Tuesday, August 23, 2016

John Dowland/Basil Bunting

                           [John Dowland (1563-1626)]

Allen Ginsberg's January 1980 Basic Poetics class continues (in preparation for future notes on John Dowland

AG; Apparently, I have.. the “Fine Knacks For Ladies" that you gave me the recording? – I have some  (John) Dowland around and I had that so I’ll try and bring in a… I was going to try and get Charlie (Ross - sic) to bring in a phonograph today. Were there any others on that  beside the "Fine Knacks For Ladies" ?   

Student: There’s Dowland’s setting of "Weep No More Sad Fountains" on that other one.

AG: Ah, good ok.. We've got both of them then -  "Dough-land" (that’s how  (Basil) Bunting pronounces it)  
Student: What's that?
AG:  You pronounced it (that way) also.
Student:  Yeah, I definitely lose points for saying "Dow-land"
AG: What?
Student: I definitely lose points for saying "Dow-land"
AG: Who knew better?
Student: "Dough-land" (from the Anglo-Saxon)
AG; "Dough-land" (Dowland) is the composer. 

                                                      [Basil Bunting (1900-1985)] 

In fact, I think what I'll do with the Bunting, I may.. I may bring in a tape and just play it, a few minutes of it, just some essential points, and also Bunting pronouncing (Sir Thomas) Wyatt and (Thomas) Campion (which is a real treat, because this is (with) this marvelous English, or Northumbrian accent with rolling "r"'s , and, you know, like, very finely pronounced consonants. It's really a pleasure to listen to). Nobody (here) knows Bunting? - I don't know. I've spoken of him here in previous classes, but.. He has Collected Poems, put out by Oxford University Press [Editorial note - now updated in the new Faber edition - see here]. He was one of the great..  with Marianne Moore, (Ezra) Pound, (William Carlos) Williams(W.B.) Yeats, in the early part of the century. He was in obscurity for many years but..  the phrase that I've used here over and over - "Follow the tone-leading of the vowels" - was attributed to (Ezra) Pound (it comes from Pound's introduction to Bunting's  Collected Poems (Dallas, Texas, 1950, a little paperback, the Square Dollar series of Pound. [Editorial note - Allen is factually inaccurate here - the 1950 edition of his Collected  published by Dallam Flynn, an edition Allen owned and treasured, was actually published by The Cleaner's Press, Galveston, Texas]    Then, later on, he was picked up by Tom Pickard and the younger British poets and then brought back to life by Jonathan Williams, and Oxford, last year, two years ago, [1978] published his Collected Poems. And he's really worth reading. And his specialty is condensation..

Student: What?

AG: Condensation. Like "minimum number of syllables, maximun amount of information". (Ezra) Pound quotes him in The ABC of Reading that Basil Bunting told him that "Dichten Equals Condensare" -  Poetry Writing is Condensing - and I would say, "Maximun amount of information, minimum number of syllables" - "Rut thuds the rim" is a line of Bunting's. The cart going over the country road - "Rut thuds the rim". You really get it all there - you get the physicality of the cart, the condition of the road, the era (or, at least, the anthropological era) - "rut thuds the rim" - a rut in the road, thudding against the rim of the wheel - "Rut thuds the rim" - "Pens are too light. Take a chisel to write" (talking about tombstones) -  "Words?"  ("Words", question-mark) - "Pens are too light. Take a chisel to write". Bunting is a great poet. You know, in this kind of tradition of absolute attention to the articulation of sounds and to measure and time of vowels. And you can hear it in his voice when he's talking. So I think I'll bring in..you know, prepare some of that for next time. Okay..
 We might play some.. for the rest of the class we might play some of the.. a couple more of these.. a couple more of these ballads [Dowland's ballads] next time. So we'll hear the rest of them.  

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-six-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-one minutes in ]   

Monday, August 22, 2016

Dowland Performance ("Weep ye no more, sad fountains")

Transcription of Allen's "Basic Poetics" class, from 1980 at Naropa, continues. The previous tape (tape 9 of 35) is missing and this tape comes in (towards the end of a class) with an in-class performance]

AG: What page is the poem  ("Weep You No More Sad Fountains" by John Dowland)
Student:  Page 115

[Editorial note - The author of this poem is, in fact, unknown, but its first recorded use was as the lyric for one of Dowland's published lute pieces]

[Student/Musician in class plays with guitar accompaniment his own setting of  "Weep You No More…"]

Student/Musician: I’m not sure how fast its supposed to go, this person says to slow down.

[plays & sings] - "Weep you no more, sad fountains;/What need you flow so fast?/Look how the snowy mountains/Heaven's sun doth gently waste./But my sun's heavenly eyes/View not your weeping,/That now lie sleeping/Softly, now softly lies/Sleeping./  Sleep is a reconciling/A rest that peace begets/Doth not the sun rise smiling/When fair at even he sets?/Rest you then, rest, sad eyes,/Melt not in weeping/While she lies sleeping/Softly, now softly lies/Sleeping."

AG: (to Student/Musician re his version) - How did you derive that or how did you figure it out?
Student/Musician:  I…  It’s a pretty logical sort of mode, you know. A-minor type-D kind of  progression. G is added, I think, but, at that point, the timing is..
AG : In terms of the time?
Student/Musician: You just play it six, like one-two and-three, one-two-and-three. It’s hard to go four-four time, three-three time would be much more logical - it’s like a three, yeah.
AG: I wonder what mode they had then, because I still think that the.. there’s some other principal beside…
Student/Musician: Besides time?
AG: Yeah
Student/Musician: Oh yeah, you can do a vibrato version of it.  We’re thinking of doing a slower version of it. We tried one in four-four (time).
AG: What does that sound like?...In other words, taking into account those vowels..
Student/Musician: (begins playing):  Weep You No More Sad Fountains - (something like that (a lot slower) - Weep You No More Sad Fountains(that gives a longer, longer (stress) on “Sad”)
AG: Yeah, that sounds better to me..
Student/Musician:(continuesWhat need you flow so fast
AG: Yeah
Student/Musician: Look how the snowy mountains/Heaven’s sun doth gently waste..
AG: Heaven’s sun doth gently waste..
Student/Musician: Yeah -  There’s a move there. Like, the meter does require a few things, like, what the three required, a little bit different interpretation.
AG: Yeah, like the problem is, how d’you get a form where your…let's see..where the note,  the note, is as long as the vowel?
Student/Musician: The note is as long..?
AG: ….is held as long as the vowel should be, if it were spoken. 
Student/Musician: Yeah, that could be. Yeah. that's why I said that one, that slower one, (to) try and get that going (continues strumming) -  Now we have to go to a D-minor here because there is a definite change, like we're on the second part and (to) catch that particular move that is necessary...

AG: The quantitative measure that I was talking about is, checking out on Basil Bunting -  the time it takes to measure a syllable. He put it down as that simple. Some language, he says, measures the time it takes to speak a syllable. It’s a real simple straightforward explanation – “the time it takes to speak a syllable”  rather than….

Student: And that was from where?

AG: Basil Bunting. I’ve been listening to some lectures by.. there’s an elder poet, Basil Bunting, who was a friend of (Ezra) Pound and Louis Zukofsky, who was in on these experiments with quantitative (prosody) back at the turn of the century, and he gave some lectures in Durham Universityin England in the late (19)70s, and I have cassettes of them that I’ve been listening to, because he’s reading (Thomas) Wyatt and talking about precisely this problem and I think he’s probably the world’s pragmatical expert on the whole subject. So I want to make some arrangements so everybody can hear those, because they’re absolutely amazing, all sorts of interesting stuff, some basic, basic, historical and ideological matters about the origins of poetry and what poetry is, that touch on what we’re trying to touch on, but do it in a very authoritative way, and very sensibly. That’s sort of like déjà vu hearing it. so..you know, I’ll have it put in the (Naropa) library, or maybe set aside one class just for listening to some of that.It’s really great (and) the first time I’ve heard it.

Student: What is this person's name again?

AG: Basil Bunting. I don’t think he’s in this anthology.                 

(to Student/Musician departing  – Thank you - ( it) sounded great – ok – say to Jerry (Granelli) hello - we’ll probably break up soon anyway...)

[Audio for the above (including the Student/Musician's rendering)  can be heard here, beginning at the beginning of the tape and concluding approximately eight minutes in]

[Postscript - the rock star, Sting, can be heard performing "Weep ye no more, sad fountains" - here]

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Jim Carroll workshop continues - 4

Jim Carroll workshop continues - see here, here and here 

JC: I mean, that just has..you know. Like, I mentioned before about Henry Miller - the one book.. when they ask(ed) me what books people should read for this course, I mention(ed) the  Henry Miller book,  (The) Time of the Assasins, because, I mean, simply because it made me feel like..  That was he book that made me want to get into music, you know. 
I read.. 

I mean, it’s his assessment of Rimbaud – it’s really just as much his assessment of Henry Miller, of course – but I think that what it did was for me…I mean it had lines like, you know - ”Where are the poets now?” -  And I just saw that too many poets were writing in certain kind of scenes for other poets (and I (too) was certainly guilty of that). I mean, I saw that, you know, you could cover up a lot of bullshit in a façade of clever style and imagery. And there was a certain strength to that. But.. I mean, you know, a poet is.. you know,. It was a very naïve notion to me, but all of a sudden, you know, the way he put it., like -  Poets should change, you know, the fuckin’ world!!" – “What are they doing?" – and I thought, "Well, rock n roll is the only thing that can do that now, you know, It’s like that..  At the end of La-Bas, you know, they talk about (how) there can’t be any more saints now  - ( (J.K.) Huysmans' work) - and, you know, the Modern Age cannot accept that anymore. But, I think there can be rock 'n roll stars, and poets can somehow tap into that in a certain way without really changing . Because.. It’s.. I mean, there are vast technical differences between writing a song lyric, to me, and writing a poem, but, in a sense, the vision and power and rage and all the strength of a poem to evoke people spiritually.. 

I  mean, I can’t get in..  I… just.. on every record… because I knew the power of, like, music well after my first album by the second album.. I wrote a song called “Barricades” – it was a political song, (and I’d never written political poems), simply because I knew how strong rock n roll was. I mean, the first album did much better than I ever expected. I had this big audience all of a sudden. I felt, you know, you had a duty to write some kind of political song (but within that, not to get caught up in sloganeering and stuff, like certain English punk rock groups [The Clash] ( - who’s work I really liked in certain ways, but in other ways I didn’t - until Allen (Ginsberg) set me straight!)

What I..The thing was that I…You know, it was, like, politics, it was not that at all, it was, 
like..to get that quality that that song has, which was "the inner register" (where he (Miller) speaks about Rimbaud’s work and about Van Gogh’s work), where there’s this hard quality, like, (I’ve always described it as this wind moving through your veins, like a fist tightening underneath your heart). It’s like there’s some kind of feeling of.. you know, where a total functional illiterate can understand these words, you know, or the music, and get the same out of it as you could in an intellectual sense.. and you were relying too much on head-games and not approaching the heart, you know. And I mean, (in) rock, it was already built-in. I mean, what’s a hook, other than…? I mean you feel a hook or you hear a certain counterpuntal phrase in classical music, which makes that, you know, that incredible rush happen, you know. And so, I mean, that’s what "the inner register" is about. I mean, it’s a heart feeling. And so it was already there with music, you know. Someone could come along and put, you know, some kind of lyrics which evoked in a way alsoboth through the head and through the heart...

to be continued

[Audio for the above can be heard  here, beginning at approximately thirty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in  and concluding at approximately thirty-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in]

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Jim Carroll workshop continues - 3 - (Bob Dylan)

This weekend,  following on from last weekend, transcription of  the 1980 Jim Carroll music and poetics workshop at Naropa continues.  

For the two previous segments - see  here and here  

JC: And also I mean, like, people, eventually, knew where his [Bob Dylan's] influences were coming from, whereas they didn't know where Lou (Reed)’s influences were coming from. Not as many people had read Delmore Schwartz as Allen Ginsberg and Rimbaud. And so, I don’t know, there were certain songs of Dylan’s which just got…I lost faith in, for a while, you know. And then I realized… I mean, that was when I was first writing lyrics ( - and it seemed, before that, I could always listen to music as a fan, you know, whereas, from the time I was fifteen, I had to read as a writer - always making little notes, stylistic notes, you know, being envious of this (or that), you know, (like putting, just, like, five exclamation-marks in a paragraph by (Vladimir) Nabokov or something,  – and then…and then putting “So what?” after that!)  

But then there was, like, this whole thing with.. When I went.. when I started to get into (with) music. Suddenly, I couldn’t be a fan anymore and just listen. I had to deal with all of those petty envies, you know – “Shit, I could have… if I had that music, I could’ve written better lyrics!”.. or ”You know, he should have paused in that phrase in there. he could’ve gotten (plenty) more power out of that, he should have waited for the power-chords to crash before he hit the rhyme", you know. And, you know, this thing about "Why is this guy making it? - that song sucks, you know, it’s not that commercial stuff," you know. I mean, So.. 

But, after a while you come to peace with that,  just as, when you’re a writer, and you just, you know, start to like a lot broader range. Like, when I first read the Don Allen anthology, I had a much shallower range of who I liked in it than I did if I picked it up now. You know,(I think now) I could find something in everybody’s poems there, (something) that I really like. It took me, like, say.. I mean, say -  I think, you know…  

                                                                    [John Wieners (1934-2002)]

I loved John Wieners poems so much. And, at first, when I read them, I just didn’t “get” The Hotel Wentley Poems”, in that.. you know..  (And) I had to see (them) later on, (like, from some of (via) his later poems), when his Selected Poems first came out, (in, I think,  in 1972, from Grossman)  - [Editorial note - a new Selected Poems selection was issued recently (2015) from Wave Books] -  You know, I can look back on The Hotel Wentley Poems. I like the later poems more, but, then, he was just creating his own history by that, you know.  So, I was going back to The Hotel Wentley Poems and saw the power in them from his later poems.. I mean, that happens all the time. I think it’s like a  (Jorge Luis) Borges notion that, you know,Kafka makes.. that he uses an influence that he got from Nathaniel Hawthorne, or something. Then he makes Nathaniel Hawthorne (sense), you know, like using that idea and copying an idea, simply making Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work stronger when you read it - So the future poet provides strength and kind of rewrites the works of the past writers constantly, you know . ( (But) You’ve got to make a few charges here and there, or else…) 

                                                                      [Bob Dylan]

But… So I guess the thing to do now, since I’ve been mentioning (Bob) Dylan so much, we’ll play a song, which I think.. - 

[To Student/technicial assistant - Well, I’m not going to... I’ll play..  And then I’ll play a Phil Ochs song....] 
Well, anything on Blonde and Blonde.  Like I say, I think he hit a different stride with that, you know..I mean he came to terms with that frantic quality which he had to leap into. I mean, it’s an incredible breakthrough that he had, you know - with this folk scene, getting hassled by everybody about it. And so… But, Bringing It All Back Home?..  I mean, some.. I didn't trust some of the images there – they were too easy. After a while, I thought they were too amphetamine-driven, you know (but (ha!)  we’ve all fallen into that!) 

But, this song ["Love Minus Zero,  No Limit"], you know, is an honest song  -
 (Actually one of Lewis Warsh’s favorite songs, I believe..) ...

[Student/tehnical assistant: This starts out loud this time, do you want me to turn it down? – JC: Well, let’s wait, put on the..I think it’s the fourth (track) (on Bringing It All Back Home) 

[Audio for the above can be heard  here, beginning at approximately twenty-six minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in]