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.
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.
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.
Where are the thousand-dollar films that we circulate ourselves? You know what I am saying? Where are the little art galleries that fit only ten people at a time where they sell the painting for a dollar and a half or ten dollars? Where is that? Where is that little mimeograph stuff that we sell for two dollars or a dollar?
Dream is the ocean into which all of twentieth century forms are being dumped, those forms being forms of dissolution, the dissolving of the old continuous narrative & lyric coherence & the reconstituting of them into fragments, collage-like entities, & disjunctive & often abstract pieces of languages. To change by breaking & regluing is not exactly to change , is it?
What I want is a Muddy Waters/flamenco sound.
You learn more in a bar or sitting there looking at stuff on a wall or listening to music than you do from some lecture. I teach music for instance simply by putting on a record in the hallway in my department with the music playing. And it plays all the time. And people come by there, you know, they’re going someplace else, they’re not going there. And they say, “Professor, what is that?” I say, “That’s Duke Ellington.” “Oh yeah, who’s that?” What I’m saying is that even the most minute aspect of our lives has to be an arena in which we struggle to create an alternative to this.
One scours the chronicles of poetry to locate heroes, secret friends—to read about tough minded struggles as our predecessors sought the mind-born sources of verse.
In poetry workshops, I try to get the participants to read—first of all read the works of their predecessors, as far back as possible, and only then some of what their contemporaries are doing to see how these may be dealing with the various strands of the traditions. Read, read, read. Then, when something really “gets” to you, one way or another, read it again: read it very closely: word for word, and think about each word and why it is where it is. Now read your own work that way.
Robert Louis Stevenson had someone in Kidnapped say, “Life is all a variorum.” If there were a job description for life, it would be that. It is not that we do it, it is that we are it—alive, and various. And all around us it is the same—i.e., various.
Bobbie Louise Hawkins