Time and Sound – 12 (Naropa Classroom Discussion – 1)

Gregory Corso performing a rare early version of his poem “Power” (from a reading given at the San Francisco Poetry Center, 1956 – image shows Gregory, some years later, reading in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England at the legendary Mordern Tower – photo by David James

AG: So what were the answers before? [to the question why make art? (sic)] – To have fun?  Someone said power?  (well, who said power?) – (to Student) ok, , could you explain your view about that? – that’s an interesting one.
Student: Explain it all?   
AG: Well, no, yeah, but..freeze it, codify it, objectify it.
Student: (Well, the power to…Well, why is the power (always) entrusted to governments?.. power.. put it out there so people can see it..  (and) if they want to, (to) bring something new to the world..)
AG: …or get money!

Student (2): (I have heard that you have said that art is aggression sublimated. Would you agree with that?)

AG: Well, I wouldn’t agree to anything!  I think everything is right. I mean all these ideas are right, of course. When you said (when she said) “power”, I think everybody got the notion of aggression sublimated, or not sublimated but aggression codified, a way of, you know, like, hypnotizing everybody. You know, you make one image and everybody gets hypnotized and they give you money and they see it the way you want to see it.

Student: Yeah, there is also the power that you have over a universe that you create, which you don’t really have over a universe that you didn’t create.
AG: Yeah
Student: So there’s that power too.
AG:You mean to use it to make a novel; or a poem you have power to..
Student: Yeah, making the poem…
AG:  To “make it new”
Student: …and it’s under your control, to some extent, or at least it feels that way.
AG: Yeah, to make a model of existence that
Student (2) – The power of setting the ball rolling.
AG: Which ball?
Student (2) – Well, your art is.. at least it’s yours,  it doesn’t die, I mean, you create that.
AG: Yeah, but the question was what is the reason for doing that?  what’s the purpose?
Student: Well, it’s the power… Why not?
AG: Well, because you wouldn’t want to be stuck with just power, you know, over people. It’s like S & M in a way..
Student: No, but it’s…
AG: Yeah, I know, but when she said “power” I think we all got that glimpse of, you know,  somebody, Hitler, in power. The artist as the supreme Hitler!
Student: No, the energy power, the energy power that you create.
AG:Yeah, but why disturb a lot of old people with all your energy?  – Why not let them die in peace?.. why do they got to get the big shock of your energy going through them?.  They don’t want to dance rock ‘n roll. You’re eighteen, they’re eighty!  Might as well have a quiet time with their tea in front of them.
Student: But they’re not creating, not creating
AG: Well, what are you doing it for? (to) push them around?
Student:  To create
Student (3) –  I’m sure it’s something, sort of like, you have to do it..
AG: You don’t have to!
Student (3) : Well I have to.. It’s like a disease..
AG: It’s like a disease!
Student (3); It is.
AG: Well it sounds pretty awful  – Art’s getting to sound worse and worse. You gotta do it, it’s a disease –  like a junkie or something!  – Maybe it is!  That’s what I’ve been feeling lately.
Student (4): What about setting you free so you don’t explode?
AG.  (To) keep yourself from exploding? explode it on other people? – put your shit on somebody else!
Student (4):  No, you let it go. Then you don’t have to worry about that.
AG: Yeah, but then it hits some..some young kid between the eyes and he thinks he’s Rimbaud and goes out and commit suicide, or, you know, chases rainbows for twenty-five years and then finally has to get a job as a messenger in…
Student: Well, let him worry about it.
AG: Well you’re going to have to worry about it because (he may) come back and deliver you a message. You better watch out – “standing in the clothes that you once wore” The messenger is knocking at the door/Standing in the clothes that you once wore”[Editorial note – “The vagabond who’s rapping at your door/ Is standing in the clothes that you once wore” (from “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue by Bob Dylan)  He might have a gun (like that guy who killed John Lennon), attracted by that light and that energy.
Student: (Is it mortality?)
AG: Yeah. I think it’s serious… I think these are big serious questions, that I’m confronting now. Basically, I think everything I did was wrong and its all coming down on me now. So I’m very interested in the basic thing of what is it that I’m doing and why do it.. or.  Not that it shouldn’t be done. I’m not saying not. I’m just saying, what is it?, you know, what really is it?
Student: (Well, power, (Ezra) Pound said what that number is.)
AG: He said that for sixty years, and then the last twenty years he said that he was a… stupidity..(for himself), stupidity and ignorance all through, that he was wrong, that it (the Cantos)  was a mess..
Student: He wasn’t right in that.
AG: Huh?
Student: He wasn’t entirely correct.
AG: He wasn’t entirely wrong either. I mean, it’s not, it’s not, you know, it’s not something you want to dismiss.  I think it’s something to chew over. So I’m just trying to chew over it now, instead of saying “Oh well, alright, folks, it’s all going to turn out alright.”

to be continued

Audio for the above begins here, at approximately fifty-three minutes in and concludes at approximately sixty-six-and-a-quarter minutes in 

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