2,000+ Cassettes from the Allen Ginsberg Audio Collection Now Streaming Online

Last month Colin Marshall gave you the scoop on Stanford University's digitization of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," a project that takes you inside the making of the iconic 1955 poem. As a quick follow up, it's worth mentioning this: Stanford has also just put online over 2,000 Ginsberg audio cassette recordings, giving you access to "a staggering amount of primary source material associated with the Beat Generation" and its most acclaimed poet.

For a quick taste of what's in the archive, Stanford Libraries points you to an afternoon breakfast table conversation between Ginsberg and another legendary Beat figure, William S. Burroughs. But you can rummage/search through the whole collection and find your own favorite recordings here.

via Stanford Libraries and Austin Kleon's newsletter (which you should subscribe to here)

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

Allen Ginsberg’s Howl Manuscripts Now Digitized & Put Online, Revealing the Beat Poet’s Creative Process

The First Recording of Allen Ginsberg Reading “Howl” (1956)

Allen Ginsberg Reads His Famously Censored Beat Poem, "Howl" (1959)

James Franco Reads a Dreamily Animated Version of Allen Ginsberg’s Epic Poem ‘Howl’

Allen Ginsberg’s “Celestial Homework”: A Reading List for His Class “Literary History of the Beats

Allen Ginsberg Recordings Brought to the Digital Age. Listen to Eight Full Tracks for Free

Allen Ginsberg’s Handwritten Poem For Bernie Sanders, “Burlington Snow” (1986)

An 8-Hour Marathon Reading of 500 Emily Dickinson Poems

It’s unlikely that reclusive poet Emily Dickinson would have wanted much fuss made over her birthday while still alive to celebrate it.

But with the lady safely ensconced in Amherst’s West Cemetery’s plot 53 for more than a century, fans can observe the day in the manner they see fit.

The Library of Congress’ Poetry and Literature Center threw in with the Folger Library in celebration of her 184th, inviting poetry lovers to the free marathon reading of her work, above (and below).




Poet Eleanor Heginbotham cited Dickinson’s letter to her editor, abolitionist Thomas Wentworth Higginson–“Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive?”–before priming the breakfast crowd on what they should expect from the 8 hour marathon:

We’re just going to have a day with no discussion beyond… And it will be frustrating that we can't ask questions, we can't stop and say, "Oh, my goodness.  Let's do that one over again."  We're just going to read and read and read.  And from this moment on, the voice of Emily Dickinson, through those of you in this room, that's the only voice we're going to hear, and won't that be fun?

Yes, though you may want to pack a nutritious snack to keep your energy up. The reading slots were secured by means of an online sign up sheet, and while such egalitarianism is laudable, it does not necessarily confer performance chops on the inexperienced.

Naturally, there are stand outs.

Marianne Noble, Associate Professor of Literature at American University, is a highlight with Poem 75, (2:36:40, above). Her Emily Rocks t-shirt is pretty rad too.

Professor Heginbotham is another sort of treat with Poem 416, 30 minutes and 40 seconds into the second video, below.

All told, the volunteer readers held the podium for 8 hours, making it through 500 poems, slightly less than a third of the poet’s output.

A transcript of the event, with the readers’ names recorded before their chosen verses can be found here.

Single tickets for the Folger's 2017 Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute, co-hosted by poet and  feminist literary critic, Sandra M. Gilbert, go on sale August 1.

This marathon reading of Dickinson's poems will be added to our collection, 900 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

Related Content:

The Online Emily Dickinson Archive Makes Thousands of the Poet’s Manuscripts Freely Available

The Second Known Photo of Emily Dickinson Emerges

Bill Murray Reads Poetry at a Construction Site: Emily Dickinson, Billy Collins & More

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Discuss Emily Dickinson with her informally at Pete's Mini Zinefest in Brooklyn this Saturday. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Allen Ginsberg’s Howl Manuscripts Now Digitized & Put Online, Revealing the Beat Poet’s Creative Process

Somehow you have to imagine that, from its very opening — "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" — Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" simply emerged fully formed and launched itself permanently into American culture. But deep down we all know that no work, poetic or otherwise, actually does that, no matter how widely read it becomes, no matter how vividly it captures a time and a place, no matter how many generations look to it as an example. Ginsberg had to work on "Howl," and now, thanks to Stanford Libraries, we have an up-close way to see some of that work in progress.

"From its first public reading at the Six Gallery in San Francisco in October 1955 to the notorious obscenity trial that followed in the wake of its first publication in 1956," writes Stanford Curator for American and British Literature Rebecca Wingfield, "the poem is indelibly tied to the Beat Generation and their critique of the staid morals and customs of Eisenhower-era America."




Before all that, it began with a seven-page first draft written in Ginsberg's North Beach apartment, gained a second section before that now-legendary Six Gallery reading, and finally, after Ginsberg tried out different compositional techniques and followed different suggestions in search of a way to capture America as he saw it, evolved into a long poem comprising three sections and a footnote, published alongside other works by City Lights Books as the paperback that made him famous.

"The 'Howl' manuscripts and typescripts in the Allen Ginsberg Papers," which you can view online at Stanford Libraries, "document the formal development of the poem, tracing Ginsberg’s experiments with different structures and wording in each of the poem’s sections." These pre-"Howl" "Howl"s, manuscripts and typescripts both, retain the corrections and annotations that reveal details about Ginsberg's distinctive creative process. But given the most well-known aspect of the poem's construction, that each line lasts as long as exactly one breath, a full understanding can only come from hearing it as well as reading it. You can hear Ginsberg's earliest recorded performance of the poem, at Portland's Reed College (alma mater of Ginsberg's Beat colleague Gary Snyder) in 1956, at the top of the post, and a later reading on record here. (The text of the completed poem can be viewed here.) Look and listen closely, and you'll find that a cri de coeur, especially as Ginsberg cried it, demands deliberate craftsmanship.

See the Howl manuscripts online here.

via Stanford News/Boing Boing

Related Content:

The First Recording of Allen Ginsberg Reading “Howl” (1956)

Allen Ginsberg Reads His Famously Censored Beat Poem, "Howl" (1959)

James Franco Reads a Dreamily Animated Version of Allen Ginsberg’s Epic Poem ‘Howl’

Allen Ginsberg’s “Celestial Homework”: A Reading List for His Class “Literary History of the Beats

Allen Ginsberg Recordings Brought to the Digital Age. Listen to Eight Full Tracks for Free

Allen Ginsberg’s Handwritten Poem For Bernie Sanders, “Burlington Snow” (1986)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Every Poem in Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs du Mal” Set to Music, Illustrated and Performed Live

Charles Baudelaire must be a joyful corpse indeed. His work has succeeded as few others’ have, to be so passionately alive 150 years after his death.

Theater Oobleck, a Chicago artistic collective dedicated to creating original affordable theatrical works, has spent the last eleven years assembling Baudelaire in a Box, a cantastoria cycle based on Les Fleurs du Mal.

Why?

Because he would be so irritated. Because he might be charmed

There is a touch of vaudeville and cabaret in Baudelaire. He tended to go big or go home. Home to his mother.

Because he invented the term “modernity” and even now no one quite knows what it means. Because he wrote a poetry of immersion perfectly suited to the transience and Now-ness of song and of the Ever-Moving scroll. Because we never had a proper goth phase. Sex and death! For all these reasons, and for the true one that remains just out of our grasp.

Each new installment features a line-up of musicians performing live adaptations of another 10 to 15 poems, as artist Dave Buchen’s painted illustrations slowly spool past on hand-turned “crankies.”

The resulting “proto music videos” are voluptuously intimate affairs, with plenty of time to reflect upon the original texts’ explicit sexuality, the gorgeous urban decay that so preoccupied one of Romantic poetry’s naughtiest boys.

The instruments and musical palate---klezmer, alt-country, antifolk---are befitting of the interpreters’ well honed downtown sensibilities. The lyrics are drunk on their dark imagery.

The entire project makes for the sort of extravagantly eccentric night out that might lead a young poet to lean close to his blind date, mid-show, to whisper “Wouldn’t it be agreeable to take a bath with me?” No word on whether that line worked for the poéte maudit, who reportedly issued such an invitation to a friend mid-sentence.

This August, Theater Oobleck intends to observe the sesquicentennial of Baudelaire’s death in grand style with a marathon performance of the complete Baudelaire in a Box, a three-day effort involving 50 artists and over 130 poems.

Allow a few past examples to set the mood:

The Offended Moon From Episode 9 of Baudelaire In A Box, "Unquenched." Composed and translated by David Costanza. Emmy Bean: vocal, Ronnie Kuller: accordion, T-Roy Martin trombone, David E. Smith: clarinet, Chris Schoen: vocal, Joey Spilberg: bass.

The Denial of St. Peter Composed, translated and performed by Sad Brad Smith, with Emmy Bean (hand percussion), Ronnie Kuller (accordion), T-Roy Martin (trombone), Chris Schoen (mandolin), and Joey Spilberg (bass).

The Drag Music composed by Ronnie Kuller, to Mickle Maher's translation of "L'Avertisseur" by Charles Baudelaire. Performed by: Emmy Bean (vocal, percussion), Angela James (vocal), Ronnie Kuller (piano, percussion), T-Roy Martin (vocal), Chris Schoen (vocal), David E. Smith (saxophone), and Joey Spilberg (bass).

The Hard(-est) Working Skeleton Music by Amy Warren, Performed by Nora O'Connor, with Addie Horan, Amalea Tshilds, Kate Douglas, James Becker and Ted Day.

The Possessed Written and performed by Jeff Dorchen.

You can listen to and purchase songs from Episodes 7 (the King of Rain) and 9 (Unquenched) on Bandcamp.

Some of the participating musicians have released their own albums featuring tracks of their Baudelaire-based tunes.

Theater Oobleck is raising funds for the upcoming Closed Casket: The Complete, Final, and Absolutely Last Baudelaire in a Box on Kickstarter, with music and prints and originals of Buchen’s work among the premiums at various pledge levels.

All images used with permission of artist Dave Buchen.

Related Content:

Great 19 Century Poems Read in French: Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine & More

Baudelaire, Balzac, Dumas, Delacroix & Hugo Get a Little Baked at Their Hash Club (1844-1849)

Henri Matisse Illustrates Baudelaire’s Censored Poetry Collection, Les Fleurs du Mal

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  She will be appearing in a live excerpt from CB Goodman’s How to Kill an Elephant this Friday at Dixon Place in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

John F. Kennedy Explains Why Artists & Poets Are Indispensable to American Democracy (October 26th, 1963)

The Greek word poesis did not confine itself to the literary arts. Most broadly speaking, the word meant “to make”---as in, to create anything, godlike, out of the stuff of ideas. But the English word “poetry” has always retained this grander sense, one very present for poets steeped in the classics, like Percy Shelley, who famously called poets the “unacknowledged legislators of the world” in his essay “A Defence of Poetry.” Shelley argued, “If no new poets should arise to create afresh the associations which have been thus disorganized, language will be dead to all the nobler purposes of human intercourse.”

It can feel at times, watching certain of our leaders speak, that language may be dying for “nobler purposes.” But certain poets would seek to convince us otherwise. As Walt Whitman wrote of his countrymen in an introduction to Leaves of Grass, “presidents shall not be their common referee so much as their poets shall.”




Whitman lived in a time that valued rhetorical skill in its leaders. So too did another of the country’s revered national poets, Robert Frost, who accepted the request of John F. Kennedy to serve as the first inaugural poet in 1961 with “his signature elegance of wit,” comments Maria Popova. Frost, 86 years old at the time, read his poem "The Gift Outright" from memory and offered Kennedy some full-throated advice on joining "poetry and power."

Kennedy, an “arts patron in chief,” as the L.A. Times’ Mark Swed describes him, was so moved that two years later, after the poet’s death, he delivered an eloquent eulogy for Frost at Amherst College that picked up the poet’s theme, and acknowledged the power of poetry as equal to, and perhaps surpassing, that of politics. “Our national strength matters,” he began, “but the spirit which informs and controls our strength matters just as much.” That animating spirit for Kennedy was not religion, civil or supernatural, but art. Frost’s poetry, he said, “brought an unsparing instinct for reality to bear on the platitudes and pieties of society.”

His sense of the human tragedy fortified him against self-deception and easy consolation… it is hardly an accident that Robert Frost coupled poetry and power, for he saw poetry as the means of saving power from itself. When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.

The tragedy of hubris and celebration of diversity, however, we can see not only in Frost, but in Shelley, Whitman, and perhaps every other great poet whose “personal vision… becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state.” Kennedy’s short speech, with great clarity and concision, makes the case for using the country’s resources to “reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft.” But just as importantly, he argues against any kind of state imposition on an artist’s vision: “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.”

You can hear Kennedy deliver the speech in the audio above, read a full transcript in English here and in 12 other languages here. In the audience at Amherst sat poet and critic Archibald MacLeish, who, in his “Ars Poetica,” had suggested that poetry should not be stripped of its sounds and images and turned into a didactic tool. Kennedy agrees. “In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology.” Yet poetry is not a luxury, but a necessity if a body politic is to flourish. "The nation which disdains the mission of art,” Kennedy warned, “invites the fate of Robert Frost’s hired man, the fate of having ‘nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.’”

Kennedy's is a point of view, perhaps, that might get under a lot of people's skin. It's worth considering, as a less optimistic critic argued at the time, whether an overabundance of didactic political statements in art may be as culturally damaging as the absence of art in politics. Or whether art like Frost's is ever "disinterested," in Kennedy's phrasing, or apolitical, or can operate independently as a check to power. Frost himself may express ambivalence in his embrace of "human tragedy." But in his doubt he fulfills the poet's role, entering into the kind of critical dialectic Kennedy claims for poetry and democracy.

Related Content:

Listen to Robert Frost Read ‘The Gift Outright,’ the Poem He Recited from Memory at JFK’s Inauguration

New Film Project Features Citizens of Alabama Reading Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” a Poetic Embodiment of Democratic Ideals

Theodor Adorno’s Radical Critique of Joan Baez and the Music of the Vietnam War Protest Movement

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Inspiration from Charles Bukowski: You Might Be Old, Your Life May Be “Crappy,” But You Can Still Make Good Art

Now more than ever, there’s tremendous pressure to make it big while you’re young.

Pity the 31-year-old who fails to make it onto a 30-under-30 list…

The soon-to-graduate high schooler passed over for YouTube stardom…

The great hordes who creep into middle age without so much as a TED Talk to their names…

Social media definitely magnifies the sensation that an unacceptable number of our peers have been granted first-class cabins aboard a ship that’s sailed without us. If we weren’t so demoralized, we’d sue Instagram for creating the impression that everyone else’s #VanLife is leading to book deals and profiles in The New Yorker.

James Patterson Teaches You To Writer A Bestseller. Learn More.

Don’t despair, dear reader. Charles Bukowski is about to make your day from beyond the grave.

In 1993, at the age of 73, the late writer and self-described “spoiled old toad,” took a break from recording the audiobook of Run With the Hunted to reflect upon his “crappy” life.

Some of these thoughts made it into Drew Christie’s animation, above, a reminder that the smoothest road isn’t always necessarily the richest one.

In service of his ill-paying muse, Bukowski logged decades in unglamorous jobs ---dishwasher, truckdriver and loader, gas station attendant, stock boy, warehouseman, shipping clerk, parking lot attendant, Red Cross orderly, elevator operator, and most notoriously, postal carrier and clerk. These gigs gave him plenty of material, the sort of real world experience that eludes those upon whom literary fame and fortune smiles early.

(His alcoholic misadventures provided yet more material, earning him such honorifics as the ”poet laureate of L.A. lowlife" and "enfant terrible of the Meat School poets.”)

One might also take comfort in hearing a writer as prodigious as Bukowski revealing that he didn’t hold himself to the sort of daily writing regimen that can be difficult to achieve when one is juggling day jobs, student loans, and/or a family. Also appreciated is the far-from-cursory nod he accords the therapeutic benefits that are available to all those who write, regardless of any public or financial recognition:

Three or four nights out of seven. If I don’t get those in, I don’t act right. I feel sick. I get very depressed. It’s a release. It’s my psychiatrist, letting this shit out. I’m lucky I get paid for it. I’d do it for nothing. In fact, I’d pay to do it. Here, I’ll give you ten thousand a year if you’ll let me write. 

Related Content:

4 Hours of Charles Bukowski’s Riotous Readings and Rants

Hear 130 Minutes of Charles Bukowski’s First-Ever Recorded Readings (1968)

Rare Recordings of Burroughs, Bukowski, Ginsberg & More Now Available in a Digital Archive Created by the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

New Film Project Features Citizens of Alabama Reading Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” a Poetic Embodiment of Democratic Ideals

In times of national anxiety, many of us take comfort in the fact that the U.S. has endured political crises even more severe than those at hand. History can be a teacher and a guide, and so too can poetry, as Walt Whitman reminds us again and again. Whitman witnessed some of the greatest upheavals and revolutionary changes the country has ever experienced: the Civil War and its aftermath, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the failure of Reconstruction, the massive industrialization of the country at the end of the 19th century....

Perhaps this is why we return to Whitman when we make what critics call a “poetic turn." His expansive, multivalent verse speaks for us when beauty, shock, or sadness exceed the limits of everyday language. Whitman contained the nation’s warring voices, and somehow reconciled them without diluting their uniqueness. This was, indeed, his literary mission, to “create a unified whole out of disparate parts,” argues Karen Swallow Prior at The Atlantic. “For Whitman, poetry wasn’t just a vehicle for expressing political lament; it was also a political force in itself.” Poetry’s importance as a binding agent in the fractious, fragile coalition of states, meant that for Whitman, the country’s “Presidents shall not be their common referee so much as their poets shall.”

Whitman wrote as a gay man who, by the time he published the first edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855, had gone from being an “ardent Free-Soiler” to fully supporting abolition. His poetry proclaimed a “radically egalitarian vision,” writes Martin Klammer, “of an ideal, multiracial republic.” A country that was, itself, a poem. “The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem,” wrote Whitman in his preface. The nation’s contradictions inhabit us just as we inhabit them. The only way to resolve our differences, he insisted, is to embody them fully, with openness toward other people and the natural world. Understanding Whitman’s mission makes filmmaker Jennifer Crandall’s project Whitman, Alabama all the more poignant.

For two years, Crandall “crisscrossed this deep Southern state, inviting people to look into a camera and share part of themselves through the words of Walt Whitman.” To the question “Who is American?,” Crandall---just as Whitman before her---answers with a multitude of voices, weaving in and out of a collaborative reading of the epic “Song of Myself,” beginning with 97-year-old Virginia Mae Schmitt of Birmingham, at the top, who reads Whitman’s lines, “I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin / Hoping to cease not till death.” No one watching the video, Crandall remarks, should ask, “Why isn’t’ a thirty-seven year old man reading this?” To do so is to ignore Whitman’s design for the universal in the particular.

When Whitman penned the first lines of “Song of Myself,” the country had not yet “Unlimber’d” the cannons “to begin the red business,” as he would later write, but the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act had clearly lain the foundation for civil war. The poet's many revisions, additions, and subsequent editions of Leaves of Grass after his first small run in 1855 continued until his death in 1892. He was obsessed with the hugeness and dynamism of the country and its people, in their darkest, bloodiest moments and at their most flourishing. His vision lets everyone in, without qualification, constantly rewriting itself to meet new faces in the ever-changing nation.

As Mariam Jalloh, a 14-year old Muslim girl from Guinea, recites in her short portion of the reading further up, “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” Jollah quite literally makes Whitman’s language her own, translating into her native Fulani the line, “If they are not just as close as they are distant, they are nothing.” Jalloh “may seem like a surprising conduit for the writing of Whitman, a long-dead queer socialist poet from Brooklyn,” writes Christian Kerr at Hyperallergic, “but such incongruity is the active agent in Whitman, Alabama’s therapeutic salve.” It is also, Whitman suggested, the matrix of American democracy.

See more readings from the project above from Laura and Brandon Reeder of Cullman, the Sullivan family of Mobile, and by Demetrius Leslie and Frederick George, and Patricia Marshall and Tammy Cooper, inmates at mens’ and womens’ prisons in Montgomery. Whitman’s voice winds through these bodies and voices, settling in, finding a home, then, restless, moving on, inviting us all to join in the chorus, yet also—in its contrarian way—telling us to find our own paths. “You shall no longer take things at second or third hand....,” wrote Whitman, “nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books, / You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, / You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.”

Find many more readings at the Whitman, Alabama website. And stay tuned for new readings as they come online.

Also find works by Walt Whitman on our lists of Free Audio Books and Free eBooks.

via Hyperallergic

Related Content:

Iggy Pop Reads Walt Whitman in Collaborations With Electronic Artists Alva Noto and Tarwater

Walt Whitman Gives Advice to Aspiring Young Writers: “Don’t Write Poetry” & Other Practical Tips (1888)

Walt Whitman’s Unearthed Health Manual, “Manly Health & Training,” Urges Readers to Stand (Don’t Sit!) and Eat Plenty of Meat (1858)

The Civil War & Reconstruction: A Free Course from Yale University

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

More in this category... »
Quantcast