Friday, December 19, 2014
[Allen Ginsberg, 1994, San Francisco - Photo by Jay Blakesberg]
Jay Blakesberg's wonderful photograph of a pensive Allen. It was Robert Frank's advice to Allen, the photographer (advice that he always took to heart and would tell other people) - always, in portraits, if at all possible, include the hands.
[Allen Ginsberg and Robert Frank, 1986, New York City - Photograph by Peter Hale]
News from the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa - the 2014-2015 Allen Ginsberg Visiting Fellow has just been announced, and it will be - Kevin Killian - Kevin's visit will begin, on Friday February 6, with a lecture titled "The Color in Darkness", the following Monday events will continue with a reading and a book-signing.
"Joan Anderson letter" news - No auction (as originally planned) last week. Now the letter sits in legal limbo. David S Wills' piece, in Beatdom, "Reconsidering the Importance of the Joan Anderson Letter" is timely musing and well worth reading - "Beat fans and scholars are often guilty of perpetuating myths", Wills writes, and, "in order to take the movement seriously one needs to be critical and ask questions that are often unpleasant".. "now it is time that we ask whether the letter was as important as (Jack) Kerouac claimed. We need to acknowledge that Kerouac's obsession with (Neal) Cassady often blinded him to his friend's flaws, and that Cassady was far from a saint. Indeed, it is hard to imagine the contents of the letter - once published - living up to the hype."…"None of this means we should ignore the letter by any means, but rather that we should be skeptical and not carried away by the excitement of its discovery".
[Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)]
Beat scholarship - last month's European Beat Studies Conference in Morocco is now just a memory. Here's an "unofficial video record" (warning - if you can bear the highly disorientating soundtrack!)
More on the great Jim Koller, who's passing we noted last week. A gathering of memories and notes by friends may be found here. Here's another video (this, with his son, Bertie accompanying him on banjo and guitar and with an interview with fellow Maine poet, Steve Luttrell)
Jim, poignantly, wrote (ahead of time) his own "Last Will and Testament" - "I want only blue sky over me/I want the clouds, so many/of them variations, passing/changing as they pass./ I want the blackest nights filled with turning stars/I want birds to find me,/want the hot breath of animals./ The wind too shall pass,/on its way to places/I have been."
[James Koller (1936-2014)]
Thursday, December 18, 2014
AG: So there was the first Imagist school which said, "Sight is where the eye strikes", "Direct treatment of the object" (that's from (Ezra) Pound's little easy, "How To Read" - "Direct treatment of the object, with as few fuzzy words as possible. As we concentrate on the breath, or as we're one with the breath, so one is absorbed in clearly seeing a situation, a person, a look, a broken flower in a vase - or "so much depends/ upon/ a red wheel/ barrow/ glazed with rain/ water /beside the white/chickens" - you know that? (William Carlos) Williams? - "so much depends/ upon/ a red wheel/ barrow/ glazed with rain/ water /beside the white/chickens" - So much. So much of one's own consciousness depends on seeing it clearly, or rendering it clearly, or being there with it precisely in some way that it's clear. It's not just a vague thought but you actually see it and not try and day-dream up another universe,
So that was sort of..sort of..Imagism. Then Objectivism was the next literary school, which said you don't just have to look at wheelbarrows, you can also include your thoughts because your thoughts are objects just like wheelbarrows. So that was Objectivism. Does that make sense?
Student: "The Red Wheelbarrow", that's more nebulous than Imagism, because it's "so much depends upon.." - so that's being included as a personal thing, whereas Pound's thing..
AG: "The apparition of these…"
Student: "..faces in the crowd"
AG: "Petals on a wet, black bough". Okay, Pound was trying to be really totally objective, Imagistic. Totally objective. So his sample great Imagist poem was, as quoted, can you quote it again?
Student: (How does it begin?)
AG: "The apparition of these faces in the crowd.."
Student: "White petals on a…"
AG: "Petals on a wet.."
AG: "..black bough". It's in all the anthologies. It's the period piece, sort of, (like Williams' "Red Wheelbarrow')
But you're right, Williams included a thought - So much depends upon - a red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater beside the white chickens. So that's what made it an Objectivist poem, because he included his thought. But, there again, the point I'm trying to make is that thoughts, since you can wake up from them, drop them, separate yourself from them and observe them, thoughts themselves, then, can be treated as objects, just like wheelbarrows and trees, right? - Does that all make some sense? Is there anybody who has some practical objection?
Okay, well, it's not very precise really. It's what they were saying in 1923 or (19)30 or (19)40..actually, what were the years of the Objectivists? That would be (the) (19)30'
So Louis Zukofsky put together what he called an Objectivist anthology (Pound had put together, in 1923, an Activist (Active) anthology, I believe). I don't know if any of those books are available [here in Boulder, Colorado]. They might be in the University of Colorado Library, and they're really, historically, interesting. If you go back, you'll see what those active groups were doing and how they got together and it'll give you some insight into what's going on now when groups of poets get together to form a school or make an anthology or make a magazine. They're sort of modern twentieth-century standards, high standards, for that kind of activity, because they actually sharpened perception among a group of poets and were like a sharp axe which went into the public head. (They) actually did make changes in perception in the larger social community. So there's the Activist Anthology by Pound and (an) Objectivist issue of Poetry magazine edited by Louis Zukofsky. Some of this is recapitulated in a recent anthology by Jerome Rothenberg. Does anybody know the name of it? Anybody?
Student: Versions of the Sacred?
AG: No, no
Student: Technicians of the Sacred?
AG: Technicians of the Sacred is..
Student: Versions of…
AG: No, [pointing to Student] - what was it you had?
Student: America- A Prophecy
AG: No, there's another odd little book. I think Rothenberg did it. I think it's in our library here. Do you know, Sam? [points to Student, Sam Kashner] - It's sort of, like, an anthology of (19)20's and (19)30's
Student (Sam Kashner): I think it's Revolution of the Word
AG: Right. Is that Rothenberg? - an anthology called Revolution of the World - That was what? - the phrase used by Eugene Jolas, who edited Transition magazine, which was the big magazine, publishing a lot of (T.S.) Eliot, a lot of Pound, James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake (at that time known as "Work in Progress")
[Audio for the above can be found here, starting at approximately eighteen-and-a-half minutes in, and concluding at approximately twenty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in]
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
["I Saw The Fgure 5 in Gold" - Charles Demuth, 1928 (after the poem by William Carlos Williams) - oil, graphite, ink and gold leaf on paperboard, 35 1/2 x 30 ins - included in the Alfred Stieglitz Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York]
Imagism. So. In pursuit of similar focus and concentration and presence and prescience and perception and awareness that we've been discussing the last three months here, there was a similar breakthrough of awareness around the turn of the century, connected with the minds of the Dadaists and the Futurists, early spiritual poetic schools, pre-World War I, the Futurists and the Dadaists during World War I. Dada-ists.
(Ezra) Pound and Wyndham Lewis, another writer, and various friends in London before World War I, got together hearing the winds of the Futurist Manifestos. (The) Russia (poets, Vladimir) Mayakovsky and (Serge) Esenin were involved in (the) Futurist poetry movement (created by the Italian poet, Filippo Marinetti. There were tendencies in Germany. Wyndham Lewis in London.
It was a perception of a modern mechanical electronic space-age apocalypse, somewhat as we have now - the twentieth-century and so they saw themselves as Futurists, for the first time having to admit machinery into poetry. So the music began to include machinery (like Edgar Varese begun putting sirens and foghorns in his music). Concrete music began arriving in people's ears - concrete poetry as well, (that is to say, pure sound, poetry as pure sound, as letters) - "priimiitittiii tisch/tesch/ priimiitittiii tesch/ tusch/ priimiititiii tischa/tescho/priimiitittiii tescho/tuschi/ priimiitittiii/ priimiitittiii/ priimiitittiii too/ priimiitittiii taa/ priimiitittiii too/priimiitittiii/taa/ priimiitittiii toota…" - being (Kurt) Schwitters, a little after World War I probably. "Priimiitittiii"- a Dada work, sound poetry, letterism (having some relation to mantra, actually. Tristan Tzara, who was involved in Dadaism, referred in his Dada Manifestos to Buddhist mantra). Antonin Artaud, in the (19)20's, who was one of the Surrealist heroes wrote a notorious Letter to the Dalai Lama (and another one to the Pope) demanding they do their duty immediately to the twentieth-century and save the world, (actually, Artaud, calling the Pope a dog, and asking for the Dalai Lama to come out and teach (as he's doing now, so to speak, symbolically, here [Naropa])
So there was a break-up of mind. (Cubism - as you know of - people seeing things six different ways at once), a break-up into a relative mind, subjective mind being discovered. (The) realization that objectivity was subjective anyway, since, as (Albert) Einstein said, the measuring instrument determines the shape of the universe. Your eyeball determines that everything is watery circles., mandalas. With the discovery of that kind of relativity as a twentieth-century measuring point, or as realizing there is no objective external world (and) there is only our eyeballs (and) our senses which shape the world, and with theories of indeterminancy that later developed that if you stop a wave to observe it, it isn't a wave anymore. So, finally, when you get down to the bottom, everything is indeterminate. You can't fix it. Or observation impedes function, in that sense, no objectivity - everything becomes subjective again.
But if you observe subjective facts, like we're observing our minds, the thoughts in our head are as objective as the furniture outside. Those are parts. In other words, our thoughts are objects. Subject is object. Self is object. Self itself is object. Subjectivity is objectivity because that's all you know, and if that's all you know, then it's objective. What else do you want? If you can't know more than what you know then what else can (you know)? You can't know any more than what you know, so what you know is what you know and that's totally objective. And anybody who pretends to be objective is pretending to be objective.
I think that point is basically clear - that all we know is subjective. All we know is what we know and that's subjective. You might be able to check it out externally and get some kind of correlation with the external world but it's still pretty much a rule-of-thumb process. Nobody really knows anything but what they know directly and what you know directly is the only thing you can really know, what you can taste, smell, touch, what you know with your senses.
In a certain sense, the only thing that we really know is our own home territory and our own family and our own selves and our own noses and everything else is television and newspaper abstraction or bookish abstraction, generalization. The only thing we can know is like a farmer - what's close to the nose - and know it in the sense that you know - it looks like rain, or, (if you) put a seed in the ground, it'll grow up - or (it) won't. So with that, you can know your own thoughts, but, thereby, if you know them like objects and are not lost in them..
[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately ten minutes in and concluding at approximately eighteen-and-a-quarter minutes in]
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Student: What was that again?
AG: The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry - by Ezra Pound (or, edited from the papers of the late Professor Ernest Fenollosa by Ezra Pound)
Student: (And also) "Visions of Ordinary Mind"
Student: "Visions of Ordinary Mind"
AG: Oh yeah. Another reference - somewhat similar, but parallel - long-winded, a typescript of a lecture I gave here [Naropa] two years ago  called "Visions of Ordinary Mind" (which you can get in the library - I think it must be in the library here, or down.. [to Student] - Do you know where it is? - I think it was put up here.
Student: Yeah, I think
AG: In the Reference (section)?
AG: Reserve - "Visions of Ordinary Mind" - by me - corollary to those pieces.
My mind is rambling a little. Actually, I'm in a bit of a hypocritic position because I didn't do any sitting (practice) today and it's preying on my mind, because one of the things I wanted to do was actually sit every time. And I've been sitting through all this, but I got freaked out on other matters, reading (Marcel) Proust today. The conditions of my teaching are that I sit, otherwise it's ridiculous to try and propose meditation and poetics and not myself be sitting - or yourselves, for that matter..
[Editorial Note - "Visions of Ordinary Mind" (1948-1955) - Discourse with Question and Answers" appears, transcribed, in Volume 2 of Talking Poetics From Naropa Institute - Annals of the Jack Kerouac School (1978), Shambhala Publications (edited by Anne Waldman and Marilyn Webb)]
[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately ten-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately twelve minutes in]