Al Filreis convened Selena Dyer, Jonathan Dick, and Jerome Rothenberg to talk about three poems in Michael McClure’s Ghost Tantras. The three poems can be found here. One of them is number 49 in the series, and there is a complicated history of performances. At Birkbeck College in London, McClure, performing some tantras, offered a brief commentary on 49 and then played a famous earlier recording in which he performed the poem (in 1964 and again in 1966) at the San Francisco Zoo in the lions’ house. Each time the lions roared in response.
Last year City Lights published a new edition of McClure's 1964 Ghost Tantras. This early work of McClure's is composed in a partially invented vocabulary that he calls "beast language" (guttaral, expressive), which brings to mind Khlebnikov's zaum "Incantation by Laughter" (McClure references Mayakovsky). McClure wanted to find a level of language that invoked our animality and the recordings he made with lions in 1964 and 1966 remain powerful poetic documents.
This mp3 is a 1964 reading of "Tantra" 49 from that book; the recording was made by Bruce Conner. (4:07): MP3 The better known video, also a reading of "Tantra" 49, is an excerpt from a 1966 episode of Richard O. Moore’s television series U.S.A. Poetry.
During a double reading with Robert Duncan at San Francisco State University in 1983, Michael McClure performed an ode to Jackson Pollock. The recording of the Duncan/McClure event is available, as of today, as segmented audio at PennSound (thanks to the precise work of Anna Zalokostas). Here is your link to McClure's "Ode to Jackson Pollock": MP3.