Tag Archives: Percy Bysshe Shelley

How Antonin Artaud Came to Influence the Beats

24 Apr

Antonin_Artaud_jeune_b_SDAntonin Artaud had great fashion sense.

Bronx-born writer Carl Solomon joined the United States Maritime Service in 1944 and traveled overseas to Paris, where he was encountered Surrealism and Dadaism. When he came back to the US, he voluntarily admitted himself to a New Jersey psychiatric hospital as Dadaist expression of being beat, being conquered, being overpowered. There, he received shock therapy instead of the lobotomy he requested. He wrote about the experience in Report from the Asylum: Afterthoughts of a Shock Patient.

At the psychiatric hospital, Solomon met Allen Ginsberg. (You can read about how Ginsberg ended up there in Burning Furiously Beautiful.) He introduced the young poet to the poetry of Antonin Artaud, a French poet of Greek ancestry (his parents were from Smyrna) whom he had seen give a screaming poetry reading in Paris. Artaud had written the first Surrealist film, The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928), and produced Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s The Cenci in 1935. The year after that, he went to Mexico, living with the native Tarahumara people and experimenting with peyote, before Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs would pack their bags for Mexico. Another year passed and Artaud was found penniless in Ireland, where he was arrested and deported. Back in France, he was sent to various psychiatric hospitals, where he was subjected to electroshock therapy. Notably, in his earlier years, Artaud had spent time in a sanatorium, where he read none other than Arthur Rimbaud.

Solomon wrote Report from the Asylum with Artaud in mind, while Ginsberg wrote “Howl” with both Artaud and Solomon in mind.

Once again, I could not find any of his poems in public-domain English translation. So, here’s a quote I found interesting and relevant from Artaud’s prose piece The Theater and Its Double:

“I cannot conceive any work of art as having a separate existence from life itself.”

You can read one of his poems, “Jardin Noir,” here.

*4/24/14: The subject’s name was originally misspelled and has now been corrected. Thanks to my reader for pointing that out!

Before the Beats, Rimbaud Had a “Bohemian Life”

17 Apr

225px-RimbaudPhoto by Etienne Carjat (1871)

Rimbaud’s kinda cute, eh?

Before Jack Kerouac coined the term “Beat Generation” during a conversation on the Lost Generation with fellow writer John Clellon Holmes, before he went on the road and lived a bohemian life, he attended (and dropped out of) Columbia University. It was through his Columbia connections—which Paul and I explain in more detail in Burning Furiously Beautiful (it’s actually super interesting to discover how they all met and became friends)—that Kerouac met Lucien Carr and Allen Ginsberg. Back then, the phrase they were throwing around was a “New Vision.”

Carr had borrowed the phrase from Arthur Rimbaud, and the young friends in Morningside Heights used it to mean:

1) Naked self-expression is the seed of creativity. 2) The artist’s consciousness is expanded by derangement of the senses. 3) Art eludes conventional morality.[17]

As a teenager, Rimbaud was part of the Decadent movement in late-nineteenth-century France. The term “Decadents” refers to the clever poets who preferred to show off their literary skill rather than emote as naturally as the Romantics. The earlier Romantics—such as William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats—used more colloquial language than the highly stylized language of the Decadents.

In a letter to a friend, Rimbaud wrote:

I’m now making myself as scummy as I can. Why? I want to be a poet, and I’m working at turning myself into a seer. You won’t understand any of this, and I’m almost incapable of explaining it to you. The idea is to reach the unknown by the derangement of all the senses. It involves enormous suffering, but one must be strong and be a born poet. It’s really not my fault.

 

Sounds like something Kerouac might write, doesn’t it? Not because the author of On the Road sought to make himself scummy by any means, but because he shook off pretensions and suffered for his art, appreciating the authenticity of experience.

I couldn’t find a translation of any of Rimbaud’s poetry that was in the public domain, so here is Rimbaud’s “My Bohemian Life (Fantasy)” in the original French:

Ma Bohème (Fantaisie)

Je m’en allais, les poings dans mes poches crevées ;
Mon paletot aussi devenait idéal ;
J’allais sous le ciel, Muse ! et j’étais ton féal ;
Oh ! là là ! que d’amours splendides j’ai rêvées !

Mon unique culotte avait un large trou.
– Petit-Poucet rêveur, j’égrenais dans ma course
Des rimes. Mon auberge était à la Grande Ourse.
– Mes étoiles au ciel avaient un doux frou-frou

Et je les écoutais, assis au bord des routes,
Ces bons soirs de septembre où je sentais des gouttes
De rosée à mon front, comme un vin de vigueur ;

Où, rimant au milieu des ombres fantastiques,
Comme des lyres, je tirais les élastiques
De mes souliers blessés, un pied près de mon coeur !

You can read a 1962 English translation by Oliver Bernard here.

 

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die”

10 Apr

ShelleyPortrait of Shelley by Alfred Clint (1819)

When you think Beat Generation do you also think Romanticism? No?? Don’t get tripped up by the overuse of the word “neon” and other supposed markers of so-called Beat poetry. Think more about their shared notions of colloquial language, intuition over reason, and spontaneity. Beat poetry is a natural evolution of Romantic poetry. (Caveat: “Beat Generation” and “Romanticism” are convenient labels, but the people associated with them wouldn’t identify themselves as being “members” of any sort of “movement.”)

I’ve written before about Beat poet Gregory Corso’s connection to one of my personal favorite poets, John Keats. Even more than Keats, though, Corso professed an admiration for Percy Bysshe Shelley. Corso is actually buried across from Shelley. While Allen Ginsberg (read last week’s post on Ginsberg’s Blake vision here)  is known for littering his poetry with the names of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, Corso wrote of Shelley in “I Am 25” and “I Held a Shelley Manuscript.” I love, love, love the language he uses in those poems and can relate to the theme of idolizing other poets who have gone before one’s time.

When thinking about possible poems to share with you for National Poetry Month, I decided on Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die” not just because of Gregory Corso’s love for Shelley but because it reminded me of the themes I’d found myself wonderfully entrenched in while recently reading Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, a book the Beats also read—themes of memory and love and music and flowers. (Swoon, swoon, swoon.) Like Corso’s “I Held a Shelley Manuscript,” Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die” sensually touches on what remains after death.

Without further ado, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die”:

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap’d for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

What’s your favorite poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

Happy 84th Birthday, Gregory Corso!

26 Mar

corso-gasoline

Gregory Nunzio Corso was born on March 26, 1930, in New York City. He would’ve been 84 today.

He’s one of my favorite poets, and to celebrate his wit and warmth, here is a link to his poem “I Am 25.”

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Remembering Gregory Nunzio Corso

17 Jan

corso_mindfield_new

I have a special place in my heart for Gregory Corso. I’ve always appreciated his Romantic notions and the levity he brought to the so-called Beat Generation canon.

Unlike a lot of the other people he associated with, who were brought up in middle-class families and took an interest in the seedy underbelly of New York City as adults, Corso was abandoned by his mother at a Catholic charity and his father had him put in the foster care system. At thirteen, he landed in jail, where he discovered poetry. It was only many years later, after he became famous, that filmmaker Gustave Reininger found Corso’s mother and reunited them in what turned out to be a happy ending. His mother actually outlived him, though, as he soon found out he had cancer. During that time, his daughter Sheri Langerman, a nurse, took care of him.

Corso passed away in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, on January 17, 2001. His ashes were buried at the Protestant Cemetery, Cimitero acattolico, in Rome, across from the poet that inspired him, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Friday Links: Aristophanes Edition

13 Dec

swellfoot

Happy Friday! I’m wrapping up Aristophanes week with some link love devoted to this funny dramatist.

Lysistrata is a name featured on the Heritage Floor at The Dinner Party, at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum

Pablo Picasso was so inspired by Aristophanes’ Lysistrata that he made several prints related to it, on view at the Met

Artist Aubrey Beardsley, who is often inspired by literature, also created a print inspired by Aristophanes

Obviously, there’s Radiohead’s Cloud Cuckoo Land

Lisa Borders titled her book about a young female busker’s search for home Cloud Cuckoo Land

On Fernhill Farm in Somerset, there’s a festival called Cloud Cuckoo Land

Festivals may seem very post-Woodstock, but Aristophanes was part of a festival back in Ancient Athens, called Lenaia, where he actually won first prize for his play The Knights

There’s an international architecture journal called Cloud-Cuckoo-Land

In London there’s a delightful period-clothing shop called Cloud Cuckoo Land

Percy Bysshe Shelley (Gregory Corso’s favorite poet) imitated Aristophanes’ The Frogs in the comic drama Oedipus Tyrannus: Or, Swellfoot the Tyrrant

“Aristophanes is ridiculous!” shouted Oscar on an episode of The Odd Couple in which he and Felix are contestants on the game-show Password

 

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!