More Allen Ginsberg NAROPA lectures. These were a series given, beginning July 21 1975, under the title “Mind, Mouth and Page”. We’ll be serializing them in the weeks ahead. But first, the curious phenomena of the improvised poetic roll-call. A collaborative event Allen would have with the students. You may recall this form from a previous instance – “Death Is..“
Today – “Marijuana makes..”
AG: Now (to) take the roll. What we’ll do with the roll is, if you’re present, I’ll propose a theme, and, if you’re present, will you answer by completing the line? And it’ll be just a simple theme that anyone can do. Toward the end (of last term), we started letting anybody answer anything they wanted, so people were reading out of books, or straying from subject, or reading out of their notebooks. This time, make it up out of your own head, and (say) the first thing that comes into your head. It doesn’t have to be poetry. It doesn’t have to be any good. It’s just the first thought, “first thought, best thought”, the first thought in your head. The reason for “first thought, best thought”, (is) because the first thought is usually the most poetic actually, but maybe a little raw (but) don’t be intimidated by your snot, your farts, your shit, or if you can use it, or not use it…don’t feel that you have to use it, or not have to use it). Most people feel that they have to use it because that’s the first thing that comes (up, or) it’s the second thing that comes up. So they feel they shouldn’t ignore it, since it came up second, but probably something else came up first. So, “Marijuana makes… Bruce C Axelrod?”
Student (Bruce Axelrod): Anything you want it to happen.
AG: Marijuana makes anything you want it to happen? Well, no, if you’ve got a really funny idea, don’t hesitate (to announce it), (but) I just want to take the roll too. Marijuana makes..Mary L Cassell?.. Well, we better just answer in order (because, otherwise), I’ll get confused. Ronald Damosachos? You’re here? Or you were here. Where’s Ronald? Where is Ronald Damosachos? Absent.
AG: Philip Dubitsky?
Student: Yes, marijuana made us crazy yesterday, trying to find it on the hill.
Student: “Marijuana makes us emerge out of our dreams”
AG: I couldn’t hear.
Student: Emerge out of our dreams
AG: Nancy Flynn? – No, no, I’m sorry. Out of what dream? How do we know? Out of what dream?
Student: Our dream
AG: What dream did you have? or did we have, or you have?
Student: (A) dream about…
Student; I dreamt about selling marijuana.
AG: Okay. “Marijuana makes us emerge from our dreams of selling marijuana”. In other words, the original thought.
Student: “Marijuana makes our mother put it in the breadbox and take it to..”
AG: “Marijuana makes our mother put it in the breadbox and take it to..” ?
Student: “Marijuana makes me dizzy and sick”
AG: Makes me..?
Student: Dizzy and sick
AG: What kind of sickness?
Student: Morning sickness.
AG: “Marijuana makes me dizzy morning sickness” – just condense.
Student: Marijuana makes walls in buildings.
AG: Makes walls in buildings?
Student: “Marijuana makes me feel all my hidden pain”
Student: In the gut.
AG: What kind of pain?
Student: Neurotic pain
AG: No, no, that’s even more abstract! Is it an ache? is it a sharp pain?, is it a..
Student: No, it’s like a super-surge or something.
AG: “Marijuana makes me feel all my hidden super-surge in my gut”
Student: You got it.
AG: “Marijuana makes me feel all my hidden super-surge in my gut. Super-surge pain” – or, something like that, some combination. But a little bit more than “pain”. “Pain” is so general (and it wasn’t quite what you were thinking, I don’t think).
Student: “Marijuana makes me hot”
Student: “Marijuana makes me high”
Student: Low too.
AG: Well, “high” – ok – in that context (perhaps) that would be alright, because everything else was (would be) complicated.. Actually, on the page, it would look alright – suddenly: “Marijuana makes me high” – because that’s so simple.
Student: “Marijuana makes my feelings more available to me and stronger”
AG: Which feelings? See, the problem with that line is that it’s so generalized that one doesn’t get any poetry out of it. First feeling you had?
Student: Insecure feelings.
AG: Oh, well. This is not a psychology class, this is a poetry class. And, even if it were a psychology class, we’d have to find out what insecure feelings you have, tell us the worst, you can’t think too long. What was the first (thought), go back to the first thought, when you were formulating it originally. In other words, when you were formulating the thought originally, what did you have in mind?
Student: I had my feelings that I feel about a person that I wouldn’t want to tell.. who..I feel afraid to tell him..
AG: Is he here?
AG Well, then it’s alright What’s his name? Or what’s his brother’s name? What’s his great aunt’s name?
Student: It is my brother.
Student: ..being with my brother, and not being able to tell him that..
AG: Can you make up an image for that? Ok, so it’s “Marijuana makes me, toward X brother..” what particular feeling? (now, since this is not a “true confessions” class, you don’t have to do it, but get an equivalent, something just as silly, make a lie!) – If you were writing in your notebook, you could write it out in detail. Since it’s that difficult, then just make something up that’s the same, but different.
Student: Particular to the feeling that I feel.
AG: Yeah, the particular thing. What’s the problem with your brother?
Student: He’s far out. I guess I feel he’s lost.
AG: Well, what’s he been doing lately that you didn’t like? What has your great aunt been doing lately that she didn’t like?
Student: I feel lost.
AG: Well, you’re not lost. You’re sitting right there in your chair, with your mind. The point I’m making, actually, is, not to find out your private life necessarily, but, to find out something concrete..
AG: And what you’re proposing isn’t concrete. So it’s just like making up an image out of “automobile” (the word, “automobile”). “Marijuana makes me mad at my brother’s.. car-crash, or something (I don’t know what).
Student: Mad at my brother smoking marijuana.
AG: Okay, that’s great. “Marijuana makes me mad at my brother smoking marijuana”. Perfect.
Just something particular.
Student: That doesn’t go with marijuana then.
AG: Well, you’re (just) an ideologue.
Student: “Marijuana makes me afraid of movie theatres”.
AG: Movie theatres? All movie theatres? or just where “Frankenstein” is? Do you have it associated with any film?
Student: Yeah, Frank Zappa’s “200 Motels”
AG: Ok. So “Marijuana makes me afraid of “200 Motels” in a movie theatre” – “movie theatres?” “”200 Motels” in movie theatres”, or, something like that, something to jazz it up a bit, you know. Because when you jazz it up like that you’ll also include the detail, so it’s not a fake jazz, it’s like a jazz that actually contains substance. So the more substance you put in it, the better off you are, the more interesting it is. And the more Surrealist, in a sense ( “200 Motels in a movie theatre” is, actually, if you take it literally, worse than “mad children of soda caps”, how can you have 200 motels in a movie theatre?). In other words, reality provides such astonishing juxtapositions that all you have to do is to remember the reality and you’ve already got poetry (but you have to be fast in recollecting what you were just thinking, or saying it while you’re thinking it, because, (as Chogyam Trungpa) Rinpoche pointed out recently, the ultimate session we had, that words.. I forget the formulation.. that words and thoughts came simultaneous. That is, words came simultaneous with thought. Word came as thought or thought came as word. Thoughts come as words, so all you have to do is pick the words that just came, rather than re-translating them into poetry, or into social language, unless you really have some definitely embarrassing..they’ll do it every time you want to…
Student: Well, now, (but) how could anybody interpret anybody else’s poetry then?
AG: So far we haven’t had any trouble. So far we haven’t had any trouble, but, actually, it turns out that, when you get that simple-minded, simple-minded, everything is quite clear. It’s only when you try to complicate your mind and interpret it, and intellectualize or generalize it, or philosophize it…yeah..when you begin to philosophize on it, that it tends to become intellectually obscure and difficult to decipher. But the first thing I guess that one picks on, picks out, as the eye moves on the page, often, is a funny kind of brilliance of imagery (and imagery which tends to contradict itself by including so much – like “200 motels in a movie house”). Now, of course, “200 Motels”, in a hundred years, (would) require a footnote, (like Milton, but no worse than Milton) – “Movie house” might require a footnote, in about 500 years, or (even) 200 years, but one just has to trust the mind to make sense, because the mind does make sense when you’re not messing around with it to disguise it, generally, unless you’ve got a mind that’s already so dissociated, nutty, just plain lunatic, that its products might be (an) extremely high order of juxtaposition or gibberish in repetition, but normal mind, like everybody’s here, operates with great common sense. Common sense. And people generally recognize.. it’s amazing, but people generally recognize each other’s private talk. And people in talking privately in the kitchen generally say great juxtaposed funny shorthand phrasings, which are natural speech, high intelligence, tremendous concrete imagery, simply they don’t know that it could be classified as poetry, and when they want to write poetry, (they) generally turn to something more abstract, more like what they read in a book once, (and) generally, it comes out to be incomprehensible, thinking too hard. You have to find, by trial and error, that it tends to work out, that what you first thought is communicable, and, generally, it does tend to communicate. Because everybody’s mind is the same, everybody’s mind works the same (the content is different, but the operations of the mind are.. one thought rising, flowering, disappearing, a gap, a recollection of the fifth thought back..
Student: “Marijuana gives me increasing…
AG: “Makes“! “..makes!”. Fill out the word. Fill out the line.
Student: “..makes my sexual fantasies go crazy”
AG: Well now, what particular fantasies? Plural – You’ve got plural, now. Do you have a notebook you can write it down in? In the privacy of your closet?
Student: Will that need a footnote?
AG: Can you offer one? (not necessarily yours, but just so you don’t have to put yourself on the spot). See, the problem is a poetic problem. We’re talking about a poetic problem here. “My sexual fantasies go crazy” – that’s the generalization. So I guess what you’re recollecting, or flashing on, is one specific time getting high and one or another specific fantasy (or a series, or a series of occasions in time). Right? Or did you have something specific in mind back there (when you announced it)?
Student: No, not really
AG: You mean the line doesn’t even mean anything?
Student: No, I’m saying it happens most of the time.
AG: When you get high?
AG: So you are referring to some specific times, then?
AG: So then it would be a question of what specific time did you flash on before you generalized it for us. Right? – I’m not trying to force you to do anything, but I’m trying to figure out if there is an order to the mind’s thoughts that we can all.. not share your thought, but we can all.. follow, that there is a certain order. Just like her brother [AG points to previous student] smoking. There was a specific thing (that) she was bugged at. So there would be one specific.. that’s obvious, isn’t it? – what I’m saying is obvious? – there would be a specific event, some specific detailed event…
So.. the problem is answering this roll-call, for me, is in answering “the great roll call from above”, you’re going to have to account for all your sins – in detail. You’re going to have to account for all the… the flash when you’re drowning is..the details, really. So can you just make up something? You don’t have to tip your mitt on peccadilloes of your own. What was (say), Lon Chaney‘s sexual fantasy? Then, go crazy (presumably, there was a sexual fantasy!). So “go crazy” is not necessary (actually), all you have to do is lay out the fantasy. “Marijuana makes me..fuck my mother with a ten-foot balloon” – or something! – anything! – Go on, finish your line, please. Just so we can have a good line on the tape.
Student: When I was walking down this street, coming to this class, this girl is getting (out) of this car. She was probably hitch-hiking.
AG: “Marijuana makes me notice, on my way to class, hitch-hiking girls..” – or something. But the problem is you have to boil it down.
Student: I know, it’s just (that) it’s great…
AG: Was that the original thought you had in mind?
AG: When you said “Marijuana makes my sexual fantasies go crazy”? You were linking the marijuana with the non-marijuana experience outside, right? Or were you?
AG: Were you?
AG: In pragmatic practice. Ok, that’s fair, that’s fair. That’s fair. If that’s the first thought, that’s fair. So ten it would be a combination – “Marijuana makes..”, plus the image of the girl getting off the bus (or car, or whatever), and then whatever you wanted to do with her, or not do with her, or whatever. But condensed a little.
Why the fuck can’t we talk?! Why can’t we talk? That’s the huge shyness that overcomes the universe when one tries to speak to ones brothers and sisters. It’s amazing to begin with, and poetry is supposed to break through that – or can, not “supposed to”, but “can”, break through that – so the problem is actually having the courage to trust the humanity of your fellow sentient beings, or fellow students, and it requires just exactly that choice, really. That’s the great moment in composition, where you actually give yourself in (to) actual writing. I’m not talking about taking a roll-call, or classroom tears, or anything like that, but in writing, you actually have to give yourself, otherwise there’s no love at all – and there’s no poetry, there’s just people being alone and uttering abstract mantras, social mantras. Well, actually, it’s like a good thing to understand there – the enormous difficulty of utterance of the mind, or heart, and the sacredness of the practice, if one’s practice is direct. That’s one aspect of poetry.
There’s another aspect, where you can skim the mind, in a sense, and just take whatever is the funniest that appears, which is usually good, actually, which is usually actually quite good, and actually does reveal the soul. In a way, John Ashbery tonight [John Ashbery was scheduled to read at Naropa that night] can demonstrate that, because it’s like a man skating on his mind, writing anything that comes into his head, with tremendous aplomb, total savoir faire, unembarrassed by anything, and generally finding that the contents of the mind (are) quite trivial (in fact, finding the contents of consciousness to be totally trivial, sometimes but, by building up enormous acres of trivia building up an actual universe of consciousness, and occasionally coming upon very poignant moments, or revealing moments). So, if you can go to the (his) reading tonight, because Ashbery is, like, the supreme master of that kind of composition, or at least right now [Allen writing in 1975], this decade, these several decades.
But could you finish your line? Or next time finish your line.
Student: “Marijuana makes me miss appointments writing poems”.
AG: Which appointment? Which appointment did you actually miss?
Student: Trivial appointments writing poems.
AG: Which appointments? Appointment with whom? Appointment at the supermarket? Appointment with my mom? (just think of it as a line now) – “Marijuana makes me miss appointments with my momma” “Marijuana makes me miss appointments at the supermarket”,”Marijuana makes me miss appointments at the orthodontist” – Which is more interesting? Something with a concrete detail is more interesting than the generalized “appointment”. And, if possible, you can go back – it’s the same problem, always – if the line had a reference, if the phrase “missed appointments” had a reference, which it probably did…
Student: Not to a specific appointment, more..just sitting (around) and writing poems, and missing..
AG: Did you actually ever do that?
Student: I don’t know.
AG: Ok, give me one time? Who did you miss?
Student: (I was) late for work.
AG: What kind of work?
AG: Well, just to make the line interesting..
Student: “…made me miss typing appointments, writing poems”
AG: In what city was it?
Student: New York City,
AG: “Marijuana makes me miss typing in New York City” – or something,
Student: “..New York City appointments”
AG: “Writing poems” – “typing in New York City” is very odd – I mean, “typing in New York City”?
Student: Isn’t “writing poems” obvious?
AG: No, it’s beautiful. It’s totally like..total trivia, total trivia, but, of all the things… Well, actually, I guess that’s a trick. If I can’t find a specific reference, I figure out, what city was it? It makes it national poetry that way, like Whitman. I’m giving out my trade secrets! – I actually have done that on any number of occasions – fucking in Boulder, smoking in Denver, anything, the first thing that comes to mind.. but it could be a description of appointments of typing in the Empire State Building, or wherever you work, or typing on Madison Avenue, as specific as possible, because, one, it’s the truth, and, two, the truth is funnier than fiction and more poignant, always. Someone?
Student: I think the responses show (that) people tend to think more in generalities than in specifics – or at least talk more in that (manner)…Why do you think that is?
AG: Well, we’ve just experienced that.. Basically, it’s a feeling of the unworthiness and shame of the actual self’s details. A feeling that the actual self’s details are not worthy of the pantheon of the great thoughts of history, which is why (John) Ashbery’s..I’m calling it “trivia”, just because it’s a common word now.. rhapsody of trivia is historically interesting, because he’s making a common everyday world his home. And he’s not intimidated with having to deal with the walls of Troy, he’s able to deal with his own marijuana-wall, somebody’s wall.
Student: Could you wind up by having… like you talked about how many footnotes you’d need for a Milton thing, could you..? …you could wind up having to footnote almost every other word?
AG: Well, you wouldn’t have to..
Student: (Every other word) in the poem.
AG: Well, it won’t work out that bad, don’t worry. You’re just too worried about it. It won’t work out that (bad).
Student: How about the other part of it, of not being (real, specific), just living in the life of generalities, and not being in contact with…
AG: Well, most people do live, socially, in a life of generalities, but the fact is that most people’s interior (life) is a continuous conversation and observation of particulars.
Student: Yeah, but the chatter can be real general.
AG: Pardon me?
Student : That chatter.
AG: Chatter comes to be real general? So now we’re sort of talking about.. This is a course in poetics, and how to distill out of the chatter of everyday speech the actual poetics, the actual poetries. And I keep saying, it’s easier than anybody realizes. You don’t have to reach to heaven, all you have to do is remember what you just thought. And there couldn’t be anything easier (except for some social barriers, where there are “blue” areas, (as they are called), psychological blocks, like the basic feeling of insecurity, that one’s own details, one’s own life, is not worthy of publishing, so to speak, or not worthy of proclamation, (coming off) false education, a conditioning, which suggests that only certain subjects, themes, phrasings, tones of mind, are the proper subjects of poetry – so, therefore, you wouldn’t think of your big toe as (poetry), or your nose as the subject of the poem, or you actually smelling a garbage pail as being a big poem, full of cats, dead cats!) So.. or the festering roots of bulbs of festering lilac, I think, in the garbage pail, that (William Carlos) Williams noticed (that) he was smelling. So it’s a question of reclaiming one’s own territory, in a sense (like at the end of Faust, Goethe has his great Faustian hero reclaiming marshes, just coming back home and doing proper work, working in his home territory, or, at the end of Candide, cultivating one’s own garden). So it’s really a question of accepting one’s own self, which goes back again, in American poetics, to Whitman saying, “I celebrate myself and sing myself, and what I shall assume, you shall assume”. It’s absolute total sense, in poetics, that first proclamation of Whitman’s (not even a proclamation, it’s a dead statement of fact, (a) clear statement of fact…
Student: “Marijuana makes marijuana”
AG: Marijuana makes marijuana?
Student: In a factory.
AG: Well, maybe after all those long sex fantasies, maybe some nice simple line like that would be appropriate.
Student: I was going to say “brownies”.
AG: “Marijuana makes brownies”?
Student: I had another..
Student: “Marijuana makes me climb a fire-escape to look at the stars”.
AG: Which stars?
Student: The ones above.
AG: What city?
Student: In a town
AG: What town? How big are the stars? How big is the fire-escape?. Weird combination. I mean, just to locate it somewhere. The more particularly you locate it, the more attractive it is to read, and the more Homer will weep!…
Student: …”(Marijuana) makes me a pot-bellied dancer of food-store pop-star”.
AG: Great. A pot-bellied dancer of food-store pop-star?
AG: Is that what you said?
AG: If you (find) you can’t do it fast enough, just put it together as fast as you can. Any order that it comes out will be amazing. It’s true! Any order will be amazing. I mean, I’m glad you went there. Because that was a lesson. If there’s any teaching at all… The more agile you are in remembering, the more you can put together..
Student: I’m not on the roll, (but)…
AG: What’s your name?
Student: Mike Ellsworth..
AG: ..”Marijuana makes Mike Ellsworth..”, or “Marijuana makes…”, I don’t want to limit it..
Student: ..Wondering what, especially, poets mean, (by) that sign in back of you..
AG: I would say it, “Marijuana makes me wonder what especially poets mean.”
AG: I think it’s probably sharper (simple, like that).
Student: But it’s (the first version) more specific.
AG: Ok, yeah (it is), come to think of it.
Student: The (specificity of the) sign.
AG: I have a tendency, I must confess, to condense, perhaps too much. Actually, so there’s an aesthetic problem – Where do you stop? See, the quiz isn’t where to begin?, because it’s all there, there’s a whole universe of thought there, so it’s a question of where do you stop? and what is too trivial? and what’s poignant? and what’s actually sharp? and what’s not? What can you really remember later? I tend to condense it as much as possible, make it sharp. It’s a kind of a betrayal of the very method I’m proposing. And, actually, what made me flash on that is [Naropa student/teaching assistant] Bill St Claire, who’s been writing a long poem, which includes all of that, on the blackboard in back of you. Partly, because, if you were to see that line on a page, you would realize (immediately that) it came from a particular circumstance that had a blackboard, (probably, a classroom), and (that) actually would invoke the whole scene and the presence of the scene, but, at the same time, you’d know that the poet was being funny and mysterious, because he’d know that the reader in a hundred years wouldn’t have any idea, but it’s still..he’s talking about that blackboard in back of you as if it were still there, and (as if) it were a Homeric place. So there’s a funny kind of artfulness in that flat nothing blackboard in back of you, too.
I wouldn’t use it so much myself.
Student: Do you have to be aware of what’s going to happen in a hundred years if you’re writing now?
AG: Aren’t you?
Student: Well, that’s surely where I wouldn’t want to be.
AG: Well, that’s only one of the things that you’re aware of, oddly enough, I think.
Student: Even (tho’) you’ve mentioned it, like, maybe five times tonight, I’ve never even thought of it.
AG: Well, somebody asked me, how can you understand?, and I was putting it in a context. “How can you understand?” – I said, well, a footnote in a hundred years. Well, I’ll tell you, that’s one sort of shrewd thought you could have as a background thought, as a panoramic background thought, to your own writing. Probably at the height of rhapsody, it may become the main thing, it may become the main thought of poetry, like at the end of Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” – “Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth/ Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!” – or, in Shakespeare – “So long lives this, and this gives life to thee”, the sonnet that he’s writing to his boyfriend, “So long lives this, and this gives life to thee” – It’s, oddly, like “Marijuana makes marijuana”, Poetry makes poetry – or, I wouldn’t say the subject of poetry is poetry, but there seems to be some transmission involved at the height of rhapsody, or of inspiration, a consciousness of addressing the entire universe and all time, or a consciousness of eternity, or (the) eternality of what is being said. Certainly, a consciousness, or an awareness – a feeling awareness – that what is being said is so truthful that it’s going to endure, like an adamant diamond bar, in time, and not ever be dissolved, because it is so… not even in a thousand years.. not even for the length of the poison effects of plutonium, in the sense that we’re maybe going to have to have a high-tech civilization for the next 250,000 years, on account of plutonium’s got to be kept guarded for 250,000 years! (So nobody’s going to be able to get back to nature for the next quarter of a million years! So you might as well enjoy it, and write your poetry for the next 250,000 years, until the plutonium wears out!)
Student: That’s the only standard there’s going to be?
AG: No, I didn’t say that’s the only standard. No, of course not.. No, I just thought of it then. That was the first thought that hit my head to explain how long bureaucratic pieces of paper with instructions were going to be around, so you can have books around, maybe? – It’s like Shiva swallowed the poison – or, the deed is done, the apple is eaten. This was just a thought. Maybe it won’t be? But, in any case, I think there is a sense that when you get to the height of inspiration, (there is) the fact that you are present in the future now, already, and that you are addressing yourself in the future, or (your) grandchildren in the future. It’s not the dominant thing to think of, and, obviously, to set out to do (it) that way would be a mistake, but, on the other hand, there’s a certain old-dog shrewdness that you could bear in mind.
Student: Is there anything like that in (William Carlos) Williams? Any lines that come through?
AG: Yeah. I think so, Very much so. I thought of it actually..when I was looking over Williams an hour ago. There’s a two-line thing about a comrade..I forget.. It’s that Spanish, companaro –
El Hombre – “It’s a strange courage/ you give me ancient star:/ Shine alone in the sunrise/ toward which you lend no part!” – He’s talking about the dawn of consciousness in America, following Whitman, and the development of awareness, and (of) his own practice of literal, Rutherford, New Jersey. “El Hombre” is the title – “The Man” – ” “It’s a strange courage/ you give me..” I think it’s a morning star or an ancient star – “Shine alone in the sunrise/ toward which you lend no part!” – Seeing himself as a beginning light signal. A signal. First signal light to a great sunrise of present awareness which is now unfolding itself and manifesting itself in Naropa Institute.
Student: There’s a rainbow outside our window.
AG: This very minute?
Student: There’s a beautiful rainbow outside.
AG: Well, there’s a beautiful rainbow inside, Yes?
Student: I’m not on the list but I’m on the list.
AG: Huh? How come?
Student: Because I just enrolled yesterday
AG: Okay…Al Santoli?
Student: (taking ) credit, (full-time) student – “Marijuana makes dizzy guitar notes in Frank’s redwood living-room”
AG: Ah, that’s better than last time. “Dizzy”? I don’t know about that. It’s a little bit.. We had one dizzy in the poem already. Another thing to remember: “don’t repeat yourself”.
Student: “..makes wobbly guitar notes in Frank’s redwood living-room”
AG: Well,”dizzy” was the first thing you thought, but…
Student: Oh, ok, I’m the one (sucker who) just wrote down the line in your poem. “Marijuana makes me write poems of pure plutonium waste, it’s ghost lingers centuries and it doesn’t require footnotes”
AG: Ok. Being incestuous there. Is there anyone I didn’t call? Let me know if I should write you down on the roll…
Student:..I’m part-time, no credit.. “Marijuana makes me climb corners and green dreams”
AG: Climb corners?
AG: And dream dreams?
Student: And green dreams.
AG: And green dreams?.. Well “green dreams” ain’t bad, except that it’s a little bit…well, green dreams. Green Walgreens. Green cinder-block dreams.
Student: It’s just that…
AG: Green cinder-block dreams? or is it some other green dreams?
Student: No, it was just.. the only reason it came out that way was that the “e”‘s, the long “e’s”..gave the feeling of the..
AG: Well, the mind will work (sonically) anyway. You don’t have to worry about it. The mind will always find assonance. The mind will always find that assonance anyway, so you don’t have to worry about it. “Green dreams” seems too poetic. And still, probably.. well, I don’t know. You may be so crazy that that was your first thought, but it sounds like an imitation of a poem, rather than the actual raw thought. So I was sort of interested in the raw thoughts, because you are interesting. I’m more interested in raw thought than finished poetry.
Student: Well, couldn’t that be a raw thought?
AG: I doubt it. What do you think?
Student: I think she would know.
AG: I’m asking.. (If that was) the raw thought..or was it like a prepared, poetical…
Student: No, actually, the first thing I got was I guessed the green. I don’t know how the green suggested it(self), but, then, we had so much time..
Student: ..I was just starting to…
AG: Ah, “we had so much time” was the problem. No, it is, it is a problem, because, if you have all that time, then seventy thoughts come in between, and sometimes abstractions of the thoughts, or… so, it’s really , essentially, a practical problem of recollection.
Student: Actually, you don’t think in words, you think in images, don’t you? So an image would flash, and then you’re trying to put that energy to work.
AG: Well, there’s a practical phenomenological problem that I’ve been puzzling over for years.
(William) Burroughs thinks in visual imagery, actually. And I’ve observed him writing, and asked him, in 1961, in Tangier, “What are you thinking about, Bill?”. And he was sitting in front of the typewriter, like that, and he said, “Hands pulling in nets from the sea in darkness”. And I said, ” Ooh!, where did you get that?”. And he said, “Oh, it’s just the fishermen in the morning, when you go down to the beach, pulling in the nets, from the sea, before the sun rises”. So it sounded like something out of Saint-John Perse or T.S.Eliot, or some exquisite, metaphysical, other-worldly, science-fiction image, but it was just this – he was literally seeing hands pulling in nets from the sea in the darkness. So he thinks visually. Most people, I think, do think thoughts in words (in fact Burroughs whole teaching here (Naropa) was how not to think in words, how to cut through words and get to thinking in terms of rhythm, color, visual recollection, no thought. That’s a specific problem of consciousness phenomenology, of which there is no single answer that I know of. I know for myself that I think (in) many things, like words, rhythms, pictures, but I think the primary mode is language, is words. For me. I think it’s likely to be for most people here. (Yevgeny) Yevtushenko, in an elevator in Moscow, asked me what language I thought in, and I said, “English – and sometimes French or Spanish, occasionally”. And he said, “Oh, you think in words, I think in rhythms”. And I think he probably does think “nah, duh-duh-dah duh-duh-dah-dah”, something like that. There is a mode of thought like that – thought-feelings that rise, that maybe don’t have words..
The “green dream” is hard to figure where it came from. But did it come from a specific think (whatever specific think)? a think that’s thunk? – What?..did it come from..?..what I’m really asking here is that everybody recollect their mind (in whatever form that it arises). I think that poetry asks that the writer recollect his consciousness, or recollect his mind, or recollect his mode of thought, and begin to investigate his thought(s), and begin to identify them, become conscious of them. Words is the way here – not music, not dance, not painting – so we’re dealing with how do you translate it into words? Your question is useful because it brings (us) back (to) the questionm “How does Cindy (sic).. how does her mind work, and was the “green dream” her natural way of thinking? – And, if so is it a pathological way of thinking? – or is it a very beautiful lady-like aesthetic way of thinking? – or a poetic way of thinking?”. And I’m thinking it’s more pathological lady-like poetic than natural to you.
Student: But there’s two..
AG: Except, if it were… If we could only locate it with a green cinder-block..
Student: (But) it has a basis outside that abstraction of “green”..
Student: ..besides just getting hung-up with the sound, I have this feeling of having to fight your way through the sound of it, so.. which relates to the feeling of being high. And also the association of “green”. I guess this is a very personal thing that maybe isn’t expressed in the word, but the idea of (the) nature, actually, the leaf, the plant itself, and the association of earth-type things or plant-type things..
Student: Green, yeah.
AG: I just wished you’d said, “Marijuana makes you fight your way through green vegetables”, or something, rather than “green dreams”
Student: She can’t get a natural quote, an inspiration(al) image into inspirational words?
AG: I think, it’s…
Student: You get the image and then the words follow?
AG: It depends how one’s own mind, one’s own separate individual mind, operates. We were talking about this problem the other day with Trungpa, who’s sort of master of his own mind, and he said he thought, with poets, or with great poets, or certain accomplished heads, people did think in words. The thoughts and words were identical. You could say, certainly, conceptual thought and language (are) probably identical, and what isn’t conceptual? Even sight is conceptual, in a sense. But I was surprised to hear him say that, because it was, like, a very solid thing to think..for a poet anyway, that thought and word are identical, that thought isn’t different from word, but that the problem is that people don’t actually express their thought – that there’s another re-thinking of it, or re-churning of it and hiding it, so (that) it comes out in a form where you don’t recognize what the person was actually thinking about when he talks, because what he was thinking about was, perhaps, so delicately personal that the person is too shy to let it out. And, obviously, we’re all sitting here, thinking in thoughts that we wouldn’t want anybody to know. Like the (Bob) Dylan line – “If my thought dreams could be seen, they’d (probably) put my head in a guillotine”. Well, that’s the problem. Way back to the first thought. I’m sorry. I interrupted you. I’m sorry.
Student: (No), Well, I just said that it’s sometimes things that we don’t want to see ourselves that come out.. And we’re so into not seeing them, that we just bury it right away and pull out a different one..
AG: Yeah, so that’s the basic problem. So the basic problem of any art, but mainly marriage, or poetry, or anything. So we’re stuck with…
Student: Allen, I’m not on that list either.
AG: What? oh, ok.. Can you raise your hands (anyone) if you’re not on the list and belong?
Student: “Marijuana makes my body a virgin can of transmission concentrate on the shelf of a service station”
AG: Alright, “Marijuana makes my body a virgin can of gasoline concentrate”.
Student: “transmission concentrate”… “on the shelf of a service station”
AG: That’s fine. “Transmission concentrate” is perfect, actually. “shelf” – dusty shelf of an old Esso station in Oklahoma? Huh?
Student: Same thing…
AG: Next? What time is it by the way?
Student: Twenty of eight
AG: And what time does this class end?
Student: Ten minutes of.
AG: Ok, we have ten minutes.
Student: Can you audit something like this?
Student: Can you audit something like this?
AG: No, just the credit people. If you’ve registered, let me know after class. But the credit people.. I want to get their lines, actually. So this is a secret trick to get them to (inadvertently) utter poetry. Go on.
Student: “Marijuana makes user, usury, user makes marijuana”
AG: Marijuana makes usury? Is that what you said?
Student: “Marijuana makes user, usury, user makes marijuana”
AG: Ok, usury-user, I just mis-heard you. Mis-hearing is a good way of revealing the mind, also, If I write things out accidentally, I usually keep them sometimes. Who else..?
Student: Ok, I have two of them. “Marijuana makes me think of peyote, native red ways, my roots with the earth mothers”, “Marijuana makes me think of my goofy-ness, my past and future, my body being a light sky my mind, a gull”.
AG: Well at least you have one gull in there. There’s a lot of abstraction in it.
Student: “Marijuana makes arthritis in paradise”
AG: “Arthritis in paradise”. There’s a nice sound in that, and that’s a pretty sound. “Arthritis in paradise”. That’s the best sound so far. He’s a musician. “Arthritis in paradise”. Who else? That was (poet) Tom Savage.
Student: “Marijuana makes me wake up when it doesn’t make me sleep”
AG: ..in Brooklyn, ok – Who else is registered but not on my (list)?
Student: “Marijuana makes me feel like a hollow cylinder”
AG: Like a hollow cylinder made of..? Hollow blank cylinder? What kind? Steel? Bamboo?
Student: That’s redundant..
AG: Meat cylinder? Hollow steak cylinder? Hollow ham cylinder? Hollow cylinder of human meat?… well, that was what I was thinking of. Anybody else? “Marijuana makes..?
Student: “Marijuana makes me see my tragic hero, the Hudson River..
AG: Well, it’s pretty romantic, almost.
Student: ..in cracked silence”.
AG: In crooked silence?
AG: In cracked silence. Hard to imagine.
– Well, I’m sorry we’ve taken the whole class with taking the roll
Student: I have a question, sort of what your role up there is, I mean, like how much can we talk to you up there?
AG: As much as you want. As long as it doesn’t get oppressive to everyone else.
AG: I mean, it’s a consensus.