Allen Ginsberg on William Carlos Williams (from his 1975 Naropa class, Mind, Mouth and Page) continues
AG: Okay. So back from this reality – to Williams‘ real solid little thing (i.e his previously-noted poem, “To Flossie”). It’s almost corpse-like cool, that image – “but aren’t they/ in wax paper for the/ moment beautiful”. Also, the syntax is interesting there. His wife talking – “but aren’t they/ in wax/ paper for the/ moment beautiful” – which is actually the way she probably said it – “but aren’t they/ in wax/ paper for the/ moment beautiful” – So his ear there is real good and perfect. “You can’t/ smell them/ because they’re so cold” is like someone really talking.
So, in really talking there, or in that actual conversation (he probably took it down from the conversation, he probably made notes on what his wife said because that is his wife talking there – “Aren’t they beautiful?/ You can’t/ smell them/ because they’re so cold”
What was said by Trungpa (Rinpoche) was that with an open mind, with no blockage, any ordinary event, any ordinary place, offers amazement or offers detail. Any ordinary situation, or an ordinary wall, or corner of the wall, (or any) unused, generally-unobserved corner of the wall, like, up there [Allen points to a spot high up on the wall] offers an endless field for observation of astonishing phenomena – that any ordinary moment will serve as the subject of a poem, if you see into the ordinary moment clear enough to see the relations between things, and to register it precisely. So in that sense, what Williams is doing here and in that poem at his sink, is manifesting, very clearly (and) visibly, to us the kind of perception that is encouraged in mindfulness of a classical Oriental style and practice, psychedelic (or) mind-manifesting (psychedelic means mind-manifesting) – perceptions is (are) really what’s being articulated here. But the psychedelic perception is derived not from special practice to “get high”, but non-practice observation of detail and clear mind.
“Portrait of a Woman at Her Bath” – [Allen reads Williams’ “Portrait of a Woman at Her Bath”] – “It is a satisfaction/ a joy/ to have one of those/ in the house/ when she takes a bath/ she unclothes/herself she is no/ Venus/ I laugh at her/an Inca/ shivering at the well/ the sun is/ glad of a fellow to/ marvel at/ the birds and the flowers look in” – Again, just a household scene, which he’s making into a moment of transparent beauty before he dies – “glad of a fellow to/ marvel at/ the birds and the flowers look in” – (in the window, I guess).
I’m seeing these as still-lifes. Also, “Portrait of a Woman at Her Bath” – So, he’s seeing, almost through a painter’s eye, the visual detail and presenting visual detail as his method.
“The Cocktail Party” – page 51… (The whole title is “Some Simple Measures in the American Idiom and in the Variable Foot”) – It’s interesting – page 47 – “Some Simple Measures in the American Idiom and in the Variable Foot”. So now he’s beginning to finally label and define his practice. Actually, the first one is “Oh/ the sumac died/ it’s/ the first time/ I/ noticed it”. It’s called “Exercise in Timing” – “Oh/ the sumac died/ it’s/ the first time/ I/ noticed it” – I don’t know how he means it – “Oh/ the sumac died/ it’s/ the first time/ I/ noticed it” – It may be that he’s laying it on a little heavy on “Oh”, “it’s”, “I”. Yeah?
Student: Do you think that these were first drafts, did you talk with him about that?
AG: No, not necessarily, but you know the thing is at this point he had a very great difficulty writing, and he probably thought it out in his mind pretty thoroughly before he went to the effort of typing it up (or hand-scribing it because his hand at that time (was unsteady). He had to sign his name like this [Allen mimics the action of Williams’ signing] – real slow. I have a book he signed then and it was just very, very, big, slow, handwriting (and too much to be writing fast and looking over and scribbling it out). So probably he had it (in) mind pretty much set up before he went to the typewriter. And I think he did it with typewriter, but he was making a lot of mistakes on the typewriter. Not being able to, because of a stroke, pick the right letters exactly, and so having to be really careful and slow, and, like, his mind attached, like the fly attached to the wall, he had his mind attached to that little thing of one letter at a time, and that probably turned him to “Oh”, as a whole line. You know, yeah. See, because the conditions of composition, though they may seem disadvantageous, actually made it possible for him to isolate a single syllable, and weigh it and measure it, and become more conscious of it. A single syllable.