Saturday, February 28, 2015

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

It's Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's birthday today. 
See previous birthday postings on the Allen Ginsberg Project here and here and here

Our focus today is Robert Del Tredici's charming photo-book. Flip through an expanded on-line edition of it here
For those of you in the Boulder area, many of these photos can be seen at an exhibition at Naropa University's White Cube and Nalanda Galleries through until April 21st  

Remembering Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche ( 1939-1987)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Weekly Round-Up - 210

[Allen Ginsberg - Allen Ginsberg Nude Self-Portrait, Portland, Seattle, 1991 - Photograph via the University of Toronto Collection, Gift of the Larry and Cookie Rossy Family Foundation, 2014]

Opening last week (Feb 20) and up till early April (April 5), it's the University of Toronto's Ginsberg photo show, "We Are Continually Exposed to the Flashbulb of Death  - The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg (1953-1996) curated by Barbara Fischer and John Shoesmith - currently at the Presentation House Gallery in Vancouver

"Essential viewing" - Burroughs: The Movie moves from the New York Film Festival to the Glasgow Film Festival.  Read Rob Dickie's review (for Sound on Sight) here

Kerouac news - coming soon (March 7 and 8) - the annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac celebrations

Still time (March 26 is the closing date) to help support The Whole Shot: Collected Interviews with Gregory Corso. The Kickstarter page regarding the book can be found here

More on Annalisa Mari Pegrum's  bilingual anthology of Beat women, Beat Attitude - Antologia de mujeres poetas de la generación beat - here 

"Selfies" - since we lead off this week with one of Allen's "pre-selfie-selfies", here's some others

Here's a very different vision of Allen - San Francisco Assemblage artist, Bruce Conner's classic work of 1960 - wood, fabric, wax, tin-can, glass, feathers, metal, string and spray paint, "Portrait of Allen Ginsberg" - Recognize him?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Meditation and Poetics - 54 (Bodhisattva Vows - 4)

   ["..the Buddha path is endless, I vow to follow through")

And the last of them (Bodhisattva vows) is “Buddha path is endless, I vow to follow through”. Or, “wakened mind”  (“Buddha” just means wakefulness) - “Wakefulness is infinite, (or the path of wakefulness is endless), I vow to go right through to the end”
Same thing as “Sentient beings are endless..numberless, I vow to enlighten all.” So it’s a statement of vastness, you realize, it’s a statement of vastness. It’s also a statement of your occupation of this vastness, your… the vastness is our kingdom. We don’t have to shrink from the vast. We are the vast actually. So it’s a statement of endlessness. And nothing could be more…from a poetic point of view, nothing could be more romantic, nothing could be more delightful, nothing could be more poetical, nothing could be more Wordsworthian-vast, nothing could be more Shelley-an, Blake would cream!  In other words, it satisfies everything, it satisfies every poetic ambition, except its basis is cold, clear, dis-illusioned materialistic no-mind, no soul, no ego, no self, nothing but phenomena at once real and empty (simultaneously real and empty). 

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Meditation and Poetics - 53 (Bodhisattva Vows - 3)

[Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, here depicted with thousand arms and eleven heads]

AG: The next (Bodhisattvavow) is “Dharma gates are endless”. The gates of dharmas are endless, “I vow to enter every gate”, I vow to enter all. By “dharma gate”, that means situations are infinite. There are an infinite number of situations – this classroom, the question you asked me, each is a dharma or a “thing”  (dharma means really a “thing”, not just the law, the whole Buddha dharma or the dharma, the law of nature but dharma, in a technical sense, means just a thing - like this microphone is a dharma, my voice is a dharma, my notes are a dharma (or dharmas) – this book is a thing – “thingies” – “thingies are numberless, I vow to enter every one” (“thingie” is the local terminology around here for dharma, actually, that’s the way (Chogyam) Trungpa uses the word “thingie” - dharmas. It also means law of nature, or nature of things. So it also means that situations are endless, or every single psychological situation, every single mental situation, is a gate to enter to explore and turn to enlightened advantage.”Dharma gates are endless, I vow to enter every one”. In other words, if the mad man comes up to you, then you have to deal with him, rather than run away. He’s a dharma gate. So there is some element of an attempt to enlighten the madman or dis-illusion the madman

And as a corollary to that there is a bodhisattva understanding that you never cut off contact with anybody by saying, “I’ll never talk to him again, he’s a shit.” That common human reaction of "I’ll never (want to see him again)" is forbidden henceforth, because you’re plunged into the thick of life, (where everything is) all inter-related, all sentient beings are of your own  nature related, and so, actually, that.. that cut-off point no longer applies. You’re actually doomed to go on forever talking with madmen, throughout the endless length of the universe, until you yourself wake up, or they all wake up, or simultaneously there’s a wakening. In other words, you can’t get away from it anymore, you can’t get away from suffering anymore. Suffering then becomes a dharma gate. Suffering then becomes a gate into which you enter to understand something new. So every situation, every pain, every broken leg is a lesson (or, that’s how it can be interpreted) – “Dharma gates are endless, I vow to enter every one" .

[Audio for the above may be heard here, starting at approximately twenty-nine-and-a-quarter minutes in and continuing to approximately thirty-one-and-three-quarter minutes in] 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Meditation and Poetics - 52 (Bodhisattva Vows - 2)

    [...'though passions are numberless, I vow to cut them all down"] 

AG: The next one [of the Bodhisattva vows] is a little more fishy (and) difficult. Something sticks in the craw with that, which is often translated as “Passions are endless, I vow to cut them all down” – Well, that’s pretty tough! It means you’ve got to cut off your balls - or what?

Student: (Are you talking about (Walt) Whitman?)

AG: Now, wait a minute, wait a minute, I’m not talking about Whitman yet. I’m just talking about laying out a general theory (Whitman does it, actually. At a certain point, yes. He does. He has to stand back from himself and say, “Now, wait a minute, I’ve fallen to the usual mistake”). I’m not talking about Whitman (though). I’m going to use Whitman as a text after, but I want to lay down some ground rules and some ground understandings.

Actually, it’s not so much that passions are numberless, it’s that attachments to passions are numberless. It ain’t the passions that are so bad, it’s our obsessive attachment to them. In other words, like in (William) Blake - “He who kisses the joy as it flies/Lives in eternity’s sunrise" - He who binds to himself a joy/ Does the winged life destroy”. It’s better translated, I’m told by Gary Snyder, as “Obscurations", or "coverings", or "illusions", or "delusions", are numberless, I vow to cut through them all”.
 As Reggie (Ray) might have suggested to you, the Vajrayana style is actually plunging into the passions and using them, without attachment. Riding the passions. Just as you might say you have your thoughts – you ride your thoughts -  “Thoughts are numberless, I vow to cut them all down” doesn’t mean you stop thinking. It means you recognize them all. So, in the same way, “Passions are numberless. I vow to cut through them all” doesn’t mean that you stop the passions with a dam or a wall, puritanical, but, rather, by recognizing and riding them, they become more transparent, less obsessive, less of a nightmare-dream in which you’re trapped. So, (the) second Bodhisattva vow – “Passions” (or “obscurations”, or...actually, I think the literal translation is “coverings”  - coverings-over of awareness) - are infinite, I vow to cut then all down”.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-six-and-three-quarter minutes in and continuing to approximately twenty-nine-and-a-quarter minutes in] 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Meditation and Poetics - 51 (Bodhisattva Vows - 1)

[Human Tapestry - Sadegh Tirafkan (1965-2013)] 

AG: I don't know if Reggie (Ray) went over the Bodhisattva vows - all four? - did he? (I think he went over three or something) but I'll go over it once (not as Buddhism, but just as ordinary mind thoughts, the sort of thoughts that you'd have as a kid, or that you'd find expressed in (Jack) Kerouac or in (Percy Bysshe) Shelley. Remember we began with Shelley's, the end of, "(Ode to) the West Wind"  - "Drive my dead thoughts over the universe/ Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!,/ And, by the incantation of this verse,/ Scatter my words.." - what is it? - "Scatter... Ashes and sparks my words among mankind!". [Editorial note - "Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth/Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!"] - That's some by-product of the bodhisattva impulse - to penetrate throughout space and enlighten all space and save all sentient beings. And you'll find it in (Walt) Whitman, you'll find it in almost any heroic, angelic poetry (like Kerouac's notion of himself as "the recording angel", wanting to keep a complete record of all of the epiphanous moments of his existence, to be "The Great Rememberer"). There is some kind of real hot artistic impulse that all of us know and all of us have admired in Kerouac's work, or equivalent heroic expansive works (especially in Whitman), which the Buddhists have a formulation for. Maybe too narrow a formulation, but I want to lay that out clearly so you get their angle. I have it myself in a pre-Buddhist form in "Kaddish". There's a spot where (I'm) talking about going on the ferry-boat across the Hudson River to take my entrance exam to Columbia University, praying. I got down on my knees and prayed that if I passed my exams so I could get a scholarship (and then) if I could go to Columbia, I would vow to use my future to save the working-class (some kind of adolescent impulse which actually prefigures our ultimate choiceless awareness, our ultimate fate, whether we like it or not)

["Prayed on ferry to help mankind if admitted - vowed the day I journeyed to Entrance Exam…"] 

The Buddhist version is as follows - "Sentient beings numberless" - Sentient beings are numberless - "I vow to enlighten all of them" - (that's a big order -  "numberless", to begin with, infinite - how could you possibly enlighten all of them? You wouldn't have the time. And yet, paradoxically, the totally romantically ambitious program is to enlighten every single sentient being down to the last grass blade. Well, that's terrific, actually, as a romantic notion. Coming out of all this dry vipassana - it's a total turn-on, a totally romantic notion - "Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to enlighten all"

Of course, there's a trick in there, which is that when the self disappears, or self is enlightened, or when egolessness arrives, then you'll see that everything is already enlightened, so actually it works two ways  - "Sentient beings numberless, vow to enlighten all" (that's totally Shelley-an, totally Whitmanic, as an ambition.  As a poetic ambition, that's certainly the highest and most noble, and most recognizable, poetic ambition - to enlighten the entire universe) 

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-three minutes in and continuing until approximately twenty-six-and-three-quarter minutes in]    

Saturday, February 21, 2015

1979 Allen Ginsberg Reading in Toronto (Plutonian Ode & other poems)

More vintage footage this weekend (courtesy Don Rothenberg)  - Allen Ginsberg (with Steven Taylor) in Toronto, in April 1979, on the occasion of the World Symposium on Humanity event there. The main feature - (following some brief explication) - a reading, in its entirety, by Allen, of his recently-composed "Plutonian Ode"

The footage can be viewed here

The  tape begins in media res with Steven Taylor on guitar accompanying Allen (on aboriginal songsticks) in a version of "Put Down Your Cigarette Rag". This is followed, at approximately three-and-three-quarter minutes in, ("for loud voice, oratorical "), by Allen reading "Punk Rock Yr My Big Crybaby", then, approximately five minutes in, ("in honour of the guru"), "Father Guru"  ("Father Guru   unforlorn/ Heart beat Guru whom I scorn..")  and,  ("for voice, heart-voice, voice in the center of the body"), "two love poems, or several love poems" - "Love Replied"  ("Love came up to me/& got down on his knee/& said I am here to serve/you what you deserve"] and "Love Returned" ("Love  returned with smiles/three thousand miles/to keep a year's promise/Anonymous, honest")

At approximately ten minutes in, Allen introduces a sequence of poems - ("poetry in the voice of ordinary speech") - 'My father died several years ago, 1976. These are poems that I wrote as he ws dying, attending him in Paterson, New Jersey. Peter Orlovsky was with me, the poet. So these are from  a series of poems called "Don't Grow Old"- conversations with my father as he died, of cancer, not in pain particularly, philosophically, but lethargic and weak, without force. ("Wasted arms, feeble knees/eighty years old, hair thin and w hite/cheek bonier than I'd remembered')

The sequence concludes (at approximately eleven-and-three-quarter minutes in) with "Father Death Blues" )  - "..then my father died and, flying home from Naropa Institute where I was teaching and studying meditation with Chogyam Trungpa, (I)  wrote "Father Death Blues") 

At approximately sixteen-and-a-quarter minutes in, having enquired of the audience about the time, Allen begins his introductory remarks to "Plutonian Ode"

"In the poem "Howl", I had a section called "Moloch", pointing to the Urizen-ic, extra-rational solidification of  thought-forms that have created a giant skyscraper mechanical machine teaching instrument (father, boss and uncle) around us) and there is a line in there which is, "Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen!" In this, relating, I guess, you could say, to the hydrogen bubble of Harrisburg. [Three Mile Island]  This poem was written last summer when I was working with Daniel Ellsberg and the Rocky Flats Truth Force doing sitting meditation at the Rocky Flats Rockwell Corporation Plutonium Bomb Trigger Factory, twelve miles south of Boulder, Colorado, where I was teaching at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute under the meditation instruction of Chogyam Trungpa, who, incidentally, will be here in Toronto, actually… [in 1979]. I have some leaflets here.. his meditation is excellent . He will be doing intensive training sessions and a public talk in this hall on Sunday May 27th at eight o'clock (cheap, two bucks), and then there'll be, from May 28th to June 3rd, intensive training sessions, which involve sitting practice plus evening's conversation, evening's talk and instruction - for that entire thing, seventy-five bucks - it takes you a whole day, from May 30th to June 3rd, sitting eight, nine, hours a day, with instruction how to do samatha meditation.. classical vipassana style..from the Vajrayana ..  by the meditation teacher who is one of the inheritors of the whispered transmission of Crazy Wisdom teachings of the Tibetan Book of the Dead [Bardo Thodol], and the Kagyu lineage of Buddhism that goes back to Naropa.

So from that circumstance, we went and did some sitting meditation on the railroad tracks outside of the Rocky Flats plant, (decided to) sit with the problem, rather than scream at the problem, (I think the problem's, actually, insoluable), so we're just going to sit with it - but the night before, I had written this long poem that..(and) a student from the Truth Force came up and said that there was going to be a train coming in bearing missile materials. and did I want to join them and sit? And so the morning after writing this. I wound up getting arrested for (sitting on the) railroad tracks

          [Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovksy and fellow meditators, blocking the supply rail for Rocky Flats nuclear  weapons production facility, Jefferson County, Colorado, June 1978. photo c. Joe Daniel] 

Then there are some footnotes to the poem but I think I'll just go through without footnotes, except to.. to tell you.. that the twenty-four-thousand year period, the Great Year, is also, precisely, the twenty-four-thousand year half-life of plutonium, a new element created by Man.. (named after the planet Pluto, I think - what is it ? there's, Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto - the order of the planets,  Neptune's ocean, Pluto, Hades..) - Pluto was the father of the Eumenides that come back and punish you if you do mindless things, so that Pluto is the father of this karmic cause-and-effect feedback. So, he had stolen Earth-Mother's daughter Persephone and taken her down to Hades to throw her in the salt mines for thousands of years, and then Persephone got some Spring time..
His mother-in-law was Demeter, Earth goddess, and she was worshipped at the temple of  Eleusis (and that was the only temple in the ancient world where Hades was.. worshipped with the sacrificing of sheep..rack of lamb..throats cut and pouring of honey and water on the floor (as the) libation to Pluto. 
The cities I name are the cities where we have plutonium plants, where they fabricate plutonium, where they make it, where they fabricate it to three-pound  bomb triggers. Each bomb trigger has the intensive explosive force of a Nagasaki bomb and that sets off an explosion ten thousand times larger than that.. We have thirty-thousand such bombs in our possession,  in our arsenal, the Russians have twenty-thousand such bombs now - so it's hopeless, don't figure we can get out of that one!  The age of the earth is supposed to be four billion years and every year...
That means this Great Year cycle  can probably happen one-hundred-and-sixty-seven-thousand times, roughly, if you do your arithmetic, twenty-four thousand and four billion is one-hundred-and-sixty-seven thousand times a ….

I mention in it Jehova.. Ialdabaoth, Iao, Elohim. Jehova.. those are the Aeons or Archons of the Aeons, sprung from Sophia's Imagination (Sophia, being the first word for Wisdom, or first reflections in the Abyss of Light, which would correspond to the Buddhist sunyata, I suppose, the dharmakaya  the Abyss of Light, an old Gnostic notion - There was a reflection and it was Sophia (Wisdom) and she had a reflection that was Ialdabaoth and then he had a reflection that was Iao - and his thought was the Aeon Elohim and his thought was the Aeon in Jehova - Sophie saw that these egocentric Gods were imprisoning sparks of light in the Garden of Eden, and so she sent the call or the great call, the Messenger, the Serpent, to tell them to eat that Apple of Knowledge, so they'd realize that Jehova was a thought of a thought of a thought, was only a reflection, an Abyss of Light..

There are three hundred tons of plutonium around now. Estimated world military budget [1978] is  five hundred billion, US share was one hundred and sixty billion dollars. 

(The) four (sic) characteristics of Buddha activity are - to pacify, to enrich, to magnetize (bring and collect together) and then destroy what needs destruction.  And the poem ends with an American-ese approximation  of the Prajnaparamita mantra, the Highest Perfect Wisdom mantra - "gate gate paragate parasamgate, bodhi svaha" ( "Gone gone - all gone to the other shore gone - Wakened mind salutations") - so Ah! - like Amen - (in Sanskrit, svaha - salutation - in Tibetan - soha - in Japanese - sowaka - so it ends " Ah!" , the poem."

[Allen gives here a complete reading of "Plutonian Ode", beginning at approximately twenty-three-and-a-half minutes in and ending approximately thirty-two-and-a-half minutes in (at the end of the tape]

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Weekly Round-Up - 209

Linda Cronin and Linda Hillringhouse - first-prize winners at the annual  Paterson, New Jersey. Passaic County Community College Allen Ginsberg awards - Congratulations you two!

Tonight, in NYC (at the Cornelia Street Cafe) - Eliot Katz, Bob Rosenthal, and others - an hommage to Allen Ginsberg (the first of a series of readings, organized by Gordon Gilbert, that will be focusing on a variety of Beat writers)

Manuel Agnelli (of Afterhours), a few weeks back at Sala Verdi Conservaorio di Milano, reciting Allen Ginsberg ( "Moloch! Solitudine! Sudicio! Bruttura! Pattumiere e inottenibili dollari!..")

David Cope - "Allen Ginsberg described him as one of the leading lights of (the) next generation" - is interviewed on Michalis Limnios extraordinary Blues & Greece site (who Beat-related haven't Blues & Greece featured?). The interview is available here  

Gregory Corso's Collected Interviews, The Whole Shot (a project we've reported on before) gets ever closer to completion - see more about it (and help it on its way, perhaps?) here 

Beat Attitude, a bi-lingual anthology of female Beats (Spanish translations alongside the originals), edited by Annalisa Mari Pegrum, has just been published by Bartleby Editores.
More about that title here and here  


Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion co-founders of 100 Thousand Poets for Change (in collaboration with the Alfonso Gatto Foundation and regional organizers 100 TPC Salerno have plans for an extraordinary gathering next June in, Salerno, Italy - a 100 Thousand Poets For Change World Conference. For more (much more) information, see here  

Meanwhile, in the US, later that month, another ambitious gathering - the "Beatnik Shindig" - a Beat Generation Conference in San Francisco. Jerry Cimino of the Beat Museum is the organizing energy behind that one and more information on that can be found here

Not forgetting the annual European Beat Studies Conference, scheduled this time for Belgium (Université Libre de Bruxelles). Date of those activities - 28-31 October.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Meditation and Poetics - 50 (Walt Whitman (intro))

                                                [Walt Whitman (1819-1892)]

AG: So we move from there [Robert Creeley, William Carlos Williams, Vipassana "focus on detail of the physical world"] to some expansion. Okay, we've already got it focused. We've got microscopically fine precise detail, grounded. (We've) burnt away, to some extent, dependency on fantasy ( or, at least, even if we don't want to work totally with that, at least we understand that theory..). Or - as (William Carlos) Williams said, "And resolve to dream no more". Remember the beginning poem, "Thursday"?  - I have had my dream.. /and it has come to nothing, so that/I remain now carelessly/with feet planted on the ground/and look up at the sky -/feeling my clothes about me,/the weight of my body in my shoes,/the rim of my hat, air passing in and out/at my nose - and decide to dream no more."

Well, obviously, it's a joke. You can't resolve to "dream no more" because thought is recurrent. Samsara, illusion, is eternal. Thought rises unborn. There's nothing you can do about it, except recognize it, until it becomes more and more transparent. So it was a little bit of an overstatement on Williams' part, that  "and decide to dream no more", though it's a typical move, a typical mental chess-move. I think almost everybody has had that experience of waking up to present time, saying, "I'm never going to get trapped in my illusions again". (And so) instantly being trapped, by solidifying a thought.

Well, the background to this mindfulness, in America, is a larger mountain that is so large that, (as) I have said before, that it's too big to be seen, which is the huge bulk of consciousness and work of Walt Whitman, which, perhaps, bulks even larger and encloses the snippy, sharper consciousness of the turn-of-the-century, or pre-dates it and prefigures it and encloses it, and, in a sense, is even more ample.
In Whitman, we'll find what I would say is elements that you could term Mahayana, if we were defining the next move, mentally, as going out into space, with empathy and with... Using that clarity, the mind, unobstructed by fantasy, now penetrating outward into space with sympathy and compassion, because seeing clearly. So I would use Whitman as a major text for that.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately  twenty minutes in and continuing to approximately twenty-three minutes in]    

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Meditation and Poetics - 49 (Robert Creeley)

AG: Then Peter (Orlovsky) and I went from (Alfred) Stieglitz's wife, Georgia O'Keeffe, (a) great painter who had simplified and clarified her sight, to Robert Creeley's house in Placidas (New Mexico) , where  Creeley gave me a book of new poems (Creeley also being a student of (William Carlos) Williams. So I thought this same recovery of our own space in Creeley's work has equivalent terminology. His word, I always thought, for space was "place" (like, he's got a little poem about "when we get to heaven we will all have places, they'll be a chair for everybody and everybody will sit with a smile on his face" [Editorial note - the poem that Allen is referring to is "Oh No" - "If you wander far enough/you will come to it/and when you get there/ they will give you a place to sit/ for yourself only, in a nice chair,/and all your friends will be there/with smiles on their faces/and they will likewise all have places"] - but everyone will have a place - a place for his own perceptions, say - but, anyway, Creeley's language, as far as I know it, from the early (19)60's, or maybe earlier, was "place". And I think that was parallel to the way we're using the Buddhist term "space" (or a rough equivalent).

The fruit of all the preoccupation (is) a 1977 poem. Since you've read all that Williams now, just to carry it a couple of decades later, here's Williams' child, or student and appreciator of Williams in our own time [1978] - a book called Later - Later -   He said he would like to have that on his tombstone! Later - his latest joke. [Allen reads from Robert Creeley's volume] - "(9) - Sitting up here in/newly constituted/ attic room 'mid/pipes, scarred walls,/ the battered window/adjacent looks out/ to street below. It's fall,/sign woven in iron/ rails of neighbor's porch;/"Elect Pat Sole"/ O solo mio, mother,/thinking of old attic/ West Acton farmhouse,/same treasures here, the boxes,/ old carpets, the smell./ On wall facing, in chalk:./Small world of these pinnacles,/ places ride up in these/ houses like clouds,/ and I've come as far,/as high, as I'll go/ Sweet weather, turn/now of the year…"/ The old horse chestnut/with trunk a stalk like a flower's/ gathers strength to face winter./The spiked pods of its seeds/ start to split, soon will drop./The patience, of small lawns, small hedges,/ papers blown by the wind,/the light fading gives way/ to the season.School's/started again. Footsteps fall/ on the sidewalk down three/ stories. It's man-made/ endurance I'm after,/it's love for the wear/ and the tear here,/goes under, gets broken, but stays./ Where finally else/in the world comes to rest -/ by a brook, by a/view with a farm/ like a dream - in/ a forest?In a house/ has walls all around it?/There's mor always here/ than just me, in this room,/this attic, apartment,/ this house, this world,/ can't escape." - (Similar. Similar mind, similar view). 

Then, the last poem (in the book)… [Allen is temporarily distracted by a child's cry, young Max Corso, in the classroom, but continues]  - "(10) - In testament/to a willingness/ to live, I,/Robert Creeley,/ being of sound body/and mind, admit/ to other preoccupations - /with the future, with/ the past. But now - / but now the wonder of life is/ that it is at all,/ this sticky sentimental/ warm enclosure,/ feels place in the physical/ with others,/ lets mind wander/ to wondering thought,/then lets go of itself,/ finds a home/on earth."

So if you've been following what we've been doing all along, with breath and mind wandering, it's amazingly natural that Creeley should come to a very similar statement as (to the one) Williams came to, as Buddhists came to ( as probably Reginald Ray came to, in his exposition of Vipassana). It's actually basically nature we're talking about, or the nature of mind, the nature of the world, the simplicity of the world.  But it was interesting. I read this last night and thought this would be a very good specemin to bring in to finish the Vipassana (teachings), to show that this Vipassana focus on  detail of the physical world (which as an aesthetic style in America, begun at the turn of the century, (and) still goes on as an ongoing preoccupation - just like the breath)  

[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately fourteen-and three-quarter minutes in, and concluding at approximately twenty minutes in]    

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Meditation and Poetics - 48

AG: Peter (Orlovsky) and I went and spent a little time (two hours) with her (Georgia O'Keeffe). She gave us raspberry juice from her own garden. Local particulars. She was really proud of home-grown raspberry-juice, and she had enough raspberries (at the age of ninety-one)  that she could actually offer a gallon of raspberry-juice, which was terrific. It's like that (William Carlos) Williams poem ["A Poem for Norman Macleod"] - "No bull" - You can do a lot with what's around if you know what's there" - I read that, didn't I? - "The revolution/ is accomplished./ noble has been changed to no bull" - The Indian that had gashed open the balsam to get a recipe for constipation for the prospector. "You can do a lot with what's around you". So she had raspberries. 

[Allen continues reading from Bram Dijkstra's The Hieroglyphics of a New Speech - Cubism, Stieglitz, and the Early Poetry of William Carlos Williams]

"Thus the artist could do justice to the object without forcing it to function as a metaphor for something else (in photography). The photographer must therefore begin by seeing all things with perfect precision, perfect penetration. If he does so and if he's closely attuned to the elements of his own subjective experience, he'll be able to recognize in certain natural objects around him elements hitherto not yet discovered but nonetheless eternally present in them. Hence, the objects in nature are recognized to be the source of our spiritual constitution. The content of our non-rational being as much as of our intellectual existence is shown to be determined by the contents of the physical world." 

In other words, the spiritual life is determined by the physical world presented, if you're attentive to the spiritual world, to the material world around...

Of course, what I am describing (are) the theories that were operating among a lot of the New York artists coming out of  the Ashcan School, William Carlos Williams, the early Imagists, the people hanging around Stieglitz's art gallery, Alfred Kreymborg (as well as Williams), anthologists and poets of bohemia, of the New York avant-garde of the (19)10's and (19)20's - (Stieglitz) had a series of galleries - 291 Madison Avenue, so Gallery 291, followed, finally, by (the) An American Place gallery, that (I)'ve previously) mentioned  - (the title is significant - An American Place). 

[Allen continues reading from Bram Dijkstra] 

"If this is the case then life might find its most complete fulfillment in the accurate observation of matter" - [that's a weird sentence - very unexpected aesthetic - "if this is the case'] - "For Stieglitz, the objects of nature are the absolutes from which all derives. If this is the case, then life might find its most complete fulfillment in the accurate observation of matter. What is seen, felt, and therefore experienced determines the meaning of life. If all values derive from matter, beauty, for one thing, must be the universal seen" - [not S-C-E-N-E, but S-E-E-N - the universal when it is seen, when it is actually pictorially visible] - "If Stieglitz was a pioneer in American art, it was primarily because he established the basis for a non-metaphoric art in America" - [which correlates to that slogan I've been repeating by Ezra Pound - "The natural object is always the adequate symbol" - In other words, the natural object is not a metaphor for something else, but things are symbols of themselves] - "Until Stieglitz began to emphasize the object in his photographs, the artist in this country had been  overwhelmingly concerned with those qualities in reality which were  representatives of indirect experience. In the wake of the settlers and the immigrants, the American artist in the nineteenth-century had spent all his efforts into turning the native reality into a shadow of experience informed by the European object. His American lamdscapes were landscapes distorted by the painter Claude Lorrain, his poems were about Indian burying grounds, not as they really were, but as they might have been, if placed on an English heath, among the castles of the Gothic imagination. For Stieglitz and his followers, the immediate task was to restore the integrity of the American object…" - 
[I could translate that (as), for this class, the immediate task is to restore the integrity of the breath, the integrity of the empty breath] - "the integrity of the American object, to perceive it free from metaphor, to see it as it actually existed within its own experimental framework. They struggled to free the American object from the impositions of alien consciousness, from the metaphoric vision which forces the object to be other than itself, and hence be continually misapprehended. There is no doubt that Williams was profoundly influenced by what Steiglitz and the painters set out to do. What is, even Williams' extensive campaign in favor of the word as the thing itself, if not an extension of these concepts?

So, in other words, the kind of poetry we were examining as representative of samatha-vipassana - that is to say, focus, concentration, simplification, mindfulness, realization of present space, non-imposition of fantasy upon the object in space, but clear perception of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and thought - the preoccupations of this area of meditative consciousness, or meditative experimentation, and the preoccupations of the early (twentieth) century American artists were, surprisingly, amazingly similar, if not identical. They were similar if not identical breakthroughs back to original mind and natural consciousness.
Historically, the American artist had to go through that de-conditioning from European thought forms in order to discover where he was in space around the turn of the century, with the beginning of the Machine Age, and with the beginning of the Space Age. With the beginning of World War I there was this enormous breakthrough to… what?.. we are here in Newark (New Jersey). It isn't Milan amd it isn't Florence. It's Newark (or Hoboken, or Rutherford, New Jersey, in Williams' case - or mid-Manhattan, 291 Madison Avenue, to be precise, in Stieglitz's case). So, 291 Gallery - "An American Place".  

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

Monday, February 16, 2015

Meditation and Poetics - 47 (Alfred Stieglitz)

                                    [Georgia O'Keeffe, Hands, 1918 - Photograph by Alfred Stieglitz

AG: (Who here caught Reginald Ray's) presentation on Friday. Can you raise your hands? Raise your hands high. Okay, I won't go  over it again, though I think he gave a very coherent intellectual outline of stages of Buddhist awareness and penetration of mind. If you can, borrow notes or check it out with some classmates.
At this point, I want to (with a little last look back), wrap up the Samatha-Vipassana-Hinayana area that we've been dwelling in so far - the concentration of mind on focused, clear, accurate perception.

Peter (Orlovsky) and I went down to Santa Fe over the weekend, and over the course of that connected with two pioneers in American clarity of mind.  First, we saw Georgia O'Keeffe - went to visit her - she was married to Alfred Stieglitz (and I'd mentioned Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer, whose art scene in New York after the turn of the century was enormously influential on the Imagists and the Objectivists - on (William Carlos) Williams and other poets whose work we've been reading).

On the way I studied a little - a book called The Hieroglyphics of New Speech - Cubism, Stieglitz and the Early Poetry of William Carlos Williams - Bram Dijkstra - D-I-J-K-S-T-R-A - which is actually a good historical survey.

One thing I mentioned before but I didn't really get into and I'd like to recap now is that the American modern mind experience after the turn of the century was very similar to whatever growing-up experience we have in introducing ourselves to mindfulness, or meditative state, or aesthetic mindfulness, or poetic mindfulness, in that the American culture had to break away from foreign models, foreign conditioning, and discover its own place, its own air, its own space, its own situ, its own situation. It had to become mindful of its own situation, its own language, its own mind.

And that was, like, the great effort of Stieglitz, particularly in the field of photography. Hitherto most photographers had been trying to imitate painting - imitate misty European painting with little ballet dancers, the paintings retouched, actually, to soften all the lines. Stieglitz, for the first time, said this is a modern machine thing, looking with clear eye, so he wanted photographs that were actually sharp, art photographs that were sharp instead of art photographs that were soft and vague and fuzzy in outline. like 1890's poetry.
So, actually, his big innovation was clarity and precision, just like in poetry, and because of his photographic interest in clarity and precision, Williams used to come around and visit him (because that was what Williams was interested (in)) - clarity and precision of outline of the image. 

So, checking through this book, I ran across a few passages which will give you the historical cultural recapitulation of what we've been discussing in personal phenomenological terms. Dig? In other words, America went through the same changes around the turn of the century. So, regarding Stieglitz's idea of photography (Georgia O'Keefe was married to Stieglitz, so she was one of that original group. I'll get to her painting):
"An unretouched painting is the record of a moment, its image fixed in an instant of time. Stieglitz therefore argued that it is the photographer's role to seize the moment in terms of its most opportune structure. He must select the single image which will represent the object under his scrutiny most effectively. The photographer therefore, more than any other artist, must be perfectly alert to the materials of the visible world. He is entirely dependent on what exists to the eye. He must see before he can create. He must, before all, in the most literal sense of the world, be a seer." - he [Dijskstra] said, and then - this is Stieglitz talking now:
"The moment dictates to me what I must do. I have no theory about what the moment should bring. I simpply react to the moment. I am the moment. The materials of the living moment are the things seen" - "Beauty is the universal seen" - (or, same as his friend, (the poet, Louis) Zukofsky - "Sight is where the eye hits") - Beauty is the universal seen"    
"Very early Stieglitz discovered [Dijskstra again] that a photographer mus not only be capable of seeing sharply and precisely in order to capture the living moment, but he must be unusually selective as well."

So, he moved, as Williams did and others, first to an awareness that he's dealing with a material, visible world (and) that he's got to see it precisely. But to avoid confusion as to what he's looking at, he's got to narrow it down so you see one thing -  one leaf, one rose, or just one scene inter-related.
And it was this selectivity among the sharp, precise images that his wife, Georgia O'Keeffe got to be a specialist in, so that for years she would paint, say, a lily, and for years would paint a cow skull, for years settle, like (the painter Paul) Cezanne, in one area in New Mexico and paint the same mountain over and over….as Cezanne painted Mount Sainte- Victoire over and over again. And also simplifying her image, smoothing everything until it's just that one shape or form that she was trying to bring out to the eye. Most of you are familiar with her work. It's been in Life magazine when you were ten! 

So that was interesting. First, precision, and then the need for some kind of simplification, or reduction, or selection, so that you actually look carefully at one thing. Just like the.. it's a similar process of precision about being here in the material world and then simplifying it down to begin the examination just with the breath. Beginning with a breath, like she began with a skull, or a flower, or the red rock canyon behind her home.

[Audio for the above may be heard here - beginning at the beginning of the tape and continuing to approximately seven minutes in]

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day

There are some posts on the Allen Ginsberg Project so fitting they deserve annual 
re-publication, this is one of them. 

Happy Valentines Day, everyone!

Celebrating love today ('the weight of the world')  on the Allen Ginsberg Project


The weight of the world
is love.
Under the burden
of solitude,
under the burden
of dissatisfaction
the weight,
the weight we carry
is love.
Who can deny?
In dreams
it touches
the body,
in thought
a miracle,
in imagination
till born
in human--
looks out of the heart
burning with purity--
for the burden of life
is love,
but we carry the weight
and so must rest
in the arms of love
at last,
must rest in the arms
of love.
No rest
without love,
no sleep
without dreams
of love--
be mad or chill
obsessed with angels
or machines,
the final wish
is love
--cannot be bitter,
cannot deny,
cannot withhold
if denied:
the weight is too heavy
--must give
for no return
as thought
is given
in solitude
in all the excellence
of its excess.
The warm bodies
shine together
in the darkness,
the hand moves
to the center
of the flesh,
the skin trembles
in happiness
and the soul comes
joyful to the eye--

yes, yes,
that's what
I wanted,
I always wanted,
I always wanted,
to return
to the body
where I was born.

                                                                                                                                                                   - - and from William S Burroughs: