Monday, November 3, 2014

Francois Villon 1463 ". . . the snows of yesteryear

Villon I fell into early, he was my first serious poet.
Imagine! falling into Villon.
I never really understood Villon nor that period of time.
Anyway there it is.

(dostoevski, villon, dylan thomas, the beat poet allen ginsberg,
henry miller, jack kerouac, mailer, et al  . . .

                                                        francois villon

Where are the snows of yesteryear?

The refrain "Where are the snows of yester-year?" is one of the most famous lines of translated poetry in the English-speaking world. It comes fromThe Ballad of Dead Ladies, Dante Gabriel Rossetti's[7] translation of Villon's Ballade des dames du temps jadis, where the line is: "Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?"

Mysteries in Villon

Villon's poems are sprinkled with mysteries and hidden jokes: they are peppered with the slang of the time and the underworld subculture in which Villon moved,[5] replete with private jokes, and full of the names of real people (rich men, royal officials, lawyers, prostitutes, and policemen) from medieval Paris.[6]

Le testament, 1461
The next date for which there are recorded whereabouts for Villon is the summer of 1461; Villon wrote that he spent that summer in the bishop's prison at Meung-sur-Loire. His crime is not known, but in Le Testament ("The Testament") dated that year he inveighs bitterly against Bishop Thibault d'Aussigny, who held the see of Orléans. Villon may have been released as part of a general jail-delivery at the accession of King Louis XI and became a free man again on 2 October 1461.

In 1461, he wrote his most famous work, Le Testament (or Le Grand Testament, as it is also known). In the autumn of 1462, he was once more living in the cloisters of Saint-Benoît and in November, he was imprisoned for theft in the fortress that stood at what is now Place du Châtelet in Paris. 

In default of evidence, the old charge of burgling the college of Navarre was revived, and no royal pardon arrived to counter the demand for restitution. Bail was accepted; however, Villon fell promptly into a street quarrel. He was arrested, tortured and condemned to be hanged ("pendu et étranglé"), but the sentence was commuted to banishment by the parlement on 5 January 1463.

Villon's fate after January 1463 is unknown. Rabelais retells two stories about him which are usually dismissed as without any basis in fact. Anthony Bonner speculated the poet, as he left Paris, was "broken in health and spirit." Bonner writes further:

He might have died on a mat of straw in some cheap tavern, or in a cold, dank cell; or in a fight in some dark street with another Coquillard (fr); or perhaps, as he always feared, on a gallows in a little town in France. We will probably never know.

Scrapes with the law

On 5 June 1455, the first major recorded incident of his life occurred. In the company of a priest named Giles and a girl named Isabeau, he met, in the Rue Saint-Jacques, a Breton, Jean le Hardi, a master of arts, who was also with a priest, Philippe Chermoye (or Sermoise or Sermaise). A scuffle broke out, daggers were drawn and Sermaise, who is accused of having threatened and attacked Villon and drawn the first blood, not only received a dagger-thrust in return, but a blow from a stone, which struck him down. He died of his wounds. Villon fled, and was sentenced to banishment – a sentence which was remitted in January 1456 by a pardon from King Charles VII after he received the second of two petitions which made the claim that Sermoise had forgiven Villon before he died.

Two different versions of the formal pardon exist; in one, the culprit is identified as "François des Loges, autrement dit Villon" ("François des Loges, otherwise called Villon"), in the other as "François de Montcorbier." He is also said to have named himself to the barber-surgeon who dressed his wounds as "Michel Mouton." The documents of this affair at least confirm the date of his birth, by presenting him as twenty-six years old or thereabouts.

Around Christmas 1456, the chapel of the Collège de Navarre was broken open and five hundred gold crowns stolen. Villon was involved in the robbery and many scholars believe that he fled from Paris soon afterward and that this is when he composed what is now known as the Petit Testament ("The Smaller Testament") or Lais ("Legacy" or "Bequests").

The robbery was not discovered until March of the next year, and it was not until May that the police came on the track of a gang of student-robbers, owing to the indiscretion of one of them, Guy Tabarie. A year more passed, when Tabarie, after being arrested, turned king's evidence and accused the absent Villon of being the ringleader, and of having gone to Angers, partly at least, to arrange similar burglaries there. Villon, for either this or another crime, was sentenced to banishment; he did not attempt to return to Paris.

For four years, he was a wanderer. He may have been, as his friends Regnier de Montigny and Colin des Cayeux were, a member of a wandering gang of thieves.

Ballad of the Ladies of Bygone Times

Tell me where, or in what land
is Flora, the lovely Roman,
or Archipiades, or Thaïs,
who was her first cousin;
or Echo, replying whenever called
across river or pool,
and whose beauty was more than human?
But where are the snows of yesteryear?

Where is that brilliant lady Heloise,
for whose sake Peter Abelard was castrated
and became a monk at Saint-Denis?
He suffered that misfortune because of his love for her.
And where is that queen who
ordered that Buridan 
be thrown into the Seine in a sack?
But where are the snows of yesteryear?

Queen Blanche, white as a lily,
who sang with a siren’s voice;
Big-footed Bertha, Beatrice, Alice,
Arembourg who ruled over Maine;
and Joan, the good maiden of Lorraine
who was burned by the English at Rouen —
where are they, where, O sovereign Virgin?
But where are the snows of yesteryear?

Prince, do not ask in a week
where they are, or in a year.
The only answer you will get is this refrain:
But where are the snows of yesteryear?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

karl gallagher

acrylic on canvas and French Arche paper
1993 and 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

“ The quartet’s engagement at New York’s Five Spot club from 1959-1960 was one of the seminal moments in jazz history . . .  “Some people didn’t understand what we were doing and they were afraid because they’d never heard anything like that before — 

= = =

Charlie Haden, jazz bassist with Ornette Coleman and his own groups, dies at 76
 July 12    The Washington Post

Charlie Haden, a Grammy-winning musician who helped change the shape of jazz more than a half-century ago as the bass player with Ornette Coleman’s groundbreaking quartet and who liberated the bass from its traditional rhythm section role, died July 11 in Los Angeles. He was 76.
His publicist, Tina Pelikan of ECM Records, confirmed the death. Mr. Haden had been struggling for several years with complications from post-polio syndrome.
Mr. Haden’s career was marked by the triumph of beauty over suffering. He turned to the bass after losing his singing voice to polio as a teenager, when he was performing with the Haden Family country band. The onset of post-polio syndrome in 2010 forced him to stop performing publicly, although he played at home to his favorite recordings as well as with visiting musician friends such as guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Alan Broadbent.
During his career, Mr. Haden’s lyrical bass playing could be heard in a variety of musical genres, including jazz, country and world music.
“I want to take people away from the ugliness and sadness around us every day and bring beautiful, deep music to as many people as I can,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press in 2013, shortly before he received a Grammy award for lifetime achievement.
The Grammy recognition — as well as being named a Jazz Master in 2012 by the National Endowment for the Arts — was a far cry from the reception Mr. Haden received in the late 1950s as a member of Coleman’s revolutionary quartet.
The quartet’s engagement at New York’s Five Spot club from 1959-1960 was one of the seminal moments in jazz history, as musicians heatedly debated the group’s new music dubbed “free jazz,” which challenged the bop establishment by liberating musicians to freely improvise off the melody rather than the underlying chord changes.
“Some people didn’t understand what we were doing and they were afraid because they’d never heard anything like that before — so we dealt with it the best we could,” Mr. Haden said in the 2013 interview.
Mr. Haden found a kindred spirit in Coleman, whom he met after relocating to Los Angeles in 1957. The quartet, which included trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins, released the aptly named album “The Shape of Jazz to Come” in 1959.
“I wanted to play on the inspiration of a composition rather than on the chord structure,” Mr. Haden said in a 2006 interview with the AP, “and every time I tried to do this, the other musicians that I was playing with would be upset with me. The first time I played with Ornette, all of a sudden the lights were turned on for me because here was someone else who was... doing the same thing I was trying to do.”
But even as a member of Coleman’s quartet, Mr. Haden drew on the harmonies and melodies he learned playing country music as a child.
Mr. Haden saw the common link between jazz and country. Both are poor people’s music related to “the struggle for independence, identity and to be recognized,” he told the AP in 2009, after the release of his first country album, “Rambling Boy,” on which he played songs by the Carter Family and other traditional country musicians.
He recorded the 2009 album with his wife, Ruth Cameron; son, Josh; triplet daughters, Rachel, Petra and Tanya; and son-in-law, actor Jack Black, as well as Elvis Costello, Vince Gill and Rosanne Cash.
“My roots have never left me,” Mr. Haden said in 2009, “because the very first memory I have is my mom singing and me singing with her.”
The album included Haden’s first recorded performance — an excerpt from a 1939 Haden Family radio show on which 22-month-old Cowboy Charlie yodels on a gospel tune.
Charles Edward Haden was born Aug. 6, 1937, in Shenandoah, Iowa, and soon began performing with his parents and siblings as the youngest member of the Haden Family band, which had its own radio show and was popular on the Midwest country circuit.
But polio weakened his vocal cords and ended his singing career at 15, leading him to focus on the bass while attending high school in Omaha. He became interested in jazz after hearing saxophonist Charlie Parker perform with Jazz at the Philharmonic.
He headed to Los Angeles to study music and began performing with such local musicians as pianist Hampton Hawes and saxophonist Art Pepper before meeting Coleman.
After making a series of groundbreaking recordings with Coleman’s band, including the double quartet “Free Jazz” in 1961, Mr. Haden and pianist-composer Carla Bley formed the Liberation Music Orchestra in 1969, which blended experimental big band jazz with world folk music, including songs of the Spanish Civil War.
Mr. Haden occasionally performed with Coleman, including the 1995 recording “Song X” with guitarist Metheny, with members of the original Coleman quartet.
“Charlie could always find and illuminate the essential meaning in every musical moment no matter what the setting,” Metheny said in an e-mail to the AP. “His unique presence as a player and broad perspective of what music can offer the world allowed him to define in sound the fundamental feeling of what it is to be human.”
In the 1980s, Mr. Haden formed the Los Angeles-based Quartet West with saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist-arranger Broadbent and drummer Larance Marable. The group played mainstream jazz inspired by the film noir world of the 1940s.
Mr. Haden won three Grammy Awards, including best jazz instrumental performance for his 1997 album with Metheny, “Beyond the Missouri Sky,” and best Latin jazz album for “Nocturne” (2001) and “Land of the Sun” (2004), both featuring Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba.
Mr. Haden founded a jazz studies program, in which he emphasized the spirituality of improvisation, at the California Institute of the Arts in 1982.
Last month, ECM released “Last Dance” from the same 2007 duet session with pianist Keith Jarrett that produced the Grammy-nominated­ 2010 album “Jasmine.” The recordings reflected the two musicians’ shared love for standard ballads.



the 1959 album that changed the sound of Jazz

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lynne Savitt

Layers of meaning and feelings by a writer who makes it look easy.
Images iridescent as seahorses sometimes found among the smells
and clumps of ancient seaweeds washed up on beaches after storms.
Savitt's writng is essentially about love, its pleasures and pain.
karl gallagher.

“6 Meditations Toward an Appreciation of Lynne Savitt”

A recent review by poet and translator Art Beck  

"As the poem progressed, its language seemed to slow and double back on itself. It forced me to pick up each word like a pebble in a trail, something familiar leading me forward in the work. This was poetry as well as sentiment; language coming alive and talking back to her . . . :
…say it wasn’t all
bad those black, humid
nights we traveled to
the planetariums in our
heads exploded with
dirty release & it wasn’t
our last meeting
didn’t go as soft as the
day you asked me to
marry a man who
wasn’t a good father
is something I just
couldn’t we meet some
where dreams touch
& you wake in a sweat
of recognition for something
lost goodbye, michael
at last the tears
3 a.m. months later.

This level of subterranean dialogue . . . [I]ts opacities were still too clear and its emotions too upfront for LangPo or academia. Its metrics were too quirky and un-retro for the Formalists. You could call it Confessional—but there’s a level of control in its wildness, a sense of comfort with its own skin . . .

“One thing that Savitt brings to the discussion of lust is female freedom. Desire and bodily fluids are there for the sharing, but ownership is off the table. Savitt is no stranger to marriage and many of her poems reflect day-to-day domestic life. There are sincere, filial dialogues with parents, children, grandchildren. There are poems about care-giving, illness, accidents, death, and dementia. Savitt is a loyal daughter, and a fiercely loving mother. But domesticity as an institution is viewed guardedly, sardonically:
the tiny lump you discover
under your right breast
while powdering
the perfume line
he’ll nuzzle moments before
the plunge…
Savitt’s romantic forays take place in excursions away from the marriage bed.

The full review can be found here:

Relics of Lust
New and Selected Poems
264 Pages, 5½ x 8½

ISBN:  978-1-935520-82-5

Publication Date:  02/14/2014

Cover Art:  Reflections
by Noelle Crough
talking about college, him
coming from kansas, ex-wives,
husbands, the kids, the time
we’d spent in l.a. & he asked
“what happened to your first husband?”
“a marine, “ i answered, “he died
in vietnam in ’66”
he started to shake & blacked
out, saliva gathering in his mouth,
i turned his head to keep him from
choking, he babbled twenty minutes
about vietnam horrors & when he
came to, said, “i’m sorry, i’d better go.”
i took his hand & led him
to my bedroom where the wars had ended
and a flag lay folded in the drawer.


at 7:03 saturday morning
yr wife called to tell me
you’re dying to see me
unfinished business
haven’t spoken in six
teen years ago you stole
my heart forgot yr voice
once made me crumble
like bleu cheese yr smell
captured me like a pirate
i couldn’t escape my husband
yr wife called to tell me
you’re dying to see me cry
at the sight of you hooked
up to intravenous tubes yr
eyes half closed you whisper
“blonde i can’t forget you
backlit by the brooklyn bridge’’
i take yr hand & yr fingers grasp
mine the way an infant does
instinctively i want to tell you
it wasn’t me by the bridge but
you smile teeth missing trouble
breathing say again, ‘’blonde
i’ll never forget,’’ oh how i
adored you broke my heart
remembers who do you have
me confused with my name
say it i say in my head but not
out loud living & you are going
quietly yr wife enters the room
tells me you’re tired unfinished
business remains i hear you
mutter ‘’backlit blonde’’ as i
leave sunday night 11:14 yr
wife calls, ‘’he’s dead, ‘’ she says
it’s finished but now not for me
on my last afternoon of breathing
i will remember you glistening on
yr norton atlas teeth white
as supermodel chicklets
forearms like a popeye cartoon
you are backlit in bayville
it was you, wasn’t it?
i will say yr name

‘’To love without role, without power plays, is revolution.’’
                                                                          –Rita Mae Brown

i drive the long, dangerous journey
you shower, put on your clean clothes
& wait for us to arrive with books,
sometimes vegetables, depending on
what we can afford this month

i wait on line with all those
other women who work to keep
home together long hours
raise children strong as the
bars in this cold prison

after we’ve walked through
the four electric gates
our men will enter one at
a time we’ll be blossoms
soft and perfumed and
bring them coffee, honey, sandwiches
they will warm the food, set the table

in a blur stealing intimacies
i touch you touch she rubs
he sighs robbing smells textures
to last until the next visit

sometimes i bury your head
in my breasts you find
comfort me in your arms
all is well no roles

in this love, my darling
all the pins have been
pulled from the grenades
no matter how long we
must wait we will
continue the revolution

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Kaddish . . . for Naomi

I think this poem is maybe Ginsberg's best . . . I love it.
If 'Howl' was a howl of  adolescence , and I think it was,
then 'Kaddish' is that of the mature reflective man, though only five years
lies between when he started working on Howl and when he finished Kaddish.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =  

Allen Ginsberg


For Naomi Ginsberg, 1894-1956

Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on

   the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village.

downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I've been up all night, talking,

   talking, reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles blues

   shout blind on the phonograph

the rhythm the rhythm--and your memory in my head three years after--

   And read Adonais' last triumphant stanzas aloud--wept, realizing

   how we suffer--

And how Death is that remedy all singers dream of, sing, remember,

   prophesy as in the Hebrew Anthem, or the Buddhist Book of An-

   swers--and my own imagination of a withered leaf--at dawn--

Dreaming back thru life, Your time--and mine accelerating toward Apoca-


the final moment--the flower burning in the Day--and what comes after,

looking back on the mind itself that saw an American city

a flash away, and the great dream of Me or China, or you and a phantom

   Russia, or a crumpled bed that never existed--

like a poem in the dark--escaped back to Oblivion--

No more to say, and nothing to weep for but the Beings in the Dream,

   trapped in its disappearance,

sighing, screaming with it, buying and selling pieces of phantom, worship-

   ping each other,

worshipping the God included in it all--longing or inevitability?--while it

   lasts, a Vision--anything more?

It leaps about me, as I go out and walk the street, look back over my shoulder,

   Seventh Avenue, the battlements of window office buildings shoul-

   dering each other high, under a cloud, tall as the sky an instant--and

   the sky above--an old blue place.

or down the Avenue to the south, to--as I walk toward the Lower East Side

   --where you walked 50 years ago, little girl--from Russia, eating the

   first poisonous tomatoes of America frightened on the dock

then struggling in the crowds of Orchard Street toward what?--toward


toward candy store, first home-made sodas of the century, hand-churned ice

   cream in backroom on musty brownfloor boards--

Toward education marriage nervous breakdown, operation, teaching school,

   and learning to be mad, in a dream--what is this life?

Toward the Key in the window--and the great Key lays its head of light

   on top of Manhattan, and over the floor, and lays down on the

   sidewalk--in a single vast beam, moving, as I walk down First toward

   the Yiddish Theater--and the place of poverty

you knew, and I know, but without caring now--Strange to have moved

   thru Paterson, and the West, and Europe and here again,

with the cries of Spaniards now in the doorstops doors and dark boys on

   the street, fire escapes old as you

--Tho you're not old now, that's left here with me--

Myself, anyhow, maybe as old as the universe--and I guess that dies with

   us--enough to cancel all that comes--What came is gone forever

   every time--

That's good!  That leaves it open for no regret--no fear radiators, lacklove,

   torture even toothache in the end--

Though while it comes it is a lion that eats the soul--and the lamb, the soul,

   in us, alas, offering itself in sacrifice to change's fierce hunger--hair

   and teeth--and the roar of bonepain, skull bare, break rib, rot-skin,

   braintricked Implacability.

Ai! ai!  we do worse! We are in a fix!  And you're out, Death let you out,

   Death had the Mercy, you're done with your century, done with

   God, done with the path thru it--Done with yourself at last--Pure

   --Back to the Babe dark before your Father, before us all--before the


There, rest.  No more suffering for you.  I know where you've gone, it's good.

No more flowers in the summer fields of New York, no joy now, no more

   fear of Louis,

and no more of his sweetness and glasses, his high school decades, debts,

   loves, frightened telephone calls, conception beds, relatives, hands--

No more of sister Elanor,--she gone before you--we kept it secret you

   killed her--or she killed herself to bear with you--an arthritic heart

   --But Death's killed you both--No matter--

Nor your memory of your mother, 1915 tears in silent movies weeks and

   weeks--forgetting, agrieve watching Marie Dressler address human-

   ity, Chaplin dance in youth,

or Boris Godunov, Chaliapin's at the Met, halling his voice of a weeping Czar

   --by standing room with Elanor & Max--watching also the Capital

   ists take seats in Orchestra, white furs, diamonds,

with the YPSL's hitch-hiking thru Pennsylvania, in black baggy gym skirts

   pants, photograph of 4 girls holding each other round the waste, and

   laughing eye, too coy, virginal solitude of 1920

all girls grown old, or dead now, and that long hair in the grave--lucky to

   have husbands later--

You made it--I came too--Eugene my brother before (still grieving now and

   will gream on to his last stiff hand, as he goes thru his cancer--or kill

   --later perhaps--soon he will think--)

And it's the last moment I remember, which I see them all, thru myself, now

   --tho not you

I didn't foresee what you felt--what more hideous gape of bad mouth came

   first--to you--and were you prepared?

To go where?  In that Dark--that--in that God? a radiance? A Lord in the

   Void?  Like an eye in the black cloud in a dream?  Adonoi at last, with


Beyond my remembrance! Incapable to guess! Not merely the yellow skull

   in the grave, or a box of worm dust, and a stained ribbon--Deaths-

   head with Halo?  can you believe it?

Is it only the sun that shines once for the mind, only the flash of existence,

   than none ever was?

Nothing beyond what we have--what you had--that so pitiful--yet Tri-


to have been here, and changed, like a tree, broken, or flower--fed to the

   ground--but made, with its petals, colored, thinking Great Universe,

   shaken, cut in the head, leaf stript, hid in an egg crate hospital, cloth

   wrapped, sore--freaked in the moon brain, Naughtless.

No flower like that flower, which knew itself in the garden, and fought the


Cut down by an idiot Snowman's icy--even in the Spring--strange ghost

   thought some--Death--Sharp icicle in his hand--crowned with old

   roses--a dog for his eyes--cock of a sweatshop--heart of electric


All the accumulations of life, that wear us out--clocks, bodies, consciousness,

   shoes, breasts--begotten sons--your Communism--'Paranoia' into


You once kicked Elanor in the leg, she died of heart failure later.  You of

   stroke.  Asleep?  within a year, the two of you, sisters in death.  Is

   Elanor happy?

Max grieves alive in an office on Lower Broadway, lone large mustache over

   midnight Accountings, not sure.  His life passes--as he sees--and

   what does he doubt now?  Still dream of making money, or that might

   have made money, hired nurse, had children, found even your Im-

   mortality, Naomi?

I'll see him soon.  Now I've got to cut through to talk to you as I didn't

   when you had a mouth.

Forever.  And we're bound for that, Forever like Emily Dickinson's horses

   --headed to the End.

They know the way--These Steeds--run faster than we think--it's our own

   life they cross--and take with them.


   Magnificent, mourned no more, marred of heart, mind behind, mar-

ried dreamed, mortal changed--Ass and face done with murder.

   In the world, given, flower maddened, made no Utopia, shut under

pine, almed in Earth, blamed in Lone, Jehovah, accept.

   Nameless, One Faced, Forever beyond me, beginningless, endless,

Father in death.  Tho I am not there for this Prophecy, I am unmarried, I'm

hymnless, I'm Heavenless, headless in blisshood I would still adore

   Thee, Heaven, after Death, only One blessed in Nothingness, not

light or darkness, Dayless Eternity--

   Take this, this Psalm, from me, burst from my hand in a day, some

of my Time, now given to Nothing--to praise Thee--But Death

   This is the end, the redemption from Wilderness, way for the Won-

derer, House sought for All, black handkerchief washed clean by weeping

--page beyond Psalm--Last change of mine and Naomi--to God's perfect

Darkness--Death, stay thy phantoms!



   Over and over--refrain--of the Hospitals--still haven't written your

history--leave it abstract--a few images

   run thru the mind--like the saxophone chorus of houses and years--

remembrance of electrical shocks.

   By long nites as a child in Paterson apartment, watching over your

nervousness--you were fat--your next move--

   By that afternoon I stayed home from school to take care of you--

once and for all--when I vowed forever that once man disagreed with my

opinion of the cosmos, I was lost--

   By my later burden--vow to illuminate mankind--this is release of

particulars--(mad as you)--(sanity a trick of agreement)--

   But you stared out the window on the Broadway Church corner, and

spied a mystical assassin from Newark,

   So phoned the Doctor--'OK go way for a rest'--so I put on my coat

and walked you downstreet--On the way a grammarschool boy screamed,

unaccountably--'Where you goin Lady to Death'? I shuddered--

   and you covered your nose with motheaten fur collar, gas mask

against poison sneaked into downtown atmosphere, sprayed by Grandma--

   And was the driver of the cheesebox Public Service bus a member of

the gang?  You shuddered at his face, I could hardly get you on--to New

York, very Times Square, to grab another Greyhound--

- - - - - -

the above is maybe 25% of the full poem, however, the full text of Kaddish
can be read here: