Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Category: Poets

Lobbyist for Tenderness

I first read Allen Ginsberg’s City Lights paperback Howl and Other Poems late one autumn night 1980 with friends at the White Castle at the corner of Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway.  A few months after Mev Puleo died, I read most of Ginsberg’s work over a couple of months. And here it is, 2017, and I recently finished with appreciation the latest publication  from the American bard (who died in 1997), interviews selected by Ginsberg biographer Michael Schumacher.  This volume, First Thought: Conversations with Allen Ginsberg, is not as large and jewel-saturated as David Carter’s Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews 1958-1996, but I  still found helpful reminders, avuncular advice, and serene encouragement.

Here are a few of the ways  interviewers and others saw Allen Ginsberg:  “poet, prophet, teacher”; “surrealist folk-hero”; “lobbyist for tenderness”; a man with a “friendly intermingling of smile and solemnity”; a lifelong learner with “a curiosity without boundaries”;  a person “seemingness fearless of the consequences of exposing his mind.”  What follows are a few samples of Ginsberg’s candor to his various interviewers over nearly four decades… Read the rest of this entry »

Remember–Longing, Too, Is Impermanent

To a man who said we should meet, 
even if it were only for a single time
Even if I now saw you
Only once,
I would long for you
Through worlds,
Worlds.

–Izumi Shikibu

trans. Jane Hirshfield w/ Mariko Artani, The Ink Dark Moon

 

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

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Call Me by My True Names

35 years ago today, I participated in the mass demonstration in New York City against nuclear arms. While there, I heard Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh read aloud this English translation of one of his poems.

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow–
even today I am still arriving. Read the rest of this entry »

Good Clean Fun

My friend Te Martin shared this photo of  a Diane di Prima broadside she encountered on her travels…

 

 

Cultivating Avidity

Books of poetry will teach you more than your mentor or professor or the well-known poet you have traveled to a conference to work with. Reading is like food to a writer; without it, the writer part of you will die—or become spindly and stunted. If you’re afraid that reading will make you less original, don’t be. Failing under the spell of—or reading against—other writers is part of what will lead you to your own work. Reading in the long tradition of poetry shows you what has lasted, and those poems are there to learn from. Reading your contemporaries shows you what everyone else is up to in your own time, so you can map the different directions of the art. There’s never one route to poetry, one style. Reading widely will help you see this….  You need to soak up as many books as you can. Even the one you don’t like can teach you something. If you were a painter, you’d spend time looking at works of art from every period in history….

–Kim Addonizio, Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within, pages 93, 95.

The Endless Net

Ten years ago, I read Eliot Weinberger’s anthology, World Beat: International Poetry Now (New Directions, 2006). Looking back, I’m grateful, because that volume (re)introduced me to Israeli Aharon Shabtai, Iraqi Dunya Mikhail, and Chilean Nicanor Parra, all of whom I have read over and over since then. I encourage anyone to read Mikhail’s “The War Works Hard,” Shabtai’s “As We Were Marching,” and Parra’s “Seven Voluntary Labors and One Seditious Act.” In his introduction, Weinberger offers a sobering yet hopeful case for us engaging poets outside the U.S.: “All translation sends the essential message that one’s own culture is not enough, and that the way to avoid intellectual stagnation is to learn from other ways of thinking about, perceiving, luxuriating and despairing in the world. This book appears at a moment when the United States is particularly self-absorbed. Less than a fifth of its citizens have passports; a third of its high school students can find the Pacific Ocean on a world map; its rulers dream without embarrassment of a global empire. Poetry, though not the salvation of the world, presents a small alternate model: an endless net of individual dialogues between writers, and between writers and readers, regardless of governments, nations, and communal identities. Its books are a way out of one’s world and a way into the world at large.” Twenty years ago, I received a doctorate from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. I rarely read theologians these days, and I eagerly take joy and refuge in the poets. Weinberger’s books helped facilitate this shift for me.

 

Eliot Weinberger

On Daniel Berrigan

1.

Some of Daniel Berrigan’s Whitmanian multitudes:  Brother, uncle, jailbird, correspondent, chef, Jesuit, retreat master, playwright poet, peacemaker, mentor,  reader, teacher, prophet, son, friend, logophile.

2.

In our age they they talk about the importance of presenting Christianity simply, not elaborately and grandiloquently. And about this subject they write books, it becomes a science, perhaps one may even make a living of it or become a professor. But they forget or ignore the fact that the truly simple way of presenting Christianity is—to do it. — Soren Kierkegaard Read the rest of this entry »

Note to Cami on Reznikoff

I read Reznikoff in summer of 2010
As much as I could find

Used, at Amazon
By him, about him

I like his spare style
That was the year

I was generating a piece a day
For my project that later

Became Dear Layla
So he influenced me

Toward that spareness
Most chapters very short

To the point
Like the one on p. 123

Reading influences writing!

–9.27.2015

 

The Good News, 3.3.2017

The Good News is … In 2016 Lindsey Trout Hughes took three on-line writing classes with me, and—to her surprise and my delight— embraced her poetic vocation. She has graced me with  epic emails, and scintillating postcards, notes, and texts. And most recently, she has shared a full draft of a play (she’s an actor by trade).  What to do in these nefarious times? Give birth. Thus practiceth Lindsey.

lindsey-trout

Tyler Caffall and Lindsey Trout Hughes, Bonneville Theater Company, NYC, 11.8.2016