Reassembling Perception

Pablo Picasso. Skull and Leeks 1945

AG: So you assemble, you reassemble, all these objects and you get the sensation that you had at the time. So it’s almost like a precise science.. won’t you believe it?

Student: Well, it seems like you’re taking a real classical approach that these things that come in on you can be.. can all be put in an organized sentence, in an elegant way.

AG: Okay

Student: But after…   I mean, don’t you think a..  I mean, a McLuhan-esque term, “the mosaic thinking”,  that just sometimes just lists of images would  be more accurate to what really happened than the elegant well-constructed sentence?

AG: Yes. Well, first of all, what I’m proposing is that, it’s not that you’re working up a pretty sentence or a pretty order, You know, you’re not selecting your elements to make a pretty mosaic, to make it arty, but that you’re smart at recollecting what order they themselves arose in your mind, in what..  recollecting the order in which they themselves arose in your mind. In other words, (you’re) copying nature. In other words, while you’re recollecting, you recollect the order that you remembered them in. I mean, the literal chronological order – (first you thought of the flagpole, then you thought of the this, then you thought of the that.).  It’s close watch on the mind.

Student: But any instance, you’re seeing, I mean, millions of impressions, and you’ve got to limit them to some.. I mean, I’m seeing the table and you at the same time. There’s no order there.

AG:  Well..

Student; You have to, to  put in a sentence, you  have to somehow collect…

AG: Okay. We can leave that open. I think that when you’re eagerly involved with a sensation, there are certain centers of interest.

Student; Yeah, but..

AG: In other words, if it is dusk and it’s chill and it’s silent, that’s what stirs the hair on the back on the back of your neck and makes you wake up, and things, impressions, collect themselves around that central thought, that central feel, that central mood,  that central awareness (which is sort of non-verbal). In other words, “mind is shapely”  (that’s (Jack)  Kerouac‘s phrase – “mind is shapely” –  meaning  “deep form””,  meaning “deep mind sees things related”.

Now. when you’re sort of thinking about writing a poem and not in a state of deep mind, then you might look around at the world and think, “what shall I think about? there’s too many things to think about” , or “there’s too many atoms to enumerate, too many hairs on your head to enumerate”  (except, if you’ve got a big wound on your leg where blood is dripping, you won’t be thinking about the hairs on your head, you’ll be…) –  Or, if you’re looking at somebody that you think is really desirable  (thighs, with dungarees cut around right at the crotch) you might get hung up on that because that’s what you’re interested in, although you might.. there may be something going on across the street and you’re looking at that because it’s arousing your interest.

Like yesterday, I saw a kid coming by on a bicycle that was absolutely great-looking – ordinary-looking, but somehow suddenly (he) turned into the most erotic-looking twenty-two-year-old , (or something like that), I’ve ever seen! – for the day! – I saw all that yesterday – I mean, I couldn’t get over it, He called to me in conversation.  I kept staring at these.. really.. I don’t know what quality it was.. it was the ordinariness of his thighs that was interesting, and the whole street collected itself around that particular urge in my relation to the guy that was talking to me (he was telling me.. somebody was reciting bad poetry (probably not even a student at Naropa) so I was standing there nodding, looking at this guy – So, okay, what were the elements of that moment? – someone reciting me bad poetry, and I remember his pants and his belly and his voice and the bad poetry, and I remember myself thinking, standing there, nodding. And then the twang-player who plays that stringed instrument… whatever it is ..the hammer… hammer-dulcimer, and the crowd around him, and then the boy leaning with his bike against the flagpole, or against the street-light.  So those are the elements that arose naturally when I thought of the scene pictorally, (not a million elements, but the ones that were related, which happens naturally).

There is a situation I’ve been in, very often, where  I  want to write a poem but I ain’t got nothin’ to write about and I’m not feelin’ anything at all and so now  I’ll  say,  “now ok, so,   hair one, hair two, hair three… – ” the tin cup on the table next to the ashtray filled with six cigarette-butts, one of them stubbed out next to the glass, with a rose drooping out of water two days old, so slightly white-bubbled tiny, by the book I didn’t read last night” –  and so forth,  and go over and just do the table, like a sketch. Sometimes a sketch like that, where you’re doing random, will work out.  But where there’s a single epiphany, there’ s  a single recollection, a single center, a single vision (a single vision, in Kerouac’s use of the word, not a selection but just a deep intense impression). If there’s a single vision then things, like iron filings around a magnet, tend to collect themselves into a shape (famous phrase – “like iron filings around a magnet” I think (Ezra) Pound..or (T.S.) Eliot uses that, I think).. We’re way off the subject!

Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-five-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately  sixty-one-and-three-quarter minutes in

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