got the text it’d be harder to… the text is funny because he’s got a big balloon in the middle of it.  “Mind” is empty – that is, “M-I-N –  a space –  D-S.  Then he imitates e.e. cummings by putting in parentheses “- (ute/and/long/ago/ lament)”

Does anybody know the poem by e.e. cummings that he’s referring to?

Student: This is Williams?
AG:  Pardon me?
Student: This is Williams?
AG:  What?
Student:  These poems are (William Carlos) Williams?

AG:  No, there’s a famous poem by cummings that was in all the old (Louis) Untermeyer anthologies, and it’s probably in all the new anthologies, that’s broken up like this into parenthesis about “the.. balloon man.. whistles far and wee”

Student:  Oh!  yeah.. “the/ goat-footed/ balloonMan…”

AG:  “the/ goat-footed/ balloonMan/ whistles/ far/ and/ wee” –   Remember?  So Kerouac is kidding or, taking off from.. “In the min   d’s central comedy/ (min(ute/and/long/ago/lament”
And exactly e.e. cummings in typography.  Cummings-ian typography.

“In the min   d’s central comedy/(ute/and/ long     NOTHING/ ago/ lament)/ of mind’s central/comedy  BALLOONS”

Dig it?  Get it?  Get the joke?  It’s a little funny literary reference to a poem which was so totally famous in its day, and still probably is a big anthology piece, that you could rely on anybody literate knowing what he was referring to.  But now (sic – 1981) this is twenty-seven years later.  Tastes have changed.  But that poem is still good by cummings.  It will float up again like a balloon.  It’s a great description of the space – of space, actually, the balloon man going down the street whistling.  And then the sound of the balloon whistling.  Or him whistling far and W-E-E.  “far and wee” is the last line.  Do you remember how it begins?

Student:  Well, it’s kind of wonderful   (“in Just-/spring/          when the world is mud-/luscious the little/ lame balloonMan..”)
AG:  Yeah, and then what? And then what?
Student:  I don’t have it memorized  –  (“the queer/old balloonman whistles/far          and             wee”)
Student (2): .. and talking about children also
AG:  What?
Student (2): (and) then there’s the part about Betty and Isabel)
AG “and bettyandisbel..” – (“and bettyandisbel come dancing/from hop-scotch and jump-rope and/ the/goat-footed/balloonMan/          whistles/far/and/wee..”)

Student (2):  (And they all come running)
AG:  Yeah.
Student (2):  Yeah.  
AG:  And little girls and boys, something like that.  All came running out from their houses to the street and then finally the picture of the balloon man and he’s disappearing.
Student (2):  Yeah.

AG:  So (Kerouac’s) connecting it.  He’s connecting it to that other thing – the other balloons, balloons, balloons.

And the balloons now has a funnier meaning –  “min     d’s central comedy” – (which is a pretty great phrase) –   “min  d’s central comedy/… BALLOONS.”  Because he’s talking about the void nature of mind.  So it’s a serious, interesting way of putting all that.

to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-one minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-four-and-a-quarter minutes in

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