In Spite of the Grey Secrecy of Time
Since there was some talk recently on the web concerning Allen Ginsberg’s singing of Blake (here at PoemTalk), I decided to revisit my earlier plan to put some of Ginsberg’s letters in Paterson to music. Once I heard the drony, chanty quality of Ginsberg’s harmonium-backed quaverings, the project suddenly seemed more doable, but I think I ended up sounding more like a drunken Irishman than Ginsberg—cosmic troubadour and prophet of the Fall(s). You decide—and of course are welcome to come up with your own riff on Ginsberg’s letters for inclusion on Impossible Object! I took not a few liberties with the original, some of which are, admittedly, outright mistakes (I misread “phase” as “phrase,” although I still think I like “phrase” better, at least in the context of the song; it’s a word not as caught up in the extended weather imagery of the letter, so maybe it’s not such a sin?): Here is the original:
In spite of the grey secrecy of time and my own self-shuttering doubts in these youthful rainy days, I would like to make my presence in Paterson known to you, and I hope you will welcome this from me, an unknown young poet, to you, an unknown old poet, who live in the same rusty county of the world. Not only do I inscribe this missive somewhat in the style of those courteous sages of yore who recognized one another across generations as brotherly children of the muses (whose names they well know) but also as fellow citizenly Chinamen of the same province, whose gastanks, junkyards, fens of the alley, millways, funeral parlors, river-visions—aye! The falls itself—are images white-woven in their very beards. . . .
I do not know if you will like my poetry or not—that is, how far your own inventive persistence excludes less independent or youthful attempts to perfect, renew, transfigure, and make contemporarily real an old style or lyric machinery, which I use to record the struggle with imagination of the clouds, with which I have been concerned. I enclose a few samples of my best writing. All that I have done has a program, consciously or not, running on from phase to phase, from the beginnings of emotional breakdown, to momentary raindrops from the clouds become corporeal, to a renewal of human objectivity which I take to be ultimately identical with no ideas but in things. (172-73)
And here is the song,
I am accompanied by the piano and sleighbell talents of the immaginarium light outreach inner~youth center, with whom I share a rusty county of the world (. . . well actually, we are in contiguous rusty counties.)
“Brighten/ . . the corner where you/ are!”
(image of unknown young poets meeting older known poets courtesy immaginarium light outreach inner-youth center)