Thursday, November 20, 2014

Meditation and Poetics - 8

Sumi-e painting of meditation

AG: So during that time we were silent, a number of events took place but the major one, I guess, is when that first big breeze blew in with a good deal of sound from the outside -- papers flew a little bit, but there was this big statement from the outside coming in, which is similar to our own breath, actually. Strangely enough it was part of it.  We were breathing and then the world was breathing in on us.  But that was, for me, the most ... in the stillness of mind of sitting, relative stillness of mind, because I was thinking a lot.  (You can imagine what I was thinking - What are we doing here? and what am I doing here doing this?, etc.,  and will it work? and won't it work? and what is there to work, anyway?) All of a sudden this great breeze of fresh air, which is irrelevant to all of our thoughts  (came in) - did everybody notice it? -  Is there anybody that didn't notice the big fresh air breeze that came in?

Student:  I was too far away from it

AG:  Yeah.  Yeah.  Well, that was a real nice ... well, you came late, anyway. 

AG:  Ok, so, looking back on it, on that whole five-minute episode, that big breath was, I thought, the poetic statement, or the first thought, or the main event, or the main icon that one might work from to write a poem, if you were going to, from that five-minute period, choose among the objects in your mind what was really interesting, what was happening, what was most significant, what was most poetic.  That breeze through the window and the sounds that went with it, the little bit of disarray that went with it, the surprise that went with it, the hint of the vast, gigantesque outside world breath, the suggestion of an entire universe out there, as well as a parallel to our own breathing, that struck me, as poet, as being, like, the moment, the epiphany for that.  Not that we're necessarily supposed to be looking for epiphanies, because we're doing a contradictory thing here.  In sitting meditation, if you use it for anything, like stopping Plutonium or writing poetry, (either way), if you use it, then actually you're thinking about that.  So you're still thinking.  So you're really not taking a vacation from thought.  You're not really dropping thoughts and paying attention to the breath.  So it's a very tricky process that we're proposing here -  things unattempted-yet, in prose or rhyme, in any history, as far as I know - to figure out how can you work with meditation and, at the same time, work with poetry.

But there is a subtle parallel between regular kind of poetry writing, with this problem, the paradox.  Do you all understand the paradox?  If you're actually sitting, paying attention to your breath, then what are you doing looking for poems?  Or how do you go about getting poems out of it if you're not going to be bothering with poetry?  Because the whole point is don't bother with the poetry.  And the other thing is don't bother with the breath, either.  Just pay attention to it, or be with it, but you're not supposed to bother with it.  You're not supposed to bother with the poetry either. 

But poets, when they're writing poetry, aren't actually trying to look for poetry, anyway.  It's just that they recollect the big breath that came through the window.  It wasn't as if they were looking for a subject, it's just that a subject arrives, like the wind.  Out of your control.  It arrives in consciousness.  So, in a sense, there's no need to try and make up something; (to) make up a subject for poetry.  It's simply what is happening already and what you notice is happening.  What you notice most intensely happening, or what you see most clearly happening, is the natural thing for you to write about.  In other words, you just write about what you already know, in a sense.  Or, not what you already know, but just write about what naturally takes place. So you don't have to strain, in this kind of poetry, to write poetry.  You don't even have to know how to write poetry.  In fact, you don't even have to write poetry.  In fact you stop writing poetry, for the purpose of this class, and what writing you do or vocalizing might be vocalizing mental events.  Or trying to find some equivalent language for events of ordinary mind.  Ordinary mind, ordinary consciousness.  What goes on of its own nature, rather than what goes on because you would like to make something pretty, like a poem. 

So the old problem in writing poetry for poets has been not to force it, also.  Sometimes you might have some great idea and do it.  But most student poetry and young poetry, and most of my own poetry writing, is trying to look for something to write about and constantly getting some kind of stiff, awful abortion out of that, because it's ambition being written.  You're writing your ego, I'm writing my ego, I'm writing my ambition to write a poem, rather than notating what actually happened. 

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

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