Poet, Ted Berrigan is sitting in on Allen’s class and he chimes in
Ted Berrigan: Well, Allen, there he (Edward Marshall)’s using the word “they” (“they are/ dangerous”)…
TB: …to refer to “word”, “Bible” and “barbed wire”…
TB: …and barbed wire, I mean, he said , “Leave the word alone”
TB: ….”it is dangerous/Leave the Bible alone”, and, and.. and then he, typically, made a categorical statement, which is self.. – it’s obviously (self) too – it’s self-revealing. “Leave all barbed wires alone”
TB: I mean, for obvious reasons. And then the “they are dangerous” completes the sequence of thought made in the three lines, which then frees him, therefore, releases him, to go into what he goes into next…
TB: And “country” (“when you go in the country..”) which comes out of “barbed wires”… You wouldn’t have a country at all without..
TB: But, what he’s.. he’s left with a responsibility of making “barbed wires” make sense along with “Bible” and “word”
AG: Yeah, I was just wondering, why put the “dangerous” under the end of “alone”, instead of out there?
TB: Well, I think because of the emphasis on “they”, too
AG: So you put it out there to bring it back to all of them?
TB: Yeah, he ended with “leave all the barbed wires alone” ..
TB: …and then he put like almost like a sign on a fence-post…
TB: “They are dangerous” – so he put it in a block. Put a block and…
AG: Yeah, well, my guess would be…
TB: ..and “dangerous” is transitioned down.
AG: Yeah. My guess would be three-fold. These are the three folds – He wanted the “dangerous” modifying “barbed wires” directly, he wanted the “dangerous” to refer back, all the way over…
Ted Berrigan: to all of them
AG:… to all of them, so therefore he pushed it back into the line – and he also ran out of paper! – he ran out of the margin. And that I know, because I saw the original manuscript (written in thin green onion-skin paper, in the San Remo bar in 1956 (or ’58, I guess it was) and I was astonished by it because it seemed scattered around on the page so much, it seemed loose and formless. As the years went by, I kept seeing all sorts of topological, typographical, subtleties that made the whole thing really readable when you read it aloud and gave indications how to read it and how to think the poem through while reading (of which, I didn’t remember “they” referring to the others, so that gives an added reason for pushing the “dangerous” back. In other words, in a sense, though he may even have done it unconsciously (on account of he ran out of the margin), there was a kind of method in the madness there, or quite a bit of method, that, actually, when you look and inspect the lyric here, when you inspect the text, you can see there are reasons that make it interesting. So, in other words, this is mindful, whether consciously or unconsciously. It’s there with a kind of intuitive awareness, which becomes more and more conscious as you practice putting your lines out on the page. Does that make sense? Anyone to whom that doesn’t make any sense at all? – [Student (JS) raises hand] – Okay, why doesn’t it make sense to you?
Student: Well, I don’t understand “unconscious mindfulness” – Mindfulness is a practice of being conscious, aware of what’s in front of you
AG: Okay, “unconscious mindfulness” is, when I wrote that out, I said, “I wonder why he meant “they” if he meant “barbed wire”, because I was thinking the “dangerous” referred to the “barbed wire”. But as soon as Ted pointed out that the “they” and the “dangerous” referred to all three, it was immediately clear (and probably was sort of clear somewhere in the mind before). And without even exactly knowing why you push “dangerous” back there, one would mindfully push it back there, in typing it up. In other words, you wouldn’t just put it back at the end.
TB: It’s not “unconscious mindfulness” but “open conscious mindfulness”, so that you’re open to do whatever happens. It’s like when you’re jaywalking. I mean, you can be a nervous wreck, or you can just amble across the street. Preferably, you just amble across the street and you don’t get hit by a car.. otherwise, when you’re jaywalking, and you run across the street, and you nearly have a nervous breakdown…
Student: If it’s such open consciousness (then), how come he (Allen?) has to lecture in that way
TB: I didn’t say it was “open consciousness”, I said it was “”open conscious mindfulness”…
AG: The reason, I…
Student: No, not you.. (I meant him – Marshall)
TB: God? (Gods?)… I understand.. The reason he’s lecturing in that way is because he’s making to begin the poem (with), what poets from the beginning of time have made – an Invocation to the Muse, to the God, (to) spirit..
AG: No, he meant me..
Student: No, I meant Marshall
AG: Oh, okay. But “he” didn’t “lecture” – I lecture
Student: Well, “lecture” (because) I think that’s a rhetorical poem
AG: Wait a minute, we’re not talking about the rhetoric. We’re talking about the arrangement on the page.
Student: Well, they’re connected, because the form and the content, like you said..
AG: Well, then..
Student: No, I object.. Wasn’t that an accident? Art’s an accident (didn’t you say)? (that (kind of) “happens” to the artist)…
AG: No, no. I’m saying it’s not entirely accidental (though I’ve included accident as one of the categorizings). The chance involved here is that he did actually run out of marginal space on the page to put “dangerous” up there if he wanted to (I know that, having seen the original typescript).
TB: What makes it different than accident is that he could have put that “dangerous” back, like, anywhere…
TB: …from the beginning of the poem.. right.. The odds are there. But he put it right there, where he wanted it,
But, in answer to what he was saying, the beginning of that poem is an Invocation to the Muse, as are the beginnings of many great poems to the Goddess of Poetry, and he can do it himself. And he’s, literally, telling himself to be careful when you write – even this poem! You’re about to delve into subject-matter, that is, in(to) your mind, in such a way that it is very dangerous.
AG: [quoting Marshall] – “If I can finish this poem without cracking up”. That’s what he’s saying – “If I can finish this poem without cracking up”…
AG: ..”and/become victorious”…
AG: “..onslaught resurrection”.
TB: So he’s saying (O) Muse, (who gave breath into) my own life..when I was born. And then, at the same time, another voice is telling him, “Leave the word alone”. And then the reference to the Bible (there) is great (because that’s what the Bible is, I mean it begins with the Creation myth, and things being born, and so on). And that was dangerous too, but, nevertheless, one will proceed through such dangers because something will come out of it that is holy, and therefore profitable (in the sense (of) profitable for the soul). The rhetoric is to himself. He’s not “lecturing” at all. It’s a warning.
AG: There’s a funny line later on – “Well, here I am writing on blue paper” – it’s the manuscript or something – “Well, here I am writing on blue paper and I must watch myself for I hear a spoken word telling me to read this and that. Williams and Olson. I suppose that is the punishment of all who have stepped over the crescent and stepped onto the hot of the grit” – That’s pretty nice!
Yeah, I’m trying to do something very simple here.. Now, really, let’s get this straight. There’s a reality question here. We’re discussing how you spread your thoughts, phrases, utterances, out on the page, (assuming this were nothing of interest). It’s just what were the elements..of consideration in putting the word “dangerous” under the word “alone” – there is what I was talking about. I don’t (frankly) understand your objection – and I think it’s off-the-wall, basically (not that I want to get into it any further, unless you insist…)
Student: Well, I was just going to say that, once he got to the place that he realized that there was no more space (like what Ted was saying a moment ago), then the whole other possibility opens up again. It’s a matter of dancing in space again..
AG: Right, so choosing..
Student: He could have left it out altogether, and it would have been the same kind of thing – or he could have put it there, where he did..
AG: Well, I think that what I’m saying is that the place that he put it was a real good place. The place he put the word “dangerous” was a real good place to put it, considering all the elements that he was trying to say. He found the right spot for it on the page in relation to the lines that went before. In terms of diagramming his thought process and in terms of suggesting to the reader (the) speed of reading and where you’d put the word “dangerous” in. It’s an interesting shot there, because (of) the accident or chance of not having enough paper to continue the line, (so) he was forced into run-on, but then forced into making a decision where he was going to put it. But he made some kind of decision (which I was saying was either conscious or unconscious), but there were, by hindsight, reasons, (that) you can see where it fits there well, where it fits properly. And I think, the finer the attention, or.. it’s not the finer the attention.. it’s more the practice you have, and the more awareness you have of the spacing on the page in terms of the different considerations I’ve been outlining the last few days, the more likely you are, in original composition, to hit the bulls-eye, spatially, on the page (rather than, say, he could have brought, as Ted said, it all over) – “dangerous”/ When you go in the country” – He could have done it that way too, if he’d wanted to – or he could have had a different effect, which maybe he didn’t want – “They are/ dangerous/ When you go to the country… beware of (the) moo-” – “cows, moo-cows” – The next line is “When you go to the country beware of the moo-cows” (no, “when you go in the country, au campagne watch for/ the cows… beware of moo-/her- moo-her”)
Well, then, this is divided into a series of strophic statements, beginning at the margin, delineating the sequence of his thoughts to the end of a long breath, then returning to the margins for beginning another thought, and, as an example of what I was talking about last time, starting at the margin and diagramming your thought out on the page. This is a basic rudimentary early text that exemplifies, I would say, mindfulness (in a sense that he was already a student of Williams and Olson, and already had some idea of page-spacing – and knew Olson). This was his own home-made application of what he understood of Olson’s theories of how you spread words around on the page, that Olson outlined in Projective Verse – or, I think he was later to outline in his Projective Verse essay (because this is probably 1956 – I don’t know when the Projective Verse essay came out first..
Student: It’s earlier than that. [editorial note: Projective Verse was first published in 1950, and was also quoted extensively the following year, 1951, in William Carlos Williams’ Autobiography]
AG: Earlier. So he was probably familiar with it then. He’s a Bostonian who was in and out of hospitals also. So he was really serious when he was talking about “If I can finish this poem without cracking up” and “becoming victorious” (meaning, I guess, cracking up and exploding all over the planet). I just thought I’d lay that out, since I mentioned the poem.