William Carlos Williams’ anecdote on meeting T.S. Eliot / by Allen Ginsberg / as told to Bockris-Wylie

W.C. Williams anecdote meeting T.S. Eliot

by

Allen Ginsberg

as told to Bockris-Wylie


Note: This isn’t an article deliberately written nor an interview untouched. It’s conversation transcribed, edited punctuated and condensed by interviewers. The words are mine but the style of transcription – timing, context, punctuation, tone – is mostly by Bockris–Wiley handiwork.

Allen Ginsberg

6 February 74

I never met Eliot, I just saw him reading at the Y once. Marianne Moore was in the audience and I remember him saying, “and now I have a request from somebody to read Dry Salvages, a request which is in command, coming from so distinguished a poet as Miss Moore, as it does.” Very elegant! And then he read some poems written thirty years before.

It was nice to hear him read them in person, but it was very diplomatic, he was too stiff, or much locked in a single image, it would have been interesting if he had had a little bit of Dali’s element of Surprise. I remember I told Robert Duncan when we (Orlovsky & Kerouac) were going to go and see Dali, and Duncan very sweetly said, “Please give him my respects, and say that he has always enchanted us as the genius of surprise.”

So it would have been interesting to see Eliot pulling out some element of surprise, like coming on the stage half–naked, wearing a grape fig haircut, or coming on dressed like a bishop or some kind of pope in drag, or in an 18th-century courtiers costume, or –improvising a poem right there on the stage. Something really astounding – would have been another Eliot.

Williams had a bony-nosed dislike of Eliot, characterized by Williams statement “Eliot was such a great genius he set American poetry back thirty years.”

What really pissed Williams off, Williams once told me, they met once, (and they’ve been rivals for the aesthetic affections of Pound) — and Williams said that Eliot was introduced to him: “Oh, Dr. Williams, how marvelous to meet you. I read many of your characters, you should write more of them. I do admire the characters you’ve done.” By characters he meant the old english form, it’s an outline of a person, a social picture sketch, character of the happy warrior, etc.

Williams said, “Why that son of a bitch! I’ve never heard . . . Completely patronizing!” I think Williams objection was that Eliot was trying to interpret Williams efforts in terms of English traditionalism — Eliot’s forms and formulas and terminalogic categories – rather than acknowledge the specific thing Williams was trying to do, which was to write something uncategorically American, raw eared and Rutherford-eyed

(That’s the only meeting they ever had apparently. And I don’t think it’s been recorded anywhere.)


This text was published in The World #29, April 1974. “Bockris-Wylie” refers to a writing partnership between Victor Brockis (whose Lou Reed biography is good trashy fun) and Andrew Wylie, who later became a powerful literary agent (I have gotten multiple takedown notices from the Wylie Agency in the past.

I have done my best to replicate the original typography of The World’s piece, including their complete disrespect of the possessive apostrophe.

William Burroughs with a brother Sphinx (Photo by Ginsberg)

William S. Burroughs looking serious, sad lover’s eyes, afternoon light in window (Photo by Ginsberg)

JG Ballard on on Psychoactive Drugs and William Burroughs

From JG Ballard’s interview with The Paris Review; the Martin Bax novel he mentions, The Hospital Ship, is worth your time if you can find it:

INTERVIEWER

Speaking of stimulation, did any of the psychoactive drugs of the sixties give you any clues for your writing?

BALLARD

I suppose I’m a medium-to-heavy drinker, but I haven’t taken any drugs since one terrifying LSD trip in 1967. A nightmarish mistake. It opened a vent of hell that took years to close and left me wary even of aspirin. Visually it was just like my 1965 novel, The Crystal World, which some people think was inspired by my LSD trip. It convinced me that a powerful and obsessive enough imagination can reach, unaided, the very deepest layers of the mind. (I take it that beyond LSD there lies nothing.) Imagination is the shortest route between any two conceivable points, and more than equal to any physical rearrangement of the brain’s functions.

INTERVIEWER

Back in the sixties, Martin Bax and yourself, as editors of Ambit magazine, ran a drug competition.

BALLARD

Dr. Bax and I ran a competition in Ambit for the best prose or poetry written under the influence of drugs, and it produced a lot of interesting material. In general, cannabis was the best stimulant, though some good pieces came out of LSD. In fact, the best writing of all was done by Ann Quin, under the influence of the contraceptive pill.

INTERVIEWER

Dr. Bax is a novelist as well, isn’t he?

BALLARD

Martin is a physician, a research pediatrician, and consultant to a London hospital, and his book The Hospital Ship (published in the States by New Directions) is the most remarkable and original novel I’ve come across since reading William Burroughs.

INTERVIEWER

Burroughs wrote an eccentric and laudatory, in its way, introduction to the American edition of Atrocity Exhibition. Do you know him?

BALLARD

Burroughs, of course, I admire to the other side of idolatry, starting with Naked Lunch, then Ticket, Soft Machine, and Nova Express. I’m less keen on his later books. In his way he’s a genius. It’s a pity that his association with drugs and homosexuality has made him a counterculture figure, but I suppose his real links are with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and the Beats. Still, I think he’s much more of an establishment figure, like Dean Swift, with a despairing disgust for the political and professional establishments of which he is a part. I have met Burroughs quite a few times over the last fifteen years, and he always strikes me as an upper-class Midwesterner, with an inherent superior attitude towards blacks, policemen, doctors, and small-town politicians, the same superior attitude that Swift had to their equivalents in his own day, the same scatological obsessions and brooding contempt for middle-class values, thrift, hard work, parenthood, et cetera, which are just excuses for petit-bourgeois greed and exploitation. But I admire Burroughs more than any other living writer, and most of those who are dead. It’s nothing to do with his homosexual bent, by the way. I’m no member of the “homintern,” but a lifelong straight who prefers the company of women to most men. The few homosexual elements in Crash and Atrocity Exhibition, fucking Reagan, et cetera, are there for reasons other than the sexual—in fact, to show a world beyond sexuality, or, at least beyond clear sexual gender.

Bob Dylan LIFE Retrospective (Not-Quite-A-Book Acquired, 2.29.2012)

20120229-211910.jpg

My uncle has always aided and abetted my love for the music and mythos of Bob Dylan. He hooked me up with Anthony Scaduto’s 1972 biography Dylan, which I still consider a high point of musical biography and journalism. It’s a work that traces Dylan as a dialectical synthesis of the sources around him: Little Richard, the cold winters of Hibbing, Woody Guthrie, Charlie Chaplin, etc.

So anyway, I was pleasantly surprised (but hardly shocked) to find a copy of LIFE’s Bob Dylan retrospective in the US mails, kindly sent by my uncle. It’s crammed with pictures I’d never seen before, and the copy is surprisingly well-written (if occasionally snarky). Anyway, good stuff. I share a few pics:

20120229-211921.jpg

20120229-211928.jpg

20120229-211948.jpg

20120229-211954.jpg

20120229-212727.jpg

William S. Burroughs Talks About Allen Ginsberg

Book Acquired, 9.26.2011

20110926-033621.jpg

Beatitude by Larry Closs; ARC courtesy of the author. The book looks pretty cool—description from the author’s site

New York City, 1995: Harry Charity is a sensitive young loner haunted by a disastrous affair when he meets Jay Bishop, an outgoing poet and former Marine. Propelled by a shared fascination with the unfettered lives of Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation, the two are irresistibly drawn together, even as Jay’s girlfriend, Zahra, senses something deeper developing.

Reveling in their discovery of the legendary scroll manuscript of Kerouac’s On the Road in the vaults of the New York Public Library, Harry and Jay embark on a nicotine-and-caffeine-fueled journey into New York’s thriving poetry scene of slams and open-mike nights.

An encounter with “Howl” poet Allen Ginsberg shatters their notions of what it means to be Beat but ultimately and unexpectedly leads them into their own hearts where they’re forced to confront the same questions that confounded their heroes: What do you do when you fall for someone who can’t fall for you? What do you do when you’re the object of affection? What must you each give up to keep the other in your life?

Beatitude features two previously unpublished poems by Allen Ginsberg.

Frank O’Hara Reads “Fantasy”

Allen Ginsberg Talks to Neal Cassady

JG Ballard on William Burroughs

We continue to raid The Paris Review’s interview archive. Here’s J.G. Ballard on William Burroughs, in a 1984 interview–

INTERVIEWER: Burroughs wrote an eccentric and laudatory, in its way, introduction to the American edition of Atrocity Exhibition. Do you know him?

BALLARD: Burroughs, of course, I admire to the other side of idolatry, starting with Naked Lunch, then Ticket, Soft Machine, and Nova Express. I’m less keen on his later books. In his way he’s a genius. It’s a pity that his association with drugs and homosexuality has made him a counterculture figure, but I suppose his real links are with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and the Beats. Still, I think he’s much more of an establishment figure, like Dean Swift, with a despairing disgust for the political and professional establishments of which he is a part. I have met Burroughs quite a few times over the last fifteen years, and he always strikes me as an upper-class Midwesterner, with an inherent superior attitude towards blacks, policemen, doctors, and small-town politicians, the same superior attitude that Swift had to their equivalents in his own day, the same scatological obsessions and brooding contempt for middle-class values, thrift, hard work, parenthood, et cetera, which are just excuses for petit-bourgeois greed and exploitation. But I admire Burroughs more than any other living writer, and most of those who are dead. It’s nothing to do with his homosexual bent, by the way. I’m no member of the “homintern,” but a lifelong straight who prefers the company of women to most men. The few homosexual elements in Crash and Atrocity Exhibition, fucking Reagan, et cetera, are there for reasons other than the sexual—in fact, to show a world beyond sexuality, or, at least beyond clear sexual gender

“Are You Obscene?” — Play the New Interactive Howl Game

Play the new interactive game “Are You Obscene?”  It may be a baldly mercantile device to promote the upcoming Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl, but it’s also pretty fun.

Here’s the trailer for Howl