Robert Grenier's Talk at SUNY/Buffalo, October 22, 1998

Robert Grenier: I don't know if it's the season & the character of the day, but I wanted to begin by sounding a ground note, which possibly was also influenced by the fact that I actually saw a great many skeletons in doorways this morning as I went on my run . . . along . . . it's hard not to keep in mind all the time, in a way that's perhaps even eventually counter-productive, what seems to be the condition of the world in these days in which, through the various influences of global capitalism & the population explosion & so on, one can see & experience the world coming apart & 'deconstructing' in one's very lifetime, so that for example the fact that Robert Creeley -- whose spirit need not be invoked in this room -- has been going on writing about getting older & older, almost by the minute, for what, 20 years now? -- when did that become a . . . ? -- so & of course that's a trope, & that's true enough, & I feel it too, I'm almost as old as Charles Olson was when he went to Beloit, Wisconsin to deliver his three lectures in 1968 when he was . . . & then he died shortly thereafter . . . but this business of focussing on decay is not only an expression of the poet's subjectivity, a 'trope', it's also, in Ralph Waldo Emerson's terms, a 'type', that is it's an image of what comes from the outside, & to be alive in these times is a curious privilege . . . despite the fact that all seems to be well, & that there's enough room for quite a while yet, the fact of recognizing what exists in time as still alive is pretty astounding & so . . . in that context, to quote Larry Eigner out of this book that Ben Friedlander put together -- because I copped out of it, in part -- which to me was uninteresting at the time because I was so used to his formulations, having been around him so much -- "My eyes are too big for my head", "It's all spontaneity", that sort of stuff was boring to me at that time -- but now, when I see the careful articulation that's involved in a number of these pieces, this is really, this has got great stuff in it (holds up), areas / lights / heights, the poet Larry Eigner's notes & postcards & jottings over a period of time that Ben Friedlander put together, it's a great book . . . Larry would say something like, "About 98% of the world's experts would agree that . . . it's the end!" (laughs) -- he wouldn't say that, I say that -- &, but, obviously having said that, nothing happened . . . & they could say, you know, "The end of the world is about us!" & nothing has happened, so it's probably claptrap! . . . nonetheless an image of the world as resource for human exploitation is -- especially with the incredible 'organization' that we now have, & it'll be improved I'm sure, not only through such agencies as the World-Wide Web but -- anyway, not to labor that circumstance, which is tedious &, if you dwell on it, would stop thought . . . I think that the humans will be their, the last 'resource' -- & in firms now, of course, 'Human Resources' is a commonplace, I was once one of those who was part of 'Human Resources' . . . now, having been terminated from the position I held for 16 years in a large right-wing corporate law firm in San Francisco, rather dramatically, with the other

Charles Bernstein: Is that opposed to 'a large left-wing corporate law firm'?

RG: Sorry! I'll try to get to the end of this tedious introduction soon -- on a day in April, 1998, the seven of us were summoned to the 25th Floor, in an extensive, & really delightful new conference room that was constructed at a certain cost, & terminated . . . ever since then, I'm 'out there' in a way that is a delight to me, we'll see what happens -- & so, to connect the parenthetical, if the world is a closed system & it's like that word I tried to look up but was too lazy to find, 'ouroboros', 'snake that eats its tail', there're gonna be the people around, & the people themselves will eventually be the only 'Human Resource' & at that point I hope that we will begin to eat each other (laughter), & thus there will be some small extension of the possibility of life on earth until . . . one can already imagine that the world may be able to go on beyond us, but since that's all an imagination, I won't speculate about that -- in that kind of 'gloomy' . . . circumstance, as a ground bass, I would propose today for consideration -- & I encourage you to speak & help me out on this, cause I'm trying to formulate a response to a 'call for papers', in effect, to celebrate the longtime scholarly & human existence of a former teacher of mine who's been at Stanford for many years who's retiring, his name is Albert J. Gelpi, among other things he has to date written two of his proposed three-volume history of American poetry -- The Tenth Muse is the first one, A Coherent Splendor, about the passage into Modernism, is the second . . . they're salutary texts, which 'set the standard', for me, for possible discussion of work in the field -- he's a very dear man & instrumental to my survival at Harvard College years ago (1964-65) in a course called The Poet In America -- but anyway, despite this gloomy fact -- which I may be exaggerating? -- I'm interested & have been interested, in my attempt to go back, to do an account of 'my' development, strangely -- again thinking that I better get started, because I'm getting so old . . again in relation to Charles Olson's Poetry & Truth lectures at Beloit when he was 58 or thereabouts -- the idea proposed in Emerson's essay "The Poet" -- in fact previous to that, for me, in the two books which are like this (holds up two fingers together) from the twenties, which were integral to my understanding when I was growing up, Lawrence's Studies In Classic American Literature & Williams' In The American Grain which, as Horace Gregory indicates in his thirties' introduction to the Williams book, are 'discredited, personal projections on history' but together the two books call for an idea of 'the new world', a 'new world' . . . & that America is 'the new world', & in the Williams book, those of you who have read it would know, the idea of Columbus coming to the first, to the beginning, to the island, & the locals greeting him & the flora & fauna seeming marvelous to him, & also in the chapter on Cortez, "The Destruction Of Tenochtitlan", how the Montezuma empire -- which itself seems to me unbearable -- was a proliferation of some possibility that greeted the Europeans when they came to these shores . . . the idea that America was an undiscovered new world . . . is still current for me, despite, to me, the evident fact of utter destruction, disintegration, contamination, pollution & decay . . . so that's an interesting proposition, that somehow 'the new world' remains to be discovered, & it's most engagingly & in a dear way articulated, for me, in this old essay "The Poet" by Ralph Waldo Emerson, in apparently, according to my old college text -- I'm getting really sentimental & dragging out these things -- Stephen Whicher (Selections from Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Stephen Whicher (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1960)) -- it must be in Gelpi's course that I got this book, I don't know where else I would have found it -- it's a nice book, it goes chronologically through his journal extracts to the big statements about the American scholar, & how the poet & scholar are one, & that they're involved in investigation of the condition of the world & 'the new world' remains to be discovered . . . & the prophetic instigation that's in that essay, absolutely current, to me, absolutely present . . . tinged by the 'left-brain' or 'right-brain' recognition that it's over! -- so, I like that kind of absurd juxtaposition of propositions -- now I want to do another little parenthetical & go back, as part of my Gelpi exposition, to the year 1961 . . . I went to Harvard College as a scholarship student from Minnesota, on an 'athletic scholarship' -- which didn't exist & doesn't exist -- I was supposed to be a great basketball player, only I'm only about that big (laughter), I didn't make the team, it was terrible . . . furthermore, I didn't know how to read, & I took Humanities 6, which was Introduction To Literature, & this guy named Paul Alpers -- who ended up being at Berkeley for many years -- tried to teach me to learn to read The Fairie Queen & to pick up the terminology & jargon of the New Criticism, which was like -- I can't remember it anymore, I finally learned how to do it, & all year I struggled between a C+ & a B-minus, finally got a B-minus through his good graces -- it's all about how you 'prepare the reader for', set something up, & criticism was perceived in those days to be a 'science' & wanted to be a science & I wasn't very 'scientific' -- my parents wanted me to be a doctor & so I took Introduction To Chemistry, & had absolutely no scientific . . . ability -- I managed to maintain my B-minus average, to keep the scholarship, but I was really 'out of my element' -- I was a 'hick' from wherever it was -- so I took a leave of absence in the spring of 1960, after my first year, carefully preparing the possibility of return, & explaining it all with some difficulty to my parents . . . I had a year off & I read Ulysses in San Francisco, & of course that was the time of On The Road, & The Dharma Bums & The Subterraneans, so I went to San Francisco, not to rehearse all of that -- so I came back, in the fall of 1961, to return to school, & instead of living in some building like this, they had these cooperative housing establishments . . . up Mass. Ave. a little ways, like a 'house' would be bought by the College & then you could live together & everybody could wash dishes together & it would be more 'homey' . . . so I registered, in September 1961, to return to school, & at a certain point, when everything was going to proceed -- it was kind of a hot day in September, rather a nice day -- instead of going down Mass. Ave. to Harvard College, I went up Mass. Ave., out Mass. Ave. . . . anywhere, to be away from that circumstance . . . & I walked a long way, it was quite hot, & I must have been in some 'difficulty' or 'exhuberance', I walked all the way on the other side of Route 128 -- which at the time was 'the end of the known world', meaning a kind of boundary & circumstance -- I like to think of 'Buffalo' in Charles Olson's mind as the 'West' (laughter) & that people actually crossed the Appalachians & went way out there to Buffalo & so on, I didn't go that far (laughter) -- & I was in a state of some travail, & so I got way out there somehow, & I crossed Route 128 some place past a reservoir in Lincoln, or Concord, Mass., & out there . . . you got to the point where there were trees, & there were apple orchards & a beautiful time of year -- apples must have been treated heavily with chemicals & so on -- but I was exhausted, in some 'state', & I 'fell asleep under an apple tree in Concord, Mass.' . . . & the image I'm proposing to you is that that was the beginning of my life as a 'personage exploring the new world' . . . I wasn't a writer then, I was just 'confused' (laughs) . . . so I left college again, & then I had to go see a person in the Health Services about it (laughter), & they were very tolerant in that day & age, so I took another year off, & through the instigation of various persons -- Roger Keyes to Marie Rexroth to Marthe Rexroth to Robert Creeley to Ken Irby back in Cambridge to Gordon Cairnie & the Grolier Book Shop, Elsa Dorfman, Robert Lowell, Albert Gelpi -- I sit before you today . . . What could 'the new world' possibly mean, in a time of the destruction of all things? . . . & is it a kind of indulgence, so to inquire, so to speak? . . . I remember introducing Robert Creeley, when I was wet behind my ears & nervous, at the University of California at Berkeley in 1969 or thereabouts -- he was getting old even then! (laughter) -- so I was trembling up at the platform & so proud to have 'brought him to the campus' & all that, & I said, "He's written blip-blip-blip & he's written blip-blip . . . The Quick Graph" . . . & then a voice over on the side said, "A Quick Graph!" . . . so, instead of trying to propose, for your consideration, 'The Task Of Poetry' as Martin Heidegger might do -- "Wozu Dichter?", "What Are Poets For?" -- I would elicit your help -- & I'm sorry to have spoken this long in this introductory fashion -- in articulation that I've never done, about a certain kind of funny little thingamajig, which is a task of poetry perhaps, that has to do with finding out about what 'the new world' might be . . & let me just read, since I was reading this Lawrence & Williams again, for old times' sake . . . I read a part that I'd never read before, in this Studies In Classic American Literature, about Cooper's Leatherstocking novels . . . apparently, from England, Lawrence as he acknowledges was in love with the business of going from England, in that day & age (1922 or . .) -- this book was written, partially somewhere & partially in New Mexico, finished in New Mexico, it's a wonderful book, much better than In The American Grain, as writing, in fact -- he talks about his own youthful enthusiasm for the idea of going into the wilderness, & then he completely destroys Cooper as a kind of person with French pretensions, who, if you know this book, liked to be the person who -- sort of like, what was that 'Indian', Buffalo Bill's Indian troupe that went around in England? Is that right, Buffalo Bill, was it? . . . and they were hits! & so Cooper, he was a hit in Europe, but he really wanted to be a fashionable man of letters in Paris, & so he, according to Lawrence, he wrote about the wilderness from Paris, by design & with some success

         Now let me put aside my impatience at the unreality of this vision, and accept it as a wish-fulfillment vision,

These were in the days of 'Psychology'

        a kind of yearning myth.

I like "yearning myth" better than "wish-fulfilment"

        Because it seems to me that the things in Cooper that make one so savage

And both In The American Grain & this Lawrence book are really kind of harsh, in their proposition, & for me, I don't have time for that anymore . . . they, they're too mean

the things in Cooper that make one so savage, when one compares them with actuality, are perhaps, when one considers them as presentations of a deep subjective desire, real in their way, and almost prophetic.
      The passionate love for America, for the soil of America, for example. As I say, it is perhaps easier to love America passionately, when you look at it through the wrong end of the telescope, across all the Atlantic water, as Cooper did so often, than when you are right there. When you are actually in America, America hurts, because it has a powerful disintegrative influence upon the white psyche.

And at this point (laughter), at this point we can say that the Americans have had 'a powerful disintegrative influence upon' the world at large (laughter) . . . & that's what's so . . . it just stops you, completely, in your tracks, but then you get tired of that, too

        It is full of grinning, unappeased aboriginal demons, too, ghosts,

And if you go for a run around suburban Buffalo, you'll see that the Americans have put these up on their doors, rather more than they do in California (laughter)

and it persecutes the white men like some Eumenides, until the white men give up their absolute whiteness. America is tense with latent violence and resistence. The very common sense of white Americans has a tinge of helplessness in it, and deep fear of what might be if they were not common-sensical.

This is what Williams says about Cotton . . . Mather, that because of the situations of the Puritans in 'the new world' at that time, it was necessary for them to construct a fortress mentality to survive, & most of them died even so . . . & that has been extended, to the so-called 'knowledge' of . . . what has never been known, what has never been found!

Yet one day the demons of America must be placated,

He's talking about the elimination of the Indians -- & one might add, everything else, the birds, the trees . . . the air, the ground, the water --

the ghosts must be appeased,

I like that idea . . they're gonna come back, they're gonna eat the Americans before they eat themselves

the Spirit of Place atoned for. Then the true passionate love for American Soil will appear. As yet, there is too much menace in the landscape.

There's more 'menace in the landscape' now.

        But probably, one day America will be as beautiful in actuality as it is in Cooper. Not yet, however. When the factories have fallen down again.

Aww, sppuutt. I don't think the factories will fall down right away . . . maybe they will -- so, as a way of trying to give an account of whatever it is I've come to be up to, I want to do a commentary, in the nine or ten minutes remaining, on this essay, "The Poet" of Ralph Waldo Emerson's, which I asked at a very late date that Charles (Bernstein) assign to you, or at least recommend to you as a text for your consideration, and see whether, from that, there might be something to be done -- actually, before doing that, having done this rather extensive introduction, I want to take a short break & go to the bathroom & then reorganize, because I want to do this through . . . thinking & speaking to whatever it is you may have in mind.

* * *

RG: Well, it's kinda hot in here, but I guess we better get going, Charles is very . . .helpful in this way of moving things along, relative to a certain established measure . . Emerson begins by bemoaning the fact that, in that day & age -- which makes perfect sense -- American literature was subservient to European models, & that, as noted in the Whicher book, in some of the journal entries -- William Cullen Bryant, for example -- what exists as American literature isn't as good as what is being made in England & on the Continent at that time, & Emerson proposes it's about time Americans got down to business . . . now, I would like to disentangle myself from that -- is that a 'jingoistic' proposition? -- that it's an 'American' literature that this is all about . . . it's about ' the new world', wherever it may be found . . . so, I too think that, since I'm an American & only been to Europe once, it's hard enough to try to establish a ground in these States, but I would substitute something like Williams' phrase, "the local", for the base toward, for which, in response to which one would hope to be adequate & articulate . . . curiously, whatever it is in the twenties, however seventy, eighty, seventy years later, both Lawrence & Williams in effect say the same thing, despite the famous example of Whitman who -- & I don't know the fact of that, perhaps someone does -- it's time for an interruption! -- to what extent was Whitman actually directly influenced by the prophetic & inspirational call in this essay, "The Poet" . . . & enabled to leave his job as a journalist, in part, & undertake the task of his work, which he published initially in what, 1855 -- so what is the gap there, twelve or thirteen years -- does anybody know that?

Amy Nestor: Whitman was double in his statements, at one point he says Emerson opened everything up, at other points he says Emerson is not important, & so

RG: When did he say Emerson is not important?

AN: I'm trying to remember that, some time in the sixties, I think.

RG: Was it after Emerson disavowed him?

AN: Yes, but he also praised Emerson at the end of his life, he says that it was precisely Emerson challenging him on Children Of Adam, that he

RG: Yes, right.

AN: that actually brought him to knowing his own poetry.

RG: Oh!

AN: It was precisely Emerson -- it's in Specimen Days -- he's writing it toward the end of his life.

RG: Yes, that's a beautiful book, he went to visit Emerson, they walked around.

AN: But that's very strange, to think of Emerson as just really silent.

RG: He was in his dotage.

AN: Exactly, he's just a face . . . but Whitman's very ambivalent about it, I think some of the influence is there.

RG: Well, part of the instruction in the essay, "The Poet" is exactly what Whitman did, in fact . . his catalogues of the different conditions of American experience . . . so, despite that moving & -- & that's another parenthetical which I will not introduce entirely -- wonderful time several years ago reading the whole 'deathbed' Leaves Of Grass aloud, over a period of a whole year, with a group of friends in Bolinas, what a great thing to have done, & so I was able to have some direct relation, late in life, to Whitman which I had avoided somehow because of the bluster & 'effusion' -- but anyway, in the twenties, the same proposition is made . . . from 'abroad', in effect . . . by Lawrence who aspired to, what would you call it, the 'real world', the 'primitive' . . . interested also in Melville's South Sea islands books, Typee, Omoo & how Melville rejected that -- his leg swelled up & he had to get back to civilization . . . so going 'back' to the 'primitive' was not 'the new world' -- but the question is basically, for me, if that's a concern -- & it is, for me -- how it can be brought about . . . well, you can reject your British father . . . you can talk about how great Bill Clinton is (laughter) . . you can celebrate -- let's see, now, what can we celebrate? -- I kinda break down in my attempt to finish that sentence (laughter)

Ben Friedlander: Halloween!

RG: You could celebrate Halloween -- thanks! -- at this time of year . . . I chose to come here now, I like the idea of the change of the season -- well, I'll pursue that -- Halloween is the gap between the worlds, like twilight in the cycle of the year . . . it might allow something to be shaken out of the 'fix' that's grown over, the Sherwin-Williams paint covering the world thing (laughter) -- you guys probably don't know . . . is that brand still extant?

Graham Foust: Um hmm.

RG: It used to be a really impressive sense of the Globe covered with paint.

GF: It still is, still on the can.

RG: All right! So, there might be a little crack in that paint, that's the idea, when the spirits come back, come out of the ground -- in Lawrence's sense, the unappeased demons will return to devour the Americans -- but maybe something else might appear, there might be something else there to be done . . . since the supposed title of this supposed talk is "Realizing Things", I should let the cat out of the bag & think that somehow that could possibly be done, & I realized after the fact that this was a phrase taken from Larry Eigner, on a number of occasions, & so . . . the task, for me, has been to try to find some way in which 'letters', meaning 'literature', could be the equal -- at least the equal, & possibly the agency & apparition -- of what is, in writing, such that 'the new world' might come to appear, for a 'moment' . . . again, in the context of thinking of the world disappearing at an incredibly rapid rate, around us, not only in one's lifetime but over any stated period of things, the Romantic emphasis on the 'moment' as something to be realized & achieved is given a certain exaggerated poignancy . . . any time that anybody could be alive, in any sense, by getting up in the morning or going to sleep, could in fact possibly be 'the new world', properly perceived & recognized . . . so, but there's a methodology involving realization of things in the work of Larry Eigner which I don't really want to speak of in detail today, but I will read just an exemplary passage -- & it's a relief to find the understated kind of way something is said in this book, which goes right past you at first, it doesn't seem to have any great urgency as statement -- so this piece, called "not / forever / serious" from areas / lights / heights I will read the first part of, anyway . . . so, how can 'the new world', whatever that is -- & is it a totally illusory concept? . . . it doesn't mean, anymore, the area which has not been trompled down . . . is it just a habit of some kind, a belief in . . . life after death, projected onto the plane of existence? . . . is it even preposterous to propose that there might be a "beginning & beginning again"? -- which is what Gertrude Stein uses for her own way of proceeding, "beginning & beginning again" -- is it just a 'hang-up' on something? . . . & we ought to

Charles Bernstein: Move on.

RG: Move on! (laughs) . . . but even that, the idea of 'moving on', proposes that there's an 'on' & a 'moving' that could be done, to "make it new", which is the Pound sense -- & I would insist that it's not simply invention, or experiment for experiment's sake, although that's certainly what the Americans mostly do! (laughter) . . not only do they do that, they're funded! (laughter) . . . & that's part of the problem! . . . so if they didn't have the obsession with the idea of 'the new world', maybe they could just reside where they are, & exist . . . so the whole thing is 'fraught with difficulty' -- anyway, "not / forever / serious"

If you're willing enough to stop anywhere, anytime, hindsight says, a poem can be like walking down a street and noticing things, extending itself without obscurity or too much effort. The scarcer things at hand, the less spontaneity of course -- combustion, invention, creation may even be impossible. Trying too hard gets you nowhere, you can only do about the best you can -- Rbt Frost, saying a poem takes its own course,

I like that Larry quotes Robert Frost, who was an agent of the absolute conservative mentality, but he read Robert Frost, he liked him, he was a New England poet & Robert Frost, for him, was possibly a furtherance of 'the new world'

Rbt Frost, saying a poem takes its own course, remarked how "Step by step the wonder of unexpected supply keeps growing,"

In a day & age of decreasing possibility, shrinking resources, is it still possible to maintain, in any sense, that "the wonder of unexpected supply keeps growing"?

and it's a wonder to me how dense

This is Larry again

metre and rhyme, which has almost always been beyond me, must've been at the tip of his head, tongue. While the future is inescapable, near or far in the background or over the horizon, maybe the most a poem can be is a realization of things come to or that come together. At moments.

So, I would put the idea of 'realizing things', realization of things, together with the idea of 'the new world' . . . as unknown propositions, what does he mean by "a realization of things come to or that come together"? -- & of course it's double, in the sense that 'realization', coming to realize, coming to know & recognize & understand . . . & also 'making real' . . . & I would substitute here 'making it new' . . . allowing it to happen, as it would happen or could happen, so

At moments.

What's a 'moment'? And then the parenthetical

(Nothing lasts forever, sure thing, or for ages, and it's a question how much can or should anything last or occupy attention. A single line can register as a poem, monostich,

I suppose that would relate to my practice, back when, in Sentences, & Larry's work, if you read it slowly enough

A single line can register

"register" -- is that some kind of synonym for "realization"?

A single line can register as a poem, monostich, the line "break" take effect from the practice of poetry.)
        There doesn't have to be anything like padding anywhere at all, when there's no metre or regular rhyme,

I suppose he's criticizing Frost

and a piece of language in verse, measured, deliberated, can be really a stretch, process of thinking,

If you think of the previous, "the most a poem can be is a realization of things" . . . then

a piece of language in verse, measured, deliberated, can be really a stretch, process of thinking,

Like going for a walk, as he said before

one thought really attained,

So, the American emphasis on 'the real', in the everyday, is to me deeply problematic . . . what does it mean that something is 'real', or actual? . . . more 'real' than it was? . . . can 'reality' be accentuated with a certain 'splotch of color'?

can be really a stretch, process of thinking, one thought really attained, in a second or longer time, leading to another,

And that's in, the idea in Charles Olson's "Projective Verse", of one thing leading to another, formally stated in Robert Creeley's Pieces as "one to / one to one"

one thought really attained, in a second or longer time, leading to another, a math of everyday life,

So, "math" is involved in "realization of things"?

a math of everyday life, penetrating or anyway evaluative, the line(/)- or stanza(//)-break providing a means of assessment, the stress it can give in the absence of obscuring metre, a regular beat. The line is a typographical device as much as comma or colon, after all, as is indentation, lacuna too. A thing can be overemphasized, made too much of, yet it seems that, ultimately, one is as important as any other,

And this is important to me, in the idea of 'the new world', that you put yourself in a condition where you are tolerant of the range of possibilities in actual existence, so that each thing is as significant as any other, as a potential . . . thingamajig

one is as important as any other, there's no hierarchy, so evaluation or assessment amounts to realization.

And I'll just read a little more of that

        Also, though, there might be too much to realize as well as too little, the atmosphere might get or be too thick, things, life, go too fast, whirl past.

And that's certainly my common condition. So, the process of realization of 'the new world', to me, because of my attention span, has to do with putting oneself in a condition where there's a relatively limited number of things going on . . . & that, combined with a certain heightening of attention, might possibly bring something about . . . so this is also characteristic of Larry's circumstance as a palsied person -- if there was too much, he just couldn't keep up with it, he just got lost -- but I think that's characteristic of me, many of us

A few years back I could feel in things a lot more than I've been able to since I moved to Berkeley (from Massachusetts Bay), it seems, I felt the world a neighborhood, or two dozen square miles of it anyway, (home) township neighborhood.

With that preamble, which is still going on, I hope, perhaps we could move into the Emerson & look at some characteristic passages -- what I would do if I were teaching this text, would take several weeks to comment on it & discuss it, but I have gone through & highlighted certain passages that might be considered -- but, again, to stop at this moment, does anybody have anything to say to help me along in this exposition of whatever it's about? No, seriously, I'm sure you have something to say that would trouble me (laughter) . . . & allow me to proceed . . . has anybody ever thought of this stuff?

Jonathan Skinner: In the context of a finite world, with the desire for a 'new world', you've got a problem.

RG: Well, how 'bout space? . . . if the technology advances sufficiently, which it seemed to be doing, a while back.

JS: That's part of the problem, the 'new world' is the 'old world', right?

RG: Well, you bring your problems along with you, that's what Williams says about the Puritans -- & Horace Gregory says it's an exaggeration -- that they just brought all their biases & destructive impulses, in non-recognition of what is, over against the superior real life of the other world that they were hoping to attain . . .

* * *

Joel Bettridge: Isn't the problem of 'the new world' . . . who's the subject of 'the new world'?

RG: Yes, who thinks so.

JB: 'New' to who, right . . . & who's going to go to this 'new world'.

RG: And why, uh huh.

JB: It gets very confused . . . I'm not quite sure what we're talking about anymore.

RG: Well, it might be a venture capitalist (laughter), who's looking for a resource that hadn't been -- a new resource, another resource -- it could be a part of the human condition which somehow or other perceives it as its task to realize the condition of things in its lifetime . . . it's a 'charge' of some kind, which . . means something to me & may well not mean anything to many others . . . it's an undertaking, I don't know, it's an interest -- for it to become a problem, you'd have to be drawn toward the possibility in some way . . . & presented with the 'mysterious lure' of the idea of something you are possibly able to accomplish -- that's in Emerson, actually . . . & maybe we should just go to some of this

* * *

        For it is not meters, but a meter-making argument that makes a poem, -- a thought so passionate and alive that like the spirit of a plant or an animal it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing.

Talking about the possibility of poetry that has not been realized in his time -- & some say that Emerson is an interesting poet, too . . . I have not been able to experience that (laughter) . . . well, I substitute my own name for that, & the laughter & derision apply to me as well

-- a thought so passionate and alive that like the spirit of a plant or an animal it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing.

"like", the word "like" is problematic in this proposition, does he mean that it 'is' . . . a thing in nature? -- he's talking about words, basically . . . that may be about as precise as one can be -- "like the spirit of a plant or animal" . . . does an animal have a "spirit"?, the idea of whether anything has a "spirit" -- do words have a "spirit"? -- what does that word mean, in any case? . . . at least it's Halloween, almost -- there's something residing in all things which can be, in Larry Eigner's sense, measured or deliberated about, deliberated toward . . . weighed . . . & one does that with a sort of means which is itself both possessed of a 'spirit' -- the "Spirit of Place", for example, is a word in this Lawrence book -- in a circumstance, say a "neighborhood", in Larry's thing, there may reside a certain character, or condition, which can be come into . . . understood & . . expressed or 'realized' in writing, in words . . so, if, "like the spirit of a plant or an animal" the poem "has an architecture of its own" . . it's possible that it may, well, 'adorn nature' -- & this is a little decorative -- it may come to exist, as, equally, together with whatever else there might be . . . & it's certainly possible to understand that the means & facts of writing can be 'things', so that the word . . . is itself -- the letter is a thing, the visual fact of something is something, the sound of it is real -- it can certainly attain a condition . . . & many writers now, I think, can work inside such a model . . . it's like paint is paint, the words are words, you can deal with them & use them & move them & inhabit them, as one would a 'body' of any other kind -- but the mysterious proposition still remains, that these 'new things' in nature are in some relation to something outside themselves

JB: But he says too, doesn't he, that the poet is the namer, right? . . . so not only is the language coming to be of the world, but also makes the world.

RG: Yes, where is that, I wonder? . . . in here somewhere . . .

JB: Well, right in the very beginning he says that, right?

RG: Oh, okay. . oh, it's right behind here . . .

The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty. (italics added)

JB: Right.

RG: Oh, boy!

JB: And then, later on he says

But the poet names the thing because he sees it, or comes one step nearer to it than any other.

RG: Uh huh.

JB: He also sees the poet as not only this person who's creating the world & making language part of it, but -- it's sort of democratic in a way, that everybody's a poet -- but then he goes on, later, & says, no, poets are those that see better than everybody else, or can name things better than everybody else . . . so you might have the spirit or the

RG: I doubt that! I think that poets

JB: Well, he kind of says it, then he undermines it, right?

RG: Oh.

JB: He has that part where he says the hunter enjoys nature just as much as the poet does.

RG: Yeah!

JB: But then he goes on to talk about how

RG: Has his own mythology of tropes & stuff . . . shoes, ducks & stuff.

JB: Right, but it's interesting to see how he's looking at this.

RG: I'd like to single out -- I think this is the way to do it, we'll just pick out a few of these -- apparently these essays were constructed out of notes in his journals, & one of the things, to me, that's interesting about Emerson is that the next sentence doesn't necessarily 'follow'.

JB: Exactly!

RG: Just like Ron Silliman! -- or anybody, like me, trying to talk about all this -- there's maybe no connection at all, he's pieced it . . . but the idea of 'coming one step nearer to . . . it' -- I presume this is all about -- with words, not just actually

JB: Yeah.

RG: So, I don't know that it makes any sense (stands & walks toward window) . . . 'one step nearer' to it, 'nearer' to the heating vent.

JB: He seems to think that language is that which, at once, is the world & makes us understand the world.

RG: If I come 'one step nearer' (laughter) to the heating vent, have I arrived at any . . . ?

Linda Russo: Well, you can hear the "primal warblings" from it . . . better! (laughter)

RG: Listen, I heard some of that last night . . . I heard the heating vent . . . Charles, very kindly, put us up, & you wake up in any new place, & there's this little metal sound . . . it was quite interesting -- is anything achieved, can one speak of the idea of the realization of 'the new world' in terms of metaphors of approaching 'one step nearer to' these things? . . . all this stuff is impossible to speak, in fact, & the delightful thing about Emerson is, he just goes on with it -- & of course he made a whole industry out of it, with the lyceum, lyceums, he travelled around, like Robert Bly or Joseph Campbell, he really got people feeling good (laughter) . . . either that, I mean some people, that was the idea . . . as an 'orator', there's a metaphor of "the orator, at the door of the assembly" in this, about the . . . possibility of approaching the condition of saying something, which is really delightful & moving, but that which is said is, in many cases . . . you look at it, it may not get you any 'closer to' whatever it is . . . so, there's a gap between words & things which cannot be resolved, fortunately, by any idea of 'drawing nearer' . . & yet , somehow -- let's just think of what other things occur to you, that was one, that we might speak to . . . I like to take these little pebbles -- oh, he says, in a letter to Carlyle which is in here (Whicher), that his work is inchoate in some way, it's like pebbles that are irreducible, & he juxtaposes them with each other (Letter to Thomas Carlyle, May 10, 1838: "Here I sit and read and write, with very little system, and, as far as regards composition, with the most fragmentary result: paragraphs incomprehensible, each sentence an infinitely repellent particle." -- Whicher, p. 124) -- how is it that you're going to be able to bring about anything at all . . . which 'hasn't been said' or is there to be found & undertaken? . . . because there has to be this instigation of some kind, the idea that you're drawn toward something, you see something & you're amazed by it . . . you're amazed by the realization of the world, through the world, by itself, all the time, in existence . . . & how can the human -- worms that we are, & devastators of existence! -- in this time, before the end of things, come to acknowledge the . . . 'the new world' that is around us at all times? I mean, it's a . . schmaltzy enough proposition.

Joel Bettridge: Well, he says, a few paragraphs later than the one we were reading before, that "Genius is the activity which repairs the decays of things" . . . & then he talks about how nature does that when a poet just writes some lines, insures the continuation . . . he makes the metaphor of a fern, or the spores, as the same sort of poetic activity.

RG: Oh, beautiful! Isn't that nice! What is that, a mushroom, a fungus

JB: Yeah, something like that.

RG: Fungus, & it makes them &

JB: It creates them!

RG: Some of 'em get there.

JB: Right, a few of 'em die but

RG: Most of them, almost all of them do, but

JB: Yeah, that's right.

RG: But some move a couple of inches, or a few feet . . . well, there's that -- that's Whitman, isn't it -- is that a 'trope'? -- of spiders going off in some direction, to resettle, re-animate the new condition.

Graham Foust: He talks about receiving being as important as imparting.

RG: Well, this is one of the problems I have with Emerson, that the 'model' is almost entirely passive . . . & this comes in part from his involvement with Puritan theology, that the breath of God or the divine influence breathes into or animates the soul, & for that time it becomes an extension of the divine agency . . . in my experience, & since we have already been here so long -- Charles will know how much more 'time' we have! (laughter) -- I'd better move on -- I'm sorry! I apologize! What time is it? I should know -- Do we have a moment yet?

[Different Man's Voice:] It's twenty to

RG: Do we have a moment? We have twenty to?

Dennis Tedlock: On what scale . . .?

Charles Bernstein: It's like the Doomsday Clock

RG: Thank god I don't feel that way at all!

CB: approaching the year 2000

RG: Another thing I should say about Emerson

CB: "Hurry up now, it's time" . . . last call!

RG: I, in fact, love the optimism in Emerson . . . & then it changes, later, when he gets into his essay, "Experience" & all that, & people tell him he's full of something or other . . . but the early stuff has this enthusiasm for human possibility, which is also in these two -- Williams & Lawrence -- books, despite their critical . . . urgencies.

CB: What about the term 'America' which you brought up, & the problems with that term -- as opposed to 'North America' (RG laughs), 'North & South America'? -- & the identification of 'the new world' with America, with the U.S.

RG: Oh!

CB: & what your concern or not concern about that is?

RG: Yike! . . . throw it out! That's a terrible thing . . . I think it's anywhere, anytime . . . & it involves a certain reorganization of . . . I don't like to use the word 'psyche' but -- or 'spirit' but -- it results, it's from . . somehow . . . fortunately -- & let's think of this in terms of some kind of gross biological -- the human organism is capable of sudden shifts & jumps into a reimagination of what is, in fact, happening, in the case -- that has to do with a certain physical agency -- it's a 'power', that 'people have' . . . to suddenly see something anew, as it was . . . so, your qualification of "Make it new" was something like Zukofsky's

CB: Yesterday

RG: "Anew"? Yeah, so that

CB: Well, that's that classic issue with 'invention', as if, somehow, the point was always to invent some new thingamajig, as opposed to the perceptual issue, which I think is in Zukofsky -- & also Pound, for that matter

RG: Yeah, the perceptual issue

CB: which is what you're trying to do

RG: Yeah

CB: 'Anew', not 'new' -- which would, in fact, be a similar issue to the question of geographic space

RG: Yes

CB: of the U.S. . . 'making it new' being, as the Firesign Theater used to say, "to carve a 'new life' out of the American Indian".

RG: Yeah, well Lawrence is still interested in that, for one thing, despite the absurdity of the proposition & the fact that he doesn't want to 'know' Indians -- he says as much -- I wrote this piece years ago in the Curriculum Of The Soul series, out of a Charles Olson map of possible . . . they're not 'subject areas', but they're like loci of how to . . . & it was Attention, & I did it entirely in terms of narrative as a structural element in writing itself . . . one might as well have done that, or undertaken that, in terms of a 'psychological' proposition of a change of 'spirit', a change of . . . faculty . . . that would involve re-seeing something or coming into the condition of the perception -- I don't know that there's actually much to say about that, but there are times in which -- of course it isn't 'America' at all, 'America' is a metaphor! . . . which has had its time, if it ever did, & it's well to dispense with it -- but it does involve some kind of shift of . . . 'powers' of -- what would you call it? -- of recognition . . . 'realizing things' is the result, in part, of a certain leap of -- & not to cite the Don Juan books, which were current back in the seventies, when everybody was trying to drop out, turn in . . . but the truth of that is (laughter) that you do need to

CB: "Drop out, turn in!"

RG: Drop out, turn in!

Ben Friedlander: Go to sleep! Turn into

RG: Tune out! I don't know anymore -- I never did that, by the way, & I wonder why

CB: "Tune in, turn on, drop out!"

RG: I myself, to speak personally, do have a certain regimen of athleticism & procedure that involves sleeping, resting, exercising & so on, all involved with the idea that there might be some 'moment' in the day, or extended moment, in which one could . . Americans would say 'function' . . . one could 'operate' . . . & all that stuff is very particular to the individual & very significant -- the other part of the agency of coming 'one step nearer to things', to me involves, for the writer, developing a methodology of procedure in the writing itself, in the structure of verse . . . & if we take a break, I could attempt to speak to my own 'development' along those lines . . . & give a short account of what's been useful -- how is it that 'the new world' can be found, if there's an incentive to do so, in these times of . . . global collapse?

* * *

RG: I wanted to say, at this point, at the beginning of the second or third . . . that it's just like it was in 1961 for me now . . . not only am I completely outside the literary establishment, with certain exceptions, I no longer have a job . . . nor any desire ever to work again, in any capacity other than the discovery of 'the new world', as I come to understand it

CB: How much is that paying now? (laughter)

RG: Well, I'm doing ok.

CB: Is that an hourly wage or . . . ?

Tim Shaner: You get benefits?

RG: You get today, through the agencies of certain friends, with the help of some friends -- but you had a qualification of the idea of 'the new world' as a kind of endless search for freedom, or unexplored territory, the 'new' in the sense of the 'brand-new' . . . what did you . . . ?

TS: Well, I was actually talking more about . . . well, first of all, the sense of 'a new world' as a place one travels to, & I'm not sure that travelling

RG: Um hmm, like walking towards something.

TS: Like walking towards something . . . & I had a sense that, in an interview I was reading with you, that was published in The Ampersand back in 1986, you'd talked about limitations, I think in respect to Larry Eigner's work, & how in the United States there's a tendency to think there are no limitations.

RG: Yeah . . . yeah, right, that has to do with the idea of 'self-development' too . . . like to 'realize yourself' means to just get more & more somehow

TS: Exactly.

RG: Get bigger & better & all -- that's in Emerson too, part of it -- well, I think, in fact, it's quite the reverse, that the 'new' is the 'old' made known . . . which is not 'old' anymore (laughs), so 'new'/'old' dichotomy collapses if you "come into the conditions", condition of things -- toward the end of this ("The Poet"), jumping to that -- can't do the kind of thorough commentary on this piece I had prepared to do but -- Stephen Whicher says that the last three paragraphs, & I believe that begins with

Art is the path of the creator to his work.

-- I don't understand that at all -- were later additions to the piece, which was basically 1842 or something like that, but anyway in that paragraph, which is the third from the end . . ?

Art is the path of the creator to his work.

whatever that means

The paths or methods are ideal and eternal, though few men ever see them; not the artist himself for years, or for a lifetime, unless he come into the conditions. The painter, the sculptor . . . express themselves

fragmentarily until

They found or put themselves in certain conditions . . . He hears a voice, he sees a beckoning . . He pursues a beauty, half seen, which flies before him.

Charles Olson emphasizes the 'dogmatic' conditions of the world which are crucial to any sort of procedure, & making of something . . . like the circumstance of Gloucester, Mass. becomes a 'something' that you go into . . . & this is not 'new' in the sense of something further or other that you haven't got to yet, like another undeveloped terrain, but really the common . . . whatever it is, the common -- & Creeley emphasizes the word "common" -- place that you reinhabit . . . what is that, there's something from Heraclitus that Olson quotes as well, about coming into some recognition of the . . . furthest removed from that which is

CB: "We are estranged from that with which we are most familiar."

RG: Yeah . . . so, 'the new world' is only what you already know . . . & that's a circumstance, too

Graham Foust: I thought it was pretty interesting that you said, before we went into the Emerson you said, ask me some questions or make some trouble

RG: Oh, sure!

GF: so I can go on, & that Emerson, I think it's in "Circles" or one essay where he talks about . . . only insofar as we are unsettled is there any hope for us, & the idea that settling an argument, versus . . . or alongside the idea that someone would come to a new place to be there, to be a 'settler' (RG grunts) . . . that Emerson's idea might be we're not supposed to 'settle'.

RG: Well, 'settling', for a writer -- & I want to redirect the consideration more particularly toward the matter of which we are supposedly the . . . something-or-others -- writing involves unsettling the conventions that one has learned in order to be able to speak at all, or communicate, & particularly to, in some way or other, 'destroy' the achievement of those whose works have come immediately before -- by 'destroy' one means 'pay hommage to' -- by acknowledging the limitation, & somehow finding a way of stepping -- I'm going to use that again, it's hard to avoid that -- stepping aside from what's been done in a particular structure of verse . . . in order to be able to work at all, as a writer, you have to study what's been done as a verbal structure, in some way or other, & learn what the medium entails -- thus, 'life drawing' for a -- & for a writer, for me in the time I was growing up, it was the idea that was especially articulated by William Carlos Williams that the speech . . . if you pay attention to American speech, you can in some way or other extract from the 'local' an element of the terrain, in a sense, which is also a structural possibility in language as a medium . . . thereby, if you use the -- 'out of the mouths of Polish mothers' -- if you write that, then your work will partake of the eternal recurrence of the same, insofar as one inhabits a particular time & place & that's how they talk . . . so if you write that way, then you are somehow possibly approaching the 'real', the dogmatic condition of experience which is 'the new world' for that time . . . but as soon as that possibility has been developed, articulated & encoded as an available convention of procedure, as such it becomes an obstacle to the discovery of 'the new world' . . . & at that point, it's essential for a writer -- & that's what we're talking about now, I'm not talking about myself anymore when I was 20 years old & I was walking around & I was enthused about the possibility of recognizing that a tree was not a particular tree only, but it was a 'that' . . . & the question that Martin Heidegger, among others, proposed . . that something is, rather than nothing . . . can be one of the means of access to the development of the -- let's use the word 'spiritual' -- change that's necessary for a re-cognition of what's happening . . . after you've done that, you haven't done much (laughter), you've got to get into a . . . means of proceeding . . . 'form', a body of procedure that allows you to exist . . . so, you can't just walk around, as I was doing, quite contentedly bumping into 'thats' & being very content with the fact that 'that' was, 'that' is, & telling everybody about it -- if you're a writer, you need to find some way of inhabiting a structure, which is an actual thing.

Joel Bettridge: Well, in reading a lot of your work over the past few days, & reading a lot of it as trying to become a part of the world . . . this really takes us into the idea of the audience, or an audience . . . because Emerson talks about, you know, the poet also reads . . . & taking those ideas far enough, for instance with the slides (slides of RG's holograph drawing poems shown previous afternoon), if you take it far enough, these kinds of poems have to become singles, like 'thats', just like you were saying . . . because you can't go to the grand canyon, you have to go to the Grand Canyon, there's one, right? . . . & like this poetry has to become just one of them, that's all you can have

RG: Depends on your attention span . . . Walt Whitman didn't feel that, Allen Ginsberg

JB: But then you get to the problem of audience

RG: Right.

JB: & how you deal with an audience, when you're dealing with poetry on that level, how you think about audience . . . how do you think about it?

RG: I think that's a different problem, an interesting question . . . I would only say that I myself am a reader of the text at the time of composition, & thus I can't otherwise comment . . . hopefully the work will be of some interest to someone else -- it hasn't often been the case? . . . & as in the example I was using yesterday in another circumstance here, that many people dismiss 'modern art' as such -- it may have no interest for anyone else, that would be a question that each person, each member of the audience, would have to tell me, & I look for information of that sort . . . but I'm just trying to account today for a certain kind of basic way of proceeding & . . . you could tell me, yourself, whether that would be of any interest or relevance to you.

JB: Well, I guess I was just thinking about, in order to proceed as a writer

RG: Yeah

JB: you have to consider

RG: Consider the audience? No.

JB: You don't think so?

RG: You don't . . you consider what's in front of you & what's in your hand, the writing instrument, what's 'moving around' in the immediate area of your attention & . . the result made, as the 'poem', later on . . . whether or not that matters to you -- you can't think of the audience, there's . . . you don't

JB: So writing is a sort of individual thing?

RG: No, it's not that it's 'me versus them', it's that the whole idea of that . . . 'public & private' evaporates in the act of enacting what's being said . . . there's no 'me & them', there's no 'I-thou', in the terminology I was walking around with in 1962 . . . there's the thing being done, or 'realized', in the moment of composition & the further moment of reading . . . so, I hope it may be of interest to someone else, but I can't think of that, & if I do, the writing stops . . . if I think of 'myself', as a reader, the writing stops . . . it's just the fact of what's being said -- but to return, I'd like to go back to look at a few passages in the Emerson, to see

Carla Billitteri: Before you go back, unless it's too much of a disruption (RG laughs) . . . I wanted to express this a long while ago, but I never quite knew where you were going & I was waiting for you to arrive someplace

RG: Never got there!

CB: No, of course . . . but in the beginning of your talk today -- & I like the way you opened your talk today, the Lawrence, that particular passage is so important . . . about America, yes, the profound disintegrating or disaggregating effect of America

RG: And the hostility.

CB: That first part of your talk, you open your talk talking about getting old . . . you mention decay, & then disaggregation, & then end that first part with a discussion on short span of attention, cerebral palsy . . . it seemed to me a beautiful way of delimiting the field of writing in America, with the objective of finding America . . . as a field of writing containing these images of decay, disaggregation, distraction, short span of attention . . so that sentences is all we are left with . . . I thought it was very interesting, & I was hoping to see how then you would jump into Emerson, because -- & here I want to go back to what Graham Foust mentioned a bit earlier -- if Emerson advocates, or seems to advocate, a poetics of uncertainties (GF said, "only insofar as we are unsettled is there any hope for us"), on the other hand Emerson encourages us to settle into some higher plane of experience where everything is perfect & unified. This is clearly argued in his essay "Nature", in the subsection titled "Idealism" . . . the call for a poetics of "unsettled" intellectuals of "Circles" (the essay GF cited) is superceded by the ordered Platonic vistas of "Idealism".

RG: Yeah, that's the trouble with Emerson, in fact . . . can't deal with it.

CB: Right, & I was waiting for you, to see where you . . . how would you then intersect

RG: Yeah

CB: this interest in decay, disaggregation . . . that seems to me the only way one can really 'find America', right? . . . as a "meter-making argument", just the sheer conceptual object -- because of the many ideologic . . . many, many layers of ideological, political conflicts . . . & racial conflicts upon which this country was founded -- this object in itself is profoundly disaggregating.

RG: The 'disaggregation' in my own work, if one perceives it as such

CB: Oh, in your work, I don't even

RG: No, no, I do!

CB: Of course! I don't even begin to address that . . . it seems to me that your work, absolutely so.

RG: It's not only the isolated sentence . . . it's gone through a process that I want to speak to, in part, into words, & then into letters . . . so, from one perspective, total 'fragmentation' . . . & yet that has allowed me to proceed -- let's look at some of the Emerson & I can try to comment on it, about these problems of idealism & 'higher'

CB: If you're going to interpret Emerson, you have to struggle with reading his higher plan to unify . . beauty &

RG: Yes, the Platonism.

CB: For him, thought is the spirit . . . & is what unifies everything (RG sighs), words are on a secondary level, words disaggregate but the thought, & the spirit that animates the thought, unifies these mistakes.

RG: And the moral emphasis.

CB: But on the higher level . . . you also find a conception of the 'real', what is 'reality', he never

RG: Well, that's the problem, coming out of Puritan theology & Platonism, that the 'best' is reserved for the 'higher' level . . . & I don't have any experience of the hierarchy of 'better' or 'worse' -- well, I won't say that, but certainly of 'higher' or 'lower' -- conditions . . . so, you have to constantly quarrel with it -- like anything -- for it to make sense . . . but let's try just to read a few passages & see how far we get with it . . . we could start with the paragraph beginning

The world being thus put under the mind for verb and noun,

-- that's kind of in the middle -- anybody can find that? -- page 230 in the Whicher! -- can we find that paragraph?

The world being thus put under the mind for verb and noun,

I find that first part of that sentence really quite remarkable . . . say that you've accomplished some kind of 'spiritual reorganization' & you're ready to look at something . . . & something is possible for that time, you're about to begin to write, you start to notice things -- & that's really a wonderful summary of -- the best thing in Emerson is the original impetus toward work . . . & thus he got everybody out in Illinois all . . . jazzed up, I think, although I wasn't there, that's an exciting -- & it must be an expression of a condition that he knew, that he was familiar with . . . he wasn't just mouthing off about how it was time for Americans to have their own national literature . . . he must have had experience of being in that preparatory state where you're coming into the condition of writing

The world being thus put under the mind for verb and noun,

If you're a writer, you might feel some sense of recognition in that proposition

the poet is he who can articulate it. For though life is great, and fascinates and absorbs; and though all men are intelligent of the symbols through which it is named; yet they cannot originally use them. We are symbols and inhabit symbols;

I don't want to talk about that

workmen, work and tools, words and things, birth and death, all are emblems; but we sympathize with the symbols, and being infatuated with the economical uses of things, we do not know that they are thoughts.

That's the idealism

The poet, by an ulterior intellectual perception, gives them a power which makes their old use forgotten, and puts eyes and a tongue into every dumb and inanimate object. He perceives the independence of the thought on the symbol,

Of the symbol?

the stability of the thought, the accidency and fugacity of the symbol.

I thought of Ed Sanders, the Fugs . . . fugacity, the fleeting, fleetingness of the symbol

. . the poet turns the world to glass, and shows us all things in their right series and procession. For through that better perception he stands one step nearer to things,

There's that again

and sees the flowing or metamorphosis; perceives that thought is multiform; that within the form of every creature is a force impelling it to ascend into a higher

Again, I would quarrel with the "higher" . . . into another

form; and following with his eyes the life, uses the forms which express that life, and so his speech flows with the flowing of nature. All the facts of the animal economy, sex, nutriment, gestation, birth, growth, are symbols of the passage of the world into the soul of man, to suffer there a change

Williams says "a sea change" somewhere

and reappear a new and higher fact.

Now, again, I don't myself experience it as a "higher" fact, but certainly as another fact

He uses forms according to the life, and not according to the form. This is true science. The poet alone knows astronomy, chemistry, vegetation and animation, for he does not stop at these facts, but employs them as signs. He knows why the plain or meadow of space was strown with these flowers we call suns and moons and stars; why the great deep is adorned with animals, with men, and gods; for in every word he speaks he rides on them as the horses of thought.

Wallace Stevens -- but the idea which is rearticulated through the essay, possibly beginning with this passage, of seeing through the . . . let's say, the 'conventions of usage', for the poet, the common forms of writing for the time -- & in my time, it's been the speech-based line that was the first thing one had to learn, & then see through -- & you see the metamorphosis of things into further shapes, & the animation of energy in, through the facts of existence & through the words & through the flow of the diction . . . so if you can inhabit that condition of flow through . . . things, then that might have something to do with 'realizing the new world', or being able to measure & articulate what's happening . . . so

[Woman's Voice:] [largely inaudible remark re distance involved with scientific method . . . taking mind as a microscope]

RG: Yes, um hmm . . well, it depends upon what you think science is about, or 'scholarship' . . . Emerson insists that the poet & scholar are the same, in Heidegger there's a jump between the poet & philosopher but they're conjoined, conjunct undertakings, despite their difference . . . it could just be the rhetoric of the time but -- it's in Williams as well, that the poem is "a machine made of words" -- as a scientist studies the, in Pound's Agassiz anecdote, the shapes of a fish, you can learn to come, again, closer to the condition of things . . . I experience it as an identity of engagement with the flow through the metamorphosis in phenomena, so . . . it's a willingness to participate in radical change, as 'life', as any object is in transformation all the time, if you look, look at it & participate in it . . . so, for the time, this is great -- oh, there's a wonderful . . . "participate in the invention of nature", where is that? -- that must be earlier -- I can't do this systematically, unfortunately, nor do I wish to -- where is that, "participate in the . . . " God!

Charles Bernstein: ". . . can't do this systematically, nor do I wish to"?

RG: (laughs) I'd like to, if I could . . . where is that one sentence about

Jonathan Skinner: It's like one, two, three paragraphs down from where you are . . . in the paragraph beginning

So far the bard taught me,

RG: Oh . . . right, I see it.

JS: It's the bottom of that paragraph, the last sentence.

RG: Right.

Why should not the symmetry and truth that modulate these

He's talking about

JS: Niagara Falls.

RG: Yeah, structure in nature . . . pairing of birds, "iterated nodes of a seashell"

Why should not the symmetry and truth that modulate these, glide into our spirits, and we participate the invention of nature?

I mean, that struck me initially because of the strange grammar, absence of the word "in" . . . but, in fact, I don't think it's the standing apart from it & studying it under a microscope, but bringing the verbal activity & energy of the writing itself into a structuring of what's going on in the actual moment in which you are working . . . so, it's curiously much more 'contemporary' than I had imagined it could be.

Chris Alexander: Isn't there a thing John Cage used to quote a lot, "Artists should not imitate nature, but imitate nature in her manner of operation" . . . ? . . . kinda reminded me of that.

RG: Yeah, I think the idea of mimesis -- which is, you know, the traditional way, in which one holds . . . & Emerson actually uses that, holding up a mirror to nature, in this essay somewhere -- is, in fact, not what it's about.

Carla Billitteri: He's walking down the street, a moving mirror.

RG: Yeah, but that isn't what language does . . . I think words are, once you recognize that words are a self-contained system, with their own codes of operation & so on, you cannot confuse them with something which is not 'words' . . . so, to me, it's nonsense that one could think of words as a mirror of -- it's an apples & oranges problem -- nonetheless, there is the possibility that one can inhabit a verbal structure closely enough, such that you can bring your recognition of stuff that's going on in words to bear upon phenomena elsewise . . . therefore, you can participate in the invention of nature by, as Gertrude Stein says in her account of her procedure in Tender Buttons, creating a new name which, in some sense, has something to do with that of which it speaks . . . so that you are not simply making a verbal object for its own sake, but you're participating in the invention of nature . . . & not only the words as new things, but the metamorphosis that you're inhabiting in the language process is 'conjunct' with other 'stuff' . . . & that's the . . . if you get into that condition of writing, then, in my experience, that's a possible answer to the question, how is it that 'the new world' can be found or acknowledged in some way.

Dennis Tedlock: If I can make my characteristic interruption at that point . . . what cued me this time, of course, was the mention of Niagara Falls, & it occurs to me that this, the role of 'nature' -- nature, nature, nature -- a category that doesn't exist in Native American languages because the whole world is 'culture' to them, you could say (RG: yeah) -- then becomes a way of disinhabiting Niagara Falls & the god who lives underneath it, Hinon, who is the god of lightning & thunder, &

RG: I would hate to be the exponent of anything so

DT: makes Niagara Falls into 'nature' & then nobody lives under there any more.

RG: Well, then, what do you do with it . . . you look at it? You can visit it.

DT: Well, I think it's hard to visit Niagara Falls & not feel that it's disinhabited of almost anything other than the visitors.

Jonathan Skinner: You

endeavor to write down the notes without diluting or depraving them

that's what Emerson says (RG: yeah), the 'notes', the music of Niagara Falls.

DT: The sound of nature

RG: ". . . depraving them", taking away from them whatever it is lives under there

JS: The purity, which is a kind of order of the soul

DT: which is available to a visitor without . . . of course, you can get a folksy version of, you can get a pamphlet version of the fact that "Niagara" is a Seneca word, & one of those pamphlets might even name for you this character that lives under there, & then you might even get to go on The Maid of the Mist, named after a vulgarized, Europeanized, romanticized version of somebody who died there, in a story

RG: Might get wet, might get drenched.

DT: the 'Maid' . . I'm just noticing the disinhabiting . . . there's just you, & watching what's happening in 'nature', you've evacuated it of the history of who was there before.

RG: Well, this is an interesting problem, Dennis, for me as a writer, because, of course, the whole idea is to participate in the condition of . . . what it is, however it can be known, so . . . but, strangely enough, as a writer, in order to be able to begin to do this, it was necessary for me to make an utter distinction between language phenomena & that of which words speak, whatever it is they say . . . had I not done so -- & I don't know that that's not the case for anybody writing, that is, you have to see what the conventions of utterance for the time are, & you have to learn to do it somehow, or at least be able to recognize how it could be done, by Robert Frost or somebody in the immediate or distant tradition, & then you locate in relation to the words as words themselves, & in fact you find, I found at some point in the time of the composition of this group of things, Sentences -- Charles picked out yesterday one that said, "searchlight distributes sky light it administers", that's just one line -- that was made probably by free association, not by looking at searchlights playing around the sky, but taking the word 'searchlight' & riding with it . . . what is the

. . . for in every word he speaks he rides on them as the horses of thought

-- riding on the verbal energy until something was said . . . & so, at that time, I no longer tried to 'express my love for Mardou', or whoever was the heroine of The Subterraneans in New York, not in North Beach, but just a fascination with the way words seem to create what's happening out of 'whole cloth', out of the nexus of the verbal structural elements, & if you get to that strange condition of dislocation -- which you have adequately criticized -- curiously, & for me that's involved, quickly further, it came through thinking Zukofsky's way of weighing words themselves in the late "A", he counts words . . . so instead of having an iambic pentameter line with five feet, he has five words, eventually, although earlier there're two words, three words, in "A-22", "A-23", there's a five-word line with a syllabic range from five to seventeen . . . & if you realize that that's what it's 'about', & you see the way the world is being generated by thinking through these forms, then you can inhabit the form in such a way that you can then 'return to the world', & have a prayer of "thinking with the things as they exist", which is another phrase from Zukofsky.

DT: I'm not sure I'm disagreeing with any of the above, I just wonder whatever happened to the word "Niagara" (RG laughs), but actually as far as that goes English has meddled with Native American common nouns, as far as that goes [                 ]

RG: Yes, yes . . so you're proposing that we should abandon . . . what should we do?

DT: Well, let American English become even more 'American', in a certain sense.

RG: By 'American' . . . what is that "certain sense"?

DT: Not to . . . maybe a possible project would be to be a little more conscious of, instead of . . one thing American poets do much more than British poets is to eschew polysyllabic latinate words (RG: um hmm), as if we were, whether we think of it consciously or not, trying to get something more Anglo-Saxon . . . I don't know why we do that rather than they, but I think there's lots of other stuff [in weird English & in regions too] . . . in my case, there's also a layer of Spanish mixed into it.

RG: Um hmm . . . let's expand the possibilities of usage in such a way that there might be further recognition of what's going on.

DT: That one would . . . instead of avoiding, one would, see . . . enhance, intensify one's consciousness of all that's foreign in English [                 ]

RG: Um hmm . . . Zukofsky certainly does that, for one thing, & Charles Bernstein does that very . . . by incorporating kinds of diction which are not 'poetic' into the poem . . . Zukofsky's polysyllabism is one of the delights, for me, in the late "A" -- but anyway, in my 'development', there was the speech-based line, then there was this meter of Zukofsky's which is based upon counting words, & that somehow allowed me to recognize the presence of letters in words, & speaking yesterday about the function of the typewriter & the equalization . . in the Selectric typewriter methodology, each letter is given an equivalent width -- the i's are the same width as the m's, the l's are the same width as the w's -- & I was able to count each letter as 'one' . . . & so that would be a further 'removal', I suppose, & reengagement with the language process only . . . & then I got to the point where I could think the combination of letters back into words, & make words out of letters on the typewriter, & that would allow things to begin to appear to exist . . . & then, subsequent to that, there was the getting-off the typewriter & beginning to write letters by hand, to draw them into existence . . . & then that procedure, which is ongoing -- this is a very short account . . . & the 'idea' is, if you focus sufficiently on the materials of language itself, possibly you'll be able to bring back to the participation in & with things a means of actualizing what's happening . . . everybody has to invent for themselves a means of proceding, so that they can, if they're interested, undertake this task of realizing things . . . & it's going to be different, by definition, for writers who have different operations . . . but, paradoxically enough, the farther you get into the structure of language itself, I've found, the more are you enabled at times to be able to go into the metamorphosis, the flow through things that Emerson speaks of, & have a prayer of . . . of saying something, as it seems to be for that time . . . & that's a great joy & affirmation -- & so I've jumped suddenly to the end & there's no more to say, along those lines, perhaps.

[Man's Voice:] Could you talk a little more about the jump from typed poems to handwritten poems (RG: um hmm), like why the jump, or what was your thought process at that point?

RG: Well, it was what was lying around in the shop, where I worked as a proofreader, there were these Uniball pens in four colors & I was accustomed to using them while proofreading to try to clarify a complicated correction . . . & then, I don't know that I can give any idea of how that came about, beyond that . . . I started to use a couple of colors -- first I started to write . . . in this book, Phantom Anthems (shows book) there's a couple of pieces that . . well, this is offset from, this is obsessively offset from typescript masters, & that I thought was a form at that time, but in there is a funny, partially handwritten poem about my aunt Ragnhild Bjeldanes -- wherever that is, oh there it is, it's in the middle somewhere -- "MAY DAWN HORIZON MANY GRACES POLLEN", & this has these annotations on it that somehow became part of the typescript process, & there was some recognition that it was necessary to offset all that, not the 'final result' typed up & varied but the whole way it was written, & so out of that came further instances in here (holds up black box, What I Believe etc.) & I got off the Selectric & went back to my highschool typewriter which made a darker image, with a dark ribbon -- this was a manual -- & that image somehow. . . huh! Delusion! . . . I thought that was more, somehow, 'that of which it spoke' than the Selectric image . . . it was darker, denser . . . one of 'em goes, "third can of minestrone in as many nights" (laughter) . . . & there was some feeling that had a greater, hands-on tenacity or 'facticity' -- what does that mean? -- it was 'thick', like, I wanted it to be 'thick' . . . & so, then in this black box there were, for example, other things that begin to be hand-written . . . four poems that say only "my heart is beating", underneath that is written "I am a beast", these are written right on top of each other in the originals, & it's really off the typewriter & it's sideways . . . although if you compare it to the works in Sentences, it's exactly the same, in some ways, it's on the same size (proportion) paper . . . & then if you hold all four up to the light (walks to window), you can see an even 'thicker' extension of that . . & that's no more than some kind of a graph of the heart beating, basically, as it might be indicated on some kind of a machine -- it was something about it becoming 'one step closer to things', & I question that entire proposition, because it was achieving a more 'thing-like' fact in itself . . . & it did that by becoming more insistently language, structure, it did that by becoming more of & part of the materials of language exclusively . . . instead of writing "my heart is beating", you had to make the heart beat in words, in the materials of words, in order to have a hope of engaging the condition of which you speak & toward which words move . . . so that's a paradox which remains, to this day, active to me -- & then the colors began to come in, & that's a complicated long discussion, & they were like four voices & they could be in a simultaneity, like a chord in music, in visual space, & the fact that they had that kind of, well, 'integrity' or structural insistence also was beginning to move 'closer' to the fact of . . the one, say, that says, for example, "fish / hawk / with / fish" . . is a purely verbal invention but, as such, I experienced it as part & parcel of the actual bird bringing the actual fish to my eyes . . . so, in order to approach 'the new world', you have to invent it . . . but the result of the 'invention' is only what it was, what it is . . . only what it is, in a way that doesn't need the writing at all, to be what it is, so . . . there must be other ways of doing this, & yet it's been interesting for me, re-reading the Emerson, to see -- & thinking about Al Gelpi's course, The Poet In America, & re-reading the Studies In Classic American Literature & In The American Grain -- to see, for myself, how much of what I've done has been a natural development of the American poetic tradition that I 'inhabit', in a funny sort of way . . . at the very time that I'm 'completely out of it', & have no idea how I'm going to survive, or make a basis for this developing new relationship which is so . . important . . . & there's very little, say, I mean somebody will see my stuff & they'll say, "What's that?" . . . you know, like . . . & this is, like, "What is it?" . . . but to me, it's a partial fulfillment of a possibility that's articulated 'way back then', which isn't all that long ago, but given the speed of transformation of cultural possibilities, it's . . . for many people, Emerson would not even be a subject of consideration, a matter -- for example, in my immediate predecessors, Creeley & Olson & Williams & Pound, to my knowledge, there's no mention of Emerson -- is that true? -- at least there's no significant recognition, as there is of much other material, like Whitman.

Chris Alexander: Pound has a little bit about Emerson, here & there, but very small.

Charles Bernstein: Stein probably has more Emerson, although she doesn't talk about anybody in particular when she talks about literature, who she read.

RG: Well, Stein, educated through William James & right out of whatever was going on there

CB: In Emerson Hall (laughter)

RG: in Emerson Hall, must have had all that in the air & must have been so sick of it -- & there is, just to say very quickly, a pontificating 'preachy' moralism going on all the time in Emerson, a kind of way of . . . he thought of himself as somebody who was trying to help people realize their lives, & so he was cajoling persons to move & to feel ok that day . . . & so there is a kind of super-fluous pomposity in much of Emerson's work, but not really in this whole essay . . . & it's part the condition of the times & part the invention of a . . . I mean, he had to provide for himself, & he learned to, he invented this lecture circuit, where he went around, & it must have been, got to be kind of tedious to . . . repeat certain formulae.

[Man's Voice:] My difficulty with the . . . you say, for instance, "What's that?" . . . is that what you want, in a certain sense?

RG: What?

[Same Man:] For us to look at those pages & say, "What's that?" (RG: yeah!) . . I mean, if I see a hawk picking a fish in the air, then that's almost disappointing.

RG: Oh, that's interesting . . . you mean, in other words, I'd like you to read it as a 'poem' & say, "What a great poem!" . . . or, "What a crappy poem!" -- in fact, I want the hawk to appear, & fly . . . toward you in the air, through the 'agency of verse' . . . & that that participation in the invention of nature is the task which is . . . not often brought about for someone else -- & your question about 'audience' now 'rears its ugly head' (laughs), & I don't know, you know . . . I'm in fact more interested in what further realization could be accomplished when I get home, I don't even care about it . . . so there might be something else to be done, & I would hope there would be! -- but the task, stated as a proposition, remains, I think, for anybody who's interested in writing, as a possibility for them . . . & it will involve some kind of structural invention, & some reorganization of 'consciousness'.

[Same Man:] I was just thinking, when you went back, you mentioned mimesis earlier (RG: yeah) & how you dismiss that [ ], yet there is something very mimetic about all this.

RG: I like to think of it as, you know, the Romantic proposition is that there's this kind of 'lamp' . . . you image forth the interior, & the poem is the result -- sort of like the slide projector, projecting the slide onto the screen -- if it's only that, I find it to be of little interest, myself, & in fact, 'confessional poetry' as a genre seems flawed from the get-go, because of its emphasis on the expression of personality & the self.

[Same Man:] Yeah, confession comes up quite a bit in Emerson.

RG: But, equally, the other proposition, which -- a book I read in college, M.H. Abrams' The Mirror & The Lamp, discusses these two ideas, as how to think about something -- the other idea, of copying nature, seems to me fundamentally impossible . . that the words are words, & only with the greatest crossing of the eyes can you imagine that they are in any way the things, like that . . the things are 'over there' . . . so, what I would hope for is that the poem could be those two together, at once . . . the spirit/consciousness/unconscious, the attention, the powers of the mind & the energies of the writer can be brought to bear upon the poem as a 'site', which is a meeting ground between -- again, thinking in these terms -- the 'subject' & the 'object' . . it becomes a place in which the powers of the world come to meet the energies of the poem . . . & that would be something, & so you aspire to that & . . . maybe, sometimes -- but I don't like either of those models, they don't seem accurate.

CB: Isn't it said that your earlier poems, some of them -- speaking of copying nature -- were trying to replicate bird song, in English? . . . how does that work? . . . there's a very interesting, Sentences Toward Birds

RG: Well, there was a little group . . . Toward would be the operative word there.

CB: That's the name, the title of the sequence . . . it's prior to Sentences (RG: yes), a bunch of cards, Sentences Toward Birds.

RG: Right, some of them are in that box, Sentences, finally, & they participate, I would hope, in bird song, by virtue of . . . the pure attention to language itself . . . so the combinatorial possibilities of letters into sound & words . . . you build an equivalent, which then can be given to the thing . . . which will pay no attention to it, & is quite content within its own singing, sound -- one of the other problems in Emerson is the religiousity of the propositions . . . I'm more able to tolerate that nowadays, than I had been . . . I like the idea of making an offering & giving it to, giving it to the thing for which it is made . . . as an offering, whether or not there's any attention paid to it by anything outside itself -- & I don't have too much experience that there is any . . . 'return' there, shall we say -- but there's an impetus to bring, to the thing, something 'like' the thing which is 'of' the thing & given back to itself . . . for it . . . for whatever use or non-use it may be -- 'use' is an American . . . 'function' is a specifically American sense of value -- well, we probably have gone on a long time, it would seem . . . is there anybody else who wants to . . . trouble me?

[Woman's Voice:] I was just wondering if . . . participating in what is, if it is polluted & decayed & all these things . . . or if this is so because of not participating in what it is (RG: oh!), or if there is some clear idea of . . . or maybe that's what Professor Tedlock was saying, make the language more American . . . ?

RG: Yeah, well I think you should try to be 'accurate' . . . meaning -- Charles' own use of slippage, from one word, slipping into another, certainly participates in the 'decay' of phenomena . . . & yet it yields further results that wouldn't have been found unless you were willing to inhabit the slippage -- so one should be honest & timely, in that way . . . & I don't think you're going to save the world by coming up with a new language which will -- & that's another -- create a heaven on earth, in this time . . . but you do get these moments of . . . realization, & as Larry Eigner says, you don't want to make too much of them . . you are content with what can be accomplished, & you can stop any time . . if something has been made, or found . . . so the 'discovery' of 'the new world' is very much part of it, too, but in these days that certainly incorporates a deteriorating circumstance.

Tim Shaner: The fact that those poems that are moving toward 'the new world' come out of the shop . . (RG: yeah!), the belly of the beast or

RG: You mean the workshop of the poet?

TS: the law firm that you worked at

RG: Oh, that shop!

TS: was kinda interesting to me.

RG: I liked it at the time, I thought I was getting back at it (TS: right), I was using it against itself, & to some extent I took a certain satisfaction from that -- but that doesn't mean anything to you, as a reader, who sees the object . . . that's just the instigation, it's part of the writer's motivation, there has to be something that bugs you.

TS: But I see that motivation in some of Phantom Anthems, where

RG: Oh that's a rant, has rants against capitalism . . . I don't think that's of any use (laughter) . . . I do think that, given the limited amount of time there seems to be, it's better to attempt to realize what's of interest to oneself -- if there were the possibility of changing the world then, as Larry Eigner said to Charles Olson, why doesn't he run for Congress? . . . & do something useful . . for my sake, it's now really an almost nostalgic proposition of using the human, insofar as one is alive, to acknowledge what may have been the world . . . as it could have been known . . . so there's a certain kind of past tense about everything that exists in the present moment -- could we stop?

Carla Billitteri: Isn't there a kind of contradiction in saying that you're interested in this idea of 'America', in 'finding America', 'America' . . . ?, but then, of course, you pull up Emerson to read at the moment . . . anybody just cites Emerson, that person has already 'found America', there's no need to look any farther than that.

RG: Why, why?

CB: & even your ideology of nature in writing is a way of 'finding America', & it's already 'found' in Emerson, founded in Emerson . . . it's a final, deadly perhaps, contradiction.

RG: 'Deadly'! The contradiction would be . . . 'the new world' was already

CB: It's self-defeating to articulate a new poetics based upon

RG: State the opposition as you perceive it, the contradiction.

CB: It's . . . it's a question that has already been answered, in many ways . . the fact that he already -- not only that this question of 'finding America' -- what is 'America'?, can we 'find America'? -- has already been answered, but it has been answered in quite a final manner by Emerson

RG: How has it been

CB: by defining 'America' as this place for a poetics of nature . . . & the poem centered around naming, here & there, etcetera, etcetera, & by your very referral to Emerson, you're not only answering an answer that has already been answered exactly just in the same way, but you're also defeating your intentions of 'finding' something altogether.

RG: Why is it a defeat?

CB: Because you're just back into the trenches of 'finding nature', answering to 'nature' to articulate this state of 'nature' . . . (RG: yeah), just Romantic

RG: So that's not 'the new world', all I'm doing is rehashing the 'old', in effect, even though I propose it as

CB: Over & over & over again!

RG: Yeah . . . I find that . . . I think you're right.

CB: There are very many new, interesting things in your writing . . . that have not altogether, ever been articulated in Emersonian terms or

RG: I hope so! Great!

CB: which can be thought in terms of anti-mimetic . . . or can be thought in many different ways.

RG: I hope so! . . on the other hand, I must say, just experientially, the last two times I read this whole statement, it brought tears to my eyes.

CB: It has such a great rhetorical impact, right?

RG: No, the tears . . . it was, like, recognition . . . this is said, & I can acknowledge this to be how I understand what I do, in ways that I experience as, in fact, opening new possibilities -- see, it's a question of procedure, because you have to invent a structural way of acknowledging or saluting the so-called 'new world' . . . you're never in a condition of repeating an 'idea', you're in the condition of attempting to actualize what's said . . . & in order to do that, you have to participate in the invention of the world, & that requires something 'further', even though the 'idea' . . . is stated adequately in this text -- but even if you think that you share something . . . with the recognition of the task, you haven't begun to do anything that day . . . you go home & get to work, which I will do after some period of recovery . . . thank you! (laughter, applause)