City Lights put up (as a podcast, on-line) earlier this summer, an interview (a phone-interview) with Allen, dating from the mid-1980’s, the (Ronald) Reagan era, (June 2 1986, in fact, the day before Allen’s 60th birthday!). We thought to shine some more light on it, to feature it this weekend.
Here follows a transcription. Allen, with the two interviewers, Walter Isgro, and another, un-named, (the context being a visit to the state of Maine), discuss poetic history, censorship, art, education, politics (both global and local) and Allen and the Beats as representatives of a tradition, the tradition of “good old American individualism”.
Interviewer: First of all this is going to be.. you’re going to have me, and then you’ll be talking with Walter Isgro, my partner in crime, here, and.. , First off. Allen… or do you prefer, Mr. Ginsberg?
AG: No, Allen’s alright, too.
Interviewer: Okay, Allen, perhaps you can tell us.. Now you got interested in poetry, I take it your father did a little bit of poetry as well
AG: My father, Louis was a poet. He lived in Paterson, New Jersey. And he wrote.. was of the old school of poetry, he wrote very beautiful lyrics actually, that were in the anthologies of his day, which was the thirties and forties and fifties, the old Louis Untermeyer Modern American and British Poetry, which was a book that was used in the high schools when I went to high school in Paterson New Jersey, Paterson Central High, so I had it in the family. It was a family business, so to speak.
Interviewer: Was your father a major influence on you and some of your work?
AG: Well yes, certainly, in matters of sentiment, you know, of feeling, and also, I learned from him, very early, all the different forms that are used in traditional nineteenth- century poetry, also, since he taught Milton and Wordsworth and Blake in high school and later in college, when I was a little kid, (which is to say, 5,6,.8, 9, 10, 11, 12 years old), I used to hear him stompingaround the house reciting Milton, or pieces from Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” – or Edgar Allan Poe’s “(The) Raven”. Do you know (“The Raven”)?
Interviewer: Oh yes.
AG: [begins reciting “The Raven”] – “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,/Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,/While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,/As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door./’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered…Only this, and nothing more.”
So I remember all those rhythms in my head when I was a little kid so that got me off to a good educated start to be a professional poet, and then, when I grew older, I ran into Jack Kerouac when I was seventeen years old, and William Burroughs that same year. They had a new idea of poetry which was to write your mind, or to write the way you talk and to write out of your real experience, rather than making it up like Poe was – imaginary (out of) the old archaic romance(s) – so then I began writing more realistically, and, I guess, around 1950, I ran into Doctor William Carlos Williams in Rutherford, New Jersey, nearby Paterson. He was a very great modern poet whose idea was to write the way you talk, use the rhythms of talk, making poetry as interesting as actual conversation with a good friend.
Interviewer: Now is that something that they also picked up from, say, Walt Whitman as well?
AG: Well, yes, of course, Whitman was a big influence too that my father taught me, and Whitman’s message was “I Celebrate Myself”/I sing myself/andwhat I shall assume you shall assume” . And that’s a good way of beginning, either on radio or television, or in poetry, that is talking frankly and personally about your real experience.
Interviewer: And this was important in your art form?
AG: Well, I think any art form you’ve got to come out of your own experience, you can’t just be a re-hash of someone-else’s great master-work, or of the newspapers , (what you read in the newspapers), or what you see on television. You certainly can’t be parroting what the President says, otherwise you’d be a mindless idiot – like almost everybody in America!
Interviewer: Well, why do you think a lot of people follow him (the President, President Reagan)?
AG: Oh, Because they stick their faces in television sets for six hours a day and that’s their whole life! – That’s why they follow him. He (Ronald Reagan)’s an old actor, he’s a faker, or he’s a specialist in that medium of having phony emotions, acting.
Interviewer: Well, you speak a lot, or rather you write a lot, I should say, about alienated Americans, I guess you’d have to call them, the Beat Generation.
Interviewer: You don’t see these people as more or less outcasts in their own time at that time you wrote about?
AG: No, no. I think that America was outcast at that time. They were getting into the Atom Bomb, getting into foreign wars in Indo-China which they were going to lose anyway. (And) they were getting into conformity, they were getting into censorship, they were getting into all sorts of horrible things that were un-American, getting into organized religion taking over the government like the Moral Majority wants to do now . The founders of our country didn’t want any organized religion running the country. That’s why they separated the Church and the State.
Interviewer: So these revolutionaries that you are writing about maybe are the… It’s American, it’s on course..
AG: The good old-time Americans that ran for Tom Paine and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Walt Whitman, (Henry David) Thoreau, and, all the great.. all the great patriarchs, the real Americans, not those guys up for political office who who wrap themselves around the flag like bunch of scout groups.. Like the President!
Interviewer: Yeah, like the President.
AG: Like the President..
Interview: Allen is this perhaps the most important..
AG: …(who) asks about God and hardly ever goes to church, who asks about family and has got a dispersed family (because you are (he is) just interested in power, and doing everything against what the founders of our country wanted to do. I’d say.. (So) I say that the President of the United States Ronald Reagan is Un-American. I’m talking as someone in the lineage of Thoreau and Whitman – and Ralph Waldo Emerson
Interviewer: Ah, there we go
AG: There’s America
Interviewer: Yes – and Thoreau, I loved his writings
AG: Well, that’ s what we learned in grammar school. What’s going on now in Washington isn’t anything like we learned at grammar school, where democracy was supposed to be democracy (and) against purity.
Interviewer: So the people you wrote about in the (19)50s and early (19)60s are much like the people of the 1980s?
AG: Well, there were people around in the 1980s who were independently-minded adults (who were not) plugged into the electric network.
Interviewer: Why do you think that might be, Allen?
AG: Oh, I guess, at some point or other when you grow up you suddenly realize that you’ve got to make your own life, you’ve got to make your own judgments, that an individual human consciousness is a real thing and that the notion of a faith is not quite so real, more of an abstraction, that your fidelity is to your friends, to your own life and to your family, to maybe thecommunity, to the community that you live in, not just some nasty abstract Nazi Germany, or Stalinist Russia, or Capitalist America.
Interviewer: So people live for themselves…however..
AG: With other people, certainly …but, they can’t live.. It’s like saying to Adolf Hitler, I don’t want to live for you! – I don’t want to live for you!. Just like saying to Ronald Reagan I don’t want to live for your ideas of Armageddon!..
Interviewer: And if people had done that perhaps we wouldn’t have had the problems that we had in the (19)40’s.
AG: Well, I think so. Well, we still would have had to deal with Hitler, but I don’t think we.. At the present moment, like, what this nation, I think, needs, is some spiritual rediscovery not some fake god that asks you for money over television.
Interviewer: Allen, I’ve read that your followers, even some of your critics, say that much of your work is prophetic in almost the way that the Bible was.
AG: I don’t think so.
nterviewer: Yeah, I was going to ask you what you thought about that?
AG: Well, it depends what you mean by “prophetic”
Interviewer: (Well, some recognition of) ….good and evil, for example.
AG: (Well, you find) what’s in your heart to write. Then you can touch on something that’s close to you, and that’s real and that’s sincere, and then, if you lay that out in public, other people say, “ok, he’s not trying to make money off of it, he’s just telling everybody what he thinks, he’s not looking for a vote, he’s just saying what he thought a minute ago”, so if someone comes out in public and says it frankly and sincerely, it’s a lot different from what you read about in the papers, or what you hear on television, because, after all, television is there to sell you somethin’ – not to advise you, whereas poetry’s there to tell you what the truth of the poet is, what he really thinks when he’s all alone at night in bed talking to nobody but himself.
Interviewer: Just getting very introspective..yeah
AG: No, speaking frankly to yourself, instead of conning others. So you con yourself too. But, the whole point of poetry is not to con yourself.
Interviewer: The whole point is truth, I take it.
AG: Yeah – and there’s no abstract truth. I define it (truth) as, “what you really think when you’re not trying to lay a trip on other people” – You know if you just look(ed) around at anyone in public life and ask yourself, “Are they saying what they’re saying in private? or are they saying in public something different than what they say in private? .That’s the critereon, I would say – talking in public the way you talk to yourself in private.
interviewer: Allen, I’m going to turn it over to Walter Isgro for a few questions to ask you as well, and, once again, I thank you very much for taking time out from what I know must be a hectic day…
AG: It is a bit hectic. Someone just told me they were taking a big vote on censorship here in Maine..
Interviewer: Oh! that is a hot issue. Next Tuesday, they…
AG: Those people who claim they’re talking for God are trying to re-impose censorship on the good ol’ individualistic Americans again!
Interviewer: It’s something that comes along all the time, and probably always will – but I don’t think it’ll ever pass..
AG: They were censoring the Bible a couple of centuries ago and they were trying to censor Shakespeare in the 19th Century. There’s some people want to censor the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights
AG: He did? That’s a famous case, isn’t it
AG: Well he was trying to do better than..
Interviewer; Well I’m going to get Walter to ask you a few questions. Thank you very much again Allen I appreciate it
WI: Hi Allen, Walt Isgro
AG: How do you do
WI: Hi. We’re from the Waterville Arts Project, We’re a non-profit foundation in town here, trying to spread our wings,
WI: (So) we really appreciate what you’re doing.
AG: Are you folks taking part in that reading of banned books, that open reading by Maine writers, at the State Office building – that’s two nights, isn’t it?
WI: Well, right now, we’re kind of brand-new. We’re in the embryonic stage, and people either don’t know we’re around or .
AG: What do you do?
WI: Well, right now, I’m just kind of.. what do you call it? I’m a painter, that does carpentry to feed my habit.
WI: What I did is start this organization about a year ago to try to support children in the arts, and to give artists some kind of outlet for their work in the community rather than running out of town all the time, or out of state, to survive.
AG: Oh that’s a lot like that Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, they’re trying to do that too, to develop local talent, publish local poets..
WI: Yeah.. Eventually I hope to be communicating with them on a regular basis
AG: Yeah, they’re very interesting people. They’re the ones who brought me up here.
WI: Yeah I read about.. where I found (that) you were going to be here is I read it in the paper.
AG: We did a reading to raise money for them last night
WI: Aha! I hope they’re happy about that.
AG: They’re also one of the groups that come out on June 9th from one to three p.m. at the State Office building. They’re reading some old-time banned books to show the public that there have been trying to censor books all through the centuries, including, some of our classics.
WI : Yeah, that’s true, I …Unfortunately, I agree with much of what you’re saying. I wish that times were not the way they are.
AG: Fortunately, we agree
WI: Well. I mean unfortunately because I wish the situation didn’t exist
AG: Situations are always going to exist..
AG: …as they say, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”
AG: So, what kind of art are you focusing on?
WI: Well, what I’m trying to do is encourage all the types of art, painting, visual, performing, and literary, art.
AG: And in what particular style? (are you involved in) particularly
WI: In myself, personally?
AG: Yeah, in your painting?
WI : I don’t know it’s kind of hard to describe
AG: Who are your masters?
WI: Well, I most(ly)… the Impressions.. European Impressionists were the ones that influenced me the most, and then I found, back when I was in Europe, people said there was a likeness to (a) Modigliani, and I hadn’t never even heard of him at the time..
AG: I guess you’ve seen it by now.
AG: Corso’s at his best now.
WI: Is he?
AG: Oh yeah, he’s writing marvelous poems
WI: Oh that’s good to hear.
AG: He just got a grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters
WI: Oh great! That’s great!
AG: I’ve been reading Cezanne’s letters lately
AG: He’s very interesting, his letter-writing (writing to) Emile Bernard,the Impressionist painter, talking about perception itself, (and) the optical field, how do you transfer what appears to the eye to the (nature) of the canvas?
WI: That’s an interesting question.
AG: Yeah and he said that he could stand in one spot and compose a painting, and then move his head to the left and create an entirely different composition
WI: Exactly, exactly. Someone called me recently – it had to do with video – you mentioned tv – how are images made on television, and used as an example, as a fact that you see in this little screen an event, such as a car- accident taking place on a street, and the illusion is that the entire street is in chaos, when, in fact, it’s a staged production on a tiny corner of the street. So I can see how that would relate to the canvas too, how… What do you think about the borders, the traditional borders that separated visual, literary and performing arts being broken down now?
AG: Well, it’s just a development of ..I think mainly because of video, in a way.. It’s a good thing, I suppose. I myself don’t (compose) music, tho’ I do poetry-and-music very often. I have written a play, but I’ve never tried to write a musical play – but I’ve got a friend, Ed Sanders, who’s writing a big funny opera on “Star Wars”..
AG: ..where it’s rock n roll and pure poetry. It’s politics-based as well as theater-staged. It begins with a scene in the Oval office with this baritone President singing an aria which goes – [Allen sings] – “This Evil Empire”
WI: Ha! That sounds great!
AG: He just took the whole natural scene at the White House and put it on stage as an idiot melodrama.
WI: Well I think that’s the proper perspective, right there, what.. disappointed, maybe, that John Wayne is the President, huh?
AG: Well, somebody may be disappointed.. There’s another scene He’s got some born-again preacher at the Pentagon talking about “The Rapture”. You ever hear about “The Rapture”?
WI: I don’t think so.
AG: Oh, well that’s some of those “born again” people that believe in Armageddon think they’re the only ones that are going to be saved.
AG: ..for the Rapture… When everything explodes with the Atom Bomb, they’ll be taken up to Heaven all by themselves. They’re praying for the Rapture !
WI: Oh well! …The movie what was that? with the guy riding the Atom Bomb?
AG: Oh, Doctor Strangelove
WI: Right, right. I think those movies now, when I see them once in a while, I’d say they were predicting what’s happening now.
AG: Yes so that was the nature of a mixed-media performance-comedy-distraction-politics-reality-unreality–Surrealism-technicolor-Hollywood-money-no-money, that kind of odd image-combination.
WI: Yeah? – I feel pretty lucky to be alive when all these things are going on.
AG: Yes, it’s lovely to survive these things that are going on, and die our nice-old-natural-death of cancer in our death-bed, instead of getting blown up in The Rapture!
WI:Yeah Yeah, I agree with you.
AG: I don’t believe that Rapture will come, unfortunately, (for) those who want it.
WI: I agree with you there. I remember, back when I first started reading your work and your contemporaries, you weren’t considered famous or popular then, and I was wondering.. I’ve read a couple of nasty things, once in a while, and kind of like just skimmed them over, but… do you think that America’s more respectful to you now than it used to be?
AG: Oh yes, my poetry’s (now included) in all the anthology (and they teach it) in college and high school, so it’s probably standard by now. Sure. That’s not a problem. The problem is having people understand what it means, understand what “Beat” said.
WI: Yeah, okay.
AG: ..you know, begin to look into their own lives, enlarge their spiritual lives, become more aware of themselves and their own feelings, aware of their own love, aware of the brilliance of the sky, aware of the greatness of the situation that we have of being alive in the universe, (it’s) sort of like taking care of themselves and others in the universe.
Interviewer: So it seems to me that what you folks were saying, and still are saying, is that the wonder of life..
AG: I think.. Well, to be more aware of the brilliance of (the) earth, and enough aware so you dnot going to throw your beer cans on the moon, that you don’t throw your industrial excrement into the ocean, you don’t wreck the Garden of Eden that we’ve got.
AG: …which means really an end to all nuclear power.
AG: I notice the Russians, I read in the paper today, the Russians are building this tomb for the(ir) Chernobyl thing – they said they’re gonna bury it for hundreds and hundreds of years, until the radiation (goes..), but, actually, we’re stuck with that all over. Atom(ic) plants.. is irreducible radiation waste of plutonium, that lasts twenty-four thousand years in half-life…(you have got to consider) how they gonna get rid of that?. They can(t).. Now they want to bury it in the (Texas) Panhandle, .so the ranchers in Texas are getting upset – and who wouldn’t be?
WI: And they’re going to try Maine and Mainers are pretty shook-up
AG: Yeah, when it comes home, you realize the consequences.
WI: Oh, definitely.
AG: Basically, it’s what they call excrement, the waste product.
WI: Oh sure.
AG: …of a hyper-rationalistic, prideful, vague, science that that did not figure out the whole equation…that got half the equation, but hasn’t figured out the whole chemical equation – what do you do with waste product?
AG: ..(and) until they figure that one out they shouldn’t be messing around with it. It’s like “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
AG: You know that old story of the apprentice to the Sorcerer? (He) got the formula to make the broom carry the water for him from the well so he doesn’t have to do it himself, he didn’t figure out the formula to make the broom stop carrying the water, so he got flooded.
WI: Did you ever in your travels run into a little issue called Planet Drum?
WI: Okay, well I knew those guys back around 1970, 1971
AG: Peter Berg
WI: Yeah, Peter Berg, and I helped them put out one issue and the issue that we worked on was dealing with nuclear waste.
AG: Right (He) was a specialist in remembering that.
WI: Yeah, I remember that people were laughing and they were saying, “this is totally absurd, ten thousand years? whoever heard of such a joke? these guys are crazy, they don’t know what they’re talking about!”
WI: Now you can read it in your local home-town (newspaper)
AG: Yeah, well, the fact is, people don’t realize it. The half-life of plutonian is twenty-four thousand years.. before the plutonian becomes physically inert.. The full life of plutonian is two hundred and forty thousand years. And what you realize (is) that according to the “born-again” people (who love nuclear stuff), according to their interpretation, the earth is only six thousand years old to begin with – the Garden of Eden was 404 BC ! So plutonian itself lasts something like four times as long as the Garden of Eden! (in half-life!)
WI: Isn’t that wonderful!
AG: What are they gonna do? Send armed guards to sit on elevators to guard.. in the Panhandle for twenty-fourthousand years? That’s the biggest vanity you ever heard of!..
WI: I know
AG: ..ancient Babylonian(s) (thinking) it will last forever!
WI: It seems like history repeats itself, but (and) the weaponry is the only thing that changes
AG: Yeah, but I don’t think we’ve seen this particular one before…..
AG: What they..
WI: But it still seems the same old power struggle. I don’t know. Maybe I’m off-base.
AG: Well, the inventor of the Bomb said, because we have an absolute weapon that is going to be absolutely up-to-date, we don’t have to change it. Einstein-ian man will have to have a change in consciousness in order to deal with the unobstructed aggression (and find) a viable and workable situation…
WI: I just have one more question, if you’d be kind enough
AG: I don’t know if I answered your (last) question.
WI: You did, you did. In fact, it’s amazing. I’ve got a list of questions in front of me, you answered every one of them without my having to answer them – that’s crazy!
AG: What haven’t we covered?
WI: The only thing that I was wondering about, you know, in the light of all that’s going on. I hear a lot of negative stuff on the street nowadays, but I was wondering – I like to try and be as positive as I can – I was wondering, what you think.. what direction poetry is headed in?
AG: Well I think it’ll have to be.. Well, I’ll give you… anybody who wants to know, come hear my poetry reading tonight at the University of Maine.
WI: We’re going to be getting in touch with them too.
AG:…tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday, Thursday, at the University of Maine at Orono. My reading is at seven-thirty tonight – but what we’re all, four of us, doing (is) our thing here – trying to check out our own minds, trying to say, in public, what.. the way we talk to each other in private, talk to ourselves.. and (to) deal with the thoughts that pass through our heads, and put them out in public. So it’s not high art thought.
AG: So I don’t see how poetry can go anywhere except through that kind of sincerity, whatever form it takes, whether it’s written in sonnets or written in vernacular (though I think it will be tending more towards the idiomatic and vernacular language). I think the poets will pay more attention to the tones of their voices, the different pitch of the vowels as they speak them, because it’s the tone that gives you the feel of the emotion, like tone leads the pitch, like, the way I’m talking to you now.So just like when you talk to a baby, I know people who.. (so) you find tones which people can understand you find the rhythms that people use in their everyday speech, that people will recognize, like (Bob) Dylan, instead of being up there like a narcissist making up a beautiful lot of castles in the air, talking about our real problems, (talking in the) pitch of idiomatic speech and the rhythms of idiomatic speech, find those rhythms which are more vivid, most muscular, characteristic of our speech, and compos(ing) poems out of those rhythms. In other words, making poems out of our own lives
WI: That sounds pretty good to me
AG: …or turning our lives into awareness
AG: … an aesthetic understanding and practical, workable, common-sense, communication between…
AG: Why not? Once and for all!
WI: I agree
AG: Originally (that) was what the Beat Generation was about – you’re getting out from under a whole boat-load of..(woe), and, when it came.. more to.. ((not) trying to rehash old poems, trying to write pretty poems that sound like everybody else –Hiawatha!), (but, instead) begin talking turkey about our own feet, eyes, brain, thoughts, mind, speech…
WI: That sounds good. You know, what makes me feel feel really high is the fact that I thought that when I was reading (of course, I didn’t have anything to bounce it off but now I’m hearing you say it. So I guess I got the message
AG: Well, we got a couple of slogans that go with that – “Writing is writing your mind” (so) write your mind
AG: ..and how do you know your mind? – “First thought best thought”.
WI: First thought best thought.
AG: That goes for painting too, I guess.
WI: Yeah..sounds right to me. I don’t see a difference myself. The only thing I see is the difference in tool(s).
AG: Yes, It’s just a different means of expression, but (there) spoken. Painting is with the material, Speech is with the breath and the air..
WI: Yes ..and recently we interviewed a dancer, and I said when I watch dancers I see paintings in space, and that’s how I feel about poetry, and then what you did tho’, to me (in those years, and I was I guess..)
AG: How old are you now?
WI: I’m.. I’ll be fifty in two weeks.
AG: I’ll be sixty tomorrow!
WI: Oh well, congratulations!
AG: Well, my sixtieth birthday, I survived!
WI Well, I’m glad, I’m glad. I think the world’s a better place with people like you.
AG: Like most of those poets that were friends, we all survived pretty well, better than the academic poets, a lot of the academic poets drank themselves to death early.
WI: Well you exercised and they didn’t.
AG: Yeah, I exercised. and also we had other stimulants besides killer alcohol and killer tobacco..
WI: Yes yes, yes, definitely, definitely
AG: ..or (the) killer crack, or whatever they’ve got now.
WI: Yeah, there’s a new one every day, it seems like! Whatever makes the most money!
AG: Well, for one thing, I think about marijuana, was that, at least it wasn’t commercialized by big companies…
AG: …whereas tobacco kills..kills .. and alcohol, of course, causes awful car-crashes, whereas somebody who drops LSD… one person.. (it makes) a newspaper-headline. (It’s) really disproportionate.
WI: I know.
AG: Maybe some of the bad humor in America is alcohol and coffee..and nicotine – the bring-down..
WI: Yeah, definitely, it sure puts you in the cave.
AG: Well, it makes you nervous – “(I) wanna build that, I wanna build “Star Wars”, build another laser beam to dominate space”.
WI: Well, maybe that’s why they’re always after somebody else’s power, because you lose so much of your own power when you use those kind of drugs..
AG: You go into a bar and see a drunk trying to get power over the others – [Allen then puts on/mimics a drunken inebriated arrogance] – “Yeah, you can’t talk to me that way!”
WI: Yeah, yeah, “I’ll hit you in the head”, or whatever.
AG: “You can’t talk to me that way.”
WI: Yes, definitely. Well, listen, I really appreciate this.
AG: “Bomb Libya, that’s what we’ve got to do, bomb Libya, they can’t talk to us that way! I wish Libya, was Syria! We should’ve bombed Syria, not Libya!” [sic – 2013, Allen’s prescient black-humor – this is, don’t forget, 1986!] -like a bunch of punch-drunk drunks!
WI: How are they gonna use all that stuff now?
AG: Well, they’ve paid so much money for it, they’ve got to find a use for it.
WI: Oh yeah
AG: They’ve got a whole economy practically built on it. They’re robbing all the money from the poets and the artists and shifting it all over to the pigs in the Pentagon (by “pigs”, I don’t mean that they’re pigs in the sense that.. (but) they’re at the trough, the so-called “pork-barrel”
WI: I think it’s time for all the artists in the world to take over now because…
AG: I think it’s time for the citizens to take over
WI: Well, these other guys have had their chance, right?
AG: Yeah and they’ve just about wrecked the economy
WI: Yeah, they wrecked the planet..so I think..I don’t know too many destructive artists myself!
AG: Oh, all artists are…
WI: I guess you’re (right).
AG: But they’re exercising it in art rather than in threatening life with mustard gas or lasers or atom-bomb. Because, if you explode an atom bomb in a poem, nobody gets hurt..
AG: ..whereas in real life, everybody’s got their little Chernobyl vegetables that they’ve got to dump.
WI: And for a long time to come too!
AG: So what’s going on in Maine?
WI: Well, Maine to me is the cave. It was funny because I was saying to a friend of mine today, Jeez, ya know, before I moved to Maine, I used to… Allen Ginsberg’s name used to pop up here or there or somewhere, anywhere, you know what I mean?
WI:And then I moved to Maine in 1970 and I never heard of you again!
AG: Good for me!
WI: I never heard of anything again! So.. but, and, along with that wave, another wave was developing, and that’s the wave of the artist. Like, when I first came up here, sixteen years ago, it was very rare to meet anyone that spoke about writing or performing or whatever, now everywhere you look is exhibits, readings, shows, plays, music events, it’s great!
AG: I wonder, however, if that isn’t the fore-runner of the pushing out, the invasion of the so-called civilization..
WI: Oh that’s what’s going to happen, I’m sure.
AG: I’m wondering if the number of artists who seek refuge up here in the appeal for free expression and civilized communication. I wonder if that isn’t.. a sort of a biological feeler, in advance of the heavy wave, heavy investment, that’s coming later. It may not be such a good sign.
WI: I agree with you there. In one respect, it seems to be a blessing and in another respect it definitely could be that the life-boat’s going to get too full too fast.
AG: Yeah, well, what it’s also going to mean is that the artist community, the first wave, is going to be supporting
WI: Yeah, That too. I see.
AG: It is likely that the first wave, the first signal, will be attacked, or censored, or be vetted and not realized that the artist is doing a service in reporting the problem (of what might have been) the demon of Greed, that is to say.. greed..
WI: It sounds to me.. It sounds to me.. Oh yeah. Mammon, the God Mannon. It sounds like that’s what you’re doing here now..
AG: Well what we’re doing is, actually, teaching poetry, basically teaching sensitization of mind, which is a new thing, teaching people to notice what they notice, (and trying myself to notice what we notice), notice our own surprised mind, and noticing the vividness of our experience, appreciating the vividness of nature itself, and that is our riches, instead of..
WI: Yeah that sounds great to me…sounds good to me. My only regret is I don’t have any way to get over to Orono.
AG: ..Well there are people who live up here. Seven-thirty at night I’m reading So, if you jump into your car, (and if there’s any) aging beatniks that want to hear what I’m writing this year, then they’re all welcome.
WI: Yeah, my car is two worn-out sneakers! ..Yeah, I’m going to have to do something..
AG: How about some wings on them and fly there? You’re an artist, grow some wings, make yourself some wings!
WI: Yeah, yeah, definitely.
AG: Don’t get too near the sun, tho’!
WI: No, no. I’m going to have to grow wings to carry my two kids on too. I got my two boys with me, my partners.
AG:Do they know how to draw?
WI: Oh jeez, those boys are great. My five-year-old boy does silk-screening.
WI: Oh yeah, these guys are incredible! They just blow my mind. I’m so happy when I see them.. To me, they’re the connection, they’re the key, right there. If I…
AG: How’s the schools here in Maine? They got enough money for educating the kids?
WI: Well, you know, surprisingly enough, obviously, people set their standards and they never reach their standards but to me, I think Maine schools, as a whole, are decent, they try their best to teach the values that you were speaking of earlier, Me? to me? like, oh, people might not take this the right way but I think a lot of Maine is twenty to thirty years behind the rest of the country and I do mean that in a positive way because they are trying.. like, I use my children as an example – my children love to go to school. Now I went to school in Brooklyn, New York, and I hated every second of it, I dreaded every second of it..
AG (It was maybe) kind of violent?
WI: Yeah and it makes me feel good that my children come home from school and say Wow!, I had a great day at school today. I learned a lot of nice things. So I would say, from my personal experience, the schools seem decent and they’re very very concerned with cultural activities for the children. They want the kids to have the freedom to draw or paint or .
AG: Do they have poets here in the school too teaching contemporary poetry?
WI: Well, they’re trying, you know money’s always the monster that makes the talk. You don’t have a lot of money, there are a lot of things that are excluded from your school, but there are (there is) also the Maine Arts and Humanities, which tries to fund, make funding available for artists residencies. So there are exposed, yes definitely.AG: (I think (they’re) getting more sensitive and less and less inclined to juveline pranks.
WI: Oh yeah, I definitely notice the kids using their energy toward constructive things rather than destructive things. I remember when I was a kid it was hanging out in the alley, and doing whatever, smashing this or ganging up on that – but these kids around here, they’re really on the ball.
AG: They gang up on their imagination.
WI: Yeah that’s it. They do have imagination, and they’re not afraid to use it and that’s one thing I’m really happy to see Because my son said the other day, that it seems to him like most big people’s imaginations are asleep. I laughed about that one.
AG: Well, just because people get discouraged, because they think that the reality of the world is tough for them, and it’s just idiot sentimentality to indulge in, or further blocking(of) their feelings and dreams, (from) entering – and it is, very often, sentimentality,except that it’s only through alternative (things) that we can figure out what it is that we want in the future.
AG: Vow Peace (that the Reagan laser-project rejects, it seems to me – nobody wants to make it real, put it in 3-D, and battle.. so, housing-projects and marriages (and)..)…The imagination really is what starts things going, so development of a big imagination is a good thing, in the sense that.. children are not naive, they are being straight and thoughtful so (give them the opportunity to) exercise more of the range of thought possible.. (here possible)… on the Maine coast.
June 2 1986