Will Hein­rich

Ass­holes and Ox­heads

BOMB Magazine - - CONTENTS - Will Hein­rich was born in New York and spent his early child­hood in Ja­pan. His novel The King’s Evil was pub­lished in 2003 and won a PEN/ Robert Bing­ham Fel­low­ship in 2004. More re­cently he’s worked as an art writer, in­clud­ing sev­eral years as lead critic

“Dear Aaron,” writes Henry. “The first thing I re­al­ized was that I didn’t want to be out of touch, and the next thing I re­al­ized was that I had no one left but you to be in touch with. This is what I de­serve for all my talk: to be stuck on my back writ­ing letters to the void. And I can’t just un­roll some fan­ci­ful metaphor about the lone white daisy sit­ting in a medicine bot­tle on the win­dowsill, ei­ther. If I want to speak, I have to posit a mind like my own on the other side, a mind with its own de­mands and de­sires which will prob­a­bly want to know how I got here, and I think I’d bet­ter an­swer at least a cou­ple of your ques­tions as a demon­stra­tion of good faith. At least that part is quick: I got fired, I bought a car, and I drove it till it broke in half like a piece of over­cooked toast. Do you know what a burnt- out Oldsmobile smells like? And then I got a job on a ranch here in Wy­oming and spent the last six months feed­ing, cor­ral­ing, cas­trat­ing, and brand­ing an up­side- down ‘I’ into two hun­dred- odd cat­tle be­long­ing to a Mr. Joseph In­gra­ham, the man who hap­pened to be stand­ing next to me at the first soda counter I walked into af­ter my car broke down and who even­tu­ally agreed to try me out for a month on room and board. Learn­ing to walk in cow­boy boots gave me a crip­pling pain in my tail­bone, and I spent a lot of time try­ing to dis­tract my­self with idle thought ex­per­i­ments. One thing I came up with was that we hu­man be­ings have prob­a­bly spent tens of thou­sands of years more re­lat­ing to cat­tle than we’ve spent in any mod­ern sense re­lat­ing to our­selves. That’s my ex­pla­na­tion for the strange­ness of a bull’s gaze, for the slip­pery, re­flec­tive, déja-vu qual­ity of its eyes: It’s not the bull that’s new. It’s me. I told my­self that the Phoeni­cian let­ter Alef, the ori­gin point of recorded history and of any man’s iden­tity who knows how to read, the mys­ti­cal black notch through which Moses tells his great- grand­chil­dren why they’re not Egyp­tians and Abra­ham fixes his ac­count of what he saw on Mount Mo­riah, is sup­posed to be a pic­ture of an ox head. And then, as I limped into my dusty bunkhouse long af­ter dark and it seemed to me that the whole world was en­closed in a cow’s belly, I spec­u­lated that the let­ter Omega must be a pic­ture of that same bovine fir­ma­ment’s cos­mic ass­hole. But what would come out of it? Or I mean, where would it go? Do you know what ‘red hot’ means? I’ve put an iron brand down in glow­ing em­bers and watched it soften and turn the color of the ris­ing sun, and I’ve smelled the soft, white smell of scalded hair, and felt the beast’s trem­bling come back through my brand’s wooden han­dle, and I know that it doesn’t mat­ter whether or not the name has stiff­ened into a cliché. The brand burns the same ei­ther way. Or at least it does if you’re the one touch­ing it. But what I can maybe do, if I use these ox­heads and ass­holes clev­erly enough, is meet you half­way be­tween my mem­ory and your imag­i­na­tion. A two- and- a- half year old, red­dish- brown bul­lock, newly pur­chased, a lit­tle wild. We were call­ing him Char­lie. He goes into the chute from one end, out come the fe­males, snap open the chute at the other end, out goes Char­lie to ser­vice. Cut them apart af­ter­ward on horse­back. If he gets ag­gres­sive, you hit him in the face with a bat. Do you know the first thing a bull does to threaten you? He turns side­ways to show him­self in pro­file, just the way a Sume­rian ac­coun­tant would pic­ture him on the out­side of a clay en­ve­lope. I thought about the dif­fer­ence be­tween a phe­nom­e­non in the world and one in the mind, how we use the mind both to dis­tance and to ap­proach. I don’t know whether any­thing I stamp on the out­side of this en­ve­lope, how­ever heart­felt or clever, can do more than al­lude to what’s in­side. I can’t even re­ally start writ­ing un­til the clay is fully sealed. On the other hand, if stamp­ing the out­side weren’t just as good as re­veal­ing the to­kens within, Felix Ham­mer wouldn’t own half of Wall Street to­day and I guess I wouldn’t be writ­ing you at all, so maybe re­vis­it­ing the thing it­self is ex­actly what I’m afraid of. But no­body’s mak­ing me do this. I elected my­self. So Char­lie, two and a half, un­sta­ble, the color of Utah dirt or dried blood. Some bulls carry them­selves like pashas, only deign­ing to slip it in be­cause they know they can take it or leave it. Some get ex­cited in a way that’s al­most charm­ing. From cell to cell or species to species, you can re­late to the over­whelm­ing sweet­ness of their plea­sure. But Char­lie was a dif­fer­ent kind of a god. In­se­cure, de­mand­ing, in­ca­pable of calm. You got the feel­ing his shoul­ders weren’t quite broad enough to bear the col­umn of lust de­scend­ing from the up­per ma­chine. So there he is in the chute and his whole face is twitch­ing. He butts his head into the gate so hard that it twists the latch, which means that in­stead of pulling a switch from be­hind the fence, some­one’s got to climb up and pull the bolt by hand. Again I elect my­self. I climb up onto the cor­ner of the chute— which is a half- assed af­fair of old toi­let pipes and rope— and the cor­ner I’m on is slick with Char­lie’s spit­tle. My foot slips. The first thing I re­al­ized, as I said, was that I didn’t want to be alone in the world,

Learn­ing to walk in cow­boy boots gave me a crip­pling pain in my tail­bone, and I spent a lot of time try­ing to dis­tract my­self with idle thought ex­per­i­ments.

two thou­sand miles from my home. We’re not in the habit of be­ing straight­for­ward with each other about how we feel, you and I, but the breath of God— as you told me one night while drunk­enly tak­ing a shit in an al­ley­way near the East River, do you re­mem­ber that?— the breath of God blows away the su­per­fi­cial. You’re my only liv­ing link to my­self, and it means a lot to me that we’ve kept in touch. But my foot slips, and the first thing is de­nial. No, I think, let’s push him back in the shed first. And in the same se­man­tic breath, a con­vic­tion that the er­ror is in my own men­tal pic­ture. Surely there’s another rung on the side of the chute I’ve for­got­ten about but which re­mains there, any­way, a rung to catch me be­fore I fall. And just be­yond that, a state of to­tal vul­ner­a­bil­ity. I had never un­der­stood just how thick a co­coon of ex­pec­ta­tions in­su­lates us from the on­rush­ing mo­ment, how au­to­matic a judg­ment it is that dis­misses what’s not ob­vi­ously threat­en­ing or im­por­tant. When that fil­ter’s blasted away, you’re like a sec­re­tary fall­ing be­hind on cor­re­spon­dence. It takes ten sec­onds to deal with one sec­ond’s in­for­ma­tion and you don’t know how to catch up. There’s no hi­er­ar­chy of sen­sa­tions, ei­ther, no process of dis­cov­ery. I feel my foot hit­ting the ground when it hits, or the pipe against my back, I taste the smell of dirt when I no­tice it, and if the one- ton mon­ster in front of me de­cides to crush me against the fence, I’ll know no sooner than it ac­tu­ally hap­pens. No more non­sense about mind- body du­al­ism or free will. Who­ever it is writ­ing this— what­ever en­tity this is that can choose to stand up, sit down, or cul­ti­vate the habits that come back in a pinch— it’s dis­tinctly knocked to the side. There’s some­thing that acts, and then there’s us, danc­ing in the spa­ces left over. But they tell me I’ll be here for four or five months, so write back if you can. It’s a small hos­pi­tal. You don’t have to put the bed num­ber.”

“Is it a long poem if you look at it long enough?” Robert Gre­nier asked re­cently in con­ver­sa­tion. A unique fig­ure in con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can po­etry, Gre­nier has had a pro­found in­flu­ence on Lan­guage writ­ing and min­i­mal­ist po­etry, as well as con­cep­tual writ­ing—although Gre­nier would not sit­u­ate him­self within any of these move­ments. Gre­nier has not pub­lished a poem in ty­po­graphic form in nearly twenty-five years; rather he cre­ates draw­ing po­ems, which ex­plore the lim­its of lin­guis­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the page. Ex­am­ples can be seen in BOMB 127.

The fol­low­ing in­ter­view was recorded in Cabot, Ver­mont on Oc­to­ber 20, 2014 to celebrate the reis­sue of CAM­BRIDGE M’ASS by Con­vo­lu­tion. CAM­BRIDGE M’ASS rep­re­sented a key turn to­ward the vis­ual in Gre­nier’s writ­ing. Orig­i­nally pub­lished in 1979 by Lyn He­jinian’s Tu­umba Press, this “poster-poem-map” mea­sures 40 49 inches and is com­posed of ap­prox­i­mately 255 po­ems, some drawn from Gre­nier’s Sen­tences (a box of 500 po­ems pub­lished by Whale Cloth Press in 1978). Ac­cord­ing to Charles Bern­stein, “CAM­BRIDGE M’ASS should have won the Pulitzer Prize and got­ten Gre­nier a MacArthur too.” Un­til re­cently, copies have been al­most im­pos­si­ble to ob­tain; Craig Dworkin has re­ferred to it as “the holy grail” of reis­sues.

Born in Min­neapo­lis in 1941, a grad­u­ate of Har­vard Col­lege and the Iowa Writ­ers’ Work­shop, Gre­nier has taught literature and writ­ing at UC Berke­ley, Tufts, Fran­co­nia, and New Col­lege of Cal­i­for­nia. His pub­lished books in­clude Se­ries, Oak­land, A Day At The Beach and Phan­tom An­thems. Since 1989, he has been at work on the color draw­ing poem pro­ject rh ym m s, which to date has yielded 12 from rhymms (Pave­ment Saw Press, 1996), OWL/ON/BOU/GH (Post-Apollo Press, 1997) and 16 from rh ym m s (Marfa Book Co./Im­pos­si­ble Ob­jects, 2014), as well as a large se­ries of Gi­clée prints called avail­able from South­first Gallery.

— Paul Stephens

PAUL STEPHENS: In a 1979 brochure for Tu­umba Press, Lyn He­jinian de­scribes CAM­BRIDGE M’ASS as a “mind’s eye view of Cam­bridge, Mass. and en­vi­rons”. Do you maybe want to tell us about what was go­ing on in your mind and in the en­vi­rons out of which this came ?

ROBERT GRE­NIER: Oh, it’s hard to imag­ine now Just look­ing at it on the floor, it looks re­ally black and white. And I re­mem­ber see­ing it, ac­tu­ally, anew at that [ret­ro­spec­tive] show at South­first Gallery [June 2013], on the wall there. And Maika Pollack, whose gallery that is, re­ally liked it and I thought well, what is this darn thing ? It’s been in my closet or piled up be­hind this and that for many years and so I hadn’t had a chance to look at it, but I saw it as this—and I see it now, es­pe­cially in this new ver­sion—as re­ally black and white and pe­cu­liar. It’s like, “what is this Thing ?”—there used to be The Thing, and It Came From the La­goon, or it came from Bos­ton Har­bor per­haps ? which, in those days maybe it’s a lit­tle cleaner now, but it was kinda grubby and grungy, and drip­ping with stuff. But I re­ally like the way it ap­pears out of the black­ness of the ‘Great Be­yond’, which to me is like ‘ Time’, you know ? It’s way back there, and it kind of rat­tles around. I re­mem­ber at the time think­ing that it was sort of like some kind of Ja­panese fig­ure, like a crea­ture in a Noh play, that started out and then BLAGH or WHUH ! So, there it IS. But at the time, yeah, I thought, hmm Well, af­ter—this was af­ter do­ing that box of cards Sen­tences, right ? —af­ter you’ve iso­lated things down to one, you’re left with the prob­lem of how to present more than one, which would in­volve ei­ther the am­per­sand, the and, or

the plus sign. So, it was part of an at­tempt to try to fig­ure out how you could bring words into space in a way that was an al­ter­na­tive to the speech-based po­etry of the time that I was raised in. And I was think­ing ear­lier to­day, what a sac­ri­fice it re­ally is to aban­don the not sim­ply the voice of the poem, but the whole range of mu­si­cal ar­tic­u­la­tion, in sound which had been my whole ex­pe­ri­ence of po­etry Lis­ten­ing, as we were, to Pound’s late read­ing from The Can­tos, it’s such a mag­nif­i­cent ar­tic­u­la­tion of lan­guage in sound. And in my im­me­di­ate ex­pe­ri­ence prior to this—I was raised on the re­al­iza­tion of speech in Robert Cree­ley’s work—I was so im­pressed by that, that it seemed that there must be some­thing else that could be done, which would not sim­ply re­peat the long tra­di­tion of the spo­ken word, and po­etry as sound, in that range that Zukof­sky spec­i­fies, from speech to mu­sic. Wil­liam Car­los Wil­liams to John Dow­land, or some­thing like that, where the poem is sounded in so many fas­ci­nat­ing ways And look­ing back at this, I think, gee wiz, why did I aban­don that ? [laughs]

PS: So, in Pound’s terms, would CAM­BRIDGE M’ASS be pure “phanopoeia” [which Pound de­fined as “the cast­ing of im­ages upon the vis­ual imag­i­na­tion”] ?

RG: Well, there was a ‘key’ there and it was in the back of my mind, from read­ing, you know, his edi­tion of Fenollosa’s “The Chi­nese Writ­ten Char­ac­ter as a Medium for Po­etry,” that the poem could ex­ist—and then the demon­stra­tion of that in Pound’s early literary es­says that the word ‘red’ is a com­pos­ite—I don’t know whether this is the case, one could imag­ine that it would be a com­pos­ite of what was it ? Cherry, flamingo I don’t re­mem­ber what the four things that would be built into the ideogram of the Chi­nese writ­ten char­ac­ter So that the poem Yeah. Well, that was it was a kind of—what would you call that ?—a won­der­ment of pos­si­bil­ity that there could be another way that the poem could ex­ist, be­side the won­ders of the spo­ken word. And I must say that all that sounded stuff still reg­is­ters for me. In more re­cent work, prob­a­bly there is more sound. But what if you stopped—this is an idea that I’ve spo­ken of else­where—if you’d stopped time al­to­gether, and just had the word as ob­ject in space, what could be made of that ? How could it And could the word as ob­ject in space, by some ‘magic’ of its own, par­tic­i­pate in the thing- like na­ture of the phe­nom­e­non of which it spoke, or speaks ? Or—‘cause of course there’s a long con­jec­tures about where lan­guage comes from, whether it was pri­mar­ily a way of not­ing down how the sound of speech could be recorded—and there was all that stuff

in the po­etry in which I was trained, that the poem was a score for the hu­man voice. It was like a mu­si­cal score, and you could read the score you could look at the way the line break worked in Wil­liams, for ex­am­ple, and then you could reartic­u­late some­thing of the sound of the speech of Pol­ish moth­ers, or what­ever Wil­liams says. But could there also be another way in which the words ex­ist, which might be, ar­guably, even ear­lier in hu­man use, as not merely a way of keep­ing track of some kind of eco­nomic ex­change for the par­ties to know about—that’s one idea, that lan­guage came from a need to record trans­ac­tions of some kind and so you would write down, like how many of these were given to X in ex­change for what­ever quan­ti­ties of some­thing else. But it could also be part of—as in old caves—it could be a way of con­jur­ing, in space, the con­di­tion of crea­tures that one wished to sum­mon... So the writ­ten word might have some kind of mag­i­cal ca­pac­ity to gather...not only to tes­tify to what hap­pened, but to gather the spirit and phys­i­cal ex­is­tence of some­thing out­side it­self if it were set forth in space, the ‘right way’. So this is—in ret­ro­spect, given the draw­ing poem stuff that’s evolved out of this—an early at­tempt to es­tab­lish the ex­is­tence of words in space in such a way that there might be another place for the poem to ex­ist be­sides the won­der­ful, pre­dom­i­nant and ac­com­plished mu­si­cal­ity of the spo­ken word that I was raised in, on. And that’s a long re­sponse to

PS: But in another sense you could also place the poem in a kind of spa­tial tra­di­tion. I mean, it lit­er­ally is a map. But whether it’s Pater­son or Glouces­ter, if you think of the poem be­ing spa­tially rooted in a place, but imag­i­na­tively so.

RG: Yeah, if you were above it, as we are now, look­ing down at this CAM­BRIDGE M’ASS, the new CAM­BRIDGE M’ASS on the floor, you could imag­ine that you were look­ing at a map of—and I did think of that—like over here is the At­lantic Ocean [laughs] on the right side. Down here some­where is New Haven and New York, and over to the left is the wilds of the Far West. And up on top might be Ip­swich Bay, and this could be Cape Ann, up here, some­thing like that. It’s all very rough, and it’s an imag­i­nary sit­u­a­tion, but—there’s also, in the back of this, that thing in Charles Ol­son, “I am mak­ing a mappe­mu­nde. It is to in­clude my be­ing.”

PS: It re­minds me of some of those ge­o­graph­i­cal/so­ci­o­log­i­cal stud­ies where they ask peo­ple to draw maps of the city they live in, and they’re very bi­ased to­ward their own neigh­bor­hood or to­ward their own com­mu­nity.

RG: Oh sure, yeah, it’s all out of pro­por­tion and so it has no re­la­tion to the ac­tual to­pog­ra­phy of Cam­bridge, Mass.

but it has some sort of rough ap­prox­i­ma­tion. Mostly, it was just let’s see My part­ner then, Kath­leen Frumkin, was work­ing at a le­gal press, print­ers, in San Fran­cisco, and Lyn and I thought, well, we could make a we could find out how big the bed would be that the printer could ac­tu­ally run through as one sheet. And I was try­ing to fig­ure out how I could re­assem­ble, or re- gather, the sin­gle po­ems in Sen­tences on 5 8 cards into more than one. And so I thought, well, I’ll just start work­ing with a piece of pa­per that was the largest piece of pa­per that would go through the press. So I made a paste- up of these lit­tle rec­tan­gles that were typed on an IBM Selec­tric, like Sen­tences, shortly af­ter the mak­ing of Sen­tences. And I started com­bin­ing them—like how do you put them to­gether, and in what re­la­tion ? So it was just trial and er­ror, to es­tab­lish the ex­is­tence of words in space, over against this black ground, which I thought was re­ally in­ter­est­ing. Dark wa­ter, or the area be­neath the Earth, where light doesn’t shine. And if you could see it from above, like a bird’s- eye view, in re­la­tion to

just look­ing down at it, what would it look like ? And it makes a kind of chaos of as­sem­bled par­ti­cles, which

I mean it’s ob­vi­ously a col­lage, like a stan­dard con­ven­tional means of gath­er­ing things—Jess Collins, for ex­am­ple. Not that this work was inspired by him, but it’s not when you move over into the area of the vis­ual arts, it looks very com­mon­place [laughs], af­ter all. But in the field of the poem, at that time Well, there was that other thing, which was a part of the lan­guage in Ol­son and Cree­ley, that you en­ter into the ‘field’—Robert Dun­can’s book, The Open­ing of the Field— and if you take that lit­er­ally, why then you have a kind of or­ga­ni­za­tion of words in space, so It was an ‘experiment’, and—and it cer­tainly looked pe­cu­liar at the time, I think, to per­sons who were who had, you know, ex­pe­ri­ence in po­etry and love for the ma­te­ri­als of the poem. And so, even now, it’s [laughs] funny- look­ing You can read some of them They’re also stripped down in that sense, so that they don’t have a lot of em­pha­sis on the I, or the lyric ego, in its ar­tic­u­la­tion/ex­pres­sion of its own con­di­tion. They’re pretty straight­for­ward If I could find my glasses, and we could look at one and see what it says Some of them are al­most with­out ‘literary value’. Let’s see One of them says “you haven’t eat” Ett ? “you haven’t eat” ? It must be “you haven’t ett”. And many of them I’ve com­pletely for­got­ten, like that one. You just kinda bend over and there’s no in­for­ma­tion about who “you” is, or the “I” who is speak­ing, or why that’s im­por­tant, or It’s just kind of a “ett” ? [laughs] Some­how that strikes me as quite funny. If you haven’t “ett”, then maybe you should eat ! It in­vites, of course, par­tic­i­pa­tion on the part of the reader, which is more tol­er­a­ble as an ex­pec­ta­tion nowa­days than it used to be. For­merly, you kinda just sat there and were told what’s what. So, if you get down on your hands and your knees, you can see some­thing that says, to­ward the bot­tom, “for­gets Blanche”. Let’s see, count­ing that out “for­gets” is seven, and “Blanche” is seven. So I guess I thought that was in­ter­est­ing, gave it some kind of ‘struc­ture’. In Sen­tences, the count­ing of the letters is a big deal, in the mind at work in these. “HAZY // choice of life” ? “use rel­a­tive for bear­ing” [laughs] Well, in fact, I’ve just done that. We had a visit from my nephew Eric Gre­nier, as they say, and his wife Lynne Gre­nier— to­gether they make les Gre­niers—and I was de­lighted to re- as­so­ciate and make stronger the re­la­tion with them, and to un­der­stand who I am in re­la­tion to their lives. So, I don’t re­mem­ber that one ei­ther... “use rel­a­tive for

bear­ing” ? Rel­a­tive, what’s “rel­a­tive” ? I hope some of them are kind of ‘thought­ful’, I mean they can pro­voke some con­sid­er­a­tion of what they might mean, and how one could re­late that to one’s present oc­ca­sion. They’re sort of there for ‘in­ter­pre­ta­tion’. Not en­tirely, but Some of them are just records of the time of life that I from ’76 to ’78 in Cam­bridge, when I was work­ing down by Bos­ton Har­bor, tak­ing care of this guy Al’s park­ing lot dur­ing the day. He would check all the cars in and take all the money, and then I would go down there and sit there and watch the cars, and I would get twenty bucks for sit­ting there all day in the trailer watch­ing the cars. It wasn’t such a bad job, I didn’t have a lot to do.

PS: Is that what this one refers to ? “A DOL­LAR // ev­ery / twenty / min­utes // the blues” ?

RG: Ab­so­lutely. Now that I’ve pro­vided that au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal ac­count, it’s pos­si­ble for any­one who reads this to read that poem and say, oh, that’s what it’s ‘about’. Well, peo­ple didn’t get paid as much then for these me­nial jobs, or at least, I didn’t—but I was grate­ful, twenty bucks was quite a lot of money ! Was it twenty bucks ? No it would’ve been more like

PS: Three dol­lars an hour.

RG: Yeah, that’s right.

PS: And now I un­der­stand this one. “AL” That’s a good one. I like the sound of this one, too.

RG: Yeah, that’s him, that’s Al. [does dra­matic read­ing] “AL // I’ll get ‘em // they’ll pay all”. I must’ve made that last part up. But he used to chase peo­ple who tried to run off, and Maybe they paid well, they had to pay at the end of the day, depend­ing on how long they parked there. So I must’ve—I also col­lected money. I must’ve col­lected money. Some of the peo­ple were all- day park­ers, and Al would get their money in the morn­ing, and then I would come on and take the money of the per­sons who left be­fore the end of the day. Not a bad job—I got free lob­sters, too, speak­ing of lob­sters. You were gonna bring lob­sters over yesterday from Maine, but I’m not sup­posed to eat them now But they In that day, geez, I won­der what the wa­ter was like They ac­tu­ally had lob­sters in Bos­ton Har­bor ? That were They did, which were And I must’ve—ev­ery once in a while I’d get a free lob­ster. That must be a pun, or—what do they call that ? “A- L- L” rhymes with “Al”, Al was the guy’s name, and “they’ll pay all”—that’s kind of seems a bit ‘forced’, to me now. But that’s what I did. But oth­ers could read these things for what­ever they mean for them­selves

PS: I be­lieve it’s in At­ten­tion: Seven Nar­ra­tives that you de­scribe all of your writ­ing as nar­ra­tive in some sense, even down to the level of the letters

RG: Well, there’s a nar­ra­tive—I mean, if you want to ex­pand the no­tion of nar­ra­tive suf­fi­ciently, you could say that if it moves from left to right, there’s a process, well, in time, too re­ally af­ter all—So these don’t You can’t avoid time. If you read some­thing like, “you cough like”—some of them are in Sen­tences, as you no­ticed, and I don’t know how many, maybe fif­teen or eigh­teen, maybe that many. But “you cough like” is ac­tu­ally an ac­count of some­one cough­ing, a nar­ra­tive of some­one cough­ing, if you will. And, well, you [makes cough­ing sound], and so it goes, you [again makes cough­ing sound]. Well, I coughed twice, so I wrecked it. [One more cough] that’s bet­ter. So it goes through, and records, the cough­ing, as it ex­ists But, in ret­ro­spect, it’s in­ter­est­ing to me—and it was at the time, too—to note that a lot of this stuff was just put down for its own sake. It didn’t have any ‘mean­ing’ be­yond its oc­ca­sion, the oc­ca­sion of its oc­cur­rence. And that seemed an in­ter­est­ing value to use as a ba­sis of writ­ing, over against, for ex­am­ple, telling the truth about one’s fam­ily history, or pro­ject­ing one’s own feel­ings in an oc­ca­sion to­ward strangers that were hap­pen­ing in­side a, you know, do­mes­tic sit­u­a­tion in a house­hold. I mean, all the stuff that po­etry can in­ter­est­ingly do. If you just record the mo­tion of some­thing I don’t think it’s in here, but in Sen­tences there’s one that goes “a bush is mov­ing and the air­plane fly­ing past” “a bush is mov­ing and the air­plane fly­ing past” which also opens up this ques­tion about what the “and” is do­ing. I made a lit­tle wed­ding present for—I’m say­ing this to the to space—I made a lit­tle wed­ding present for Paul and Forsyth, and it was writ­ten on a fun­gus, some kind of a thing that grows on a tree, and it says “FORSYTH +” [plus with a plus sign] “PAUL.” And sort of like kids used to write on trees when I was grow­ing up in Min­nesota, or de­face birch­bark with some such—And the plus sign is in­ter­est­ing, how it both is and isn’t the same as “and” or the am­per­sand. So, if you join two things to­gether “a bush is mov­ing and the air­plane fly­ing past”

PS: And there’s a kind of re­mark­able si­mul­tane­ity here, right ?

RG: Well, from the top, just look­ing at it, it’s all Yeah. So that’s another thing that I thought was im­por­tant at the time. And that does step out of time, you can just see it in a glance, as one thing. Which I guess is char­ac­ter­is­tic of an ideogram as well. And then you can un­der­stand its com­po­nents, and se­quence them. But to see a bunch of letters in space with­out hav­ing to read them, well, as a nar­ra­tive, or in time just see it all at once. And at that time, I re­mem­ber think­ing there were some stud­ies about how many col­umns in a Greek tem­ple can some­body see at once, with­out count­ing ?

PS: So speak­ing of the plus sign, here I think is the only plus sign that I have no­ticed in—

RG: Oh, there’s a plus sign in there ?

PS: in the whole poster, although I’m con­stantly notic­ing new as­pects of it. RG: Wow.

PS: “POPLARS” Of course, I think there are two po­ems ti­tled “POPLARS” in here.

RG: Well, that’s a funny poem, you want to try to read that ?

PS: [reads “POPLARS”]

saw ‘al­ter­nate form’ then 3 poplars brick wall then ‘7armed zy­gote’ poplars brick wall +

RG: [laughs] Yeah, I don’t even know if I ever knew what “zy­gote” is Do you have any idea what that means ?

A seven- armed some­thing

PS: Is it an un­fer­til­ized em­bryo ?

RG: There was a po­plar tree in Cam­bridge, along the brick wall of an apart­ment build­ing, right next to where I lived. I liked that tree be­cause it was a tree like A Tree Grows In Brook­lyn and all that. I used to look at it, and I guess I could see it in dif­fer­ent ways and some­times it would ap­pear to be some­thing be­yond it­self. There’s another—oh, there’s a poem in Sen­tences that says “POPLARS // fac­ing away”.

PS: That’s here, too.

RG: Is that here too ?

PS: Yep. I just saw it—here.

RG: Uh- huh. If you Poplars, when their leaves flip around in the wind they seem at times to be turn­ing to­ward some source that inspires that mo­tion. So

I like it when things can be them­selves, and seem to leap out of their form, and ges­ture to­ward, or—well, like a sun­flower, in that won­der­ful Blake sun­flower poem. It the sun­flower re­gards some­thing else, and is in di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion with some­thing be­yond it­self. You can see that hap­pen­ing if you keep your eyes open and look at things, ev­ery once in a while they—they, well, step for­ward and ac­knowl­edge some­thing be­yond them­selves, just as we do when we as­so­ciate. But I must say, it looks real stripped- down, you know, to me now. And I—I don’t think I was try­ing to ‘with­hold’ emo­tion or hu­man

PS: Do you re­call what the com­po­si­tion process if you started with po­ems from Sen­tences and then dis­carded them ?

RG: It wasn’t very com­plex Oh—no, I don’t ac­tu­ally, re­ally—I won­der there were cer­tain things that I wanted to in­clude, that seemed ‘of the char­ac­ter of the place’, specif­i­cally. Some of the po­ems in Sen­tences— well, maybe many of these were writ­ten, like the poplars ones, were writ­ten in Cam­bridge. Many of them were writ­ten up in New Hamp­shire, Fran­co­nia. But oth­ers were done dur­ing that time, ’76, ’77, when I was liv­ing there, when it was ’78 So, some would be of that

maybe—Was that the only con­sid­er­a­tion, that they were new and writ­ten at that time ? Well

PS: Here’s another “POPLARS”: “fac­ing wa­ter // stand as these”

RG: Yeah Oh. This one is in here. Great. “a bush is mov­ing and the air­plane fly­ing past”. So, the ques­tion still re­mains, why is that ‘po­etry’ ? Why should some­one be in­ter­ested in that ?

PS: Well, it al­most sort of un­does that—is it Adorno who claims that, you know, there’s parat­ac­tic po­etry and syn­tac­tic po­etry, and that ‘Cause these two things are go­ing on at once, right ? A bush is mov­ing and the air­plane fly­ing past, but the air­plane is not mak­ing the bush move. They’re both within your field of per­cep­tion at the same time.

RG: Yeah, but through the “and”, it rep­re­sents a change of fo­cus, or of at­ten­tion. And then you group them to­gether sim­ply be­cause they’re both mov­ing [laughs]. Which seems silly, even to note that as be­ing of in­ter­est. But the bush is on the ground, the air­plane’s in the sky, so the sky’s re­lated to the ground solely through

some kind of ‘mo­tion- in- it­self’, al­most an ab­stract cat­e­gory of mo­tion. How we per­ceive things, of course, is part of the in­ter­est in these. And what it is that calls some­thing into our at­ten­tion, it can be al­most any­thing And then, the mind re­lates them, and a word like “and” gath­ers them to­gether. It’s prob­a­bly ‘a study of the way the hu­man mind as­so­ci­ates things’ through rough cat­e­gories, like, well, this is mov­ing and that’s mov­ing, too. And so it A lot of them make fun of their own, sort of, what—‘lo­gis­tic un­der­tak­ing’ ? [laughs]

PS: Well, you could al­most think of the poem as, you know, be­ing a flâneur’s trip through Cam­bridge on your way to work from Washington Av­enue here on the top. And it sort of oc­curs to me that so many of the great char­ac­ters of nine­teenth and twen­ti­eth- cen­tury literature are wan­der­ing through cities, and they’re dis­tracted and more than one thing is go­ing on at any given time.

RG: They’re kinda out of it and skep­ti­cal—like Stephen Dedalus—they’re both part of and not part of their cir­cum­stance. Well, that place is a trip. You know, I—I was never at home there, I was never able to be at home there, ex­cept at cer­tain mo­ments of de­ter­mined res­i­dence, in which I said, “well, I live here, too !” Be­cause I was never a part of the club scene at Har­vard, and never re­ally a part of the ori­en­ta­tion of the English depart­ment. It was It’s a strug­gle to get one’s bear­ing, and I don’t like try­ing to live in a place where you feel fun­da­men­tally ‘ex­cluded’ from the get- go. And I didn’t have any money and so on But that’s not an un­com­mon feel­ing that peo­ple have in dif­fer­ent places Umm It re­curs any­where, depend­ing upon But I did have some

friends there, in­clud­ing John Batki, to whom this thing is ded­i­cated, who was teach­ing fic­tion writ­ing at Har­vard at that time. And I got to know him through as­so­ci­a­tion with Anselm Hollo back in Iowa. John and his wife Trude were re­ally main­stays, and gave me a sense of ground­ing in the place which was never—and Michael Wal­tuch, too It was a funny place. Huh—what else can we say about it ? A lot of it is about just method­olo­gies of mov­ing and sur­viv­ing in the place—How was it that one got around ?—“in­teroper­op­tata­tive”

PS: That’s one of my fa­vorites. Also in Sen­tences.

RG: “FEN”—oh yeah. Is that “fen”, like the fens ?

PS: Fen­way Park ?

RG: The fens, off the Charles River, kind of a sod­den place which must’ve been a marsh It was kinda cleaned up, and “ramp” would be an en­try to the Charles River Park­way, or some­thing like that. Many of them are pretty creepy, ac­tu­ally. Ah, oh In ret­ro­spect, even though I thought I had, you know hand­ily elim­i­nated the idea of the poem as a pro­jec­tion of the poet’s feel­ing, they seem kind of It was a dif­fi­cult pe­riod for me. I—I didn’t have any im­me­di­ate re­la­tions with I didn’t have a fam­ily, and I didn’t know how to make new re­la­tions very well, and so A num­ber of them have to do with sort of ex­ag­ger­ated state­ments of the soli­tary male’s long­ings and entrapments, in a place that was

not home Oh well. So oth­er­wise, later on, in ret­ro­spect, it seems kind of ‘col­or­less’, to me. But that’s from the present per­spec­tive. Well, here’s another one about the park­ing lot—“THEFT OF CARS / steal­ing” [laughs]. My job was to try to keep the cars from be­ing stolen, so I had to keep look­ing around, and those are—I guess that’s—“THEFT OF CARS” is the same as “steal­ing”, isn’t it ? So, there re­ally isn’t any­thing to ‘learn’ from that. There’s a sub­sti­tu­tion of one us­age for another. But, it might be a re­dou­bling of an aware­ness of that pos­si­bil­ity. “letters cross The Hub ra­pid­ity” [laughs]. Bos­ton is The Hub—I was think­ing about that be­fore. If you look at the map, you can see Even to­day, like I- 93 I- 95 goes to the north, 93 goes north­west, the Mass Pike goes west. Ev­ery­thing goes into and out of Bos­ton, which was the hub of New Eng­land, re­ally, the New Eng­land states, or so they called it

PS: So you were just de­scrib­ing CAM­BRIDGE M’ASS as a kind of maze, but it’s also pos­si­ble to read it, I sup­pose you could read it, as a kind of path of your own choos­ing, or we were also go­ing to talk maybe about how you per­ceived other peo­ple read­ing it when they were

RG: Yeah, well that’s the same thing that would hap­pen if one wanted to read it now. It was just a bunch of rec­tan­gles stuck on a piece of pa­per, and then I tried to space it out in a way that it looked like ev­ery­thing wasn’t all jammed to­gether and each thing had its own space, but then it ex­isted in—Oh, I also re­mem­ber mak­ing cor­re­la­tions with po­ems around You’d put some­thing down, then you’d group some­thing else around it that might have some re­la­tion to it. But in fact, it in part, it was de­signed to de­feat any par­tic­u­lar se­quence, through it. I mean you can’t ‘solve’ it by re­or­ga­niz­ing ev­ery­thing into a into a con­ven­tional nar­ra­tive. But it al­lows, as Sen­tences does, if you pick out sep­a­rate cards and put them to­gether on a ta­ble, you can make cor­re­la­tions of things that be­gin to re­sound off each other. And that was one of the com­po­si­tional prin­ci­ples of it, but I think it just doesn’t—It’s ‘un­invit­ing’ in a way.

PS: “likens ev­ery­thing to each other”

RG: It says that?

PS: Right here. [laughs]

RG: [laughs] Yeah.

PS: And “one per­cep­tion di­rectly & fur­ther another per­cep­tion” is, of course, from “Pro­jec­tive Verse” and it’s got the am­per­sand here, which

RG: Oh yeah, the am­per­sand. Well, that’s ac­tu­ally a qual­i­fi­ca­tion of one of the dicta in “Pro­jec­tive Verse”: “One per­cep­tion should im­me­di­ately lead to another per­cep­tion” or what­ever it says. In fact, in many cases, there isn’t that di­rect con­nec­tion. One per­cep­tion sim­ply oc­curs, af­ter or be­fore another per­cep­tion, like “a bush is mov­ing and the air­plane fly­ing past.” And to ex­ist in that state, when there is no re­la­tion be­tween this and that, at that time was in­ter­est­ing to me, too There was an in­cen­tive to live in the present, you know, which I still feel, and af­ter a while, as you get older, mem­ory evap­o­rates. If you can still func­tion, you live in this ‘re­duced con­di­tion’, which is pos­si­bly a virtue of a sort, be­cause it al­lows you to con­cen­trate on each thing for it­self. So, in­stead of as­sert­ing that it is use­ful for per­sons com­pos­ing po­etry to al­low one per­cep­tion to fol­low di­rectly af­ter—and, you know, ‘come from’—It’s like causal­ity. If there’s no causal­ity, then you just got stuff [laughs]. And you have Which is very much the con­di­tion of the way I per­ceive cities. I just see one thing, and the next thing. I don’t see them in re­la­tion, I see them in a a vast chaos of ‘ac­tiv­ity’, in which each one is do­ing its thing. It’s a ques­tion of how to make it not only make sense of it, but sur­vive— in that en­vi­ron­ment, where ev­ery­thing is op­er­a­tive and dif­fer­ent. It seem­ingly would lead to a state of ex­treme men­tal con­fu­sion, but it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily lead to that.

PS: Do you know that film, I think it’s by Bruce Con­ner, which is just signs from cities ? And it’s just one sign af­ter another, and there’s no cor­re­la­tion be­tween signs

And you re­al­ize that in any ur­ban land­scape, you’re con­stantly look­ing at lan­guage

RG: Yeah.

PS: And you don’t re­ally have much choice over what lan­guage you’re look­ing at.

RG: Yeah, well maybe that’s one way of

PS: But you are se­lect­ing, I think quite care­fully, from ur­ban lan­guage I mean, “Schaefer // is the one beer to have when you’re hav­ing more than one in // Man­hat­tan”, right ? That’s a great ad slo­gan.

RG: Well, pos­si­bly it is an ad slo­gan. Any­way that was some­thing Kit Robin­son said, one time on a trip we were go­ing on a trip into Man­hat­tan. Now that’s down in that part of the ‘map’ of the poem, where the—you’re mov­ing to­ward New York City, so But any­way, to be able to tol­er­ate and register sheer dif­fer­ence was some­thing that I guess I don’t re­ally want to do all the time. [big laughs] Is there a way of en­gag­ing with an ur­ban space which al­lows one to sur­vive, or even pros­per, in a mul­ti­plic­ity of phe­nom­ena, which are all ‘there’ or com­ing at you as what­ever they are, you know, so I guess you have to have some kind of a ‘ground’, to be able to—like an apart­ment [laughs]—or some place where you can go to sleep, once in a while.

PS: Well, there is a kind of sense of move­ment, too or of alien­ation within the city, right ? Like this one to­ward the top, “I’M /// trans­porta­tion”

RG: Yeah. If you think of your­self as merely the mo­tion of a car, you know, or—or I’d get on the MTA to go down to—where was the there was a place to get off on the other side of Park Street—South Sta­tion ?—was that what it was? Well, you could see that as a ‘re­duced form of the hu­man con­di­tion’, and re­late it, if you want, to The Waste Land or some­thing like that in Amer­i­can po­etry. Like how, or what, is the present con­di­tion, and how does one—what’s it like, you know ? What would The Waste Land be with­out any sense of psy­chic de­pri­va­tion ? [laughs] It would just be some kind of zom­bie mode, of be­ing ‘on’ to what­ever was hap­pen­ing at that time A lot of this does I mean, the work from this time does come out of Robert Cree­ley’s writ­ing. For ex­am­ple, in the se­quence “In Lon­don”, there’s—I pre­sume it’s about Ted Ber­ri­gan—I think I mean I’m pre­sum­ing that Ted Ber­ri­gan was in Lon­don with Cree­ley at the time that the poem was writ­ten and the poem says “Ted / is ready. / The bell / rings.” And, I’ve al­ways I mean I thought it was like an homage to some­body who has the where­withal to be up and run­ning, in what must’ve been a for­eign sit­u­a­tion, as if they were go­ing into the box­ing ring, and they were ready to take on all com­ers or just be able to func­tion in an en­vi­ron­ment in which you have to keep re­lat­ing to a num­ber of be­ings

of punches be­ing thrown at you. And have the acu­men and ca­pac­ity to han­dle that. So, I guess, some of that might have been in­volved in that. I couldn’t sur­vive there now, I for what­ever rea­sons It also has to do, I must say au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cally, with the bleak re­la­tion that I have to Har­vard Col­lege, or Har­vard Univer­sity, where I was al­ways out of it, and so I felt that I was never ‘prop­erly equipped’ or prop­erly I mean, I was this kid from Min­nesota, and I didn’t have the smarts, or didn’t have the train­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence to feel that I could do

But I re­mem­ber things like where you could take a piss, like you can’t there used to be a uri­nal in Har­vard Square—am I imag­in­ing that ? I don’t think it’s there any­more—where you could take a piss. There was a place in the Ger­man lan­guage build­ing, where you used to be able to go go in and go to the ground floor, and there was a nice place to piss there But I think, now, you’d prob­a­bly have to show your reg­is­tra­tion card or what­ever the equiv­a­lent is to get into the build­ing, be­cause of se­cu­rity rea­sons, se­cu­rity and I, of course, sup­port that. I didn’t ever know where to take a piss in Har­vard Square Which, with­out which, you know And so that be­comes a prob­lem.

PS: I al­ways thought of this one as pos­si­bly an al­lu­sion to Eliot and “Prufrock”, right ? “who walked home from down­town Bos­ton you and I”

RG: Oh, that was ac­tu­ally

PS: “Let us go then, you and I” but it’s I as­sume, per­haps not.

RG: Oh, well I can tell you what that was. It was just some­times you would have an out­ing to Bos­ton, and you would take the MTA some­where and then you’d be real late And it used to close down, more or less, per­haps al­to­gether, at mid­night or some­thing like that, so there would be no other way to get home. So, that’s kind of a nice I think that’s kind of a nice ‘ro­man­tic poem’. [ PS laughs] I could tell you who that per­son was, but it doesn’t re­ally add to the lit­eral ro­man­tic melo­drama. Not all that far, you know, once you set out to walk if it’s not rain­ing, or snow­ing. So, Paul, I was look­ing around in this mass of phe­nom­ena, from the bird’s- eye view that I now have above it, even if I had my glasses on I can’t read any­thing Why do you think peo­ple were in­ter­ested in it, when they came to the South­first show ? The first thing that they saw—it looked kinda funny, in that ‘art con­text’, on the back wall. And, what do you think peo­ple might be able to make of it now ? Why—I mean you could say that it has a ‘his­tor­i­cal value’, or some­thing like that it has his­tor­i­cal value ?

PS: Well, I’ve known it for a few years, and I’ve al­ways thought of it as an in­cred­i­bly unique work, where you have po­ems spa­tial­ized in a large for­mat. And in some ways it’s also a very ana­log work, right ? The cards are a lit­tle bit un­even. It’s a lit­tle bit like the ran­dom­ness of a city, and yet it’s not quite re­duc­ible to a cer­tain set of in­puts or some­thing. It’s not like, you know, you can lit­er­ally map it. It is, as you’ve been sug­gest­ing, a kind of imag­i­na­tive re­call process with some ran­dom­ness built into it, not un­like wan­der­ing around, or hav­ing to com­mute to work. So it’s got a kind of also very

unas­sum­ing, un­pre­ten­tious sort of type-writ­ten feel. Where even I think there’s also a kind of resur­gence of in­ter­est in the monospaced font works.

RG: Oh, that aw­ful stuff the Selec­tric type­writer, one one one. Look!—this is a sky­scraper. See the lit­tle sky­scraper, it’s not as big as in New York, but it looks like a sky­scraper, doesn’t it ? [laughs]

PS: There re­ally is noth­ing like this in Amer­i­can po­etry.

RG: If you try to look at it, it’s real hard You can kind of cen­ter on some place, and then try to let the pe­riph­eral vi­sion go out from there, and try and gather the el­e­ments into the vis­ual field, to be seen to­gether with the point of ini­tial per­cep­tion but you can’t ac­tu­ally see it that way. I mean, it sort of van­ishes, like—you know, you’re fly­ing into Mid­way Air­port in Chicago, on South­west Air­lines, and you see the houses be­neath, and they’re blocks and they be­come pro­gres­sive, be­come larger as you ap­proach the ground and then you’re im­mersed in that grid of struc­tures and, thank god, you land, if you land suc­cess­fully, in the tiny lit­tle field that’s still there But, it makes for—I dunno, you know

PS: But it is—it—couldn’t you also say that it’s rad­i­cally parat­ac­tic in this vis­ual field, and

RG: Yeah, oh yeah. [laughs]

PS: But, you know, it’s—so, you know, go­ing back in, within your work, from Se­ries— it’s se­rial but also sort of de­feat­ing, I think, a a grand nar­ra­tive. And then, Sen­tences is in the same way rad­i­cally parat­ac­tic, but this forces your vis­ual field to take it all in at once, which you can’t do, and then you get up close, and you start to puz­zle through the po­ems And it’s also not, I think, try­ing too hard to be an art­work.

RG: Well, I just kinda get these pieces of pa­per on the other piece of pa­per one big piece of pa­per and a bunch of lit­tle pieces of pa­per, and I tried to get the lit­tle pieces of pa­per on the one big big­ger piece of pa­per. And so to some ex­tent I could’ve put more pieces of pa­per on it I guess, but I ran out of them, or some­thing like that. I prob­a­bly did ex­haust all the lit­tle pieces of pa­per that I had cut out for the pur­pose. [laughs] Well, you know, let’s say say Ron Sil­li­man’s New Sen­tence, that whole thing, where—in Tjant­ing or some­thing like that—how do you take a sen­tence, which is iso­lated in Sen­tences, and what how can you build a larger work out of those iso­lated pieces ? This is one pos­si­ble way to do that, and Tjant­ing does it by lay­ing out cer­tain sen­tences and then de­vel­op­ing them fur­ther—and Lyn He­jinian, in My Life, does that. So, you have sort of ‘ker­nel sen­tences’, and then you elab­o­rate on them, in the next ver­sion, and you or you, then, piece other sen­tences in be­tween the ones that you’ve al­ready set forth

At least it opens up the idea of how, other than in the first-per­son lyric poem, words can fol­low one af­ter another, each other or fol­low from each other. Later on, I sort of aban­doned the idea of a larger form al­to­gether. Ex­cept in this more re­cent draw­ing poem work, which goes back to the book it hangs on the struc­ture of the book, there are fac­ing pages as a way to se­quence some­thing...

PS: Well, that’s maybe some­thing else that’s quite unique about it. In the dig­i­tal era, it wouldn’t be that dif­fi­cult to make this kind of thing or to present it in a way in which you’re con­fronted by this mass of tex­tu­al­ity. When you get up close, it’s ac­tu­ally it’s not Each one of the po­ems is its own mi­crocos­mos, and yet the

RG: I hope so, be­cause, af­ter all, fi­nally, if you do ap­proach the po­ems close up “ven­ture­somely & ad­ven­tur­ous­ness”—is that “& ad­ven­tur­ous­ness” ?— that might be in Sen­tences. Ah, ha—“WRIN­KLED SUR­FACE PLACE OF / // place it is the hide­bound /// joy­ing in the sun & wet” I com­pletely for­got that one. What—what’s go­ing on there ? It’s like a per­son hav­ing a pretty good time, I guess, down by the wa­ter. It’s off, fac­ing out into the ‘At­lantic’ pre­sum­ing the right side, the black space, is the At­lantic. It’s not too bad there then that day. [laughs] Ah

PS: Here’s one that must be an al­lu­sion to Zukof­sky, right ? “I’m a rested phe­nom­e­non”. [laughs]

RG: [laughs] Well, I hadn’t thought of it that way. [laughs] I hope that they in­vite these con­nec­tions... One says “if passed by air­port limousine”—that must be in Sen­tences. “if passed by air­port limousine” You’re on the road, and all of the sud­den this smooth long car goes by, and black limousine goes by “if passed by air­port limousine” You’re sus­pended in space on the high­way with the limousine hav­ing gone by another ‘mean­ing­less mo­ment’. [laughs] And yet any­thing, if you turn your at­ten­tion to it, can have the value of its own oc­ca­sion. It can ex­ist for it­self, and you you’re gath­ered into the per­cep­tion and ar­tic­u­la­tion of it. Why would there be such a thing as ‘ sig­nif­i­cant’ events in life ? In this—you know, in the work over­all—I think there’s a cel­e­bra­tion of the ex­is­tence of each thing for it­self, if it’s per­ceived clearly, for what it is. Some of them are more ‘thought­ful’ than oth­ers, but just the bare ex­is­tence of some­thing seemed Oh, “stand on the floor be­tween com­pu­ta­tions” —that’s very ‘mod­ern’ that could be some­body in their workspace some­where, tak­ing a lit­tle rest. I guess I might’ve thought at the time, that that was a cri­tique of the mod­ern work­place, and the emp­ty­ing out of the hu­man con­di­tion in some kind of ‘tech­ni­co­log­i­cal’ and we could read Martin Hei­deg­ger on tech­nol­ogy and re­late it to that... So this is a kind of piti­ful por­trait of some poor em­ployee who is try­ing to take a lit­tle break, in the midst of fol­low­ing out the ma­chines that are prob­a­bly do­ing the com­pu­ta­tions. But I don’t mean it that way, and I don’t have to per­ceive it that way. It’s just It’s a mo­ment in which this con­di­tion and re­al­iza­tion oc­curs, you know ? It’s it’s as ‘good’ as, you know, some­thing that might have some ‘real value’ like in Pound, or some­thing like that.

PS: You know, speak­ing of Pound, I mean, some­times I’ve thought of this as a kind of imag­ist epic, right ? Be­cause the prob­lem with imag­ism was al­ways, how do you cre­ate an imag­ist long poem, but

RG: Well, sure, I mean that ac­tu­ally is the prob­lem that this is right in the thick of, and who knows whether this is—you know, this is just one at­tempt at such. Yeah.

PS: And then, you know, the quin­tes­sen­tial imag­ist poem, “In A Sta­tion of the Metro”—

RG: Yeah—yeah.

PS: “the ap­pari­tion of these faces in the crowd”

RG: Well, that’s ex­actly what that is.

PS: “—Petals on a wet, black bough” I mean it’s got ev­ery­thing, right ? You’re go­ing un­der­ground into the sub­way Count­less writ­ers have de­scribed that as like go­ing into hell or some­thing It’s ur­ban alien­ation, it’s a metaphor

RG: I for­got that one com­pletely That’s al­right. I think that one’s al­right. [laughs] Maybe be­cause of its ‘con­tem­po­rane­ity’—how do you pro­nounce that ? Con­temp-o-riya-neeaa- ot­tee ?

PS: Its ‘in t e r o p t a t a t i v i t y’ ?

RG: Huh ?

PS: ‘in t e r o p t a t a t i v i t y’ ?

RG: Yeah, well, those two go to­gether don’t they.

PS: Yeah.

RG: Well, you know, I was quite a per­cep­tive critic of the mod­ern sit­u­a­tion in those days. I wouldn’t waste my time try­ing to do that any more. I want to see how the world comes to ex­ist, in its more on Earth, in its ‘nat­u­ral con­di­tion’ I could say, too, that, in re­la­tion to this, I mean, I You said you went to the Sa­muel Palmer show at the MET, in when­ever that was, which I hadn’t seen— Charles Bern­stein sug­gested that I might be in­ter­ested to look at that—and, the whole—like Blake, in the be­gin­ning of—that whole busi­ness of the ma­chine, and tech­nol­ogy, and the coal mines, and the rail­ways, and ev­ery­thing that made Eng­land, Eng­land ‘great’ in the nine­teenth cen­tury, and the oblit­er­a­tion—as in Lawrence, D.H. Lawrence as well—of the ‘old way of life’, which in many ways still ex­ists around here [ Ver­mont], in our en­vi­ron­ment. And so, for my­self, in the time re­main­ing, I’d like to see how I could bring the same, you know, pres­ence of mind, if there is such, to an at­ten­tion to lo­cal con­di­tions which are some­how more con­ge­nial to me, and more gen­er­a­tive of some­thing Re­cent work is, in some way, all a kind of protest against like some kind of back­ward- look­ing cel­e­bra­tion of the ‘good old days on the farm’, when ev­ery­body went around and had a nice day­dream and one them was tak­ing a lit­tle rest in the field some­where

That’s some­thing that I’d like to con­sider on another oc­ca­sion, or I need to think about, whether the stuff that I’m do­ing nowa­days is, in fact, just—what ?—it’s ‘re­ac­tionary’, re­ac­tionary. Sa­muel Palmer wanted to be one of the An­cients highly ed­u­cated per­sons who adopted agrar­ian modes in re­ac­tion to the in­dus­trial age. I don’t think that would be of much in­ter­est or use to per­sons who have to sur­vive in the con­tem­po­rary con­di­tion. I see the world as grad­u­ally and slowly burn­ing up, burn­ing up through the ac­tions of the hu­mans depre­da­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment, de­struc­tion of species Fi­nally, there’s only gonna be the hu­mans them­selves, left to war with each other, and to grad­u­ally or very rapidly de­stroy each other, and leave just space I have kind of a ‘pes­simistic out­look’, in the midst of which I try to ar­tic­u­late val­ues, in re­gard to the ex­is­tence of cer­tain things that I think are worth not­ing [laughs], or bring­ing the mind to at­tend to. So I wouldn’t want to go to Cam­bridge and try to doc­u­ment it like this any­more. I mean I was liv­ing there, so I had to do it, I guess, if I wanted to keep the aes­thetic of at­ten­tion, pay­ing at­ten­tion to the mo­men­tary ex­is­tence of some­thing that’s where I was.

PS: Well, so many of your po­ems are pow­er­fully rooted in land­scape.

RG: This is a land­scape. Yep, uh- huh. You can con­struct a kind of an in­vented imag­i­nary land­scape, which this poster is. And peo­ple can wan­der around in­side there if they want to. One nice thing about it is you can en­gage with parts of it and then just step away. Oh— I wanted to say, I hope this has—in the orig­i­nal oc­ca­sion, of the Tu­umba Press poster that Lyn and I made, why, peo­ple would just take it and they would put it up on their wall. They would put it up with push­pins, or thumbtacks or some­thing, and it would kind of self- de­struct, and then they could en­gage with parts of it, as part of their or­di­nary course. Like if they’re stand­ing around be­fore din­ner or some­thing like that, they’re talk­ing to some­body, they go over to it and look at it and they find some­thing in it, and then And it would be part of the so­cial oc­ca­sion of the daily life of the per­sons who had it on the wall. And I think that’s good use for it, and they all dis­ap­peared be­cause they were just it was de­signed to be some­thing that one could re­late to, and step out of, and so—in that way, we don’t have to at­tempt to ‘gain an un­der­stand­ing of the whole’. [laughs]

PS: Well, there there is a kind of beau­ti­ful

RG: And it’s just there, you know ?

PS: There is a kind of beau­ti­ful ephemer­al­ity to it, that

RG: Es­pe­cially in this re­ally bright, clear con­trast of the white and black, which—I’m look­ing at it now in re­la­tion to the old one that I have over there, framed. It re­ally stands forth, and you can you can see it, it has—it’s

as if, by mere bring­ing forth of the black and white phe­nom­e­non, it ‘comes to life again’, like a mummy. [laughs] Doesn’t it kind of look like a mummy, with these pieces of—what ? You can imag­ine these rec­tan­gles kind of start­ing to crim­ple crum­ple up ei­ther that, or—it doesn’t seem too threat­en­ing, I hope. [laughs]

PS: Well, I haven’t ever seen an orig­i­nal one that isn’t all torn up, and—and I think that’s kind of the charm of the orig­i­nals, and—I first en­coun­tered it through Michael Gol­ston’s copy which has a a mark of a shoe thrown at the mid­dle of it [ RG laughs], and that that’s a kind of sense of liv­ing with it.

RG: He told me he that didn’t throw the shoe at the poster as such, but that he threw it as part of some ‘ex­pres­sive’ act, that hope­fully had some other mo­ti­va­tion [ PS laughs]. But, I could imag­ine some­one just want­ing to rid them­selves of it, so It’s cer­tainly go­ing to dis­ap­pear in the flux of time, that’s fine—you know, there it goes. But it gets another chance—thank you for that.

PS: Well, thank you.

RG: I think it’s a great idea to bring this thing to the at­ten­tion of the read­ing public. [big laughs]

PS: Well, thank you, and I thank Lyn for let­ting us do it. It’s been a lot of fun.

RG: There it is any­way, so That’s about enough about that. I hope some­body finds some­thing of in­ter­est in it

and it al­lows them to re­think the re­la­tion of lan­guage to land­scape, and the re­la­tion of in­di­vid­ual pieces to oth­ers even if they aren’t parts of the same thing.

PS: You want to pick one card out to read as a fi­nale ?

RG: No, you pick it.

PS: Oh no.

RG: Oh no, the re­spon­si­bil­ity ! The weight !

PS: The weight !

RG: For god’s sake, you could start any­where. My god, what do we have ? Hmm “very fin­ished set” Well, that’s not so good “FIG­URES /// in Bev­erly or Lynn” Hmmm Oh, “I’m so happy for my new hat // I’m so happy for my new hat // I’m so happy for my new hat” “SUN­LIGHT /// snow in the air /// dust in the room” Ahhh

“MIND LIKE THE AL­PHA­BET /// sun­light Egypt take it with you” ! [laughs] That was the idea, that you could take it with you.

PS: Nat­u­ral stop­ping point ?

RG: Sure.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.