Allen Ginsberg & Steven Taylor at Texas State 1996 – Q & A – 1

Following on from our recent posting of Allen’s 1996 Texas State University reading, here’s a transcription of the Q & A that followed

Good morning. We have an hour I would ask you to speak clearly, there’s a lot of people in here (that’s what we like) and I want to thank Mr Ginsberg again for the wonderful show last night, it was amazing.

AG: Considering that I was half-dead!  (but) I get inspired when I work with Steven (Taylor), who’s a good guitarist and a good scholar, (and) who came along  for the seminar

You can’t hear me? – My voice is not in such good condition and I’ve got to compete with the wheezing of machinery, so if you can’t hear me, keep.. well, first of all, those of you who can, come foreword, if you can,because it’ll reduce the distance. If you’re way in the back, please spare me having to yell to the back wall…

What was the subject?…..What was the subject?  Are there any questions? ok.. (there’s seats…) Does anybody have any urgent pressing questions?

Student: Can you start by reading us a poem?

AG: Well, what I had in mind, actually is … I have a funny kind of mental curriculum and it’s in the form of a series of slogans, which I’ve developed in the last year or so for teaching poetics (let’s see if I’ve brought it along with me). If so, I’d like to introduce that. It’s called “Mind Writing Slogans” and was directed to people who were writing, and.. sort of slogans or  – “pointing instructions”, divided into three sections – So there’s eighty-four altogether. You know, like Mao Tse Tung used to teach with slogans? – and Confucius sometimes taught with slogans – and some of the Second-century A.D. Buddhists taught with one-line slogans. And, in the West, “haste makes waste”. So the notion of the slogan is, like, a pith instruction. Each one is a little bit mysterious, and you’ve got to figure it out in context. So.. with your permission, maybe I’ll start on that, and then we’ll probably get bogged down in trying to figure out what they mean. So, they’re divided into three sections – the situation or the ground, where we are, (which is to say here, with nothing else except our own minds and solitudes and confusion), which is universal (for me, I assume it’s the same for you as it is for me)  – path (how to relate to it and how to deal with it) and, foolishly, what do you expect? – what are you looking for? (as for a ground, or situation, or primary perception).

First thought, best thought” – have you heard that phrase before? ever? It’s the basis of (Jack) Kerouac‘s writing (and a lot of Buddhist writing) – “First thought, best thought”, meaning, first flash in the mind’s eye before you begin generalizing and socializing your thought, first raw thought is always the real one if you’re writing poetry (or even trying to communicate). Second, “Take a friendly attitude toward your thoughts” (that’s sort of basics – you don’t say, “well, I think that thought’s a nice thought, the other thought’s too horrible to write down or consider, but, you remember). Third, I’m crediting John Adams– “The mind must be loose”. Fourth – “One perception must immediately and directly lead to another perception (from Charles Olson, the poet – just like music-video – one perception immediately directed into another, one glimpse, one jump-cut, leads to the other). Is that clear? Are you able to follow this?  Am I talking loud enough? Are your minds swift enough? Am I making too many jump cuts in my own mind that I’m taking for granted you know? – ok

Philip Whalen, Roshi – “My writing is a picture of a mind moving” – Six, “Surprise Mind” (In other words, you never know what you’re going to be thinking in a minute..the next.. does anybody here know what they might be thinking in one minute? – You couldn’t tell, it might be hot dogs!) – Seven, an old haiku by Basho – “The old pond/A frog jumps in/Kerplunk!” (i.e. the pond of the mind and a thought – Kerplunk! – arises). That’s all chance, so, Chogyam Trungpa – “Magic is the total delight in chance” – “Magic is the total appreciation of chance” (out of that you get John Cage, (Robert) Rauschenberg, (William) Burroughs’  cut-ups, a certain amount of music video, a lot of (Jack) Kerouac, much post-modern writing, and opera, and movie construction. “Do I contradict myself/Very well, then I contradict myself/I am large. I contain multitudes”- Who said that?

Student;  Walt Whitman

AG: Yeah, meaning, you can contradict yourself because the mind is very large and does contradict itself – and there’s nothing wrong with that. And then, “What quality is.. a portion of a letter John Keats wrote to his brother – “What quality went to form a man of of achievement, especially in literature? – Negative capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. Certainly you want to be right, you want to check your facts and that, but not irritably, aggressively, insistently, so the key word is, without an irritable reaching after fact and reason”…. Lets see, “Ordinary mind includes eternal perceptions” – Something I read last night – by Louis Zukofsky, Objectivist poet – “Nothing is better for being Eternal/ Nor so white as the white that dies with the day” – “Nothing is better for being Eternal/ Nor so white as the white that dies with the day” (In other words, would a rose be better if it never died? – it wouldn’t be a rose anymore, in fact, the poignancy of the rose would be gone, so you’d just have some sort of monster piece of crystal, something out of a bed-and-breakfast boudoir!) –  “Nothing is better for being Eternal/ Nor so white as the white that dies with the day” – So, how do you get to appreciate how much better the transitory is? – “Notice what you notice”, “Catch yourself thinking”, “Observe what’s vivid” (and recognize that “Vividness is self-selecting”) – And (William) Wordsworth had a little category of poetry, or image, or perception, that he called “Spots of Time”, moments of.. eternal moments, (eternal because they were transitory but they were so vividly glimpsed that they stuck in,. that they stick in his mind..still, stuck in his mind when he went to write his spiritual autobiography, The Prelude). Last, from a Tibetan lama (Gelek Rinpoche) – “My mind is open to itself” (In other words, we do know everything about our own mind, but we may not want to show it, but we are actually aware of everything in our own minds. There’s nothing that’s really unconscious.


So that’s the basic ground. I might continue a bit. So how do you nail that down if you’re writing? William Carlos Williams said “No ideas but in things” – that is direct.. (“close to the nose” is another way he said it), or “No ideas but in the Facts” – or Williams said.. there’s another way of… this is William Carlos Williams  –  Anybody ever hear of him? – Yep, half.  split down the middle –  a great American poet, who introduced the notion of practicality into poetry, everyday speech, everyday diction, ordinary speech, ordinary mind, seeing the job of poetry as taking intense moments of ordinary speech and making use of those, rather than trying to imitate the pretty and used speech of older poems (of) archaic centuries, trying to speak in a living language, using the kind of language that we talk now talking to each other intensely. So, intense moments of spoken idiom was his contribution, intense moments of spoken American diction. So he said, “Clamp the mind down on objects” also.

Ezra Pound, 1912 – “Direct treatent of the thing”, or, vernacular, “Give me a for instance”. you know that phrase?  – or “Show, not tell” – and Pound continued “The natural object is always the adequate symbol. For those of you who want some kind of New Age crystal-gazing vapidity and vagueness, “The natural object is always the adequate symbol” – or, as (Chogyam) Trungpa (Rinpoche) said, “Things are symbols of themselves”. (W.B.) Yeats said, “And being old, she put a skin/ On everything she said” – “What shall I do for pretty girls/ now my old bawd is dead..” “(Being old she) Put a skin On everything she said”. So,” put a skin On” everything, you say, i.e, give a “for instance”, some “natural object is.. the adequate symbol”

Ok, well, that’s enough of this. It’s sort of a basic procedure, if anybody’s interested, and a lot of that is encoded in the title poem of the last book by me, that I published, Cosmopolitan Greetings, and that was the basis of the poetry of last night (sic) i.e a kind of practical, American, living, vernacular speech, idiomatic speech, the kind of speech I might (use) talking in my own kitchen, or overhear myself talking to myself, so a lot of my own writing is when I catch myself talking to myself, or when I catch myself thinking, noticing that I’ve just said that to myself,  like – “that was good”, (or) “that was great”, (or) “that was important” (standing to flush the toilet), something I thought that was happening,  getting up from the bog! – “that was good”, “that was great”, “that was important” – I caught myself saying that to myself and made a little one-line poem about it.

So, ok..   well Steven Taylor and I are open to any questions, and his specialty is linguistics and ethnomusicology – both – yes?

Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986-1992 (Paperback) ~ Allen Gins... Cover Art

Q: Are you familiar with (William) Burroughs’ theory that the atomic bomb is a soul-killer?

AG: Yeah

Q: What do you think of that?

AG: Well.. Burroughs has funny ideas that change from decade to decade. I think, this year he believes in God. A couple of years earlier, he was.. making parodies of the so-called stasis that a God would mean, an omniscient, all-knowing ever-present God would mean you couldn’t move, because you already knew all the moves in advance and had made them, so that they’d be a universe of complete stasis (as) everybody’s got a different idea. The nuclear bomb is a killer of souls? At its time, I think he had some idea of some kind of essence of some kind of human that could be destroyed by the extreme heat

ST: It relates to that mummy thing.

AG: What is that?  Could you explain?

ST: Well he did that book that..what was the book he did about the Egyptian.. about mummification? – the Egyptian notion that in order to preserve the soul, you had to preserve the body

AG: The Place of Lost Roads, or something like that?

ST: The Place of Dead Roads 

AG: Yeah

ST: In that book he was into the Egyptian notion of taking care of the body. And..I think he had.. in Naked Lunch it shows up, someone who is referred to as “mummy-less”, meaning they have no soul

AG: “You got no soul”

ST: So he had an earlier formulation which was that Democracy ended with the Atomic Bomb.

AG: How did he.. What was the..?

ST: Well, nobody asked. They didn’t ask the American people if they wanted to nuke an entire city. So that there was no choice. So that the notion that there was some sort of choice involved here and some sort of popular consensus going on here was given the lie, on that occasion.

AG: (Perhaps) the greatest decision of the century was taken without.. in total secrecy, by a small cabal of apparently-mistaken goofs. So that was the end of Democracy.
But as killer of souls? – the social soul, so to speak, but also, the way that I interpreted it personally, knowing him for a long time, accomadating to his extremes – killer of the Imagination, killer of individual temperament, intimidator of the Imagination, intimidator of one of the basic human qualities – Imagination. (Bill always took things to the extreme). William Blake felt that the Imagination was an un-…was intimidateable, but was always there, and was always there ready for rebellion and outbreak again, that Dream was one.. that Dream and Imagination were one of the basic characteristics of human nature.  The body (as human beings, we have bodies) – a the Four Zoas in Blakean symbolism – the Body, we have a Body, we have Feelings, we have Reason, and we have the escape from all that – Imagination, Dream, fantasy, and everybody’s got that, and, in a sense, the bomb intimidated the Body, yes, intimidated Feelings, intimidated Reason (because Reason came to its end, in a way), but also threatened peoples’ pleasanter fantasies, the realm of open Imagination – You no longer could conceive openly of a Paradise because the bomb put a snake there permanently – they don’t know how to get rid of it, they don’t know how to clean up the detritus any more, they don’t know how to clean up the waste products of the Bomb, they don’t know how to put it back in the bottle. Now you’ve got this permanent genie travelling around the planet, and further, as one German sociologist pointed out,  Jungk – wrote a book called  “Brighter Than the Absence of  A Thousand Suns” – I think his name is Jungk [Editorial note – Robert Jungk’s Heller als tausend Sonnen. Das Schicksal der Atomforscher (Brighter Than A Thousand Suns – A Personal History of the Atomic Scientists) first appeared in German in 1956, and in 1958 in English translation]- the absolute nature  of the Bomb, the absoluteness of it, means that you require an absolute surveillance state to control the Unibomber (because there’s always going to be a Unibomber that’s smart enough to build a nuclear bomb, and as technology gets more and more advanced it’s going to be easier and easier – That means that everyone’s gonna have to have a little camera in their brain-pan so that they don’t blow up San Marcos, or Houston, or Austin, or New York, or Persopolis, or Ur, or Babylon) – So in a sense, it’s the killer of that unlimited freedom that we thought of as the human soul. At least, that’s the way I interpret it. I think Burroughs may have meant it more literally…


Q: … the electro-magnetic force (that)..

A: Yeah
Q: … composes our soul, I guess (that)..

AG: Yeah, I think the Buddhists would think that’s laughable, that the… what leaves the body after six hours to go to the bardo, (the intermediate state between birth and death) is not at all related to anything physical (although, I don’t understand it). Actually, a couple of days ago, I had an interesting conversation, three-way, between my Tibetan lama-teacher (Gelek Rinpoche) and Burroughs. We called up Burroughs to see how he was, and Burroughs had one question, which was.. (I think Burroughs is eighy-three now) – “On the death-bed, would (a) junk habit be an obstacle?”, a very Burroughs-ian question, and the lama said, “No, that’s just the body. An addiction to anger might be a problem, but not to junk, not to.. not a physical addiction. A psychological tendency like towards anger or resentment might be a problem (and Burroughs is, occasionally, quite an irritable elder.. impatient).  It was just the right answer.

I’m glad somebody’s reading Burroughs. How many here have read some Burroughs?  Yeah, he really seems to transcend generation after generation and is more and more right and useful now than even at the beginning. I was lucky to have had a good education with him when I was seventeen.

Q: Mr Ginsberg

AG: Yeah

Q: I want to ask you a question about how you…these aphorism you were talking about..
AG: I collected them, I collected from all different sources, over the years of reading,  things that stuck in my head.

Q:  Yes, and those points about spontaneity, accepting impulses that you find… and I wonder, when you write, do you tend to write your poems straight through without stopping to reflect and edit and change things…

AG: Yes, “the first thought is the best thought”. In other words, it’s freshest and closest in mind. The only thing is delving back and getting what was the first thought? – because well, if you put someone at a table, and they’ll say “first thought, best thought”, and (then) they’ll say “I am here at a table and I am writing”, well, that’s not really the first thought – there was something underneath that that led them to the table, like.. the taste of spinach,  or something – or the look of a bowl of spinach – Actually, the look of a bowl of.. the look of a very green… [turns to Steven Taylor] what was that stuff on our plate today?

ST: Some kind of greens!  – regional specialty!

AG: Mustard green or..

ST: Collard? Maybe it was collard greens, yes

AG: Collard greens. Now, so, what led them to the table was the bright green of the collard greens. What led me to the response was the image in the back of my mind that I had of those bright colored greens that I had on my plate this morning, next to the…

ST: Sweet potatoes

AG: Sweet potatoes, yellow sweet potatoes, and some..some eggs on English muffin.. So, actually, that flash of green is the vivid..image ..and it’s a question of.. well, is there a context for it? – and how do you present it and all that? – but..that’s the first thought, not “I am here, sitting at a table, supposed to be writing down my first thoughts” – that’s the fifteenth thought!  – (because) you know, you’ve processed your mind over and over again and gotten very far away from the original perception. By “first thought”, we mean.. I mean, original perception (generally, visual). So, then, it’s a question of being a stenographer of that perception, of that sequence of perceptions. That means you can just about barely keep up to take it down. So you don’t really have time to revise your mind (it would mean revising your mind). It’s more a question of being accurate and getting back to the sequence of thoughts, as they arose. So you might revise, if you found there was a missing link or.. a necessary missing link, or you didn’t get it right, or couldn’t remember it – the word, “collard green” – then you might revise for that – instead of “green”. So it’s really more like a .. it’s not a self.. self-directed system. It doesn’t.. it doesn’t really require thinking, (less than re-collecting – re-collection, yeah).

And then what have you got to think about? – “Should I really think that?”  “Did I really see that?” – or “Should I tell people that?”  “Is collard greens important?” –  You know the most (basic fact) would be “Now, is collard greens important enough for me to waste my time on? – Anything is vivid is vivid. That’s it. No matter what it is. That’s what gives the surprise. Anything (that) comes up, that you wouldn’t expect.( I mean, I didn’t expect to be discussing “collard greens” over in a [Allen looks up at the classroom] horrible Egyyptian tomb in the middle of Texas!) – So, anyting that comes up provides a surprise, and therefore it’s take.. – that leads to “Take a friendly attitude toward your thoughts” or the corollary (collard-green-lary!) “Magic is the total appreciation of chance” – i.e the chance of what thought comes up as you…(and the humor that that involves – because the mind is like Coyote, jumping from one thing to another, it’s magical, it has no bounds, no limits, it’s a paradox and its self-contradictions are endless, and its humor is endless, it’s good humor is endless) – and that goes back to the “killer of souls”, you know,  Did man create something so hideously absolute that it intimidates even the..  (that) you’ve gotta be serious from now on, (that) you can’t have no more fun?  – Yes?

Q: In the reading last night, the jazz, the poem which you wrote that had been influenced by the jazz  musician..

AG: Yeah, Don Cherry. I was reciting, I think it was..Steven Folk City..

Don Cherry (1936-1995)

ST: Hum Bom!

AG: Hum Bom – And it was was an early version I got… “Hum Bom/We Bomb Them/Hum Bom/You Bomb You/Hum Bom/You Bomb You” – and Don Cherry, from the side, sometimes had been playing trumpet, or had been playing some .. or percussion instrument, rattles, or [Allen turns to Steven Taylor] what do you call it?.. or whatever he had, began, in a kind of sweet whining trumpet-like voice – “You don’t wanna bomb?”, You don’t wanna bomb”, “Why you coming on with this bomb? – And I suddenly realized, “Oh, I see, he’s reversing it, musically” – “You don’t wanna bomb”, “You don’t wanna bomb”, “Who wants a bomb?” – In fact, I think I just stole that – “Who wants a bomb?” – from him (or appropriated it, as they say). What he was doing was interpolating a musical response to my very heavy “Hum Bom/ You Bomb Them” – “You don’t wanna bomb/Hum Bomb/You don’t wanna bomb” ..It also alchemises,  reversed the whole heaviness of … turned (it) into some kind of stentorian humor. Is that your question?

Q: Yeah, that was my question

AG: Do you know Don Cherry?  (He) plays…

Q: I was just curious about the techniques..

AG: Yeah, it was just this accidental.. He’s such a good musician that, like, anything he did, of.  like body-movements, or even comments on the poetry  had a kind of musical value.

ST: He also had a relationship between music and speech – American speech and American music (which is something (Jack) Kerouac riffed off, you know, like the poetry in.. like Mexico City Blues is a series of solos blown on a saxophone, you know, there is that relationship, and I think ethnomusicologists (to speak for my  colleagues) often try to see those kind of relationships between styles of music and styles of language and styles of music and styles of social interaction.. There’s been a lot of work done on that. For example, John Miller Chernoff‘s book, African Rhythm, African Sensibility, in which the habits of West African drummers.. the idea that a good drummer is one who does not play too much relates to the notion that a person who functions well in society is one who leaves space for other people to talk too, you know. There are always those kinds of relationships, because language is.. language and music are both material products of the same cultural mind-set, so there’s always this relationship, and I think in American poetry it’s especially evident, like with Kerouac’s use of jazz, and Allen’s response to Don Cherry’s riff.

cover of book

Q: In retrospect, the poems that you wrote early in your career, did they involve the same vividness that inspired you to write them

AG: Yeah, I think … “Howl” was kind of interesting, and “Sunflower Sutra, in that period of about..what? about 1954 to 56,  because I was also trying to use a certain amount of Surrealist enjambment or Surrealist..yoking-together disparate ideas, or disparate pictures, in one phrase, like “hydrogen jukebox”  – “listening to the doom on the hydrogen jukebox” – So there’s an element of abstraction there, but it’s all still rooted in a “jukebox” and a “hydrogen bomb”, like things, maybe cultural references, but they’re still things that are recognizeable. It isn’t… they aren’t philosophical abstractions, so to speak, they’re home-made, home-made little mind-bombs, little word..word portmanteau phrasing. It was preceded with a lot of study and imitation of William Carlos Williams, very straightforward, naturalistic poetry. (So), at the same time, I was reading a lot of French Surrealist verse from Rimbaud through Apollinaire, Blaise Cendrars and Antonin Artaud, who had various..contributed various sort of Surrealist, or jump-cut, or montage, or quick-shift, ideas, drawn from Dadaism and Surrealism. So I was trying to combine the two elements – the American naturalistic (feel) of Whitman and Williams (and Whitman is very very detailed) and the quick, swift, French, mind-notation that you get in a poem called “Zone” by Apollinaire (which was basically the model for T.S.Eliot‘s “Waste Land” and was written before “The Waste Land” and which Eliot read and admired). Several poems of that.. 1910, 1912, 1913, 1914, that were European models for Eliot – which became the American-English model for a while. Interestingly, Williams was also interested in the Surrealist personnel, the methods too, tried it out for a while, translated one, (Philippe Souplault). So I was trying to combine European and American techniques. But still there was ten years practical.. “Howl” was (19)56. I was in contact, and beginning to be influenced by Williams by 1948-49. There’s already eight years apprenticeship in keeping my eye focused on objects, “close to the nose”. And I had already submitted my poems to Williams and he selected out those that he thought were “active”, in that way. He’d already edited a book for me and written a preface. So I really was ingrained and embedded in Williams, as well as..  if you’ve read Burroughs’ Junkie, a book of, like, totally naturalistic detail, or (Jack) Kerouac’s early work, I was already familiar with those, and by the time I put my book together for Williams, I was the agent for Burroughs’ Junkie trying to get it published. So that I had..was immersed in.. that factual style. And then began taking off a bit, you know, and trying to combine it (or) speed it up, so to speak – Yeah?

Q: You talk about (William Carlos) Williams as well as Walt) Whitman and even (T.S.) Eliot  – did Wallace Stevens have any sort of influence on your poetry as well?

AG: Well, my father was a teacher and a poet. And so I ran into all these influences very early, Stevens more than Williams when I was a kid, particularly “Downward to darkness, on extended wings” or “Complacencies of the peignoir..“, I’ve forgotten the title [Editorial note – both are quotations from Stevens’ poemSunday Morning“] and I’d read a lot of Stevens but he always seemed to me too formulaic in his form, it wasn’t an open enough form, and also he was very diffident of having any kind of passionate, sincere, open-hearted, cheerful emotional reality. It’s more like a very distanced philosophical poetry, and  in some ways.. (although they were great friends, Williams and Stevens, you know, like Stevens wrote the preface to Williams’ first Collected Poems  Collected Poems 1921-1931, published by the Objectivist Press], a preface which Williams found a little insulting, because Stevens called him “a Romantic”, or something like that – (thinking that) Williams was romanticizing naturalist reality – garbage cans.. garbage pails and wheelbarrows – that Williams was romanticizing it (Williams was only trying to be accurate and thought that Stevens was, like, this.. had this romantic exaggeration and afflatus in his language).

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

So I always found Williams more interesting as a model and I think most people have (though the academic poets have gone more for Stevens because there’s less grounding, you know, there’s more abstraction and generalization). You can get away with more bullshit with Stevens than you can with Eliot.

With Williams you really have to have an object, with Stevens you have a general idea and you never have to ground it really, maybe one grounded realistic reference per poem.

Q: I’m curious about your comment last night about Bob Dylan being about a man against everything, or I can’t remember the exact quote and what it was about(but) …

AG: Against the whole of creation!

Q: Yes, against the whole of creation. As an artist who’s professed admiration for you over the years and I guess you’ve known him for quite some time, how do you rate him nowdays?

AG: Well, this is this spontaneous poem and that was the first line – “Is about” – I mean, you know “Is about”. I was making fun of the buzz-word, buzz-phrase “Is about” – “This film is about two guys, one black, one in white, they grew up in the same block, and one of them, the black guy, is a cop and the white guy is the head of the mafia and they’re gonna… that’s what this is about” – reducing all of life to “is about”. And I think the first time I ever heard it was Dylan ‘s former manager (Albert Grossman), talking about, you know, “showbiz”, the music business “is about” making money, or something (which was (just) the oppposite of Dylan’s view of things). So Dylan was the first person that I thought of, and then I just made one deliberately extravagant exaggerated heroic “is about one man against the whole of creation” –  actually, one individual, you know, being himself, solitary, in the whole universe, and able to stand up to it, which is really his position – he’s the loneliest guy in the universe almost, and at the same time one of the strongest, and at the same time one of the most friendless, in a sense (because nobody wants to be up there in that glare of white heat impersonality, that radiates personal but is like almost implacably unjudging, in an implacably unjudging place). I meant it as a.. I keep wondering about it bccause I always thought of it as a.. slightly insulting, but at the same time, slightly heroic. (declaration).
It’s why I followed up with Beethoven – “Lightning, one fist against the lightning – da-da-da-da. It’s a little sloppy a line. I think Dylan may be the great poet of this half of the century, certainly the great minstrel, (which is one of the oldest forms of poetry, going back to the first poet, Sappho, or the earlier communal poet, Homer, (because poetry and music always were together, as Pound pointed out). So he’s a hero, certainly, to me, as poet. (And) he’s influenced me a lot – to music, to even aspiring to rock n roll, to try and make some kind of classic poetic statement through the most popular vulgar medium, to see if you can do a Buddhist trick, and with “skilful means“, combine total enlightenment and total immersion in (the) guts of existence.

Bob Dylan

Q: Have you recorded together?

AG: Oh yeah, yeah, we have about a half an hour of studio recordings..with Steven Taylor on one of the sessions – 1971, 1982. I have a box-set, a 4-CD box-set called Holy Soul, Jelly Roll – Poems and Songs from 1949 to 1993, which includes half an hour of studio work with Dylan. Actually, he taught me three-chord blues changes, originally. I didn’t know any difference. I was writing Blake songs on one chord! – Yes, Rhino Records – box-set!

Q: I would say… you really brought out the eroticism..

AG: Yeah, my own particular flavor

Q It’s very prevalent in your poetryI don’t want you to write kitsch but, well, would you say that when your libido stays in overdrive, that’s when you really creating something that you would deem good?

AG: Well, it tends to be that when my libido is in overdrive I tend to write, You know, for lack of any other outlet! – or in the hope of attracting another outlet! – I think that’s a major fuel for art. In the end of (W.H.) Auden‘s elegy for Sigmund Freud, (“In Memory of Sigmund Freud“) one of his great poems, it ends “sad is Eros, builder of cities/and weeping anarchic Aphrodite”. That is, seeing Freud as the voice of libido and eros in the twentieth-century, so he ends this tribute to Freud,”sad is Eros builder of cities”,  and I wonder where he got that, I bet it’s some classical..

ST: Hesiod

AG: Hesiod?

ST: My guess.  Theogeny. The first three things created – chaos, birth and eros

transcript to be continued tomorrow 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.