Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Q & A - 2 - (Poetry and Revision)

  [Cover for "First Thought Best Thought " Chögyam Trungpa's book of poems, published in 1983 by Shambhala]

AG: Yeah?

Student: ( I had some difficulty with your statement about poetry when you said (you advised not to) repeat again (that) you can't go back and review)

AG: Yes. (I'm just repeating for the mic), you had difficulty with my statement last time when I said that.. "just write what comes down into your mind , you can't go back and revise".

Student: Right 

AG: What was….

Student: I had difficulty with that, because I felt that maybe somebody who writes, they've reached the point of spontaneity where it came out…

AG: Yes

Student:  ... but not necessarily someone who (just) started writing poetry yesterday.

AG: That you felt that might be useful for someone who has been writing a long time, but not for someone who just started.

My own experienceis that the poems that I wrote and (revied and revised) and…(worked over) were much less communicative and much less fresh than the ones which.. (William Carlos) Williams, having rejected the Gates of Wrath poems, (he) suddenly saw something in (those) which were in the book Empty Mirror (an early book of mine), which were little prose fragments that I'd taken and set out and arranged in lines, unrevised, to look like poems.

I suddenly realized that what I has been writing naturally was a lot more alive than what I had been composing. That was when I was twenty-one or (twenty)-two. And then I got a further lesson in that.. when… (Jack Kerouac) kept pushing me and insisting  that I should actually reveal myself and actually write what I was talking about with my natural voice, instead of trying to be a big greedy poet and write big greedy poems, or big ambitious poems, with a craft gleam. And he insisted I sit down at the typewriter and type out just whatever I had scribbled in my notebooks, just as it was, in the form that it was. It was a poem, that wasn't very good, about the Statue of Liberty, but I was so amazed how good it looked, when I got it down typed, that I got a lesson out of that, that there was something in what he was saying, But the condition is that, if you throw yourself off that cliff and accept the fate that comes, the writing then become utter, complete and final, and so there's a seriousness that comes to your heart when writing, because you know you can never change it, so that you really have to say, once and forever, in this mortal time, whatever you can say. It's like, if you burn your bridges behind you, you've got to stay on that shore, you've got to stay on that other shore of complete raw awareness, pain, fear, trembling, but, at the same time, nowhere to go but  forward.

Student: It seemed to me that you contradicted that in the beginning of the class with your statement that you wrote a haiku,  and then, after what (Chogyam) Trungpa said about haiku, you went back and added a line.

AG: Yes

Student: Y0u went back and put something else on purpose.

AG: Added - Added. I think one problem was I was hung on writing a poem. There's a hangover of wanting to write a poem. And so I picked on the flashiest and easiest object in the blue sky - cumulus clouds piled up above the white plutonium plant - and so pleased with myself for having at least seen something, I forgot my real thought, which was -  "How am I going to change that?" - See? - which was actually my thought at the time. So there was a question of inattention The idea of "Don't revise" is not necessarily a military regulaton that you can't revise (because you can certainly revise). It's just the attitude of mind of approaching the poem as the fresh thoughts of consciousness at the time of writing, rather than with the idea that you got more money in the bank, so you don't have to spend your money now, or you got more money in the bank so you don't have to carry a lot of money with you, that you don't have to give it all at one moment, that there's something in reserve. See, if you start with the supposition that you're going to revise, you won't give all to the moment, you won't give everything  to the moment. If you start with the supposition that you're going to die in a minute, you better say it completely then and there, or that you'll never be able to change it, or that it would be, say, "wrong" to change it, you're more likely to bring your full heart to the moment.
I revise all the time.

Student: (Well...) that's what I saw. I saw that somebody can sit and meditate for twenty years and have a sudden insight of enlightenment, which is sudden and spontaneous in itself...

AG: Yes

Student:  …but it came after twenty years of sitting, whereas the same thing might (not) be true of somone who sits and writes spontaneous..

AG: Yes

Student:  …(spontaneously) for twenty years and then suddenly…

AG: I think the learning how to write is actually the realization that the ordinary mind is sufficient already, and all you have to do is be true to that, be true to your mind of the moment. What I'm saying is it's an attitude toward art, rather than rules, a minute-by-minute practice. As I said, I revise, but by this time the attitude is , "This is it, right now - 
If I can't do it now, I can't really (do it later any) better". So, if you start on that basis, you cultivate an attitude of presence all the time (and also cultivate an attitude of trust to your own mind, and playfulness with your own mind, and…(acceptance) of thoughts which are embarrassing, or shameful, or which seem wicked, which you might reject if you were thinking that you could choose what you are). So you have to accept what you are to work on that basis. And to accept what you are, having made a decision to accept what you are, you find (that) what it is (that) you are is more accessible than if you "postpone the acceptation" (that's (Walt) Whitman's line (from "Song of Myself"  - "Shall I postpone the acceptation (and realization) and scream at my own eyes?") - [Editoral note - this was one of the lines he considered using as an epigraph to "Howl"]
Let us say, this is not so much.. to make it easy, this is not so much rules, as it is suggestions towards a tendency, or an attitude of mind, or cultivation of an attitude, not only towards the writing but towards the universe.

Student: I can understand the attitude better than...

AG: The practice?

Student (than) expressing (it as) a discipline 

AG: Well, I would take it on as a discipline for a while, go through a period of experimentation, of cutting yourself off from the past, so to speak, or cutting yourself off from the future, and simply having to write in the moment of now, as if this were eternity and there were were to be no change. It's an interesting experiment.

Student: When you reopen (that moment now) (in the poem) (or the practice)  is that any less….

AG: Well, from a practical point of view, you'd be better off starting a new poem, I've found. Otherwise, you get entangled in trying to cross-hatch your times and your thoughts of different times.

Another problem is people disapprove of what they thought one time and want to revise it and hide it, and then, ten years later, they realize, "Well, my first impulse was kind of nice, actually. I was just being too moral the second time around." It's a question of trust, cultivating trust, cultivating confidence, self-confidence, cultivating proclamation, cultivating reliance on the universe as it is.

I revise.  Now, "Plutonian Ode", a long poem written this summer [1978], is basically intact as first composed, but (with) a tremendous amount of tinkering. In fact, I even passed it around to physicists for technical advice on where my language was correct or incorrect,and (to) astronomers (because I had a lot of astronomical information that I had mytholologically gobbledegooked from Gregory Corso's mouth and… )

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-seven minutes in,  and concluding at approximately forty-six-and-three-quarter minutes in]

Monday, August 3, 2015

Q & A - 1 ( On Haiku Sequence)




Student: (You said that all haiku were flash, recognition, and comment, yes?)

AG: (Well, we were looking at the) texts and (the) theoretical ground in the background. I'm guessing that, though.. but, actually, for proof of the pudding, we'd have to go check back through all the classic haiku and see if they fitted that pattern at all, (that's the only way we'd do it). My original thought was that it was, simply, just two images, as you remember - two images, completely separated, not joined by a moral, but joined by a …contrast..  -  (turns to his student) -  Chuck (Carroll) (sic)?

Student (CC):  Yes (I asked somewhat) the same question (about sequence in classic haiku formulation) and we worked out one, as an example, that (speaks to something direct) and that is the red flower in the vase on the table - and we applied the flash-recognition-comment (procedure) as follows. So, I came up with something like this -  "red flash/rose in a vase/a woman's lipstick"

AG: Not very… not a terrific haiku, necessarily…

Student (CC):  No 

AG: …but just an example of what..a thought was, (actually)

Student; (Yes). The first is just the observation of the stimulating red, then the recognition of the flower, and then the association.

AG: Actually, to be more precise, it was one of those Australian…

Student: Hawaiian

AG: …giant flowers. Where's it from?

Student: Red Hawaiian flowers

AG: It's like a giant… the color of someone's quite-red balls, but, you know, heart-shaped, and then it's got a giant proboscis phallus thing sticking out of it, and it looks like it's made of wax.

Student: Anthurium

AG: What is it?

Student: Anthurium

AG: Anthurium? Yeah, I think anthurium. You've seen them, I think. It's so odd a flower that the first time you look at it, you're not quite sure it's a flower. But you do get that red phallic flash. That was the first thing we noticed. Because I came in and looked at it, and, not knowing what it was, then recognized it. And then the comment, "Wow, it looks like a prick!" or something. It was the order of the thought - actually, that was the order of thought-form - or - those were the forms that the thought went through. That was the sequence. 

[Audio from the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-four-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-seven minutes in]    

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Gregory Corso Interviews



 Another of the summer's essential books (we're only just now getting round to profiling it)

Rick Schober's stellar collection of the Collected Interviews with Gregory Corso  - 

over a dozen pieces, plus an illuminating memoir-introduction by Dick Brukenfeld, (Corso's first publisher, of the 1955 Harvard volume, "The Vestal Lady on Brattle"), plus footnotes, index, dramatis personae...

a faithful capturing of that irascible, wayward, prison-smart, poetics-smart, uniquely vocal, unapologetic, Beat poet  

Corso, in 1980, to a patient and respectful poet-interviewer, Gavin Selerie:

"But if you take this tape here and transcribe it, people will read it on the page - they're gonna think I wrote that shit on the page. So that you better make sure, right off the bat, that I did not write this, that this just a talk one night"    

(Selerie gives him his "Shelleyan promise" that he will be faithfully represented. 
Corso needn't have worried)

In the course of this volume Corso gets to range on a vast array of topics, what he would characteristically get to describe as "the whole shot".
To take just two of the more focused moments (tho' Gregory's never anything less than "focused"!)


    [Gregory Corso - c.1958 Photograph by Harold Chapman]

From a fairly early (1962) interview with poet Anselm Hollo:


Anselm Hollo: Now "Beat Movement" means  what - that the movement that, lets say we gave a thrust to, was to be a movement of poets getting up reading their poetry, is that what you mean?

Gregory Corso: Oh well, that would be absurd - to get up and say, well here this is what I'm doing and now I hope everyone else does this - No, I believe that you have to have something to fall back on, you have to have it, and it should always be You - it should never Follow, from something else - that's where the danger of Fad and Monotony can get into it by the Relay…
Now "Beat Movement" if there was anything intended by that - to take the other angle - if it was something as a movement then it was for people to Wake Up! The poetry that was read by myself and Allen and a few others at the time was not altogether social , but a lot of it was Social - and a lot of it has come true: what we said - and a change in the Consciousness has happened.
Now a beat person in the United States is not a person who has a beard - exactly. The consciousness is changed by the beat  - it is entering the lives of people who go to college, who are married, who have children. They do not then, by their learning lock themselves up in a room and sleep on floors and don't take baths; that's not it - the Consciousness has altered there through everyone… it has changed completely now and taste has become refined,
What once took a hundred years seems to take a decade now; one doesn't read what was said but one listens to what is being said  - I think the main thing of the readings and the poems and all of it that came out was meant to aid and benefit man - to blend with the new consciousness! - It was to give sounding that Here it is and to get everything into that light, see it into that light. So therefore I think that the Beats really have done something tremendous and beautiful. And I'm only down on the fact that the beat today - who came up as beat  - are being Monsters of Frankenstein Replicas of the Mass Media - of the newspaper interpretation of Beat, But as for, let's say the original standards of the Beat -
and it's almost I think as important as the Early Prophets - what the Beat did was to speak of Love, and it was to benefit man, and nothing else.
It was Me - but in association with Everyone: the lyric poem itself is "I" but it associates with all Man, and therefore it is a compassionate form of Poesie. A poet is supposed to See: and what he Sees, he puts within himself - and records outwardly - in Poetry"



     [Gregory Corso, New York City, 1996. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]



     [Gregory Corso, Boulder Colorado, 1985 c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

from Michael Andre's 1972 interview:

Michael Andre: In your poem, "After Reading "In The Clearing"" [in Long Live Man], you said - I can't quote it exactly - "Ginsberg is all I care to understand of the living". ["Poe is my only American poet sir/and my homeland were Greece and England/Shelley is my ichor - Demeter is my mother/And of the living Ginsberg's metaphor/is all I care to understand"] -  Is that still true?

Gregory Corso: That's probably generalizing too much. Allen's work to me is the sharpest thing that's being said. I like the early (W.H.) Auden, the "Christmas Oratorio" and "In Praise of Limestone". I really got to digging (Ezra) Pound. You say (Robert) Creeley. Yes, some Creeley is really fantastic. But then, I couldn't put everybody's name down.

     [Gregory Corso - Boulder, Colorado,  1985 c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]


from a 1974 interview with  Robert  King (on the occasion of the University of North Dakota's Writers Conference):

Robert King: Your name, at least in the 'Fifties, was really connected with Ginsberg, more than any of the others we've had here this week

Gregory Corso: We were the two poets. They're novelists, you know [Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs]. And Allen and I were poets. When Allen and I read poetry; early in those days, he would read "Howl", very serious; and I was, like I said, giving the humor number. That's what saved it. It would have been too heavy otherwise. Gregory came over with his "Marriage" or something like that, and everybody was happy and laughing. So it worked, it was a nice balance. We were the poets, Allen and myself.

RK: So you complemented each other

GC: Oh sure, sure, sure.

RK: Ginsberg's really published a lot, has all these political connections, movement connections - he may be the most famous Beat. So you could be in a position to say, "Gee, I wonder if I should do more things like Allen".

GC: Right, and I did not. I stayed out of it in the Sixties and for good reasons too. I figured that was the route they'd taken, let thm go with it because something's going to have to happen after that; and conserve some of the energy, Gregory. Let Allen take care of it nice, ad he did. You know, this man's got all his strength and all his energy. You dig? I don't have to be throwing myself out like that. That's when Allen got to understand me. He was burnt up in the beginning, saying, "Gregory, where are you, man, like, help us along". I said, "No, this is where you've got to understand Gregory. This is what I do now. If I'm going to go towards dope, if I'm going to make babies like I did and all that, that's my shot.

Like we say (and there's  so much more) - an essential volume



      [Gregory Corso & Allen Ginsberg, Paris 1957. c Allen Ginsberg Estate] 


     [Allen Ginsberg & Gregory Corso, Tangier, 1961. Photo c Allen Ginsberg Estate]



     [Gregory Corso & Allen Ginsberg, 1989 - Photograph by Pamela Hansen] 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 229

[Spiderman and Allen Ginsberg cartoon - Tom Gauld]


From the current issue of Poetry magazine  – more Howl parodies – (we've featured several such before -  -  Amy Newman “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by wedding 
planners, dieting, in shapewear,/ dragging themselves in cute outfits through the freezer section for the semifreddo bender/blessed innovative cloister girl pin-ups burning to know the rabbi of electricity in poverty, obedience, in the dream stick of opium and the green Wi-Fi fuse.."

From the Paris Review - "Supplication to the Muses on A Trying Day" - quite a discovery!  - a hitherto unpublished Hart Crane poem - "Thou art no more than Chinese to me, O Moon! A simian chorus to you/and let your balls be nibbled by the flirtatious hauchinango…" 

Ai Weiwei being finally granted a passport – a not insignificant cultural moment. We send you back to 2011 and the Allen Ginsberg Project  here and here - and here


Auction news -  Christies First Open On-line auction this week (Post-War and Contemporary Art) featured three of Allen's Chinese photos (from his visit there in 1984). Here's one of them: 


[Caption: "Downtown Baoding, across from Department store, behind walled gate, this huge public garden's kept up - it was attached to some rich Merchant-official before Revolution - Photo snapped by student interpreter, everyone seemed interested. I liked the moon-bridge's mirror-mouth oval - November 1984.  Allen Ginsberg"]

The above photo went for an estimated selling-price of three-to-five-thousand-dollars 

The Kerouac letter from 1968 that we reported on earlier, in another auction (to Sterling Lord, detailing plans for his never-completed book, Spotlight), surprisingly, didn't sell, failing to meet its reserve price (ten-to-twelve-thousand-dollars). Another item, a 1953 photograph of him by Allen (with typically-detailed hand-written caption added), however, did sell (that one, for just over five-thousand-three-hundred-and-sixty dollars) 

On The Road mapped out and more. See more about Richard Kreitner and Steven Melendez's quaintly obsessive map-making here  


Sad news - the death this past weekend, aged 76, of the great English poet and translator, Lee Harwood. Robert Sheppard remembers him - here,  John Harvey - here.  Shearsman Books in 2004 published his Collected Poems (and his Selected Poems in 2008).  
Most recently, The Orchid Boat appeared from Enitharmon Press in 2014

Here's John Yau, from last November, on "Why I Am A Member of the Lee Harwood Fan Club"  -   Rest in peace, Lee.


                                                            [Lee Harwood (1939-2015)] 

Congratulations, Anne Waldman for the Lifetime Achievement Award  in this year's (Before Columbus Foundation's)  American Book Awards!


Congrats Levi Asher on twenty-one years of Literary Kicks!

Jonah Raskin on Peter Coyote


                                                                    [Peter Coyote]

Jed Birmingham on Carl Weissner


                                                                   [Carl Weissner (1940-2012]

& the new Beatdom - Beatdom #16 - is just out ( it's "the Money Issue").  Among the articles - Delilah Gardner - "Ginsberg in the Underground, Whitman, Rimbaud and Visions of Blake"; editor David S Wills on "The Burroughs Millions"; Hilary Holladay on Herbert Huncke, and essays on two key "Beat women", Hettie Jones and Bonnie Bremser, as well as a review of a book of Gregory Corso interviews (see our note on this tomorrow) 

Another of our film-recommendations - American Rimpoche - "exploring America's introduction to Tibetan Buddhism" (we've noted it before in the context of Gelek Rinpoche - but see further notes on it, a portrait of Allen's (and Philip Glass)'s teacher - here).

                                                          [Philip Glass, Gelek Rimpoche & Allen Ginsberg]