"through Asia and home to New York" January-April 1984. 4to. Original top-copy typescript. Title page, plus 24pp. SIGNED by Cage on the title sheet. With: autograph note signed (ALS) on Cage's personal "Note-O-Gram" stationery, dated December 27, 1983. With Cage's personal envelope, addressed to Bill Morgan and Bob Rosenthal: "I will be glad to write something for the festschrift for Allen Ginsberg. When is the deadline?" House in a custom leather slipcase. Very fine. Fine. Item #22123
Original typescript for Cage's mesostic "writing through" of HOWL, composed in honor of Allen Ginsberg's sixtieth birthday and included as part of Morgan and Rosenthal's BEST MINDS tribute anthology (later reprinted in THE POEM THAT CHANGED AMERICA: 'Howl' Fifty Years Later, 2006). Imposing a set of procedural rules on "Howl" as a way of producing a new text by chance operations, Cage's HOWL represents one of his most successful efforts in this form, (a variation on the acrostic, and a form of Cage's own invention). In WRITINGS THROUGH HOWL, the letter sequence "ALLEN GINSBERG" runs continually down the center of each of the poem's pages, each progressively condensing the poem down to a kind of crystalized essence. It ends, in its ninth cycle: "Angry / soLidities / battaLion / thE / aNd/"
In her essay "John Cage Conceptual Poet," Marjorie Perloff writes of this poem: "Cage's elliptical lyric functions as both homage and critique [...] As hushed and muted as Ginsberg's baroque 'ashcan rantings' are wild and expansive, Cage's is a rhyming nightsong, whose referents are elusive […] Without deploying a single word of his own, Cage subtly turns the language of Howl against itself so as to make a plea for restraint and quietude as alternatives to the violence and indignation at the heart of Ginsberg's poem."
Ginsberg and Cage knew each other for decades and were fond of each other. They were both serious students of Buddhism; they read, performed, and taught together, and they had numerous mutual friends. According to Cage biographer Kenneth Silverman, Cage admired Ginsberg's "open quiet mind" (290). Indeed, Cage was to some extent in Ginsberg's debt as the poet was among those who helped circle Cage to protect him from a hostile audience at Naropa, enraged at a now-infamous 1974 Cage performance in which the composer kept his back to the attendees.
Appropriately, Ginsberg would return the favor of WRITINGS THROUGH a few years later by contributing photos to the 75-birthday tribute, PREPARED BOX FOR JOHN CAGE (1987). A touching and significant assocation between these two hugely influential figures of the postwar avant garde. Only the second substantive Cage manuscript we've handled (or even seen), the last — a 1973 working notebook — we sold almost six years ago for significantly more than our price here. Cage type- and manuscript material is genuinely rare in the market. A complete typescript of a major work, in the poetic form that remains most associated with Cage.