Poetry News

Transcript: Allen Ginsberg on Bob Dylan, Ezra Pound, and the American Voice

By Harriet Staff

It may come as no surprise that Ginsberg the scholar was just as lively as Ginsberg the poet. For the past few days, The Allen Ginsberg Project blog has been posting segments of an argument between Ginsberg and a student. The student states his frustration with Ezra Pound, reciting some Bob Dylan lyrics to support his point. Ginsberg replies, “You know, that's one of Dylan's fucked-up lines, I'm afraid,” and defends Pound as a champion of the American language:

I would venture to say, I guess, my feeling is that there would have been no Bob Dylan without Ezra Pound, and until you understand why, in the development of American poetry, how people's minds worked and how things changed, without the original research and invention made that Pound made, that Williams used, that turned me on, it would not have been that kind of Dylan, see? That's why it's important to understand Pound if you want to understand the bones of the thing, if you really want to understand how everything developed historically, how attitudes and practices developed from one person to another in a kind of transmitted lineage in a way, personal transmissions, and over the radio, and in Time magazine, you'd have to go back to Pound, and then, before Pound, you'd have to go back to Whitman, and then to understand Whitman you'd have to go to crazy (Edgar Allan) Poe. So it's all one beautiful unfoldment of people developing, one upon another, their ideas. And it's really beautiful when you understand the development, because otherwise you get to make mistakes between mind-obsessions and gut-feelings (which a lot of Beatnik poets did - do - including yourself, sir, looking at your poems!)

There's a lot more where that came from - check out all three posts at The Allen Ginsberg Project.

Originally Published: June 29th, 2012