The spontaneous classroom improvisation at Naropa Institute (in Allen’s classroom). We’ve featured a number of these before. See here, here, here, here, here and here. Today’s riff is on dissolution – “All of the..”.. “gone-gone”. Allen begins the class (from February 25, 1980), first off, with a little pedagogical soul-searching
AG: How should this class be conducted? I keep wondering. I’ve been doing most of the spouting. A lot of people complained (rightly, I think) that there wasn’t enough..that I didn’t leave enough space for class-participation (which is so) because I was interested in getting this. .in dumping all these lyrics on you, you know, getting them in your ear. Maybe next term, (we could) try..we might try composing poems in the class on the model of the poems given (like we did in the..old writing class.. (that) was good.. (we) haven’t done much of that, spontaneous composition, in class..
Student: (Like we did with Reed Bye)
AG: Pardon me? Yes, the other day.The other day, everybody just sat down and wrote a note in Reed’s class – and then Brian (sic) ….(had to) start improvising one into a microphone. And then everyone went around and just laid on lines. So it got to be real interesting, everybody capping each other – “The great globe itself, the gorgeous palaces” – “the supreme Coney Island” – “the vast Naropas”…
Student: “The Brooklyn Bridges”
AG: “The Brooklyn Bridges”. – What else is going to dissolve?
Peter Orlovsky (prophetically, 1980) ten minutes in) – The World Trade Center [sic]
Student : Your farm?
AG: Well you’ve got to think of a phrase longer than “your farm” – “Your farm that has sheep will dissolve”
Student: Your piffling farm?
AG: Piffling farm? That’s a bit Surrealist… So what else is going to dissolve?. .Sir, [to Student] What are you dissolving? What’s dissolving in your mind?… Just first thought?
Student: Rocky Flats
AG: Well, I said it already. Another one..second one…
Student (2): Ideas
AG: So, what’s the next thing that’s going to dissolve?
Student: Ideas about things that predominate.
Student: All these books.
AG: No, we’ve got to have pictures, not ideas.
Student: All the books on the shelf.
AG: No, wait, come on, let’s dissolve.
Student: That’s like a conservator, though?
AG: Oh, fuck you conservators! – (it’s always that) – That’s like the typical.. that’s the typical like, anti-poet! – It’s only in the imagination, it’s only a lot of hot air, it’s only words we’re making up! We’re not making any universe or dissolving it, we’re just talking about words!
Student: But if you are creative, how can you dissolve anything?
AG: If you are creative, how can you dissolve anything? . Because being creative means not being afraid of playing with the imagination in exploring with inquisitiveness all possible areas, and, if it’s a playful game, taking part in a playful game instead of getting confused and thinking that you’re facing some real threat of dissolving something. In other words, the whole point, this is an exercise in spontaneous recollection of funny thoughts. And that the theme was dissolving, just like in Shakespeare. So I was just going around now to to encourage people to make up lines, that’s all. So if you want to be witty, you can say that the Buddhist book of answers will dissolve into the dust. If you wanted to be witty you could say that the Buddhist book of nihilist answers will dissolve into dust. But put it in the form of an image.
“The great globe itself,” The Book of the Dead, Rocky Flats, “shall dissolve and leave not a rack behind” – and also…? also..something you can see? – “also the Ideal Supermarket”, anything, you don’t have to.. it doesn’t have to be so.. it can be a left shoe!
Student: All these stretching plains.
AG: This what?
Student: Stretching plains.
AG: Okay. Plains stretching east of here? – All these plains stretching east of here – right?- stretching plain? –
Student : (You may be right)
AG: Yeah, I was just pointing out that “stretching plains” is a stereotype phrase but “plains stretching” might be more accurate. Yours sir, [to another Student] what’s dissolving in your head?
Student: All the flocks of feather-filled followers conservationalists and environmentalists alike.
AG All the flocks of feather-filled followers conservationalists and environmentalists alike?
Student; You asked for it?
Student (2): You gave it (to him) though!
AG: I guess we better begin with the word “all” or “some” or ‘a”, begin with an article.
Student: All my vocabularies and.. the..
AG: And the eye-glasses that go with it – and the pencil-sharpener, ok
Student: All my great dreams sitting on the shelf.
Student: All the fluorescent light bulbs in the classrooms of my early childhood.
Student: All the rubber-bands around my door-knob.
Student: Ornate paintings.. in German castles, hanging in German castles..
AG: Ornate paintings hanging in German castles
Student: German Castles, Yes!
AG: . ..paintings in German castle keeps – Ornate paintings hanging in German castle keeps.
Student: All the broccoli wilting in my refrigerator.
AG: All the broccoli wilting in my refrigerator.
Student: All of my journals crumble to dust.
Student: All the(deeds and) messages on the nail on the wall, on the nail on the wall, in my room.
Student: All the harmonicas Junior Walker ever blew apart.
AG: Blew apart? did you say? – All the harmonicas Junior Walker ever blew apart.
Student: All the string beans and sharpeners and saxophones.
Student (2): All the string beans and saxophones?
AG: All the string beans and sharpeners and saxophones where?
Student (2): (All the) saxophones with red-faced solos and improvisational…
AG: ….red-faced solos and impovisational….what was the last word? – I was just repeating it for the mic.
Student (2): For the microphone?
AG: I was just repeating it. What was the last word?
Student (2): This is for your mic? Was the microphone repeating it?
AG: I was just repeating it!
Student (2): Ok . All of a sudden.. ( I don’t know what happened there) – “a great cadenza”
AG: . Ok..alright…”and the great cadenzas” – .”…and the great cadenzas that followed therefrom.”
Student: All my obligations.. How’s that for the visual?
AG: Well, something.. yeah, – after all this time, something they can eat, or smell, or fuck, or touch! – Give us an obligation?
Student : A visual one?
AG: Give us a typical obligation?
Student: The Heartland Cafe.
AG: What about the Heartland Cafe? Well, what about it? Like.. the chairs in it? or the..? the manager’s books, or what? – the teaspoon? Pardon me?
Student: All the..
AG: All the.. what’s?
AG: All the customers in the Heartland Cafe? What kind of customers? They’ve got hats? – The customers with hats in the Heartland Cafe? – A little detail!
AG: All the tight-lipped customers in the… It sounds like an abstract detail to me.
Student: And that was a funky one.
AG: Alright, All the tight-lipped funk and funky customers in the Heartland Cafe. Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.
It’s yours.. at the end of the class, you’ve got to… Anything in your head.
Student: All confusion.
Student; All confusion.
AG: Yeah, but what kind of confusion? – All the..?
Student: The world’s confusion.
AG: Yes, but beside that, what’s the picture? Close your eyes and see a picture. Close your eyes, literally, close your eyes, close your eyes and see a picture. What picture comes?
Student: ..pearls and coral.
AG: All the pearls and coral where?
Student: In the sea.
AG: Or in a museum.. In the sea and in the museums in Lima, Peru, or somewhere – What?
Student: Upon my shelf?
AG: Okay, all the pearls and corals on my shelves in the sea.
Student: All the dark falls on the window shades that let (the dark) night in.
AG: Hmm…That sounds metaphysical!
Student: All the religions of the self and a great tattoo.
AG: All the religions of the self in? or and? the great tattoo?
Student (2): Surreal!
AG: Serbia? ..(to another Student) Maya?
Student: All the wooden old people’s canes.
AG: Where? – Tapping on boardwalks in Rockaway? – All the wooden old people’s canes – Fill it out a little, like “tapping on boardwalks in Rockaway’, or “hitting each other on the head in the old folks home or…
Student: Walking in the subways in modern cities..
AG: Walking in the subways in modern cities.
Student: All the red rocks one mile up.
AG: Of where?
Student Pine Cliff Way
AG: Of where? Pine Cliff? All the red rocks of Pine Cliff Way. That’s better, I guess.
Student: All the yellowing archives of the world.
Student: All the (old) Big Macs (that have been eaten up).
Student (2): All the Big Macs? – that’s impossible!
Student: All the blue greyhound bus seats that are bouncing forth and crossing the United States and all the black highways that the buses rode on – and all the white-haired bus-drivers that drove the buses.
Student (2): and Tiff Miller (sic)
Student (3): Me too!
AG: And all the Tiff Millers (sic) that bounced in the buses driven by the white-haired…
Student: My reeking rotten rubber slippers hiding in the corner of my closet.
AG: And your reeking rotten rubber slippers hiding in the corner of your closet? – That’s.. alliterative!
Student: All the grass and all the teapots dissolve into the indoor swimming pool…
AG: All the grass and all the tea..?
Student: All the teapots..
AG: Yeah..dissolving? Yeah.
Student: ..Into the indoor swimming pool…
Student: All the packs of cigarettes and all the people rolled up in shirt-sleeves.
Student; All the (moss seeds and) marigolds in my rock-garden.
AG: Oh, that’s pretty!
Student: All the flowers on the patches on my old dungarees.
AG: All the flowers on the patches on my old dungarees. – Helen? (sic)
Student : All the red places..
AG: The red what?
Student: Places.. that cause….
AG: Pacers? what? where?
Student (2); There!
AG: Fill it out a little, fill out the blank!
Student: All the places (parks, Madison) Avenue in New York
Student: All the dirt rings in the bath-tubs of Lower East Side apartments.
AG: Charlie (sic)?
Student: Blue morning sunrise submerged in brown cloud Denver workday.
AG: All the blue morning sunrises submerged in the brown cloud Denver work day – Next?
Student:.. sugar in something hot – Sugar?
AG: Yes. All the sugar..? and something?
Student: All the sugar and something hot.
AG: All the sugar in something hot. That’s sharp and short.
Student: All the sense-y-ribbed exciter rubber we flushed down the toilet..
PO: Say that again?, say it?
AG: …And all the corpses that didn’t got born!
PO: (to Allen) Stay close to the mic.
AG: Now I’ve got to repeat it! (Allen carefully repeats it, following prompts from the Student) “All the sense-y-ribbed exciter rubbers we flushed down the toilet – and all the corpses that didn’t get born”
PO: What got flushed down the toilet?
AG: Rubbers you know,sense-y? You had.. (to Peter) what’s yours?
PO: And all the peanuts, soybeans..piano peter pecker.. piano peter pecker looking for a decker on a splecker, disappearing, already disappeared under my arm-pits.
to be continued
Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at nine-and-three-quarter minutes and concluding at approximately twenty-two minutes in