AG: (to Student) – Anita (sic) – do you have your poem?
AG: We were working on a poem before today, that was a long-lined poem, somewhat like this, in this form. Thanks. It’s a similar form, but now what I wanted to get into was some of the techniques of the form, or some of the technology of it, or, partly, the rhythm in this form, and how it is done most succinctly by me, or, after the examples of (Guillaume) Apollinaire, who also wrote a long-lined poem, in French, and Walt Whitman (and before that Christopher) Smart). Twentieth-century French Surrealists have (also) used a long-line form. (And) It was something that I’ve seen in people’s work here (at Naropa), which I’d like to exemplify, by showing you what we did with that poem this afternoon.
It’s called “Letter to Brett in Taos”
“I miss you like sliced bread, like peach kafir, like a Florentine at a French bakery. I miss you like saliva, like dirt under my nails, like gums bleeding, like a fly on my knee in meditation, like shitting into two gallons of water and then flushing it. I miss you like sitting on the second floor of this house with paved streets outside watching it hail, beat, scram all over the place. I miss you like the dead Dutch Elm outside on the front lawn, like the sprinkler shooting across the green lawn. You shoot in me like that, like the dirty kitchen here, the dishes in the sink, the phone ringing, the subscription magazines that the mailman brings. I miss you like these raindrops falling in mud puddles on the sidewalk, rain seeping into the wet grass ground, my knees crossed, my zafu, my heavy sleep.”
That’s the first section. Then begins another section
“Echoes your name the rain on the blue mailbox, the rainwater running down the curb, the rain is warm on my bare feet, the flash of lightning cut, seen through a moment and is gone. Echoes your name, love, in the moving avocado leaf by the window, break overhead the thunder, your name, love, slow biker, coast downhill, your sound in the pedals, in the chill breeze through the window. Clash, thunder rumbles over it all, car motor in street starts up, thunder reminds me the echo of head, I smell the smell of you on my pillow, the echo of your mind rumbling through the distance between us. Rain fills the gutter here, my ears hear thunder over the next hill, next buttock, it rumbles over there. Here we are, rain filling our gutters, sounds filling our rooms, you are in this all, calling from the next hill, running down the gutter, gutter rain, rain gutting our gutter, running down the city street fast, water catches a glimpse off the chrome from the VW, fast, water catches leaves, Maple, Ash leaves, catch fly fast down the gutter, you are in this, love, turn penny over in my pocket, all sides of you are in this. I address this to you, love, music sound fills your room, thoughts wave out in echoes as far as the adobe walls and I know the limits. I am in Boulder, you are in Taos, the rain is echoing nothing so much as itself. I miss you like that.”
Well, I was interested in the form because I’m used to that form and I’ve worked in it, worked with it. But also, I thought this was really long-winded and awkward using that form, and so I tried to re-write it almost as a poem of my own. So then I’ll read the revision and I want to analyze what I did to one or two lines.
“I miss you sliced bread, peach kafir, Florentine at the French bakery. I miss you saliva, dirt under my nails, gums bleeding, fly on my meditation knee like shitting into two gallons of water and then flushing it. I miss you sitting on the second floor house watching it hail, beat, scram all over the paved streets outside. I miss you dead Dutch Elm front lawn sprinkler shooting across green. You shoot in me like that dirty kitchen here, sink dishes, phone ringing, mailman bringing subscription magazines. I miss raindrops falling into sidewalk mud puddles, wet grass, knees crossed on my zafu, heavy sleep.
Rain echoes your name on the blue mailbox, rain water running down the curb, bare feet, rain lightning flash."
So, actually, I’ve done it. I can continue, but.. I’m doing it from a scribbled manuscript, so I’m reading it haltingly.
“Avocado leaf by the window, thunder break overhead, Brett, slow pedal biker coast downhill through chill breeze. Thunder rumbles, car motor starts in street echo head, your smell on my pillow, mind rumbles. Guttters green fill, waters catches chrome glint off VW, Maple, Ash leaves fly fast down gutter, the rain echoes itself. I miss you like that.”
What I did is (was) cut off an enormous amount of extra verbiage and repeated verbiage. But I want to write just one line now, and see what was done to it. I think I’ll start with the first (“I miss you like sliced bread, like peach kafir, like a Florentine at a French bakery") or start with the second, or..
[tape ends here, (but) continues on side two]
Student: How is it written?
AG: The original? The paper is longer. So “”I miss you like sitting on the second floor of this house with/”, “I miss you like saliva, like dirt under my nails, like gums/” – actually, that would all be on one line in typescript. ok? – has everybody got it? – but it’s one line, one strophe, let us say, broken, like I explained the other day, just broken at the margin and carried over. What I did was just use “saliva, dirt under my nails” – “I miss you saliva dirt under my nails” instead of “I miss you like saliva, dirt under my nails, gums bleeding”. “Fly on my meditation knee” instead of “Fly on my knee in meditation” – “Fly on my meditation knee” – “Like shitting into two gallons of water and then flushing..” – It was simply (a matter of) getting rid of “you" "like”, “like”, “Like”, “in” – those are all words that don’t have any more information, in a sense. They don’t have any more picture-imagery in them, They are actually unnecessary for presenting whatever flash of the mind is there. Whereas “I miss you saliva dirt”, I thought was interesting. “I miss you like saliva” is also interesting. But, “I miss you like saliva, like dirt under my nails, I thought - “I miss you saliva, dirt under my nails”. She’s talking about her boyfriend who she misses like that. As to whether she needs a ”like” in there (or not) – I don’t know. I just sort of condensed it a little more, to make it a little more electrical, to make the line a little more electrical.
Student; You cut out “you” and “like” in the first line?
AG: Yes I did. I did do that. “I miss you?”, because, actually, the whole poem was what she really missed, that she missed the Florentine at the French bakery?, [turns to the student] - did you really?
Student : No I didn’t miss that.
AG: Pardon me?
Student: I have that stuff here. Shitting – (the line about shitting), we have an out-house in Texas..
AG: Well he was objecting to me cutting out “I miss you like..”
Student: Oh - I was, I think, saying “I miss you like saliva” - and “I miss you saliva” is really a long distance between the two spaces.
AG: Yeah, remember?, we went through a long thing about that. We decided you didn’t really miss your boyfriend, you missed his saliva !
Student (“Anita”): I can go along with that.
AG: Well, actually, the first line.. Well, wait a minute, “I miss you like sliced bread, like peach kafir, like a Florentine at the French bakery”. And that was condensed – “I miss you sliced bread peach kafir or a Florentine at the French bakery”. One of the things we were figuring on was, was she missing sliced bread, rather (rather more) than boyfriend? (and also I got sick of seeing “you” and “like” all the time).