July 18, 2003 The Voice of Rock

Yesterday afternoon at the river, James and I witnessed a juvenile Bald Eagle, seated most proudly at the top of a tree.  I couldn’t capture a photograph that was at all focused because of the bright sunlight.  The raptor remained directly across from us.  Near us, Suzanne was sitting on a bench, commemorating the day that her forty year old sister had passed from a lethal dosing of Percocet.  The bench was a memorial to a fourteen year old girl who had passed many years before (there is a metal dedication card posted on the bench).  Suzanne’s sister liked to come to this, her favourite spot for river-pondering.  Suzanne is a neighbour of mine, living on the far side of the circle.  I talk to her evenings when I pass by and she is sitting, smoking, on her front porch. Yesterday, James and I were walking Max.  It was a warm and beautiful day.  James said, “It’s supposed to be like this all week.”

I found a photograph of me and Laurie-dog tucked into my journal.  It was taken on July 17, 2003, by a friend of mine.  She and I were out walking on a beautiful afternoon.  At the Bow River, all those years ago, I remember that the two of us spoke about fear and fearlessness.  The photograph that she snapped of Laurie and me was anything but sad…look at us smiling!

It happened to be that the Ginsberg poem I read the next day was titled The Voice of Rock.  I had received a phone call from Cayley and James, both on a trip to the east coast.  I received news that my dear friend, Father James Carroll, had passed.  Elma was in Rockyview Hospital.  I had painted a small canvas at the river in the morning.  At the time, I was doing a painting every morning, but that particular morning it was very hot.

Fourteen years ago…and I remember the feeling of being incapacitated.  It wasn’t long after this that I stopped painting, altogether.  (I say this but, in truth, I have painted a lot these past many years…different context and purpose, is all.) During the past two weeks, I have readied my studio…made it snug…put fresh paint on the walls.  My son helped me with that.  As I look at the simple lines of poetry that I wrote in response to Ginsberg, I am celebrating today.  I finish hanging things back up on the walls and then I will take a photo. My studio is ready.

Untitled…just a very few lines typed into my journal, but a response, regardless.

I can not sleep
Or paint.
Today, though, I sang a song
From my heart where no
One was present to listen.

©Kathleen Moors

Allen Ginsberg wrote “A Voice of Rock” in August of 1948 in Paterson.  I am posting a link to a wonderful and article titled,

“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”

The piece gives some clarity to the context…linking up to a short bit of text, here.  But, it is important to read in its entirety if the reader wishes context.  I need to read more about the relationship between the writing of William Carlos Williams and  Ginsberg.  They have a shared geography…that is for certain…reminding me of my strong sense of a person’s creative response being profoundly connected to a sense of PLACE.

The 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., pp257-258)

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.).