Nineteenth Century Poetry – 3 ( Allen Ginsberg and Helen Luster Debate Metaphysics)

transcript of Allen’s Naropa class conversation continued from here

Helen Luster (1899-1988), poet, parapsychologist, seeker, wise and respected elder, maintained,  according to the University of Buffalo, the repository of her papers, a ‘relationship, both social and professional” with Allen, over a wide period. She was “his secretary at Naropa, took many of his classes, was his biographer, and possessed a large literary collection of Ginsberg’s work”. This is the first of a number of debates between them.

Helen Luster:  Well, it seems to me that this (mutability) (is) just sort of extrapolating from the fact that we are transitory and therefore our outlook – (Heraclitus and everybody else’s outlook) – is colored by this fact, so that they can’t …we just can’t…  conceive.. because we can’t conceive and experience it.
AG:  Well, if we can’t conceive of anything that is not transitory, then we can’t conceive of it.
Helen Luster:  That doesn’t mean that it ain’t there.
AG:  Well..
Helen Luster:  Just because we can’t … we can’t personally …
AG:  Then you have to …
Helen Luster:  … come to grips with it.
AG:  … what you mean by being there?
Helen Luster:  Well, I don’t know.
AG:  Being there is reference to anything within our conception.
Helen Luster:  Well I mean it … hasn’t come through our sensorium..
AG:  No.  So therefore..
Helen Luster:  It doesn’t mean (that it isn’t…)
AG:  … none of our business.   Unless somebody wants to claim, “Well, it does come through our sensorium in moments of eternal ecstasy.”
Helen Luster:  Yeah.  Something like that.
AG:  However, Heraclitus says even that is flux.  Anything we perceive is flux.  And I would buy that – I would say there isn’t anything wrong with that.  That’s fine by me.  That’s no reason to hold out for another universe except for the one we got, or to hold out for something’s that fixed.
Helen Luster:  I do have a problem with that though because then when you fix your attention on mutabilty and transitoriness, it’s like you got a … you’ve got a fixation on something that’s….
AG:  I don’t think that it’s … it could be a fixation or it just could be simple fact and a way of looking at things that doesn’t interfere, that also doesn’t make promises that you can’t keep – it doesn’t make vows that you can’t keep, and doesn’t write poems that are senseless.  I mean, it’s one way of eliminating a lot of bullshit, in the sense that you then would have to write about what you do perceive, rather than what you don’t perceive.  Having to write about what you do perceive, you’d have to look at what you see and fix on it really clearly and precisely and communicate it clearly, instead of always being able to point over your shoulder and say, “I’m talking about that, but you can’t see and I can’t see it but I want to talk about it anyway, and it’s real interesting and that’s what it’s all about.”  Because if it isn’t there, it’s like pointing … it’s like writing big epics about the little man that isn’t there, sort of.  Why bother?  So that’s why modern poetry or William Carlos Williams in the 20th century says, “No ideas but in things.”To eliminate that aspect of ga-ga.  Or what he would see as ga-ga, finally.  And bring us back to where we are to deal with what we’re actually dealing with every day.

to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixteen-and-threequarter minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty minutes in

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