On Cut-Ups – Anne Waldman v Stan Brakhage

Following on from the 1988 Naropa Surrealism symposium here 

Anne Waldman: Now we can have a little discussion

Stan Brakhage:  I would like to make so bold under the circumstances to take extreme exception to that piece of writing and that advice [Brakhage is referring here to The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin”].  To me, what I honor about it is that he does make clear, and it is a demonstration of such, as the desire to impose the will upon this which we cannot otherwise arrange, the accident, the leaps of the imagination that are the traditional magics of making, and that’s just what bothers me in the first place about it, and in the second place, it is that all cut-up writing that I have seen (and I’ve been forced to, across this time, to read a great deal of it) ends up somehow in an exactitude of form more exact than the daily newspapers (as indeed do many of there other willful ploys of avant-garde-isms, Surrealism, or whatever you want to call it, experimentation and so forth). I’d just like to declare that for me it is boring, boring, boring, chickenshit evasion.

AW: I think in the hands of Burroughs…The Nova Express – do you know that book? do you know some of his cut-up novels? I appreciate those. I don’t advocate this as a personal poetics, you know, but it’s one man’s statement of..of experimentation. Other comments?

SB: Can I make one more point?  Just in this sense, that the imposition of the will, or the way to make a regimen for creating is of course, does get such backing because of the vast industry of teaching people how to be creators, most of whom do not really want to be that and are in a sort of a play-time, or a zone between getting out onto the streets of life. And any method, (Structuralism, against which I have inveighed largely, or Cut-up methods, or Chance operations and so on), are all ways in which people can think that they have made something because it’s peculiar, and even traditional, when, in fact, they have evaded the will-less struggle to create, in the process. And so it also is great for the teachers because they can make assignments along these ways…. [tape ends here and then resumes]  …learn that they haven’t, except it’s interested me that the real test is..  can someone..  what she or he has made..  does it interest them at all six months later? (not to mention, whether it interests anybody else)

AW: Just also in mentioning some particular artists who worked with those kind of operations I think some of the work of John Cage is quite extraordinary in music and in writing – and Jackson MacLow and others. So it often has to do with the particular.. you know, how it’s used in the hands of those artists. You know, I don’t think John Cage is boring boring boring – or William Burroughs, but as a.. and I mean it’s not being.. I don’t think,you know, William is writing very emphatically, you know, with his feelings about cut-up at that time.I mean, he has since, in more recent texts, I know not abandoned that method, but I just don’t think you can dismiss it entirely.

SB: I’d just like to say about John Cage that the interesting thing about him is that he..he cheats at the system, and it’s along the line of his cheating at chance operations (and this comes from studying with him and a life-time interaction with him and so on, letters and what not, he cheats at his systems which is why the music of his disciples who also throw dice and splatter ink across a page and so on, and then throw dice as to what kind of stem to put on the note all sound the same and his are distinguishable (and the sheerest proof is he was once offered through a computer the chance to produce true randomness and was horrified that they would be interested,  that he would..  that they thought that he would be interested in that

AW: Well, I know William also cheats, and so I don’t think what’s being advocated is a complete, you know, random…
SB: Well but then he should say so!
AW: Weli, we’ll bring it up with him next…

Student: I’d like to suggest that cheating, cheating, is only another secretive way to get your hands on the goods
AW: I agree, I agree
Student:  It’s valuable
AW: Also Ted Berrigan‘s text, The Sonnets is, I think, an absolutely beautiful text, working with cut-up and, you know, other lines. words that are already out there in addition to his own shaping and own material and they have an incredible lyrical and spontaneous quality. It’s… When it works, it works.  But I don’t…
SB: I’m just trying to save the world from another ton of boring cut-ups student writing, ok?

Audio for there above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-seven-and-a-quarter minutes in to the end of the tape and continuing here, beginning at the beginning and  concluding at approximately two-and-three-quarter minutes in

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