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Edgar Allan Poe as a Major Influence upon Allen Ginsberg.

Part 1. Introduction

ALLEN GINSBERG (1926-1997) HAD GREAT AND WIDESPREAD influence in the nineteen fifties to seventies as a leader of "The Beats." He was their eloquent bard, especially through Howl & Other Poems (1956) and Kaddish and Other Poems (1961). In 1984, when the popularity of the unorthodox "movement" was waning, the publication of his Collected Poems 1947-1980, a densely printed, mammoth volume, containing notes and indices (with over a dozen ignored references to Poe) gave a renewed vigor to his reputation. Even among academic critics and their readership, he was regarded as an outstanding American poet, sought here and throughout the world for readings, recordings, interviews, press releases on controversial issues, television conferences, and verse contributions to journals.(1) Even formerly lukewarm or hostile commentators found creditable features in his unconventional, vividly uninhibited poems about social, political, and sexual conduct and action. Only a small group of conservative critics(2) have continued to denounce his work and life style as subversive of decency, normality, and sound values, especially in the effect upon youth. By contrast, a large Festschrift of 1986 provided a gathering of accolades from prominent writers, including Kenneth Koch, Kurt Vonnegut, Yevtushenko, Kay Boyle, John Hollander, and dozens more.(3) With his death on April 5, 1997, there came a new avalanche of tributes and encomia, still too fresh in our minds to need mention here.(4) In May 1998, 2,500 disciples and curious citizens thronged the Cathedral of St. John The Divine to hear a dozen singers, poets, and chanters in a program honoring Allen.

For balanced and analytic judgments of the chief merits in his work along with the accepted major sources, I give observations of two respected critics. Helen Vendler, in her book The Music of What Happens, writes: "an original voice in American poetry, helping to change public consciousness. ... His verbal wit has a keen edge of social truth ... satire and vision together in a way poetically new ... our common homeless predicament alternately farcical and touching.... Always a spontaneous and prolific writer ... thought-forms passing naturally through ordinary mind [as] always [my] motif and method ... a voice ... populist in tone but recondite in allusion ... always relishing the appearances of the world ... [combining] perception, passion, and humor.... American social and erotic reality." She notes the influences on him as Walt Whitman, W. C. Williams, Ezra Pound, William Blake.(5) Second, Joel Conarroe, in Eight American Poets, judges him "uneven, but clearly ... in the front rank of American artists" and deserving of praise for his teaching, his generosity, his opposition to all censorship, and support of individual freedom. As for his sources, Conarroe says: "Aside from Burroughs, Kerouac, Cassady," he "was moved by Blake's `mystical vision,' Whitman's `incantatory rhythms and brotherhood of man' and William Carlos Williams who favored `American idiomatic speech.'"(6) Other objective critics and analysts besides Vendler have most frequently mentioned as models and sources: William Blake, especially for "The Songs of Innocence and Experience"; Christopher Smart for Rejoice in the Lamb; and much of Walt Whitman; to a much smaller extent: Emily Dickinson, and Shelley for various poems.(7)

Almost entirely missing from suggestions as to sources from these and hundreds of commentaries is any attribution to Edgar Allan Poe; yet the evidence for Poe as an inspirer of themes and prosodic style, an example of personal courage and originality, an unconventional prober into new or "non-poetic" areas of society and of science is provided by Ginsberg himself: first, in direct allusions in his poems, especially those in Collected Poems 1947-1980, second, in the subjects of his own teaching seminars at Naropa Institute, in Boulder, Colorado (from 1976 on); third, in references in his journals and travel notes; in headnotes and prefaces to books, and in his own annotations to poems;(8) fourth, in his letters to numerous correspondents and in his numerous published or privately recorded interviews on tape or on videos; and finally in his liner notes to recordings.

Part 2. Material from Interviews and Conferences

Appropriately, Schumacher records the regular habit of Louis Ginsberg, high-school English teacher father of Allen Ginsberg and himself an often published poet, of reciting about the house in Patterson, New Jersey, the poetry of Dickinson, Keats, Shelley, Milton, and Poe (pp. 7,688).(9) This fact is voiced in an interview with Gary Pacernick, in 1997, concerning poetry as "a family business. When I was young [at eight] ... I [used to] know yards and yards of poetry, like ... `The Bells,' `The Raven,' [and] `Annabel Lee.'"(10) Another, somewhat earlier interview with Renaud Monfourny speaks of learning Poe verse so that "it entered his nervous system" and "I discovered Poe at the fine age of six or seven."(11) His sincerity in this sort of reminiscence is indicated via his stating, in his public school graduation yearbook of 1939, that Poe was "his favorite author" (Miles, p. 27).(12) Ginsberg, probably entranced by Poe's verbal music, in his maturity, also singles out his two most renowned poems for their "hypnotic rhythm" which "permanently alters ... the nervous system ... an electrochemical effect caused by art."(13) He also insisted that Poe had influenced his work earlier than Whitman's had, with the implication that Poe's meters and strong rhythms remained with him for life, as his "Craft Interview" shows.(14) Concerning his widely publicized "Howl," of 1956, Allen Ginsberg declared it to be "in the tradition of strong rhythmical panegyrics like Poe's `Bells.'"(15) There is a bit of conflict in his stated theories about and practices of accents or stresses in verse, which he gradually tried to orientate toward chants and dance, as he indicated in The Riverside Interviews of late 1979. One suspects his being a bit too subject to Poe's misleading statements about quantitative verse in "The Rationale of Verse," which the transcripts of his Poe sessions at Naropa (see below) prove him to have read. Referring again to Poe's "Bells" and "Raven," he speaks of merging "dithyrambic metre" into "classical dance rhythms," citing lines from his own "Plutonian Ode."(16)

Allen Ginsberg also shows great interest in the way a poem must arise from the author's intention to stimulate movements of the body, in dance, but more fundamentally in the varied breathing of the poet, reflecting emotional states and intended rhetorical effects upon the oral reader and the listener. In an unpublished document, recording his public discussion of April 2, 1985, with Robert MacKercher, at Canton (Ohio) High School, he speaks of "breath as inspiration" and poetry as a way "to unite mind and body in a schizophrenic society."(17) Poets who wrote poetry exemplifying that sort of awareness and use of lines indicating "the long breath" when needed are "Poe, Lorca, Whitman, and Vachel Lindsay...."(18) It was during his early close association with Jack Kerouac that Poe's long line of "The Raven" suggested numerous theories relating to the way a poem's line and structure should be conceived as well as projected. "The length of a line not only dictated the physical act of drawing a breath but it also suggested the union of the physical and emotional states during the actual composition of the poem itself (Schumacher, p. 209). In the "Craft Interview" (see above) he speaks of Poe's "Bells," "Milton's long breath line in Paradise Lost" (six lines being quoted), and Shelley's "Episychidion" as sharing "a long breath [line] that was a sort of ecstatic climax"; and this affected his first poetry much before poems of Whitman and Blake did (p. 54). The erotic aspect of the full breath needed to speak and to write representationally a freed long line of expressive poetry is made clearer in a 1971 recorded "Lounge Talk" with Robert Duncan that he published in 1974, in which he speaks of stomach breathing and his famous "[hu or om]mming" practices (occasionally used also for confronting oppressive authority or a threat) (Verbatim, pp.108-109).(19) Similarly, a "conversation" of 1992 evoked the early influence of Poe and thoughts on the "inspirational" aspects of line lengths and "unobstructed breath."(20)

A bit more obviously "inspirational" is Allen Ginsberg's association of Poe with the dissident thinking which pries bright minds loose from traditional ways of thought and acquiescent conduct. While he ignores Poe's hostility to popular, anti-authoritarian action, he repeatedly speaks of the power that such a great poet and theorist ultimately exerts. It seems to be a later phase of his Poe laudation, as in a May 15, 1990, radio program interview ("Poets in Person") with Lewis Hyde. He remembers himself in early adolescence as the ideal "audience" for the major poems and tales of Poe, enjoying tremendous "pleasure or mind-expansion." Poe, rather than Whitman or Blake, "is a great awakener of youth throughout the world." He details a conversation, of May Day 1990, with a student leader of their "Czech revolution" who said, "It all began with Edgar Allan Poe.... [who] wakened my mind." He described the taste of real "paranoia" derived from the "mind-expanding, psychedelic" text of "The Tell-Tale Heart."(21) Clearly, this Czech student's words continued to activate Allen's acceptance of the political ramifications of poetry to which in earlier years he had been less friendly. In an interview of 1994, contemplating the decline of communism, he declared Poe's works to have done more "to subvert Marxist authoritarian rule" along with "blue Jeans, rock-`n'-roll, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, some Kerouac, et al." than all the "costly [military] hoopla" of the nation. Later he argues that the "vulgar or blunderbuss" propaganda of the left is minor, compared to the potent effect of Poe, whose sense of "world paranoia, world nausea" through his tales (three named) make him the "first psychedelic poet." Poe as the "least political" and most "Ivory Tower, ... beauty for the sake of beauty, isolated, unpolitical poet," has universally influenced people's consciousness and sense of "individuality." Finally, Ginsberg parries the interviewer's gibes about immortal poems by asserting that by creating "artwork, like Poe.... you can ease the pain of living" for those who survive. This basis for devotion to artistic creation is developed in many of his Naropa classes, as the transcripts show.

It is clear through some of these excerpts and others that the worthwhile or great writer is likely to be an isolated individual, an outcast, objectively viewing and exposing the flaws and vices of a society needing his blunt or subtle but artistically effective exposes. In an early interview, of 1966, he favors including as an influence "a little Poe on account of the crankiness in it, and the spiritual isolation."(22)

The final expression of Allen Ginsberg's appreciation of Poe's seminal influence is reminiscent even in its wording of the Czech student's tribute to Poe and along with his poem "Is About" (given below)in his final year is the culmination of Allen's appreciation of Poe's "universal" sway. It is in the "Producer's Notes" of Hal Willner for the two-cassette tapes (and equivalent CD's) of Poems and Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, released by Shore Fire (Mercury Records) on December 2, 1997. Here is Allen's statement conversationally made during his involvement in February 1997 (two months before his death) with one of the twelve popular musicians who recited, chanted, sang, or played their favorite Poe works. Mien remarks: "Everything leads to Poe. That's what the liner notes should be. You can trace all literary art to Poe's influence: Burroughs, Baudelaire, Genet, Dylan.... It all leads back to Poe" (liner notes, p. 2).(23)

Part 3. Poe Allusions in the Texts: Introduction

Before indicating the dozen loci in Allen's poems introducing Poe contextually, I wish to suggest similarities in their treatment of language and rhetoric, in prose and poetry, for both men override the boundaries of these two genres. I must chiefly imply Allen Ginsberg's awareness of Poe's practices or merely his subconscious admiring response to them, through his unusually operative memory. Most simply, the two are "word creators" in a comparable style. They invent neologisms which are more effective rhetorically or useful semantically than standard terms, often coalescing phrases into a single, striking immediacy. These creations can be unitary words or compounds. A few of Poe's more than 1,000 coinages are "tintinnabulation, scoriac,(24) mystific, marginalia, marginalic, maziness, elocutionize, graphicality," and, as compounds, "all-engrossing, art-product, clique-ridden, death-purged, ivy-clad, one-idead, passion-free, rock-girt, time-eaten"--all of them readily found in his prose or poetry.(25) For similar reasons of rhetorical pungency, directness and terseness, "graphicality," and nuanced meaning, Allen creates simple and compound coinages, such as egoic (C.P., p. iii); (hereafter asterisks, rather than quotation marks, will indicate coinages) for (*)egoical or egoistical; (*)insatiety (p. 158); (*)rain-beaded in the grass (p. 481); (*)smog-shrouded (*)metal-noised treeless cities (p. 483); atomic (*)thermopollutive monolith--(and) Wailing whale ululating(26) *underocean's sonic roar of Despair (p. 555); *populous-hued fides (p. 670); *Unbeauty (p. 671) (noun); *magma-teared Lord of Hades (and) whirlpools of *star-spume (p. 702); to explode its ... thunder through earthen *thought-worlds (p. 705)(27); Bam, bam, *bamb (p. 740) (a pun on bomb and sound of a drum); *wavecrash babbling (and) musicked (an old neologism) (p. 816); *Beethovinean ear strophes" (p. 817).

Poe may also have given to Allen a habit well demonstrated by phrases from two of the poems that were early memorized--capitalization on words not only for personification but especially for emphasis both semantically and positionally in phrases and lines (and seen also in two of the examples above)--in "The Raven": "wandering from the Nightly shore; As my Hopes have flown before; Till the dirges of his Hope; on this home by Horror haunted; (and) Night's Plutonian shore" and in "The Bells": "All the Heavens, seem to twinkle; On the Future!--how it tells; the startled ear of Night; They are Ghouls; (and) To the Paean of the bells."

My last point concerns the methods of highlighting or stressing images, concepts, contrasting sounds, and verbal groupings which often remind one of the Poe poems favored by Allen. Too little space is available to establish a possibly important link; a few examples must suffice. The long line of many of his major poems ensued confessedly from Poe's example in "The Raven," attached of course to his "new" theory of" mind-breaths," often alluded to in Part 2, "Interviews," and expounded in Composed on the Tongue of 1980 (note 15, above). Poe afforded him two prominent examples: the heptameter version of "Lenore"--"Ah, broken is the golden bowl!--the spirit flown forever" (Mabbott, I, 336-337), and the octameters of "The Raven," in both cases stressing a division midway through assonantal and alliterative clusters, setting or balancing or unifying phrases, and conceptually incorporating a midpoint caesura, in the classic sense. Poe includes a dividing medial rhyme for the second poem as well as an intricate system of end rhymes. Traces of his poetic legerdemain can be found in Allen Ginsberg's practices in ambitious poems. Of course, metrically he imitates "Lenore" consciously in the 1977 poem titled "Hearing `Lenore'" (C.P., p. 664) and perhaps less deliberately in numerous others: in the early "Paterson" in Gates of Wrath: "screaming and dancing in praise of Eternity annihilating the sidewalk, annihilating reality" (p. 40); in the 1977 "Contest of Bards" of Mind Breaths All Over the Place, the thought and metrical structural are profoundly Poeian: "[He] read the airy verses, humming them to himself, hands to the cold floor to support his aching spine [and] old breath familiar exhaling into starry space that held shore & heaven/where sat his tiny stone house, lost in black winds lapped by black water fishy eyed [and] At sharp stanza'd riddles chiseled with thought & filled with wise gold" (p. 670) [and] "and make fun of the world's kings and Presidents Pomps & limousines all present in their Unbeauty" (p. 671);in "Eroica" of 1980 based on the symphony being played and heard by him in doomed Dubrovnik: "All the fleet sunk, Empire foundered, Doges all skeletons & Turks vanished to dust" (p. 740). Many pages could be devoted to examples demonstrating the skill and power of Allen's poetic effects and ability to adapt outstanding characteristics of not only Blake and Whitman but Poe as well. The force of his contents has caused a neglect of the verbal means by which they are rendered effective and memorable, in criticism and comment as a whole.

Part 4. The Texts of Poe Allusions in the Poems

Uncollected by Allen were a few preliminary ventures into verse. The first, and longest, achieved publication in a monthly undergraduate student monthly, the Columbia Jester Review of May 1944, "A Night in the Village [Greenwich Village] with Edgar Allen Ginsberg [sic]." Schumacher's comment that these fifty-four lines in rhymed couplets were "modeled after Poe" (p. 34) is only slightly relevant, for the model is clearly "Renascence" by Edna St. Vincent Millay (whom he mentioned in his interview with Lisa Meyer) and other poems by Dorothy Parker and several members of the "live recklessly and freely" school of cynical young writers of wit. "We drank a river of delight,/While pleasure's flame was kindled bright;/Memory came and memory flew,/Dreams were lost, and born anew" and "I looked up horrified to see/eternity glaring down at me!/I looked about in wild alarm--/Death met my glance. He raised his arm:/Futility, mirrored everyplace [sic] ,/Dwelled in every person's face" (p. 34).(28) Another larger venture of Poe-linked poetry, signalized in his journal for the first months of 1945 as "first poems of genius," resulted in a twelve-page set of rhymed couplets called "The Last Voyage." It derived from part of Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal, Rimbaud's Le Bateau Ivre (The Drunken Boat), and Poe's "Descent into the Maelstrom, "being a confusing narrative of the struggle to survive and to present a newly awakened sense of reality to the reader.(29)

Without my indicating the scope, exact size of excerpt, or implicit, full significance of the theme or allusion to Poe, here are the specific and obvious texts with a regular procession of dates, as given in Collected Poems (with pages). First, is an example in his instantly renowned, trail-blazing poem of August 1955 called Howl (pp. 126-136), presenting the many dehumanizing forces of today's world, which "destroyed ... the best minds of my generation ... who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telepathy and bop kabbalah ..."--a significant combination, explained in Allen's richly annotated 1995 edition of Howl.(30) It is clear that here and also throughout all his works, Allen Ginsberg considers Poe as a source of inspiration for "the best minds of my generation," worthy of mention next to the conveniently alliterative Plotinus, two geniuses, past and present (Howl, 1. 1).(31) Another Poe reference disappears from the final text but leaves a significant trace in "who retired to Mexico ... to Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the daisychain or grave" (p. 130, 1. 6). In the original version this read: "who retired... to narcissus to Woodlawn to the grave to cultivate a final daisychain, all Poe." For this, Allen has a long note explaining which acquaintances went from Columbia to different places (John Hollander to Harvard) or jobs, but more appositely says, "Naomi Ginsberg's window 1953 overlooked Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx ..." followed by a list of four works written in Fordham cottage" (1995 ed., p. 134, n. 61). It is clear that he confused the Grand Concourse cottage (then in Westchester County) with Woodlawn Cemetery, as being proximate. He was more familiar with New Jersey areas save for Manhattan south of 116th Street.

A carryover from this annotated edition of Howl helps to explain title and content of a powerful poem, "Death to Van Gogh's Ear," of December 1957, invoking Lorca, Hart Crane, Artaud, and Poe. Allen Ginsberg here cites the explanation from Artaud: "That is why [in 'a sick society'] there was a collective spell cast on Baudelaire, Edgar Allan Poe.... Holderlin and Coleridge./There was a spell cast on Van Gogh also." The Poe allusion lies (in Reality Sandwiches), in his powerful "Death to Van Gogh's Ear!" of 1957. Allen Ginsberg names as humorous ideals "Vachel Lindsay Secretary of the Interior" and "Poe Secretary of Imagination" in the governmental world of the future (p. 168). Linked to his tribute to Poe and to Van Gogh is a later significant item: Allen was quoting from Antonin Artaud's Van Gogh--The Man Suicided by Society.(32)

In "Kaddish" (1959), along with Norman Thomas, Altgeld, and Sandburg, Poe becomes one of Allen Ginsberg's prime movers to social thinking: "[I was] inspired by Sacco, Vanzetti, Norman Thomas, Debs, Altgeld, Sandburg, Poe--Little Blue Books" (p. 214). Years later (in the poem), when the Ginsbergs try to greet with joy the return of mother Naomi from the mental asylum, Allen sadly reflects on cherished objects of the past and gives a biblically sacred force to Poe's "the Mahogany table--20 years love--gone to the junk man--we still had the piano--and the book of Poe. ..." Poe's is the only volume mentioned or saved (p. 217). Near the end, Allen alludes to "the Woodlawn Cemetery ... vast dale of graves where Poe once" [presumably walked]--Last stop on Bronx subway...." The Poe item is left incomplete deliberately in the print text, almost conveying the idea that it is haunted by the spirit of Poe, even though based on nothing real in the locus or death of Poe, as we know (p. 220). The fifth, and very last, part of "Kaddish" (p. 227), called "Fugue" for its repetitions as an "initial refrain --a "prefrain" one might say--assonantally converts "Lord Lord" into "caw caw," the defining syllable of "nevermore, the word of hopelessness uttered by the ravenna mindless, corvine symbol of response of the universe to the ugly tragedy of Naomi's life and death (see Schumacher, pp. 308-309).(33)

In Planet News of 1961 a reference to Riverside Drive and to Baudelaire evokes Allen's marginal comment: "Unsteadily walking... near where Poe wrote the Raven" (p. 268). The same book yields "fortress America [personified]" who dangles in one hand "the corpse of Edgar Poe," her first-mentioned victim (p. 290). The theme will recur in other loci in his poetry. This piece, dated "Bombay, 1962" and product of his long stay in India, shows the presence of Poe in his thoughts at the time, as does another of the same group, as printed, rifled "Understand that This Is a Dream," with a typical Poe theme: "Real as a dream.... /If I can dream that I dream.., can I dream/I am awake and why do that?/When I dream in a dream that I wake up what/happens when I try to move? etc." (pp. 303-305). Poe is not mentioned but he is the predominant source of such a quandary and reflection.(34)

In The Fall of America (1965-71) is: "Poe sober knew his white skull, tranquil [Gertrude] Stein repeated one simple idea" (p. 466). Without spelling this out, but having spoken of a Swami White Beard, Buddhist Logic, Prophetic Writings of Blake, et al., Ginsberg must be referring to Swami Prabhupada, A. C. Bhaktivedanta, with whom he had recently publicly appeared at Ohio State University and whose "Conversations on Mantric Poetry" contains material on Poe.(35) In the same section is a poem, dated March 1969, totally devoted to Poe's prophetic vision of "Smogland" and "mechanic apocalypse," police brutality, McCarthyan censorship, and atomic bomb production in America: "To Poe: Over the Planet, Air Albany--Baltimore" (pp. 514-515). Ginsberg had spent a week in Baltimore, to study the ambiance of the house of Poe's fairly long residence with his aunt, in the early 1830s, and now near his grave site. Allen refers to "Maelstrom" (for airplane roar), "Amontillado" (for bomb shelters), "Masque of the Red Death" (for industrial atmospheric pollution), and finally to the misconception (derived from Hervey Allen's 1926 biography Israfel), that Poe died from being "cooped" or drugged, then repeatedly set to voting in Baltimore's 1849 polls. To Allen this tragic end made him a martyr, equivalent to Federico Garcia Lorca, brutally murdered by Franco's minions.

The volume Mind Breaths All Over the Place of January 1977 contains another "Poe poem": "Haunting Poe's Baltimore" (p. 664). It is in two parts: the first, "Poe in Dust," concerns his tomb in the old Westminster Churchyard, the second, the reading aloud of a Poe poem, "Lenore." It was the result of Ailen's sojourn with a young poet friend in Baltimore for a full month reading Blake and Poe in the "haunts" and home of Poe (see Schumacher, pp. 617-618). This and its quasi-sequel, written during the next five days and called "Contest of Bards" (pp. 6654568), show the richest and most basic use of Poe's works by direct allusion ("Haunting ...") and indirect ("Contest"). Allen Ginsberg addresses him as "O prophet Poe ... your catacomb cranium ... eyeless" and "poet staring white-eyed ... at viaducts." In "Hearing `Lenore' Read Aloud," Poe "sang well of brides and ghouls"; "Raven bright & cat of Night, and ... wines of Death" now haunt us and "inspire future children" and Ginsberg himself, who wrote "this antient riddle in Poe's house." The second poem works out the riddle, challenging the new young Bard, who solves the "Rune" or "secret riddle Rhyme" (p. 665) and displaces the old bard from his "porphyry hard-throne" (all suggested by "The Gold-Bug," the "Runic rhyme" of "The Bells," and lines in "The Haunted Palace" [C.P., pp. 665-679]). Throughout are words and phrases reminiscent of loci in Poe's works; e.g., "tempest-addled," "porphyry-smooth," "studied and deciphered the Granite Alphabet," "the Dark Shore," "airy rune cut in the Bedrock," "land of Poetry in the Sky," "unrhymed Rune," "terrible Eidolon" (p. 678), and many others, ending with "[Your voice] Intelligent deciphering runes yours and mine, dreamed & undreamt/ ..." "accident of our causes and Eidolons, Planned Careful in your Dreams" (p. 679). (The Greek word is traceable not only to Whitman but also to Poe's "Eidolon, named Night" that begins "Dream-Land.") It is not only the language but the continuity of themes that clearly shows a succession of linkages between Poe and Ginsberg, both deliberate and unconscious, that "haunt" this appendage to "Poe's Baltimore." We should note also that Ginsberg included, on the 1978 back-cover blurb for the book, a paragraph in the middle of which is "Father Death in a graveyard near Newark, Poe bones ... [ending with] a Blakean Punk Epic with nirvanic Rune music [in] the Contest of Bards" (C.P., p. 816).

Allen's powerful poem of social protest against any reliance upon the atomic bomb, "Plutonian Ode" (pp. 702-705) of July 14, 1978 (symbolizing Bastille Day?), owes a "conflational" something to Poe in the title ("plutonian," used previously only by Milton and Poe, twice, in "The Raven" pp. 47, 98), and in the references to the "Spiral Galaxy and "thoughtworlds," 11. 52, 63(36)).

A final Poe poem, given below in full, was evoked by the fall 1996 presidential campaigning and was printed in the October 21, 1996, New Yorker (p. 197). Titled "Is About," it satirizes the inane "litany" phrase "America is about [the following things].... "first used by one party and then leading to a competition in inanities by the other. Allen Ginsberg highlights and pays tribute to Poe more than to any of the other figures mentioned. Line 3 ends with the early Poe title-phrase "The Spirits of the Dead," appearing in all collections (see Mabbott, I, 70-73) and full of characteristically mournful images which are here used with grim humor. In lines 9-12 he obviously refers to three faces of Poe's moon surveys: the romantic view of the moon as in "Al Aaraaf" and short poems, such as "Annabel Lee"; merely theoretical scientific observation as in Eureka or the "heavenly dialogues occurring in the skies or the pseudospace account as in the tale of Hans Pfaall (Writings, III, 420-25); and for Werewolves, he refers to black magic and transformational superstitions, as in "Morella," "Ligeia" and "William Wilson." In line 25 he places Poe at the head of four of the greatest creative masters (leaving "Dylan" slightly ambiguous as at the start but undoubtedly, Bob __, not __ Thomas). Since Allen's poem has not been collected into a book, as yet, the whole is reprinted here.(37)
 Dylan is about the Individual against the whole of creation
 Beethoven is about one man's fist in the lightning clouds
 The Pope is about abortion & the spirits of the dead ...
 Television is about people sitting in their living room looking
 at their things
 America is about being a big Country full of Cowboys Indians Jews
 Negroes & Americans
 Orientals Chicanos Factories skyscrapers Niagara Falls Steel
 Mills radios homeless Conservatives, don't forget
 Russia is about Czars Stalin Poetry Secret Police Communism
 barefoot in the snow
 But that's not really Russia it's a concept
 A concept is about how to look at the earth from the moon
 without ever getting there. The moon is about love & Werewolves,
 also Poe.
 Poe is about looking at the moon from the sun
 or else the graveyard
 Everything is about something if you're a thin movie
 producer
 chain-smoking muggles
 The world is about overpopulation, Imperial invasions,
 Biocide,
 Genocide, Fratricidal Wars, Starvation, Holocaust,
 mass injury &
 murder, high technology
 Super science, atom Nuclear Neutron Hydrogen detritus,
 Radiation
 Compassion Buddha, Alchemy
 Communication is about monopoly television radio movie
 newspaper
 spin on Earth, i.e. planetary censorship.
 Universe is about Universe.
 Mien Ginsberg is about confused mind writing down
 newspaper
 headlines from Mars---
 The audience is about salvation, the listeners are
 about sex,
 Spiritual gymnastics, nostalgia for the Steam Engine &
 Pony Express
 Hitler Stalin Roosevelt & Churchill are about
 arithmetic &
 Quadrilateral equations, above all chemistry physics
 and chaos theory--
 Who cares what it's all about?
 I do! Edgar Allan Poe cares! Shelley cares! Beethoven
 & Dylan care.
 Do you care? What are you about
 or are you a human being with 10 fingers & two eyes?


--Allen Ginsberg

Part 5. Allen Ginsberg's Naropa Classes on Poe

There is, finally, a body of material by Allen Ginsberg relating to Poe which has never been examined or made public and which serves to chronologize his deep awareness of particular works by Poe, occasionally giving his indications of textual connections amongst their works, and also underscoring interpretations of specific Poe lyrics and essay statements (e.g., "Philosophy of Composition" and Eureka). I have examined over 500 pages of typed transcripts of the taped sessions of classes conducted by Ginsberg at The Naropa Institute for Writing and Jack Kerouac: School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado. These cover sessions of July 24, 1974, July 3, 1976, August 7, 1980 and, chiefly, September 28 and October 3, 5, 10, and 12, 1983.(38) Only the most sketchy treatment can here be given of the very considerable time in his classes accorded by Allen to analyzing and commending the works of Poe.

In 1974, he used Poe's "Bells," in part recited to his class, as a rhythmic exemplar familiar to him from childhood--and assumedly to all the class members. Almost apologetically, he speaks of its "rhythmic kick" and finds analogues in named Hindu chants. In 1976, disappointed that no one knew Poe's "To Helen," he recited part of "Annabel Lee" ("Kerouac's favorite") to demonstrate how effective vocalization shows shifts in the intended emotional impact of poetic passages. In September 7, 1980 he moves from Shelley's "O World" ("A Lament") with its refrain of "O never more" to Poe's "Raven." Mentioning fine musical effects, he refers to Poe's "City under [sic for in] the Sea" and "Ulalume," and to Poe's "post-opium reveries." A large part of the class session is then devoted to his reading aloud "The Bells," the "earliest poem I knew," regularly recited by his father rapidly, strongly accented, with "clangorous vocables"; then Kerouac's favorite for its rhythm and "dreamy symbolism," "Annabel Lee," whose anapestic rhythm he analyzes, although largely unusable in this century, he says.

The large role of Poe in Allen's development and awareness as poet comes out in the five and one-half classroom sessions of September-October 1983; they are the first in a series on "Nineteenth Century Poetic Genius," which scheduled, for later, only four sessions each on Melville, Dickinson, and Whitman.

In session I of September 28, 1983, on "Poe," Allen Ginsberg devotes over twenty pages (of the transcripts) to the ideas and text of "Tamerlane," using notes from his own copy of Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, apparently the conveniently small-sized and authoritative 1917 edition of Killis Campbell, with the class using Allen Tate's Complete Poetry and Selected Criticism of Edgar Allan Poe.(39) Allen stresses the theme of ambition for both emperor-subject and author, to whom he gullibly credits Poe's prefatory fanciful avowal of composition at the age of fourteen; derivatively he brings in Poe's early poetic aim as expressing the "visionary gleam" of Wordsworth, or beauty as the sole aesthetic basis of life as well as of art, easily turned into "sensational exquisiteness" as in "punk art" (Ginsberg's phrase). Despite his earlier assertion, Allen, in reading various passages throughout the book realizes, from the notes now seen, that Poe's sole aim, to project innocent or primal beauty, was somewhat altered in later revisions of "Tamerlane," large swatches of which were read aloud. Ginsberg then attempts to explicate Poe's preference for an ideal of indefinite beauty, merely "suggested" by art--in direct contrast to his and W. C. Williams's dictum of "No ideas but in things" and Blake's "Minute Particulars." For a parallel in music's "indefinitiveness of pleasure" he cites Poe's "Letter to B--" and "Philosophy of Composition." He glances at Poe's definition of artistic unity and veers into Poe's condemnation of "epic." Then he regresses into "Annabel Lee" as a visionary experience, like a basic one in Wordsworth's Prelude, contrasted with Tamerlane's ephemeral youthful innocent joys with his adored maiden, with many passages being read and discussed. Much of the poem is enthusiastically read by Allen with admiring comments for the portrayal of Tamerlane's ambition and the poetic drama of his seeking to present the conquered world to Ada, found dead upon his return. He infers Buddhistic and other hints, unconvincingly. While not adducing anything from Eureka he avers his having read it in the past.

Classroom Lecture II (of October 3, 1983) first discusses the ideal of paradisiac beauty represented in the early "Dreams" and in major passages in "Al Aaraaf" as marking Poe's distinction from other poets in Europe and America. Stress on the dream or visionary state is said to be psychologically acute and a "motif" in Poe, even in Eureka. Allen calls it his lifelong "ego dream," common to most persons, and basic in his monstrous and "ghoulish" "Masque of the Red Death" and "Maelstrom," in his "opium-like reveries," and even in "To Helen" and "Annabel Lee." He dwells on fascinating horrid fantasies, as in "Spirits of the Dead," which he likens to Blake passages. He finds the shiver of horror in films of the uncanny and of terror to be the essence of these dream poems, even of "Evening Star." Of "A Dream Within a Dream" he ingeniously asserts: To Poe an idea "is a fleeting apparition" even of another "sphere of existence," like someone "on acid or grass." For the early poem "Imitation," he ignores the standard Byronic lovelorn interpretation for a link to Poe's break with John Allan and hopes of inheritance. For the difficult "Stanzas," Allen proposes "the unembodied essence" of nature or such a "quickening spell" which passes over one, like a UFO. The first phrase may help us understand Allen's adoption of a jointly determined term "disembodied poetics" in naming the school. There is a confusion between the class, with the Allen Tate edition, and Ginsberg, with his differing Killis Campbell text, with variants--not the first instance of this situation. Now comes a comparison with these short poems of disillusionment, then with "Kubla Khan" and an "acid trip" (although Poe was then still drug-free). Poe's objection to "rational materialism" ending "Sonnet--To Science" is likened to statements of Blake, W. C. Williams, and Rimbaud. There follow readings and analyses, so to speak, of excerpts from "Al Aaraaf," with comments on the musicality of the text and the indifference of God to mere human beauty, as William Burroughs had said as a recent visiting lecturer.

He ends the session by reading and discussing "To Helen" and "Israfel," with many misconceptions about background facts and foreign names and with some acute observations about sound effects. He concentrates on melody and meter in "Israfel." In surveying the Poe study-list titles remaining for the next session, Allen finds very scanty the class's prior knowledge of Poe's works; he notes his reading by the age of nine "Ulalume," "Eulalie," "and "Eldorado" plus the three best known ones. He cites several lines from others that cling to his memory, and theorizes that Poe wrote these appealing visionary poems at the very age when their outstanding lines were ideal for his own tender apparitional thoughts.

Lecture III of October 5 begins with an assignment to write a poem on anyone personally remembered as dead or estranged, or in an "apocalyptic vision" or a dream, perhaps "ghoulish"--in short, anything "in the realm of Poe." His long personal reminiscence dwells on one of Louis Ginsberg's poems imitating "The City in the Sea" and a discussion of the Poe roots of "Haunting Poe's Baltimore"; also of those in the eight-line proem to "White Shroud" (dated October 5, 1983!), which starts: "I am summoned from my bed/To the Great City of the Dead ...," the whole of which he called "an autobiographical Poe-like fantasy."(40) He then poignantly tells of the connection with Poe in the poetic style, rhymes, and even content. Implicitly, Poe's old Amity Street home shown with his grandmother's associations traced, perhaps by a guide, may have spurred Allen to write the poem "White Shroud," exactly then. Similarly, as he says: In "'The Rune' I'm trying internal rhyme, like Poe, and a very strong rhythm, and it's of abstraction, like his." The beginning reads (my spacing is approximately Allen's): Where the years have gone, where the clouds have flown/ Where the rainbow shone/We vanish, and we make no moan" (see C.P., including the musical score, pp. 6684369). He reads the poem to the class with many comments on the meter and rhythm, and a reference to the Elizabethan Campion. He concludes with an analysis of the rhyme scheme, meter, and language of the first "To Helen" (its musicality likened to a "mantra") as a "paradigm" useful for their writing assignment. A very long excursus into classical quantitative verse writing alludes to Sidney Lanier's Science of Poetry, without noting its partial derivation from Poe's "Rationale of Verse," apparently not as yet known to him. He makes strong claims for a rhythmic similarity to reggae, African drums, and jazz piano playing in general. There follows a survey of the rhymes of "Israfel" and the "visionary" "City in the Sea," which he (or the notes) finds "biblical" and "Miltonic." The class ends with specifics about imitating the features of Poe's lyrics and with a tangential dalliance again with "Al Aaraaf"--treated in an earlier Lecture on the planet that Poe created from Tycho Brahe's nova---comparing its evanescence with that of earthly "cities" now in the sea.

Lecture IV of October 10, 1983, continues the discussion of Poe's earlier and midperiod lyrics. An "opiate vapour" in "The Sleeper" is misperceived by class and teacher as connoting a possible drug scene. Allen then considers "Lenore" for its "long line, iambic septameters" (sic for heptameters) and its ballad rhyme basis, as Bob Dylan shows, with stress on the use of the internal "repetend." His "pantheist personification" or Max Ernst surrealist-landscape interpretation of the obscure "Valley of Unrest" is not different from reputable views long proffered. Concerning "The Coliseum," stanza 2, he affirms that his "recollection" of it is "built" into the "Moloch" section (Part II) of Howl. Several of Poe's lyrics are discussed admiringly for their imagery, sound effects, and links to the "nevermore" repetend. Then the allegory, of "The Haunted Palace" occasions comparisons with an illustration of a Blake work and a long, far-fetched interpretation of Coleridge's "Kubla Khan." The "royal purple" or "porphyry" theme in "The Contest of the Bards" (see Part III, above) is explicated for "The Haunted Palace." Allen next tries to cultivate "operatic" sounding out in the reading of "The Conqueror Worm" and "The Raven" (read aloud and discussed).

He proceeds with "The Conqueror Worm," which he finds represented by a Breughel painting on the cover of a Burroughs novel--rather inappositely. "Dreamland" demands explanation of a few words, such as "Thule" (emblem of "death" here, he says) and "eidolon" (see Part III). After establishing the "Raven" as a metaphor for death through the end of "Philosophy of Composition" (read aloud), he asks individual students to recite it. Poe's essay on the poem, he points out, shows it as a deliberate effort to gain popular and critical favor, as he did with Howl (he says). Much is imprecisely said about "truth" and "beauty" as aims, according to Keats and Poe, and various cruxes, especially to the students, are settled. Finally, "Eulalie" is read for its musicality or "pure sound" despite its "ugly image" (of a matron).

Lecture V of October 12, 1983 (in a defective transcription made from poor tapes) first discusses, through a student assigned to the "study," Poe's famous Eureka dictum about the unity of the first thing created, which presupposes the "germ of [its] ... inevitable annihilation" (beginning, paragraph 5). All are baffled by the long introductory satirical letter on unacceptable classic and modern modes of approaching cosmology, of which Allen admittedly knows nothing (and the assigned student, little more), but he vows to tackle it soon. Meanwhile, all agree to consider the famous last pages (read aloud) about the universal dispersion of the "primordial particle" and subsequent "regathering of this diffused Matter and Spirit," analogous to "every throb of the Heart Divine." Ginsberg comments on the similarity between the final statements, including "individualizations of oneself" and the impressions experienced when one is "high on acid" with others opting for opium. He infers resemblances to Buddhistic, transcendental, and pantheistic themes and to the Big Bang theory. This indicates that Ginsberg had had enough conversance with broad themes of Eureka to be influenced in an earlier poem, such as "Plutonium Ode." The topic of final dissolution leads to consideration of "Eldorado" as implying universal death. They discuss the possible Eastern origin of Poe's ideas and how close it all is to "acid trips" or orgasms, thereby universalizing his theses. "Ulalume," next read aloud, is analyzed for sound effects and for its puzzling meaning, with some aid from the textbook annotations, especially those of Auden, and Allen attempts to connect it to "total annihilation." The class next memorizes stanza I of "The Bells" and jointly they recite the whole. Difficulties are voiced concerning "For Annie," Annie being misinterpreted as a "dead or dying woman." He next turns to a class recitation of "Annabel Lee," which had been memorized and often recited by his revered friend Kerouac. He then cites crude Western ballads with similar meters and rhymes and explicates the rhymes, meters, and lines enthusiastically, quoting appreciations by critics in the text, with several one-sentence characterizations of celebrated tales and finally a brief list of possible works of Melville to be studied next.

In Lecture VI, in the same series, on October 20, 1983, Allen Ginsberg begins a class, not on Melville, the current "genius," but with a "bit" of "Poe theory" on pure beauty as the major aim of poetry. The class apparently was previously apprised to bring their text (the Tate edition) and followed while Allen Ginsberg read and tried to clarify the more generalizing paragraphs of "The Poetic Principle," devoted to Poe's adverse opinion of long works, such as epics and moralistic or didactic poems (cf. "the heresy of The Didactic," paragraph 11). His self-fulfilling, all-purposeful aim is to achieve pure beauty without materialistic, truth-serving, informational, passionate motives--a doctrine leading to "art for art's sake." Ginsberg fuzzily connects it to the post-Enlightenment and subsequent French literary movements; he seeks to avoid being charged as a "heretic" by asserting the primacy in his own poetry, even if it is political or "ethical," of sparkling form, finish, or, in short, beauty. He concludes this inserted segment by linking Poe's aesthetics to various Buddhist views (not agreeing with each other, he notes), and even to Transcendentalist ideas, one infers, for he reads with approval Emerson's highly anti-Mexican-war "Ode to Channing," at the end.

There is no need for a summarizing conclusion of what Ginsberg thought about Poe as one of the geniuses of the previous century. Although random, ill-prepared and hasty, the class talks certainly show the depth of his reverence for the spirit and achievement of Edgar Allan Poe and the numerous links to his own works, both in poetic style, in some of the contents despite misinterpretations, and in the inspiring objectives of the man considered by many Americans and most readers abroad as probably our greatest American poet. Uncannily, I suddenly found a sheet prepared for me by Allen Ginsberg himself as part of his preface to a teacher-gathered anthology of readings, first at Naropa in 1975, and then revised for his new 1986 post as Distinguished Professor at Brooklyn College. The first two typed pages discuss the important "Twentieth Century International Poets" for inclusion, and the fourth, hitherto ignored, features six Heroic Precursors with selected texts.(41) There we find Edgar Allan Poe with his three outstanding lyrics included among six internationally famous poets. Allen Ginsberg is thus assuring us all that my aims and efforts have accorded with his own views about the influential role of Poe.

(1) My great thanks are due to Randy Roark, Keeper of the Archives at The Naropa Institute and Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, in Boulder, Colorado, who most generously and painstakingly went through all the transcriptions of the Ginsberg classes, culling about 550 pages of Poe-oriented material for my present use; to Bob Rosenthal, Head of the Allen Ginsberg Trust; to William Gargan, Head of the Rare Books Library at Brooklyn College, who shared a printed course reading list compiled by Ginsberg (see my conclusion); to Bill Morgan, admirable bibliographer for themes treated in various works; to Hal Willner and the staff of Shore Music, who sent me a review copy of rock musicians "doing" their favorite Poe selections, in part coached and directed by Ginsberg late in 1996; and to David Carter, who carefully culled from hundreds of his collected and cherished interviews, being readied for a publication, numerous passages relating to Poe; and to Gregory Corso, who gave me a long telephone "interview" on Allen and Poe. Without exception, I have found everyone mentioned and many others to be patient, understanding and generous with time and helpful suggestions.

(2) In Partisan Review, Commentary, New Criterion, and National Standard, for example.

(3) Bill Morgan and Bob Rosenthal, eds., Best Minds: A Tribute to Allen Ginsberg (New York: Lospecchio Press, 1986). See the New York Times, October 17,1997, p. D19, for John Hollander's recantation of his disparagement of Howl back in the spring of 1957 ("Poetry Chronicle," Partisan Review, 24 [Spring 1957], 296-304).

(4) Even those still expressing disparagements concede his genius, broad scope, tender and generous nature, experimentalism in verse, and widening of thematic content in journalism, literature, and speech. See, for example Norman Podhoretz, Commentary, 104 (August 1997), 27-40; Roger Kimball, New Criterion, 16 (October 1997), 4-11, noting him as "poet laureate of the Beat Generation" who won "every literary award and honor short of the Nobel Prize." For balance of praise and disapproval, see New York Times Magazine, November 11, 1984, pp. 68 et seq.; and Joe Chidley, Maclean's (Canadian weekly), November 11, 1996, pp. 95-96. For unalloyed but often detailed and revealing paeans for his life and his works, see Adrian Mitchell, The New Statesman, April 11, 1997, pp. 30-31; The Nation, April 28, 1997, p. 8; Ann Douglas, Village Voice, April 15, 1997, pp. 36-39; Rolling Stone May 29, 1997, pp. 34-39; and Lambda Book Report, 5 (May 1997), 6, 18-19.

(5) Helen Vendler, The Music of What Happens (Harvard University Press, 1988), pp. 262, 266, 268-271. See also the whole context from which these are briefly excerpted, plus Vendler's comments on "Kaddish,' (Helen Vendler, Soul Says [Harvard University Press, 1995], pp. 1-15).

(6) Joel Conarroe, Eight American Poets (New York: Random House, 1994), pp. 222, 225.

(7) See Michael Schumacher's primary biography, Dharma Lion (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992), p. 7. See also, for details of his life and activities, Barry Miles, Ginsberg: A Biography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989). The works of Poe, will be cited under Mabbott for Thomas Ollive Mabbott, ed., Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, vol. 1 for Poems (Harvard University Press, 1969); vols. 2-3, Tales and Sketches (1978); or under B. R. Pollin, ed., Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (New York: Gordian Press, 1981-1998; vols. 1-5), vol. 1, Imaginary Voyages; vol. 2, short essays, also called Brevities;, vol. 3-4, Broadway Journal.

(8) Allen Ginsberg, Collected Poems: 1947-1980 (New York: Harper & Row, 1984), Allen Ginsberg, The Selected Poems: 1947-1995 (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), and Allen Ginsberg, Howl: Original Draft Facsimile, Transcript & Variant Version, ed. Barry Miles (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986; rpt, New York: HarperCollins Perennial, 1995).

(9) Louis Ginsberg, "My Son the Poet," Chicago Sun-Times, January 12, 1969.

(10) "Allen Ginsberg: An Interview with Gary Pacernick," American Poetry Review, 26 (July/August 1997), 23-27. Also in the same issue, in Lisa Meyer's "Interviewing Allen Ginsberg," pp. 22-23, Allen makes the same point about early memories.

(11) In the French magazine Les Inrockuptibles of Paris, No. 27 (February 1991), 52-57, specifically pp. 52-53. Here he invokes Blake and Artaud for the physical or neural effect of knowing specific poems from early years, and speaks of Poe as the poet "having the greatest psychological effect on the most people in the world."

(12) Miles is the sole biographer to record this.

(13) See "Thomas Clark Interviews Allen Ginsberg," Paris Review, June 10,1965, pp. 12-55, specifically p. 30.

(14) See William Packard, The Craft of Poetry (New York: Doubleday, 1974; rpt. 1987), pp. 53-54, which presents a long radio interview with Mary Jane Fortunato, et al., called "The Craft Interview," broadcast on December 17, 1970, and published in the New York Quarterly, No. 6 (Spring 1971), 12-40.

(15) Comment to Yves Le Pellec in a 1972 interview in "The Beat Generation" issue of Entretiens, No. 34 (1975), and reprinted in Ginsberg's Composed on, the Tongue (Bolinas, California: Grey Fox Press, 1980), pp. 63-105; specifically, p. 87.

(16) This rough-hewn but useful book, edited primarily by Gavin Selerie, is under 100 pages but greatly enriched by highly interesting photographs, published by the London Binnacle Press in 1980. For this section, on Poe, see p. 25.

(17) Along the same lines is one of his interviews, transcribed in Allen Verbatim: Lectures on Poetry, Politics, Consciousness (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974), p. 109: "[I]nspiration being a matter of breath, you can teach breathing ... a certain looseness and mind-freshness."

(18) This document, dated April 1, 1985, among Allen Ginsberg's archives, was seen by David Carter, who kindly sent me notes on it.

(19) Originally rifled "Advice to Youth," it was given at Kent State University and includes a brief exchange on Ezra Pound, Eliot, and Poe's sense of form.

(20) David J. Brown and Rebecca M. Novick, eds., Mavericks of the Mind: Conversations for the New Millennium (Freedom, California: Crossing Press, 1993), pp. 262-278; specifically, pp. 263 and 277. See also Elissa Schappell, "The Craft of Poetry: Allen Ginsberg, "Paris Review, 135 (Summer 1995), 212-257, a detailed report of his course at New York University that she had attended; Allen Ginsberg's "breathmarks for reading and writing poetry" should "restore your focus" on the important object (pp. 238-239).

(21) This was a "sound" program of seven hours on May 15, 1990. It was included on seven hour-long cassettes (Chicago: Modern Poetry Association, 1991). David Carter graciously sent me his transcription of this along with others, including the one from which the related citations in the rest of the paragraph are all taken: Matthew Rothschild, "Interview with Allen Ginsberg," Progressive, 58 (August 1994), 34-39. Mr. Carter's excellent and useful collection of Ginsberg interviews is scheduled for publication by HarperCollins in 2001, rifled Spontaneous Mind ... Selected Interviews by Allen Ginsberg.

(22) See the Cottonwood Review, 1 (Spring 1966), 3. He also lists outcasts like Christopher Smart, Blake, Vachel Lindsay, Shelley, Rimbaud, and Artaud--great favorites of his; see, e.g., "Thomas Clark Interviews Allen Ginsberg," p. 30, and the "Poets in Person" radio program, above.

(23) The title, "Closed on Account of Rabies," unfortunately assigned, through a joke of W.C. Fields,--"Closed on Account of Molasses"--would have been changed, Mr. Willner told me, had he known how untenable was the "evidence" offered in Baltimore to support the contention that Poe died of rabies from an unknown animal infection. My numerous published letters of refutation, as in the Washington Post of October 12, 1996, p. A27, obviously failed to prevail over the Associated Press news "event" report circulated throughout the world. Nonetheless, the recording is outstanding, attributable in part, says Willner, to Allen's coaching of Jeff Buckley (in "Ulalume") and the general spirit and participation of the enthusiastic group.

(24) The adjective "scoriac" from "scoria" or lava replaces the formal and cumbersome "scoriaceous" in Poe's "Ulalume" where the "scoriac rivers" roll down the volcano Mount Yaanek. Significantly, father Louis Ginsberg, upon receiving and reading a copy of the newly published Howl in 1956, responded that it was "wild, volcanic.... turbulent," mixing "gems and flashes of picturesque insight with slag and debris of scoriac matter" (Miles, p. 204). Clearly father and son remembered this Poe coinage well.

(25) See Burton R. Pollin, Poe, Creator of Words (Bronxville, NewYork: H. T. Smith, 1980) for a few over 1,000 coinages by Poe, including the ones cited, with their context. To these I have added about 250 more in three supplements in Poe Studies (December 1983), (December 1989), and (December 1994). The out of print volume is available only in the Richmond, Virginia, Poe Museum bookshop, I believe. Jeffrey A. Savoye, the secretary for the Edgar Allen Poe Society, has painstakingly created a merged version for the web.

(26) For the factors in Poe's usage, linked to his special knowledge of its Irish dirge connection and making it especially relevant to Allen's use here, see Burton R. Pollin, "Poe's `Ulalume,' Its likely Source and Sound," American Notes and Queries, n. s. 1 (January 1988), 17-80.

(27) This is a particularly Poeian concept-word suggesting not only "worlds of thoughts" but "worlds constructed by thoughts," as suggested in several of Poe's works, especially "the heavenly dialogue" of 1845 called "The Power of Words" (Mabbott, III, 1210-1216) containing "This wild star ... I spoke it--with a few passionate sentences into birth." Poe also has "thought-centers" in "Marginalia [no.] 155" (Brevities, p. 263).

(28) Schumacher may allude to "Masque of the Red Death" here, but it is doubtful. For the record, which seems never to have been kept by Allen Ginsberg or any one else, Schumacher mistakenly mentions by title here "Song (instead of "Songs") for the Tender Hearted Liberal," which really refers to the other two titles that his text furnishes, for October 1943. He omits entirely the following verses: In the 1944 volume, either issue 43 or 44, p. 13 (for the editors of Jester deliberately confuse the "issue" number), are two twelve-line items: "Epitaphs: For A Suicide" (a lover) and "For A Poet." In the November 1944 issue, p. 3, is a twenty-line poem, on the decay of the rose, cherished for the dead lover's sake, much in the Marvell, Suckling, and Lovelace style. In issue no. 4 of 1945 is a small bit of free verse and free thought called "A Translation from the French of Jean-Louis Incogniteau [sic] "on p. 4; and on p. 12, there is a clever four-line epigram on the seduction of Leda, as a swan.

(29) Only Schumacher has said anything about this ambitious manuscript (p. 52), which he presumably read in the Columbia University Special Collections library before Mien Ginsberg's papers were sold to Stanford University for $1,200,000 and transferred in 1994.

(30) The transcripts of the typed first and revised second typescripts plus numerous notes concern his associations, sources, and motive for inclusions, all a little in the analytic tenor of The Road to Xanadu of Lowes. See these pages for further notes on this line and Poe references in his manuscripts, merely listed here: 4 (top line); 21: "to Woodlawn/to the grave to cultivate a final/daisy chain, all Poe," 126: reason for the "mystical name-dropping" of line on p. 4 (see my note 32); 128: his Poe association with Baltimore, mentioned in text, 1. 26, p. 4; 134: note on Burroughs, mentioning that three of Poe's poems and Eureka were written in Fordham cottage; 184: the "collective spell cast" on sensitive, foremost writers named (including Poe); see my note 32 below.

(31) Howl, p. 126, n. 19, explaining that his reason for the "mystical name-dropping" was "to connect younger readers, Whitman's children already familiar with Poe and Bop, to older Gnostic tradition."

(32) Howl, p. 184: from his "Appendix IV, Model Texts, Inspirations Precursor to HOWL" in the 1995 edition. "Inspirations" here of course means "breaths" or "breath lines of poetry" as well as "spirit" or "afflatus."

(33) See Miles, p. 261, for an excellent, revealing discussion about the "caw caw" ending by Louis and Allen Ginsberg, which supports my interpretation. Interesting and relevant is Allen's comment in the booklet accompanying his four-disk set of recordings, called Holy Soul Jelly Roll: Poems and Songs 1949-1992, concerning "vol. 2", the second disk, rifled "Caw! Caw!." Allen decides upon the final "caw" rather than "Lord" as being more surely "pantheistic to accord with his own belief, inferentially as a Buddhist. He also shows a poor sense of the composition of a fugue, on the short page, as he does in speaking of "The Funeral Fugue" in Beethoven's "Eroica" (p. 741). The first disk contains Allen's reading from "Death to Van Gogh's Ear," reprinted from a 1959 Library of Congress public session.

(34) For discussions of Poe's poetry and prose on the subject of dreaming, see Mabbott, Poems. "Dreams," pp. 67439; "Dream Within a Dream," pp. 450452; and Pollin, Collected Writings, vol. 3, The Brevities (including "Marginalia" [291 numbered items], nos. 126 on p. 228 and 231 on p. 379).

(35) I refer to a manuscript book of essays by Allen Ginsberg, shown, through the kindness of William Morgan, to David Carter, who has graciously told me of interesting material on Hart Crane, William Blake, Poe, and chanting, on pp. 8-13. For identification of the Swami and a few other details, see Schumacher, p. 525, and details from the Index to the Stanford University Ginsberg archives, indicated on the internet.

(36) For the first, see Poe's extensive use of Laplace's "nebular hypothesis" and astronomical data in Eureka; for the second see "The Power of Words," Tales, II, 1215. For the popularity and circulation of this poem see William Morgan, ed., The Response to Alien Ginsberg (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 1996), articles including copies printed, A26, B77: by 1972, 53,000; in Collected Poems, 18,000 plus 3,000 in England; American paperback in 1971, 33,500. One should note also excerpts read by Allen on vocal CD's, such as Hydrogen Jukebox (music by Philip Glass) in CDs of 1990, 1991, and 1993, given by Morgan, 296. 323. For Allen's interest in Poe's "cosmological essay" there is much in the report on his Naropa classes below.

(37) Through the gracious permission of Bob Rosenthal, President of The Allen Ginsberg Trust, which holds the copyright, and the courtesy of the New Yorker, of October 21 & 28, 1996, p. 96. While correcting this text copy, I learned of its very recent collection into Allen Ginsberg, Death and Fame, 1993-97 (New York: HarperCollins, 1999), pp., 27-28.

(38) Acknowledgments are owed chiefly to Randy Roark, of Boulder, Colorado, for several years a secretary to Allen, who, having dedicated himself to transcribing these taped classroom meetings and constructing an index of topics covered, has kindly arranged to send me these culled, relevant materials for the present use, with full permission graciously extended by Bob Rosenthal, President of the Allen Ginsberg Trust in New York City. He also gave me entree to the "keepers" of the archives and writers of publications based on them for journals, letters, and other papers of Allen, including Gordon Ball, Hal Willner, Bill Morgan, William Gargan, and Gregory Corso. All of them have accorded me telephone conference time and have made fruitful suggestions. I must also thank the gracious and considerable aid for books and internet access to the helpful library staff of the Bronxville Public Library, the Graduate Center Library of CUNY, and the New York Public Library at Forty-Second Street.

(39) (New York: New American Library, 1968, rpt 1981); Killis Campbell, The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (Boston: Ginn and Co., 1917). Both editors provide full notes and introductions, but far greater and more authoritative are Campbell's.

(40) See the final printing in Selected Poems, p. 353, with the date. Allen's words are quoted from the transcripts of "Workshop IV," an evening class discussing his brand new poem concurrently, a transcript of which was also sent me by Randy Roark. Allen must be referring to Poe's "City in the Sea" (first called "The Doomed City") starting: "Lo! Death has reared himself a throne/In a strange city lying alone/ ...."

(41) These were most kindly sent me by William Gargan, Rare Books librarian at Brooklyn College several months ago, upon hearing of my quest for all possible materials, but I confess to ignoring this page until the very end of my study. The other five "Heroic Precursors" with a few works each were Christopher Smart, William Blake, Shelley, Alexander Pushkin, and Walt Whitman. Subsequent to concluding this note, I found, in the annotated edition of Howl, p. 175, Allen Ginsberg's comment prefacing his "Appendix IV / Model Texts that he drew his texts from his own Anthology XX Century Expansive Poetry & Heroic Precursors composed for his poetics classes at the Naropa Institute.

BURTON R. POLLIN City University of New York
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Author:POLLIN, BURTON R.
Publication:The Mississippi Quarterly
Date:Sep 22, 1999
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