Spontaneous Poetics – (Shelley and Hart Crane – 2)

June 23, 1976, (Naropa Institute), a new class. Allen picks up from the previous class, with a discussion on Hart Crane and Shelley and a poetry that might be life-affirming and “speakable”.

AG: I guess I’ll begin. There’s going to be a poetry reading tonight – John Ashbery and Dick Gallup. That’ll be after this class. And tomorrow night, there’s going to be (a) (Chogyam) Trungpa discourse “Sutra” (which will be open, free, to all members of the student body). So if anybody hasn’t picked up on Trungpa’s taste or vibration, tomorrow night everybody’s invited. It’s a general mass-meeting for the entire school, partly to discuss problems with the school, whether the school can survive, and partly so there be some kind of a complete mass-meeting, where everybody’s present, in their plasmic bodies, in one spot, to hear dharma, or to check out Trungpa (for) those who haven’t checked out Trungpa. Do you know about that? You heard about that?

Student: No, I hadn’t heard about that.

AG: Yeah, that’s supposed to be announced in all the classes

Student: What time?

AG: Well, people generally begin assembling 8.30-ish and do sitting for an hour or so, and he generally comes in anywhere between 9.00 and 10.00. It’s an Agora, like a Forum, or a meeting-place on the outside and a meditation on the inside, and everyone’s invited.
My own situation is that I’m not sure where I am or how long I’ll be anywhere, so I was thinking if I dropped dead, or had to disappear overnight, what would I want to teach? In two hours? Where we left off was Hart Crane groaning and screaming and rhapsodizing to the absolute and (Percy Bysshe) Shelley having said, “Make me thy lyre even as the forest is”. And, after the class, someone came up to me and said, “Hart Crane sounds as if he was..”..Someone came up..who was it that asked me about whether Hart Crane’s poetry was, such as it was, total suicide (suicidal)?

Student: It was me

AG: What did you say?

Student: I thought he was headed for a nervous breakdown in some of those lines

AG: Yes

Student: Suicidal

AG: Yeah, and I think I replied that he did actually jump off the back of a boat

Student: Yeah

AG: ..a few years later. So, in a sense, you could (say) it’s a search for the Absolute (like in (Herman) Melville’s “Moby Dick” – Captain Ahab finally destroying himself, looking for the pure white spotless home-in-honeyland – or, as any apocalyptic acid-head might jump off a cliff trying to realize the Absolute Genius of his Imagination, when he’s not high on acid – by walking naked in the park, or jumping off the Empire State Building, to prove that matter doesn’t exist – or that you can penetrate space (if you just have faith) – or that you can walk through walls (if you eat the right vegetables!). If you’re pure of heart you can practice magic on the universe. So by sheer desire, Hart Crane was trying to get to God. And he imagined a God that was Unspeakable (Thou Bridge) to Thee, O Love”.
So, in a sense then, the question is “Well, that’s alright, and it sure is pretty music, and it’s a powerful sound, that Shelley (who died at 30) and that Hart Crane (who died at 34), but what about a poetry we can live with, instead of die with?” – A poetry to live with. Something you can survive on – or something that will take you through old-age (or, at least middle-age, if not old-age). What happens if you don’t die? Is all poetry so you’ve got to die? Is there any kind of poetry that goes beyond apocalyptic breakthrough? What is all this about the “unspeakable”? “Migrations that will cobblestone the heart, inventions that must needs void memory” [Allen slightly misquotes Hart Crane. It is “Migrations that must needs void memory, Inventions that cobblestone the heart”] – Are we going to be stuck with a poetic invention that’s going to wipe out memory, so that we’re just going to be plunged in the void?

Well, I think both Shelley and Hart Crane have more practical uses and are healthy souls, very vigorous and healthy souls, and made a great contribution to lung-power and to vocalization and to breathing, and broke through to free breath, but, as far as attitude, we might want something focused a little more on reality, or sharper, so there’s not just “unspeakable”, so it’s “speakable”. (So) what about poetry that’s speakable? Or what about a subject that’s speakable? – “New Year’s Day/ My hovel/ Same as ever.” – Issa Japanese haiku – So I’m just turning to the exact opposite, going to the other side of (the) possibilities of poetic perception, focusing right in on “workable”, perceptible, situations, or situations (that) you can actually see – “A beautiful kite/ rose from the/ beggar’s hovel.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *