continuing with a class on Fulke Greville’s “Sion Lies Waste”
AG: …Babylon – “That sensual, insatiable vast womb,/ Of thy seen Church”, (“sensual”, you know, fucking, and cocksucking, and having banquets, and having boys. At this time, particularly, I guess during Renaissance times, the Church was particularly luxurious and amusing – and “insatiable” (like, getting in money, bringing in money) – “Vast womb” would refer to the whore of Babylon – “ Of thy seen Church, Thy unseen Church disgraceth” – (actually.. I don’t go over these poems very much in terms of meaning, tho’ they’re… partly because I’m sometimes so used to them, I figure they’re obvious, but if it’s the first time you’re hearing them, then, I guess, there’s a little puzzle to figure out. But that’s one that’s worth figuring it out ) – ,” “That sensual, insatiable vast womb,/ Of thy seen Church, Thy unseen Church disgraceth”. So, the “who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars” – “that sensual, insatiable vast womb” – it’s some rhythmic thing, similar in “Howl”, of multiple.. The “unseen Church” is the actual spiritual temple of Christ. Did anybody get that? See, vowels moving along, like a railroad that I got out of “That sensual, insatiable vast womb/ Of thy unseen Church”.
Student: Yes, there’s that rhetorical accusation
A: Yeah. See, it’s maybe the indignation thing, but it’s more, like, the great swallowing mouthfuls of air, you know “that sensual, insatiable vast womb..” Well, for one thing, obviously, it’s a bunch of adjectives put in a row – sensual, insatiable, vast – so that is what I did in “Howl”, just sort of pile up a lot of adjectives till I got to the noun (which is supposed to be a bad trick to do in poetry because you tend to get just corny generalized.. unless you get Surrealist, you know, like “sensual, insatiable, vast” – it creates such a weird space in the mind, as well as being melodically interesting , that you can get away with it – but generally, otherwise, you get hung up saying, well – “I love my pretty, red-headed, twenty-one-year-old, high-school chum/girl nookie”, or something, you know. You really have to say something amazing – “I don’t like crimson candy tangerine-flaked nookie”, or something, to make it go, to make it interestingly SurrealisSo you can get away with a whole bunch of adjectives piled up in a line (which (Jack) Kerouac did quite often, which I do occasionally), but you have to hop up the adjectives so they’re really wild and interesting, and they contradict each other (“sensual”, “insatiable”, you know, what was it? “vast” – “sensual-vast” – “insatiable-vast” – “womb”. Or create an impression that’s so big – “insatiable vast womb” (referring to the Catholic church) – that’s pretty interesting. I mean, that’s mind-blowing, particularly in those days, I suppose it was really a shocker.
[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at the beginning of the tape and concluding approximately three-and-a-half minutes in]