Hold It All

Category: Beats

“Nobody’s Going To Do It for You”

Anne Waldman and Laura Wright, editors, Beats at Naropa: An Anthology
Coffee House Press, 2009

I read Beats at Naropa exactly nine years ago, 2009. In my notes on the dialogues, essays, and interviews are the seeds of what became projects like Arab Writers in Translation Reading Group, People’s History of the United States Monthly Discussion, St. Louis Mindfulness Sangha, Share the Wealth, Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine, Writing to Wake Up courses on Demun Avenue and Spring Avenue, Brothers Karamazov Sessions at Sasha’s, Monthly Via Creativa Colloquium with Cami Kasmerchak for a Year, Chinese Poets in Translation Reading Group, approximately 700 cafe rendezvous, and 450-page draft of Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris, to name several.

It pleases me to recognize my deep indebtedness to the writers, poets, and artists in this volume who nurtured my vision. Accordingly, I savor provocations like the following—

Diane di Prima: There’s also: once you finish writing something it doesn’t belong to you. It has its own life and needs to go where it wants to go.

Anne Waldman: The scope and influence of the New American Poetry and its attendant offshoots and cross-fertilizations with other writers of the expansive poetry world is an Indra’s Net of inter-relatedness and is thus difficult to codify. Suffice it to say, however, that some of the writers most associated with the Beat movement were already very cognizant of and extremely well-read in Buddhist philosophy and psychology.

Diane di Prima: A lot of this is hit-and-run. It doesn’t have to be a life work. Read the rest of this entry »

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Making the World Bearable: A Reading/Writing Class on Diane di Prima—Fall 2018

Feeling a need to be inspired in these dismal times?
Been burnt out with academic writing that doesn’t originate in your soul?
Seeking a community of comrades to inspire, console, and rouse you?
Wanting to dive deep within and seek connections locally, nationally, and globally?

Then join us in exploring the vision, work and life of Diane di Prima—poet, Buddhist, Italian-American, feminist, pacifist.

One Saturday morning, while writing a letter to one of my favorite poets (Lindsey Trout Hughes, who lives in Brooklyn), it dawned on me that I wanted my next writing/reading class to focus on Diane, whom Allen Ginsberg described like this: “Diane di Prima, revolutionary activist of the 1960s Beat literary renaissance, heroic in life and poetics: a learned humorous bohemian, classically educated and twentieth-century radical, her writing, informed by Buddhist equanimity, is exemplary in imagist, political and mystical modes. … She broke barriers of race-class identity, delivered a major body of verse brilliant in its particularity.”

In Saint Louis, we’ll gather on Sundays at 2 p.m. beginning October 28 and go till December 16. We’ll meet in different cafes and people’s homes (if people are up for that). Each session will go for 90 minutes, allowing ample time for reading, writing, and sharing. Read the rest of this entry »

Aha!

This morning, while writing a letter to one of my favorite poets (who lives in Brooklyn), it dawned on me that I want my next writing/reading class to be on the work and life of Diane di Prima: poet, Buddhist, Italian-American, feminist, pacifist. We could read her two poetry collections, “Revolutionary Letters” and “The Poetry Deal,” as well as her memoir, Recollections of My Life as a Woman —The New York Years.

“Early in November, just a week after Freddie died I began writing a book to him in the form of a long letter/journal. It was the one thing I could think of doing. Most of the time the pain was too much to hold still for, and I went around in a haze from one thing to another. But I knew from doing Zen meditation: one can hold still, hold the mind still, if it is a task. Even better if it is a finite task, has a foreseeable end. So when the loss got to be too much, I would go into my study, light a stick of incense and tell myself I’d type (write) till it had burned away. That particular incense took about forty minutes, and that seemed a possible time span, though not easy. I could always look up and see how much incense was left. It made more sense than a clock. I wrote the book for a year, though not every day, and ended on the anniversary of his death.” –Diane di Prima

Exemplar of Epistolary Ecstasy

Bill Morgan, ed., The Letters of Allen Ginsberg

“Recommending Hare Krishna to one and all” 375

It might have taken me 12 hours to read this book line by line, but it’s more important to trust and intuit at look of page, and find what is useful, and not read like pedantic scholar or (still) anxious grad student scrupulous about comprehensive exams.

There’s not much to say here, except this: I have been a pathetic slacker when it comes to correspondence, and so it was worth the 20 bucks I spent on this volume to allow this vow to arise: I vow to write 1 person each day in old style 1989 letter for 15-20 minutes, JUST A SINGLE PAGE, bang it out.

So, thank you, Allen, for being role model, exemplar, candid explainer, exhibiter of neuroses, free thought fun thought, intimacy engenderer, and I think of people I need to at least write one page to: LW, CT, CG, AW, TS, JL, SM, LD, RK, and 50 more! Revive the great era of letter writing! Use letter as warm up for any writing I want to do. Wish to be ancient, marginal, anti-up-to-date, within 24 hours of me receiving from you, you will have response in mail… training (again) in wild mind.

Plus, List 50 luminaries—literary, political, spiritual and write them letters. Fearlessness. Charming notes to sages, authors, mentshes. N.B. Correspondence as a response to something: Book, event, circumstance, insight, feeling, memory…. [Best writing comes in letters, hence, the epistolary form for future book]

Reading this book, I want to start exhaustive correspondence log, including date, addressee, form (Facebook, email, letter, postcard).

Poem to write: Allen Ginsberg Healthy at 83—Twitter, Facebook, 84,000 prostrations of the Mind Read the rest of this entry »

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/4

99. There is a notion of “passing it on,” that simple. One to one. Elder to younger perhaps. That “poetry is news,” that the inspiration for any work you do and the work you do as a writer and artist connects you to an ageless continuum. “In the mind of the poet, all times are contemporaneous.”   — Anne Waldman

198. Translation theory, however beautiful, is useless for translating. There are laws of thermodynamics, and there is cooking. –Eliot Weinberger

297.  The death of the ego is the purpose of all the disciplines of the spiritual life. Even in little things, whenever we are very patient or cheerfully do something we dislike, a little of our selfishness and self-will has died. –Sri Eknath Easwaran

396. When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not a River-Like Novel; But a Novel Like Poetry, or Rather, a Narrative Poem, an Epos in Mosaic, a Kind of Arabesque Preoccupation

Over the weekend Lindsey asked me some questions about my writing process (such as, How long did it take you to write Book of Mev? Did you always know what the structure would be? How did you know when you stumbled upon the right form?). Naturally, I thought of Jack Kerouac’s line, “Something that you feel will find its own form.”

I also went back to Jack’s early journals, collected in Windblown World: Journals 1947-1951 (edited by Douglas Brinkley), which I first read a few months after the Mev book came out. Just today, I was revisiting Emerson, who wrote, “For only that book can we read which relates to me something that is already in my mind.” Here are some excerpts from the young Jack, which intrigued me and had illumined some things in my own mind back then and still do, in the present…

_______________________

This means seven months of ascetic gloom and labor—although doubt is no longer my devil, just sadness now. I think I will get this immense work done much sooner this way, to face up to it and finish it. 7

Look at your own work and say, ‘This is a novel after my own heart!’ Because that’s what it is anyway, and that’s the point—it’s worry that must be eliminated for the sake of individual force. 10

I wish I had the mental energy of ten great novelists! Or devise some way to get ‘the most out of myself,’ as Goethe did, without breaking down (as Goethe did) or without excessive asceticism leading to a blurring of impressions. 31

I say to these critics: ‘Don’t be assholes all your life.’ 34 Read the rest of this entry »

A Sangha with Tu Fu, Milarepa, Lady Murasaki, Li Ching-chao, Basho, and Jack Kerouac,

Anne Waldman and Andrew Schelling, editors, Disembodied Poetics:  Annals of the Jack Kerouac School

Rereading this collection  after many years, I’m struck by the following perspectives from various writers I noted then and that still rev me up now …

Until you assert yourself nothing ever happens to you.
Jack Kerouac

This underground vehicle [along with local, cosmopolitan, and diamond vehicles in Buddhism] has equipped itself to trade in marketplaces across the planet. Its riders include Tu Fu, Milarepa, Lady Murasaki, Li Ching-chao, Basho, and Jack Kerouac. It is a night-wandering caravan, loaded down with strange and desirable goods, the goods of Poetry, and it picks its way along the treacherous trade routes of History, generously alert to the perils and needs of our own epoch. One could call it by a Sanskrit term, kavyayana—the Poetry Vehicle. Here the gospel lyric comes to mind—You don’t need no ticket, you just get on board.
Andrew Schelling

There is perhaps the poet’s Bodhisattva vow: to be a bridge, a boat, a fountain pen, a typewriter, a publisher, a school to anyone who has need of these “vehicles”—not personally, mind you, that it’s my particular style bridge, made in my image, my brand of typewriter of poetry.
Anne Waldman Read the rest of this entry »

Occasional Moments of Peace, Gratitude, and Delight

I first learned of Gary Snyder through Kerouac’s novel, The Dharma Bums, where he was fictionalized as “Japhy Ryder,”   who, according to Alvah Goldbook [aka Allen Ginsberg], was  “a great new hero of American culture.”  Snyder’s Back on the Fire: Essays jazzed me many times, a sample of which follows…

This Sierra ecosystem has been fire-adapted for millions of years, and fire can be our ally. 14

Biodiversity… only means variety of life, and it means “Right to Life for Nonhuman Others,” a moral sentiment I religiously support. 16

What we refer to as nature or the “environment” or the wild world is our endangered habitat and home, and we are its problem species. 24

We study the great writings of the Asian past so that we might surpass them today. We hope to create a deeply grounded contemporary literature of nature that celebrates the wonder of our natural world, that draws on and makes beauty of the incredibly rich knowledge gained from science, and that confronts the terrible damage being done today in the name of progress and the world economy. 30

We must work on a really long time frame. 40

… the most important single ethical teaching of the Buddhist tradition is nonviolence toward all of nature, ahimsa… 52 Read the rest of this entry »

Like Staying up All Night with Your Best Friend

Allen Ginsberg, Allen Verbatim: Lectures on Poetry, Politics, Consciousness, edited by Gordon Ball

There are many influences that went into my creating Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine, and Allen Ginsberg was a major one. Here are quotations from reading Allen Verbatim in 2006, with my comments relating to subsequent Dear Layla project in brackets…

So what I do is try to forget entirely about the whole world of art and just get directly to the most economical—that is, the fastest, not most economical—the fastest and most direct expression of want it is I got in heart-mind. 107 [The chapters in novel are certainly economical!]

Start with what you desire, heart, instead of what you think you are supposed to do. 124 [E. once told me after she received my correspondence, “That’s the best love letter I’ve ever received.” That became the end of the novel many years later.]

… in which the prose sentence is completely personal, comes from the writer’s own person—his person defined as his body, his breathing rhythm, his actual talk. 153 [This is why this book of correspondences worked best for me.] Read the rest of this entry »

Interview with Ginsberg

The Yiddish Book Center offers this interesting 1969 interview with Allen Ginsberg in Montreal  several days after the death of Jack Kerouac.