Dharma Poetics – 4

Allen Ginsberg’s Dharma Poetics continues from here.   (see also here and here)

AG: So poetry from Whitman through Pound, Williams, up through Robert Creeley has gone through progressive changes of form as it’s tried to approach the question, “How do you register perceptions directly?  How do you manifest your perceptions?”  First of all, how do you perceive?  What is perception?  Do you do a narrative or do you actually look at your senses or do you look at the language?  Do you make pure sounds?  So forth.

What everybody seems to have come down to in 20th century Western forms is very similar to Oriental practice – dharmic practice – namely, first thought is best thought – or First thought, best thought.”Or some approach to spontaneous mind or an approach to immediate recognition of spontaneous mind during the time of composition, as there’s continuous recognition and letting go of the movement of the mind during meditation.

Blake has a couple of good brief formulas of advice.  One, in relation to chaos and change and the fear of changing, the anxiety that change causes, the anxiety of letting go, the anxiety involved in letting go, the anxiety of having no reference point, is:

“To find the Western path/ Right thro the Gates of Wrath/ I urge my way/ Sweet Mercy leads me on/ With soft repentant moan/I see the break of day/.  The war of swords & spears..” – (Of aggressive thoughts – ” swords & spears” are literally equivalent to the mental aggression in trying to control the universe) – “The war of swords & spears/ Melted by dewy tears/ Exhales on high/ The Sun is freed from fears/ And with soft grateful tears/ Ascends the sky”.

So that’s actually quite a Shambhala-esque,  to use a local buzzword, Rising Sun, notion.)

Yeah?  Did you have your hand up?

Student:  (What were those lines again?)

AG:  I may never remember it again!   I’ll  let it go –  “To find the Western path…”
Oh, you can look it up in a book of William Blake.  It’s called “The Western Path” [Editorial note – it’s actually called “Morning”]  and it’s from the Rossetti notebook.

“To find the Western path/Right thro the Gates of Wrath/I urge my way/Sweet Mercy leads me on/ With soft repentant moan/ I see the break of day/.   The war of swords & spears/Melted by dewy tears/Exhales on high/And with soft grateful tears/ The Sun is freed from fears /Ascends the sky.”

I think I’ve got a few words left out. [Allen remembers it well enough, just transposing a couple of lines]

The other is (“Eternity”):

“He who binds to himself a joy/ Does the winged life destroy  He who kisses the joy as it flies/ Lives in eternity’s sunrise.”

So, in other words, if you try to stop a moment, cling to a moment, latch on, cling and get hung up, obviously you destroy your joy.  “He who kisses the joy as it flies/Lives in eternity’s sun rise.”  So, if the mind is let loose and open as poets have tried to do and as meditators have tried to do, and then mind by its very nature will be shapely.  And art by its very nature will be shapely.  Or any art rising from that kind of mind – that kind of open mind – will be shapely.

So there was another slogan – “Mind is shapely, art is shapely.”  That’s 1958 or (19)60, Kerouac.  Lucien Carr and Kerouac.  I think Kerouac said, “If the mind is shapely, the art will be shapely.”  And I think Lucien Carr said, as an editor, “Mind is shapely, art is shapely.”  Just making it an aphorism.

So just to point out, the best practitioners of poetry of that kind of recognition of looseness of mind, openness of mind, that I would recommend are Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, (Jack) Kerouac and Lew Welch – the poets who are practitioners, oddly enough.  The poets who -(at least Snyder, Whalen, and Welch – were all meditation practitioners.  Of course they built on the discoveries of their forbears and within a lineage which (included) forbears of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams who, influenced by Oriental and Chinese poetry, actually did get the idea of going from thought to thought with gaps in between.  The mind moving from thought to thought with gaps in between.  And that’s known as the Ideogrammic method, which is the construction of Ezra Pound’s Cantos, a lifelong poem in which he registered the different flashes and takes that he had throughout his whole life over a sixty-year period.  So actually, in a sense, (it) described the curve of his entire world of mind, of his whole mind over a sixty-year period, or different flashes of perceptions over that long time.  And William Carlos Williams then went ahead to write a little epic poem called “Paterson,” which consisted of little blocks of perception put in place without narrative.  Without narrative or chronological progression.

to be continued

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