Meditation and Poetics – (Reading Bram Dijkstra)

AG: Peter (Orlovsky) and I went and spent a little time (two hours) with her (Georgia O’Keeffe). She gave us raspberry juice from her own garden. Local particulars. She was really proud of home-grown raspberry-juice, and she had enough raspberries (at the age of ninety-one)  that she could actually offer a gallon of raspberry-juice, which was terrific. It’s like that (William Carlos) Williams poem (“A Poem for Norman Macleod”) – “No bull” – You can do a lot with what’s around if you know what’s there” – I read that, didn’t I? – “The revolution/ is accomplished./ noble has been changed to no bull” – The Indian that had gashed open the balsam to get a recipe for constipation for the prospector. “You can do a lot with what’s around you”. So she had raspberries.

[Allen continues reading from Bram Dijkstra’s The Hieroglyphics of a New Speech – Cubism, Stieglitz, and the Early Poetry of William Carlos Williams]

“Thus the artist could do justice to the object without forcing it to function as a metaphor for something else (in photography). The photographer must therefore begin by seeing all things with perfect precision, perfect penetration. If he does so and if he’s closely attuned to the elements of his own subjective experience, he’ll be able to recognize in certain natural objects around him elements hitherto not yet discovered but nonetheless eternally present in them. Hence, the objects in nature are recognized to be the source of our spiritual constitution. The content of our non-rational being as much as of our intellectual existence is shown to be determined by the contents of the physical world.”

In other words, the spiritual life is determined by the physical world presented, if you’re attentive to the spiritual world, to the material world around..

Of course, what I am describing (are) the theories that were operating among a lot of the New York artists coming out of  the Ashcan School, William Carlos Williams, the early Imagists, the people hanging around Stieglitz’s art gallery, Alfred Kreymborg (as well as Williams), anthologists and poets of bohemia, of the New York avant-garde of the (19)10’s and (19)20’s – (Stieglitz) had a series of galleries – 291 Madison Avenue, so Gallery 291, followed, finally, by (the) An American Place gallery, that (I)’ve previously) mentioned  – (the title is significant – An American Place)

[Allen continues reading from Bram Dijkstra]

“If this is the case then life might find its most complete fulfillment in the accurate observation of matter” – [that’s a weird sentence – very unexpected aesthetic – “if this is the case’] – “For Stieglitz, the objects of nature are the absolutes from which all derives. If this is the case, then life might find its most complete fulfillment in the accurate observation of matter. What is seen, felt, and therefore experienced determines the meaning of life. If all values derive from matter, beauty, for one thing, must be the universal seen” – [not S-C-E-N-E, but S-E-E-N – the universal when it is seen, when it is actually pictorially visible] – “If Stieglitz was a pioneer in American art, it was primarily because he established the basis for a non-metaphoric art in America” – (which correlates to that slogan I’ve been repeating by Ezra Pound – “The natural object is always the adequate symbol” – In other words, the natural object is not a metaphor for something else, but things are symbols of themselves) – “Until Stieglitz began to emphasize the object in his photographs, the artist in this country had been  overwhelmingly concerned with those qualities in reality which were  representatives of indirect experience. In the wake of the settlers and the immigrants, the American artist in the nineteenth-century had spent all his efforts into turning the native reality into a shadow of experience informed by the European object. His American lamdscapes were landscapes distorted by the painter Claude Lorrain, his poems were about Indian burying grounds, not as they really were, but as they might have been, if placed on an English heath, among the castles of the Gothic imagination. For Stieglitz and his followers, the immediate task was to restore the integrity of the American object…” (I could translate that (as), for this class, the immediate task is to restore the integrity of the breath, the integrity of the empty breath) – “the integrity of the American object, to perceive it free from metaphor, to see it as it actually existed within its own experimental framework. They struggled to free the American object from the impositions of alien consciousness, from the metaphoric vision which forces the object to be other than itself, and hence be continually misapprehended. There is no doubt that Williams was profoundly influenced by what Steiglitz and the painters set out to do. What is, even Williams’ extensive campaign in favor of the word as the thing itself, if not an extension of these concepts?”

So, in other words, the kind of poetry we were examining as representative of samatha-vipassana – that is to say, focus, concentration, simplification, mindfulness, realization of present space, non-imposition of fantasy upon the object in space, but clear perception of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and thought – the preoccupations of this area of meditative consciousness, or meditative experimentation, and the preoccupations of the early (twentieth) century American artists were, surprisingly, amazingly similar, if not identical. They were similar if not identical breakthroughs back to original mind and natural consciousness.

Historically, the American artist had to go through that de-conditioning from European thought forms in order to discover where he was in space around the turn of the century, with the beginning of the Machine Age, and with the beginning of the Space Age. With the beginning of World War I there was this enormous breakthrough to… what?.. we are here in Newark (New Jersey). It isn’t Milan amd it isn’t Florence. It’s Newark (or Hoboken, or Rutherford, New Jersey, in Williams’ case – or mid-Manhattan, 291 Madison Avenue, to be precise, in Stieglitz’s case). So, 291 Gallery – “An American Place”.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seven-and-a-quarter minutes in, and concluding at approximately fourteen-and-a-half minutes in] 

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