Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Allen Ginsberg on Revision and First Thought, Best Thought

The Allen Ginsberg Project publishes many of Ginsberg’s teaching transcripts. Ginsberg taught for years from 1974 until his death in 1997 at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and later at Brooklyn College from 1986-1996 or 97. The following excerpt is part of a longer transcript on revision

I think the learning how to write is actually the realization that the ordinary mind is sufficient already, and all you have to do is be true to that, be true to your mind of the moment. What I'm saying is it's an attitude toward art, rather than rules, a minute-by-minute practice. As I said, I revise, but by this time the attitude is , "This is it, right now - If I can't do it now, I can't really (do it later any) better". So, if you start on that basis, you cultivate an attitude of presence all the time (and also cultivate an attitude of trust to your own mind, and playfulness with your own mind, and…(acceptance) of thoughts which are embarrassing, or shameful, or which seem wicked, which you might reject if you were thinking that you could choose what you are). So you have to accept what you are to work on that basis. And to accept what you are, having made a decision to accept what you are, you find (that) what it is (that) you are is more accessible than if you "postpone the acceptation" (that's (Walt) Whitman's line (from "Song of Myself" - "Shall I postpone the acceptation (and realization) and scream at my own eyes?") - [Editoral note - this was one of the lines he considered using as an epigraph to "Howl"]

Monday, August 03, 2015

Two New Poems from the Mansion of Elements

Here are two new poem drafts from The Mansion of Elements Project 

There are 60 animal/element combinations for poems I am currently trying to complete.

Here is my draft for the upcoming 2016 Year of the Fire Monkey

Ho you Fire Monkey
Adorable Familiar of blessed places
Resourceful, enchanting
Cunning when need be
Your chatter flattens dolts of ignorance
When you take charge in a carpe diem kind of way
Your Ballast of confidence
Lifts our spirits
Seer of the future
Interlocotor to lost opportunities
Let’s take to heart
The ease of your swing from here to there
Always awake in the fire.

Here is another draft for Year of the Wood Rooster in honor of poet Anne Waldman born in 1945

Such iridescent display
Cockadoodiling us awake
Each day without fail
As reliable as the sun
you rise to summon forth
Bright scrys of portend
Acuity for the larger meanings in the scheme
Of so-called phenomena
Beneficent scribe to the downcast
Outsiders, end stop
You set the bar high
A million hands in the fire
No task too daunting
Harbinger of new, always fresh
Our number one

Written Night of the Blue Moon, July 31, 2015
Shelburne Falls. MA

Like rising dough this is in the proofing stage I will beat down once more before finalizing. 

Sunday, August 02, 2015

In the Light of her Own Fire: Recap of the Meditation and Writing Group Visit to the Emily Dickinson Homestead

[Photo by Jacqueline Gens- Left to right, Brenda, Barbara, Terry, and Marilyn. 
Shari was there too but not in the picture]

On Saturday, August 1 some of our  meditation and poetry group visited the Emily Dickinson Homestead including Evergreens, next door -- the home of Emily’s brother Austin and sister-in-law, Susan.

It’s been about ten years since I visited the museum with a tour of Emily’s house. What a change and so much dynamic information to add to our knowledge. Since then, I've read a number of works including the letters between Sue Dickinson and Emily in Open Me Carefully and the correspondence between Emily’s parents--Edward and Emily Norcross.

So here’s a couple of high points for me: 
  • I was very interested in the coincidence of Emily’s first avowed episodes of withdrawal in her letters which coincided with her 27th year and the beginning of her intense dedication to poetry which, in that year alone, produced 300 plus poems. This proliferation also coincided with the Civil War. The docent attending us said that she read the newspaper daily for her entire life. That really interested me. I had an flash of her relaxing with her version of the NYTimes--The Springfield Republican eagerly reading the  news.
Here is a brief on the influence of the Springfield Republican, one of the 15 newspapers the Dickinson family subscribed to and edited by family friend, Samuel Bowles. IN terms of her other reading, I was also interested in the collection of 2000 library books owned by the Dickinson family. The collection of 600 books at the Houghton Library in Harvard were selected based on the premise these were the ones Emily read. So now I want to know what she actually read. Perhaps another field trip in the works.
  • Another huge inspiration I experienced was the introduction of Dickinson’s “Variants” in a display devoted to her poetry.  I had not paid much attention to this previously. Here the author of the essay below calls it “The Limitless Lyric”. There was even a kind of sliding apparatus on the wall to insert little cards with the variant words. I want to make one of these.
Here is a part of an essay:

In Choosing Not Choosing: Dickinson's Fascicles, Sharon Cameron suggests that Dickinson's "variants extend the text's identity in ways that make it seem potentially limitless" (6). Cameron points out that to "consider poems as individual lyrics is to suppose boundedness," and, therefore, Dickinson's "unbounded" or "limitless" lyric constitutes a new lyric form (5). Like Cameron, I see these variants as an integral part of a "limitless" lyric; however, I would add that because variants destabilize the exact thought or emotion, Dickinson's process of choosing (or not choosing) foregrounds the act of word choice itself and indicates that she was more interested in the process of creation and self-expression * than in editing her poetry for typographical publication.

[That is what we try to do in our writing group]

  • In her bedroom she had portraits of George Elliot and Elizabeth Browning, her heroines  [See below]. The bedroom was currently empty awaiting the new wallpaper reproduction but this photo shows the actual collection housed in her bedroom.  I somehow missed this detail the last time I visited the homestead.  I loved the docent’s quote from Mattie Dickinson about her Aunt Emily in her bedroom--say something like ....”Mattie turn the key, now that is freedom.”

  • We also visited the Evergreens, next door. A study in contrast, a bit haunted for my taste with deep burrows of unhappiness embedded in the very walls. Susan Gilbert Dickinson is interesting and I was,”blown away” as they say by the intense and brilliant correspondence between Sue and Emily in the publication, Open Me Carefully.  Not only were they entwined by deep bonds of affection but they were intellectual peers far beyond anything offered by their relations with their male family and friends. Sue’s obituary of Emily is unforgettable. 
These are just my initial impressions of the day. Perhaps more will surface and others from the writing group can offer their own impressions. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

2015 Meditation and Poetry Writing Group Schedule and Topics

[Photo Last Poppy by Laila Reiss]

The Guilford writing group is full. However, I am now accepting people into the Shelburne Falls, MA group-- at least through 2015 we will follow the same topics.

List of Topics and Schedule -All topics are just resources. Participants are welcome to can bring in work that interests them regardless of the particular topic of the month. 

June’s Topic of Unknowing not online

July 3, 2015 Resources
Meditation in Motion: Labrynth
Walking Poems
Visit here for recap

August 1, 2015 Resource
Field trip to the Emily Dickinson Homestead
with Guest poet/scholar, Chard deNiord
An exploration of place,friendships, and presence
Visit here for recap - In the Light of Her Own Fire

September 5, 2015 in VT and September 19, 2015 in Shelburne Falls
Resources Extended Metaphor and Finding One’s Authentic Voice
Projective Verse riding on the vehicle of breath
Meditation : Harmonizing breath, guest teacher or skype/video presentation

October 3,2015 in VT (Brattleboro Literary Festival)  

November 7, 2015 in VT and November 21, 2015 in Shelburne Falls, MA
The Liminal (Betwixt and Between) 
The Thin Line
Meditation/the Bardo - Life is a dream Investigation of observing the arising and dissolving of thoughts. Things are not as solid as they seem.
Slogan: Negative Capability by John Keats: 
Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.
Future Topics/ Resources
This Floating World of Haiku
Three Part Logic Exercise


Shelburne Falls, MA TBA
Resources Where is the I in the eye
Meditation on the elements of body with guest Vipassana teacher, Kate Wylie*
The Elements (earth, air, fire, water) are the basis of life which includes our own physical existence. Through meditation practices we can observe this situation. Seeing this truth can suggest the tenuousness and changing nature of life. This observation allows for a decrease in clinging and an increase of wisdom about the way things are both within ourselves and around us in the natural world. 
  An exploration of the lyrical and narrative modes of identity 
         Mind Writing Slogans: "Show not Tell"

“Always the seer is a sayer” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

January 2016 stay tuned for topics.


All writing groups by donation recommended $5-$15 per class depending on one’s circumstances. All classes limited to under 8 individuals. 


FIRST SATURDAY: Guilford, Vermont beginning September 2 first Saturday of every month, 

THIRD SATURDAY Shelburne Falls, MA beginning September 19  third Saturday every month in Shelburne Falls, MA

I am also looking to connect with two other writers for a small memoir peer group (no charge) for serious consideration and critique. 

Jacqueline Gens is available to lecture or teach in the classrooom or out on a variety of topics, mentor privately. All fees by donation. Contact me at jacqueline.gens@gmail.com

Friday, July 24, 2015

September 5th Writing Group Theme: The Extended Metaphor as the Doorway to Finding a Unique Voice

A Few Resources for our September 5th Meeting in Guilford, VT:

What does Metaphor mean?
late 15c., from Middle French metaphore (Old French metafore, 13c.), and directly from Latin metaphora, from Greek metaphora "a transfer," especially of the sense of one word to a different word, literally "a carrying over," from metapherein "transfer, carry over; change, alter; to use a word in a strange sense," from meta- "over, across" (see meta-) + pherein "to carry, bear" (see infer).
The metaphor uses figurative language to carry forth an idea ......in the original greek sense...META (Across) FERO (carry)

Here is a wonderful TED definition by the Zen poet Jane Hirshfield

WIKIPEDIA definition of an EXTENDED METAPHOR with several examples from Shakespeare, Whitman, T.S. Eliot

Some of my favorite examples of EXTENDED METAPHORS but you can research your own too.

ANNE WALDMAN - Make-up On Empty Space
FRANK O’HARA- To the Harbormaster  my essay on the poem
ALLEN GINSBERG - The Green Automobile 
DIANE DiPRIMA - Loba (not online)
ADRIENNE RICH - Diving into the Wreck 
LI YOUNG LEE - Persimmons 
WALT WHITMAN- Song of Myself 
SHELLY:  Ode to the West Wind    

How can a poem with an extended metaphor become a gateway for finding your authentic voice?

The Green Automobile, according to Ginsberg was the precursor to Howl--The Green Automobile is a whimsical poem where he gave himself permission to free associate on his heart’s desire-- a road trip with Neil Cassidy. At the time he was writing short line lyrics. Sometimes it’s just useful to step out of one’s usual forms and expectations and let the content lead one to a fresh new perspective.

Some Writing Prompts: 

1) Select a metaphor or theme that deeply resonates and then begin to craft a poem by just compiling images and free associating relating to the central metaphor thereby extending it. Let the poem begin to write itself with these images

 2) Exercise: Select a topic of your "Heart's Desire" a secret fantasy  (the topic of the Green automobile). Instead of shame regarding your secret desire consider it a launch towards discovering your authentic voice. 

3) Choose a poem of your liking with an extended metaphor--such as Shelly’s  “Ode to the West Wind”  or Whitman’s "Song of Myself” and read it, belt it out loud,whisper it, read in a multiplicity of voices and oratory styles.  Savor the vowels, consonants, and the rythmic breath. Be shameless in your sense of proclamation because you know, that is what the "Ode to the West Wind" or "Song of Myself" are about. 

POETRYMIND Groups and workshops meet on the following schedule

Guilford ,VT First Saturday of the month 
Shelburne Falls, MA third Saturday of every month NEW beginning September 9th

To be continued.......