Meditation and Poetics – (Whitman 14 – Respondez! – 3)

from Walt Whitman’s expurgated poem from Leaves of Grass – “Respondez!”

continuing from here 

AG: I mean, I’m a… (“Respondez!”) –  I think that’s where he’s ultimately… he (Whitman) really reveals himself… that he’s got this ultimate (doubt and despair).

Gregory Corso: Is he into it at the time of (Friedrich) Nietzsche? Is he (writing) at the time of Nietzsche?

AG: Probably, yes.

GC: Alright, they both had the Death-of-the-God shot. He’s saying, “Let there be no God!”.

AG: Yeah, well, get the line (previous) – “Let the earth desert God, nor let there ever henceforth be mention’d the name of God” – He’s real mad. Nobody can… he’s so mad… I forbid you, too  he’s like (Jehovah), (that’s the impudence of him), that’s Whitman’s impudence (although..)he still had this imagination, idea, (not of heaven(ly) anger up in the sky), that’s going to save everything – and if people don’t make it to that, (then) they don’t deserve it. So now he’s disappointed(and banishing people to)the hell-realms, the anger-realms – “Let there be no God!/Let there be money, business, imports, exports..

GC: “Let there be…imports, exports…” – what a fucking shot!”

GC: He wants “imports”?
AG: “…precedents, pallor, dyspepsia, smut, ignorance..”

GC: What is it? “dyspepsia”?
AG: That’s heartburn
GC: What the fuck is it?
AG: Heartburn
GC: What?
AG: Heartburn
GC: Heartburn…
AG: Heart-burn
GC: Oh shit, heartburn
AG: Dyspepsia
GC: That’s terrible, (the effect) on people, man
AG: Take Tums
GC: They think they’re going to have a heart attack when they get it.
AG: Yes.
GC: That’s not nice.
AG: “…smut, ignorance..”
GC: “..imports, exports..”
AG: “…unbelief!/Let judges and criminals be transposed! let the prison-keepers be put in prison let those who were prisoners take the keys!
GC: ”(Say! why might they not just as well be transposed?)”
AG: “Why not they not..”
GC: He’s trying to get Shakespearean there
AG: Yeah

AG & GC: “‘”(Say! why might they not just as well be…”
GC: As what? It’s Shakespearean shit he’s playing here. It sounds like fucking “Henry V
AG: ”(Say! why might they not just as well be transposed?)”, ”(Say! why might they not just as well be transposed?)” – that’s a….
GC: Yeah, nice,that’s a Shakesperean shot. Alright. That’s a good point
AG: “Let the slaves be masters! let the masters become slaves!”
GC: That’s easy. Easy line,

AG: “Let the reformers descend from the stands where they are forever bawling!”
GC: Not bad
AG: B-A-W-L – “let an idiot or insane person appear on each of the stands!/ Let the Asiatic, the African, the European, the American, and the Australian go armed against the murderous stealthiness of each other! let them sleep armed! let none believe in good will!”
GC: Oh shit. Fuck! Alright. That’s how it happened. Alright, let’s get on with it.

AG & GC: “Let there be no unfashionable wisdom! let such be scorned and derid’d off from the earth!/Let a floating clod in the sky – let a wave of the sea – let growing mint, spinach, onions, tomatoes – let these be exhibited as shows, at a great price for admission!”
That’s (Peter) Orlovsky
GC: Yeah. “(G)reat price for admission”
AG: “..let growing mint, spinach, onions, tomatoes – let these be exhibited as shows, at a great price for admission!” – That’s Orlovsky
GC: Top shot. Alright.
AG: “Let all the men of These States stand aside for a few smouchers!”

GC: Alright, you know what “smouchers” means now?
GC: What does it mean, “smoucher”?
GC: It means what? What is a smoucher?
Student: (Thief or swindler)
GC: Alright, a smoucher, you figure, it’s one who takes money, who asks for money from his friend.
Student(s): That ‘s a moocher
GC: That’s a moocher – What the fuck are you pointing at me for smoucher, man? Fuck! -The definition of smoucher is to gauge, to take unfair advantage of.
AG: Smoucher?
GC: Yeah, that’s a definition in the dictionary, man – But, oh, wow!
AG: “let the few…”
GC: Point at me with the smouching shit! Alright. So how am I going to deal with the rest of you fuckers?
AG: “let the few seize on what they choose!”
GC: What does he say about the smouchers, man? I want to hear it again.

AG: The next one is “let the..”
GC: “Let all the men of These States..” (capital T – “These States”)
AG: No, no, you jumped, you jumped. No. “Let…” Oh yeah, you’re right
GC: I didn’t jump
AG: You’re right
GC: After “great price for admission”
AG: I jumped, I jumped. Go on, go on.
GC: Alright. “Let all..” Alright, after the “at great price for admission”…“Let the men of These States stand aside for a few smouchers! let the few seize on what they choose! let the rest gawk, giggle, starve, obey!” – See, I’m smouching!
AG: (Yeah)

GC: I’m a fucking “smoucher”, man. Yeah – I’m gonna “gawk” and “giggle”, but “obey”?

AG: Then the great line – “Let shadows be furnish’d with genitals! let substances be deprived of their genitals!/Let there be wealthy and immense cities – but still through any of them, not a single poet, savior, knower, lover!”

GC: Right. Knock ‘em out.

AG: “Let the infidels of These States laugh all faith away!” – See, because he was basing it all on some kind of soul faith power, he was still basing it on selfs o he could get disappointed. “Let the infidels of These States laugh all faith away!”, He’s almost crying. “Let the infidels of These States laugh all faith away!” – “If one man be found who has faith, let the rest set upon him!/Let them affright faith let them destroy the power of breeding faith!”

GC: Wow!

AG: Let the she-harlots and the he-harlots be prudent!”
GC: “She-harlots and.. he-hartlots” Oh boy!

AG: “..let them dance on, while seeming lasts! (O seeming! seeming! seeming!)/Let preachers recite creeds! let them teach only what they have been taught!/Let insanity have charge of sanity!/Let books take the place of trees, animals, rivers, clouds!” – And that’s what happened – “Let tv take the place (of)…”
GC: tv?
AG: “Let books..”

GC: Books’ll give you the trees and clouds
AG: But that’s actually the media – ‘Let the media take the place of trees, animals, rivers, clouds!’
GC: I would see that, Al. I see that. Oh, that’s nice. Great, the next one.
AG: Go on.
GC: How do you pronounce it?
AG: Daubed
GC: Daubed. It’s got a curlicue on top of it, right?
AG: Daubt, Daubt
GC: Daubt. Not the daub-bed
AG: Daub-bed would be “e” with an accent
GC: I know, I know that. I would like daub-bed. Anyway – “Let the daub’d portraits of heroes supersede heroes!”
AG: Great!
GC: What does that mean?
AG: “Let the daub’d portraits of heroes supersede heroes!”
GC: Oh, I get it. They drew a picture of the hero (but this) supercedes it anyway. Right..
AG: Yes
GC: Right, the fuckers (made it even worse). What’s the next one there?
AG: “Let the manhood of man never take steps after itself!”
GC: Oh wow!
AG: What does that mean?
GC: Oh wow, that’s a biggie.
AG: “Let the manhood of man never take steps after itself!”
GC: There he didn’t…he made a mistake..[Max Corso, Gregory’s son, with him in the classroom, cries out – “Daddy” – Gregory addresses him] – Max, he made a mistake, the ant can’t get away from anthood, but man can get away from manhood. Right? Al? The ant can’t get away from anthood.
AG: Right
GC: But man can get away from manhood.
AG:  (Er..yes)..ok ..”Let…”
GC: He doesn’t want it to happen. He’s bugged, right? -“Let the manhood of man never take steps after itself!” – (It’s out. He’s knocking it out. He’s going to get real heavy. It’s almost over).

AG: “Let it take steps after eunuchs, and after consumptive and genteel persons!”
GC: Oh yeah, he’s hitting it. He’s hitting humankind, man.

AG: “Let the white person again tread the black person under his heels!/ (Say! which is trodden under heel, after all?)/Let the reflections of the things of the world be studied in mirrors!”
GC: Oh! Reflection in the mirror?
AG: “Let the reflections of the things of the world be studied…
GC: Beautiful.
AG:…in mirrors!”
GC: Oh

AG: “…let the things themselves still continue unstudied!”
GC: Unstudied – not know the fuckers

AG: “Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in himself!/Let a woman seek happiness everywhere except in herself!/ (What real happiness have you had one single hour through your whole life?)”
GC: You fuckers, Alright.
AG: “Let the limitless years of life do nothing for the limitless years of death//(What do you suppose death will do, then?)” – That’s the end.

GC: “What do you suppose death will do, then?” – Yeah, but he was not too hard, right?I mean he wasn’t really a heavy downer. (He was) a sweetheart really.

AG: That’s really great. It was taken out of Leaves of Grass I think it was in some…

GC: Sure, they took it out, man.. That’s an Ode to Joy, the fuckin’ Leaves of Grass

Leaves of Grass (1856 – Second edition)

Student; What’s the name again?
AG: Respondez!
GC: Respondez!
Student: That was written after the war..?
GC: Yeah, he was going out, when he wrote…
AG: I’ll have to look it up
Student (2): Before the war, before the war he wrote it.
GC: Before the war he wrote it. Of course. He’s a sharp fucker. (If) he wrote it after the war, it’d be bullshit.
Student: (So it was early?)
Student (2): It was in “Calamus”
GC: What’s the poem “Calamus” like? Is it a good one? – How long is it, Al?
Student (2): It’s a lot of different poems.
AG: it’s a lot of different poems.
GC: It’s a lot of different poems? What’s the top shot of it?
Student (2): Well, they celebrate his coming out
GC: What’s the coming out, Al? Do you know it?
AG: I’m just looking for the (section).
GC: Bullshit! Did(n’t) (Algernon Charles) Swinburne write him a letter once and say,
“Hey, great that you opened yourself up out of the closet”
AG: Yeah.
GC: And (he) answered Swinburne. What did he say?
Student (2): He cut out “Respondez!” and all of the “Calamus”, and put in “she”’s.
GC: “She”’s? – He knocked out the “he”’s and put “she”’s with the “he”’s?
Student (2): And that was his response.
GC: But you notice how, in this poem he just read he put “he” and “she”…
Student (2): Right.
GC: …duplicate lines. You couldn’t put the whole shot in one line. He had to do two –’Let he do this with himself/Let she do this with herself’
Student (2):  But in subsequent editions he cut it out.

GC: The Women’s Lib fucked it up for me. I did this book called Long Live Man, and (it cost me dear) “Long Live Humankind” – dig? There’s always (criticism) – “Man” means you’ve got all people, in one syllable, very sparse – “Man”.

AG: I got the dates on that. ”Respondez!” made its last appearance in Leaves of Grass in 1876, the text being printed here. Leaves of Grass, 1867. Originally poems of the proposition of nakedness, Leaves of Grass, 1852. 1856 was the first time (that it was published)
GC: Yeah, before the war
AG: And he cut it out twenty years later – (18)76.
GC: Too much. You mean he started with that heavyweight, of putting it down, and then he stopped loving it? That’s great to know, because, you know – Mark Twain is not connected to him – Mark Twain took the heavy, afterwards – but he (Whitman) had it to begin with.
AG: Let’s see, I think it’s in the second edition of Leaves of Grass. It was in the second edition. That was early, early.

AG: Because the first edition was..
GC: Top shot, right folks?
AG: … in (18)55
GC: Right. Top shot. It was early, man – when he’s getting down on his shit – (and) then he comes out and holds it all, embraces it….I saw those the other way around, Al, see?

AG: Okay, now, well, oh…(so).. I want to continue next time with Section 15  (of “Song of Myself) which is vipassana – insight – again. Whitman’s famous for his catalogs, so this is the gigantesque catalog that forms the underpinning of Leaves of Grass, a catalog of sharply-perceived details

[class and tape end here]

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