Ezra Pound – Background to Canto LXXXI

AG: …..And then I mentioned.. we had that little poem by Chaucer- “Your two bright eyes will slay me suddenly,/I may the beauty of them not sustain”  [ Your eyen two wol slee me sodenly,/ I may the beautè of hem not sustene”] – Remember?  “Merciles Beautie”  (it’s on page fifty-three).. and I mentioned that Ezra Pound had dug it, dug that particular poem, and I wondered why, or… He quotes it in the Cantos. So I looked it up,. And I thought I’d read you a little description of this Canto and a piece of Pound’s Canto which quotes … Read More

Chaucer – Merciles Beaute

Merciles Beaute 

Your eyen two wol slee me sodenly,   I may the beautè of hem not sustene,   So woundeth hit through-out my herte kene.   And but your word wol helen hastily   My hertes wounde, whyl that hit is grene,         Your eyen two wol slee me sodenly,   I may the beautè of hem not sustene.   Upon my trouthe I sey yow feithfully,   That ye ben of my lyf and deeth the quene;   For with my deeth the trouthe shal be sene.    Your eyen two wol slee me sodenly,   I may the beautè of hem not sustene,   So woundeth hit through-out my … Read More

Ezra Pound’s Birthday

Ezra Pound (1885-1972)

We featured a couple of days ago, the early English lyric, “Summer is Icumen in” (commonly known as “The Cuckoo Song”) Ezra Pound made a playful parody of it AG:    …And I forgot there’s this little paraphrase by Ezra Pound of “The Cuckoo Song”. Has anybody heard that or seen that?..How many know of Pound? (It’s) called “Ancient Music” – So let’s go back to that. where is that? ” The Cuckoo Song”? – ” Sumer is Icumen in,/Loudly sing, cuckoo!/Grows the seed and blows the mead,/And springs the wood anew.”  (and Pound):

“Winter is … Read More

Early English Poems (Piers Plowman and The Seafarer)


                                                   [Piers Plowman – ms from the British Library] AG: You know I’m beginning this whole course, which is a survey in English language poetry, in reverse, by reading you the latest, the cream of the latest, rather than just begin a little with Shakespeare. Well, next time, you might start reading (Ezra) Pound”s “The Seafarer”, (on page 994 – “Seafarer”). If you find any other anthologies which have a little bit of “Piers Plowman”, (which is not in here)  – William Langland’s “Piers Plowman”, for that alliterative verse, you might check it out in some anthology. I … Read More

Kenneth Koch Q & A


         [Kenneth Koch (1925-2002)]

Two weeks ago, we featured transcript of “New York School” poet, Kenneth Koch speaking at Naropa (back in 1979). This weekend we continue that with transcript of the Q & A that followed his lecture

Student: You.. When you write, do you get edited at all?
KK: I’ve never allowed anybody to edit me at all. People don’t edit poetry. I mean, if they do, they’re loco, I mean in the… You know, it depends.. If, say, John Ashbery were editing a magazine, and I sent in a poem, and he said, “Kenneth, I don’t.. … Read More

Basic Poetics 4 (David Cope – 2)


AG: Another corollary to – “The natural object is always the adequate symbol” (Ezra Pound) . The corollary is by (Chogyam) Trungpa here – “Things are symbols of themselves”-  they stand out in their own stark obviousness, he says, if you see them (so it’s a quality of your own attentiveness and perception, grounding your mind on objects, fastening your mind on objects, and focusing  your attention single-mindedly that makes it possible for you to see things as symbols of themselves, without need for things being a symbol of something else). Just.. In order to see a … Read More

Basic Poetics 3 – (David Cope – 1)


David Cope – Photograph by Allen Ginsberg – © The Estate of Allen Ginsberg

AG: Now,  I want to skip on to a modern poet called David Cope, who’s about thirty years old [Editorial note – this is in 1980] who writes, very much, specifically in this tradition of “minute particulars”, specificity, ordinary mind reality. And I have.. For various reasons, I’m reading through all of his poetry right now, (which consists of little, funny, hand-made, home-made mimeographed books of poems that he’s put out). The first one that I got was… Student: Is that Cope – C… AG:  … Read More

Basic Poetics – I – (Shakespeare)



Lady Smocks (Cardamine pratensis) “And lady-smocks all silver white/ And cuckoo buds of yellow hue/ Do paint the meadows with delight.”

We return today to Allen at Naropa teaching, and a brand new series of transcriptions.. from Jan 7 1980, the opening class from his course in “Basic Poetics – Part 1 and II’. The class begins in media res with Allen reciting a number of adages – [see “Mind Writing Slogans] –  (Editorial note – some of this material has been covered before, see for example here and here and here)   AG: “Philosophy is not … Read More

Swinburne, Pound and Bridges

[Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)]

AG: Did I do that last time? [Swinburne’s Hendecasyllabics]. If you listen to the way he handles it, it’s a direct transmission from him up to Ezra Pound up to modern days and into this classroom – “In the month of the long decline of roses/I, beholding the summer dead before me,/Set my face to the sea and journeyed silent,/Gazing eagerly where above the sea-mark/Flame as fierce as the fervid eyes of lions/Half-divided the islands of the sunset;/Till I heard as it were a noise of waters/Moving tremulous under feet of angels/Multitudinous, out of … Read More

More Writing Precepts/Slogans


Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)

Allen continues with the numbered precepts, thirty precepts, that comprise Jack Kerouac’s “Belief & Technique for Modern Prose”

 (24) “No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge”  – That’s a little bit like the negative capability of John Keats – Does anybody know that phrase – “Negative Capability”? (and how many do not know “negative capability”?  – One of the great phrases of all literature and all mind-tricks (it’s a great mind-trick phrase) which is..   It’s from a letter by John Keats to his brother, saying, “I was thinking about … Read More