[sixties-l] _San Francisco Beat: Talking with the Poets_

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Wed Jun 20 2001 - 05:25:57 EDT

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    Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2001
    From: gmoke@world.std.com (George Mokray)
    Subject: _San Francisco Beat: Talking with the Poets_

    This is where I come from. Not the place but the state of mind. These are
    my people and I've met a number of the poets who are interviewed here over
    my lifetime. These interviews take place from the early 70s and in the
    late 90s, some people are interviewed in both periods. Much great stuff
    here about art and writing but what strikes me is the consideration of
    community and the environment and the politics they make necessary. These
    come through clear as clean water.

    _San Francisco Beat: Talking with the Poets_ edited by David Meltzer
    San Francisco: City Lights Book, 2001

    (20) Diane Di Prima "Well, I think partly we were set up. We were naive
    as hell. We're still (as a generation) naive as hell or we wouldn't have
    let KPFA get into such a bad situation. That's been going on for years.
    We are heads-in-the-sand people. There were too many people with no
    survival skills at all who came to San Francisco and needed too much for
    the small number of people who had real vision and really wanted to do
    something. I think any time that anything interesting happens, heroin is
    dumped into the scene. Besides our being naive and besides the dope and
    besides the too many kids who didn't know how to take care of themselves,
    none of us knew how to deal with our own egos. There was a big
    revolutionary ego game. With those same egos and a sense of humor, maybe
    we could have made something work."

    (114) Jack Hirschman "I was struck by the fact that the protest against
    the recent bombing by Clinton of Iraq, in comparison to the '91 bombing,
    was completely muted and tame on the part of the people. I feel it has to
    do with technology. Technology has a role in taming protest, because while
    we have access to technology to organize, at the same time, something in
    the technological free play militates against that, causes greater
    indifference. These are some of the things I'm trying to deal with."

    (154) Michael McClure "I feel as if I am a string and these spiritual
    occasions are beads or pearls that pass over me in much the same way that a
    complex molecule, RNA, slides across the ribosome to create protein. It's
    as if I am a string that the pearls, or ribosomes, of events pass over and
    from this I form the protein of my being around it.

    "If we are, in a sense, genetically indestructible until we are brought to
    our ternimation, I think it's reasonable that, rather than starting with a
    predisposed philosophy or cosmology, we allow it to form itself around us.
    I also have the feeling that everything grows. My relationships to things
    grow. Oh, there are dead spaces. There are the knots on a necklace
    between the pearls. I also look forward to the knots."

    (164-166) "What I am most concerned with now is the river within
    ourselves. The biological energy of ourselves is extrusions or tentacles
    of the universe of meat. The universe of life covering the entire planet.
    Let's say life is four billion years old - it might be older - from the
    first complex particles of a certain type of material joined together in
    strings and then coiling and encapsuling themselves. The next biggest step
    for them is to become links, to form a coating about themselves.
    Traditionally, you think of a cell as being an enclosed substance, like a
    bag or sac. It's actually not that. It's created from the inside outward,
    and it's highly complex topologically. From the first topological
    complexity becoming what we have come to call life until now - four billion
    years later.

    "If you could do a Spengler does... He takes cultures and examines them
    side by side as if they were physical entities. If you can conceive of all
    life that has happened on this planet of which we are a highly complex
    extrusion, as a novelty of that body experieince, and conceive of that body
    as unique, freed of time and space, and if you can conceive of it as a vast
    being... then you begin to conceive of yourself in relationship to the
    surge. It's not a systematic system. It is a systemless system, an
    expanding system, a system becoming complex as it stores rays of the Sun.
    The rays of the Sun furnish energy for this. It contains more and more of
    the energy, and it grows more and more. You begin to see your relationship
    to it, and you begin to see that there is a river, a surge, a source that
    is universal and that you partake of.

    "You are that thing, sensing and perceiving itself. You become dimly aware
    of the multiplicity of your sensations. You don't have five senses.
    Scientists say we have twenty-seven sneses. You can't really conceive of
    this totality, because you don't have an infinitude of senses. But we have
    more senses than we know we have. We have deeper relations to this
    universe. I think, for the first time, an awareness of it is coming to us.

    "Take Camus. There he is confronted with horror, anguish, nausea,
    flrlornness, etc., because he conceived the meaninglessness of a man's
    gestures in a telephone booth. He's a member of a very heavy Catholic
    society that has come to think in traditional-humanistic terms. You are
    partaking of the same culture - a planetary culture that is interlinked.
    You participate in various degrees of types of wealth of poverty it offers
    you. Camus sees this and says: 'Oh, my God, look at the utter

    "When a man sees this and can't relate to the universe - not only to the
    universe but the universe of beings - his reaction is like nausea or
    horror. I think now we are freed to recognize the possibility against
    that. Against a background of pollution, horror, and contamination, mass
    starvation, hallucination, and psychosis."

    Jack Shoemaker: "So the response then to four billion years of history is
    not nausea?"

    Michael McClure: I think it could be very well like joy if we could deal
    with our inner beings. If we realize that we are not one intelligence but
    many intelligences, that we are not one cell but a congress of cells. If
    we can understand very clearly that we have developed two sets of emotions
    and psychology: the social emotions and the inner physiological emotions.

    "In a herd society (the traditional humanist herd society which really
    isn't humanitarian) we have developed a herd man, a lumpen man, whose
    motivations are exterior rather than inner-directed. It's possible for a
    man to blossom, yet very few men blossom."

    (166-167) "Everybody wants a solution instead of realizing that the
    universe is a frotier, that the universe is a messiah for this whole
    total... this beatific complex meat structure that you are a tentacle, an
    aura, an extrusion, an experieicning of. they say instead, we want a
    solution, we want a utopis, we want bliss, we want progress, we want
    revolution, we want this, we want that. These are all simplistic
    solutions. it's like we are all trapped in _solutionism_. As one solution
    fails, another solution is tried. Everybody wants a solution. When they
    realize the defeat of a solution they split as rapidly as they can to
    another solution to rid themselves of any anxiety.

    "It has to be seen very clearly that biological creatures do not exist with
    solutions. Biological creatures exist through motility and growth and the
    more complex constellations of memory, intuition, and perceptions of their
    sensorium. So you constantly destroy and re-create. You don't have a
    revolution to solve everything. Each creature is in a state of revolt,
    each intellective creature. Each creature that is able to feel with his
    meat... man or snake or wolf or rosebush... is in revolt, whether its
    revolt is its growth or whether the revolt is the deliberate making, the
    deliberate extrusion, the feedback loops to bring them what they want. To
    bring them what they want through manipulation of circumstances. But never
    technologically and mechanistically."

    Jack Shoemaker: "Those would be our answers, though."

    Michael McClure: If the organism exists with problems, then the organism
    also exists with possibilities for solutions. All I am saying is we can
    grant recognition of that river within us which, in mixed vocabulary, could
    be the Hindu 'We are all one' is too easy. 'I am many' is more where it's
    at. I am happy when my manys agree.

    "'I am many' is where it is at. I am a heart, I am three trillion cells, I
    am a lung, I am many neuronal centers; I am an obvious sensorium that
    sights, tastes, touches, smells, that I can verbalize and symbolize about -
    I am twenty-two other senses that are less easy to verbalize or symbolize
    about, several of which are totally unconscious and don't register on the
    part of the brain that I constantly recognize.

    "The manys of me must agree and must find what I call an intellectivity to
    commune with, free of desire for solutions or progress. We must look for
    mammalian betterment.

    "Our genes are one-and-a-half million years old. We spent one-and-a-half
    million years minus twenty thousand years developing at one thing and spent
    the last twenty thousand years selectively breeding to become something
    else... and developing a tradition that's not what the biological
    preparation was for. He evolved as a rare creature. We are no longer a
    rare creature. We evolved as a social animal, and we are becoming a herd
    animal, or gregarious as opposed to the social animal."

    (174) David Meltzer: "I remember at that time that you were also very
    much interested in Yeats's book, _A Vision_."

    Michael McClure: "I was very much taken up with his concept of gyres. In
    the sense of gyre that you have the helix of the DNA molecule - although
    the DNA molecule is a crumpled gyre. You can see that the gyre represents
    an ever-expanding systemless system."

    (175-176) "Besides our body's being a genetic accretion of billions of
    years, it is the actual accretion of our physical contacts with our
    environments, our psychological contacts with our propaganda and our
    intuitions. It's the actual meat on your bones, the constellation of the
    perception and events, and, in addition, we have a storage center in which
    the events that we can symbolize and verbalize about are activated. We
    call it our cortex. There are other parts of the brain, too, like that
    small part of the brain back there in the nasal area. In that area, they
    have come to believe that memory is stored hologramistically. Memory isn't
    stored in one place but stored constellatively in many places within the
    mind. Memory multiplies and lights up the edges that the constellation
    overlaps. The electrical and chemical activity that goes on - several
    sources of it going simultaneously - are constantly interacting. This
    universe of cells is in constant action.

    "If we empty this screen, then the experience is the universe. The body of
    the universe manifested in our body. If we allow the screen to be filled,
    then the screen is like the external reality vying with the inner reality.
    Biologically, it's uncanny. If the existentialists were confronted with
    this, they would have no answer - or they would want no answer. 'How can
    this be? Where's God, why are we here? What is that man doing in the
    phone booth?'

    "Our bodies are like a multitude of fairy lands that all agreed to become you.

    "There's no doubt that there's a very high alchemy that we haven't touched
    yet. And that we have intuitions of in mudras and gestures. A cell in the
    tip of your finger might be related to an atom in a star in another galaxy
    in a way we can't conceive of. The universe is an interweaving of such
    complexity that we are totally unable to conceive of it. You can imagine
    butterflies flying randomly through a shifting lattice. Can you imagine
    the multitudes of invisible presence surrounding it?

    "I think that what we've done is to choose the Faustian path in which we
    conceive of ourself as a tool or a mechanism. This choice is mirrored in
    technology. We conceive of our body as a tool or mechanism for the
    achievement of desires, rather than for the central being, the inner being,
    that creates and seeks in the outer and peers deeper into the inner. We
    thin of manipulating exterior reality and ourselves as tools, as foundtions
    of something we can't touch because it isn't there. It's an

    (178-179) "In 1970, I began extensive reading into new areas. In our
    earlier interview, I talked about coming across the idea that cells start
    from the inside and create themselves outward. In 1970-72 enormous amounts
    of information were coming out about the assemblage of the simplest levels
    of life and also about the symbiotic agreements that are made between
    simple organisms to make higher, eukaryotic organisms, organisms with
    nuclei. At the same time, I found the ideas of Lyn Margulis about the
    co-evolutionary origins of higher cells. Gary Snyder introduced me to Hwa
    Yen Buddhism in _The Buddhist Teaching of Totality_ by Garma C. C. Chang.
    This book changed my idea of physics.

    "As I said in our earlier interview, science is beautiful, but I certainly
    didn't believe in atoms and molecules. In the thinking of the T'ang
    dynasty, Hwa Yen Buddhism that I was studying at that time, there is
    another system of physics - the nonphysics of nothingness. It is the
    sister discipline of Zen. I became involved in those ideas and laid out a
    deeper foundation for future actions in writing and thinking. I am
    troubled by holding two ideas at the same time. There are atoms and
    molecules on this side of the fence, and on the other side you don't have
    them. I feel the richness of both systems. They are the two best that I
    know of."

    (182) "Finally, one summer Ray [Manzarek] and I were though working, and
    Amy and I went to Bali. It was enormously beautiful and progoudnly
    distrubing. The people are gentle and kind, and their art, as it states at
    you from the walls, is formally raw. Lving in a hotel room li a tree
    house, like Tarzan and Jane lived in when I was a kid. It was a troubling
    experience, listening to the river..."

    David Meltzer: "What was terrible? Teh dark Side?"

    Michael McClure: "The dark side hung on the walls, actually, The lintel in
    our bedroom had monsters carved on it, glaring at us as we slept. Or
    there's the dark side of the dances. And some of the temples that we

    (262-263) Kenneth Rexroth "You know, there is no way of extrapolating
    into the future that will be effective. The only people who know this as a
    mass, all of a sudden, are the counterculture who latched onto it because
    it explains what is happening.

    "All this struggle against papas and mammas, in which idiots lead mass
    demonstrations in Berkeley and think they have the offensive, they don't
    have the offensive at all, they have the defensive. I mean, it is the
    papas and mammas that have the offensive. This is why it has such a family
    character, because it is a fundamentally ... it is a phenomenon of species
    death due to the breakdown of the biota of the ecological relationship.

    "A few years ago, they were saying the reason the dinosaurs became extinct
    was because the vulcanism of the Jurassic filled the sky with dust and
    cooled the climate, and the marshes got too cold for the dinosaurs' balls,
    and so they became infertile. Well, the dinosaurs didn't become extinct
    because they had cold balls. They ate all their eggs. Say this and people
    who are listening dig it. It's like being converted to Methodism. The
    whole thing clears up. They can understand what it is all about. And this
    is why the whole ecological thing that Gary's [Snyder] been preaching - you
    know, he has made himself the leader of it - is so important. It is the

    "Charismatic, you see, everybody says Bolshevism broke down, that other
    things were never tried because they could not envisage a real alternative
    that would work or, to use correctly the misused slang, a 'viable
    alternative,' something that wouldn't be stillborn. An ecological
    revolution can scientifically extrapolate into the future certain essential
    conditions. It can say this and this must occur. There must be so many
    people to so many acres. There must be so many people to so many square
    feet. There must be certain kinds of relationships, certain kinds of
    agriculture: there are all kinds of things that must be, and this
    necessitates certain methods of production and distribution, etc. You
    create, as they say in science or math, a model and it is a clear model.
    The Bolsheviks had no model. They had no model at all....

    "The ecological crisis provides - the way that Marxism with all its
    bullshit about scientific socialism never did - a scientific model for a
    just society. The interesting hting is that this resembles far mor the
    thing that Marx and Engels attacked; utopian socialism.

    "You want to know what the future should be like? It should be like
    William Morris's _News from Nowhere_. He was more right thatn Marx. He
    talks about an idyllic underpopulated England with the old type of Japanese
    gardening adn pre-Raphaelite costumes. And he is right and Marx is

    (265) "The whole problem is to find works of art which remain permanently
    unassimilable and permanently corruptive. This means that they don't
    really differ very much from anybody else's work of art. The songs of
    Shakespeare are permanently indigestible and permanently subversive."

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