["Jack Kerouac wandering along East 9th Street after visiting (William) Burroughs at our pad, passing statue of Congressman Samuel "Sunset" Cox, "the letter-carrier's friend" in Tompkins Square toward Corner of Avenue A, Lower East Side, he's making a Dostoyevsky-mad face or Russian basso be-bop Om, just walking around the neighborhood, then involved with The Subterraneans, pencils & notebook in wool shirt-pocket, Fall 1953, Manhattan" - (Photograph and Inscription by Allen Ginsberg) - c. Allen Ginsberg Estate.]
We've been in the past weeks spotlighting Clark Coolidge and Robert Creeley's remarks at the 1982 symposium on Jack Kerouac at Naropa, (celebrating the 25th , anniversary of the publication of On The Road) - but what about Allen? - Here follows a transcription of some of his remarks, (delivered as part of an on-going workshop, July 25th, 1982). The primary focus is Kerouac's "Belief & Technique for Modern Prose"
Allen goes systematically through this work, annotating each of Kerouac's pithy statements.
For reasons of length, this transcript has been broken up into several sections. Today, the beginning:
AG: Is anybody recording? Is anyone recording? There's no provision for recording? - Oh..Yeah.. Oh fine..thank you. Can you hear me clearly, or is this too muffled? In other words, with this tone of voice and with this loudness of voice, can you hear?. And if you can't, if you're too far back, then you probably should come forward - and Joe [to Joe Richey], you should probably be in with one of the people that you don't know, you know the classes with people that you never heard before, have you studied with Ted Berrigan? ..yeah..ok..because you've heard me before.. ok..
How many people are from Boulder, can you raise your hands? And how many people are in town for the festival? [show of hands] - Amazing! - ok - and how many people have..been in a workshop with me before? So..yes..the.. one, two.. who else?.. three, four..so then, actually,we're, in a sense, we're strangers, in terms of discourse and method. How many are here for the whole ten-day festival? [show of hands] - wow, great, congratulations, we all got here.
I want to do some very definite things. The only thing is I'm a little... because I've been helping organize the festival, I'm a little, spaced-out as to what the procedure is. Is this a two-day workshop consecutive? In other words, will everybody be here for two days and has signed up for two consecutive days, so we have two days to work, and the next day is tomorrow? And the last thing, is it possible to get some water? [water is passed to him] great! - And the hours are two to three-thirty, is that right? - How many were here last night at the opening? [another show of hands] - What was that like?! - I thought it was great. I mean it really was..traditional… (Re the films:) I think we're going to try to arrange another viewing. For one thing, the Steve Allen thing will be, I think, almost continuously on display over at the Museum. We have a Betamax (sic) or a video version of it (which it originally was) over at the Boulder Center For Visual Arts. So you'll be able to see that (tonight, especially, and then we're arranging to have it, so it will probably be playing often). And I think also trying to arrange for another showing of Pull My Daisy, the Steve Allen show, and Cocksucker Blues also. So, later in the week..
Well.. so the traditional way of beginning business is in the local Buddhist circles is a bow and sitting like this (Allen displays). The bow is kind of interesting as a method. The bowing is down like that (so that's the deliberate part), then, once you're down, it's all over, so, lifting yourself up is not part of it, it's just getting up again. The actual… the sort of haiku of it is the going down, and the coming back up is just relaxed. So I'm told there's all sorts of interesting techniques for psychic, or mind, tricks, of that kind, that I've been picking up on, relating to tea-ceremony, or swordsmanship, or calligraphy, haiku-writing, and poetry-writing, all sorts of mind-tricks that were very..home-made familiar to (Jack) Kerouac and home-made familiar to William Carlos Williams and to Ezra Pound and home American-made to the innovators of the Imagist and Objectivist schools of the nineteen ten-twenty-thirty-forty period - home-made mind-tricks for augmenting perception, or for sharpening perception, or for locating perception, or for locating the mind, or for locating consciousness, locating awareness, specializing, particularizing perceptions of things, so that you could actually write them down and transfer your little epiphany vision over to the paper and over to the reader. Those were home-made things, and they're very powerful.. the American tricks, the American mind-tricks, "eyeball kicks", so to speak (which is a phrase I used in "Howl"). There's also an ancient classical development of such mind-tricks in Oriental painting and poetry and calligraphy and tea-ceremony, like that little bow (just that one funny idea..that the going down, that the deliberation and mindfulness is in taking a posture and going down, during which time you sort of blank your mind, in other words, you're not supposed to be reverential or anything, you're just blank. You see, you get rid of yourself for a second, so to speak. Instead of straining to get to God when you're going down or to zap a message through the top of your forehead, it's actually letting everything go and not having to do anything, which is a nice idea, you know, of blanking out, rather than intensifying- dig? In other words..because there might be some mystic heads or psychedelic heads or cosmic-vibration artists, who think that, when you make a gesture like that, that it's some kind of zap that you're supposed to be sending through the cosmos, when, actually, it's just the opposite, you're, for a change, leaving the cosmos alone, not trying to zap anybody. You know, letting things be, or, in a sense, acknowledging the universe as it is already, without your improving it, without your need to strain aggressively to add some icing on top of the corpse! (or the living body). So, the mind-trick there particularly, and always struck me, is that people went down (as (Chogyam) Trungpa did last night) and when they went down there was, actually, nothing going on in their heads (and because nothing going on in their heads, they were aware of just the ballet of it, so to speak, or the profound emptiness of it, which is what the bow is about). Then, once you're down, then you come back up and nothing's happenng so you just come back up normal as if you're coming back up to your seat. So, you don't have to worry about your attitude in coming up, in other words, you don't have to worry if you're holy enough, as you come back up, you don't have to worry about if you're sending the right vibe because you don't have to send any vibe, you're just coming back up.
The mind-trick, or, I should say, the dharma Buddhist mind-trick of .. when you bow, emptying your mind (or allowing your mind to be empty, rather than straining) and when you come up just coming up, is a mode, or is a method applicable to poetics also, is a method applicable to writing poetry (the same kind of empty head, where you don't have to know in advance what you're doing, just do it). In other words, you do it without knowing what you're doing, or, do it withouy knowing what you're doing in a sense that you do it without planning, "like a miser counting the herring in his barrels", (as Kerouac would say), [Editorial note - "Like a Miser Hero of Gold/Cellars/& herring/in barrels" - from Mexico City Blues], without planning rationally in advance, without limiting your mind to the few plans you could make in advance in words or conceptualize, without limiting yourself in advance by insisting that you have this form and this structure and you know what you're going to say. There's no need to be that stupid because the mind is much vaster than what you can think of in advance, obviously. Your whole body.. the whole body and the whole mind is smarter than the partial conceptual set, or conceptual scheme, that you might make up. Everybody understands that, that's just basic New Age Journal teaching, I guess (or just New Age teaching). The application of it, the understanding of it in the body, and the application of it to praxis, to work, to art, is a little more difficult, but the general idea of some holistic sense of a body-mind together, as one, as being smarter and bigger and more ample than just a fast catchy.. conception(s) or thought-forms, I think that's a common understanding, is it not? I mean, is this an unfamiliar idea? Did anyone do.. if it's familiar, raise your hand [show of hands] - okay, so I don't need to beat a dead horse too much. If.. Is there anybody to whom this notion is unfamiliar? (not that I've completely expounded it, but is there anybody who finds this confusing what I'm saying? - because, if it is, if at any point, I am not completely clear to anybody, please interrupt and we go back over the ground that we're covering. I would like to be able to be clear enough so that everybody could completely understand and.. because I think I'm talking about something that is clear, clarify-able, though I'm talking a little abstractly at the moment. So we'll get to applications in a minute.
["Jack Kerouac, Avenue A across from Tompkins Park New York, his handsome face looking into barroom door - this is the best profile of his intellgence as I saw it sacred, time of Subterraneans writing" (Photograph and Inscription by Allen Ginsberg) - c. Allen Ginsberg Estate.]
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at the start and concluding at approximately nineteen-and-three-quarter minutes in]