ALLEN GINSBERG SPIRITUAL POETICS

Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado, July 31, 1974 AG: (This [photograph, below]), I got from Karma Trinley, who’s a lama, friend of (Chogyam) Trungpa in England - OM, you might want to write it down so it won’t be mysterious: OM (O-m), SARASWATI (S-a-r-a-s-w-a-t-i), Sar-a-swa-ti – how many have heard of Saraswati? - okay, Om-Saraswati, HRIH (H-r-i-h), SOWAH (S-o-w-a-h – Sohah), so it’s easy, Om-Sarawati-Hrih-Sowah.

“Saraswati.” Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906)].

“Om,” you know – body sound, salutation. Saraswati - is generally pictured with a veena in one hand and a book in the other. Riding, what? Riding a swan, I think. I’m not sure. Does she have any other attributes? In Hindu she’s a wife of Shiva. Student: ... playing a lute?

Student: ... playing a veena? AG: A veena, which is, like, a stringed instrument, (a lute would do just as well), a long stringed instrument. Yeah... Student: She’s all flowing. She flows... AG: Flowing? You mean ... clothes? Student: Flowing... AG: ...are flowing? (uh?) – (that’s) pretty indefinite. Okay, she flows. She’s the mind. She flowed. Student: Is she the one they throw in the river one day? AG: Ah, Durga, I think, another wife of Shiva, they throw in the river. But she apparently exists in Buddhist iconography also. I also don’t know who she’s the consort of. You can ask around your iconography teachers. Student: Manjusri. AG: Ah, okay, consort of Manjusri. Student: I’m not sure though. AG: I think so. I’ve heard that before. Discriminating wisdom – which would mean a sharpness of mind, a discrimination, and a clarity. Manjusri also has a book in one hand and the flaming sword in the other. So, clarity and definiteness, no bullshit. Flowering, but within specific boundaries, where something specific is flowing; either her clothes, or

her mind, or her thoughts, or ... so how many here are sort of familiar with basic Buddhist gossip? Have heard of Manjusri – have heard of Manjusri Buddha? Yeah, well, some. Manjusri’s an interesting figure because he’s got the sword of mind and the book, which means he’s read the classics. Background intelligence and reading, and not just total spontaneous oatmeal – (but) it still is discriminating mind, there would be mind recognizing its own nature, or first thoughts of the mind, remembering what the mind was actually thinking, remembering how the mind was actually working, and thus cutting through bullshit; that is, remembering first thoughts, or remembering what you secretly thought, or what occurred to you on the bathroom stool – a thing you wouldn’t necessarily write down for public. It’s the making public that private thought that’s, in a way, the sword of intelligence or the sword of discriminating wisdom. In other words, being frank. You could call it, like, mental frankness in a way, or you could also call it alertness, that is, remembering, without hypocrisy, what you were really dreaming about. So that would be the husband of Saraswati. Instead of a sword she’s (Saraswati’s) got a veena, or musical instrument, so she ... I’m interpreting her as, then, speaking out her mind, expressing herself or manifesting her thought forms via music or via any way that involves her whole body and her breath. She’s got a book too – that means she’s read, she’s learned. Anyway, Om-Saraswati-Hrih-Sowah – “Hrih” – I guess I don’t know what “Hrih” means. It’s a seed syllable, but I’ve heard it used. Pardon me? [Five Forms of Manjushri - Tibetan Thangka Painting] Student: I think it’s a syllable of the heart chakra. AG: Is it the heart chakra? That’s good. When you say “Om-Padme-Hum-Hrih,” “hrir,” is used as the bodhisattva extra syllable. Om-Padme-Hum-Hrih. The extra syllable is for getting into the world of action, getting up out of meditation and moving out into a world of action. So, “Om-Sarasati-Hrih.” – I guess active, then. “Sowah” is “Swaha,” the same as “Svaha” in Sanskrit. I guess it’s a Tibetan pronunciation, of “Svaha,” meaning “Amen,” or “Salutations” - generally to a feminine divinity. So let’s all sing that to invoke whatever we can get up.

because it’s a good invocation anyway.MUKTA-HARI –VEENA NAN-DEETAH.“Charey. half a league onward into the Valley of Death charged the six hundred. solid rhythm. KUCHA-JUGA-SOVITA . sari. Charo” (Charo – Sari).” for (whatever it’s worth. D-ev-i).“Mukta Hari” (M-u-k-t-a.) (It’s) “Jaya-Jaya-Devi. Next line . “Charey.open eyes!” he counsels. put out by City Lights.SARI. Jaya-Jaya-Devi – J-a-y-a. it’s a red-bordered. . and.” It’s got a good. “Charey Charo (C-h-a-r-e-y. PUSTAKA HASTEY.. has a really nice nursery-rhyme rhythm. if anybody’s interested.” “(one) who brings release.” Hari … Student: Sovita wears pearls on the breast. AG: Yeah. I can give the words. “anyone who doesn’t sing it.”) AG: There’s another Bengali mantra. K-u-c-h-a). Charo Sari. a strotra to Saraswati. Juga).. Kucha” (so. Student: In a purple sari.“Devi” is “goddessm” “Jaya” is “victory” . (AG sings – JAYA-JAYA-DEVI (Victory-Victory-Goddess – Jya-Jaya-Devi) CHAREYCHARO. C-h-a-r-o).(AG & Students chant (repeating the mantra).” “goddess who brings release to the whole world.. but I’ll recite it.M-u-t-c-k-h-a? – M-u-k-t-a H-a-r-i) Mukta – “release. BHAGAVATI BHARATI DEVI NAMASTE. very similar. I can look it up! If anybody’s ever seen a copy of a bibliography of my poetry. Kucha Juga Sovita. or purple-bordered.“Jaya-Jaya-Devu” . there’s a whole page of technical explanations .” or “half a league. or vermillion-bordered. except it has such a strong rhythm. with Allen accompanying on harmonium OM-SARASWATI-HRIH-SOWAH . Kucha-Juga (J-u-g-a. fails. half a league. It’s a little bit like (Edgar Allen) Poe’s “(The) Bells. J-a-y-a. I don’t know what it all means actually! I know a lot of it and I’ve got a book. I don’t know what use it is.

Bharati (B-h-a-r-a-t-I. PUSTAKA HASTEY. Baghavati (B-a-g. more involved. into the physical rendering of the mantras . or veena in the right hand. and you could always look it up in the book if the right interpretation is important.” or “namaste” (“salutations. which was that when I was singing “Hari Krishna.Veena Nan-dee-tah. more conviction. Bag – (B-a-g) B-a-g-h-a-v-a-t-I. Pustaka Hastey. I was thinking of something Robert Duncan told me in (19)63. Veena Nan-dee-tah.MUKTA-HARI –VEENA NAN-DEE-TAH. AG: Okay.) While singing. can be sung together. Veena.“hello. Bag-Havati…where was I ? Veena Nan-dee-tah. sort of. I guess.AG: Maybe. but. Pustaka Hastey (P-u-s-t-a-k-a H-as-t-e-y).” “hello Goddess. Bhagavati… Student: Pustaki? AG: Pustaka (P-u-s-t-a-k-a). and rhythm . or... Devi (Goddess) D-e-v-i – Namaste (N-a-m-a-st-e) . Okay.” “respect”). he found that I was using my voice and my body a lot more thicker. for the whole world also). Pustaka Hastey. Veena (V-e-e-n-a. pearl-breasted maybe. Kucha-Jug-Sovita-Mukta-Hari-Kucha-SovitaMuk. Veena Nan-dee-tah.. BHAGAVATI BHARATI DEVI NAMASTE. Pustaka Hastey. Bhagavati Bharati. Student : Yes. h-a-v-at-i). (which it probably is). Nan-dee-tah). book in the left hand. using my body and my voice a lot more than when I was reading poetry. book in the right hand. that I was putting more force and more energy. whatever. Kucha-Jug-Sovita-Mukta-Hari-. veena in the left hand.” which I was just beginning to do in ’63. pearls-adorning-breast. B-h-a-r-a-t-I – “Bharati” is the word for India. but the sound is what I’m interested in. I guess “Pustaka” would be “book. remember that now. It’s catchy. KUCHAJUGA-SOVITA .” if I’m not mistaken.... (AG chants along with class – JAYA-JAYA-DEVI–CHAREY-CHARO-SARI. Pustaka Hastey.

a physiological thing. writing. as in old blues – “hOOOOOme.. in that sense. so. So. and there’s a whispered poetry – I guess. For one thing. of course. conversational. At least chant becomes that. poetry. of a single body/single mind.. like a prophet or something. the fact that in whatever great poetry I wrote. involve us enough that we could recite our own poetry with the same kind of spirit (as) that we sing. whether it’s worth shouting or speaking or howling or using your whole self in. when you hear it in (Bob) Dylan. a real criticism. and so you’re not really sure whether you should lay it out. whereas in lesser poetry I was not. it’s appreciated when you hear it. where you’re dealing with the flimsy materials of your own mind. poetry becomes less intellectual or verbal and also becomes. could involve us enough. It’s a state that I’ve sort of . but it would be ideal if the poetry we arrive at. or. actually dig our own utterances as much as we could our own nonsensical chanting. since that area of full energy is very rarely appreciated now – well..than to what I was supposed to be good at. in one vowel. he puts his whole lung . But . So from that point of view. I’m goin’ hOOOOOme”). and probably yours still. there are reasons. lesser. like. with vocalizing. I think. which is more of a tentative thing. So it’s good. or made me more conscious of. the same kind of abandon. I was talking – or. use your breath. really all. And. whispered transmissions. joyfully or lively enough. When you’re really into it. then. which was the poetry. the only form of poetry because there is a quiet. From then on. that what he’s doing is. like “Howl” or “Kaddish. to chant and use my whole body. It was. dig it as much. even. and poetry can approach chant. actually. it’s totally appreciated. But it also turned me on to. you have the whole body into it because what is meant is something very definite emotionally. use your full breath. which is a great thing about Dylan in a way.. solid. so we’re all vocalizing together with some spirit.” but poetry that didn’t involve me so much. in a way . something where you actually use your body. That’s not. poetry can become an expression of the whole body.” I was able. rather than tentative.“How does it fEEEEEl?” (or. crudely.. It was a seed that got stuck over time and flowered somewhere. I wouldn’t say “lesser. there’s no reason that poetry. to link poetics with some form of vocalization. with real oomph! As distinct from the practice of poetry as it was all along into my day.. I realized that singing is a very good thing if it can bring that out and break through the shyness or the barrier of fear of energy or fear of expression. I began the class somewhat thoughtlessly.

but shouted or howled. and I’ve seen other poets arrive at (it) also. like (Edgar Allen) Poe’s “(The) Bells. Veena.” –“THE POLICE ARE AFTER ME! MY BEST FRIEND WAS BUSTED! WHERE ARE ALL THE ROSES?” – which was typical of the poetry of the early ‘60’s – over-generalized. Juga-Sovita. Devi Namaste. it’s a very subtle thing. you notice. but would be safe. it’s not so much what they’re saying. it wasn’t connected with sex. because you immediately get the danger of bawling out bullshit. cracked tense nervous or tearful voice – overtearful voice. you all know Poe’s “Bells”? That was what I was brought up with for rhythm. sort of mindless. but if you noticed the voice came from somewhere in the top of the throat. and someone who commands attention and authority. That’s an obvious danger. or orators say.arrived at over the years with my own poetry. and I think it’s a good thing to keep in mind. cornily taught. actually. uh. very often. Kucha. wasn’t connected with realization.. And it’s still a sound that’s really solid.” you can do it: “Hear the sledges with the bells/Silver bells/What a world of merriment their melody foretells/How they tinkle tinkle tinkle in the icy air of night /While the stars that oversprinkle/ All the heavens seem to twinkle/ With a crystalline delight/ Keeping time time time/ in a sort of Runic rhyme/ To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells/ from the jingling and the jangling of the bells bells bells/ From the twinkling and the twangling of the bells. self-realization. or realization of the whole body.” There’s a funny little rhythmic kick that used to be a little corny in poetry. Charey-Charo-Sari. (because) it wasn’t connected to (Wilhelm) Reich or something. maybe. I think it develops naturally as you sort of solidify and mature. for the voice. Mukta-Hari. or over-sentimentally tearfully voice reciting bullshit. for the vocalization of poetry is that the best poets I’ve heard. My best friend was busted. “The police are after me. So that’s an obvious danger.. say. but if you do something that’s really solid. rather than the center of the body. Or reciting in high. and it’s what reminded me of “ Jaya-Jaya-Devi. the heart chakra. Hear the loud alarm bells. I mean that’s something develop-able when you come conscious of it. it’s that the voice comes from the center of the body. from. That’s another interesting technical matter. do speak from their whole body. Some peopled have natural actor’s theatrical voices. Bhagavati Bharati. I think. Nan-dee-tah. which is a learn-able thing. possibly. brazen bells/What a world of monody their bullshit foretells…” Do you all know that from grammar school. . when you do a lot of chanting. Pustaka Hastey.

a great vowelic. So there’s vocalization.” which was: “Him the Almighty Power/Hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal void (ethereal sky)/ With hideous ruin and combustion down/ To bottomless perdition.the repeated musical use of vowels.” or Shelley’s “Epipsychidion. while writing. or vocal force. Which they also used to teach but they didn’t teach (sort of) how much fun it was.Calligraphy by Chogyam Trungpa (1980). vibratory. and too careful in what they are saying.to turn children onto nowadays again. One that my father taught me when I was young was some lines.” It was just a great voice exercise. in Book 1 of “Paradise Lost. or any variation of the vowels you can. and breath.” or “Paradise Lost. Soul is breath. And people who are too mentally hung-up on what they are saying. but it might as well be used.. In other words. I guess. I never saw my father come on like that. I didn’t see it as such.” Milton. in a way. It was nice to see my father so animated. Is there a connection between the root word “animated” and breath? Students: Yeah. you know. or blank verse. I guess. if you want to give yourself something to work with poetically. What is that called technically? – the assonance . or vibrant. I just saw it as this great streak of bopping. And we’re beginning with . with such great vocal fire. generally fail to appreciate the solidity and strength of their own organ-like tones and fail to appreciate that they can really swing with vowels also. I think. stanzaic poetry. (in fact an A) . mixed up somewhat. AG: Soul. [seed syllable AH. or maybe they did but I wasn’t listening.” which was just a spontaneous title arrived at when we had to have a title. If you look at a lot of classic great war-horses like “The Bells” or (Percy Bysshe) Shelley’s “Adonais. I guess. and not relying enough on their body and spontaneous mind. The title of the course is “Spiritual Poetics. With a vowel you can use your whole lung. And for that. you find that it’s really solid chunks of vowels that you can get your glottis into. or they didn’t teach that it was a form of yoga. or wherever vowels issue from . sure. they say. just remember A-E-I-O-U. with such breath. there to dwell/ In adamantine chains and penal fire/Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent arms. a lot of really interesting. but to have vocalization you’ve got to have vowels and vowels make the vocalization easy – you’ve got something to vocalize.

discursive thought. and maybe not even needing to attempt to stop it. simply observing it. So. as manifestation of breath. if we’re talking poetics and beginning with breath. So. the open space into which breath flows).” If you took the approach that you’re singing. as the wind through black oak leaves. I think. How many sit? (Students raise hands) AG: So. appreciation of the empty space into which breath flows. as they are etymologically connected as breath and soul have been connected. impersonal. no more presumptuous than the wind in the leaves (of course. or chanting. it is connected then to the title of the course – “Spiritual Poetics. It’s hard to stop. Vowel and intelligence and vowel and soul. via the vowel road. it’s just your wind. nearly everybody. objective. as with Chogyam’s teaching – “AH” is a basic mantra. we all know the experience of observing our mind moving and listening to chatter and gossip. You’re just making the “sounds of Aleph and Aum/ through forests of gristle. and the relationship between vowel and intelligence. as animation. not guilty). as expression (in the really easiest and most natural way of your own nature which is by breathing and by making a sound while breathing. just like the wind makes a sound in the leaves. not being able to stop it. because it’s not yourself. as articulation of breath. I’ll try to define more clearly the words I’m using. than has been understood in Western poetry – that mantric aspect of poetry and pure breath and as exhalation of breath. or breath going through you. at any rate. no more guilty than the wind in the leaves. and you might take the trouble to link that breath up to what’s going on in your mind at the moment. it’s just soul going through you.” And it’s a lot more important. then you wouldn’t have to be ashamed of expressing yourself. then you might take the trouble to fit it to whatever your subjective intellect is thinking about at the moment. or appreciation of the space into which breath flows. "AH" as the exhalation of the breath (as appreciation of breath also. I’ve lately come to . or what you remember is going on in your mind or your body at the moment. but that can be done as spontaneously as breathing (in the sense that the mind is always working. considerations of vowel. no more honorable. it’s just wind. but.considerations of breath. vowel and soul. or your poetics is as neutral. as those of you who have been meditating know. either.

ammunition. (William) Burroughs. years ago. Meditation is good practice for poetry. I think most people think somewhat in words or have words going through their head a lot of the time Though the ideal samadhi condition. AG: Camus spoke about thinking in pictures? Student: In images. actually. by various hung-up intellectuals who were afraid of meditation – that they’d be silent and they wouldn’t be able to be poets then. But. he thought in pictures. no nuttin’ goin’ on – endless mind. you know. Did he talk about that? Student: Yeah. observing your mind. So. I think twenty years ago. so providing lots of material . It was formerly seen to be. is no words. letting loose with the particulars of what you were just thinking about. AG: Aha! Well.. I think. it’s not the opposite – it’s not the enemy of poetry. lots of material to work with.think of poetry as the possibility of simply articulating that. told me that he didn’t think in words. is true Student: Is that what (Albert) Camus talks about? AG: I didn’t read anything on that. I seem to tend to think in words. and laying it out. since you’re thinking all the time. There’s always some kind of discursive thought or lyrical thought or observation going on – very often verbal. and. I don’t know. did he mean verbal images or picture images? Student: Picture. And in that respect. occasionally. apparently. I don’t think. . in that sense. In other words. Whether that’s universal or not. while thinking and remembering maybe one or two thoughts back. all it does is give you lots of space and place and time to recollect what’s going on in your mind. because all you’re doing is loosening the particulars.. which is very interesting. it’s very close to meditation. as easy as breathing. There’s a problem.

the fishermen go down and pull in their nets from the sea. too. rocking back and forth. a very mysterious.” Like a lot of babies do. which I think adults (use). and he said. “Sometimes French. “I think in rhythm” . which occurred before the line (came) and which was filled in by the words. and I think. quite a bit in New York. it’s likely true. Un-un-un-un-uh-ah. Words may change with a stable rhythm. riding in a car (I’m trying to be specific and practical about it). too something that he had observed. Dan-duh-duh Dah Dad-duh-duh-dah.” So it was actually a practical thing. A lot of Nova Express and The Ticket That Exploded are written that way. duh-Dah-du-dah-dah-dah-Dah-dah. Dan-duh-duh-duh Dan-duh-duh-duh Dan-duh-duh-duh-duh. Hands pulling in nets from the sea – it was like something out of Saint-John Perse or Rimbaud – just a pure image. or. every morning in Tangier. He was just remembering that picture. on the beach. But (William) Burroughs was claiming that his thought was silent pictures. sometimes Spanish. And I wondered where it came from and later asked. “Hands pulling in nets from the sea. asked me in an elevator in Moscow how I thought. which is true. the Russian poet. Like a lot of babies do in cradles. like silent movies. cuts them up and reshuffles them. that was a definitive physiological rhythm thing. what language I thought in. And to get a rhythm . I think in rhythm. beautiful image.AG: Well. “Oh.” or some such dance rhythm as being a great thing to write a poem about. some people think “Un-un-unun-uh-ah. I’ve had in my head the “Dah-duh-duh-Dah-duh-duh-Dah-duh-du-duh. duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-Dah-du-du-dah” – “Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows” . DAH. “Dahdah. sometimes. one time I was thinking of. just coming up like that. But usually they occurred together.” which is. He thinks in silent movies. visual thought-forms. so. in other words. Bill?” because I really was curious about how he worked. singing to themselves – little sing-song things which are rhythmical. uh. mostly English. (Andrei) Voznesensky.which is another interesting thing. like on the subway. like. and I said. He reshuffles them very often. and he said. for years.” And he said. “What are you thinking about. and I said. I remember twelve years ago in Tangier him sitting at a typewriter sort of staring into space. we do see flashes of images all the time.like that. Like. but his primary method is simply transcription of thought-forms. considering the quality of his prose-poetry. and then his method of writing is transcription of the pictures he sees flashing by.

Student : (unintelligible) AG: Well. for that one long. I think. be goofy . which I guess would be covered by what I was talking about (with) vowel assonance. “q’s.” yes – “the casting of visual images on the mind. you could say Burroughs’ primary mode of thought is phanopoetic. of the words. Student: (unintelligible – phanopoeia?) AG.” the music. you know. and “logopoeia. “melopoeia... or the funny-ness of the conjunction. rhythmic.” was it? What was the definition? Phanopoeia? Student : (unintelligible) AG: No. the “casting.like that you have to have that long vowelic breath. Pound used the word.” Oh! You said that an image should have the quality of “phanopoeia. If you wanted to . Pound had three . You had a question? Student: (unintelligible . “p’s.” “the dance of the intellect among words” – the wittiness or funny-ness of the images. run..” which is “the casting of a visual image on the mind” – on “the mind’s eye.. of the juxtaposition. to make a poem interesting. but I don’t think anybody would profit from the formulation (unless anyone wanted formulations). (“phanopoesia”) . also. it probably would be better off for us if we didn’t have a name for it. though it would be more detailed (his analysis of melopoeia would include consonantal trickery and syncopation – “t’s.” maybe. just.. raw practice. raw data. he said.. and “titties”). (Ezra) Pound’s “phanopoeia. Just consider it as. It’s absolutely necessary. That’s something – just native intelligence and shrewdness on your part.Is there a name for this?) AG: Well. that the combination of the words and the words themselves.

or to get Finnegan’s Wake.. logopoeia. Dylan’s long vowels. mind-body.. back to . or reverberating. what to put down? The answer. Kerouac. One..” – which is what six-year-olds think – about every third thought . so it’s not a big hassle. phanopoeia. in the line of Gertrude Stein and more of Kerouac. Pound’s was more of a literary formulation. rhymes. It’s pieced together synthetically.. So the problem.. when you get down to it. very funny. in a way. then? So it comes from the mind (whatever that Is). melopoeia. then. Is that Bhagavan Das? Students: Yeah AG: . more.” That’s also Shakespeare – “every third thought. where does the actual material come from. It comes from the consciousness. spirit. it’s like driving on a road. We think in pictures. upstairs. Side two continues – ed. the oddity freshness of the mind. sort of solitary improvisation..” “in the dread vast and middle of the night” – vast and middle. because everything is going so fast. so I was trying to put it in the context of our own experience.or strange or interesting or elegant. is being… [Side one of the recording ends here. two problems. if you are practicing.vowels. as I see it. Well. that. or rock dance vocalization. words. in-between themselves – “in the dread vast and middle of the night” (Shakespeare).. you just . then. universal mind babble. is that you don’t get a chance to choose.” So..“Every third thought shall be my grave. Dylan stretching out his vowels (for a) long time. “In the dread vast and middle of the night. the juxtaposition is so strange and odd that it’s funny. Everyone does it all the time. I guess. “Every third thought shall be my grave. “Genius is funny” – speaking of the quality of juxtaposition of words. or blues-shouting. is. but. It makes you laugh with appreciation of freshness of mind.] AG: … rhapsody. transmission of your thought.. spontaneous transcription. and so. or meditating. how do you choose. Or Bhagavan Das’s stretching out his vowels a long time. I’d rather stick with vowels because that’s what we know about more. that’s like a weird. and it’s also related to mantra. listening to Shakespeare said. I started on melopoeia . It wasn’t quite yet connected up to the practice of yoga and meditation that we know.

I want to go into that. with another mind. So you just have to chance whatever you can. and it’s a pretty good critic. and whatever you can manage physically to write down. somehow or other. or Allen Tate’s mind. and “beatnik” writers being un-selective. is it. if you leave . Whatever you can remember. But I think that’s too hard – that’s too much work. “eyeball it. really. rather than what you think you’re supposed to be thinking. because the mind. and you had to intercede or intervene on your mind. and that selection was so important.” because that used to be a big academic argument – the principle of selectivity.have to follow the road and take turns. Student: Does it always have to do with what you choose to use . as the principle of selection. somebody else’s mind actually. from somewhere else. you don’t have any measuring-rod. or is your material. and ease of transcription. or (Robert Penn) Warren’s mind (those were the critic minds).. Yeah. and overcoming resistance to transcription. So. or writing. or tape-recording. or some “objective” mind. and only choose the (most) loftiest thoughts. is your poem. And you’ve got to trust that. I don’t know of any scientific method for the artist … measuring-rod . from that point of view. It will only get you tangled up in a feedback loop of some sort.. The problem is to stay with what you were really thinking. or on the air. (it’s) that physical activity determines what gets laid out on the paper. There’s almost a process of automatic selection . or (Cleanth) Brooks mind.whether you’re typing. the physical process of writing (or vocalizing. or the most poetic thoughts. except your own mind. in about four sentences. I would say. or (using a) tape-recorder (amassing) amounts of material in that way? AG: Right. sort of. Lionel Trilling’s mind. because you’ll forget what you are thinking and you’ll think what you’re supposed to be thinking.” as a carpenter would say. In other words. In other words. You had to use somebody else’s mind. Very much so. is what you got.whatever you can draw in in your net. So you’ve got to be a little athletic in that. the actual writingprocess. in the sense of developing means of transcription. that you really had to make fine intellectual distinctions between different kinds of thoughts. I just want to get to the nub of “selection. to choose among the thoughts. the only thing that you can get down is what you remember and what you can write down. and pick up whatever you can. actually. that’s usable. or babbling spontaneously).

it’s (a) universal .. the rawest and goofiest and strangest and most eccentric. including myself – modesty. I remembered it. too naked. and we were living together. they’d be all sorts of images rise. abandoning the idea of being a prophet with honor and dignity. abandoning any careerism. it means abandoning being a poet. most universal. it’s an archetype. really abandoning. or too much . Shyness.. too specialized. I got so scared of the domestic situation that I didn’t write that dream down. I think that’s the most important point – the parts that embarrass you most are usually. so you (don’t) want to put it (them) down. and abandoning the glory of poetry and just settling down in the muck of your own mind. too personal. Actually. or something . He’s very much anti-smoking. And that was something I learned from (Jack) Kerouac. which was that spontaneous writing could be embarrassing. In other words. and which you won’t show people. I thought that was just my scene. too raw. Fortunately. too damaging to one’s own self-image.” It tends to cling to its real obsession(s)-preoccupations. like vomiting out a piece of liver. most specific. abandoning the idea of even writing poetry. most representative. Peter Orlovsky caught me smoking. that there’s a tendency toward censorship. fucking-your-mother. the most interesting poetically. giving up as hopeless. too revealing... really.it alone a little bit and accept it. and. are usually the most naked of all. at the same time. tends to “select its own society. because most individual. Like. and in the dream he was so dismayed that he vomited up his liver! And I realized I was violating something sacrosanct and rooted in him and something real.. That’s a real problem with everybody. Recurrent thoughts finally do get out. much as anything is an archetype. To write secretly. and it’s no longer . And the way that’s practiced is you take it out a week later and you look at it. Things that are really recurrent do come up and are memorable. But it was actually one of the more interesting dream poem-possibilities that I’d had in the last month. too irrelevant. separate “thinks” (sic) that will be unappetizing. And one really difficult part is. or could seem to be embarrassing. I failed to write down a dream the other day. too individualistic. too cranky. To write for nobody’s eye and nobody’s ear but your own so you can actually be free to say anything you want. giving up. that some thoughts seem too embarrassing. abandoning the possibility of really expressing yourself to the nations of the world. too goofy. but.. So the cure for that is to write things down which you will not publish. most particular. But in the moment of writing.

He was afraid his mother would read his secret thoughts. got into the habit of making copies of all the letters he typed to his friends.embarrassing. or his sexual activities. And I found that it my case to be so – that for years I wrote very formal rhymed verse and. and disapprove of his friends. The blood has dried. you arrive at a genuine piece of writing. ideas of what I was supposed to be like as a poet. a journal which I’ve kept continuously from ’46 on. very similar to a journal I published called Indian Journals (1996). So it’s almost like if you can catch yourself not writing poetry but writing down what you’re really thinking. or “beatnik” habits. their main schtick. his masturbation. was keeping. It seems. especially among younger poets – to find that the form of writing that they didn’t conceive of as their main thing. in the sense of no bullshit to impress others. break my own ideals. But you really have to make a resolution to write just for yourself. because it would offend too many people (I thought).like notes to themselves. I realized it could never be published. and. or mountain-tops – was actually more interesting. at the same time. that’s a common occurrence. whatever). than the stuff they prepared as poetry. and they turned out to be more poetry than his poetry. of self-expression and that may be more interesting than what you’re careeristic- . I think. My own experience of “Howl” was precisely that – that. and that was really beautiful. sort of. or chanting to themselves walking across Brooklyn Bridge. I decided I’d let loose whatever I wanted to let loose with and say what I really had on my mind and not write a “poem. AG: Sure. by that time. once written. but really for yourself. a loose erratic journal. and just write whatever I had in mind. Yeah. not writing poetry to impress yourself but just writing what yourself is saying. like. actively.” finally. a Canadian poet. particularly my family (which. later on. break my own forms. funny. is a problem Kerouac had too. after writing some very formulistic poetry. or something – the drinking? Who knows? The snot. And I found that little fragments from the journal were a little more hot that anything I’d written down and prepared and rhymed and poeticized with the idea of writing poetry. or just sort of banjo-chanting by themselves. their main poem . or their journals or letters. or his dopesmoking. Yeah? Student: A friend of mine once. in a sense. And one day he read them as such.

as distinct from something with the inheritance of a lot of other people’s styles. and selected about eight (to) ten little fragments. They were little pure. longer pieces./ saying “I love you/ I love you more than anybody” – or – “How sick I am!/ Does this thought always come to everybody?” (“That thought always comes to me with horror/ Is it this strange for everybody?”) – “(But) such fugitive feelings have always been my métier” (that’s a little literary) – “Baudelaire. and re-arranged them from prose into little poetry lines. piece of mind-jump. and sent it to him. that plain. in the writing. odd./ There were far more famous men:/ May boys amaze the world to arm. and that forms a book called Empty Mirror (1961). “These were his moments of solitude …” No. actually.” And I sent him more. I sent him a whole bunch of poems that I’d prepared. “This is it! This is active. “It’s Christmas./ And then fearful heroes fall to harm.” It went on and on. So it was genuine./ Yet their charms are changed. They were near-perfect. and these are not perfect. It was sort of natural – which was unfaked. He . besides Kerouac. which was my own. imitating Williams. now. that were just awkward little notes to myself. raw. but they were imitation. almost. who was William Carlos Williams./ But the shambles is a sham/ A few angels on a farm/ Fare more fancy with their lamb. in one piece. They’re singing Christmas carols down the block in front of the department stores on 14th Street. yet he had great (joyful) moments staring into space/ Looking at his image in eternity” (“Looking into the middle distance. So I went through my notebook-journal prose-pieces. for that mode. If fame were not a fickle charm. these were his moments of identity (it’s solitude that produces these thoughts). “This is it! Have you got any more of these?” He immediately responded. personal realities that I had to deal with. kissing my own lips. I had a good guru for that. but he said.” Well. like – “If money made the mind more sane. And he said. A sample would be – “I made love to myself/ in the mirror./ or money mellowed in the bowel/ A hunger beyond hunger’s pain/ Or money choked the mortal growl/ And made the groaner grin again/ Or did the laughing lamb embolden/ I’d go make money and be golden. was what made Williams say. to get rid of two or three pages of prefatory bla-bla-bla and just keep what was exciting and raw. which was awkward. contemplating his image in eternity”). which was raw. they weren’t my real thought entirely. “In that mode perfection is basic.ly considering as your poem. exhibition of actual native thought. and he told me. It was pretty good.

an external. Sometimes. and so there’s always a struggle to find your mind again. that you’ve got to pay attention to. so that you’re really free to write down what you want to write. or wasn’t writing my own mind. subtly manufacture more to make a more pleasing journal. So as soon as you begin to get that ambitious then. sometimes. I think. one of the technical aids would be to stick to poems that you’re not going to publish.said even one or two lines of really active statement are more interesting than a lot of “poetry. but actually. of course. while you’re doing that. so aware of thoughts that I would. And I saw where my natural bent was. continually. (William Carlos) Williams used the dot . to return to your own mind. Before that. then. not loose track of the root of your feelings and self and embarrassments. I didn’t have my own mind. just break it off in the middle. I got so attached to thoughts. I found that keeping journals. college idea of what it was. whatever you can get down. clarified. be playful and break it off in the middle. playfulness. precipitated. And that immediately catalyzed. as I say. with journals. not get too sophisticated. If it’s playful enough. keep track of your own mind. actually. my own thinking about it. Student: Do you find that even just transcribing down straight thoughts tends to focus your attachment to your thoughts sometimes? I found that… AG: Focus your attachment? What do you mean? Student: Yeah. learned. it’s alright. I was imitating what I thought should be poetry. So then there’s this struggle. you begin overlaying it. there’s something else going on – an undertow of real thought.” Just a few lines of real thought are more useful to other people and yourself than a big frame about it. exactly. and use that as the basis for heroic epic poetry. So maybe you start getting baroque and then interrupt it. crystallized. or where my own mind was. an outside. AG: Well. there’s a certain amount of baroque elegance that can be indulged in. So you can just have little poems of just fragments of thoughts. I had an idea. Because that’s just sheer abundance and playfulness. just like in meditation. So. yeah. then.

you mean. because it was one of the things which turned me on to raw thought as poetry. Student: How did you use that stuff for material and what could you possibly do afterwards that wouldn’t super-impose that other kind of stuff you’re trying to get away with . to find out what you’ve got already. At least to begin with..for an unfinished sentence. they’re the poem.. as you say. a little free-associational piece. like the kind of note you might write to yourself drunk which wasn’t meant as a poem. or of practice. a dot extended out like a period but in the middle of the line . It should be. Student: Oh! AG: You don’t have to work any more on it. an unfinished thought. but. not get away with)? AG: Yeah. which was recovered from his papers and which was one of his most charming personal pieces. I think.” which was like a drunken suicide-note to himself (I’ll try and bring it in and read it. (I mean. you use those fragments of thoughts as material – what are you using them as material for? AG: That’s the . I don’t think it’s worth working on anything beyond that. It takes a lot of practice just to get down what you’ve got already.. You use that stuff to publish. get away from.. by material? Or what? Student: Forget publishing. in a really interesting poem which you might look up. to get it down. You can worry about it later. that’s it. Student: Really? AG: No. “Havana Rose. You don’t have to do any more work. The whole process of poetry is without any work at all. as Hart Crane did. There might be some work later on but until you establish this basis of honesty.or just a dash could be used. I mean it’s really so charming .

Student: Boy. so that’s nothing .. for travelling. you realize. June 1. Well. more than anybody wants to read. because I’m building a house. Buchenwald. cancer. I use a pocket notebook.29 cents! AG: Yeah. or. or once every week. To catch myself and write it down. You can only do it once a day. so that brings up . it’s cheap too . brings us back to the question of materials. for getting thoughts on the wing. you build up a total body of work by the end of your life that will be too much to read! If you do a few . basically. sweet oleanders down the middle of the strip of the freeway?” Well. or one every two months. Student: Does that mean catching yourself with something interesting you said. Sacto Airport. and because definite. practicing five minutes a day writing. So that brings up. To really catch yourself thinking.. used tools. petro-chemical. oddly enough. I can’t do it that often. heavy-metal. thinking something interesting. Cost Plus. And the title is – “On The Way To Pick Up Peter. where does that… AG: Well. as much as Anacreon. Mission and 24th Street – So Cal Hardware. And if you can do one little four-line fragment a month. well.” Not much of an entry. Workingman’s Headquarters.. tatami mats. is this . there are different (things). it’s mixed up. interesting. it’s more. trapped yourself in a moment you didn’t like (or maybe did like a lot). what you use for transcription. Well. If you’re young and you start out four-lines-amonth. you’ve got it made for the rest of your life. 29 cents and a 19-cent ballpoint pen is all the investment you need. or once a month even. slate.. I don’t know. hell-rat. work shoes. You’ll be better than Sappho! – as much as Sappho. it’s mixed up with addresses for “granite. I generally use one a month. asbestos sheet 4 x 8. That’s for moving around. oak. Olivehurst turn-off on Route 70 – Stanley Tools. and because you really did catch yourself unwittingly. “how do you catch yourself?” and how to be prepared to catch yourself. and because there.and hard. two bundles. What I use. “Dinosaur. It was part of a conversation with Gary Snyder.five minutes a day. because clear.

I was taking advantage of writing the poem. I did that. Actually. no chest to put on. your underwear.” So that was just a thought. I was in Wyoming. I messed with it. (Pablo) Neruda had died and I read it in the paper before I went in to sit. Well.much. Neruda’s not breathing – “Some breath breathes not at all. Then. I went on later. It was a little more literary. Student: Did it come out like that? AG: Exactly. but it was “now your shoes have no feet and your neck-tie has no neck. “Nothing lonelier than being on a Greyhound crossing Donner Pass on this Super Highway 80. I added the first line – “Some breath breathes out Atlantis Adonais” and “Canto General” because I was thinking of Neruda. yeah. but then. and I was thinking about breathing. I shined. the thought. rolling over concrete. I had a little notebook and a couple of times I interrupted the sitting to write something down. age 20. Student: When you’ve done meditating. that’s funny. past the pines and icy Castle Peak. and – “Some breath breathes out Atlantis Adonais/ Some breath breathes out Bombs and dog barks/ Some breath breathes over Rendezvous Mountain/ Some breath breathes not at all. Student . using Williams’ . AG: Well. sometimes I take this (notebook) to meditation and I sneak in a couple of lines or go to the bathroom. I wrote more.. at the seminary. but the more wasn’t any good. do you ever sit and jot down some of the neat stuff that happened in the last. Did you shine it up a little? AG: No. jeez.” And I thought.. I published the whole thing. I went down to the bathroom then and wrote a little more. It was just that nut. sitting for that three months (of) September to December last year. that I pulled out my notebook and wrote. through Truckee to Reno.” It was so mysterious and strange. later on. I didn’t have to mess with it.” or something.

. Also. 1-2-3-4. more honest and less weighty. the better. rather than trying to construct something that . I put them in. and that was the end of my thought. I’ll just have that little four lines – “Some breath breathes not at all.. so you’d naturally go back there. I’ll just make that little piece. You get more chance of being read if you stick to what you know. and have done so.. or wonder at being there again – in a body. in a book. sitting. That’s a place you always go back to when you’re sitting. The swifter we are at it.. teaching me more. finally. you want to change? AG: I don’t know if you can intentionally do it. when you look back later. AG: If they’re related.” Student: Do you think it’s possible to get . breathing. and that was a very definite end. but you might find yourself back. less ambitious. at the same time.your sitting. I think. your appreciation of space in front of you. And I got more and more interested in just the bare bones of the process as being enough – more exemplary teaching more to other people and. and. less egotistical.principle of just a few active lines are better than something surrounded by fuzzy distracting material. Though I mean “basic. the freshness of that knowledge.. something that you.” It’s enough. If I make a book. Student: Do you ever find a few fragments that were separate for a long time and they were. so if I wanted another poem. less heavy-handed. I just reduced it to that little piece. less heavy. It’s said there. or sometimes when you’re writing. something that you wrote (and). to go back to the place you were when you were writing that.” in terms of your feelings .“Some breath breathes not at all.. particularly if the place where you were was a basic place. your breathing. There’s more writing than anyone can read. or something. your appreciation of your eyeballs. but it was fakery. Another thought would be another poem. Earlier. there’s an awful lot of writing by now. but then the content (Neruda’s death) you couldn’t go back to. What else? You can’t go on from there . at the same time. I used to try and tie them together as big formal poems. your posture. then begin another.

in this mode. because one might run out at a crucial moment. the problem of transcription becomes a very practical.you don’t know. and playing. there’s also that element of invention and comedy and friendliness that also is useful and can sometimes arrive at a genuine soul feeling. because you never know when you’re going to be writing. now. or a poem (indecipherable) that you can write about. or.. and actually write every day and produce beautiful things. Other people get up 9 to 5. Yeah? Student: Are you talking about. and always being prepared with at least two pens. I’ve never been able to write a poem where I had a preconceived idea. So. Though. Michael McClure has managed to get up before his family and actually sit down between 7 and 9. (indecipherable). but… . because it always turned out different. Student: What do you think about… AG: Preconceived idea of a certain poem? Student: Yeah. in the process of trying to construct something using your spontaneous mind. Student: What kind of an idea. If you’re a real pro.. or 9 to 3. Student: Neither have I. you’ve got to be prepared all the time. sort of an idea behind it… AG: I’ve never been able to do it. always. writing with preconceived ideas for a sort of poem or are you just talking about as it comes up? AG: As it comes up. grounded problem of what kind of notebook you use. AG: Well. writing as a.

that man is. If it’s a recurrent perception. It’s a corny old idea. finally. and it sounded pretty good. I said. looks back on it all. snotty. Gary Snyder recently wrote a poem that did have a preconceived idea. or temporary metaphysics that you’ve arrived at on the basis of your latest samadhi – I wouldn’t trust it as material. But when I heard him read it. again. or comes up so strongly clear – “Some breath breathes not at all” – so you take your notebook out and write it. for me. because. because. maybe it’s true? Student: That’s sort of what I had in mind. I find my language is stilted and artificial and arbitrary and too snobby. finally. It’s too wobbly. later on. trying to reconstruct something like that.AG: So why bother? Why go to all that trouble? If an idea is recurrent. in that sense preconceived. that you might as well write about. generally. That somebody said it. like. It’s sort of an idea-idea. the language I arrive at constructing something like that. I don’t bother with that. in which the biota was looking for a form to produce brain and eyeballs. an evolutionary creature. The language you arrive at. I feel I’m trying to get away with something and sneak it over as an idea. then you got it. so that it could look at itself from high. you know. like. and probably everybody’s thought it and written about it at one time or other in high school essays about the future. it’s too shifty. that. is too artificial for me to recite and hold voice and really feel and believe in. an old thought. though it was nice to hear it said. Student: It encourages me that India has had this experience of yoga and meditation for a . or just sort of an accumulation of thinking that idea over so many times that it seems reasonable. finally. I don’t know if it’s really a genuine visionary perception. if a recurrent perception comes up at the time of writing. I don’t know if it’s a perception. it so often comes up. which is. in my case. but Gary finally put it down. creepy. and not just a preconception based on a lot of reading and sociology. AG: Well. self-y. He wrote a book that was a history of the last 60 billion years on earth.” but one of those archetypal fakes. “Gee. my language. which talked about the flowering of the brain. well that’s another fake idea.

1547]. here. I don’t agree with you. but they don’t write things about suicide-notes and they don’t subject you to the garbage of the mind. 1498c. and (that) breath is basic .. AG: If you think the mind is. Many poems by Kabir are just spoken as such… Student: Yeah. I mean.. and the understanding that mantra quality. AG: They sure do! Student: They write the Vedas and the write the hymns to the deities.. Student: Yeah. Baul songs are improvised in spontaneous mind. and taken down. Poems by Meerabai [c. . Well.millennia.. tho’ I don’t get the sense that Hindus write poetry like yours.that aspect. I’m saying. but look at the… AG: . Student: Can you give me an example? AG: Yes. the mind is the mind. that aspect. you’ve got to arrive at a level of mind that’s clear. Student: You don’t have to buy… AG: Well. AG: And ideas about the aspect of spontaneous mind are very basic in Tibet and Japan and India. I don’t know if I want to buy that “garbage” phrase. first of all. There’s a whole branch of Indian poetry which impinges on what we’ve been talking about – the vocalization and vowel and all that is basic to Indian poetry.

then you’re not quarreling with the method. that’s something we haven’t fully described. haven’t gotten to yet. it’s not garbage. or for normal William Carlos Williams experience. Student: Yeah. It’s very varied. Student: Yeah. . I have a book on it. AG: The one I had in mind was Obscure Religious Cults by Shashibhusan Dasgupta [1911-1964] which has some. Student: For sexual experience? AG: Or for loneliness-experience. or using religious imagery as a mask for sexual experience. you’re quarreling with the elevation of the mind. Spontaneous at another point could be inspirational. I would say. Student: . Spontaneous mind can be spontaneous at different levels. then. so I’ll bring some in. AG: Okay. my sense is. The more reflectively thought-out – pseudo. AG: Well.. that seems the difference. very strange. but still. AG: Well. Student: But their poetry mostly all describes their religious experience..where your mind is coming from when you’re being spontaneous.. the more it’s an attempt at spontaneity with the intervention of self-consciousness and literary overtones. AG: Okay. Spontaneous at one point could be just garbage. which I was going to use as a text. really... that the more genuinely spontaneous it is. funny poems. Remember. I’ve read some of it. But the Baul tradition..Student: Well. that there are different levels of inspiration. the less elevated it will be.

write garbage... as distinct from the greediness of it. . the simplicity of the practice. as distinct from the ambitiousness of it. I’ll agree there. Student: Or without writing a song with some kind of input? AG: Yeah.. I’ll agree. that process will continue forever. if we are just writing what the mind is thinking. that the mind won’t want to think about deity or emptiness. there’s a need for more self-conscious. Student: Without writing a hymn to a deity? AG: Yeah. Student: You’ll always be writing about the garbage in our mind. on the application of practice. and the application of meditation with sincerity and practice. I think most people who try and write spontaneously. Student: Well that’s why I’m saying. really. AG: You’re assuming that the mind won’t arrive by itself at its own source.. Student: But. Student: Without any focus of a religious nature? AG: Yeah. the clarity of the practice.I’m trying to describe a general path or practice to get to the mind. and how far in the mind we get. I think most people who try and write spontaneously do write garbage. it depends. I mean. AG: Yeah. perhaps. yeah.

or… Student: Yeah. in your choosing what you’re going to present outward as a poem. AG: Baul poetry is sung spontaneously very often.” Student: Well.. And I think that until you are accomplished in the practice of observing your own mind and transcribing it. writing a lot. and trying rationally to create an extension of the idea. of a hymn. rather than ambitious. you won’t observe your mind.. You gotta practice a lot. They practice it. then. In other words. . you don’t have a. Student: It seems to me that the Bauls don’t keep books for all the things they don’t want to show people. if you’re improvising on the stage. or an image. It’s just that they’ve got a lot of practice at getting to the root of their thought. I think that would be contrary to this practice. or you’ve gotta get to good accidents. you’re saying you have to have a pre-supposition. (you have no) chance to select. I mean. you can’t start off with a pre-fixed idea. sing it a lot.. Student: Well is that your understanding of how Baul poetry is written.AG: Well you better define what you mean by “self-conscious. So you have selectivity there in your editing. however. they practice a lot. AG: Well. pre-context. because. there – that is. There is a certain amount of selectivity in what you might want to show to other people or publish. the fragments that I showed Williams were just five or six lines out of hundreds of pages of bullshit – but there were maybe five or six lines that I said something that was natural. if you’re writing. So this kind of writing requires writing quite a bit. AG: Are you saying then. you just have to take what you got. you’ll be observing the idea. having the name of a deity in mind when you’re trying to..

your unconscious. of course. Then there is the tradition of the qawwali. which is where poets get together. I thought you were being inaccurate. Jahan’s Taj Mahal’s birthday. AG: Sometimes Student: Haiku has a certain number of syllables. such as the Bauls. which extended something that Kerouac had said. Meerabai. Most of the great saint poets didn’t even write their stuff down (but) it was all spontaneous utterance. however you want to rationalize it or describe it. But sometimes it’s oral transmission and sometimes they don’t have books. Actually Chogyam Rinpoche told me something about two years ago. AG: Not only the Bauls. I know they have books full of things they want to show people. the discipline. things that he’d arrived at and kept. and then when you’re writing.” Mind is shapely. in India. if you were saying that. having a mind and knowing it. made up on the spot. art is shapely. Then in Japan there’s an old tradition of spontaneous calligraphy. which determines what comes out. but Purna Das had things in mind which he passed on to his son. and you can’t say that’s less structured than a tradition of oral transmission. So. and spent all night capping each other with improvised songs. there is no ancient tradition of spontaneous utterance in poetic form. Student: But even the spontaneity is done within a certain form. That process has to be totally spontaneous. you’ve got Kabir. “If the mind is shapely.AG: I’m not sure what their practice is. things that they’ve done. Student: But you’ve got an internal structure in your mind. which I have seen practiced. and spontaneous painting. say. in a sense. on Christmas. So it’s a question of knowing your own mind. and he said. and spontaneous haikus. Kerouac and I were worrying about this problem. relying on observation of the mind at that moment. . but you’ve got the Baul form. your writing will be interesting according to that mind. or trying to formulate it. the art will be shapely. at the Taj Mahal. would be.

when you’re spontaneously reflecting on that world.. or. (Poet Diane di Prima is in the class and speaks out: I’m seeing there’s something in the content of your head that you don’t want to look at. Well. Student: But just syntax.. then. and some are utterly informal and open like William Carlos Williams’ poetry. like the haiku and like blues. language is form. but mostly the blues). If you’re going to start waiting to be enlightened to start writing poetry . and mind can be used as a unique correlate with world. if you want to get formal. in America. but I’ll go check and find out. I can’t give you an example. very definite forms. It’s gonna have form. the most extensive practice of spontaneous form is the blues (and calypso. or with language. that you’re labeling “garbage. if you live in India and you have different practices. and if you live in a different world. it’s gonna have that form. On of the forms I’d like to teach here (Naropa) is the practical application of blues to Buddhist . There are certain open poems. I fear that you’re going … you’re imposing all sorts of prohibitions on your poetry. AG: We’re all enlightened! Fuck that bullshit enlightenment! There is no enlightenment. Student: Can you give me an example of that . you’re gonna have a different poem. I think Milarepa is an example of spontaneity without form in certain poems. AG: Well. Pardon me? Student: But he was enlightened.AG: Some spontaneous forms are very formal.” Student: Part of this business of elevation seems to deal with just the world you live in. and that has a very strong form.spontaneity without form? AG: Yes I believe there are.. with proposition..

the little one is better for zafu). or ’72. now. let’s see – “Allen Ginsberg 10 October 1993.. USA. It’s huge. What time is it now and how much time do we have? Student: It’s 25 ‘til. the first thought you thought before you thought you should have a better thought. I was writing a spontaneous chain poem with Chogyam. But the problem is. So it’s a question of catching yourself at your first open thought.” That was sort of the formula to sum everything up. the other phrase.. for zafu-side (well. If you stick with those first flashes. 155-page. In other words. for heavy-duty transcription..m. and then after that you begin imposing names and forms and all that. I bought it last Fall and I’ve got. empty. the first thought you had on your mind. I guess. and he said. This begins. over the years. Staying with your subject. that was a key phrase from 1971. elevated. for heavy-duty work. here in Boulder .. at least according to the Buddhist formulations. But we’ve deviated a little from the subject. So maybe from Fall to now. lots of time). I’ve used school copybooks and done really great things in those.” That is to say.meditation or something.42 p. for home.. a really great giant-size. best thought. Notebook journal diary dreambook poetry composition book meditation .. but for formal work. 3. best thought. then you’re alright. how do you get to that first thought? That’s always the problem. ledger. This (one) was bought in Idaho Falls at a Mormon bookshop. “First thought. . where you’ve got lots of space. this is the main body of what I’ve written. Idaho. then a big notebook is really useful – any kind of big notebook (I’ve found. AG: And we have till when? Quarter of? Diane Di Prima: Fifteen minutes. sunyata thought. before you thought you should have a more formal thought – first thought.. for beside. I’ve filled about 129 pages.wall cubicle basement men’s room police station Idaho Falls. which was forms of notebooks. or. things I liked) and I’ve used beautiful ledgers. “First thought is best thought. which I wanted to keep to something simple. the first thought is the great. we finally agreed. But I didn’t finish. non-cosmic. cosmic. AG: Okay.

perhaps.” I didn’t get to use it for about a month. if you don’t pay attention to the garbage of your mind.accounting blank line page haiku register epic container fantasy deposit. on the other hand. and was kind of mysterious and poetic. “Six a. Strange flash of rectum in the sheets – nobody there but the loose hole. Actually. but I couldn’t get in the bed. indicted.” Well..Hara Hara Maha Deva Sham-bow. Student: Is he going to be here (at Naropa) at all? AG: I don’t know.” The next thing is “Hara Hara Maha Deva Sham-bow Kash-ee Vish. and you gotta... “November 28th. You gotta just take what comes.” And the first entry is . you’ll miss. if you don’t have good habits of attention to what’s actually happening. Agnew resigns Vice-Presidency. Kash-ee Vish-va-hasha-gong-gay” (which I got from Bhagwan Das). pleads guilty. Student: Why? AG: Because if you don’t pay.m. I thought that was pretty elevated thought.“Water dripping and gurgling in the urinal basement men’s room Idaho Falls police station. couldn’t get my pecker up. it was a dream. and it actually expressed certain basic aspects of my relationship with Burroughs. Saw his asshole flashing like a cunt. trying to fuck William Seward Burroughs in the ass. It was real. more elevated thoughts. .. and had to do with a very deep relationship..) [Permission to reprint this transcribed lecture provided by Allen Ginsberg Trust. you gotta. But. He was going to come up and… (tape runs out before the class is over. woke from dream and later remembered in Hotel Europe with Vajrayana Buddhists. fined and sentenced in the blink of an eye. I haven’t been in touch with him. You gotta take what comes. pay attention to that or you lose track of your mind. you’ll never know what’s going on. you can call that garbage if you want.

This text is a slightly edited version of the originally published text at the AG Trust by Jim Cohn.] . Museum of American Poetics.allenginsberg. 2011. September 23.php?page=spiritual-poetics.org/index.Originally published at http://www.

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