Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) – Helen Adam – 7

Student: Isn’t it [the jump cut in the ballad form] a model of the mind essentially, because the mind jumps like that?

AG: That’s the way the mind works, yeah. The reason that poetry’s like that is because it’s faithful to the actual operation of the mind. Mind goes like that.

That’s why (William) Burroughs’ cut-ups,(which are jump cuts or juxtapositions)  are so appropriate to 20th century Einstein-ian measurements of mind. That’s why haiku are so clear, because it jumps one image to another image, almost disconnected (although the mind makes up the connection, or sees the connection, or there’s a flash between the poles of different images). Since this [Naropa] is a Buddhist Academy, then the equivalent Buddhist terminology, or the equivalent American-ese Buddhist terminology used by Chogyam Trungpa, is “the gaps between thoughts”. The “gaps” in between thoughts, or in the meditation practice, you will notice (those of you who have taken meditation practice) – and, incidentally, how many here do know the local form of meditation practice? Raise your hand if you do, And how many do not? Well, another assignment for the class (because we’re studying the operation of the mind in relation to poetry), please, as homework, check in with Naropa register people, and have somebody sign (you) up to teach you how to sit and meditate, so you can observe your mind, and do it for five minutes, or ten minutes, or half an hour. At least learn the meditation form here, because it is related to what we’ll be talking about in poetics when we get to (Jack) Kerouac or my own work, or of (Charles) Olson or (William) Burroughs, or (Ezra Pound), or even (William Carlos) Williams, we’ll need to know self-phenomenology – the observation of mind. Or (Philip) Whalen “My poetry is a graph of the mind moving”. So, in order to write poetry, please check out meditation. Do you know about that? I think it’s in the Student’s Handbook – instructions where to go if you gotta find out how to sit. Learn how to sit just as homework, whether you sit or not. Helen (Adam) did (just) the other day.

HA: Yes I did. It’s wonderful

AG: Both students and teachers.

HA: It really was. I loved it.

AG: So, “the jump cut” would be, in Chogyam Trungpa’s terminology, “the gap”, what he speaks of as a gap between thoughts. There’s a tantric practice connected with it. The purpose of meditation is to widen the gap in between the thoughts, to observe thoughts, sort of like a movie, and see the rising of thought flowering and its vanishment, and then the little space in between before the next thought rises.

Student: Is the gap between thoughts that naturally rises in your mind the same as the gaps in the stories?

AG: Sure

Student: The minimal gaps that we need for understanding a story?

AG: I think the storyline that has gaps and jumps is basically modeled on actual narrative, person-to-person, and those narratives rise out of the nature of the tongue, talking, or the nature of the mind, remembering, and thinking, and going from point to point.

Student: One or the other?

AG: One or the other what?

Student: I don’t know that they’re the same. Are they?

AG: But which?

Student: The tongue and the mind.

AG: Tongue and mind are the same.

HA: Um-hmm?

AG: Tongue and mind are exactly the same.

HA: Nonsense! Tongue is just an instrument for mind to use

AG: Tongue and mind are the same.

HA: Allen!

AG: I got it from the horse’s mouth. From this point of view – that without – if we’ve got to get onto this footnote – without, at least in terms of narrative in story and poetry, in terms of that – you can’t have a thought unless it comes in words (if it’s a thought thought), you can’t have a narrative thought unless it is in words. You might have a few pictures and rhythms and sounds, but, as far as the mind, the question is, as far as the visualization of narrative story, I think that would all come in language, practically, and the jumps of thought in mind, because, I think it would be primarily verbal thought. Unless you were visualizing without any words – and I doubt it The only one on earth who does that is William Burroughs, which is why he’s William Burroughs, because he’s the only person who thinks without words, or the only one I know of, who thinks aesthetically, you know, narratively, in pure picture.

HA: Um-hmm

AG: And that’s his genius and champion-hood, I think. So some other people do.

Student: I think there is a difference between some kinds of jump cuts in stories and (jump cuts) in the blues, because, for example, if you listen to what actually happens…(and you’re following) the action or dialogue, whereas in the ballads…

AG: No, no, no, no. Jump cuts. Don’t rationalize them – and don’t try to make them logical. It’s a great poetic mistake to try and make yourself or anybody think that they have to be logical or have to be related, because the best is when they jump and they jump way out of the scene into totally other universes. And it happens in blues. And I know it happens in ballads. The moderately interesting ballads, or maybe the perfect ballads, have logical jump cuts, but it really gets great when, in the dread vast and middle of time, there’s a complete switch, where there’s a.. What’s your thought on that, Helen?

HA:  Oh, I agree with you, Allen, absolutely.

AG; The wilder the cut, the madder the jump, the more aesthetically interesting and the more like the human mind it is.

Student: I’m not saying they’re logical at all..

AG: Yeah

Student: ..just that they’re (different), usually a certain kind of

AG: What kind of thing? – Well, what I’m trying to say is that the kind of thing they are, are contradictions.

HA: Uh-huh

AG: From one scene to another, that completely contradicts it. Maybe from Earth to Heaven, or from a love story to the jackals eating the bones, or from “Merry Christmas” to the cockroach – like, really wild jumps are the best. What I’m trying to encourage (is) not a rational jump but a jump like where the subconscious..  or the (a) Surrealist jump, or, like, a really nasty jump, or “ruthless cut”. That ruthlessness is what’s so great in the poetry. In other words, what I’m trying to discourage is dependency on some kind of logic or even reasonableness. The more unreasonable the jump, the better. Just change poems in mid-stream!

HA: Wonderful!

Student: The reason I can’t equate my speech and my mind is that I have such difficulty saying what I mean

AG: Well, you couldn’t mean anything if you can’t say it in words. It doesn’t mean anything. That’s the whole point. .

Student: What about..

AG: So don’t worry about it!

Student: What about meaning what I do? –  or meaning what I draw on paper? – or meaning of just the sound..

AG: Okay, this is what this class is about, basically. And I would say the basic practical motto that we’ve developed over the last two years here, working from the point of view of Buddhist mental phenomenology and poetic phenomenology, trying to examine mind from the point of view of poetics and from Buddhism, is “First thought, best thought” – first occurrence to mind of a conception arriving in language, the first form that it arrives…

Student: In language?

AG: …the first language form that it arrives in (and, generally, you find that most thought does arrive in language, and the language is identical with the thought). Generally, you see, the problem is that one doesn’t want to accept that thought. One thinks that thought is unworthy, or embarrassing, or wrong, or it could be bettered, or it could be refined, or it could be made to look better from the outside..

HA: But Allen..

[Tape ends here – Original transcriber (Randy Roark)’s note – “Although there is obviously (a little) more to this class. No further tape or tapes have been uncovered)

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