The Best Minds of My Generation: For Rob Trousdale and Lindsey Trout Hughes

by Mark Chmiel

Re: Allen Ginsberg, The Best Minds of My Generation:A Literary History  of the Beats, edited by Bill Morgan

Dear Rob and Lindsey,

I’m grateful to you both for sharing your writing  with me and through me, to others—may these poems and pieces continue to animate  “Mayahana bodhisattvic compassionate empathy” (A. Ginsberg) in the years to come, ever reverberating through world wide web.

I recently finished Allen’s personal history of  his generation of writing comrades put together from his lectures at Naropa and Brooklyn College. I particularly enjoyed the many chapters on jack Kerouac and Gregory Corso, and want to share with you some passages that may offer you stimulation/encouragement/anamnesis for your own writing practice.

As prof, his method was “to read from the texts, read my favorite fragments or things that were important to us as a group at the time. Big sentences that knocked everybody out, that turned everybody on…. [the] gists [that were] historical epiphanies for us.” [11] Lindsey, as actor, think of the tens of thousands of lines you learned for your roles—you could regale us with  so many that would knock us out.

In commenting on Kerouac’s first novel, Ginsberg observed, “I think Kerouac was reading The Brothers Karamazov at the time, and so divided himself up somewhat similarly into Dostoevsky’s characters.”  I’m currently editing 400+ pages of manuscript material and find myself doing something similar.  [93]

Maybe you both have your versions of Kerouac’s scribbling away in notebooks: “These little notebooks provided raw materials of two kinds: diaristic details, like a reporter’s notes, about events at hand and an endless retracing in memory of all the events in his life, reaching back to his earliest childhood memories in Lowell.” [266]  I never tire of mentioning the exuberant text along these lines, Joe Brainard’s I Remember.

I admit, I could let the free writing rip a whole lot faster; here, on Kerouac’s dexterity and celerity:  “… the neural rapidity between his brain and his fingers was amazing. Whatever arrived in his larynx or his mind subvocally, could be immediately translated into typewritten finger pecks fast enough to complete long, long sentences including all his parenthetical subdivisions of thought form.”  [224]

Remembering how Ginsberg wrote Kaddish over a long weekend, we can experiment with heroic generating endurance:   “just sit down and stay there at the typewriter, exhausting his mind completely, everything in his mind, everything he could think of relating to the subject. Not at random, it would’ve to be a subject he was obsessed with, that he’d thought about and maybe at some point and realized, ‘Ahh  could write a whole novel about this.’ He sat down and did it like an athlete, like an athletic event.”  [258]

You both have allowed me this privileged access to your minds:  “You present what you perceive through your senses and other will be able to compare their own sense experience with yours, and thus you present your mind.” [367]

Evocative of Kerouac’s maxim, “No time for poetry but exactly what is,” Ginsberg admits about his breakthrough works, “Basically what I was doing was just making up stuff for my own amusement. As this went along,  and the idea that it couldn’t be published anyway, so I might as well be totally free and say anything I wanted, because it wasn’t really in poetry form. … What would you write if you were upon the moon and you knew nobody would ever see it? The writing would be sublime because there would be no reason not to say everything. So that’s the method here.”  [393]

Several years back, Eliot Weinberger wrote, “As far as I can tell, the Cheney-Bush II era has not produced a single poem, song, novel, or artwork that has caught the popular imagination as a condemnation or an epitome of the times. The only enduring image is a product of journalism: the hooded figure in the Abu Ghraib photographs. By and large, the artists and writers have been what used to be called ‘good Germans,’ making their little sausages while the world around them went insane. There are only a few who have used their skills –or their magazines!—to even attempt to change the way people think.”   Thank you for helping keep me sane and for expanding my sense of the possible.

Mark

 

Rob Trousdale studied with me in Social Justice at SLU, spring 2006,  as did Lindsey Trout Hughes in fall 2008.

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