Student: (I recognize that you are) concentrating on just spontaneous things (right) now, trying to do mostly spontaneous things, do you really.. do you ever revise at all? or are you totally against that?
AG: I fiddle around with it later, a little, but not much, and I try to avoid it as much as possible. The problem is that in doing spontaneous writings sometimes I lapse, my attention lapses. I get self-conscious, and so rhythm lapses and form, content, concreteness, lapses, I get abstract. So you usually have to get rid of that.
Student: Well, what do you think about someone like (William) Blake, going back and revising all the time.
AG: He was trained in that tradition, but he also saw in the air pictures which he put down
Chogyam Trungpa: I think the question of revising, again, you revise spontaneously again at the same time or even do it very technically. There is also that point.
AG: It’s a question of the rigidity of your approach at the beginning, and in revision too, I guess.
Chogyam Trungpa: Yeah. A sense of..
AG: You can get hung up at the beginning or hung up revising. If you’re hung up to begin with then it doesn’t make any difference if you change it, except that it’s really delightful to have that original impression, and it also is instructive to other people if you can present an actual object that came forth spontaneously and you can actually follow the movement to the mind.
Student: You see when I write, I just usually write images. I concentrate on one thing that I feel like writing and the images come out, and then afterwards (the work needs to be done and) I have to put them in perceptions. That’s what I usually do. I’m going to show some of them to you afterwards at intermission.
Gregory Corso: Can I answer that a little bit? – your question re image – (See), there’s three shots – there’s memory (which means past), there’s present (which means immediacy) and there’s future (which means anticipation). Right? So if you have an image, you gotta get that, son. That spontaneity is image. But if you have memory (let’s say, dream, or something like that), if you don’t remember, it’s like you never dreamt at all. So if you don’t write the subject down, it’s like you never had the image. So that’s what poetry is, it’s really capturing the shot. See, my next book that’s coming out, I’m (thinking of) calling it “Heirlooms from the Future”, because I’m going to play the shot, I’m going to play the triplicity.
Student: Yeah, but if you just take down these images as they come into your head they’re just a string of images. I mean, the way you think is just one after the other, but…
Gregory Corso: Yeah, there’s another three stages (to) how you use the image. The stages other than memory, present, and future (or past, present and future), are talent, genius, and.. . what’s the third one?.. divine! – You see, Dante was divine. Shelley was divine. Milarepa was divine. They knew what they were putting down. They didn’t have to rush out their shot . That’s the way I feel about it. [turns to Allen] What do you think, Al? Maybe I’m wrong on that. I don’t know. I don’t think I am.
AG: The problem is that.. (Jack) Kerouac and I discussed that a couple of times. We came to a little formula similar to what I heard from (Chogyam Trungpa) Rinpoche – “First thought, best thought”, “If your mind is shapely, the art will be shapely” – meaning, if you have a clear awareness of what you’re preoccupied with, or what image you have in your head, what central heart-thought is in your head, all the images will relate to it. If you have no attention, if your attention isn’t focused anywhere, then you might be flying in any direction and have a series of unrelated images, but that means that you’re hiding what your real attention is, somewhere (generally, one’s attention is somewhere, it’s just that you don’t approach it, for timidity or shyness or…
Student: See, but by you saying “First thought, best thought”…
AG [gesturing to Trungpa] – He said it.
Student: Yeah, but you agree with that?
AG: Yes. One hundred percent.
Student: Do you really, necessarily, think in words? So that “first thought” might be the best thing, but the first words that you put down to try to express that thought may not be the real thing
Gregory Corso: That’s spontaneous change. You’re right.
AG: (William) Burroughs writes in, or thinks in, pictures, and transcribes the pictures
Chogyam Trungpa: I think there’s maybe something to say about that – that if you are actually getting into poetry, your thought becomes word(s) automatically (and that’s not regressing, particularly, but you have thought which is word – because word is not really a struggle for you). It’s a spontaneous thing that is part of your system. So you have no problem with thought in word(s) to begin with and (so) then you can put down anything you want. And I think that’s one of the problems, that, if you’ve got a very good idea, then you try to put it into word(s), (like writing a letter to your parents or something like that), and you’re sort of stuck. And I think that’s one of the disciplines – that there should not be a gap between word and thought, and your thought is word.