RS: Now tell me, through this journey through this book.. (which, by the way, we better.. we better be professional about this and say that the book is published by Harper & Row (HarperCollins) and is available in most every bookstore in town and the title is Collected Poems 1947-1980 by Allen Ginsberg and, as I said, it’s a big book, it’s.. what? how many pages?
AG: Well, of poetry, it includes 750 pages of poetry, more actually. And of apparatus and everything like that the total number is 836 plus 15 pages of Latin-numbered introduction, So altogether about 850 pages.
RS: Are there some poems in it that are more meaningful to you than others? You know, like your favorite pieces
RS: Yeah? Like what?
AG: Yes, actually, like, I made it. I made it. I have a Preface to it..
AG: …in which I said, “”Reader may observe poetic energy as cyclical, the continuum, a panorama of valleys and plateaus, with peaks of inspiration every few years. This chain of strong breath poem links the song of The Shrouded Stranger of the night – “The Shrouded Stranger” (1949) with “The Green Automobile” (1953), “Siesta in Xlbaba” (1954),“Howl”, “Sunflower Sutra” and “Many Loves” (the latter not well known, 1955-6), “The Names” (1958) “Kaddish” (1959) “Television Was A Baby Crawling Towards The Death Chamber” (1960), the poem “The Change” (1963),”Kral Majales” (1965) and then “Wichita Vortex Sutra”, the next year, then “Wales Visitation” (1967), a little short poem “On Neal’s Ashes” (1968), “September on Jessore Road’ (1971), “Mind Breaths” (skipping two years to 1973), “Father Death Blues” (three years later, 1976 – ( I think I’ve sung that on this program in past years – RS: Yes you did), “Contest of Bards” a year later, 1977), “Plutonian Ode“ (1978) and then “Birdbrain” and ”Capitol Air” (1980) – and then, as a footnote (because this book only goes up to 1980) I said “White Shroud” (1983), dream epilogue to “Kaddish” and title-poem to book subsequent to Collected Poems is late work if true inspiration in this sequence” – Do you know that poem?
RS: Is that the poem about your mother
RS: I read it in The New York Times. Isn’t that the one they published in the New York Times?, the long piece? Yeah. Very moving.
AG: Yes.. I don’t think I read it on this particular program..
RS: No, Do you have it here?
AG: Yes, I have it here. Shall we read that?
RS: Let’s..let’s do it. This is.. yeah…
AG: Now we’re skipping ahead
RS: Okay, we may go over. We’ll have to figure out another way to handle it if we do,, Go ahead
AG: And then “White Shroud” is succeeded by another poem, a dream I had in China called “Black Shroud”
RS: This is..I came upon it in the New York Times magazine piece about you and I’m delighted that you’re going to read it. I was tremendously moves by it.
AG: One footnote.
AG: Ezra Pound said, “Pay attention to the tone leading of the vowels” (meaning the various pitches in the vowels) and I think this was one of the first poems written consciously with awareness of the possibilities of vocalization of different tones. (Allen breaks out in a fit of coughing) – If I can read it without coughing..!
RS: Yes, I was going to say, why don’t you start to read and while you do I’ll get someone to get you some more water
AG: I’ve got water here. So we’ll begin. – “White Shroud” (From approximately twenty-one minutes in to thirty minutes in, Allen reads “White Shroud” in its entirety) – (“I am summoned from my bed to the great city of the dead…”…. “I kissed him and filled my pen and wept”)
RS: What a blessing! And I think of the fact that.. how many years after “Kaddish” did you write that?
AG: I think 25…27
RS: Because I remember all that wonderful litany – “O mother with your long black shoe”
RS: It’s wonderful to have come to that 25 years later. Allen, do you want to read some more poems?
AG: Well, we have an April Fool’s Day special…
RS: Let’s do the April Fool’s Day special.
AG: …called “World Karma“. (Allen reads “World Karma”). (“China be China, B.C. Clay armies underground….” .. .”…Let them run the world after Hi Tech’s annihilated all other species & genetic strains from whale to donkey sperm” – midnight, 12.49, December 24, Kunming, China”)
RS: That’s wonderful. Well, we’ll end on that note..
AG Okay. That was “World Karma”, an imitation of a series of New Year’s Eve poems by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche used to write, sort of an estimate of world karma with a little pot-shot at everybody’s neuroses.
RS: It has everybody’s, right,. .That’s one thing I’ll remember. My guest, once again, is Allen Ginsberg and we’ve been talking-to him about his new book, hardback, over 700 pages called Collected Poems and it’s published by Harper and Row (HarperCollins). Thanks Allen
AG: You’re welcome, Ruth, Toodle-oo.