Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mind, Mouth and Page - 56 (Petit Mal Interlude)


[August 1975, Allen's NAROPA William Carlos Williams class ("Mind, Mouth and Page"), a temporary pause in the class as one of the students suffers a petit mal epilepsy seizure.]

AG: Maybe you better get out? - or can somebody help Tom? - and some air maybe? - What is needed? or what would be helpful? - It might be good for someone to help him out or get some air. What do you think? - It's this room, I'm telling you. It's really heavy in here.

Peter Orlovsky: Should we bring the fan maybe over there?

AG: Or maybe (he should) sit by the fan?

Student: Yeah, I'll...

AG: Why don't you sit by the fan? It'd be better. By the fan. Sit over there, you'd get more air, fresh air. Just change seats with someone

Student: Yeah

AG: Yeah.. Can you.. Is that better?

Student: Yeah, sure.

Peter Orlovsky: Set in on high or low?

AG: High

Student: High

AG: If it doesn't make too much noise.

Student: Is that too much noise?

AG: It's taking off! Better turn it (down). Is it too close to that mike?

Student: (I see no effect on) the readings. I don't think it makes any difference.

AG: Okay.

Student: I'd go low with it.

AG (to Peter Orlovsky): Low, Peter, yeah.

Student (to everyone): I'm sorry, folks!

AG: Okay. Peter is a trained nurse so just let him know

Student: ...petit mal seizures...

AG: What is that? What is that called? petit mal?

Student: petit mal

AG: Uh-huh

Student: I'm sure if I had...

AG: What happens just before you go into that? Is there (Are there) any perceptions?

Student: I'm not sure whether... I think it's just before I get a tingling feeling through my body...

AG: Uh-huh

Student: ...which I've been sort of working on describing (actually) in some of (my) poems...

AG: Yeah

Student: (There's some I) wrote (in) the last week or two. It's just that knowledge hasn't helped me eradicate it completely, (just) a little bit?

Peter Orlovsky: Does it feel good?

Student: To be over it?

AG: Well, he says it's like in (Fyodor) Dostoevsky. In Dostoevsky's "The Idiot", before you get the petit mal or grand mal, there's auras and illumination of microscopic detail, like in the poem about John Muir that Gary Snyder wrote - but Tom says it doesn't (work that way for him)...

Student: Well it's not (especially visionary), sometimes you will have the experience if an aura, but it's a rarity..

AG: Uh-huh

Student: At least that 's been my experience of it. And Doestoevsky makes the character into a kind of Christ-figure, and genius, and everything else, as a sort of hit-back at society for considering all epileptics mad..

AG: Uh-huh

Student: ...in his day. So he made it look like the deepest religious experience you could have, or something. It certainly helps. It taught me a lot but, you know....

AG: (So you were fortunate to get to read it) when you were young?

Student: Yeah, when I first read it, long before I was ever (aware I had epilepsy). I was amazed, seduced even (I thought it was a wonderful disease to have! - And three years later, I had it!)

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