AG: (Where does your mind-image display?) It’s sort of in front of your nose, and up above. It may vary for people.
Student: You mean outside..?
AG: Pardon me?
Student: You mean outside? You think, and then you put yourself outside..
AG: You think of it, but then you do put yourself…?
Student: (In front of you. It’s not on your face)
AG: Ok, no, I’m just wondering. So, the question is – where, in the space of your dark head space (with the eyes closed), where does the picture appear? – and I’m saying, to me, it seems to appear a little bit in front of the face, or in front of the brow.
Student: (In the mind’s eye)
AG: Well that’s what I’m saying. Let us think now, where do we actually locate our pictures?
Student: Usually in the eye.
AG: Yes, indeed, that would make sense. And I’m even saying a little bit above the eye and a little in front of the eye, but certainly somewhere in relation to the eyes, absolutely, why not! (just like somewhere in relation to the tongue and the larynx for sound). But.. I’m glad you said.. I’d never thought of that before, but that’s the whole point – there is a physical picture going on, and it’s going on somewhere, so, if you’re having trouble, if you say, “I’ve got writers’ block, I don’t know what to write about”, and there’s all this television going on in front in relation to your eyeball, all you have to do is become aware of the screen in there. So I was just pointing out that there is a tv screen of the mind going on, and there’s a phonograph record or tape-machine going on. And that is in relation to “Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in your mind”, and, next one, which is the most important for me, and the most useful slogan in all writing, the most useful mind-trick (like I was talking about those mind-tricks for the bowing, I was trying to introduce this notion of a specific technique, that’ s really brilliant and smart – and simple as.. you know, just shit-simple, down-to-earth easy, the next one) [Allen has been expounding on Kerouac’s thirty-point Belief & Technique for Modern Prose”]
– (22) “Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better” – “Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better” – In other words, you’re writing a poem and you get stuck, you know, because, you know, you can’t remember what the object was. So, don’t get tangled in your tongue when you’re trying to get the right word but look at the picture, define the picture, get the picture outline clearly in your mind’s eye and then the word comes automatically. There’s no problem getting the word if you can see the thing clearly. I mean, say, describe a wall, well, how do you describe a wall? -“Well, the wall is painted grey-green and has got hinges all over it and has got cracks going up and down from the ceiling to the floors ” – that wall – so you see the picture and then you can describe it, but if you don’t see a picture than you have nothing to describe but the word “wall” – and just a word describing more words instead of a word describing a tangible object. So Kerouac’s idea here was..was a real definite mind-trick – “Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better” – Is that clear? That’s really important because it relates to many many other slogans and conceptions of poetry of the twentieth-century.
So I’ll do a little footnote side-track here – William Carlos Williams’ slogan – “No ideas but in things” – no generalizations and abstractions, like..”it’s summer and it’s hot” (for) what may be instead, “I walked out the door and the air was shimmering above the asphalt sidewalks” (in other words, the heat portrayed by a physical, tangible object – or, my favorite example of that is in Shakespeare, when he’s talking about winter, and he doesn’t say winter but he’s got a song “When Dick the shepherd blows his..” “When milk the..” When icicles hang by the wall/And milk comes frozen home in pail/And Dick the shepherd blows his nail” [ “When icicles hang by the wall/And Dick the shepherd blows his nail/And Tom bears logs into the hall/And milk comes frozen home in pail”] – That’s a very vivid image of winter, or cold – “And Marion’s nose is red and raw..” – So Shakespeare gave out winter by giving the instances of winter, for instances, pictures mostly. So, “no ideas but in things” – no winters but in frozen-milk-in-pails (because winter is nothing but frozen-milk-in-pails and icicles-hanging-by-a-wall. It isn’t a word, it isn’t a general thing, it’s a specific movement of cold which has.. which you can see, you can see the frozen pails and frozen icicles. So for instances all the way, from beginning to end. So, that’s useful. How do you get for instance? Well, don’t stop to think of the word when you stop but stop to see the picture better – “Man, I met this ugly girl.” – “So what about this ugly girl?” – “Well, I met this girl, she didn’t have a nose, her nose was eaten away and there was a large green spot there”, or something. Instead of saying “ugly”, just describe the large green spot – “Don’t stop to see words when you stop but to see picture better” –
“Keep track…” – here’s a nice one next – (23) – “Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning” – So, when you write (in) your notebooks, you know, put the date down and… what Kerouac did as a novelist was take some few notes every day of the great events of the day – who he talked to, what little vision he had, how much the milk cost when he went down to the eternal grocer – “Keep track” – and also he kept his journals every day – so he kept track of his life and didn’t let his life slip away into, like, amnesiac sand, by.. you know, he could open up his notebook and see what he did last week, whereas.. How many of us can remember what we did last week? – or where we even were ? – You can? – I can’t, I don’t know where I was (unless I wrote it down and put a date on it). How many can’t remember where they were last week? – Ok, fine, well keep track of every.. those who can’t remember where they were, “keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning” – that’s like “Be in love with your life” – “Be in love with your life, and “Believe in the holy contour of your life” – “Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning” – In your morning? – that means.. (what is it today? July 24th, 1984 – 1982! – July 24th, 1982, the second day of the grand international Kerouac Festival, “emblazoned” in my forehead.
Yes, sir? (can I pass the mic?)
Student: Does Kerouac have any suggestion as to where we get the time to do this, where we get the time to sit down..
AG: As to what?
Student: Where do we get the time to write about our days. If we sit down and write about the day, we would actually need two days, one day to experience it, another day to write it all down.
AG: You don’t have to write it all down. You only need to take five minutes to “emblazon” the day, day’s date, and main images in your mind, twenty minutes. Of course, (William) Burroughs gets up every morning and he writes from nine or ten in the morning until four in the afternoon. His day is writing. You know, the inventions of the writing is his big day. (Jack) Kerouac when he was writing novels would write maybe sixteen hours (and sleep eight, and then sixteen hours and sleep eight). My own method is, you know, whenever I write something, I write something, I don’t even think about it, I just do it, when I want to, when I have something that overflows , when I have something to say. But I’m a minor poet [sic] for that reason, compared to the enormous epical prose-poems that Burroughs and Kerouac have exuded, accomplished.
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-seven-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately fifty-six minutes in]