Mind, Mouth and Page – (Contention)

Allen Ginsberg’s Mind, Mouth and Page lectures continue from here 

Student: Do you think that he (Pound) really got off on the poetry? – or (wasn’t it) just the fact that they were cutting away from writing in a royal tongue, and (he was) just.. going at it, like a professor – out to put out a book, because (maybe) somebody’s out to throw him out of his chair, if he doesn’t get published in the next year, (“‘publish or perish”), and.. (so just more of the usual bullshit-academics)

AG: You have too much resentment. Are you finished (with) your question? You have too much resentment against what you think other people know that you don’t know.

Student: No, I think that…

AG: Let me answer your..

Student: Okay

AG: … your question. (So) shut up!
The thing is he loved the poetry. The organic thing is when you make a change like that, when you break apart an old form, as (William Carlos) Williams points out, just like when you break up the atom, you release tremendous new energy. Just like, all of a sudden, Dante can write about (himself) or somebody in Purgatory or Hell squinting his eye just like a tailor squints his eye to thread the needle. Because you’re thinking and writing in your natural language that you talk all the time, all of a sudden the images and perceptions are your own images and your own perceptions. So he was getting off on the poetry obviously. Really, really, getting off on the poetry. It had nothing to do with the scholarship or the professor trying to prove (himself) – nothing! And he was constantly trying to point out that when there is that transition to the local dialect, that’s when people really begin swinging their ass, that’s when people really use their heads, that’s when they’re actually talking from themselves.

So he surveyed the whole history of the European languages and some Oriental languages, to find those transition points to see what he could learn that he could apply to American. And what he learned was as follows – one last sentence – he said he thought the development in later times.. American prosody would develop along the lines of an approximation of classical Latin/Greek quantitative meters. By which he meant that people would develop an ear for the vowels they were talking and hear their vowels for the first time, instead of hearing accents every time they opened their mouth to write. They would hear their own vowels. So, he thought, an approximation (now he said approximation, because in Latin and Greek the vowels had a definite fixed length that was assigned to them and there were rules for the length of vowels – half vowels, whole vowels – and also there are tones which went with the vowels – high and low – there are grammarian’s rules, written after the fact, as Pound points out, but nobody knows how to practice that now). So he was saying we would have to develop a practice in the American tongue of mindfulness of our speech, listening to the vowels, and he guessed it would be (an) approximation of classical quantity that would develop, historically. And that’s why he went to all that trouble to research all those languages. Yeah?

Student: But you haven’t answered my question. Very informative – but not what I was asking .

AG: Okay

Student: Okay

AG: I wanted to give that information out anyway

Student: Yes, fine, okay.. At the end…

AG: I’m sorry I yell at you all the time, but it’s just…

Student: No

AG: ..that you always make this big scene

Student: I’m sorry. It was just that I was trying to tie it in with that line (that we’d been discussing) in the (Bob) Dylan song, because I thought, like, that was what was coming through. I thought that it was just the general gut-feeling that, like, if I open up (to) Ezra Pound.. (except for the last, you know, I’ve been opening (up to) some stuff that I hadn’t been open to before – I think maybe the last Canto, and the one about “usury”, there are a couple that I can get a little bit out of, but that’s just…) For some reason, he’s hard as hell for me – and T.S.Eliot also (in ways that other people are just not hard for me). Like if I hit William Blake I hit this thing that’s just an immediate (slap) and I think that‘s what he’s talking about. Because, I know that, when Dylan would go at blues and stuff, I’m sure that he was just getting into stuff (that) just naturally wound up popping all over his own music.

AG: I would venture to say, I guess, my feeling is that there would have been no Bob Dylan without Ezra Pound, and until you understand why, in the development of American poetry, how people’s minds worked and how things changed, without the original research and invention made that Pound made, that Williams used, that turned me on, it would not have been that kind of Dylan, see? That’s why it’s important to understand Pound if you want to understand the bones of the thing, if you really want to understand how everything developed historically, how attitudes and practices developed from one person to another in a kind of transmitted lineage in a way, personal transmissions, and over the radio, and in Time magazine, you’d have to go back to Pound, and then, before Pound, you’d have to go back to Whitman, and then to understand Whitman you’d have to go to crazy (Edgar Allan) Poe. So it’s all one beautiful unfoldment of people developing, one upon another, their ideas. And it’s really beautiful when you understand the development, because otherwise you get to make mistakes between mind-obsessions and gut-feelings (which a lot of Beatnik poets did – do – including yourself, sir, looking at your poems!)

I remember the big argument (that) we had the other night about whether you were actually using your own body-mind perceptions or whether you were writing something imitative, or.. actually.. your writing sounds like the worst of Pound! – What you don’t like in Pound is actually a certain element that comes into your writing, which is the flowery abstraction or something, I guess, but.. Well, enough of beating on each other. We constantly get into this big argument all the time. We got into an argument for two (whole) hours at my house one night. I’m sorry.

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