PETER THE PRANCING PRATTLER says, ‘I make it 7 weeks to go to the BABE weekend!’ (you just can’t shut him up). Expect to see him on a table, well he’ll not actually be on the table, alongside his collaborator, David Jury. Now David is not a Prattler no, not at all, not likely, but he’s a darned good printer of letterpress and he’ll have some of his sheets which we collaborated on last summer, for weeks on end.
Let me tell you about the ‘poem’ that David letterpress printed , (which is shown in the featured image at the top of this blArt in situ at the Slack Space exhibition in Colchester until 28th February), because it has a history and even a follow on after we completed the DJ version.
So it began with Destination Dust, a series of ‘poems’ about 6 men of ideas and actions who had impressed me on my journey thru life and art and literary stuff and exhibitions and dances and cosmologies and more. I’m not going to list them here, that’s done elsewhere. I am going to take one of them and try to show the different incarnations of my ‘poems’ about him and some drawings and other forms.
So, to begin at the beginning, Hermann Hesse. A German Nobel Prize writer. A thinker. A poet. A pacifist. A lot of my work is directly influenced by his works. Destination Dust is influenced by his books Siddhartha and also Journey To The East. In my ‘book’ G BATCH the first ‘poem’ is about Hesse.
Whilst following the winding road toward the village of Montagnola
Near Mount Saint Salvatore a footloose exiled pilgrim full with wanderlust
HH encountered a mendicant monk named Dhona chanting a mantra
Dhona said that when he had met Sakyamuni way back when
He asked the beloved one
Sir would you be a human?
Sir would you be a Gandharvan?
Sir would you be a Yaksa?
Sir would you be a god?
To each the Bodhisattva’s reply was No Dhona
What then would you be?
I am a Buddha, brahmin, a Buddha. … All composite things decay…Strive diligently.”
As he watched Dhona walk his quiet way HH had the idea
To write a story called Siddhartha
So that people in the West might learn about the Enlightened one.
I did some readings from that poem and found it difficult to read out loud so I set about a new version which I planned should be simpler to read.
Dhona the Brahmin was a mendicant monk
Who asked Siddhartha
“Are you human or one from Gandharva
Are you a god or maybe a Yaksa?”
“Brahmin everything that’s created passes,”
“Go peacefully to your destination,
Strive diligently t’ward your transition, Dhona
Which is escape from Samsara’s wheel of Suffering
There was dispute after Guatama’s passing away
Dhona intervening did say,
“The message of the Blessed Buddha
Is still peace and forbearance today.”
Thereby the Malla chieftans of Kusinara
On whose soil Shakyamuni died
Reluctantly released the relics
To be divided into eight domains
Each claimant built a monument
Which every time turned to rust
Confirming Buddha’s message that
Everything passes to ashes and dust
Up on the road near Montagnola
A Wandering Writer named Hesse heard the tale from a mendicant monk
Then he recounted the story to you and to me
In a book called Siddhartha
Shakyamuni saw how we can escape
Samsara ’s spinning wheel
Shakyamuni said, “Namaste.
The Light in me
Greets the Light in thee.
I Am a Buddha, Brahmin, I Am a Buddha Now.”
I am unsure if it was any easier to read but I then decided to publish it in a ‘book’ in which the poems would all be laid out in the shape of a pot. The word in a vessel so to speak so I designed Inside This Earthen Vessel and proceeded to print some copy so I could fold the cover come folder in which to drop the new set of poems. Funnily enough recently I mentioned to Gary at the Baltic that there is an illustration in the book whereas all the pages bar one are ‘illustration’ where the words become the pot. Then DJ saw the book with its pots as poems and liked them enough to adapt them for his own summer project. He was careful enough to show me any changes or edits he made and slowly but surely his version arose. I am happy to say the Saison poetry library at Festival Hall bought a copy and featured it in their Open Day show.
You’ll notice there is now a subtext. Where I had left dots DJ wished for words and asked that I write a set of poems which would be appropriate but of a different ilk which I did by writing about my life in the northern town of Burnley. So here is the new ‘poem’
And now, the end is near
I prepare to claw
My way through
I call it bliss
Has come to me
The hard way
But one thing I know for sure
One thing I want you to know
That thing is this
I did it my way
I found that bliss
Not just a kiss
I went all the way
I did not turn
I ceased to yearn
I found it my way
At last I say
I have the key to untold wonder
The only way for you to find it too
Is to do it your way
I Am I say
I Am today
I was then and I Am now
I Am Real
Now and forever more
I found out my way
A bit far removed from the cultural philosophical grounds of the main poems but NOT! In fact Burnley is overlooked by Pendle Hill where the founder of the Quaker group George Fox experienced a vision in June 1652 (slightly before my time there). http://bcw-project.org/biography/george-fox
A couple of weeks ago I decided to attempt a reading of the content of the DJ version of the poem which is in some ways influenced by the typography of Kurt Schwitters and I saw that a reading would bring in some of Schwitters’ sound poetry ideas. In fact it became a very liberating and creative experience with great potential for its future.
Dhona the Brahmin And now was a mendicant monk the end is near Who asked Siddhartha-(Gautama-Shakyamuni-Tathāgata) I prepare to “Are you human, one from Gandharva? Claw My way through Are you a god or maybe a Yaksa?” this And this I call “Brahmin everything that’s created passes, Strive diligently into your transition, it bliss Has come to Go peacefully t’ward your destination, me The hard way Escape from Samsara’s wheel of Suffering.” But one thing During a dispute when Guatama passed away Brahmin Dhona, intervening, did say, I know for sure One “The message of the Blessed Buddha
Is still peace and forbearance today.” Thing Thereafter the Malla chieftans of Kusinara I want you to On whose soil Shakyamuni had died know Reluctantly released the relics To be divided into eight domains. That Thereby, Each claimant built a monument thing Which every time turned to rust. Confirming Siddhartha’s message that Every That thing thing passes is to truly ashes this and I did it my way dust. On the road near Montagnola And now A Wandering Writer named Hesse heard the tale from a mendicant monk I found that Then he recounted the story to you bliss Not just a and to me In a book called ‘SIDDHARTHA.’ Tathāgata showed how to escape The Spinning Wheel of Samsara Tathāgata said, “NAMASTE. The Light in me greets the Light in thee. I Am a Buddha, Brahmin, I AM A kiss BUDDHA Now.”
And it doesn’t end there. I have written yet another version for BABE alone which will be published in my new book especially for BABE.
There is Hermann Hesse
A nomad exiled from his native Germany
(because he mistrusted insolent might)
who was heard to say
‘There is no reality except the one contained within’
Perambulating the Apennine mountains
A Wanderer searching the Door to renascence
His mind a Magic Theatre
A ‘Journeyer To The East’
He bumped into ‘mystic travellers’
Like Dhona the Brahmin
Dhona told him of the time
(It was around about 400 BC)
When he asked Shakyamuni
Sage of the Shakya clan
‘Do you come from Gandhara?
Are you a god?
How did you stop clinging on?
How do you emanate so much Love?’
‘Because I am no longer a Brahmin Dhona
I am a Buddha now’.
Hesse was inspired to write Siddhartha
Which in turn inspired the back packers
Beat poets like Ginsberg and Dean Moriarty
And Burnley beat nit Daniel O’Dourke.
Later on Jack Kerouac came to greet him
On The Road from the Wild West
Dance little sister dance we pray
Twirl and Swirl the Dervish way
Skip along that road with a little sway
Rolling on down to Destiny’s Day
Now you see what keeps me busy. I think this last version positively sings and dances. Hence the monicker, Peter the Prancing Prattler.
NAMASTE TO YAH