Allen Ginsberg 1994 Hot Springs workshop continues
AG: so first one is “First Thought Best Thought”, meaning what? – what rises to your mind naturally before you edit it, and can you recognize the first perception, or first thought, first flash, (like when you catch yourself thinking, so to speak). That is sort of the most vivid, generally, of the sequence of thought form that rise from a thought. And so the question is, (or the practice is), basically, how can you recognize your own mind?, how can you notice what you think?, how can you catch yourself thinking?, how can you notice what you notice?, how can you observe what’s already passed through your mind?, and, is it interesting? . And generally it is, if you write it down. But in order to do that, you have to have “a friendly attitude towards your thoughts” (that‘s number two here), because if you don’t, then you’ll be saying, “Well, I didn’t like that thought, that’s a little ugly, I’d better, oh, I’ll get onto the next one, or, I’ll modify it. I’ll make a generalization. Instead of saying, “I feel so mad at my kids I’d like to kill ‘em”, I think I’ll say, “Sometimes we have troubles”. So there’s a tendency to edit, socialize, and generalize, our thoughts, rather than to propose them directly to ourselves and to the writing. But it’s much more vivid if you go back to the first instance, the first flash that gave you the idea.
So William Carlos Williams has an example. “Danse Russe” – this is probably 1920 or so – [Allen reads Williams; “Danse Russe”] – (“If when my wife is sleeping…” Who shall say I’m not the happy genius of my household?”) – Okay, so that’s a thought that most people wouldn’t want to demonstrate and put out – you know, dancing naked and looking at his ass in the mirror in his bedroom! – and yet, who hasn’t?! – So Williams has caught himself in an archetypal moment, “oft thought but n’er so well expressd”, and sort of allowed himself, given himself permission, to be himself, and to work with that first thought .
Actually there’s a very funny poem [“Waiting”] where he actually does come home and describe the Autumn or Spring, or whatever it is, flowers in his front yard, and he’s musing on his poetry and he sees his kids, happily, on the porch, waiting for him, and crying out loud – and his heart sinks! And he says, “Let me see.. well.. ‘are not my children more dear to me than my poetry or solitude?” [“Are not my children as dear to me/as falling leaves or..”] (“Let us see, let us see,/ What did I prepare to say to her/ when it should happen to me/ as it has happened now?)”
So it’s a natural thought. Almost every parent has gotten that. It’s not that it’s so..it’s not necessarily that it’s going to lead to Miss.. who was it? Miss Smith, [Susan Smith] who murdered her children. Thoughts are only thoughts. So it’s ok to have thoughts, you know, even if you have thoughts that you think are excrescences (or divine? what do you want?) but ordinary. But the question is, can you work with those? And if you can, you can make a model of your own mind which mirrors other people’s minds, and maybe relieves some of the paranoia that they have thinking they’re too creepy to admit their thoughts to others.
So it’s a question of “taking a friendly attitude” toward yourself and your thoughts.
“One perception must immediately and directly lead to a further perception” – (in other words don’t get hung up on one thought, you know, let it be, it passes anyway. So it’s just a question of noticing the sequence of thought-forms and perhaps writing them down.
The sixth phrase is “Surprise Mind” – because mind is always surprised in as much as you never know what you’re going to be thinking next.
So there’s an old haiku, Japanese – “The old pond/A frog jumped in/ the sound of water splashing” – How many have heard of that haiku by Basho? It describes, like, a disused old pond, and maybe somebody sitting there, visiting an old temple with a pond behind it, and suddenly his attention is focused and wakened by the sound of the kerplunk! of the frog. But it’s also the mind itself there, I think, symbolically – Mind is “the old pond” . A thought rises. kerplunk! and leaves after-ripples. So it’s a question of listening to the “kerplunk!” of your own thoughts.
So now how to get around to appreciating your own thoughts or making use of them?
to be continued