On Mexico City Blues – (Kerouac’s Surrealist Mind-Jump)

 “…a little Surrealist mind jump”

Allen Ginsberg on Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues continues from here 

AG: (But) we had a little trick in those days in composing poetry which was to take something really serious and put an adjective in front of it that would puncture it like a balloon and deflate it and make it seem not serious.  Like we’d say “the ice cream White House,” or “I will stomp on the toe of the Pentagon.”  In other words, you’d take an opposite.  It’s a basic poetic practice that you should understand.  That’s what the reason for reading Kerouac is – that basic mind – poetic contradiction mind.  The basic practice is when you’re coming up to a full stop with a giant image like the Pentagon or the dirigible stars, if you throw in an absurd word or a word that’s the opposite that rises in your mind that’s a humane word, or a Bohemian word, or a funny word, or a childish word, or a home-made word, or an ordinary word, you get an amazing image.  Whenever you get too high-falutin’ and too marvelous and too poetic, if you throw an opposite next to (a word) and put the two together, you get a little Surrealist haiku or a little Surrealist mind jump.

But then after a while it’ll make sense because what you’re doing is humanizing the awful.  You’re humanizing the terroristic or the imposing, or you’re humanizing authority or you’re pointing to the clay foot of authority – “grape dirigibles” – all the dirigibles are …it’s a kind of Chaplin-esque humor and somewhat childlike, too.

But I know it was a thing that we did mutually many, many years.

Like,  If we were walking down the street (and looked) at the Empire State Building I’d say “The Empire State Building” is full of balloons, or something.  And he’d say, “The Empire State Building is full of weeping charmaids.”  And then I would say, “The Empire State Building is full of executives taking a leak on the 51st floor.”  And then he might say, “The Empire State Building is made of salami,” (because there are salami manufacturers there  or something.)  Or somebody’d say, “The Empire State Building is uninsured.”  “The Empire State Building has got a light in its ear, got a blue light, a red light in its ear.”  “The Empire State Building has …”

Peter Orlovsky:  Two pairs of dirty shoes.

AG:  “… idiot-peaked head.”  “The Empire State Building has two pairs of dirty shoes in the basement.”  That’s the pair of dirty shoes.  “The basement of the Empire State Building is full of junkies masquerading as janitors.”  “The Empire State Building is full of periods of advertising.”  “The Empire State Building is made of statistics.. statistical grapes… “The Empire State Building is made out of statistic grapes.”  “The Empire State Building is made out of vineyards of old Italian Mafia black breast widows”… So anyway, you’d go on and on and on and on and on and on.   So why don’t we do that?  “The Empire State Building is….”

Student:  Did you ever indulge….
AG:  Go on.  No, we’re doing it now.  A what?   You’re just making up what comes in your mind.
Peter Orlovsky:  You haven’t indulged in childhood yet.
AG:  Yes.  My father was a poet.  He indulged in language.  Language is free.

Audio for the above can be heard here beginning at approximately seventy-eight-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately eighty-two-and-a-half minutes in

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