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"A Voice of Rock as the sound of Prophesy": Discussing Allen Ginsberg’s New Jersey poetics and recording of the album “The Lion for real” with guitarist Marc Ribot

Anna Aublet

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With special thanks to Julien Bitoun who arranged the interview and helped with the digital scoring of To Aunt Rose.

1December 19th 2014

2Issued in 1989, the album “The Lion for Real” is the repository of seventeen poems composed by beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Following on a path initiated by Kenneth Rexroth or Lawrence Ferlinghetti to name but a few, Ginsberg set out to record his poems in spoken words or in Jacques Roubaud’s phrase, “American poetry recovers its lost orality [,] from Allen Ginsberg to Robert Creely.”(Roubaud, 20) On the album, Ginsberg refrained from singing the lyrics the way he used to, for as he humorously explains in the liner notes, he had been told that “maybe [he] shouldn’t sing” by Marianne Faithfull after she listened to a few blues recordings he had made. Many musicians were invited to play on the album, pick a few poems and weave out a musical framework: New Jersey guitar player Marc Ribot was one of the musicians called upon by producer Hal Willner to interpret three poems of his choice and sketch out a musical backdrop. Ribot had already played on several of Tom Waits’ recordings, was also collaborating with singer Elvis Costello and he was part of a free jazz avant-garde influenced by Ornette Coleman and represented by John Zorn, with whom he never stopped playing. He thus composed the scores for three tracks on Ginsberg’s album and played on a total of fourteen (electric and acoustic guitars, banjo and trumpet). The result is a powerful artistic collaboration in which Ginsberg’s talent as a vocalist or what he calls his “Hebraic-Melvillean bardic breath” (Ginsberg, 2000, 229) is matched with inventive jazz compositions inaugurating a compelling dialogue. Willner would reiterate the experience the following year, teaming up William S. Burroughs with Sonic Youth.

3The kind of singularly poetic objects born of such collaborations have been the source of endless inquiries and examinations by poets and critics alike. The following interview was conducted a couple of years ago as I was starting my research on Ginsberg and William Carlos Williams, with the aim of collecting a musician’s point of view on the matter. Interestingly, Ribot was well acquainted with Ginsberg’s poetry: he had gone to see the older poet give an impassioned recitation of Kaddish when he was still a teenager living in New Jersey, Ginsberg’s native land. This common anchorage sheds an interesting light on Ginsberg’s “geopoetics”. In spite of his association with West Coast literature, the poet’s voice—both poetic and physical—initiates an eastward pilgrimage, back to his native Garden State:

In 1948 I had a vision and heard Blake’s voice reciting “Ah! Sunflower”: deep, earthen, tender, suffused with the feeling of the ancient of days. After that experience I imagined a “Voice of Rock” as the sound of prophesy. Subsequent composition, following the prosodic precepts of William Carlos Williams based on breath-measure and the fresh swift naturalness of thought-voice in Kerouac’s poetry and prose, circa 1955, brought me to my native New Jersey voice issuing from throat and breast and mind. (Ibid., pp. 257-258)

New Jersey, Garden State

4The place where the song is sung and from whence it comes is given as much importance as the song itself and as Ginsberg himself put it, “Bob Dylan sang [his] poems aloud in contemplative rooms black alleyways or bardic halls thru microphones”. (Ginsberg, 1970, 13)It seems impossible to devise any observation or systematic analysis of Ginsberg’s voice without first mentioning “the very rock-strata foundations and aboriginal waterfall voice in W. C. Williams’ epic.” (Ibid., 14)Ginsberg’s New Jersey “voice of rock” is indeed very reminiscent of the modernist poet’s cry in Paterson that “the rocks / the bare rocks / speak!” (Williams, 206) Ginsberg’s voice resonates as an echo of the primeval rocks of Paterson where he grew up and articulates the mineral chaos of years of accretion and sedimentation. The crumbling pebbles are also the silent witnesses of Ginsberg’s ancestral heritage: from Whitman’s “barbaric yawp” in Camden to the barking dogs of Williams’ Rutherford. The prehistoric time and layering of strata are at the heart of Ginsberg’s attempt to deepen his voice. He seeks to provide a poetic voice to the ancient rocks, a voice thick enough to embed or in his own words “engirt” the poetic rock salt (CP, 18). The soil is turned into the depositary of a poetic lore, a secret, “like a crystal lost in stone”for the poet to exhume (ibid.).

5As Ribot explains, New York City always acted as the magnetic centre for the youth of Paterson and Newark: it was half an hour away and the trip only “cost a buck or too”. In 1943, Ginsberg graduated from high school and went to study at the university of Columbia in Manhattan, and several years later, Patti Smith would follow suit, leaving her childhood New Jersey for the Chelsea Hotel. Yet Ginsberg’s work depicts an endless round trip attesting to Thoreau’s observation that “our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearth-side from which we set out” (Thoreau, 150) so that the poet keeps retracing his steps back to his native New Jersey. The poems selected for the album “the Lion for Real”, as well as Ginsberg’s fervent delivery, truly emphasize the local anchorage of his voice and lyrics. Thealbum becomes the harbour of various moments in Ginsberg’s poetic life and a map of the poet’s meanderings through the American continent. Paterson remains nonethelessthe central locus of Ginsberg’s work. Although “the dreary lower middle-class setting of Paterson, New Jersey, gives way to the cross-country and cross-continent journeys that take the poet to Big Sur and Benares, to Calcutta and Katmandu” (Perloff, 41), Ginsberg keeps coming back to Paterson: his Garden State becomes a familiar, recurring landmark.

6The short poem “Sunset”—twelfth “bagatelle” on the album—provides a vivid example of the American version of Ulysses’ nostos staging Paterson as port of call:


The whole blear world
of smoke and twisted steel
around my head in a railroad
car, and my mind wandering
past the rust into futurity:
I saw the sun go down
in a carnal and primeval
world, leaving darkness
to cover my railroad train
because the other side of the
world was waiting for dawn.
New York–Paterson, November 1949 (CP, 45)

  • 1 See the use of the term in the preface to the Collected Poems (p. 5)as well as in poem titles such (...)

7This early poem sets the foundation for what Ginsberg would later call “Auto Poesy”1, a concept used to describe poems composed aboard a moving vehicle but which also comes to signify a poetry of the self: automotive and autobiographic. The train leads the poet from New York to a new day in Paterson where the orange rust of the railroad tracks blends in with the golden iron sky of sunset. The poem seems to herald a longer journey to the West, to a primordial world yet untouched by the darkness of the ancient lands in a singular variation of Ginsberg’s eschatological mode. Yet the actual movement of the poem leads the poet to his native land: Paterson, New Jersey is always the place of transition, the point of departure and the finish line of endless peregrinations.

8 One of the poems chosen by Ribot, “The End”, articulates the quest for origins embodied in the postlapsarian Garden State as the poet states: “I enter New York, I play my jazz on a Chicago Harpsichord, / Love that bore me I bear back to my Origin with no loss”(CP, 267). The poet here expresses the wish he will strive to fulfil throughout his life: to go back to the Origin, capital O, without the uncanny feeling of Freudian unheimlich he always felt when going back to Paterson. The letter “o”, matrilineal signifier, recalls the “serpent turning around a tree” and the “great wheel through rain” mentioned earlier in the poem and epitomizes the crack, it bores a cosmic hole within the poem even as it stations itself as its gravity centre. The letter functions in the poem like the state of New Jersey and the city of Paterson on the scale of Ginsberg’s Collected Poems: it is the crevice and the totality, the hole and the whole.

Blues, Fugue & Disco

9For Ginsberg’s biographer Michael Schumacher, the album’s “high points included the title poem [and] a long overdue recording of “To Aunt Rose,” one of Ginsberg’s loveliest early works” (Schumacher, 671-672) which is incidentally one of the three poems chosen and interpreted by Ribot. As he explains in the interview, the musician identified with the tone of the text: “To Aunt Rose is describing a Jewish family setting with which I was totally familiar: left-wing parents and relatives talking about the sexuality of it”. Set in a Jewish family of Newark, NJ, the poem revolves around the figure of Ginsberg’s aunt Rose and meets the timeless musical setting of the fugue. Ribot’s composition—inspired by classical music—prompted Ginsberg to note the “delicate music box time travel invention by [the musician].” (Ginsberg, 1989)Through his use of classical guitar, Ribot emphasizes the unfolding poetic layering of time in the poem and the poet’s flight (fugue) into his past through reminiscence: “Aunt Rose— now— might I see you / with your thin face and buck tooth smile and pain / of rheumatism— ” (CP, 192) Interestingly, the poem itself follows the movements of the fugue: exposition, development, return to the key figure and coda. The poet first outlines the physical portrait of aunt Rose, he then remembers particular events and introduces other protagonists such as Louis (the poet’s father) or “the committee” sitting round the old woman’s living-room table, to finally come back to aunt Rose lying on her hospital bed and address her one last time:

last time I saw you was the hospital
pale skull protruding under ashen skin
blue veined unconscious girl
in an oxygen tent
the war in Spain has ended long ago
Aunt Rose (CP, 193)

10Similarly, Ribot’s piece starts with a repeated theme, the subject, which he develops throughout the poem:

11He then returns to the motif in the end, adding a final coda with a discordant violin and a cello ushering Rose to her ineluctable death. The musician thus provides a real interpretation of the poem and underlines its primordial and original proximity to musical composition.

  • 2 Ginsberg famously said:“If it isn’t composed on the tongue, it’s an essay”, the sentence became the (...)

12Indeed, many of Ginsberg’s poems are composed “on the tongue”2 and were first tape-recorded to better follow the musicality of the language and the length of the poet’s breath. The lines string along with the rhythms of articulation and are measured by the poet’s long expirations. If Ginsberg chose not to sing on that album, his readings of the poems rely greatly on rhythm, length and height of the vowels. In some ways, his delivery pertains to a form of religious cantillation, which coalesces with the hoarse blues lament. A great admirer of Bob Dylan, Ginsberg turns into the Orpheus of the American wilderness by fusing various traditions together to come up with his own. For instance, his vocalic weighing, his careful count of the length of vowels in the measure also came from his interpretation of Ezra Pound’s teachings:

 If we read The Cantos we hear long vowels […] and also hear the different « pitch » or different « tone » of vowels. […] out of his interest in classical quantity (as in Greek, counting length of vowel to measure a verse) Pound reintroduced into American English language, the actual practice of the « approximation » of quantity and attendant accent (up and down pitch). (Ginsberg, 1986, 7)

13The poet’s autochthonous voice relates to his version of the American epic, epos, a narrative or song: he chants the chant of T.S. Eliot’s waste land. His many mantras, hymns and psalms are all predications, attempts to say before and prophesy. A poem like “HūṃBom!”, thirteenth track on the record, becomes prophetic because it is spoken. By providing a continuous string of sounds, the chanted poem is pure rhythm of language. The human voice comes as an assertion of humanity in a disincarnate world of bombs. Ginsberg’s measure comprises the very act of speaking and uttering the words.

[…] Whydja bomb?
We didn’t wanna bomb!
Whydja bomb?
We didn’t wanna bomb!
Whydja bomb?
You didn’t wanna bomb!
Whydja bomb?
You didn’t wanna bomb!
Who said bomb?
Who said we hadda bomb?
Who said bomb?
Who said we hadda bomb?
Who said bomb?
Who said you hadda bomb?
Who said bomb?
Who said you hadda bomb?
(CP, 1005-1006)

  • 3 On this topic see Henri Meschonnic: “le primat du rythme dans la significance, avec tout ce qu’elle (...)
  • 4 On this topic see Julien Bitoun’s book Strange Brew: Pour une Étude de l’Histoire du Rock: “Dans le (...)

14As he composes, the poet takes into account the supra segmental world of lyrics,3 while at the same time crafting the visualization of the text on the page. The anaphoras, the exclamation and question marks as well as the aural spellings of “hadda” or “whydja” compel the reader to listen to the poem. The poet plays with the very confines of language and puts together a real system, a mechanical device that the voiced human reading comes to crack. Through chanting, Ginsberg manages to convey a second layer of meaning to the poem as performative language: the poet performs the poem and the poem performs its language. Charles Bernstein explains that “performance allows the poet to refocus attention to dynamics hidden within the scripted poem” (Bernstein, 145), so that the audio recording not only preserves the one-time performance, it also provides a musical interpretation of the gist contained within each silence, each blank on the page. What is revealed by the reading of “HūṃBom!”is the systematic call and response typically found in blues music4. In the context of a poem “written at Atlanta 1971 interracial Vietnam peace protest” (Ginsberg, 1989), this call and response gospelalso takes the form of a group of protesters answering the leader of the march, like a rallying cry. In the recording of the poem on the album, the staging of the two voices is reinforced by the echo added to them in the mix to exaggerate the dialogue. This device, if it emphasizes the call and response mechanism, undermines the more polyphonic and dialogic aspects of the poem. Originally, the poem can be a gospel, a mantra, a catchphrase and the polymorphic context in which it is uttered, its generic porosity convey a universal quality to the words, which gets lost in the recording. The bold choice of a disco beat in the background however provides a peculiar interpretation of the poem, underscoring its rhythm.

15 In Ginsberg’s poems, the voice appears as not only a way for the poet to interpret his lyrics, or to “howl” them as it were, it is used as a true mode of composition that is foregrounded by the musical backdrops of the album. These brief observations were used as the point of departure for the following discussion with Marc Ribot.

a conversation with marc ribot

Anna Aublet: How did the recording “the Lion for Real” happen? Could you go back on the process?

Marc Ribot: I was contacted by Hal Willner, the producer who put the project together. I had worked with him on a number of circumstances before this, he knew many people on the scene, he had done records for John Zorn, I worked with him on the score fora Robert Frank film before. He did a lot of projects with so-called “downtown musicians”. Hal mentioned a number of other people who were going to be on it—musicians I hadn’t at that time yet worked with—but who I really admired, including Bill Frisell and a lot of other artists. I think we went to an initial meeting with Allen, who I had never met before, at which we were given copies of a book containing all of the poems to date, a large collection of poems. And we were basically told “go ahead! pick a couple, and if there is any one you want to set, let us know”. I chose three. There were so many poems to choose from, that there wasn’t any overlap in the different musicians’ choice. And interestingly enough, I think people stayed away from the most famous ones, nobody did Howl…

AA: or Kaddish…

MR: Yes, which is lucky partly because they would have taken up half the record! But also lucky in another way because it brought to light unknown poems. I read through the whole book, I had been interested in Ginsberg’s poetry long before that. I’m from New Jersey too, if that’s relevant for you...

  • 5 See for instance Gregory Jordan, “A School Of Literature That's Called New Jersey”, The New York Ti (...)

AA: It is indeed. I was actually wondering if you identified with what is sometimes referred to as the “New Jersey School”5.

  • 6 A line taken from the collection of poems by Louis Ginsberg Everlasting Minute, mentioned by his so (...)
  • 7 Ribot refers to the famous black and white City Lights Books edition.

MR: It’s funny, you know I didn’t identify with New Jersey School, all I knew about New Jersey as a teenager was that I wanted to get the hell out! As they say “I’m from New Jersey and I want to stay that way: from New Jersey”. Now it is kind of hip, I like to go back. But at the time I just knew I wanted to get out. And I didn’t identify as a part of New Jersey school, I didn’t read William Carlos Williams until much later.
But I did identify as a hippie, I played electric guitar like all the other hippies. I was a kid in High School, what did I know? I was a moron [laughter]. But I knew that Allen Ginsberg was a famous hippie, so when I heard he was going to do a poetry reading at the North Field YMHA—Young Men’s Hebrew Association—which is the Jewish version of the YMCA, in West Orange, NJ, this entirely suburban town, I thought “man, this is amazing!”
I never went to one other single activity at the Y. I guess it must have been in 68, or 69, it was a joint poetry reading with Allen and his father. And his father used to write a poetry column for the Stars Ledger, one of the New York-based newspapers. He wrote a poetry column, it was a beautiful time when newspapers had poetry columns, I tell you, I didn’t think so at the time, but now I think so…
Allen’s father read first, he was very good. I actually remember a line from a poem that he read, it was a poem about getting older, the line went: “the days go by like minutes, but the minutes take hours”
6. He finished and then Allen read Kaddish. I had read some poems, my friends and I used to sit around, get high and read poems, but when Allen read Kaddish he went into a rhythmic reading of it. Something he was really concerned with was using his breath as a form of meter. The reading unfolded the story of his mother and his family. The setting of the poem was about five miles from where we were sitting, and it involved his father who was standing next to him. All I can say is that by the time he reached the end of the poem, and the final “caw cawcaw”, the image of the crows at the graveyard around his mother’s grave, it was just shattering. I had had no idea that poetry could do that. When he finished, nobody said anything, it took a long time before people clapped. It was a life-changing experience for me.
Years later, I spoke about that with him during the session and he said that it had also been life-changing for him. I asked him: “was that just another reading for you, something you just do every other night?” and he said “no”. He explained that it had been very heavy for him as well, because it was not just his father, his whole extended family was there in the room. All of them knew his mother, it was the first time that he read the poem in front of his whole family, and he said it was very hard for them. Anyway, after thatI bought these little paperback
7 copies of Planet News, Wichita Vortex Sutra, these individual poems that you could buy in bookstores. So I read these particular poems before the session.

AA: So you were familiar with his work when they asked you to record with him and you had already “heard” him…

MR: Yes I was familiar with his work. I read later on Howl and the famous stuff. I was very happy when Hal called me for this project because of the poetry and becausethe other musicians who were on it were all great. And when I got into reading the works, I chose a bunch of really early stuff. I was very surprised and happy to get more fully acquainted with what he had done. I thought that there was a kind of middle period with which I had grown out of touch, in those intervening years when he got into automatic writing stuff —I guess in the late 70s­— I just didn’t feel that much connection with it. I associated it with several drugs I had given up. I wanted to avoid the drugs and the related writing. But I was really happy to find that the early poems were really fantastic, naturalistic, like To Aunt Rose, which is one I chose for the set, and The End. To Aunt Rose is describing a Jewish family setting with which I was totally familiar: left-wing parents and relatives talking about the sexuality of it.

AA: I was wondering actually to what extent the poems themselves inspired the music. For Aunt Rose, for instance, it is classical guitar that you chose as a background. I was wondering how you made these choices after reading the poems.

MR: It was kind of intuitive. But also now if I think about it later, I felt like the kind of repetition, the repeating practice of a classical music phrase was sort of consistent with the character of Aunt Rose. You know, her repeating her ideology, like kind of a broken practice, a practice that had become emotionally deep.

You know, Allen was critical of them but actually he wrote about his characters with some affection.

AA: You said you chose three poems, I think the Shrouded Stranger as well, which is also an early poem and so when you read them, did you choose them because they were your favorite or because you thought that the music was coming to you as you read?

MR: Yeah, more of the latter you know. There was always the love of the poems but these suggested something and I think I love them! I think they’re great.

AA: Did Ginsberg give you any indications as to what he wanted for the poems in terms of music?

MR: You know Allen was completely accepting, he gave no criticism, didn’t criticize a single musician’s choice of setting. He was a great live reader, no matter what the musicians presented, he made a really strong effort to go with. You could just say ‘well he was a nice guy’, but I think that there were a couple of other things at play there: part was a Buddhist acceptance of what musicians brought in and part was that not only Allen but other poets of his generation just had a mystical admiration —I don’t want to use the word ‘worship’— but at least admiration, of jazz musicians, and I think that as poets they aspired to the conditions of jazz musicians. So there was sometimes maybe too much respect! Allen met a lot of musicians over the course of his career, and well, some of the collaborations were more successful than others.

AA: Would you say that you are reinterpreting the poem with the musical setting or that you are supporting it somehow? How do you perceive the finished object as not a poem but a performance?

MR: Yeah, I understand the question. John Lurie once said something very interesting about film scoring, and I think it also applies to setting poetry. He said “all music works with all images” and I’d extend that to words: ‘all music works with all words’ but there’s a second half to that which I don’t think Lurie actually said, but which I think he meant, anyways, which I am saying whether he meant it or not. It’s that ‘all music alters all images.’ And ‘all music alters all words’ so what you get as a performance is not simply the music. The music without question alters the words. It alters the reality, the way the words are perceived without question, in another way.

AA: Absolutely and every occurrence of a performance is different from the previous and the next. When you saw Ginsberg reading Kaddish, you saw a one-time performance.

MR: Yeah, and every performance of the words is different in itself. Depending on what music you put with those words. You could take a recording of a poem, a reading, and set different musics to it and create drastically different outcomes for the listener.

AA: And when you say that his poetry had an impact on you, do you think it also applied to the music you created as a musician?

MR: It’s certainly true that what I read affects my music and that music is not a hermetically sealed world. Everything that you experience in your life has some effect on what you play, so yes, on some immeasurable degree.

AA: You were talking about being from New Jersey and you said you just wanted to get out of there, but retrospectively today would you see it differently? Now, would you say that there is a community of artists from New Jersey?

MR: I’m sure there are local scenes. Amiri Baraka was from Newark, it’s funny, people write about Ginsberg or Amiri Baraka and they always essentialize Baraka’s blackness and Ginsberg’s hippiness or Jewishness or whiteness. But they’re not often written of as a New Jersey school of poetry, and yet I participated­—it had never occurred to me until now!— despite the fact that they used to often read together and I participated in a concert at the old village gate in which they read together, it was a stunning evening. I forget what we did… I think we did Wichita Vortex and Amiri Baraka did a poem, I forget the name, I think it was “the Devil Made Me Do It”. And it was a jazz trio backing him up and both Baraka and Ginsberg were fantastic readers, they got along. When Allen died Amiri Baraka spoke very sadly and movingly at his memorial at the St Marks’ church, I played there too. You know the reality is that oftentimes when there are smaller towns in the proximity of a great city, the great city kind of siphons off the artistic talent. Some very interesting artists live in New Jersey but there is no reason for there to be a local scene. People get on the trains from Paterson, from South Orange, Orange, from Newark and are in New York in twenty or thirty minutes, it costs like a buck or two. I’m sure that there is a local scene in Newark now but most people do what I did and come to New York.
And William Carlos Williams was a doctor in Rutherford, NJ, he had a medical practice out there, so I don’t think he stayed in Rutherford for the poetry scene.

  • 8 “What / else is there? And to do? The rest have run out— / after the rabbits” (Williams, Paterson, (...)

AA: Yeah, that’s true! He stayed for the autochtonous poetry of New Jersey not the poetry scene! All the others had “run out after the rabbits”8 like he said and lived in Europe. But what I meant was that maybe there was a geography, a common ground to those artists, I was wondering if you felt that, precisely because of the proximity to New York maybe…

MR: You know it’s an interesting theory but he became a poet, I think in New York, at Columbia, and also he became an out gayman while he was in New York, that’s something that would have been very dangerous in the New Jersey of his time. What’s hard to remember now, is that when I was a teenager, there were hundreds of thousands, millions of gay people but if I had been asked, in my public or private life to name some homosexuals, all I could say was Liberace and Allen Ginsberg! So you know the amount of guts that it took to be out! I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I thought well “that’s what he is” of course, you know it was a choice. It must have been astounding.

AA: Do you have anything else you wanted to say about the session because we did digress a bit…

  • 9 A recurring phrase in Ginsberg’s Cosmopolitan Greetings and in his essays: “First thought, best tho (...)

MR: Yes actually, it’s a funny story and it might answer your question as to how Ginsberg worked with the musicians. I remember, we were doing one of the poems, I think Mind Breaths­—and it may shed some light on why he was so accepting of our ideas. One of the lines of the poem is “first thought, best thought”9. I remember when we were recording that piece we did a first take that was absolutely atrocious. And I said “so Allen, ‘first thought best thought’; does that mean ‘first take best take?!’” [laughter] because you know it was late and we all wanted to go home. And he said “the first take, does not always necessarily best embody the first thought.” But you know it’s funny, New Jersey… it’s pretty hardcore!

AA: Did you feel that as you were growing up?

MR: Well, I grew up in South Orange, which was a white suburb, which bordered on Newark. But you know, I don’t know how much you know about the history of Newark but terrible things happened.

AA: Yes.

MR: Oh yeah? What do you know about it? Did you get into the history of the riots and all that?

AA: Yes, I did learn a bit about that, actually, from Philip Roth!

MR: Yeah he would know! So my family moved to Orange. I was born in Newark. But they moved as they earned a little bit of money. But after the riots happened, it became a polarized city. Not only were the majority black and extremely poor, but the white sections that remained unsafe—when I was a teenager this guy Anthony Imperiale won a city council seat. He was going on radio late night, drunk, railing on black people. He bought a tank, he drove down the streets in a tank! Newark had the most people killed in the riots of any city. There were parts of Newark that were burnt in the riots that are still today vacant lots. There was a good music scene going on there, but it was not at all an avant-garde music scene, you know it was a working-class black music scene with people like Jack McDuff, Etta Jones, Houston Person, Jimmy Mcgriff. It was funky hard groove jazz.

AA: And you got influenced by that and then by the New York scene?

MR: Yeah! I was always influenced by both, I mean I was a white kid, listening tothings that were marketed at white kids at the time: The Doors, Cream, all the hippie stuff. But when we drove around late at night we would listen to the radio station that would playWes Montgomery, Grant Greene, that organ-groovebased jazz. We always thought black style was cool, I always knew that that was hip.

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Bernstein Charles, “Hearing Voices”, The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound, Perloff& Dworkin (eds.), Chicago, the University of Chicago Press, 2009.

BitounJulien, Strange Brew: Pour une Étude de l’Histoire du Rock, Paris, Camion Blanc, 2015.

Ginsberg Allen, Collected Poems, 1947-1980, New York, HarperCollins Publishers, 1984. (Referred to as CP)

Ginsberg Allen, "Confrontation with Louis Ginsberg's poems in Louis Ginsberg, Morning in Spring and Other Poems, New York, William Morrow & company, 1970.

Ginsberg Allen, Deliberate Prose: Selected Essays 1952-1995, New York, Harper Collins, 2000.

Ginsberg Allen, Liner notes to The Lion for Real, New York, Mercury Records, 1989.

Ginsberg Allen, “Pound’s influence”, the American Poetry Review, vol. 15. No. 4 (July/August 1986), pp. 7-8.

Meschonnic Henri, “Qu’entendez-vous par oralité?”, Langue Française, 1982, Vol. 56, pp 6-23.

Perloff Marjorie, "A Lion in Our Living Room", The American Poetry Review, Vol. 14, No. 2 (March/April 1985), pp. 35-46.

Roubaud Jacques, "Prelude: Poetry and Orality", The sound of poetry/The poetry of sound, in Perloff Marjorie &Dworkin Craig (eds.), Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Schumacher Michael, Dharma Lion: A Critical Biography of Allen Ginsberg, New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1992.

Thoreau Henry D., “Walking”, The Essays of Henry D. Thoreau, New York, North Point Press, 2002.

Williams William C., Paterson, New York, New Directions, 1992.

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1 See the use of the term in the preface to the Collected Poems (p. 5)as well as in poem titles such as “Auto Poesy: On the Lam to Bloomington”.

2 Ginsberg famously said:“If it isn’t composed on the tongue, it’s an essay”, the sentence became the epigraph to his Deliberate Prose, Selected Essays 1951-1995, New York, HarperCollins, 2000.

3 On this topic see Henri Meschonnic: “le primat du rythme dans la significance, avec tout ce qu’elle comporte d’infralinguistique, de transsémiotique (débordant le signe), il me semble que ce sont ces éléments qui font la relation spécifique du rythme au poème.” in “Qu’entendez-vous par oralité?”, Langue Française, 1982, Vol. 56, p. 10.

4 On this topic see Julien Bitoun’s book Strange Brew: Pour une Étude de l’Histoire du Rock: “Dans le blues, […] le call and response existe entre le chanteur et sa guitare, éventuellement entre le chanteur et une autre personne, mais aussi dans la structure même du texte” (Bitoun, 30)

5 See for instance Gregory Jordan, “A School Of Literature That's Called New Jersey”, The New York Times, August 3rd 2003.

6 A line taken from the collection of poems by Louis Ginsberg Everlasting Minute, mentioned by his son Allen in his own poem “To Aunt Rose”.

7 Ribot refers to the famous black and white City Lights Books edition.

8 “What / else is there? And to do? The rest have run out— / after the rabbits” (Williams, Paterson, 3)

9 A recurring phrase in Ginsberg’s Cosmopolitan Greetings and in his essays: “First thought, best thought. Spontaneous insight— the sequence of thought-forms passing naturally through ordinary mind— was always motif and method of these compositions.”(CP, 6)The poem “Mind Breath” has not been kept for the final version of the album.

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Anna Aublet, « "A Voice of Rock as the sound of Prophesy": Discussing Allen Ginsberg’s New Jersey poetics and recording of the album “The Lion for real” with guitarist Marc Ribot », IdeAs [En ligne], 9 | Printemps / Été 2017, mis en ligne le 12 juillet 2017, consulté le 20 octobre 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/ideas.1907

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Anna Aublet

Anna Aublet, doctorante contractuelle, Université Paris-Nanterre, CREA.

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