AG: [Allen begins reading from Jack Kerouac’s “Mexico City Blues”] – 5th Chorus, Mexico City Blues – “I am not Gregory Corso/ the Italian Minnesinger – / Of the song of Corsica”..”KIND KING MIND/ Allen Ginsberg called me”..” [reads next 10th Chorus] – “The great hanging weak teat of India… The Korea Ti-Pousse Thumb..” – “Ti-Pousse”, Canuck for “little thumb” (which is what his mother called Kerouac) – “The Korea Ti-Pousse Thumb..”..”Spots of Foam on the Ocean” – [reads next 11th Chorus] – because the little epigraph (to the book) says; “I want to be considered a jazz poet blowing long blues in an afternoon jam session on Sunday. I take 242 choruses, my ideas vary and sometimes roll from chorus to chorus or from half-way through a chorus to halfway into the next”. – “Brown wrote a little book called/ The White and the Black…”..”A n g e r F a l l s – “ For emphasis, bottom of the page – “(musician stops,/ brooding on bandstand)” – [reads 13th Chorus] – “I caught a cold/ From the sun..”..”Asking for more/ I popped out Popacatapel’s/ Hungry mouth” – He did this on a rooftop in Orizaba.. 210 Orizaba Street, Mexico City. Each morning with a little notebook, pocket-sized, getting up, shaking out his sleeping-bag, hanging it over the roof-edge in the sunlight to air, taking a cup of black coffee, smoking a giant bomber joint, and then writing the first thing that came to his mind in the first half hour. And so in three months (he) accomplished this Shakespearean sonnet sequence. [reads 17th Chorus] – “Starspangled Kingdoms bedecked/ in dewy joint..”…”Revisiting Russet towns/ of long ago/ On carpets of bloody sawdust” – [reads 24th Chorus] – “All great statements ever made/ abide in death”..”A bubble pop, a foam snit/ in the immensity of the sea/ at midnight in the dark”.
Student: What’s that number, Allen?
Student: Ball? as in what?
AG: Well, “discriminate a ball” – meat. [Allen reads the 32nd Chorus] – “Newton’s theory of relativity/ and grave gravity…”..”Monotonous monotony/ of endless grape dirigible stars” [next, 36th Chorus] – “No direction/ No direction to go..” “(ripping of paper indicates/ helplessness anyway)” [then, 43rd Chorus] – “ Mexico City Bop…” –.”Bespeak thyself not, soft spot..” – imitating Shakespeare! – “Aurorum’s showed his Mountain/ Top/ Of Eastern be Western morning..” …“the lay of the pack/ in the sky”. [then, 230th Chorus] – “Love’s multitudinous boneyard/ of decay…”..”Like kissing my kitten in the belly/ The softness of our reward”.
Gregory Corso: That’s his top-shot poem “ the wheel of the quivering meat/ conception…” [Corso refers here to the 211th Chorus]
AG: There’s a very funny thing that’s pure sound [Allen reads Kerouac’s 217th Chorus] – “Sooladat smarty pines came prappin down..”..”twab/ twab/ twabble/ all day.”
AG: What time is it?
AG: Ah, we have some time.
Student: Can you talk a little bit about why you chose the name – “the (Jack) Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics”?
AG: Because the tradition of the Kagyu lineage is exposition of dharma, spontaneously, through training and experience, and reliance on no-mind utterance, no-mind utterance, or the rising of thoughts, the observation of thoughts, the acceptance of such thoughts in a friendly manner, and the tongue-ing of such thoughts without check or hesitation, as being the actual rhythmic movement of Buddha activity. Several years ago, when (Chogyam Trungpa) Rinpoche and I were discussing my own “career”, I said I was tired of going around to poetry readings (and I didn’t see how he could keep up such a schedule of discourses cross-country), so he said, “Well, that’s because you don’t like your poetry”. And I said, “What do you know about poetry?” (and) He said, “Why don’t you be like the great poets, like Milarepa? You don’t need a piece of paper. Why don’t you simply get up on stage and recite poems out of your mind?”
That’s the idea of this school. Kerouac was the chief American practitioner of that, and first introduced me to that notion, and I think first really nailed down that notion into American consciousness, the idea of total spontaneity and acceptance of first-mind reverie, first thought, best thought, not revising because revising is always a question of shame, trying to obliterate traces of nakedness. As the sound in your mind is the first sound you could sing if you were singing at a cash-register with nothing on your mind. So there’s a certain early knowledge of sunyata, or empty mind, in Kerouac, which gives him a tremendous playfulness, and when I read through a lot more of Mexico City Blues to (Chogyam Trungpa) Rinpoche, several years later to that conversation, (19)74, he laughed, all the way from Vermont to New York, over the wit of the lines, and ended by saying, “That’s a perfect exposition of mind”. So it seemed attractive, and honorable, and charming, to found an academy in the name of Jack Kerouac, who died shunned and not understood by (the) academy, and to join the American tradition of awkward first-thought, eager stumbling blissful desire for some innocent utterance that would open the gates of heaven (which was Kerouac’s version of beatific, or “beat”) to the more ancient practiced tradition of spontaneous utterance historically echoed from Milarepa to Trungpa, who is the director of this academy – And the word “disembodied”? – I’m not quite sure what that means. That was Anne Waldman‘s phrasing (when I was stumbling as a head of the academy and she was doing all the work!), she gave a name to the Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.
AG: Ah, Gregory Corso – The other day Chogyam Trungpa (Rinpoche) gave a lecture on power, and tantric power, or power seen through tantric mind. A poem written in 1957 in Amsterdam? Gregory? Holland, Amsterdam?..
Gregory Corso: Amsterdam
AG: … and I was struck by the similarity
Gregory Corso: Oh no, (19)56, San Francisco..
AG: I was struck by the similarity of statement, and also amazed, recollecting that Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who was a good liberal man, saw this poem and thought it was a big Nazi poem, whereas I was seeing it as a big tantric statement for all, awkwardly that I knew of tantra. I was seeing it as a statement of non-attached mind, or a statement of non-attachment and egoless-ness. [Allen begins to reads Corso’s poem “Power”] – “We are the imitation of Power…”
Gregory Corso: You forgot something.
AG: That’s alright.
Gregory Corso: Say it.
AG: No, the students can look that up in the book.
Gregory Corso: Say it.
AG: Well it’s dedicated to Allen Ginsberg. We were friends then. [Allen then reads the poem in its entirety – “We are the imitation of Power” – (including a second section added on in 1958 – “Power is still with me! Who got me hung on Power”…” – “My Power/ alive with a joy a sparkle a laugh/ That drops my woe and all woe to the floor/ Like a shot spy”)].
Gregory Corso: Thanks for reading that one nice, Al
AG: Yes, that was good. What’s the time now?
Gregory Corso: It’s eight o’clock
AG: Oh well. Oh I had one last tiny four-line poem to end. To switch the entire scene over to Jñāneshwar as a prelude to next term and a summary of everything that’s been explained here in terms of both meditation lineage, here at Naropa, and, in the Poetics Institute, as a vocal lineage. Changdev here’s a little tiny explanation – the reputed disciple of Muktabai, who is said to have lived for 700 years, has composed an elegant abhanga in praise of its teacher Jñāneshwar, his brother and sister. Another abhanga of his describes a final scene of the miraculous exit of the poet Muktabai thus (this is 13th, 14th century) – “Jñāneshwar drank to his fill the water of pearls, Nivrutanath caught in his hands the freshness of clouds, Sopan decorated himself with a garden of smells, Muktabai fed herself on cooked diamonds. The secret of all four has come into my hands”. Thus speaks Changdev.
For those who want credit, please hand in a paper, either summarizing the gists and piths of this course, or an original poem. One page of summary will do, unless you’re more verbal.
Gregory Corso: Do I have anything to do it with it, Al? When I took the class, do I have to correct any papers also?
AG: Gregory will correct anything written about him.
Gregory Corso: Ah-hah. [class and tape end here]
The original audio of the above may be heard at
http://www.archive.org/details/Allen_Ginsberg_class_The_history_of_poetry_part_19_June_1975_75P021 (from approx 31 minutes in).
(A so-far untranscribed 1988 class conducted by Ginsberg on Mexico City Blues is available here)