AG: We also have, moving on fast to Robert Desnos, who died in a concentration camp during World War II – 1900 you’ll find him.. [Allen is referring here to his listing in the classroom anthology] – “The Voice of Robert Desnos” – “So much like the flower and the current of air/like the waterway like the shadows passing everywhere/like the smile glimpsed this amazing evening at midnight/so much like everything happiness and sadness/it’s yesterday’s midnight lifting its naked torso above/belfries and poplars./ I’m calling those lost in the countryside/the old corpses the young oaks … Read More
The climax of that method (applying Abstract Expressionist techniques to poetics) is a poem called “Europe” by John Ashbery, which was published in Big Table in 1961 or so, and then reprinted often, because it was his attempt completely to dissociate the language from representation, and to make something like (Willem) de Kooning, or Jackson Pollock, Jackson Pollock more, with a scattering of words on the page arranged in an odd way, floating around on the page, so that you would not be able to join the words. You’d have … Read More
AG: So (Philip Lamantia), (Andre) Breton and the Surrealist school wanted a poetry of marvelousness, not any old plodding (like) the plums (that) you left in the ice-box (“This Is Just To Say”) – (“I have eaten/the plums/that were in/the icebox/ and which/ you were probably/ saving/for breakfast/ Forgive me/they were delicious/so sweet/and so cold.” – which is (William Carlos) Williams), or the chewing-gum – (the little black mushrooms growing on the subway platform when I looked at them they were used chewing-gum) – [Allen is quoting from (Charles Reznikoff here – “Walk about a
AG: Let’s see what else he (Andre Breton) says (in his first Surrealist Manifesto) – “…(the) omnipotence of the dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends definitivly to ruin all the old psychic mechanisms and to take their place in the solution to the principal problems of life” – [(In other words, inspired automatonism as a response to a burglar or policeman or war) – After remarking that a number of poets from Dante to Shakespeare ‘in his best-days” (sic) might be looked on as “super-realists” (Surrealists), on genius, he says] – “In the … Read More
AG: Yeah, but Williams’ main method was literalistic – pretty much pragmatic Yankee literal, trying to correspond to reality, and Breton and Surrealism had as their aim to
liberate men from reality, or what was supposed to be reality, and put them on another plane of totally free imagination where there was no anchor-drag back to the forms that are perceived by reason. So they wanted something anti-rational. Maybe … Read More
Andre Breton (was) born (chronologically, a little) later (than Tzara) (and is) actually considered by the French to be a great writer and theoretician. I find his own writing, actually, a little bit wooden and his prose arid, but that’s, apparently, a solitary opinion, because many French speakers say that Breton is very brilliant as a writer. There’s a funny tone that he’s got of imperious insistent proclamation and manifesto stubbornness, which is interesting, and which carries over into the work of a (contemporary) American Surrealist – Franklin Rosemont, … Read More
AG: ..Those of you who have the anthologies, please turn to Andre Breton French (born) 1896, we’ll cover French. We’ll finish up with the French twentieth-century today (August 13th) and move on to the English for our final (August 18th and 29th classes)..
Student: Are you giving a lecture at the (Boulder Public) library tomorrow?
AG: Yeah, tomorrow afternoon, three o’clock. I’ll try and cover what we don’t cover here, and some overlapping on the French writers, on the Portuguese, Greek, Spanish, smatterings of things that we didn’t get into here
from “The Literary History of the Beat Generation”, Allen’s 1982 Naropa lecture series – his seminar on Philip Lamantia – a full transcription (the audio is available here (starting approximately thirty-one-and-three-quarter minutes in) and continuing here)
AG: So..we’ll start with Lamantia. How many know Lamantia? – I brought
Philip Lamantia was born on this day. He died in 2005. He would have been 84. Obits from the San Francisco Chronicle, from the New York Times, and from the London Independent give the general picture. We’ve spotlighted already Andre Breton, but, for the Beats, for Allen, Lamantia was/is the essential figure, the key link between Beat culture and Surrealism. Garrett Caples writes on the Breton-Lamantia connection here.