Tuesday, April 03, 2007

duncan at naropa

robert duncanthe naropa archives are a fantastic resource of recordings, containing many readings and lectures by many famous poets of the post-WWII era. the searching is very easy, made even more so by the excellent descriptions and keyword tags assoicated with the files; actual listening, however, can be tricky: the files tend to be enormous, and portions of multi-part lectures are often not clearly identified.

time and patience will be rewarded, however. and for me this was especially the case with a lecture by robert duncan i downloaded. given on june 10, 1976, the lecture is listed as being titled "warp and woof," and "cover[ing] truth vs. fabrication, Homer, Ezra Pound, imagism and Plotinus, magic Neo-Platonism, Pound's usury, effects of personal experience on poetry, dictionaries, etymologies, Denise Levertov's fairy tale experience, revisions, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and Ginsberg and aboriginal poets."

in fact, that's barely the half of it; and the fact is that duncan can cover the above listed topics in a minute or two without even batting an eye. hearing his mind work is as delightful as it is awe-inspiring -- truly one of the great poetic minds of the century.

and so to give the uninitiated a taste, i've resurrected the audio feature i first (and to date only) used with horace tapscott many months ago. yes, heuriskein is an audioblog once again, this time featuring a 5:39 minute excerpt (mp3, 2.3M) of duncan's "warp and woof lecture" in which a few of the above-listed topics are given whirlwind treatment. i also transcribe the excerpt below in case you'd like to read along. (makes me wonder how many other equally stimulating duncan lectures are out there and if we night all be well served one day to have them transcribed and published. lisa j, you out there?) links to the full lectures are also included below.

[18:10] … because we’re so coming together that the fabric throughout is beginning to be consubstantial. And it’s poets who announce very early -- okay, we’re back at poetry of all things! -- poets announce very early that that fabric is consubstantial. And one of the great poets who make -- and his greatness, for our, in my inheritance, is this that he saw, and he is the person most disturbed by our coming to recognize that it’s consubstantial -- and that is Pound. He said all events in history are contemporaneous; but… had he added “all human spirit is identical, and our true identity is as a matter of fact human,” we begin to see that if you were to name yourself human, you were an enemy of life, and if you were to name yourself living, all life ravens upon the universe as if it could, and so you’d be an enemy of the universe. I mean there’s not a living form that isn’t working away day and night to demolish the earth it lives on -- chew chew, chomp chomp, scrabble scrabble, dig holes in it, the whole thing, uh -- in this fabric, where are you gonna put yourself?

And yet the great adventure was to even have an identity in the species. Pound, with this “all times are contemporaneous,” then identified the image in a different way than Plato had proposed before and than where the Greeks thought it. All men see things -- and I’m now talking about a seeing that in its seeing will flood throughout your life, but that’s anything that you see as matter of fact it turns out -- Plato talks about it as if, or he proposes that ideas… are… that there are ideas of ideas, and ideas are over there, in one of the interpretations of Plato. But the great trouble was, what do you see -- when you see inside your head what do you see?

By the time Pound, he described that same idea, all of the Imagists -- one thing they don’t tell in school when they give you Imagism, they behave when they give you Imagism as if you were writing a poem about a flower you saw? That’s not it at all! Because when Imagists reviewed Imagists they related it right straight off to Plotinus. And they also related it to the magic Neoplatonists at this stage, of Proclus and Iamblichus, where… In Plotinus, the Platonic image is suddenly really conceived of as emanating throughout the universe and illustrating in decreasing degrees itself, so it would be present throughout but at one place it really is. And by the time you come to Iamblichus and Proclus, their magic consists of rituals in which you bring into presentation and to be into the present. Now, we’re… let’s think about “present”: a present given you, but also the present, the moment right where we are… the idea would be present. And in the presence of the idea, or “the poet presents” -- this was the great term Pound had, one term he had, “we work for presentation not expression,” we don’t squeeze it out of ourselves, we evoke a presence, a presentation -- but it was of the idea, and he said that the image, of the imago, and he said the image was, happened in a nexus of time, and it was a complex, and he related it…

Now, he already had his anti-Semitism so he was a little haunted by where this word “complex” comes into the picture. So he lays it off on a psychologist by the name of Hart in England, and it’s a little disappointing to go over there and find out that can’t possibly be what was on his mind. Isn’t it beautiful? That you can be a determined anti-Semite, but your head will be flooded, since the whole world is flooded, with ideas that emanate from Einstein, from Freud… you don’t not hear the news! You yourself can be in a great rage and finally you want to… well. Pound in the Cantos calls two people “kikes.” Ordinary language calls people “kikes” when they’re angry ‘cause they got cheated in some bargain, and they’ll call anybody “kike” in that situation. No, Pound uses it where it really shows up the whole situation, he uses it on Marx and Freud! The two minds that are radiating throughout this fabric, have transformed and transvalued all of the fabric we’re going to see, if we’re gonna take two people that are most powerful forces… And then he calls them, and then he puts the word there!

Well then, when the word’s there I think it blows up, doesn’t it? That’s a crack [correct?] thing, poets have real instincts. What if he just loaded it off on somebody we didn’t like? And that’s where we usually use such words, somebody we’d throw away. Say, “that bad guy’s a so-and-so,” and that’s alright. (We can refer to Nixon with lots of terms because we feel he’s disposable.) But if we brought it up to something we revere where it ought to be used… If you’ve got a bad term in your mind, bring it up to the very top, and then put it there. But Pound still was not gonna attend the blowing up. So he blew up, hm? Okay.

But that still tells us something about the fabric. That’s my inheritance, I’m telling you where I’m coming from. If you’re really worried about why I don’t sound very coherent, if you’re really the child of a blow up it’s not going to sound very coherent. I’m dutiful, I understand you have duties when you undertake a discipline, don’t you? A poem… poetry is a duty, ok? But poetry’s happening across centuries and things are happening in it. I don’t get to jump way ahead to a good poem, I have to inhabit the poetry I inhabit. [23:44]
links to the full lecture, parts one and two

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