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 in collaboration wioth visionary artist Ingmar Pema Dechen

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.