Ted Berrigan on Jack Kerouac – 2

Ted Berrigan on Jack Kerouac continues

TB: Alright, a little bit more of Jack just to see if I can get something  that plays without scratches because that piece is so good. I can hear it, myself, (as he was saying, Thelonious Monk could keep whole choruses of Lester (Young) in his head, walking around), I can hear it, you know, all the time. “Bop began with with jazz..”. I can’t go much further. I can’t carry a tune very well, another person’s tune very well, but.. It makes you hear better.

Student; What’s the title label and the year of that album that we’re playing?

TB: Well the title, label of one was Hanover and the other one was Verve, and they’ve both been out of stock and print and everything else for about a hundred years and maybe they’ll come back in some time. [editorial note – they did come back, in 1990, featured on the Rhino box-set, The Jack Kerouac Collection] There’s a lot of people that have them. You can find them. But for many people who have them, they’re worn out,, like mine are! But there..there are others you know. It’s not just Jack. This is a lead-in to more of the kind of thing I said yesterday (sic) about “get some books in your house”, you know! – find books, acquire books, if you’re a writer. You have to have books, because you don’t know how to do much, and, if your friend gets married and you want to write a poem for that. I mean, it’s true that you’re their friend and that you’re sensitive and that you love words, but there are… I mean it has been done well and you should do a little research, and if you have the books to do the research in you’re better off. Every professional in any field knows that. Finally, get these books, you know, get.. what’s that series of .. the W.H.Auden-Norman Holmes Pearson series of six volumes of poetry in the English and American from..you know from Chewbacca (sic)! to the Present, get those, (yeah, not much, about 6.95 each), getthem, and then you can look up. I have a poem which says, you know “It’s 5.14 am, Thursday, blah blah, and I’m doing this and that”, “I read poems by Auden, Spenser, Pound, Stevens, and Frank O’Hara..” [Editorial note – this last line is from Sonnet LXXVI], and it goes on. Well, I was reading epithalamions, poems in celebration of a marriage, because I was thinking I wanted to write a poem for a friend who got married. I didn’t remember that till.. just why that list was there (I thought it was there because I liked writing “Auden, Spenser”, because, in those days, it was common for people to say Auden Spender, but, I mean, you know).. No, see, I was saying that. because that’s what I’d been doing, I mean, but – I mean, those were the poets whose names..the names of the poets I had been reading poems by. But, yeah, get those.

And then, yes, you must.. you have to have..some books and you have to have the contemporaries you like (some of them, anyway), and you have to have what are the reference books . I mean, you have to have the classics (and you really don’t want to have the classics really, I mean mostly.. but you have to have them, because sooner or later in your whole life, you will read them because you’ll find out how to read them as if they were not classics, but were written last week, (tho’ you’ll most likely find that out by coming to it through reading what’s being done now or….) I mean, the most dangerous thing is to fall in love with the poetry of about thirty-five years ago because that’s not being done now and is not a classic and then you don’t, you know… Nobody’s talking like that…and to animate that is very hard in your head. 

But then some. you know.. It’s time, it’s all about time. Like, if you want to write an avant-garde poem that is far out, further out than what anybody else is doing, just go get The Waste Land” and don’t worry about what it says, look at the spaces between you know where there are supposed to be connections and there are none. I mean – “Far out! – about as “far out” as we have in American poetry, for sure, you know. Certainly, as far-out as Bill Burroughs (who would be the first to say so). But. when people tell you – “Eliot, T S Eliot? Nah,” you know, “that leader of the academic bores? and..”

Yeah. No, no, that’s gossip, you know. It’s that poem, that poem,‘ The Waste Land”, which invented our century in America. That just..that’s just.. And it wasn’t, just (America), you know. That was written the same time Apollinaire was writing in France and not too long before Mayakovsky in Russia, so everywhere. It was always in the air because World War 1 was about to be here, and everything in the Industrial Age had been going on just long enough, and everything was different, and the way you talked about love then was different, and the language was different, and the connections between everything was different. You flicked a switch and the light came on instead of the gaslight and so you had to talk to someone and you talked faster (or maybe if you were a certain kind of person you might even talk slower, but its like…). I’m assuming you’re following, you know.

(Ted tries to play another record) – This one skips everywhere too. I’ll just do something else, I guess – “Don’t do what I do, do what I say” – I don’t have time to take good care of my things, you see, because, I mean, I’m sorry, I don’t. It’s probably a predisposition I have but, you see, as a poet, I only need a piece of paper and a pencil (or a pen, or a typewriter) – and I need to be sane (which I am, you know,  tho’, a past student of mine in Chicago when I was teaching there, put it.. to my, to my great pleasure, I mean it was so nice to hear it said because you wonder, if you’re teaching in colleges or anywhere, you wonder if your students will realize this – this girl said to me – “You know, you’re about five times crazier than anyone in this class!” – Not that..  (And it wasn’t, like, because I was like Gregory (Corso) either, you know, Gregory is probably a lot saner than I am, because I’m timid where Gregory is not, for example, sometimes).  But.. but I’m not as crazy as Allen (Ginsberg), but I wish I were, just as I wish I were as sane as Gregory, although I don’t wish to be any different than myself  (except on bad days). As Anne Waldman said, “ I wouldn’t want to do it all over again, but I’d like to see the movie” – 

to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-seven-and-a-quarter  minutes in.

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