Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ginsberg's notes on 'Howl'

This material appears in:
Ginsberg, Allen. “Notes Written on Finally Recording Howl.”
Evergreen Review 3.10 (1959): 132-35.
MLA citation for this version:
Ginsberg, Allen. “Notes Written on Finally Recording Howl.”
1959. Kingston: Department of English, Queen’s University, 2006.
This document was created on Monday 28 August 2006.

Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)
Notes Written on Finally Recording Howl

By 1955 I wrote poetry adapted from prose seeds, journals, scratchings,
arranged by phrasing or breath groups into little short-line patterns according to
ideas of measure of American speech I'd picked up from William Carlos
Williams' imagist preoccupations. I suddenly turned aside in San Francisco,
unemployment compensation leisure, to follow my romantic inspiration--
Hebraic-Melvillean bardic breath. I thought I wouldn't write a poem, but just
write what I wanted to without fear, let my imagination go, open secrecy, and
scribble magic lines from my real mind--sum up my life--something I wouldn't
be able to show anybody, writ for my own soul's ear and a few other golden
ears. So the first line of Howl, "I saw the best minds etc.," the whole first section
typed out madly in one afternoon, a tragic custard-pie comedy of wild phrasing,
meaningless images for the beauty of abstract poetry of mind running along
making awkward combinations like Charlie Chaplin's walk, long saxophone-like
chorus lines I knew Kerouac would hear sound of--taking off from his own
inspired prose line really a new poetry.

I depended on the word "who" to keep the beat, a base to keep
measure, return to and take off from again onto another streak of invention:
"who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars," continuing to prophesy what I
really knew despite the drear consciousness of the world: "who were visionary
Indian angels." Have I really been attacked for this sort of joy? So the poem got
awesome, I went on to what my imagination believed true to eternity (for I'd had
a beatific illumination years before during which I'd heard Blake's ancient voice
and saw the universe unfold in my brain), and what my memory could
reconstitute of the data of celestial experiences.

But how sustain a long line in poetry (lest it lapse into prosaic)? It's
natural inspiration of the moment that keeps it moving, disparate thinks put
down together, shorthand notations of visual imagery, juxtapositions of
hydrogen jukebox--abstract haikus sustain the mystery and put iron poetry back
into the line: the last line of Sunflower Sutra is the extreme, one stream of single
word associations, summing up. Mind is shapely, art is shapely. Meaning mind
practiced in spontaneity invents forms in its own image and gets to last thoughts.
Loose ghosts wailing for body try to invade the bodies of living men. I hear
ghostly academies in limbo screeching about form.

Ideally each line of Howl is a single breath unit. My breath is long--
that's the measure, one physical-mental inspiration of thought contained in the
elastic of a breath. It probably bugs Williams now, but it's a natural
consequence, my own heightened conversation, not cooler average-daily-talk
short breath. I get to mouth more madly this way.
So these poems are a series of experiments with the formal
organization of the long line. Explanations follow. I realized at the time that
Whitman's form had rarely been further explored (improved on even) in the
U.S.--Whitman always a mountain too vast to be seen. Everybody assumes
(with Pound?) (except [Robinson] Jeffers) that his line is a big freakish
uncontrollable necessary prosaic goof. No attempt's been made to use it in the
light of early twentieth century organization of new speech-rhythm prosody to
build up large organic structures.

I had an apartment on Nob Hill, got high on peyote, and saw an image
of the robot skullface of Moloch in the upper stories of a big hotel glaring into
my window; got high weeks later again, the visage was still there in red smoky
downtown metropolis, I wandered down Powell street muttering, "Moloch
Moloch" all night and wrote Howl II nearly intact in cafeteria at foot of Drake
Hotel, deep in the hellish vale. Here the long line is used as a stanza form
broken into exclamatory units punctuated by a base repetition, Moloch.
The rhythmic paradigm for Part III was conceived and half-written
same day as the beginning of Howl, I went back later and filled it out. Part I, a
lament for the Lamb in America with instances of remarkable lamblike youths;
Part II names the monster of mental consciousness that preys on the Lamb; Part
III a litany of affirmation of the Lamb in its glory: "O starry spangled shock of
Mercy." The structure of Part III, pyramidal, with a graduated longer response
to the fixed base.

I remembered the archetypal rhythm of Holy Holy Holy weeping in a
bus on Kearny Street, and wrote most of it down in notebook there. That
exhausted this set of experiments with a fixed base. I set it as Footnote to Howl
because it was an extra variation of the form of Part II. (Several variations on
these forms, including stanzas of graduated litanies followed by fugues, will be
seen in Kaddish.)

A lot of these forms developed out of an extreme rhapsodic wail I once
heard in a madhouse. Later I wondered if short quiet lyrical poems could be
written using the long line. A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley and A
Supermarket in California (written same day) fell in place later that year. Not
purposely, I simply followed my angel in the course of compositions.
What if I just simply wrote, in long units and broken short lines,
spontaneously noting prosaic realities mixed with emotional upsurges,
solitaries? Transcription of Organ Music (sensual data), strange writing which
passes from prose to poetry and back, like the mind.

What about poem with rhythmic buildup power equal to Howl without
use of repetitive base to sustain it? The Sunflower Sutra (composition time 20
minutes, me at desk scribbling, Kerouac at cottage door waiting for me to finish
so we could go off somewhere party) did that, it surprised me, one long who.

Next what happens if you mix long and short lines, single breath
remaining the rule of measure? I didn't trust free flight yet, so went back to fixed
base to sustain the flow, America. After that, a regular formal type long poem in
parts, short and long breaths mixed at random, no fixed base, sum of earlier
experiments--In the Baggage Room at Greyhound. In Back of the Real shows
what I was doing with short lines (see sentence above) before I accidentally
wrote Howl.

Later I tried for a strong rhythm built up using free short syncopated
lines, Europe! Europe! a prophecy written in Paris.

Last, the Proem to Kaddish (NY 1959 work)--finally, completely free
composition, the long line breaking up within itself into short staccato breath
units--notations of one spontaneous phrase after another linked within the line
by dashes mostly: the long line now perhaps a variable stanzaic unit, measuring
groups of related ideas, grouping them--a method of notation. Ending with a
hymn in rhythm similar to the synagogue death lament. Passing into dactylic?
says Williams? Perhaps not: at least the ear hears itself in Promethean natural
measure, not in mechanical count of accent.

All these poems are recorded now as best I can, though with scared
love, imperfect to an angelic trumpet in mind. I have quit reading in front of live
audiences for a while. I began in obscurity to communicate a live poetry, it's
become more a trap and duty than the spontaneous ball it was first.

A word on the Academies: poetry has been attacked by an ignorant and
frightened bunch of bores who don't understand how it's made, and the trouble
with these creeps is they wouldn't know poetry if it came up and buggered them
in broad daylight.

A word on the Politicians: my poetry is angelic ravings, and has
nothing to do with dull materialistic vagaries about who should shoot who. The
secrets of individual imagination--which are transconceptual and non-verbal--I
mean unconditioned spirit--are not for sale to this consciousness, are no use to
this world, except perhaps to make it shut its trap and listen to the music of the
spheres. Who denies the music of the spheres denies poetry, denies man, and
spits on Blake, Shelley, Christ, and Buddha. Meanwhile have a ball. The
universe is a new flower. America will be discovered. Who wants a war against
roses will have it. Fate tells big lies, and the gay creator dances on his own body
in eternity.


1 comment:

joeharolds25368148 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

image from http://www.spitting-image.net

Favorite Links

~325~ ~9-11...Who Really Did It~ ~10:10~ ~10 Zen Monkeys~ ~911 Truth~ ~13 Indigenous Grandmothers~ ~15O~ ~15th October~ ~Activist Post~ ~ACT UP~ ~Adbusters~ ~Aerogaz (greek)~ ~Afinity Project~ ~Aging Hipsters~ ~Alecto's Ophelia~ ~Al-Jazeera~ ~Alex Constantine's Blacklist~ ~Alliance for Human Research Protection~ ~All Things Cynthia McKinney~ ~All Things Pakistan~ ~Alternative Insight~ ~Alternative Press Review~ ~Alternet~ ~American Friends Service Committee~ ~American Street~ ~Anarkismo~ ~Andy Worthington~ ~Anglican Pacifist Fellowship~ ~Anomaly News Syndicate~ ~Another Day In The Empire~ ~AntiWar~ ~Antiwar League~ ~Anxiety Culture~ ~Appeal For Redress From The War In Iraq~ ~A Poetic Justice~ ~Artists Without Frontiers~ ~Art of Europe~ ~Arts And Letters Daily~ ~Attack the System~ ~Athens IMC~ ~Ballardian~ ~Bilderberg.org~ ~Black Box Voting~ ~BlackListed News~ ~Black Vault~ ~Blog Bioethics net~ ~Blog of the Unknown Writer~ ~Blondsense~ ~Boiling Frog~ ~Boiling Frogs Post~ ~BoingBoing~ ~Book Ninja~ ~Bookslut~ ~Bradley Manning Support Network~ ~Brand New Law~ ~Brainsturbator~ ~Bring Them Home Now~ ~Bruce Eisner's Vision Thing~ ~Buckminster Fuller Institute~ ~Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists~ ~Bureau of Public Secrets~ ~Business & Human Rights Resource Centre~ ~Buzzflash~ ~Campaign For Real Farming~ ~Catapult the Propaganda~ ~Campus Antiwar Network~ ~Cargo Culte~ ~Castan Centre for Human Rights Law~ ~Catch of the Day~ ~Censorship Paradise~ ~Center for Media and Democracy~ ~Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies, Afghanistan~ ~Centre for Research and Action for Peace~ ~Center on Law and Security~ ~Chapati Mystery~ ~Choike~ ~Chomsky.info~ ~Chronicle of Higher Education~ ~Church of the FSM~ ~CIA & Drugs~ ~Citizens for Legitimate Government~ ~Citizens for Tax Justice~ ~Clandestina~ ~CODEPINK~ ~Coilhouse mag~ ~Collateral Murder~ ~Common Dreams~ ~Complete 9/11 Timeline~ ~Concerned Africa Scholars~ ~Connexions~ ~Conspiracy Archive~ ~Contra Info~ ~Corrente~ ~COTO Report~ ~Coup d'Etat in America~ ~Countercurrents~ ~Crapaganda~ ~Create Real Democracy~ ~Creative-i~ ~Crimes of the State~ ~CrimethInc~ ~Crisis Group~ ~Critical Legal Thinking~ ~Cronache da Mileto (Italian)~ ~Crooks and Liars~ ~Crowd Modelling~ ~Cryptoforestry~ ~Cryptome~ ~Cyclos~ ~Culture Change~ ~Cutting Through The Matrix~ ~Cyrano's Journal~ ~Daily What~ ~Damn Interesting~ ~Dangerous Minds~ ~Deliberative Democracy Consortium~ ~Democracy Center~ ~Democracy Journal~ ~Democracy Now~ ~Democratic Underground~ ~Detournement~ ~Digital Rights [greek lang.]~ ~Diplomacy Lessons~ ~Direct Power!~ ~Discoveries-Researchings-Visions-Understandings-Enlightenments~ ~Disinformation~ ~DistributorCap NY~ ~Dr Hugo Heyrman-Motions of the Mind~ ~Dylanology~ ~EAGAINST~ ~Earthnocentric~ ~Eco Tort~ ~Ectoplasmosis!~ ~Educate Yourself~ ~E-Flux~ ~Electronic Frontier Foundation~ ~Electronic Intifada~ ~Eliminate War Forever~ ~End Evil~ ~Energy Bulletin~ ~Eradicating Ecocide~ ~EROCx1 Blog~
~Europeanrevolution~ ~European Revolution~ ~Eurozine~ ~Exposing the Truth~ ~Extinction Protocol: 2012 and beyond~ ~Families of the Fallen for Change~ ~Fellowship of Reconciliation~ ~Financial Armageddon~ ~FKN Newz~ ~Food For Your Eyes~ ~Forward the Revolution~ ~Franchot's Band~ ~Free Bloggers in Greece~ ~Free Expression Network~ ~Free Press International~ ~Freethinking for Dummies~ ~Free Thought Manifesto~ ~From the Wilderness~ ~F-t-W's Peak Oil Blog~ ~G1000~ ~Ghostdancing in Venice~ ~GIMP~ ~Gilles Duley~ ~Global Guerillas~ ~Global Integrity~ ~Global Policy Forum~ ~Global Revolution~ ~Global Security Institute~ ~Global Voices Online~ ~Gold Star Families for Peace~ ~Government Dirt~ ~Greek Alert [greek lang.]~ ~Greek Assembly in London~ ~Green Left Weekly~ ~Groklaw~ ~Hack Democracy~ ~Hakim Bey and Ontological Anarchy~ ~Hiroshima Peace Institute~ ~History Is A Weapon Blog~ ~How Appealing~ ~How To Vanish~ ~Human Rights Law Review~ ~I Can't Believe It's Not a Democracy!~ ~Idler~ ~Impropaganda~ ~Independent Media Center~ ~INIREF~ ~Institute for Media Peace and Security~ ~International Action Center~ ~International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism)~ ~In These Times~ ~Information Clearing House~ ~Information Liberation~ ~Infoshop~ ~Institute for Policy Studies~ ~Institute for War and Peace Reporting~ ~Insurgent American~ ~Intel Hub~ ~International Labor Rights Forum~ ~Intrinsic Impact~ ~Invisible History~ ~Iraq Citizens Against the War~ ~Iraq Freedom Congress~ ~Iraq Veterans Against the War~ ~Irish Peace Institute~ ~Issues and Alibis~ ~James Howard Kunstler~ ~Jesus Radicals~ ~John Zerzan~ ~Jorgen Schäfer's Homepage~ ~JUST~ ~Just For The Love Of It~ ~Justice Not Vengeance~ ~Kasama Project~ ~Keep Talking Greece~ ~Kia Mistilis~ ~Kill Me If You Can by Bob Miller~ ~Killer Coke~ ~Labor Rights~ ~Labor Rights Now~ ~Labour Start~ ~Lava Cocktail~ ~Lemon Gloria~ ~Lemony Snicket~ ~L'ennui mélodieux~ ~Lessig~ ~Liberation Theology~ ~Libertarians for Peace~ ~Life After the Oil Crash~ ~Life & Peace Institute~ ~Lunch Street Party~ ~Lycaeum~ ~Links by George~ ~Literary Kicks~ ~Lubinproductions~ ~MacNN~ ~Mad Cow Morning News~ ~Manageable Ants~ ~Mario Profaca's Cyberspace Station~ ~Maro Kouri~ ~Maud Newton~ ~May it Please the Court~ ~McSpotlight~ ~Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture~ ~Metta Center for Nonviolence~ ~Metanoia~ ~Michael Moore - Must Read~ ~Mind Control~ ~Military Families Speak Out~ ~Mind in Peace (greek)~ ~Miss Welby~ ~MK Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence~ ~Molly's Blog~ ~Mother Jones~ ~MungBeing Magazine~ ~MyAntiwar.org~ ~n +1 mag~ ~National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee~ ~Natural Farming~ ~Neatorama~ ~Neuromarketing~ ~Neurosecurity~ ~New Internationalist~ ~News Dissector~ ~News Frames~ ~News Making News~ ~News Now~ ~New Tactics in Human Rights~ ~New World Dawning~ ~NEXUS~ ~NFAK~ ~Nomadic Academy Of Fools~ ~Non Fides~ ~Noor Images~ ~Not In Our Name~ ~Not Stupid~ ~Nuclear Resister~ ~NUTOPIA2~ ~[Occupy] 2012 Scenario~ ~Occupy America Social Network~ ~OCCUPY Cafe~ ~Occupy Istanbul~ ~Occupy Together~ ~Occupy Together Field Manual~ ~OWS~ ~Occupy Writers~ ~October 2011~ ~Odious Debts~ ~ODYS~ ~Olmaz~ ~On the Path to 2012~ ~Op Ed News~ ~Open Letters to George W. Bush from his ardent admirer,Belacqua Jones~ ~Open Revolt!~ ~Open Source Ecology~ ~Orthodox Peace Fellowship~ ~Orwell Today~ ~Outlaw Journalism~ ~OWNI~ ~Patriots Question 9/11~ ~Peace in Mind (greek)~ ~PeaceJam~ ~Peace Now~ ~Peaceful Tomorrows~ ~Peak Moment~ ~People's Assemblies Network~ ~Peter Frase~ ~Photography is Not a Crime~ ~Picture the Homeless~ ~Pieman~ ~Places the U.S. has bombed~ ~Pogo Was Right - privacy news~ ~Political Reform.ie~ ~Post Carbon Institute~ ~Praxis Peace Institute~ ~Primate Poetics~ ~Prisoner Solidarity~ ~Professors question 9/11~ ~Project Camelot~ ~Project Censored~ ~Project for the Old American Century~ ~Project on Corporations, Law and Democracy~ ~Psyche, Science and Society~ ~Psychogeography~ ~Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility~ ~Radical Anthropology~ ~Rainbow Family~ ~RawStory~ ~Reality Sandwich~ ~Real Democacy GR~ ~Real Democracy Now.net~ ~Rebel Dog~ ~Reflections on a Revolution~ ~Reporters Without Borders~ ~Re-public~ ~Resistance Studies Magazine~ ~Resource Based Economy Foundation~ ~Re-volt Radio~ ~Richard Heinberg's Museletter~ ~Rockefeller's War on Drugs~ ~Ruckus Society~ ~Sacred Texts~ ~Salon~ ~Save Orphan Works~ ~Scholars and Rogues~ ~Scoop~ ~SCOTUS Blog~ ~Secrecy News~ ~Service Academy Graduates Against the War~ ~Shadow Government Statistics~ ~Signs of the Times News~ ~Slovenia Peace Institute~ ~Smirking Chimp~ ~smygo~ ~SNU Project~ ~Soil And Health Library~ ~SourceWatch~ ~Speaking Truth to Power~ ~Spirit Horse Foundation~ ~Spunk~ ~Squattastic~ ~Starhawk~ ~Stockholm International Peace Research Institute~ ~StopCartel TV-GR~ ~Stop The Arms Fair~ ~Stop the Spying.org~ ~Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness~ ~Students Against War~ ~Survival Acres~ ~Survival International~ ~Swan's Commentary~ ~Take The Square~ ~Tangible Information~ ~Tax Justice Network~ ~Tax Research UK~ ~Theatre of the Oppressed~ ~The Black Commentator~ ~The Black Vault~ ~The Borowitz Report~ ~The Carpetbagger Report~ ~The Center for Public Integrity~ ~The Daily Reckoning~ ~The Dark Age Blog~ ~The Digger Archives~ ~The End of Being~ ~The Guardian~ ~The Hidden Evil~ ~The Huffington Post~ ~The Intelligence Daily~ ~The Lazy Man's Guide To Enlightenment~ ~The Mountain Sentinel~ ~The Nation~ ~The National Security Archive~ ~The New Z-Land Project~ ~The Other Israel~ ~The Pathology Guy~ ~The Progress Report~ ~The Progressive Magazine~ ~The Real News~ ~The Situation Room~ ~The Truth Seeker~ ~ The Watcher Files~ ~Think Progress~ ~Third World Traveller~ ~This Land Is Ours~ ~This Modern World~ ~TomDispatch~ ~Total Collapse~ ~Total Dick-Head~ ~Transform!~ ~Transnational Institute~ ~Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research~ ~True Democracy~ ~Troops Out Now~ ~True Democracy Party~ ~Truthdig~ ~Truth News~ ~Truthout~ ~TW3 and fotografia la dolce vita~ ~Uncommon Thought~ ~United for Peace & Justice~ ~United States Institute of Peace~ ~Unknown News~ ~UNPA Campaign~ ~Urbanibalism~ ~US Labor Against the War~ ~VBS TV~ ~Veterans Against the Iraq War~ ~Veterans for Peace and Justice~ ~Video Rebel's Blog~ ~Vietnam Veterans Against the War~ ~Virusmyth - Rethinking AIDS~ ~visionOntv~ ~Voices for Creative Non-Violence~ ~Void Network~ ~Voice Memo~ ~Voters for Peace~ ~Waging Nonviolence~ ~Waking the Midnight Sun~ ~Want To Know~ ~War Costs~ ~War Crimes and Military Improprieties~ ~War Criminals Watch~ ~War on Society~ ~War is Illegal~ ~War Resisters International~ ~War Resisters League~ ~Was Jack Kerouac a Punjabi?~ ~Watergate Exposed~ ~West Point Graduates Against The War~ ~What Really Happened~ ~What’s On My Food?~ ~Why Work? Creating Livable Alternatives to Wage Slavery~ ~Wikileaks~ ~WikiLeaks Central~ ~Wild Wild Left~ ~willyloman~ ~Winning Cancer~ ~Win Without War~ ~Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)~ ~Wonkette~ ~World Prout Assembly~ ~Worldwide Hippies~ ~Yes Lab~ ~Yippie Museum~ ~Young Protester~ ~Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR)~ ~Zapatistas~ ~Zine Library~ ~Zippy Elder-at-Large~ ~ZMag~
~ Thank you for visiting Circle of 13 ~


This blog may contain videos with copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in an effort to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.