Concision – 3

Allen Ginsberg at Naropa, 1981, continues from here.   (see also here and here)

AG:   (So the) conclusion to this dilemma was (that it was) best to … what I do is I just write a lot, and then I don’t look back, unless there is something really urgently important about the poem that it needs now to typed up, I just leave it there for a half a year or a year in a journal, keep everything in a journal.  Then when I type it up I condense on the typewriter.  Or I have it typed up by one of the apprentices and then blue-pencil it as I go along, when I read it and then have it retyped.  But generally trying not to disturb the initial structure, the initially conceived structure, and not to eliminate any of the substance, substantial words.  Just condensing “dim vales of peace” to “dim peace vales.”  Using Timeese.  I used to work in Newsweek, writing book-reviews – one-paragraph book-reviews.  And I would have to condense a review of an entire giant novel down to one paragraph of description, comment, and everything like that.  So, I learned a lot of condensation then, which is just simply taking only the essential words and then stringing them along in such a form that they’re all clanging words, one right after another, with hardly any connective tissue except you get really smart about connecting the words so that they all fit together without needing a lot of “and”‘s, “or”‘s, “of”‘s, “the”‘s, articles.  Eliminating articles and prepositions.

Then the next problem is how to do it so it doesn’t sound like Chinese laundry talk, or like Naropa poetry – Narop-oid poetry.  Like “big can with hole” or something.  “Drank big can with hole Pepsi Cola,” or something.  So then, it’s a question of using your common sense, going in between vernacular (the way you would talk it) and condensation.  Anything that sounds natural.  The ideal being that you could tell it to your mother and she wouldn’t know it was a poem but would just think you were saying something really intelligently intense.  In other words, poetry is no different from speech.  From a regular speech except so concentrated and so intense that it would either be quite striking but it wouldn’t necessarily be noticeable as poetry, except to a poet.  In other words, an ordinary person wouldn’t notice that it was necessarily poetry.  That would be the ideal thing – that someone would just think that you were making a great deal of sense.  A poet would say, “Oh, that’s as good as poetry,” maybe.  Or “That’s condensed, like Basil Bunting‘s poetry,” but the ideal thing would be … that’s from what Pound said in that little essay, “Poetry should be at least as well written as prose.”  Meaning that it’d make that much sense.  It’d make as much sense immediately.

Audio for the above can be heard here beginning at approximately seventy-six-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy-nine-and-three-quarter minutes in

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