Thursday, December 05, 2013

Allen Ginsberg on Breath, Shelley & Punctuation

Allen Ginsberg: "The other precursor, to get ahead in time to the 19th Century is (Percy Bysshe) Shelley, who, I guess, is more or less familiar to most of you. How many of you have read any Shelley? [Students give a show of hands] - Okay - And how many have read Shelley's "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" here? [Students show of hands less than the first time]. So I thought there are (at least) three pieces by Shelley that will illustrate the phrase.. (or, rather)... illustrate the word - "inspired" - "Inspiration" (that was one of the phrases, one of the words, that I was using). "Expansive" (by "expansive", I really mean "expansive breath", lterally, a breath, that is [Allen exhales deeply] large, with the spine straight, that can only be produced when the spine is straight, (and) when the body is relaxed, when the body is a hollow reed, a hollow tube, and in that state of unobstructed inspiration, unobstructed breathing (inspiration means breathing, remember, and exhalation), a kind of cosmic afflatus is reached. It's a literal state, a physiological state, as well as a mental state, as well as a poetic state. And it's accomplished by a great many poets, who have left behind formulae to reach that state - and the formulae to reach that state is the text, (like "A Hymn to Intellectual Beauty"), which, if you pronounce it aloud, properly, following the(ir) punctuation to show you the(ir) breathing (where you stop and take another breath), using the(ir) punctuation as orators, hints for breathing, literally, taking it literally, not reading past a comma with the same breath, but, in other words, stopping at each comma and taking a new breath.. (assuming that you have a text which is from the hand of the poet himself, and not a text which has been stupidly corrected by a scholar to add more punctuation and commas, which might change the breathing."

Read the whole piece (& countless other treasures from the Ginsberg Archives) here: The Allen Ginsberg Project


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