Student: I was wondering if you were (suggesting poetry and meditation) in the same (breath as) functions of the mind? I was wondering if you are saying that – that poetry is a function of the mind?
Student: You expanded on (Jack) Kerouac‘s…
AG: …if you write it down.
Student: Can you expand on Kerouac’s “If the mind is shapely, the poetry is shapely’? You said…
AG: “Mind is shapely, art is shapely”
Student: Right, that’s what I meant.
AG: That’s a corollary to “First thought, best thought”
Student: Can you expand on that – “Mind is shapely, art is shapely”?
AG: Well, because nobody understood what I meant by mind. They thought.. I don’t know what they thought I meant by mind. Maybe they thought I meant your Oxford degree, rather than Douanier Rousseau, the painter, able to see his own mind or his own visions, or able to have his own original visions clearly manifest to himself and not (be) ashamed of them or scared of them.
“If mind is shapely” means (well, actually, we changed it to “Mind is shapely, art is shapely“, originally it was “If the mind is shapely, the art will be shapely” – But Kerouac pointed out that mind is shapely – how could it be anything but?). Original mind is shapely, i.e., one thought follows another. What do you want? A different thought to follow that one? – He was also suggesting that there is some sort of inner logic to the sequence of thoughts, which there is, actually, if you follow them in this book [Mexico City Blues], for instance, or any succession of pure spontaneous writing. (I’m not talking about day-dream writing or automatic writing, I’m talking about full conscious writing, allowing all the thoughts that come in the window of the eye and ear to be expressed simultaneously).
On this point I had a conversation with (Chogyam) Trungpa (Rinpoche) about a year ago, as to which comes first, thought or word, and he says, that with certain poets and on certain occasions, thought and word are identical. In other words, the words come identical with the thought-forms. They’re the same. There’s no difference between thoughts and words (which is why (William) Burroughs method is interesting, because Burroughs’ thoughts are not in words, Burroughs’ thoughts are pictures. Burroughs’ mind is primarily visual picture – phanopoeia – phanopoeic – visual pictures succeeding one another, which is why his writing is so picturesque, so full of pictures, whereas if you compare it to Kerouac, there’s a lot more pure sound, assonance, and pure sound and verbal play (in Kerouac) – and, “Starspangled Kingdoms bedecked/ in dewy joint -” [17th Chorus] – that’s the first thing – “Starspangled Kingdoms bedecked/ in dewy joint -” – he was allowing that – And then, his comment, “DON”T IGNORE OTHER PARTS OF YOUR MIND” – like “Starspangled Kingdoms bedecked/ in dewy joint -“)
Incidentally, the in-put – there is a lot of Shakespeare(an) sound. And a lot of the book is about his own sound – “(A)ll Picassos/ and Micassos and/Macayos/and/Machados/ and K e r o u a c o’ s” (24th Chorus) – there’s that Canuck “ack-ack“, (the sound Peter (Orlovsky) mentioned before). Kerouac wrote a pure sound poem – [Editorial note – probaby, Allen here is referring to the poem at end of Big Sur] – “..arrac’h–arrache–/Kamarc’h Jevac’h“ – as the quintessence of the French-Canadian mouth. Kerouac “Kamarc’h Jevac’h“– that sort of funny little “care-oh-ack” – heavy “yack-yack” consonants, with accents on the ends of the words (which he associated also with bebop – “google-mop” – like long phrasings, ending with an upbeat – “Duh, day-dah-dot, duh, day-dah-dah, be-hoop-be-dope, dee-dope-beep” – from Charlie Parker, or Dizzy Gillespie. So he was seeing a correlation between the natural sound that the blacks were making in their jazz, his own natural Canuck vocal sound, and what was running through the other parts of his mind.
Does that make sense? Yeah. So that’s how he was drawn to this style. Not so much influenced, but drawn to it naturally. That was his natural sound. And he was affirming his natural sound as the fit medium for poetry (as William Carlos Williams was affirming his Rutherfordian tongue as the fit diction, as (Charles) Reznikoff, his second-generation Russian-Jewish… like in the line “the tugs drag their guts…” – what is it? – “greasy smoke’? – [“..grease coils..”] – like beetles stepped on” – remember that phrase? – “like beetles stepped on” – were you here when I was reading Reznikoff? do you remember? – Well, there was that couplet about tug-boats on the East River which ended that they looked “like beetles stepped on” – and that’s like Jewish-New York talk – ““like beetles stepped on”. So what I’m saying is Reznikoff was affirming his own tongue, Williams, his own Rutherford tongue, and Kerouac his own Lowell, Massachusetts Canuck tongue.