Mind, Mouth and Page – (Bureaucratic Interlude)

from Allen Ginsberg’s 1975 Mind, Mouth and Page Naropa lectures, a brief pause, as Allenn addresses student assignments

AG (to Student): Yeah, I like these. I just rewrote one. I rewrote the short one. In the back yard? or in the front yard in the grass? or where? – Not outside? – Ah, on the balcony. Well, okay – [Allen, attending to the Students’ poems] – “picks up, stuffing”, rather than “and stole some” (I think)?. I mean, he didn’t steal it, he.. what’s the physical (object here)?

Student: I know, I thought of that after I’d..

AG: I just did that one. Rachael? [sic]? – [no answer] – How many have finished their poem?, the assignment poem? Raise your hand. Now are they finished and ready to be handed in? or have they been handed in? Because.. those that have finished and have not handed them in, please do so at the end of the class. Is there anyone who has not finished it yet?. Raise your hand. High.real high (so I can see). One, two, three, four, just four. So see me, if you can do it, before the end of the class, or Monday. Is there anyone registered for credit besides Art? [sic]. You’re registered for credit aren’t you?

Student: No, not at all.

AG: I’ve got you listed as a credit student

Student: That’s a mistake.

AG: Well maybe go by and tell them (the office). Well let me check it out to be sure. Yeah. They got you registered as a credit student. So maybe just go straighten them out.

Student: Yeah, right.

AG: Is there anyone who’s registered for credit who has not finished the poem? Huh – Okay – Because that’s the main thing I’m worried about, that I have something (to grade). If I have to give marks then I have something to give marks on. I would also like, by the end of the week, for those who are registered for credit, to turn in a one-page paper, summarizing the gists of the entire session – from your notes, or from recollection, or from memory – the key points about poetics (not about my beard or something, but about poetics!) Yeah?

Student: Did you say that you do like a second poem instead of a paper, or do you want the paper?

AG: I would really be interested in a paper.

Student: Okay

AG: I mean I’d also be interested in a second poem, but I’d also be interested in a paper because I’m just learning how to teach, and I’m trying to figure out what is coming across

Student: Okay

AG: In other words, I need some kind of feedback, so that I know what it is I have said or what I’ve said clearly enough that it was heard..what I said clearly enough and strongly enough that it was heard and registered and will be bounced back. Because there were some really simple things that I was trying to say, over and over and over again, so I just want to see if it did get through.

Student: You’re needing a critique of what you said? or a creative..

AG: No, (a) critique (is) not necessary, simply a Williams-like description of what was said. In other words, the facts of what went on in class, so to speak. If all that babble bullshit talk could be reduced to a few key phrases with examples. Mainly, I’m interested in what struck you most? what epiphanies, or what particular tiny visions you had in the classroom? (tiny visions of poetic language)? – the gists (Pounds word is “the gists and piths” – P-I-T-H-S – “gists and piths”), whatever got across that seems essential, the essential points. Is that clear? It would be useful to me (for the credit students, useful to make grades, but aside from that, for non-credit students, useful for me to know what I said and what was said clearly

Student: Are you giving.. is this like, you pass or you don’t pass?

AG: Depends what you want

Student: Or is this A-B-C.

AG: I can give A, B’s or C’s, or I can give (pass/no pass). If there’s any need for letter grades, I’ll give letter grades

Student: I just assumed it was a grading system, like in school

AG: No, I think the only reason grades are given is that people want to take them away to apply to other colleges [this is in 1975, and pre-Naropa accreditation] Some other colleges use pass/fail and some others require letter grades, so it’s really up to you.

Student: What did you do the first session for grades?

AG: I gave letter grades, except for those who said pass/fail was all they needed.. They range generally from “B+” to “A-,” “A” or “A minus”. People who didn’t try at all got a “B”. A lot of “Incomplete”‘s. A lot of “Incomplete”‘s! I didn’t have any record of some people being in class at all

(from the August 13 1975, Naropa, Allen Ginsberg class – “Mind Mouth and Page”, (lectures on William Carlos Williams)

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