Detail View: RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive: Presentation and performance front view

Filename: 
ds_0027_panaraginsberg_cap_02.mp4
Identifier: 
ds_0027_panaraginsberg_cap_02.mp4
Title: 
Presentation and performance front view
Creator: 
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997
Subject: 
American poetry 20th century
Subject: 
American Sign Language
Subject: 
Translating and interpreting
Subject: 
ASL poetry
Summary: 
The video shows Allen Ginsberg and the interpreter, Kip Webster to his left. Allen Ginsberg discusses the influence of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams who emphasized the pictorial aspects in poetry. Ginsberg performs the poem, "Howl", and discusses translation issues for some abstract concepts, such as "angel-headed hipster", and "starry dynamo". He also talks about surrealism in poetry and continues to recite his poem. Patrick Graybill translates in ASL "hydrogen jukebox" and captured the image clearly. Graybill also performed the poem Dreams by Langston Hughes and the ASL translation process. Ginsberg suggests that Panara translate "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams and writes the poem on the board. After discussion of the poem's meaning, Panara translates the poem. The video ends with Ginsberg performing "BirdBrain" accompanying himself with a harmonium.
Publisher: 
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Digital Publisher: 
Rochester Institute of Technology - RIT Libraries - RIT Archive Collections
Contributor: 
Graybill, Patrick
Contributor: 
Panara, Robert
Date of Original: 
1984
Date of Digitization: 
2018
Broad Type: 
moving image
Digital File Format: 
mp4
Physical Format: 
VHS
Dimensions of Original: 
63 minutes
Language: 
American Sign Language
Language: 
English
Original Item Location: 
RITDSA.0027
Library Collection: 
Sculptures in the Air: An Accessible Online Video Repository of the American Sign Language (ASL) Poetry and Literature Collections
Library Collection: 
Miriam and Kenneth Lerner ASL Poetry Collection
Digital Project: 
2018-2019 CLIR Grant-ASL Poetry and Literature
Catalog Record: 
https://albert.rit.edu/record=b3954525
Catalog Record: 
https://twcarchivesspace.rit.edu/repositories/2/resources/815
Place: 
New York - Rochester
RIT Spaces and Places: 
Henrietta Campus
Rights: 
RIT Libraries makes materials from its collections available for educational and research purposes pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. It is your responsibility to obtain permission from the copyright holder to publish or reproduce images in print or electronic form.
Rights: 
CC BY-NC-ND: Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Transcript: 
GINSBERG: THEY CENSORED IT. HA HA HA! SIGN LANGUAGE CENSORSHIP. WE'LL ADD--I WOULD LIKE TO TEST OUT THE HARDNESS, OR CLARITY, OF THE FIRST LINES OF MY MOST FAMOUS POEM, WHICH ARE PROBABLY BULLSHIT, IN TERMS OF BEING VAGUE AND ABSTRACT, BECAUSE I WAS A YOUNGER POET WHEN I WROTE IT AND I HADN'T QUITE GOTTEN THE IDEA OF REALLY GETTING IT TOTALLY CLEAR. BUT I HAD SOME TRAINING IN MODERN POETRY, PARTICULARLY EZRA POUND AND WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS. AND THEIR IDEA WAS NO IDEAS BUT IN THINGS, NOT TO HAVE ANY... UM, GENERALIZATIONS, BUT THROUGH PICTURES, OR TO REPRESENT ANY GENERALIZATIONS THEY HAD BY A MEANS OF A PICTURE. SO, IN SPOKEN LANGUAGE, OR WORD LANGUAGE, THE SLOGAN IS "NO IDEAS BUT IN THINGS." THAT'S A PHRASE OF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS. BUT I WASN'T VERY GOOD AT THAT. BUT WHAT I TRY TO DO IS COMBINE PICTURE IMAGES IN A SURREALIST WAY. SO THE OPENING LINES, LET'S TRY THEM OUT. LET'S TRY OUT THE OPENING LINES OF "HOWL." "I SAW THE BEST MINDS OF MY GENERATION DESTROYED BY MADNESS..." "STARVING, HYSTERICAL, NAKED, "DRAGGING THEMSELVES THROUGH THE NEGRO STREETS AT DAWN, "LOOKING FOR AN ANGRY FIX. ANGEL-HEADED HIPSTERS"... [LAUGHTER] SO THAT'S WHERE MY POETRY BREAKS DOWN. - HIPSTER. - YES. THAT'S WHERE MY POETRY BREAKS DOWN BECAUSE THERE I HAVE AN ABSTRACT WORD FOR AN ACTUAL THING. HOWEVER, IT GETS BACK ON THE-- IT GETS BACK ON THE TRACK. YOU KNOW, IT GETS BACK ON THE TRACK. "ANGEL-HEADED HIPSTERS BURNING FOR THE ANCIENT HEAVENLY CONNECTION..." "TO THE STARRY DYNAMO IN THE MACHINERY OF NIGHT." NOW, I ALWAYS WONDERED ABOUT THAT PHRASE-- "THE STARRY DYNAMO IN THE MACHINERY OF NIGHT." IT HAS A PICTURE OF SOME KIND THAT IS A VERY INDEFINITE PICTURE. THE STARRY DYNAMO ACTUALLY COULD BE IMAGINED... BUT WE HAVE TO TRANSLATE IT INTO SIGN LANGUAGE, WHAT'S LEFT. A STARRY DYNAMO. IS THERE ANY KIND OF PICTURE SUGGESTED? WHAT'S THE STARRY? MAN: STARRY? GINSBERG: AS A DYNAMO. MAN: A DYNAMO IS A MACHINE. GINSBERG: AHH. SO YOU HAVE A VERY GENERAL MACHINE THERE, NOT THE MACHINE THAT CREATES ELECTRICITY. MAN: YEAH, IT IS. GINSBERG: WHEN THAT WAS TRANSLATED INTO SIGN LANGUAGE-- PANARA: POWERFUL. GINSBERG: WAS THE WORD "DYNAMO," THE CREATOR OF POWER? THE CREATOR OF POWER? SO THEN IT BECOMES-- PANARA: SOMETHING LIKE THAT, YEAH. GINSBERG: THEN IT BECOMES A QUESTION OF THE SUBTLETY OF THE SIGN LANGUAGE. PANARA: WE IGNORE THE THINGS. WHY? BECAUSE OF THE SIMPLE FACT THAT WE HAVE ONLY TWO HANDS. GINSBERG: YES. PANARA: AND AFTER A WHILE, YOU START TO DUPLICATE CONFIGURATIONS OF-- WE HAVE TO MAKE COMPOUND SIGNS-- ADD A SECOND AND A THIRD SIGN TO GET AT ONE MEANING, SOMETHING LIKE THE CHINESE LANGUAGE, RIGHT? ALMOST THE SAME. GINSBERG: SO WHAT IS THE FATE OF SURREALISM IN SIGN LANGUAGE? ARE YOU AT ALL FAMILIAR WITH SURREALIST POETRY? PANARA: YES. SOME, YEAH. GINSBERG: THE DEFINITION WAS A VERY INTERESTING PICTURE. THE ORIGINAL DEFINITION OF SURREALISM BY ANDRE BRETON WAS THE MEETING OF AN UMBRELLA AND A SEWING MACHINE ON AN OPERATING TABLE. [LAUGHTER] WHAT KIND OF SENSE DOES THAT MAKE? THE MEETING OF AN UMBRELLA AND A SEWING MACHINE ON AN OPERATING TABLE. MAN: MAKES ME THINK OF A DALI. GINSBERG: YES, EXACTLY. YES. PUTTING TOGETHER THINGS WHICH ARE OPPOSITE, WHICH DON'T BELONG TOGETHER, BUT WHEN YOU SEE THEM TOGETHER, THEY'RE REALLY FUNNY AND THEY MAKE A WHOLE NEW-- A NEW UNIVERSE. SO I WAS INFLUENCED-- PANARA: AND YOU SEE, WE ALSO ADD FINGERSPELLING. GINSBERG: YEAH. PANARA: THERE'S NO REASON WHY A COMBINATION OF SOUNDS WITH FINGERSPELLING CONVEY THE MEANING OF THE POEM. I LIKED YOUR POEM YESTERDAY, "BIRDBRAIN." - YES. - HE DID A MARVELOUS JOB. WOULD YOU DO THAT TODAY? JUST A GREAT JOB. GINSBERG: IN A MINUTE, BUT THERE'S A COUPLE OF OTHER LINES I WANT TO CHECK OUT FROM HERE. MY FAVORITE LINE IN "HOWL" IS, UH... "WHO SAT ALL NIGHT IN SUBMARINE LIGHT "OF BICKFORD'S CAFETERIA, "FLOATED OUT ON THE STREET "AND SAT THROUGH THE STALE BEER AFTERNOON "IN DESOLATE BEER BARS "LISTENING TO THE CRACK OF DOOM ON THE HYDROGEN JUKEBOX." [LAUGHTER] SO, NOW, WHAT IS A "HYDROGEN JUKEBOX" IN SIGN LANGUAGE? A HYDROGEN JUKEBOX. 'CAUSE THAT REFERS TO A SOUND THING, THE JUKEBOX, ANYWAY. A JUKEBOX IS A MECHANICAL RECORD MACHINE IN THE BARS. MAN: I UNDERSTAND IT, BUT WHY DO YOU PICK THAT WORD "HYDROGEN"? GINSBERG: OH, THE HYDROGEN, THE HYDROGEN BOMB. THE NOISE OF THE JUKEBOX IS APOCALYPTIC. SO THE EMERGENCE OF THAT KIND OF ROCK 'N' ROLL AND THAT KIND OF HEAVY NOISE IS ALMOST LIKE THE BEGINNING OF THE EXPLOSION OF THE END OF THE WORLD. PANARA: BUT THEN WE WOULD HAVE TO SAY "A." AND BEING DEAF WOULD KNOW "A-BOMB." GINSBERG: EXCEPT I WAS TALKING-- WE HAVE THE H-BOMB NOW. - OR THE "H." - IT'S BIGGER. PANARA: YEAH, WELL, WE WOULD USE THE "H," WE WOULD USE THE H-BOMB. GINSBERG: YOU'D USE H-BOMB. PANARA: H-BOMB. GINSBERG: I SEE. SO THAT WAS MY FAVORITE PHRASE, "HYDROGEN JUKEBOX." BUT IT DOES DEPEND ON-- IT'S A VERY ABSTRACT ONE. IT'S TWO CONCRETE THINGS. THERE'S A JUKEBOX, AND THEN THERE'S HYDROGEN. HYDROGEN IS REAL AND THE JUKEBOX IS REAL. AND WHEN YOU PUT THEM TOGETHER, IT MAKES AN UNUSUAL KIND OF JUKEBOX. MAN: YES, BUT IF I HAD TO SIGN WITHOUT THINKING OF THE ENGLISH WORDS... - YEAH. I WOULD MAKE SOME KIND OF COMPOUND. THERE'D BE SEVERAL SIGNS THAT YOU COULD USE TO EXPLAIN THE PICTURE THAT I MIGHT GET FROM THOSE TWO WORDS. GINSBERG: YEAH. BUT WHAT I'M WONDERING IS, ONCE IT IS EXPLAINED, DOES ANY KIND OF INTERESTING SPARKLE COME THROUGH WITH THAT COMBINATION? OR DOES THAT GO DEAD IN TRANSLATION? EVERYTHING TRANSLATES-- MAN: LET ME TRY. I DON'T KNOW IF IT'S WHAT YOU WANT. [LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE] GINSBERG: THAT LOOKS LIKE IT. PANARA: THAT WAS GOOD. GINSBERG: THAT LOOKS LIKE IT. [LAUGHTER] AND WHAT WERE THE SIGNS YOU WERE MAKING? STUDENT: OK, MUSIC, BOX. GINSBERG: BOX. IT TRANSLATES-- INTERPRET. STUDENT: MUSIC AND THEN I MADE A SIGN TO SHOW THE SHAPE OF THE BOX. A MUSIC BOX, I TAKE A COIN, PUT IT IN. A RECORD FLOPS OVER, THE NEEDLE STARTS SPINNING IN THE NEEDLE'S EYE, STARTS MAKING NOISE, AND THEN THERE'S A BOMB. GINSBERG: WOW. THAT'S REALLY GOOD. THAT'S A WHOLE OTHER HAIKU. [LAUGHTER] - BUT-- - TRUE. BUT WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT IT IS LIKE IT'S A WHOLE COMPLETE POEM BECAUSE, SO, MY INTERPRETATION--THAT MEANS WHEN YOU PUT MUSIC IN A BOX AND HAVE TO PAY FOR IT AND IT BECOMES MECHANICAL REPETITION, IT MIGHT LEAD TO A NOISE THAT MIGHT BLOW UP THE WORLD. IN OTHER WORDS, YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT THE WHOLE NATURE OF THE MECHANICAL, TECHNOLOGICAL, PUTTING HUMAN MUSIC INTO A BOX WITH MONEY, 'CAUSING AN EXPLOSION, WHICH IS A HAIKU IN ITSELF. THERE'S A LOGICAL JUMP IN THAT. THERE'S A WHOLE 'NOTHER-- IT'S A WHOLE OTHER POEM, MINE AND ANOTHER LAYER OF IT. IT'S GREAT. THAT'S REALLY INTERESTING. PANARA: SO YOU SEE PAT DO SOME OTHER THINGS SOMETIMES. HA HA! HE DOES THE "SEVEN AGES OF MAN," SHAKESPEARE. MAN: I FORGOT THE WORDS. I CAN SHOW ONE FAVORITE POEM OF MINE. PANARA: FINE. STUDENT: LANGSTON HUGHES. "DREAMS." DO YOU KNOW THAT ONE? YOU WANT ME TO WRITE IT UP ON THE BOARD? GINSBERG: SURE. PANARA: SURE. GINSBERG: IS HE GOOD AT THAT? [LAUGHTER] SO FOR HIM, POETRY IS ALL CLEAR PICTURE, NO SOUND AT ALL. NEVER HAVE--NEVER ANY SOUND ELEMENT. PANARA: THAT'S TRUE, AND THAT'S REMARKABLE. [INDISTINCT] PANARA: LANGSTON HUGHES. LANGSTON HUGHES. BLACK POET. HE WROTE THAT. PAT: AS YOU KNOW, I'VE NO-- AS I SAID, I HAVE NO SENSE OF RHYTHM BECAUSE I NEVER HEARD SOUND. BUT I'VE HAD TO TRANSLATE THAT INTO A VISUAL IMAGE. SO I CAN'T SIGN THE FIRST LINE AS IT SAYS, "HOLD FAST--HOLD FAST TO DREAMS." I NEED TO SET UP THINGS FIRST. GINSBERG: I THINK THAT'S BECAUSE THAT LINE IS VERY ABSTRACT. IT'S WORSE THAN "HYDROGEN JUKEBOX." - EXACTLY! - HA HA HA! MAN: OK. LET ME TRY. [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] GINSBERG: WELL, THE MASTER OF PICTORIAL POETRY IN THE 20th CENTURY WAS WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS. HAS HE BEEN MUCH WORKED WITH IN TERMS OF DEAF LANGUAGE AND SIGN LANGUAGE? ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH "WHEELBARROW"? THE "WHEELBARROW." HOW IS-- HOW IS WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS-- HIS MOST FAMOUS POEM IS "THE RED WHEELBARROW." HOW MANY PEOPLE HERE HAVE HEARD OF IT? HOW MANY HAVE NOT HEARD OF IT? OF THE DEAF, HOW MANY HAVE HEARD OF "THE RED WHEELBARROW?" AND HOW MANY HAVE NOT HEARD OF IT? RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU'VE NOT HEARD OF IT. OK, THEN LET'S DO THAT ONE. CAN YOU DO THAT? "SO MUCH DEPENDS "UPON A RED WHEELBARROW "GLAZED WITH RAINWATER BESIDE THE WHITE CHICKENS." LET'S HAVE A BIG FORMAL ONE, LIKE A BIG SHOW OF IT. CAN YOU DO THAT ONE? PANARA: WRITE IT DOWN? GINSBERG: HERE, HERE, HERE. YEAH. THAT'S THE MOST-- IT'S THE MOST FAMOUS-- PANARA: I'VE HEARD IT ONCE OR TWICE BEFORE. GINSBERG: IT'S THE MOST FAMOUS IMAGIST POEM OF THE CENTURY. SO I'LL WRITE IT DOWN. AND WE'LL GET STARTED ON INTRODUCING IMAGES... WITH A CLEAN SLATE. MAN: [INDISTINCT] GINSBERG: I DON'T REMEMBER HOW IT GOES IN TERMS OF THE LINES. OH, ACTUALLY, I'M SORRY. LET ME GET IT STRAIGHT. COULD MR. PANARA TRY THAT? THE DIFFICULT PART, THE MYSTERIOUS PART IS "SO MUCH DEPENDS," THE FIRST TWO LINES. THE REST IS A REAL CLEAR PICTURE. MAN: YES, I'M TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THOSE WORDS MEAN. GINSBERG: WELL, ACTUALLY, I THINK-- I THINK--MY INTERPRETATION IS SO MUCH OF OUR INTELLIGENCE DEPENDS ON OUR BEING ABLE TO SEE THAT CLEARLY. SO MUCH OF POETRY DEPENDS ON BEING ABLE TO SEE A SINGLE IMAGE, A SINGLE PICTURE OF REAL LIFE IN ALL OF ITS LUMINOUS DETAIL. SO MUCH OF OUR PERCEPTION DEPENDS AND SO MUCH OF OUR COMMUNICATION DEPENDS ON OUR BEING ABLE TO SEE PRECISELY AND SPEAK PRECISELY ABOUT WHAT WE CAN SEE. ALSO, MAYBE SO MUCH IN THE GARDEN DEPENDS ON THE WHEELBARROW. SO MUCH WORK IN THE GARDEN. SO THE FIRST TWO LINES ARE LIKE THE PHILOSOPHICAL, MORAL EDITORIAL, AND THEY CONTRADICT THE POEM. IT MAY BE "SO MUCH DEPENDS UPON" INSTEAD OF "ON," I DON'T KNOW. LET ME... MAYBE I WAS WRONG. PROBABLY IT MEANS "SO MUCH IMPORTANCE." "LOTS OF IMPORTANCE." OR... MAN: I FEEL THAT PUT THE FIRST TWO LINES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POEM. GINSBERG: YES. BUT I THINK WILLIAMS WANTED YOU-- TO LEAVE YOU WITH A PICTURE RATHER THAN WITH THE IDEA. IT JUST WASN'T THE PURE PICTURE. "SO MUCH DEPENDS" IS SORT OF THE EXCUSE FOR BRINGING THE PICTURE. PANARA: PUZZLE! HA HA HA! [LAUGHTER] GINSBERG: WHAT POINT PUZZLED HIM? THE "SO MUCH DEPENDS" OR THE-- PANARA: WELL, REALLY, I OMITTED THIS. GINSBERG: THE RAINWATER? GLAZED WITH RAIN, YEAH. PANARA: AND WE HAVE TO HAVE THAT, TOO. GINSBERG: THAT'S REAL PICTURE-- THAT'S REAL PICTURE, THOUGH. PANARA: MM-HMM. THAT'S WHY, AS PAT SAID, WE HAVE TO ADD THE COMPOUND, AND THAT WILL EXTEND THE PICTURE, YEAH. GINSBERG: WHAT'S REALLY-- PANARA: VERY SIMPLE, YEAH. GINSBERG: WHAT I FIND INTERESTING IN THIS IS THIS POEM IS SUPPOSED TO BE THE CLASSIC OF PICTORIAL SIMPLICITY, BUT IT ACTUALLY ISN'T. YES. MAN: THE WAY HE HANDLED IT, THOUGH, HE ELIMINATED THE [INDISTINCT] STUFF, AND IT WAS JUST IMPLICIT THE WAY HE WAS LOOKING AT IT. AND, YOU KNOW, I THINK, IN SIGN POETRY, YOU WOULD HAVE TO REALLY SET UP THE PICTURE AND ALL THE DETAIL, AND IT WOULD BE-- IT WOULD HAVE THE SAME EFFECT. GINSBERG: AND HE DID SET UP THE PICTURE. THE SUBTLE THING, "GLAZED WITH RAIN WATER"-- THAT SHINY THING. IT'S LIKE A VERMEER PAINTING. OK. WHAT--OH, OK. "BIRDBRAIN," YES. PANARA: [INDISTINCT] HARMONIUM. GINSBERG: WELL, NOBODY CAN HEAR IT. PANARA: OH, YES. HA HA HA! SEE, HE'S GOT THE RHYTHM. YEAH, IT'S THE SAME. GINSBERG: FOR--IS THERE ANY POINT IN DOING ANYTHING WITH HARMONIUM? I DON'T THINK SO. NO, WE'RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME. - WELL, I--FOR WHO? - SURE, SURE. AH, BUT I--WELL, DO BOTH THEN. BUT I WAS INTERESTED IN DOING-- IN TRYING TO FOLLOW JIM COHEN'S SUGGESTION AND DO "BIRDBRAIN" OR DO SOME LINES OF "BIRDBRAIN." NO, WE'LL LEAVE IT DOWN. SO I'LL DO IT WITH THE HARMONIUM. JUST COMBINE THEM BOTH. DO YOU HAVE THE TEXT? [PLAYING HARMONIUM] BIRDBRAIN RUNS THE WORLD. BIRDBRAIN IS THE ULTIMATE PRODUCT OF CAPITALISM. BIRDBRAIN, CHIEF BUREAUCRAT OF RUSSIA, YAWNING. BIRDBRAIN RAN THE FBI 30 YEARS, APPOINTED BY FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT AND NEVER CHASED COSA NOSTRA. BIRDBRAIN APPORTIONS WHEAT TO BE BURNED, KEEP PRICES UP IN THE WORLD MARKET. BIRDBRAIN NEVER GETS LAID ON HIS OWN. HE DEPENDS ON HIS OFFICE TO PIMP FOR HIM. BIRDBRAIN OFFERS BRAIN TRANSPLANTS IN SWITZERLAND. BIRDBRAIN WAKES UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AND ARRANGES HIS SHEETS. I AM BIRDBRAIN. I RULE RUSSIA, YUGOSLAVIA, THE UNITED STATES, EASTMAN'S SCHOOL OF MUSIC, ROCHESTER, RIT. BIRDBRAIN CLUBS BABY HARP SEALS AND WEARS THEIR COATS TO PARIS. BIRDBRAIN RUNS THE PENTAGON. HIS BROTHER RUNS THE CIA. FAT-ASS BUCKS. WHAT IS FAT-ASS BUCKS? BIRDBRAIN IS POPE, PREMIER, PRESIDENT, COMMISSAR, CHAIRMAN, SENATOR. BIRDBRAIN VOTED REAGAN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. BIRDBRAIN PREPARES WONDER BREAD WITH REFINED WHITE FLOUR. BIRDBRAIN WORE A MUSTACHE AND WAS DICTATOR OF GERMANY THE LAST YEAR OF WORLD WAR II. BIRDBRAIN CONCEIVED THE FINAL SOLUTION TO THE JEWISH PROBLEM OF EUROPE. BIRDBRAIN CARRIED IT OUT IN GAS CHAMBERS. TURN THE PAGE. BIRDBRAIN OUTLAWED OPIUM ON THE WORLD MARKET. BIRDBRAIN FORMED THE BLACK MARKET IN OPIUM. BIRDBRAIN'S FATHER SHOT HEROIN INTO HIS ARMS IN THE HALLWAYS OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE. BIRDBRAIN ORGANIZED OPERATION CONDOR TO SPRAY POISON FUMES ON THE MARIJUANA FIELDS OF MEXICO. BIRDBRAIN GOT SICK IN HARVARD SQUARE FROM SMOKING MEXICAN GRASS. BIRDBRAIN ARRIVED IN EUROPE TO CONQUER COCKROACHES WITH PROPAGANDA. BIRDBRAIN BECAME A GREAT INTERNATIONAL POET WHO WENT AROUND THE WORLD SINGING THE GLORIES OF BIRDBRAIN. HE BUILT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER ON NEW YORK HARBOR WITHOUT PLANNING WHERE THE TOILETS WOULD EMPTY. HE BEGAN CHOPPING DOWN THE AMAZON RAINFORESTS TO BUILD A WOOD PULP FACTORY ON THE RIVER BANK. BIRDBRAIN IN BELFAST THROWS BOMBS AT HIS MOTHER'S ASS. BIRDBRAIN AUTHORED THE BIBLE, WROTE "THE WEALTH OF NATIONS," WROTE "DAS KAPITAL." HE INVENTED THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY SO THAT ROCKWELL CORPORATION COULD MANUFACTURE NEUTRON BOMBS IN COLORADO. BIRDBRAIN'S GOING TO SEE HOW LONG HE CAN GO WITHOUT COMING. BIRDBRAIN THINKS HIS DONG WILL GROW BIG THAT WAY. BIRDBRAIN BECAME--REALIZED-- BIRDBRAIN REALIZED HE WAS A BUDDHA BY MEDITATING. BIRDBRAIN'S AFRAID HE'S GOING TO BLOW UP THE PLANET, SO HE WROTE THIS POEM TO BE IMMORTAL. [MUSIC STOPS] [APPLAUSE] TIME IS IT? 11:00 ON THE NOSE. MAN: THANK YOU. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. [APPLAUSE] FOLLOWING THIS CLASS, WE'LL MEET AGAIN. WHAT DAY ARE WE? NEXT MONDAY. WE HAVE FOOD IN THE BACK. PLEASE HELP YOURSELF. [APPLAUSE] [INDISTINCT CHATTER] MAN: UM...MAINLY A KIND OF, YOU KNOW, JUST A PERSONAL-- [AUDIO CUTS OUT] [COLOR BAR TONE] WOMAN: ...OF THE SPEAKERS WERE IMMEDIATELY CLEAR IN THE SIGNING. AND YOU COULD--THE CLOSER THE SPEAKER TO A POETIC UTTERANCE, THE WHOLE SIGNING CHANGED. IT WAS VERY INTERESTING, VERY INTERESTING BECAUSE THE NAME OF CHRIST CAME UP SO OFTEN WITH THE... ESPECIALLY THE MINISTERS WHO SPOKE BUT THE WORD FOR "CHRIST" IN SIGNING IS... YEAH. AND YOU REALLY GOT A TREMENDOUS SENSE OF WHAT WAS GOING ON, TO WATCH BACK AND FORTH. "GLAZED"--WHAT COULD YOU DO? WAS THAT A VISUAL, OR... GINSBERG: WELL, SURE-- HOW DID THEY TRANSLATE "GLAZE"? DID ANYBODY NOTICE? IT WAS SOMETHING LIKE THIS. LIKE THIS. MAN: THAT'S RIGHT. [INDISTINCT] SECOND MAN: THE GLAZE WAS... GINSBERG: WAS REALLY...OH. OH, "SNOW"? THIS IS "SNOW," HUH? A LITTLE SLOW... SO, HOW DO WE--YOU'RE GONNA ASK ME QUESTIONS OR WHAT? MAN: YEAH. AND ANYONE WHO WANTS TO ASK ANYTHING, I'D LIKE TO HAVE THEM JUST JUMP IN, TOO. I'D JUST LIKE TO GET YOU TALKING. I MEAN, I DON'T HAVE ANY SPECIFIC QUESTIONS. GINSBERG: YEAH, RIGHT. LIKE WHAT? ABOUT WHAT? MAN: WELL, START OUT WITH JUST WHEN WAS-- WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST-- WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST KNOWLEDGE OF WILLIAMS? AND WAS THERE ANYTHING-- WAS IT AT AN EARLIER AGE THAN EVEN OTHER POETS WOULD HAVE BEEN BECAUSE YOU WERE IN PATERSON? GINSBERG: MM-HMM. ARE WE READY? MAN: I DON'T THINK SO? ARE WE-- WE'RE GOING? OK. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST KNOWLEDGE OF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS? GINSBERG: WELL, NOT MUCH WHEN I WAS VERY YOUNG BECAUSE MY FATHER WAS A POET AND HE WAS KNOWN IN PATERSON, NEW JERSEY AS PATERSON'S PRINCIPLE POET, LOUIS GINSBERG. AND HE DIDN'T LIKE EZRA POUND OR T.S. ELIOT, NOR DID HE LIKE WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS, 'CAUSE THEY ALL WROTE MODERN POETRY WITHOUT RHYMES. SO MY FATHER WAS A LITTLE UPSET AND MAYBE A LITTLE JEALOUS 'CAUSE THEY WERE CONSIDERED AVANT-GARDE AND MORE FAMOUS. HOWEVER, THERE WAS A LABOR NEWSPAPER THAT BEGAN--SOME FRIENDS OF MY FATHER STARTED, THE "NEW JERSEY LABOR HERALD," OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, FROM PATERSON. "PATERSON PRESS," A WEEKLY. AND I GOT INTERESTED IN WILLIAMS 'CAUSE I READ A LITTLE BOOK OF HIS CALLED "THE WEDGE," WRITTEN DURING THE WAR AT COLUMBIA COLLEGE IN THE BROWSING ROOM. AND IT WAS PUT OUT, I THINK, BY CUMMINGTON PRESS. AND I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND IT AT ALL. ACTUALLY, NOW I READ IT AND IT'S VERY CLEAR. BUT IN THOSE DAYS, I COULDN'T UNDERSTAND IT 'CAUSE IT DIDN'T RHYME, BUT I WAS USED TO THAT. AND IT DIDN'T SEEM TO HAVE THE SAME TINKLE, TINKLE THAT REGULAR POETRY THAT I KNEW OF HAD. AND I DIDN'T KNOW WHY IT WAS SO CLEAN AND SO LIKE A SKYSCRAPER OR SOMETHING, SO MODERN. I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT HE WAS TRYING TO DO. SO I ARRANGED THROUGH THE "PATERSON PRESS" TO GO AND INTERVIEW WILLIAMS WHEN I WAS 17 OR 18 YEARS OLD, TO GO TO HIS HOUSE IN RUTHERFORD, TO HIS DOCTOR'S OFFICE AND ASK HIM WHAT HE MEANT. ACTUALLY, HOW HE--WHAT HE WAS INTERESTED IN. SO I PHONED AND I GOT AN INTERVIEW WITH HIM, AND I WENT THERE AND WAITED IN HIS DOCTOR'S OFFICE, AND THEN FINALLY HE WAS FINISHED WITH HIS PATIENTS AND HE HAD A HALF AN HOUR OR AN HOUR TO SPEND WITH ME. HE SHOWED ME HIS HOUSE AND SHOWED ME WHERE HE WRITES UPSTAIRS IN A ROOM. THEN I SAT DOWN WITH HIM IN THE LITTLE DOCTOR'S OFFICE AND WE TALKED. AND I SAID, "DO YOU THINK OF YOURSELF AS A POET OR A DOCTOR?" AND HE SAID, "DOCTOR." ... ILLUSIONS, BECAUSE I THOUGHT, "OH, GEE, HE'S GONNA THINK OF HIMSELF, HE'S A POET IN DISGUISE AS A DOCTOR." BUT NO, HE'S A DOCTOR IN DISGUISE AS A POET. OR HE WAS JUST PUTTING ME ON. OR ELSE HE JUST WAS GIVING ME VERY STRAIGHTFORWARD-- HE WAS A DOCTOR. HE WAS A DOCTOR. HE WAS JUST TRYING TO GET AN ORDINARY THING. AND I SAID, "WELL, WHAT IS IT YOU'RE TRYING TO DO?" AND HE SAID, "WELL," THEN HE SHOWED ME HIS PRESCRIPTION PAD. AND HE HAD WRITTEN ON IT, "I'LL KICK YUH EYE." "I'LL KICK Y-U-H E-Y-E." "YUH EYE." "I'LL KICK YUH EYE." HE SAID HE HEARD SOME POLISH GUY SAYING THAT. "I'LL KICK YUH EYE." HE SAYS, "NOW, HOW COULD YOU PUT THAT INTO IAMBIC PENTAMETER, "OR--IT DOESN'T FIT. YOU CAN'T MEASURE IT THAT WAY. "'I'LL KICK YUH EYE.' "I'M LOOKING FOR A WAY OF MEASURING THE SPEECH AROUND RUTHERFORD, "THE SPEECH I HEAR, THE TALK I HEAR, THE WAY PEOPLE TALK HERE." THEN... THEN I WENT HOME AND I WROTE UP THIS INTERVIEW. AND I WAS VERY RESPECTFUL BECAUSE I WAS REALLY INTERESTED, BUT I DIDN'T STILL UNDERSTAND HIM. AND, WELL, IT WAS CHOPPED UP BY THE EDITOR AND CHANGED, AND THE FRONT WAS CHANGED AND IT SOUNDED LIKE I WAS MAKING FUN OF HIM. I GOT REALLY UPSET AND REALLY GOT ASHAMED. IT WAS MY FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH JOURNALISM, OF BETTER JOURNALISM. AND THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A LEFT-WING PAPER, TOO, OR SOME KIND OF LIBERAL PAPER. THEN ABOUT A HALF-YEAR LATER, HE READ AT THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, 1948, AND I WENT TO HEAR HIM READ. AND ALL OF A SUDDEN, I REALIZED THAT HE WAS JUST TALKING, THAT THERE WAS NO TRICK AT ALL, THAT THE WHOLE REASON I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND IT WAS I LOOKING FOR A TRICK, AND THERE WAS NO TRICK. IT WAS JUST STRAIGHTFORWARD STATEMENT, STRAIGHTFORWARD DESCRIPTION, LIKE SOMEBODY ON HIS FRONT PORCH TELLING ME WHAT HE SAW THAT DAY OR JUST TALKING ABOUT WHAT HE THINKS. AND THE ONE LINE THAT GAVE ME-- MADE A LIGHT BULB OPEN IN MY HEAD, THAT GAVE ME THE INSIGHT WAS THE END OF A POEM CALLED "THE CLOUDS," WHERE HE SAYS, "THE IMAGINATION STRAINING AFTER A PISMIRE, A MOTH, A BUTTERFLY, A..." AND HE ENDS THE POEM THAT WAY. "STRAINING AFTER A PISMIRE, A MOTH, A BUTTERFLY, A..." HE LIFTED UP HIS HANDS LIKE THAT AND BROKE THE SENTENCE OFF, JUST LIKE I DO WHEN I'M TALKING SOMETIMES. "MY FATHER--" I CAN'T... I GIVE UP. HE JUST ENDED IT LIKE THAT. AND I REALIZE, "OH, IT'S JUST ALL THE VIVIDNESS. "HE'S JUST LIKE TALKING. "THAT'S ALL HE'S DOING IS TALKING. HIS CHARACTER IS NO DIFFERENT FROM TALKING FOR REAL." AND I SAID, "SO, THAT'S WHAT MODERN POETRY IS. "IT'S LIKE TALKING FOR REAL INSTEAD OF MAKING UP SOMETHING PRETTY TO SOUND GOOD." SO THEN I UNDERSTOOD WHAT HE WAS DOING. SO THEN I WENT TO MY NOTEBOOKS, AND--FIRST I HAD SENT HIM-- THEN I SENT HIM SOME POEMS OF MY OWN THAT WERE RHYME POEMS THAT I'D WRITTEN AROUND PATERSON OR COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY THAT WERE SORT OF MYSTICAL RHYME POEMS. AND I SENT HIM A LONG--SENT IT TO HIM WITH A LONG LETTER TALKING ABOUT KEROUAC AND BURROUGHS AND A FEW OTHER PEOPLE AND SAYING THAT I WAS INTERESTED IN HIS CHANGE OF PROSODY AND METER OR NEW METER, BUT I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND IT, WOULD LIKE TO TALK WITH HIM. THEN HE SENT ME BACK THE POEM SAYING, "IN THIS MODE, PERFECTION IS BASIC. THESE ARE NO GOOD." I SHOULD SAY, HE'S-- HE DIDN'T SAY, "THESE ARE NO GOOD." SAID, "THESE AREN'T SO INTERESTING IN THIS MODE. PERFECTION IS BASIC IN THE RHYME MODE." I SHOULD MENTION THAT WHEN I SAW HIM, WHAT HE LOOKED LIKE-- SORT OF SLIGHTLY STOOPED OVER, BRISK OF APPEARANCE, BIG NOSE, BIG, BONY NOSE. HE WROTE A POEM ABOUT-- "YOU AND I, BONEY NOSE..." HE'S GOT A POEM ABOUT IT. HIGH FOREHEAD, PROMINENT BROW OR BONE. KIND OF A THIN FACE, SLIGHTLY SUNKEN-CHEEKED. A WEAK MOUTH IN THE SENSE OF A FRIENDLY MOUTH, NOT A STRONG DICTATOR'S MOUTH AT ALL, NOT A POUTING MOUTH AT ALL, MORE OF ALMOST A WOMANISH MOUTH. EXTREMELY TENDER EYES, FRIENDLY, INQUISITIVE, COMPLETELY WIDE OPEN, FRIENDLY, INQUISITIVE, NO PREJUDICES AT ALL. ODD, LIKE A--LIKE SOME OLD LADY SCHOOLTEACHER WHO'S REALLY FRIENDLY. IF YOU'VE EVER HAD A LITTLE OLD LADY SCHOOLTEACHER WHO WAS REALLY FRIENDLY IN THE FOURTH GRADE OR THE FIFTH GRADE. JUST REALLY CURIOUS AND INQUISITIVE AND FRIENDLY AND LOOKING AT YOU. "WHAT ARE YOU MADE OF?" YOU KNOW? "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT?" "WHAT ARE YOU INTERESTED IN?" A LITTLE BIRDIE, OR... BUT REALLY FRIENDLY. INQUISITIVE, I WOULD SAY. THAT WAS HIS CHARACTERISTIC, TOTALLY VULNERABLE. QUITE THE--NO SENSE OF FORCE OR HEAVY ARMOR OR ANGER OR PRIDE. QUITE LIKE A GOOD DOCTOR TALKING TO A BABY. SO LIKE A GOOD DOCTOR RELATING TO A BABY, LIKE OPEN. NOT TREATING HIM AS-- MAN: RECEPTIVE. GINSBERG: RECEPTIVE, TOTALLY RECEPTIVE. AND AT THAT TIME, I WAS GAY, AND I KNEW I WAS GAY. AND I TALKED TO KEROUAC ABOUT IT, BUT I DIDN'T WANT HIM TO KNOW FOR SOME REASON. I WAS ASHAMED. SO I TOLD HIM I WASN'T GAY. AND HE COULD SEE THROUGH THAT. SO THERE WAS ONE TIME... I CAN'T REM... THEN I SENT HIM SOME POEMS THAT I DREW OUT OF MY JOURNALS. I KEPT JOURNALS OF PROSE. AND I TOOK A COUPLE OF PARAGRAPHS AND ARRANGED THEM IN LINES SO THAT THEY LOOKED LIKE MODERN POETRY. PROSE WAS ALL OVER THE PAGE, BUT REALLY STRAIGHTFORWARD PROSE LINES THAT DESCRIBED THINGS LIKE THE ALLEY--THE MILL STREET, THE SMOKE IN THE ALLEYS, THE DYE WORKS, ALL THE NEGROES CLIMBING ALL AROUND RUSTED IRON BY THE RIVER, DESCRIPTIONS OF THE PASSAIC RIVER AND LOCAL SCENES. AND I SENT THOSE TO HIM. I HAD 7 OF THEM. AND HE WROTE BACK, "THIS IS IT. "HAVE YOU GOT ANY MORE OF THESE? "I SHALL SEE THAT YOU GET A BOOK, 'CAUSE THEY'RE NOT MINE." 'CAUSE I WAS JUST TRYING TO IMITATE WHAT HE WAS DOING. AND I SAID, "WELL, I THINK I'LL FAKE IT." [LAUGHTER] WHAT WASN'T FAKE WAS THESE WERE THE ACTUAL NOTES I WROTE TO MYSELF WITHOUT TRYING TO WRITE POETRY, JUST TRYING TO MAKE SENSE. THE OTHER FAKE WAS ARRANGING THEM IN LINES, BUT THEN THAT WASN'T FAKE, EITHER, 'CAUSE I TOOK A LOT OF TROUBLE TO BALANCE THE LINES AND BREAK IT UP INTO PHRASES AS YOU MIGHT SPEAK IT, BREAK IT UP INTO PHRASES AS YOU MIGHT SPEAK IT, LAY IT OUT ON THE PAGE SO IT HAD SOME KIND OF MINDFUL ORDER, MINDFUL ARRANGEMENT OF THE PHRASING. MAN: AND THEN HOW DID IT AFFECT YOU AFTER THAT? GINSBERG: WELL, I SUDDENLY REALIZED, "OH, ALL I HAVE TO DO IS BE MYSELF. "I DON'T HAVE TO WRITE POETRY ANYMORE, "I JUST BE MYSELF AND WRITE DOWN WHAT I REALLY THINK INSTEAD OF TRYING TO MAKE IT INTO POETRY." 'CAUSE THE POETRY'S WHAT I REALLY THINK ALREADY. IT ISN'T SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE TO MAKE UP AS IF I DIDN'T THINK IT, AS IF THE POETRY WAS TOTALLY NATURAL AND YET IF ONE COULD BE NATURAL, AND SO WHAT ONE REALLY THINKS FRANKLY, VIVIDLY, DIRECTLY, WITH CANDOR, THAT WAS AS VIVID AS YOU COULD GET, AND THAT YOU ONLY SMUDGED IT AND MADE IT MESSY WHEN YOU TRY TO FORCE IT INTO SOME KIND OF OLD-FASHIONED FORM JUST FOR THE SAKE OF BEING SMART-ALECK ABOUT IT, THAT THE WHOLE POINT OF TRYING TO BE FORMALISTIC WAS GENERALLY BEING SMART-ALECK AND NOT REALLY SAYING WHAT YOU WERE REALLY THINKING. AND THE WEIRD THING WAS THAT HE DUG WHAT I WAS REALLY THINKING RATHER THAN WHAT I WAS TRYING TO COME ON WITH. HE DUG MY NATURAL THOUGHTS, MY NATURAL MIND, WHAT I ACTUALLY JUST WROTE TO MYSELF LIKE IN SUICIDE NOTES. THOSE ARE THE THINGS HE DUG. OR AS KEROUAC SAID IN "PULL MY DAISY" MOVIE WHEN HE'S LOOKING AT GREGORY CORSO AND I WHO ARE EXAMINING EACH OTHER'S NOTEBOOKS-- WE HAD THESE SCRIBBLED NOTEBOOKS. AND ROBERT FRANK PUTS HIS CAMERA ON IT, HE SAYS, "OH, THERE THEY DO THE LITTLE SECRET SCATOLOGICAL SCRIBBLES," WHICH IS, OF COURSE, WHAT EVERYBODY'S INTERESTED IN, RATHER THAN WHAT WE SHOW THE PUBLIC, YOU KNOW, AS IF IT'S YOUR WORK OF ART LIKE NAPOLEON OR SOMETHING. SO, WHITMAN LIKED CANDOR ALSO. THEN ONE DAY TO... I SAID--'CAUSE HE WAS WRITING THIS BIG, LONG POEM, "PATERSON," AND I'M FROM PATERSON. SO I SAID--AND APPARENTLY HE DUG THE FACT THAT SOMEBODY FROM PATERSON ITSELF, SOME YOUNG KID, SLIGHTLY CRAZY BUT ILLUMINATED YOUNG KID WOULD WRITE HIM BACK. AND IT WAS LIKE A RESPONSE FROM THE STREETS. LIKE HE HAD BEEN INVOKING THE SPIRIT OF PATERSON AND ALL OF A SUDDEN, THERE WAS SOMEBODY THAT WAS A LITTLE BIT SENSITIVE ABOUT POEMS ABOUT MILL STREET AND THE SMOKE AND NEGROES CLIMBING AROUND RUSTED IRON BY THE RIVER, WHICH IS JUST LIKE HIS OWN EYE. SO WE MADE AN APPOINTMENT, AND HE CAME AND PICKED ME UP AT MY HOUSE IN PATERSON. AND HE SAID, "WELL, I'LL BE YOUR DATE TONIGHT." AND WE WENT DOWN TO RIVER STREET BY THE PASSAIC RIVER, WHICH IS THE NEIGHBORHOOD WHERE I GREW UP, AND I SHOWED HIM ALL THE ARCHETYPAL KEROUACIAN... IMAGE--HOUSES AND DRUG STORES AND MARKETS AND BACKYARD FENCES AND PORCHES THAT I MYTHOLOGIZED TO MYSELF OR WITH KEROUAC WHEN I WAS GROWING UP-- THE ARCHETYPAL MEMORY PLACES IN MY EXISTENCE IN PATERSON TO GIVE HIM SOME SENSE OF THE GROUND, OR HOW IT LOOKED TO ME. SO WE TOOK A BIG WALK BY THE PASSAIC RIVER AND FOUND ONE SPOT WHERE THE HOUSES HAD BEEN TORN DOWN, AND THERE WAS ACTUALLY A LITTLE RUBBLE AND YOU COULD ACTUALLY GET TO THE WATER. AND I BENT DOWN AND I'M SORT OF DIGGING UP THE RUBBLE LIKE AN ARCHAEOLOGIST AND SAID, "WELL, HERE'S AN OLD RAZOR BLADE "AND HERE'S AN OLD TOOTHPASTE CAP AND CONDOMS AND POT, STEEL KNIVES, NOTHING STAINLESS." THAT IS TO SAY, JUST WHATEVER WAS THERE AS BEING THE POETRY OF PATERSON, THE POEM OF THE RIVERBANK. WHAT WAS ACCUMULATED, WE'RE NOW THROWING AWAY LIFETIMES. AND THEN I WENT WITH HIM AROUND TO A-- THERE'S A LITTLE DRAINAGE POOL BEHIND ONE OF THE FACTORIES UP AROUND MILL STREET IN PATERSON, NEAR THE FALLS, WHICH WAS A POND. THE DYE FACTORY-- THEY DYED THE SILK THERE. PATERSON'S A SILK CITY, AND THE LITTLE POND WOULD RUN OFF WATER FROM THE FACTORY. THERE WAS A PLACE WHERE KIDS USED TO GO NAKED IN THE SUMMER AND SWIM. RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FACTORY BUILDINGS, THE INDUSTRIAL LANDSCAPE, THERE'S THIS LITTLE PASTORAL POND LIKE AN OLD POND IN 19th-CENTURY AMERICAN PAINTINGS. AND I REMEMBER GOING THERE AS A KID, AND I WAS TOTALLY ASTOUNDED. IT WAS THE FIRST PLACE I EVER SAW EVERYBODY NAKED, ALL THOSE GUYS NAKED. I WAS TOO YOUNG TO RECOGNIZE SEX, BUT THERE WAS SOMETHING THAT STIRRED ME. AND I REMEMBER, SO I TOLD WILLIAMS ABOUT SOMETHING THAT I HAD SEEN WHEN I WAS ABOUT 7. THERE WAS THIS OLDER BIG BULLY, HAD A LITTLE PUBIC HAIR, AND THERE WAS THIS LITTLE SHIVERING RUNT. AND THE BIG BULLY WAS THREATENING AND PERSECUTING THE LITTLE SHIVERING RUNT. AND THEY HAD GOTTEN ACROSS THE POND ONTO A LITTLE LEDGE OF SANDSTONE BACKED BY A FENCE. AND ON THE RIGHT-HAND SIDE WAS A 20-FOOT REAL POND DROP, A LITTLE WATERFALL DROP. AND THE BULLY WAS THREATENING TO PUSH THE KID OVER. AND EVERYBODY ELSE WAS SORT OF INDIFFERENT, AND THERE WAS THIS KID SHIVERING, BLUE-BODIED, SCREAMING IN TERROR AS HE'S BEING PUSHED CLOSER AND CLOSER TO THE WATERFALL. BUT I STILL REMEMBER THAT AS PARTLY AS AN EROTIC IMAGE, PARTLY AS LIKE A FEAR IMAGE. SO I TOLD WILLIAMS ABOUT IT 'CAUSE I WAS TRYING TO DELIVER TO HIM WHAT WAS THE PSYCHE OF PATERSON, ACTUALLY. THAT WAS THE STRONGEST IMAGE I REMEMBER FROM CHILDHOOD IN THE STREETS OF PATERSON. SO WHEN WE GOT HOME-- HE TOOK ME HOME AND I SAT OUTSIDE MY HOUSE WITH HIM IN THE CAR AND ASKED HIM WHAT IS HE TRYING TO DO. SAYS, "WHAT I'M TRYING TO DO IS SQUEEZE PICTURES "INTO LITTLE LINES. "I'M TRYING TO TAKE A PICTURE AND SQUEEZE IT INTO LITTLE NARROW LINES." I REMEMBER HIM USING THE WORD "SQUEEZE." SQUEEZING A PICTURE INTO A FEW WORDS. HE TALKED A LITTLE ABOUT HIS SENSE OF RELATIVE MEASURE AND ABOUT WHAT HE WAS INTERESTED IN AND MEASURING THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE, BUT MORE OF A PRACTICAL WAY SO THAT A PHRASE LIKE "I'LL KICK YUH EYE" HOW DO YOU--YOU CAN'T FIGURE IT OUT BY THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY. YOU JUST HAVE TO LISTEN TO WHAT'S AROUND YOU AND USE THAT. AND THEN I REMEMBER ONE TIME I WENT OVER TO HIS HOUSE--HE HAD A DATE WITH THE RUTHERFORD POETRY SOCIETY, OR THE FAIR LAWN POETRY SOCIETY. FAIR LAWN IS A LITTLE SUBURBAN TOWN RIGHT OUTSIDE OF PATERSON, AND THERE WAS SOME KIND OF LITERARY SOCIETY, AND THEY INVITED HIM OVER. YOU KNOW, HARDLY ANYBODY INVITED HIM ANYWHERE, SO, IT WAS A BIG HONOR FOR THE GUY. TO GO LOCALLY-- THIS IS 1950, SAY-- TO GO LOCALLY TO SOME OLD LADY'S POETRY SOCIETY IN THE SUBURBS... SO HE INVITED ME TO COME ALONG. I FORGOT WHAT THE WHOLE THING WAS GOING ON. IT WAS JUST SORT OF TALK AND TEA. BUT I REMEMBER I SAID, "WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT T.S. ELIOT?" HE SAID, "THAT BASTARD." I SAID, "WELL, WHAT HAVE YOU GOT AGAINST HIM?" HE SAID, "WELL, ONCE WE MET." AND HE SAID, "HE WAS A SNOB. I FELT HE INSULTED ME." HE SAID ELIOT SAID, "OH, DR. WILLIAMS. "OH, CHARMING TO MEET YOU. "I JUST REALLY DO APPRECIATE YOUR CHARACTERS. I THINK WE SHOULD HAVE MORE OF THEM." AND WILLIAMS IMITATED ELIOT SAYING THAT. AND HE SAID, "THAT BASTARD. 'CHARACTERS'--HE WAS RUNNING "THAT ENGLISH TRIP ON ME, YOU KNOW, LIKE THE 'CHARACTER OF THE HAPPY WARRIOR.'" THE CHARACTER IS A POETIC FORM OR A LITERARY FORM OF THE 18th CENTURY, IS IT, WHERE YOU--I DON'T KNOW QUITE WHAT IT IS, ACTUALLY. IT'S A-- MAN: COMES FROM THEOPHRASTUS. GINSBERG: UH-HUH. SO THAT'S A CLASSIC, AND THEN TAKEN OVER INTO JACOBEAN LITERATURE OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT OR 18th-CENTURY LITERATURE IN WHICH YOU DO A PORTRAIT OF SOMEONE OF SOME KIND IN A VERY FORMAL THING, MAYBE BY 18th CENTURY OR 17th CENTURY, AROUND A COUPLET OR SOMETHING. OR POPE HAS DONE IT, OR DRYDEN. WHO WROTE THE "CHARACTER OF THE HAPPY WARRIOR"? IT'S A FAMOUS POEM. WOMAN: I THOUGHT THAT WAS FROM WORDSWORTH. GINSBERG: COULD BE. SO ELIOT SAID TO WILLIAMS, OH, I REALLY LIKE THE BARE-HEADED, PROLETARIAN WOMAN. SHE TAKES OFF HER SHOE, LOOKS INSIDE INTO THE NAIL TO FIND THE NAIL THAT HAS BEEN HURTING HER. OR THE WOMAN ON THE STREET CORNER EATING THE PLUMS. THEY TASTE GOOD TO HER, THEY TASTE GOOD TO HER, THEY TASTE GOOD TO-- SO ELIOT SAID, "I LIKE YOUR CHARACTERS. LET'S HAVE MORE OF THEM." AND WILLIAMS--HE GOT MAD AND SAID, "THAT BASTARD, "HE DIDN'T GIVE ME CREDIT FOR WRITING AN AMERICAN. "HE STILL WANTED TO PUT IT INTO AN ENGLISH CONTEXT. "HE STILL WANTED TO INTERPRET WHAT I WAS DOING AS SOME KIND OF ENGLISH HISTORICAL REPEAT." WELL, IT WAS AMAZING. HE REALLY WAS MAD AT ELIOT. AND I REMEMBER HIM SAYING THAT HE WAS SO SMART. ELIOT WAS SUCH A GREAT POET THAT HE'D SET ENGLISH POETRY BACK-- AMERICAN POETRY BACK 25 YEARS, WHICH IS, I THINK, SOMETHING HE'S WRITTEN DOWN ELSEWHERE. WE TALKED A LITTLE-- ONE TIME WENT OVER, HE HAD A FRIEND, KITTY HOAGLAND, WHOSE HUSBAND WAS AN EDITOR OF THE "NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE," A NEWSPAPER AT THAT TIME. PERHAPS MIGHT HAVE HAD AN AFFAIR WITH KITTY HOAGLAND. SHE LIVED DOWN THE BLOCK FROM HIM, A FEW BLOCKS AWAY ON RUTHERFORD. AND ONE SUNDAY WE WENT OVER TO KITTY HOAGLAND'S HOUSE. SHE'S STILL ALIVE, I THINK. HOSTS, UH...PARTIES, WILLIAMS' MEMORIAL SITUATIONS, TAKES PART IN THE CELEBRATIONS OF WILLIAMS IN RUTHERFORD, I THINK, OR IS PART OF THAT PEOPLE WHO REMEMBER WILLIAMS THERE. AND WE GOT HIM TALKING ABOUT DYLAN THOMAS, WHO JUST DIED. AND I SAID, "WHAT IS HE TO HIM?" KNOW THAT WILLIAMS WAS NOT UP DYLAN THOMAS' ALLEY. THEY WERE TOTALLY DIFFERENT. HE SAID, "WELL, HE WAS A POET, "AND BECAUSE HE WAS A POET, HE WAS AN HONORABLE MAN. "EVERYBODY WHO'S A POET MUST BE, ANYBODY WHO HAS THAT AMBITION TO WORKING LANGUAGE." EVEN IF HIS POETRY IS OF ANOTHER KIND, STILL HE HAS--HE CERTAINLY WAS A POET. HE WAS PICKING UP ON DYLAN THOMAS FROM THE ROMANTIC POET PART, WHICH WAS KIND OF INTERESTING FOR WILLIAMS TO--THE DOCTOR WHO CAME ON AS IF HE WAS JUST A DOCTOR, AT THAT MOMENT, ANYWAY, AT THAT YEAR, TO GENUFLECT TO DYLAN THOMAS JUST FOR THE IDEALISTIC NOTION OF HIM BEING A POET. GERTRUDE STEIN I ASKED HIM ABOUT. SAID SHE HAD ONE VERY SIMPLE IDEA WHICH SHE DID OVER AND OVER AGAIN, BUT IT WAS A REAL THING-- ONE REAL, SIMPLE IDEA WHICH SHE WORKED WITH IN MANY DIFFERENT WAYS. UM...POUND? HE HAS A MYSTICAL EAR HE SAID OF EZRA POUND. NEVER FORGET THAT. "POUND HAS A MYSTICAL EAR." MAN: MELVILLE? DID HE-- GINSBERG: NO, WE NEVER TALKED ABOUT MELVILLE. HEMINGWAY, I FORGOT. HE SAID SOMETHING ABOUT HIM. HE WAS TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE HE KNEW. MAYAKOVSKY HE MET. HE SAID IN THE TWENTIES THE GREAT RUSSIAN POET MAYAKOVSKY HAD COME TO NEW YORK. AND WILLIAMS HAD GONE INTO GREENWICH VILLAGE TO HEAR HIM, SOME LITTLE HALL WHERE MAYAKOVSKY HAD READ AND POSSIBLY NOT FOR MANY PEOPLE, YOU KNOW, MAYBE 50 PEOPLE OR SO, 20 PEOPLE. AND THEN AFTER, WILLIAMS WAS INTRODUCED TO MAYAKOVSKY. WILLIAMS ALWAYS REMEMBERED WHAT HE SAID TO MAYAKOVSKY. MAYAKOVSKY ASKED HIM, "WHAT DID YOU THINK?" IN RUSSIAN, AND THE INTERPRETER SAID, "WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE READING?" 'CAUSE MAYAKOVSKY HAD ORATED AND MADE A BIG SOUND. AND WILLIAMS SAID--POINTED TO THE TABLE, "YOU LAID AN EGG." [LAUGHTER] IN ENGLISH, IT MEANS... IN ENGLISH, IT MEANS YOUR LOUSY PERFORMANCE OR OTHER--BECAUSE OF THE NATURE OF THE IMAGE WHAT WILLIAMS REALLY MEANT WAS HE PUT SOMETHING SOLID ON THE TABLE. HE LAID AN EGG, BUT IT'S SOMETHING THAT WOULD HATCH. BUT MAINLY WHAT WILLIAMS EXPLAINED TO ME-- I SAID, "WHY WAS THAT FUNNY?" HE SAID, "BECAUSE WHAT IT MEANT ONE WAY. "BUT THE OTHER WAY, WHAT I REALLY MEANT QUITE LITERALLY "BEING TRANSLATED, TRANSLATED LITERALLY, HE PUT SOMETHING SOLID ON THE TABLE." THAT'S REALLY PURE WILLIAMS' HUMOR. I GET APPRECIATION OF LANGUAGE AND TURNING IT UPSIDE-DOWN AND CLEANING IT OUT AND THEN USING IT IN AN UNUSUAL WAY, BUT REAL, USING VERNACULAR IN AN UNUSUAL WAY. MAN: CAN WE TALK ABOUT HIS POETICS JUST FOR A LITTLE WHILE? THERE'S SO MUCH TO USE ON "THE RED WHEELBARROW." I WAS JUST READING THE OTHER DAY CID CORMAN SAYING OF GOING TO COLLEGE AND HAVING THAT POEM PRESENTED TO HIM AS A EXAMPLE OF A FRAUD. GINSBERG: YEAH. OF A FRAUDULENT POEM. MAN: A FRAUDULENT POEM. AND TO-- GINSBERG: YEAH, IT WAS FOR A LONG WHILE, I REMEMBER. MY FATHER USED TO SAY THAT. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? IT WAS A FAVORITE FRAUDULENT POEM OF ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HATED MODERN POETRY. UM, SO-- MAN: AND IT'S-- WELL, AND IT'S STILL-- I MEAN, IT'S STILL IN A VERY SUCCINCT WAY, THERE'S STILL--THAT PROBLEM STILL EXISTS. GINSBERG: WELL, ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT IT, WE WERE JUST TODAY WORKING WITH A GROUP OF DEAF POETS, TRYING TO TRANSLATE THAT INTO DEAF SIGN LANGUAGE-- SIGN LANGUAGE FOR THE DEAF. AND ALTHOUGH SOME SIMPLER POEMS LIKE LANGSTON HUGHES LIKE, "LIFE WITHOUT LOVE IS LIKE A BROKEN WING BIRD. LIFE WITHOUT HOPE OR LOVE IS LIKE A FROZEN FIELD." THOSE ARE RELATIVELY EASY TO TRANSLATE. BUT WHEN IT CAME TO TRANSLATE THE SUBTLE, PICTORIAL, VISUAL... DETAIL OF WHEELBARROW, "A RED WHEELBARROW GLAZED WITH RAIN WATER," THERE'S AN EXTREMELY SUBTLE NOTICING AS A PICTURE THING. THERE'S NOTHING FRAUDULENT ABOUT THE DELICACY OF THAT. "THE RED WHEELBARROW GLAZED WITH RAINWATER." BECAUSE THEN, IF YOU'RE TRYING TO TRANSLATE IT INTO SIGN LANGUAGE, OR ANY OTHER LANGUAGE, YOU HAVE TO FIGURE OUT, "IS IT STILL RAINING?" "HAS IT BEEN RAINING AND IS IT ICED OVER NOW?" OH, "IS IT A GLAZE BECAUSE THE THING IS STILL WET "AND SHIMMERING WITH WATER OR IS IT GLAZED BECAUSE IT'S COLD OUT?" AND YOU REALLY-- YOU BEGIN TO REALIZE HOW COMPLICATED THAT IS. IT SURE GIVES YOU A GREAT PICTURE-- "A RED WHEELBARROW GLAZED WITH RAIN WATER." IT'S A VERY VIVID PICTURE OF THE SHINE, THE GLAZE, BUT TO TRY AND TRANSLATE IT INTO SIGN LANGUAGE PRESENTED THE PROBLEM THAT, FIRST OF ALL, THE GUY TRANSLATED IT AS "WET WITH RAIN WATER," AS IF THE RAIN IS RUNNING ON IT. TO DO THE GLAZE, YOU'D HAVE TO TAKE A LITTLE MORE TROUBLE AND EXPLAIN ALL THE GLAZED PARTS, NOT ONLY WET BUT GLAZED, THE SHINE. SO, YOU REALIZE IN THAT SIMPLE LITTLE THING, HARDLY FAKE AT ALL, HE BUILT INTO IT. HE'S GOT A VERY SUBTLE PIECE OF OPTICAL INFORMATION. MAN: MM-HMM. AND ALSO THE FACT THAT NO ONE IS LET OFF THE HOOK BY THE POETIC DEVICE OF COMPARING IT TO SOMETHING ELSE. IT'S THE THING ITSELF. GINSBERG: THAT ASPECT OF WILLIAMS REMINDS ME OF A GREAT STATEMENT BY A TIBETAN LAMA THAT I LEARN A LOT FROM WHO SAID, "THINGS ARE SYMBOLS OF THEMSELVES." THINGS ARE SYMBOLS OF THEMSELVES. WHICH IS BASICALLY THE IDEA OF "NO IDEA IN THINGS" ALSO-- WILLIAMS' SLOGAN, "NO IDEA BUT IN THINGS." WHY? BECAUSE THINGS ARE SYMBOLS OF THEMSELVES. THE MEDITATIVE ZEN OR TIBETAN TRADITION IS THAT THROUGH MEDITATION PRACTICE, ONE FOCUSES ONE'S ATTENTION ON THE ACTUAL FEAR TO THE WORLD, FINALLY, SINGLE-MINDEDLY. AND SO, BECAUSE OF UNOBSTRUCTED OBSERVATION, UNOBSTRUCTED VIEW, UNOBSTRUCTED DIRECT CONTACT, OR AS ZUKOVSKY SAYS, "SIGHT IS WHERE THE VISION--" OR "SIGHT IS WHERE THE EYE HITS," BECAUSE VIEW IS UNOBSTRUCTED BY THOUGHT, SCREAMS INTERPOSING. DETAILS OF ..., PRONGS, OF...VEGETABLE MATTER BECOME MORE LUMINOUS. THE RED BECOMES REDDER AND YELLOW BECOMES YELLOWER, 'CAUSE NOBODY TRIED TO INTERPRET ANYTHING OUT OF THEM. THEY JUST BECOME THEMSELVES-- PURE RED AND PURE ORANGE AND YELLOW. SO THINGS ARE SYMBOLS OF THEMSELVES WHEN THERE'S AN UNOBSTRUCTED OBSERVATION, WHEN YOU'RE NOT TRYING TO INTERPRET. MAN: SO BY SAYING THAT "A" EQUALS "A," AS OPPOSED TO "A" EQUALS "B," WHICH IS THE WESTERN POETIC. GINSBERG: YOU DON'T DISTRACT THE MIND FROM LOOKING AT THE OBJECT YOU'RE DESCRIBING. MAN: MM-HMM. GINSBERG: YOU DON'T TRY AND CUT IT UP. OR AS BURROUGHS SAID, "THE MOST UNHAPPY THING "IS TO BE MAKING LOVE TO ONE PERSON AND THINKING OF ANOTHER." SO, TO BE VERY... IN A SENSE, IT'S A VERY UNHAPPY THING TO BE--"MY LOVE IS LIKE A RED, RED ROSE." BE A FUNNY CONTRADICTION. MAN: DOES ANYBODY WANT TO ASK ANYTHING WHILE WE'RE GOING ON HERE? WOMAN: I SEE "SO MUCH DEPENDS" IN "RED WHEELBARROW" AS BEING VERY REGULAR, IN TERMS OF THE BEATS IN THE LINE. I MEAN, FOR EXAMPLE-- GINSBERG: I'M NOT SURE THAT I'VE GOT IT WRITTEN DOWN EXACTLY AS IT IS. WOMAN: I THINK YOU DO. BUT IT'S PRETTY MUCH 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, ALL THE WAY DOWN, JUST AS THOUGH HE HAD REALLY CONTRIVED IT, IF HE HAD TRIED 2, 1, 2. GINSBERG: I DON'T KNOW WHERE THE "THE" BELONGS, BESIDE THE WHITE-- WOMAN: WELL, IF YOU JUST TAKE THE HEAVY ACCENTS. "SO MUCH." YOU HAVE 2 THERE. "DEPEND" IS 1, "ON" AND "RED." I'M TRY... GINSBERG: WELL, I HEAR DIFFERENT. I DON'T FOLLOW THE ACCENT. I FOLLOW THE COUNT OF SYLLABLES. "SO MUCH DEPENDS." THOSE EQUAL. "UPON A RED"-- DAT DAT DAT DAT. 1, 2, 3, 4. "WHEELBARROW." "SO MUCH DEPENDS..." 1, 2, 3, 4. 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2. "SO MUCH DEPENDS." WOMAN: YOU DO HEAR THE REGULARITY, THOUGH. GINSBERG: WELL, REGULARITY OR VARIATIONS FROM REGULARITY, ONE OR THE OTHER. - YEAH. THEN THE 3--"GLAZED WITH RAIN." WOMAN: YES. GINSBERG: "SO MUCH DEPENDS UPON THE RED WHEELBARROW." THEN HE COMPROMISES-- "GLAZED WITH RAIN." SO THERE'S 3. SO YOU HAVE 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 4, 2 AND A 2, 2, 4, "WHEELBARROW"--3. UPON A RED WHEELBARROW. THEN IT'S REPEATED. "GLAZED WITH RAIN." "WHEELBARROW GLAZED WITH RAIN WATER." BACK TO THE 2. "BESIDE THE WHITE--" I DON'T KNOW--HOW'S IT-- "BESIDE THE WHITE?" OR BESIDE THE? I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS ORIGINALLY. WOMAN: I SEE IT AS A MATTER OF HOW YOU DO IT, SO... IN TERMS OF YOUR OWN VOICE. BUT IT SEEMS JUST AS REGULAR TO ME AS-- GINSBERG: ONE THING THAT HE DOES, IN HIS LATER POEMS, WHICH ARE BROKEN UP INTO TRIADIC LINES, THE LINES COMING ACROSS THE PAGE IN SERIES OF 3, WHEN YOU HEAR HIM READ IT ON HIS RECORDINGS, WHICH ARE VERY BEAUTIFUL RECORDINGS THAT HE MADE WHEN HE WAS VERY OLD AND HAD HAD A STROKE AND HIS VOICE IS UTTERLY SINCERE AND FULL OF INTERESTING EMOTIONAL TONES, VARIATIONS OF PITCH, HIGH TONES AND DELICATE TONES, HE DOESN'T FOLLOW THE LINE BREAKS. HE JUST READS IT AS IF IT IS PROSE. SO HE'S NOT PAYING THAT MUCH OF ATTENTION IN THAT SENSE. I THINK HE'S INTERESTED IN ARRANGING IT ON THE PAGE IN SOME KIND OF MINDFUL WAY TO INDICATE PARTS OF THOUGHTS BALANCED TOGETHER, PARTS OF PHRASING BALANCED TOGETHER, PIECES OF IDEAS SET UP AND BALANCED TOGETHER, PIVOTING MAYBE ON "AND" OR "OR." YOU KNOW, HE MIGHT OCCASIONALLY HAVE JUST A-- IN THE MIDDLE OF THE 3-LINE TRIADIC, HE MIGHT HAVE "OR A SEVILLE," IN WHICH THE OTHER TWO PARTS BALANCE. A FEW TIMES, HE MIGHT HAVE A SINGLE WORD. YEAH? MAN: DO YOU THINK HE WAS NEVER SATISFIED WITH THE...? THAT HE HAD FOUND THE PASSION HE WAS LOOKING FOR UNTIL PERHAPS "ASPHODEL"? HE WAS DISSATISFIED WITH THE PRESIDENT OF EVERYTHING, RIGHT? GINSBERG: YEAH. WELL, HIS DISSATISFACTION WAS... HE FEARED IT WOULD OPEN UP THE OLD ...
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"This project is supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation."
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Title supplied by cataloger