Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2001
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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
"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
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
"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
"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
(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."
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon Jun 25 2001 - 17:45:44 EDT