[William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)]
Ginsberg on Williams (from June 1976 at Naropa) continues:
AG: So it’s a question of the whole problem of the structure of the universe then, (that it) depends on our own perception of it, naturally And here we’ve got a man (Williams) working on his perceptions directly, and using the language as a way to recognize and refine his perceptions and to define his perception or first thought as the material for his work – very manly work, in a sense (though it’s just purely aesthetic). He’s got a poem (called), “The Men” – big macho aesthetic. [ Allen reads Williams’ “The Men” in its entirety – “Wherein is Moscow’s dignity/more than Passaic’s dignity?/A few men have added color better/ to the canvas, that’s all”….” ..Only/ the men are different who see it/ draw it down in their minds/ or might be different”] – Only the men might be different. That’s (a) very clear social poem. It really provides a program for American painters and aesthetes, and politicians, finally, movie-makers, style-brokers. But it’s a kind of slow patient process. So he’s got, in his Collected Later Poems (which I’m now beginning to deal with), “A Sort of (a) Song” (A sorta song) – [Allen reads Williams’ “A Sort of Song” – “Let the snake wait under/ his weed. and the writing/ be of words, slow and quick, sharp/ to strike, quiet to wait,/ sleepless./ – through metaphor to reconcile/ the people and the stones./ Compose. (No ideas/ but in things) Invent!/ Saxifrage is my flower that splits/ the rocks”] – Saxifrage is a weed that grows in rock and in pavements and by dint of its endurance, hardiness and native…
Student” “No ideas but in things, Invent..”
AG: Um-hmm. Combinations of things.
Student: What about things as they appear?
AG: Well, you’ve got to invent them too. You have to invent things as they appear, also.
Student: Inventing the works…
AG: There’s no way out, you see.
Student: What’s the name of that poem
AG: A Sort of Song.. (So) (but..) what is the native thing that saxiflage is to the soil that makes it more habituated to the soil than the concrete? The concrete crumbles and (but) the saxifrage can, apparently, renew itself inexhaustibly, and (it) splits the rocks of imperception. So he’s saying (that) though there’s no escape, except the observation of the certain variation in the shade of blue, though it may seem like a very minor activity (being stuck with the details of earth in a very small and non-romantic activity, a very small and non-romantic enterprise for poetics), still it’s sure as saxiflage to split the rocks of civilization, if the perception can be maintained, if the mind doesn’t get lost, if the mind doesn’t get lost in the world of its own invention, or purely of its own invention.
“The Cure” – So he got depressed, because it was a lot of hard work, naturally, and boring
(as they say of meditation) – [ Allen reads Williams’ “The Cure” in its entirety – “Sometimes I envy others, fear them/ a little too, if they write well./ For when I cannot write I am a sick man/ and want to die. The cause is plain./ But they have no access to my sources./ Let them write them as they may and/perfect it as they can they will never/ come to the secret of that form/ interknit with the unfathomable ground/ where we walk daily and from which/ among the rest you have sprung/ and opened flower-like to my hand”] – So he really knows where he is and he’s got all his powers assembled and bow is beginning to display them.
Here’s a piece of vipassana, or mindfulness, insight into detail called “Perfection” – [Allen reads Williams’ poem “Perfection” – “O lovely apple!/ beautifully and completely/ rotten,/ hardly a contour marred – / perhaps a little/ shrivelled at the top but that/ aside perfect. in every detail! O lovely/ apple! what a/ deep and suffusing brown/mantles that/ unspoiled surface! No one/ has moved you/ since I placed you on the porch/ rail a month ago/ to ripen./ No one. No one!”] – So he’s been meditating on that apple all month, that little apple out there on the porch railing, been watching it all month, and, finally, the moment of perfection has come when the apple has ripened in his mind, and he realizes he alone (like Plotinus), alone with the alone (or alone in the alone), [editorial note – the actual phrase of Plotinus is the “flight of the alone to the alone”] has got a perfection of percepton at this point, a perception of being.