Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Coming up in Rapid River ...

March's soon-to-appear Rapid River will feature an article I've written on the upcoming Asheville performance of Robert Bly.

The late summer standoff over the magazine's poetry page has had a largely happy resolution. MaryJo Moore has taken over the poetry editorship, but I'll likely become a regular contributor once again.

There were a couple of vectors at work in the summer impasse that remained invisible from my vantage point - particularly, another person with a hand in editorial decisions made in the absence of editor Dennis Ray. That person, I'm told, has since hit the trail. There were apparently some missed or undelivered emails, and new email addresses, figuring in the mix, also. Oh, well. Dennis is much better, and that's all to the good, not only for him and his family, of course, but for Rapid River.

On we go ...

Labels: , , ,

Friday, February 22, 2008

NatureS on the air, now, actually

Well, last week’s show with Lori Hovitz was permanently lost in the aether, but the show from the week before, in which I give my first reading of NatureS, to the delight, amusement, and/or consternation and utter bafflement of an audience at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, back in April, 2006, is now actually up, ready to be streamed or podcast from the WPVM Archive page. Enjoy.

This week (2:00 Sunday) we’re hosting the very literate singer/songwriter Angela Faye Martin, who’s said she’s bringing her guitar.

(We do like to mix things up.)


Cross-posted at WPVM.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, February 18, 2008

More Howling ...

Via Lisablog, an update on the Reed College Howl recording. From the UK Guardian:

· Howl debut made in Oregon, not California
· Beat poet heard joking with college students

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn," wrote Allen Ginsberg more then 50 years ago in what was to become the epic poem of the Beat generation. Now what is believed to be the first ever recording of the late poet reading Howl has been discovered in Oregon.

It had always been thought that Ginsberg first recorded Howl in Berkeley, California, in March 1956. But, according to the Oregonian newspaper, the historic first recording took place a month earlier in student lodgings at a private college in Portland. Ginsberg had just hitchhiked to the city with fellow Beat poet Gary Snyder in the winter of 1956. Snyder, who had grown up in Portland and graduated from Reed College, brought his friend to the campus for a couple of readings.

Ginsberg had written Howl, complete with its references to "angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo" only the previous year and had performed it in the Six Gallery in San Francisco but it was not recorded. The second reading, to a small audience in a student hostel, the Anna Mann Cottage, was recorded on a reel-to-reel machine on February 14.

The discovery of the tape was made by John Suiter, an academic carrying out research for a Snyder biography. Looking through the college archives, Suiter came across a box apparently untouched for more than 50 years, marked "Snyder Ginsberg 1956". It contained a 35-minute good quality tape of Ginsberg reading the first section of Howl and other poems. Ginsberg does not read the whole of the lengthy Howl, remarking: "I don't really feel like reading any more. I just sorta haven't got any kind of steam." He also jokes with his student audience about "corrupting the youth". The student paper confirmed the dates of the visit.

"It was completely serendipitous," Suiter said of the discovery. "I had no idea there was a tape."

The finding has been hailed by academics. "This is absolutely a very significant deal," Pancho Savery, an English professor at Reed, told the paper.

The freewheeling and much-imitated Howl, with its many references to sex and drugs, became the subject of an obscenity trial in 1957 after US customs officials seized copies of it and were outraged by passages about gay sex being performed by "saintly motorcyclists" and references to "flashing buttocks" and Turkish baths. An action brought against City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, which published and sold the poem, was eventually thrown out by the judge.

Ginsberg clashed frequently with the authorities; when he heard that the head of the FBI, J Edgar Hoover, had photos of him naked with other men he asked if he could use them on the cover of a book.


Labels: , , ,

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The first Howl

Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg, on a hitch-hiking trip to the Pacific Northwest in 1956, decided to spend February 13 & 14 on the campus of Reed College, Snyder's alma mater, giving poetry readings. The February 14th reading was recorded, and the tape was "duly labeled, cataloged, and then overlooked in the college’s library for more than 50 years. Literary scholar John Suiter rediscovered [it] last summer while researching a biography of poet Gary Snyder." The recording is the earliest known recording of Howl, the poem that a few months later established Ginsberg's fame and became the focus of the media event that announced the Beat Generation to the world at large.

The College site hosts a version of the recording that's supposed to be streamable, but I had no luck listening; playback was garbled. They say they're aware of problems, and will try to resolve them today.


In addition to being alma mater to Snyder (class of 1951), Lew Welch ( ’50,) and Philip Whalen (also ’51), Reed was also the undergrad home of linguist Dell Hymes, a friend of Snyder's during their college years. Hymes later went on to make important contributions to the study of Native American texts, particularly those of the Chumash. He always insisted that language be understood within its various social contexts, and so helped found what's now known as sociolinguistics.The Reed site features an informative look at his career.

The great photo by Dale Smith features Michael McClure, Bob Dylan, and Ginsberg in San Francisco in 1965. It appears to date from the same occasion Larry Keenan documents here.

A hat tip to Ron Silliman for the link to a story about the discovery that ran in the Chicago Tribune.

Labels: , , , ,

Wordplay: Mercury retrograde

Today's show with Lori Horvitz was really fun, had a great spontaneous flow, and Lori read some material from her memoir-in-progress that included really well-observed scenes and stories of some wonderful encounters - I especially enjoyed those that included her father. Unfortunately, if you didn't hear it live, you never will. Once again the WPVM archiving system failed to record the show, and neither Sebastian nor I, sadly, had brought a blank CD to use in the low-tech, but mostly reliable, back-up system. So it's gone, sound waves dissipated into the atmosphere.

My apologies to Lori; we'll have her back on the show and do it all again just as soon as her schedule and the show's permit.

After the show I poked around and found another issue: the automated FTP upload for last week's show had also gone awry, and the show never uploaded to the site from which it podcasts and streams. In fact, it's impossible to tell now when the last show uploaded. So we'll be talking again to WPVM's beleaguered manager about how we can fix the latest round of glitches, and make as certain as possible that they won't occur in the future.

At least until Mercury once again goes retrograde.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, February 16, 2008

This week on Wordplay: Natures

This week’s show, still available via stream or podcast from the WPVM archive page, features my debut reading of NatureS from April, 2006. The reading took place at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, and I talked a bit about the Black Mountain poets, especially Robert Creeley, and my sense of their relevance to my own work. I also wanted to speak to the poetics that informs the work, and so spent probably too much time talking about parataxis, as practiced particularly by Robin Blaser, and about Novalis, whose Encyclopedia explores the identity of the character each of us calls “I” in a way that remains useful some two hundred years, now, further on.

Listening to the recording for the first time just ten or twelve days ago, I realized that I had seriously mangled my recapitulation of Creeley’s account of the rhinoceros argument between Wittgenstein and Russell. Wittgenstein refused to agree with Russell’s assertion that there was no rhinoceros in the room, and Russell, so the story goes, tried to prove to him empirically that, in fact, no such creature was around; he looked under tables and chairs, and so on. My telling scrambles Wittgenstein’s position, and so obscures the import of the whole argument - and, sadly, likewise obscures the humor of the situation as legend tells us it unfolded. When Creeley told the story, he managed to keep that humor. My apologies to Bob’s spirit, and to any who might listen to this version, for getting things scrambled in my jangled brain that night.

We don’t offer feature our own work on Wordplay, but we had a week with no guest on board, and I’d been having difficulties cleaning up a noisy recording of Jonathan Williams that I wanted to air, … so there it is. Enjoy. We’ll hopefully be able to include the Williams reading in a future show.

Update: Coming up Sunday (or Monday via stream and podcast), Lori Horvitz.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, February 15, 2008

At Malaprops tonight: Ross Gay and Patrick Rosal

More information here. There's a Ross Gay poem at the Cortland Review, and here's some audio of Patrick Rosal. I'll be there to record them for a future Wordplay show.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another birthday: Thomas Meyer ...

... who turns sixty-one today.

You certainly brought me good Fortune
But that is just what I regret, my success. The worst thing is once to have been happy.
A mouth and some yarrow stalks. Two witches dance for rain. Future foretelling.
A dish covered but full. Everything that was predicted comes about.
What you want will be done. Your heart's desire is the plan from now on.

(A few lines from the very fine "The Magician's Assistant", which appeared recently in Damn the Caesars, Volume III.)

Many more, Mr. Meyer.


Here's a previous post on Meyer's translation of the daode jing , and a link to other posts on his work. Though things have been quiet there lately, the Musings page over at the Jargon Society remains worth delving into.


The photo of Thomas Meyer is by Reuben Cox.

Labels: , , ,