Note: Much of what is referenced here (Allen’s assignment(s) to his students) can be found here
These notes continue and conclude Allen Ginsberg’s 1985 Naropa class on Time and Sound – continuing from here
AG: So this is, like, a poetry workshop. Since we can’t really proceed to clarify things for other people, one thing we can do is, through our practice, clarify it for ourselves. So that’s an interesting shot. So this is my homework assignment.
So we have two assignments – one was the first inkling that you got of..erm..
Student: Entering into eternity, yeah
AG: Well, your poetry, your poem…
Student: Stopping time
AG: Stopping time. Stopping time, of poetry, art, as a means of stopping time (if not poetry, then some art) – the first experience you had of it. And that has to be.. tell us the place where you were, how old you were, what you were wearing, what the room looked like, what you were actually doing, (whether you were in an automobile) – what were the data around the experience?. You know, not just an idea, but actually a picture – an experience of the first inkling that everybody here wants to write, you know, or make art – where they got the ambition to be an artist. (We were discussing the fact that almost everybody here, at one point or other, thought that one of the function of art was to go to through time and space and communicate some great message from eternity. I was talking about this.. talking about... I was playing Aristide Bruant… just pointing out how nostalgic it could be recurrent with the emotion (that’s inherent in it)
Student: I thought it was more like a suspended time and space..
AG: Yeah, well, however you interpret that. I think the means of entering into this area is by suspending time and space by becoming one with the experience – somethin’ But it was when did you first have that that inkling?, and where were you?, what were you doing? So, in other words, (not only.) in this case, you want, not only (a) clear explanation of the idea you had but, the place where you had the idea, the love affairs you were having at the time, the food you were eating, (and were you in your mother’s house, or were you in the forest, or the mountain top, or.. just going to the bathroom!). In other words, give us the surrounding perspective, frame it, as it were, frame it with where you were at in your lifetime, and maybe you’ll need two paragraphs for that instead of one. Is that clear?
Student: Can you offer us an explanation of the alternative to that?
AG: And the alternative is – (if you’ve never had that supreme ambition) – not an explanation of why not – no, what other experiences did you have in making you interested at all in poetry? What was your idea, if it wasn’t this big universal idea, of the universal consciousness, the universal.. if it wasn’t an idea of the universal proclamation, then what was the idea that you had (that was probably just as good or better, more practical)? So, don’t be apologetic because you didn’t have the idea of the universal proclamation, just lay out what you did have. So those are the two assignments.
And next time we’ll have – “The Last Rose of Summer“, and Tennyson, Browning and Oscar Wilde. And you might check out.. You also might, by Wednesday, read a little bit, go to an anthology, and read a little bit of Tennyson, a little bit of Browning, a little bit of Oscar Wilde. You know, a poem, so you know who they are – [to class] – How many have read any Tennyson? How many not? And Browning? How many not? Ok, if you haven’t read any of them.. well, re-check to see (to) get a taste. The main point is to hear the ..tone.”
class ends here – to be continued
Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately one-hundred-and-twenty minutes in and concluding at the end of the tape