Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Meditation and Poetics - 11

[Jean-Marc Barr as Jack Kerouac in Michael Polish's 2013 film adaptation of Kerouac's 1962 novel, "Big Sur"]

AG:  What?  Did you…? 

Student:  Yeah.  This is making me nervous, but I wanted to say how it [Samatha Vipassana meditation] was different from (Jack) Kerouac's sketching.  Like when you lose yourself, like when he went down to the sea 
AG:  Um-hmm.
Student:…and then you're aware that you're listening to the sea, or that you're listening to the wind, rather than just having it come through, and not… you know?... I wanted to (know)…

AG: What's the difference between what we were (doing) and…

Student: Yeah

AG: Well, we just began with the breath

Student; Yeah, I know, I know

AG: We just began with the breath. I'm just trying to establish some common space that everybody would know what we're talking about from the very beginning..

Student: Yeah

AG: …without any difficulty, without ideas.

Student: Yeah, I didn't want to bring it up, any..

AG: Withouy ideas. Then we'll get to applications.

Student: Yeah. Just the difference of not being aware and having the wind come through or thinking about the wind and going in it.. Yeah.. that's..

AG: Well, there's some similarity, actually, between being totally concentrated on listening to the sound, or totally concentrated on paying attention to the breath. Some similarity. It's the concentration - and the absence of day-dream - or the recognition of day-dream as day-dream.
I guess you're thinking of Kerouac's poem about the ocean at the end of Big Sur?

Student: Just about sketching yeah

AG:  …and his notion of sketching, which he exemplifies best (including sketches of sounds) in  Visions of Cody. Something I might recommend as a writing exercise - to check out, in relation to this, Kerouac's Visions of Cody. I have a handbook-guidebook to those sketches called Visions of The Great Rememberer - which you an check out in the Library the Naropa Library. It's a little blue book, which is an outline of Kerouac's big thick Visions of Cody, and there's some discussions of sketching and some mention of the different sketches. His idea was just sort of bare atttention to the phenomena outside his eyeball, bare attention to the optical field, sketches, almost on that level, or bare attention to the auditory panorama.

Student: Is your outline more than just the Introduction?

AG: Yes. The outline is more than the Introduction. The Introduction is boiled down from about a third of that…So it's about three times that size. It's a whole book discussing the sketches. 
Kerouac began from this point of view of examination of universal mind, or examination of mind. In other words, what we're talking about is mind, amazingly. Stop talking about poetry and we're talking about mind. Does everybody recognize that? And how can you make poetry out of mind, or how can you take hints from actual mind, from the way you think, from the structure of mind, from the procession of thoughts in mind, from the way the mind operates? How can you take hints from actual mind as to how to make a work of art out there on paper? or vocal?. In other words, what structures do you notice in the mind that can be applied to sentences? What sequences or ways of thinking do we find inside of ourselves when we observe them that could be reproduced on a page (like with blank pages for, blank lines for no thought, with cutting off a line in the middle when a thought wakes from itself, or when you wake from a thought. Like, (William Carlos) Williams has a poem called "The Clouds" that I always thought was…"The Clouds" is that in here? 

Student:  Is it in the "(Collected) Later (Poems)"?

AG: Maybe

Student: It's from the (19)40's

AG: Yeah

Student: "The Clouds"?

AG: Yeah. It's one that ends, "…plunging on a pismire, a moth, a butterfly, a…." (dot dot dot dot).. He just sort of broke up in the middle of the sentence  - "…plunging on a pismire, a moth, a butterfly, a…." And he read it that way. So he got that from his head. It's just the way he thought, like everybody thinks, sometimes. The thought stops, or you get exasperated and say, "Oh, forget it, I don't want to finish that". But he used that as a model for how to put it on the page. In other words, he didn't have to finish the sentence. In other words, he was using mind and operation of mind as a model for how you would write, as Kerouac did. That's why I started talking about mind. Kerouac was interested in mind, in the jewel center of the mind, as he called (it) - which is a litle complicated, the attention, where the attention was, for him. You brought up the sketching, so I was trying to fill (in). Yes? 

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Meditation and Poetics - 10

[Buddhist Practitioners (students of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche) - Shambhala Training - Land O' Lakes Seminary, 1976, Land O'Lakes, Wisconsin]

Student: I just wanted to you're a famous poet, okay?

AG: You're day-dreaming

Student: I'm day-dreaming, yes, okay..

AG: You see, I hadn't thought about that, amd maybe most of the class..

Student: I'm thinking…

AG: ..was involved in the subject, I think, at this point..

Student; I'm thinking of the stimulus. I'm thinking about you as a stimulus to come out, you know, you create, you create with your words, you create imagery. You take things that happen. I do that. I'm very similar. I get a flow (my name's Allen too), I get a flow and I hear it all around, and then you bring it to tone, and then you start from the self, and then you work out - or do you work out - to the self, is what I'm…

AG: Actually, not really. I think you misunderstand.

Student: Really?

AG: I'm starting from the no-self

Student: No self. Okay.

AG: Yeah

Student: Right

AG: Then you're bringing up self

Student: Yeah, okay

AG: So what I'm saying is we can forget self

Student: Okay, That's what I wanted to get into

AG: You forget self. That's the whole point.

Student: Yeah. Forget self.

AG: We don't have to bring it up.

Student: Yeah

AG: Except it comes up, like an object, like a microphone

Student: Okay

AG: Okay, Allen?

Student: Thank you.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately  forty-one-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-tw0-and-a-quarter minutes in] 

Meditation and Poetics - 9

                  [Allen Ginsberg, 1980 - Photograph by Jan Herman]

Allen's class on meditation and poetics (from July 1978) continues

AG: For the purpose of what we're doing in the class, there may be a Dante-an structure that somebody might want to work with, later. But right now we're reducing everything right down to the first breath.  The first thought.  To bear attention to what is called Samatha Vipassana in Buddhist meditation.  Samatha  - bare attention ,or attentiveness, or mindfulness, or tranquilization of mind -  and Vipassana -- insight.  The Vipassana part is the insight that comes when your mind gets calm enough. When your mind gets calm enough then you hear all the traffic noises.  You notice the breeze coming through. In other words, you're not thinking about why am I doing this? or (what) is he telling me?, or why did I get in this position?, or you're not occupied day-dreaming. Or, to the extent that you've calmed down your day-dreams and your mind isn't occupied, but you're careless, you're careless, you're carelessly sitting there breathing, it might be possible to notice, then, a pin drop, to hear a pin drop - Is that clear?  It might take a little time (or) more time sitting than that five minutes, but, after a while, you should be able to hear a pin drop, take into account the vibration of the venetian blind, the noises your own body makes, other people sniffling, shuffling, the whoosh of car wheels, the wind in the trees, the distant racket of traffic on Pearl Street perhaps [outside, Pearl Street in Boulder], whatever hooting you hear from the mountain, whatever thumps rise unborn..  

So that becomes a whole mandala of sound which has no particular meaning, actually.  It's just, as they say, unborn and that is there.  You could think about it and make a meaning for it,  or a meaning might rise.  Like some interconnected..  You might hear a large clanking crash and then a couple people yelling and then you realize maybe it's a car crash.  But you can be careless and let go of the sounds.  As you can be careless and let go of your thoughts in the sitting.  As you could be careless at a page at a desk in writing, and let go of your thoughts, (and) maybe notate half of it and then go on to the next thought.  So the approach to poetics might be similar to the approach to sitting.  (Like) I'm just sort of jumping around from thought to thought, now, trying to draw relationships and see how they might be usefully interconnected. 

You wanted to talk?

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-one-and-a-quarter minutes in] 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Cassady-Kerouac "Joan Anderson letter" - "the seminal piece of literature of the Beat Generation" rediscovered

[Catalog cover for the upcoming (December 17 2014) auction of the Golden Goose Press Archive Collection at Profiles in History, Calabasas, California]

The legendary Joan Anderson letter (featured on The Allen Ginsberg Project only a month or so ago) has emerged! - in its entirety! - after a sixty-or-more year hiatus! 

AP's John Rogers reports today that the "16,000 (word) amphetamine-fueled stream-of-consciousness" note to Jack Kerouac from Neal Cassady will be part of a December 17 auction at Joe Maddalena's Southern California auction house, Profiles in History.

 "It's the seminal piece of literature of the Beat Generation", Maddalena is quoted as saying, "and there are so many rumors and speculation of what happened to it". 

Turns out it didn't disappear on Gerd Stern's Sausalito houseboat, as was previously asserted. It made its way (sent by Allen and unopened!)  into the archives of the long-defunct Golden Goose Press (erstwhile of Columbus, Ohio, later of Sausalito - publishers of Robert Creeley's first book of poems!) and was within a whisker of being thrown out into the trash, before "the operator of a small independent music label who shared an office with publisher Richard (Wirtz) Emerson came to the rescue". "He took every manuscript, letter and receipt in the Golden Goose Archives home with him". 
And there it stayed, until a mere two years ago, when "Los Angeles performance artist Jean Spinosa..found the letter as she was cleaning out her late father's house.. "He didn't understand how anybody would want to throw someone's words out".

The extraordinary story of the re-discovery of this letter is quite a story!  Here's Jerry Cimino of the Beat Museum's account (having previously been sworn to secrecy). 
As he notes, the on-line catalog "with all the photos and important details", "probably goes live on Monday"

More to come. 

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[Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac]