Ta’wil or How to Read (1973)

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A Five‑Way Interactive View of Robert Kelly

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DiaLogos 1973

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George Quasha and Charles Stein

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I:~~HOW TO READ

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Out of some 20 hours of recorded conversation with Robert Kelly [Annandale‑on‑Hudson, December 27‑28, 1973] we have cut our way down and through to what feels like a one‑issue dialogue. “Interview” barely conveys the peculiar quality of our interactions and circumambulations around the question of “how to read.” Maybe the fancier term “interactive view”—or else, as we do think of it, “dialogical criticism”—is truer to our intentions. We’re always anxious to find alternatives to the kind of criticism that whips out its carpenter’s rule to measure a flash of lightening. So, we set our­selves a task, and on this occasion we were especially interested in draw­ing Kelly out on the question of how to read his own work—a work that not a few readers have experienced difficulty in reading. This practical prob­lem suggests a larger issue with broad implications for poetics: the growing emphasis on “process,” particularly in longer poems, seems to leave many readers without a handle on the event. In a sense the handles have been removed, and the reader is left to find alternative methods of holding on. Or instead of holding on she must now “hang in”….

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The sort of “dialogical criticism” (DiaLogos) attempted here may only be possible where there is some genuinely shared ground among the participants. In that sense it’s anything but “evaluative.” The task of evaluation, whatever its future, must await certain kinds of understanding basic to new poetry in the present. We went to Kelly to talk about what we already knew he would be interested in discussing, and we went frankly out of the conviction that these issues are important. The focal issue we proposed was “ta’wil,” an Arabic term that Henry Corbin, the French philosopher/historian of Sufism, defines as “the exegesis that leads the soul back to its truth.” Charles Olson got on to this notion in the ’60′s by reading Corbin’s Avicenna and the Visionary Recital1, and he speaks of it in his Beloit Lecture, published as Poetry and Truth2. The availability of this notion to poetics seems to us one of the most significant developments of the past decade. In retrospect it seems the inevitable connection resulting from the double emphasis on the “visionary” and the “processual” that has been the heartland of much of our poetry from Blake and Whitman to Pound, Williams, Olson, Duncan, et. al.

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In the simplest sense ta’wil [discussed at length below] is a specific “how to read” that regards events in language as signifying or “signaling” events in consciousness. Admittedly this is tricky business. We have heard so much and said so much about the awakening and “expansion” of consciousness that the term itself begins to lose its edge, i.e., slip back into the linguistic unconscious of easy conceptualization. [Similarly it is now difficult outside of specialized contexts to use the term "Imagina­tion" with the cutting force of a Coleridge or Blake. The trouble now is that almost everyone seems to feel the need to be either for or against consciousness or imagination. Clichés create holes in the sayable.] Yet the fact is that the process of reading referred to by either an exegete like Corbin or a poet like Olson involves a good deal more than the usual literary hunt for meanings—or for that matter the several familiar varieties of “aesthetic pleasure.” It involves a kind of attention and a degree of participation that produce an alteration of the very ground of what we can know through language.

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This is not the place to argue the fine points of this “claim,” but having said this much we might as well risk a further distinction. Kelly is one of those poets—Olson, Duncan, Mac Low, and Cage are others—who have composed in such a way as to make their work in some sense intentionally “difficult” (at least with respect to conventions of interpretation). That is, the act of reading their work at all requires some sort of special orientation to the methods and assumptions employed. An initiatory struggle is required. Now there is an established view justifying the difficulty of a poem like The Wasteland; it says that a poem is authentically difficult when that difficulty is an “objective correlative” of the complex experience represented. The assumption is that the poem represents something outside itself [outside its language]; the poem is an artifact constructed in such a way that the experience represented may be recognized by any reader equipped to enter the discourse situation. Against this view is the notion of the poem as process—a primary activity of the mind or “creative imagination” that is ontologically and noetically unique, measured by itself, and ultimately referential to nothing outside its own embodiment. Any difficulty [any so‑called "obscurity"] arises from the activity of composition—that is, its own poetic process and the projective faculty affirmed by the poem’s existence.

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Now that poets and intellectuals are once more getting interested in the “spiritual,” the “mystical,” and the “visionary,” there are new energies afoot as well as new opportunities for muddle. So we will hear a lot about how much Duncan is “influenced” by Hermeticism, Cage by Zen Buddhism, Olson by Jung, Kelly by Alchemy, etc. And, while important perspectives will no doubt be established, the actual event might well get lost. And that event is the evolution of consciousness as a poetic fact—as deed, something done in, to, and by the language. The poem is not referential to any tradition; if anything, it is the other way around: any tradition that may be said to be “alive” is referential to the activity of knowing it. In the case of poetry, what we have are texts and events (the latter for what may not be on the page), and what we do with them is to read and hear. And in that activity itself lies the further knowing. The point of proposing a “foreign” notion like a ta’wil is to experimentally alter the “grid” of our perception. It is also to help recognize how much we need to re‑order the frame of our understanding in order to know the event at hand.

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During our talk with Kelly we tried to get him to speak about the new poetics emerging, say, in the year 1950. After all, that was the year of “Projective Verse,” Concrete Poetry, etc. But Kelly insisted that “the interesting date would not be the first time that something was written, but the first time that somebody is able, say, to read Basil Valentine or Paracelsus as a processual document, rather than as a guide to operations with crucibles, and that date is probably after 1950…. The issue that I’m at is when we were able to read… and I think that our history will have to concern itself less with when a thing gets written than when a thing gets read, because I think those are the moments of achievement in our consciousness.” We [GQ & CS] had been talking for a couple of years about the right strategy in writing a “How to Read” book appropriate to the ’70′s, but it had not occurred to us to plot the history of con­sciousness in terms of how to read specific texts. Kelly argued that “someone who had read and perceived ‘Projective Verse’ and some other essays, ‘The Gate and the Center’ for instance, would be in a position to read anew. It strikes me that Pound had called it The ABC of Reading and before that How to Read… [but] that critics have supposed him really to be saying ‘how to write’…. If there is any art or future in criticism, such that the work we’re immediately concerned with can ever get read, or the thing that makes your book America a Prophecy [GQ co-editor with Jerome Rothenberg; Random House: New York, 1973] possible, will be a new method of reading, not a new method of writing.”

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It may be that the criticism truest to our needs will be the sort that simply plots new developments in poetic thought and practice—keeps us alert. A quarter of a century later Olson’s “Projective Verse” can be read for what it was—a new mode of descriptive, not prescriptive, ac­tivity. It describes [without saying so] how he read late Shakespeare or The Pisan Cantos, what furrows that reading had cut in the mind, and what seeds were planted and had already begun to sprout. The fact that Olson [or Pound] seemed to be saying “This is what we must do” tells us something about the grammar of our critical thinking: we know no intermediate moods, no “middle voice” or “jussive subjunctive,” no subtleties of the “evolving possible” impelling itself into action. No way to gauge the precise urge. A recent piece of self‑descriptive criticism, Robert Creeley’s “The Creative” [Sparrow 6], opens new ranges of the “intermediate mood” by embodying the processual truth of “Olson’s sense, that art is the only twin that life has—it ‘means nothing,’ it doesn’t have a point.” “Twin” does not mean “representation” in the usual sense, but something like “co‑presentation.” Importantly Creeley also cites Corbin—the more recent Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi—particularly to invoke the Arabic term “himma” as the “heart” of his own sense of “the creative.” We reproduce it here for the light it sheds on the discussion that follows:

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This power of the heart is what is especially designated by the Arabic word himma, a word whose content is perhaps best suggested by the Greek word enthymesis, which signifies the act of meditating, conceiving, imagining, projecting, ardently desiring—in other words, of having (something) present in the thymos, which is vital force, soul, heart, intention, thought, desire…. The force of an inten­tion so powerful as to project and realize (‘essentiate’) a being external to the being who conceives the intention, corresponds per­fectly to the character of the mysterious power that Ibn ‘Arabi designates as himma…. Thanks to his representational faculty… every man creates in his Active Imagination things having existence only in this faculty. This is the general rule. But by his himma the gnostic creates something which exists outside the seat of this faculty…. In the first case, as it is exercised by most men, its function is representational; it produces images which are merely part of the conjoined Imagination…, insepar­able from the subject. But even here, pure representation does not, eo ipso, mean ‘illusion,’ these images really ‘exist,’ illusion occurs when we misunderstand their mode of being. In the case of the gnostic…, the Active Imagination serves the himma which, by its concentration, is capable of creating objects, of producing changes in the outside world…. When in contemplating an image, an icon, others recognize and perceive as a divine image the vision beheld by the artist who created the image, it is because of the spiritual creativity, the himma which the artist put into his work. Here we have a compelling term of comparison, by which to measure the decadence of our dreams and of our arts….”

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II: ~~TA’WIL: “The Exegesis that leads the soul back to its truth”

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[Participants: Helen Kelly, Robert Kelly, George Quasha, Susan Quasha, Charles Stein]

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HK: Well, I’d like to hear everybody’s working understanding of Ta’wil.

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GQ: I don’t think any of us has very original ideas about it, because basically we all get it from the same place, Corbin’s Avicenna and the Visionary Recital1.  The first definition stamped on the mind is “the exegesis that leads the soul back to its truth,” and the number of interpretations that you can have of that are presumably infinite. It depends on what you’re doing with it.  The classical instance for us is the Corbin book itself, or the second book, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of the Ibn Arabi,2 where he not only defines ta’wil but performs it himself. What’s always fun to watch is the way Corbin, writing as scholar, manages to get away with doing what the poet himself does, the ta’wil itself—an exe­getical process performed in learned footnotes, under the guise of clarifying a learned exegesis of an obscure Persian commentary on Avicenna’s Recitals. So the process is a discourse, usually on a specific sacred text, in which the inner meaning of that text un­folds itself within the very modality of the writing and thinking. Ta’wil is finding the secret of the text, getting to its root principle and meaning, by proceeding in such a way that the reader discovers it within his own mind. So poet and reader are united. In Corbin’s case the bridge is scholarly rather than sacramental, since he is giving us the picture of Avicenna and Ibn ‘Arabi, poets of the 11th and 13th centuries, who are unusual in literature in that they give us models for reading their texts. And Corbin is giving us a discursive model for reading the earlier models—i.e., he per­forms the critical task in the same spirit that the poet performs the poetic task, “making it new.” I’ve had several conversations with medievalists where I tried to learn why they ignore Corbin’s work or the Arabic and Persian exegetical texts; they simply know nothing of this. And it’s a shame because the “how to read” models in European medieval literature are extremely scarce, and we can learn so much from the Arabic refinements of reading.

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RK: You do get some touch of it here and there, as in the Gesta Romanorum, the morals appended to the story, which is a kind of reflexivity. And that’s quite early. And then later John of the Cross will do exactly that, how this poem is to be read.

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CS: But that seems already to bear the presence of the Arab thing.

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GQ: So ta’wil is also “how to read,” a way of getting at texts, and the value of the early models is to get us started. Literary criticism  is concerned to articulate the various genuine ways of reading a text, and it can speak of the Canterbury Tales as allegory and as a text influenced by Dante or whatever. But there is always a “something else” that is harder to get at. And ta’wil involves a “something else” that seems profoundly mysterious because a process of knowing that is far subtler than allegorical interpretations or studies of influence. And the key point is that it’s different every time it’s done.

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SQ: It has to be specific to the text.

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RK: And that’s how it’s different, say, from the Christian‑European medieval notion of the “four levels” of interpretation, the literal, allegorical, anagogical, and moral levels of reading a text; any text at all can be read in those four totally different ways, necessarily living only in the text. And that theory is so general and customary that Dante can assume it as a thing everybody knows. But ta’wil, as I understand from the Sufi books that we’ve been reading, implies a knowledge of when to go from one of those levels to another. We’re not now reading it on a literal and now on an anagogical level; but anagogy is what they’re really about in the first instance, how the soul appears in the world and retreats from it, which the Christians see always in the image of Jesus. The story of Jesus is the story of the individual soul reaching transcendence.

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HK: Does the ta’wil of a text differ from reader to reader or is there a way of saying that this is the ta’wil of a specific text?

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GQ: I think the answer to that has to be that there can be no single, authoritative way of reading, because there is no final authority. The   authority that one has in speaking derives from the activity of ta’wils on a given text, but there are different events in which that Imagination is called into action.

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CS: The Sufi idea is that there is a particular function of the Imagina­tion through which God “creates” Himself, in that the exercise of ta’wil is at once your act and God’s act. God creates an Image of Himself by having an Imaginative function in man think about, read about, imagine, see God. So that it’s not a question of there being variant ta’wils on a given text, but there are different events in which that Imagination is called into action.

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HK: So my question is in fact inapplicable to ta’wil.

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RK: Well, in fact the Arabs have trouble with that.

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GQ: Yes, that’s the conflict between mainstream Islamic orthodoxy and the Sufi “heresy” or challenge to any authority outside the individual mind.

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HK: So it’s between each reader and God and the text.

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RK: No, not so much between each reader and God, but between each reader and text. That the reader’s perception of God, which is the only real knowledge we have of God, rises from that Imaginative, that noetic act, which is different from the physical act of imagining the things pictured in the narration. So that Ibn ‘Arabi was in a lot of trouble for publishing poems that were taken as erotic poems, but when he published an interpretation of them [Tarjuman al‑Ashwak—The Dragoman of Desires], a ta’wil, an exegesis, the authorities were set at rest—i.e., couldn’t act against him because that text which produces exegesis is an authentic text. And if the text doesn’t produce exegesis, it’s soon forgotten.

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III: ~~RECITAL

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CS: We thought that most of the things we were concerned to hear you comment upon could be brought up in relation to Loom 44.

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RK: But that would be something more available to you as reader than to me writing it, because you know there’s this unspeakable way where I have to put that away from me, having written it. I don’t mean in any fancy way, but I mean just that I have to stop thinking about it, or not think about it.

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CS: But there are many things in that poem you think about, well, all the time: the whole question of “altars,” death, the place of the making—i.e. where the making is taking place, where the builder is building.

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RK: To work with one of those Loom sections, particularly that one, would interest me because it has that other aspect of ta’wil in it—Récit, or whatever the Arabs call that, you know, the Recitals. I can’t think of The Loom in a better way than that; because when I want to find a type of The Loom somewhere, I find myself thinking about Avicenna in that Corbin book, and the stuff that’s like it elsewhere in the world—the endless and/or beautiful stories that spill themselves out of uncertain meaning—I mean the clear absence of final moral focus in the Récit reminds me very much of the same thing in The Loom. It is not the building of a temple, but of an altar, and that altar’s very ambiguous, and the whole relationship between myself and the skull is very curious. I mean I take the Récit to be that kind of fable that cannot be paraphrased, and thus all the Récits of Alchemy, which are, I suppose, as close to it as the West generally has—like the Thabritius and Beya stories, the people who go under the sea to teach the undersea people how to conjugate, or The Chymical Wedding.4 These are stories that must be read and the reading of them is itself the “operation.”

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GQ: That seems to me the fundamental concept, which we return to in our notion of “process,” and that’s really what we mean by “process,” though it doesn’t sound like it.

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RK: The non‑paraphrasable.

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GQ: Yes. We get it explicitly stated for the first time in Western poetics in Blake. I think it’s present long before that, obviously, but I think we get it stated when Blake tells us that to go through Jerusalem, the poem, is to enter the New Jerusalem, the place [in the mind], and that the function of the poem is “to rouze the faculties to act”—that idea of the literal function of the poetic process, and the unmistakable nature of the presence of a process which cannot be paraphrased by anyone—the almost pathetic efforts of brilliant critics afterwards to do that very thing; to paraphrase it, to make a dictionary out of it, or an Aristotelian scheme out of it, or whatever.

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RK: I’ve talked before about why poems are hard and have to be hard and have to get harder; that if they’re not hard they’re no good, and about how “poem” replaces “religion,” I mean as its enemy—that it represents the development of the growth of our consciousness that we can transcend the religion that purports sacramentally on magically to perform an act for us, and instead forces to the point of performing it for ourselves, transmutatively. I mean the only value any church has ever been has been to preserve texts—the only good thing the Vatican ever did was to preserve the Gospels of Mark and John. It preserved two useful texts. What can one say about a religion that loses its text? I mean Mohammed, with his fantastic respect for just that—the “People of the Book”—the original Muslim pilgrimage wars of conversion were not supposed to touch Jews and Christians because they had a book. When you say ‘book” it sounds superstitious. If you say “text,” “le texte,” then suddenly it appears as if they really did understand what the… how could he not have? I mean from what of the Koran one looks at. Have you read much in that… strange, book?

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IV:~~THE POEM AS TA’WIL OF ITS OWN FIRST LINE

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CS:   In thinking about the poem as “ta’wil of its own first line” [RK] I am reminded of something I think you mention in Thor’s Thrush5 or something written around that time, to the effect that you would “take each object as it comes and say what comes to mind.” That seems an actual practice which you have applied in many different situations.

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RK: Yes.

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CS: So that by the time you come to mention matchbook covers in A Book of Building,6 you are already playing with that practice. The note sounds as though it’s not true; it sounds like some kind of Nabokovian play; as though one didn’t have to take it as actual information about the poems.

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RK: [With tone of slightly weary desperation] Oh my.

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CS: But it sounds funny: these poems that seem to be about all these different things are really about matchbook covers….

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RK: But it’s true! [Laughter]

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CS: But anyone who didn’t know your practice wouldn’t think the state­ment true. Knowing your practice makes it perfectly true.

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RK: There was a much longer note at one time—I don’t know how much of if got finally into the book—about how, from the earliest days, my concern was to enlarge and dignify or realize anything that came into my hand—the more trivial the better, for the occasion. Since that’s what I understood by the “Incarnation” and all the rest of it—but I don’t know how much of that got into the final version of the note.

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CS: Well, something of that got in.

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GQ: It called to my mind that a good title for a study of that aspect of your work would be “The High Art of Making Mountains out of Molehills.”

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RK: Yes, why thanky, yes yes [low laughter]. Well, I think that’s the name of our whole art. That’s that marvelous picture from Michael Maier, of people looking for the Stone.  They’re walking along a river and the Stone is everywhere, in the air, floating past them, all this great cubical, nicely finished Stone—the Stone is everywhere and therefore by definition trivial, as anything found at the intersection of the three dimensions would be trivial.

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CS: But take the example [in the Notes], “American matchbook covers propose instruction” or “There was a Taj Mahal too, but it came to nothing.” That doesn’t sound like it’s true, it sounds like a marvelous remark. It becomes more marvelous when you know that it is true but….

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RK: Yes, certainly, I’m very fond of Nabokov…[laughter].

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GQ: Life imitates art.

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RK: Yes. I’ll show you the matchbooks [laughter]. At one point I wanted to print them with the poems, but I decided against it finally. To let it find its own way in the world without reminding people of sources, because of my notion that one doesn’t really have to articulate sources that are part of or even close to the final product. And there are lots of other sources not mentioned in the notes, but the ones I felt most especially responsible toward—like the van Eyck stuff George put into my hands, or Gerrit [Lansing]‘s line that became the starting point of the In Mahler’s Sleep poem. I didn’t know where that line had come from then. Gerrit said, “Ah I see you’ve . . .” and I said “Oh.” Stealing. Unconscious thoughts. But you were going to say about that?

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CS: Actually this was to tie in with the question of when we learned how to read. At what point that became clear to you as a method, a practice to become engaged with. That seems to be a practice, and to understand that fact is to understand something about what it would involve to become engaged with a poem of yours.

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RK: Helen used to complain of me that if she gave me a gold Cadillac and someone passing by handed me an old leaf, that I would write about the leaf and not about the Cadillac. And I would explain I suppose in this cartoon that the one needed something and the other didn’t. That the business of poetry is to in some sense make more. That’s what mythos is about, mythology is making more. So there are two kinds of sources: one is the matchbook that comes into hand and has some loathsome picture, a distorted or trivial picture of a famous building, that somehow has to be rescued from its apparency—in almost a ‘Pataphysical, and thus Nabokovian, way. You have to rescue the thing from the trivial world in which it finds itself. How did a nice Taj Mahal like you get into a place like this….

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SQ: This may be too simple, but in your description of the sacred as extraordinary . . .

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RK: How to discover its extraordinariness again. But the other kind of source, and the one I would most normally be concerned with, is the first line, And when I say that the poem is ta’wil of the first line, I mean very specifically that a line comes, a statement comes, carrying its own measure with it, its own length, its own etc. And then I have to find what that means, by finding in it the energy to go to the next lines and in that the energy to go forward. Now in The Loom that specifically becomes, for the most obvious time in my work, the Recital. The Recital emerges. The narrative develops. And I think ta’wil without Recital is impossible in a way; even if the Recital does not take narrative forms, it could take strictly imagistic forms. In a way I could point more exemplarily to a Duncan poem, A Poem Beginning with a Line by Pindar8—which seems to me always his best poem, the classic poem… because he proceeds [laughter] as I proceed.

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GQ: That poem in particular, the variation of movements from section to section, the number of different voices and concerns that are allowed to come in—all out of a single line—seems preposterous to critics of poetry. The general feeling seems to be that Duncan blows it in the second section…

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RK: The Eisenhower stuff?

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GQ: Yes, and the “damerging a nuv. A nerb.”

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RK: The stroke.

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GQ: Right, strokes apparently aren’t the high matter of poetry like Goya’s Cupid and Psyche in the lyricism of the first section.

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CS: But can’t they see that on the simple level of its content and strictly on organicist principles it’s an illustration of what it’s talking about?

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GQ: Well, here we’re up against the critic’s presumption that he can tell what parts of reality are trivial and what not. The presumption that the poet is ever in danger of crossing the line into the unintelligible….

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RK: At any rate I find that poem so pleasing and satisfying because it is one of the places where that mode of procedure most conspicuously happens—and you can point people to it and say that’s where it’s also happening. But that commitment to the first line, and the Recital that can be generated…. The Loom, Section 44, that you refer to, seems to me interesting because the first few lines of that have no demonstrable relationship whatever, not even covert, to the Recital that follows from it. And yet it all lies there, in that beginning.

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GQ: It seems to me we have to regard the first line as simply “The leaf,” and that calls to mind the clearest example of the poem as ta’wil of its own first line, namely Paradise Lost: “Of Man’s First Disobedience, and the Fruit.” There we get “the Fruit” hanging out over the end of the first line suggesting the various kinds of fruit we can think of, perhaps as many as ten, of which four are important, and of which the last is the poem itself, the redemptive process. To dangle the fruit out there is to insure the fact of the poem’s happening. The opportunity of the poem as the life of the man and of the mind. And your “leaf” seems curiously like that fruit, though in this case the verb and syntax are different—“The leaf/ I lent you”—and you play on that. And, if may anticipate our ta’wil, it seems that the poem grows out of the leaf or fruit and winds back around to it in the end, the desert “crashed into flower.”

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RK: Well, it’s something that doesn’t ask anything of me, except to write it or drive it or use it or whatever. Because I do sense reality as task. I mean I understand the perceptual world as a task, having to do with a nonperceptual or noetic world, and that it’s our business or my specific business, and anybody else who wants to play that game [laughter], to apprehend and move from the perceptual into the intelligible, where only the thing has its truest meaning. And therefore I find myself so hostile to the Williams poetic, while not being hostile to his work which does precisely what anybody else does—rescues the Wheelbarrow from its wheelbarrowness.

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GQ: Well, that brings me back to the “aphasia” point in Duncan’s poem, the way the poetics develops in relation to an implied physiology of speech, rather than a preconceived notion of proper poetic matter. When Williams was writing the triadic poems, as Kenner points out I think in The Pound Era, he used the step-down device of indenting lines in threes in order to make it easy to follow the line-by-line progression. His physical disability before the typewriter created the specific task of getting somewhere, down the page, and awakened in him some very fundamental process—the real power of those late poems… based on a poetic utility rather than the simplistic “classical” poetic implied by Williams’ sense of threes. It was a task defined by something as basic as getting across the page and back to the margin.

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RK: A la Larry Eigner.

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GQ: Right, though Larry Eigner just gives up the margin and the space of the poem is free-floating, or contoured by the ratio between physical disability and energy of speech / mechanical execution.

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CS: His condition is different from Williams’.

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RK: Unbounded.

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GQ: Duncan speaks of Eigner as the first to relinquish the left margin, and particularly in Passages he gets that permission from Eigner.

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CS: Though in Duncan it always looks like the shore is just over the horizon.

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RK: I got my permission from Mallarmé, actually, how to move from the left margin.

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GQ: But it’s not totally free in Mallarmé, there’s a musical/notational progression, down and across the page and from page to page, that is more rhetorical.

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RK: It’s hard to say. I mean in Un coup de dès it’s not clear to me whether there are several margins or no margin. In my early long poem, called Spiritum [later published as The Exchanges in Origin, 1962] I first experimented with shifting or multiple margins (4 in that poem, 4 worlds of creation). Later, the ordinary left-hand margin avails as the base-line or “tenor,” to which all pitch transformations (signaled in my work by indentation and “dropped” lines) return as norm, at the start of a “new line.” The use of margin as notation or musical reference precludes the use of indentation for intellectual “organization of parts.”

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SQ: Olson said, “What make us write / slanted across the page / curve of mind.”

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RK: A luscious saying.

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V: ~~TA’WIL OF THE LOOM 44

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RK: Well, I keep sitting and kind of basking in the image of the poem as ta’wil of its first line. In a way I bask in the light of the first line. Because that is the Aleph—which is not a word, doesn’t mean anything, because if you hear it at all you hear it as [gestures a silence, indicating the Hebrew silent letter]. If you happen to be listening very closely you might hear it, i.e., it might be meaningful. But then it enraptures us somehow with its meaning, as it begins to spin. So the poem is… I think of the text as tex-tile, tec-tum [L.=shelter, roof; related to conceal], that this is the initial impulse from which the texture begins to weave, the clavicles begin to develop, the organism begins to assume its structure. In this Loom 44 where it seemed to happen was that phrase “The leaf / I lent you”—where “leaf” and “lent” were clearly sound-relations,

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~~~~The leaf
I lent you,
where is that now,
you who were so bold
as to put cities behind you?

~~~

Was someone speaking to me. “What have you done with this matchbook you’ve been given.” I mean was the force of it as I heard it…. “The leaf I / lent you”—and then the question asked itself more clearly, “you who were so bold / as to put cities behind you?”—that made “you” clearly into “me,” because I think of myself as having explicitly chosen not to live in cities….

~~~

Only a loan at best
the light reclaims our eyes.

~~~

 

GQ: “The leaf / I lent you” reclaims its sound relations in “Only a loan at best, / the light reclaims…” and it seems that it almost threatens to take off there but you don’t let it.

~~~

RK: No, and force it into “Re-possession.” The black man and his Cadillac, on “The credit / of our movement.” But “Re-possession” is itself immediately revalidated by “The credit”—money and lending.

~~~

 

CS: The music of the whole poem isn’t yet established and there’s a feeling of tuning up, plucking the instruments that are going to be playing.

~~~

RK: Which I love, I love that in work. But then I suddenly realized in a conscious way that what was being asked as the price of the leaf was my life, that the “death” is what this had to be about: “A death / for Robert, to elicit life.” And that made me think of what next happens, the image of those Renaissance or 17th century paintings of the literary types, painted with their hands on the skull of the desk, the ape, in a portrait of Rochester like that, portraits of other people.

~~~

 

GQ: A Hamlet situation.

~~~

RK: Though later than Hamlet. The book open before the skull and the monkey and the appurtenances of their life, and that death’s head looking out. And that picture becomes the only image I could form of what “Robert” and “death” might be about, as Donne prefigures his own death and has himself painted in shroud. And that etching occurs in Death’s Duel I think first; it certainly turns up in all the Donne volumes—you know that incredibly frightening picture with sunken cheeks and closed eyes with shroud. And you know the image of Donne…. But that projected the painting of me:  I was sitting here, which in turn… from the ape as accompaniment

~~~

~~~~~~~~Ape
over my head, blank stare
of a creature-world
that does not imagine death.

~~~

And it went no further than to look up and think about the “cholla”—you know what the cholla looked like, the dried cholla; the skeleton of the cactus is a beautiful column of arabesque tracery, very hard and firm—that Ted [Enslin] had left in our house after his visit. And it looks like a caduceus, it looks as though the snakes themselves are frozen into one, as if the track of all their curves or curls had been substantialized.

~~~

~~~~~~~Snake
with seven mouths. To hold
the water of our lights in,
to redeem our eyes.

~~~

Again the “Re-possession / credit” thing. Then the “Lace ruff collar” just seen from that picture. “South is my destruction.” And that line came with the same kind of autonomy as “The leaf / I lent you” came. And that proposed a focus then, the same voice as “The leaf / I lent you.” “South is my destruction,” but now the “my” was in “my” voice, but the poem had already allowed me to have that voice sound through me.

~~~

CS: It comes out of the where

~~~

RK: “Where is that now”—yes.

~~~

 

CS: “Where have I seen the like?”

~~~

RK: Well, that’s your whole Vivaxis9 thing, the South as destruction. That’s always been the direction of terror for me. I mean that simple observation. Hence I could recognize it as my own voice saying it, though it is a jump from what had come before. And if Chuck is right in saying that it comes from the “where” in the previous line—“Where have I seen the like”—I didn’t know that, certainly it wasn’t like answering that question.

~~~

 

CS: No, it seems to be one of those places where the syntactical space is operating on a non-semantic or non-discursive level, or extra-discursive level. It’s that concrete syntactical space.

~~~

GQ: You said that this South distinction came as the first line came….

~~~

RK: Yes but it came autonomously in the poem.

~~~

 

CS: Anyway you’re certainly moving all of this around “A death for Robert, to elicit life.” It’s like all springing, it’s like there are seeds within the seeds—each shoot is capable of being a new seed. The density of the thing is the way in which any point of it can become in a sense this first line.

~~~

 

RK: What’s interesting is the way in which the Recital comes—in terms of what you’re saying—a Recital chooses one seed to grow from, and all the other seeds do not. Now I could be left in a kind of typical lyrical impasse with all of the seeds and wanting to tend all of them and have them all grow and rush from flowerpot to flowerpot, as indeed I have done in lots of poems and in the way, say, Duncan always does, thus letting no seed go untended, until it all comes up in an odd, approximative kind of garden. But what happens constantly in The Loom—well, not constantly, but lots of times—is that the Recital begins, and the Recital which seems to be developing only one seed turns out by the time it’s finished (and I look back at it) to have developed all the seeds. And it’s all there. And I stand in awe of that narrative process. Because that’s really the first time that I came to know about the spontaneity of narrative. I mean of course certain kinds of narrative do tell themselves—fantasies or dreams or whatnot—but to have the power expressing itself right in the moment of one’s conscious, most alert activity, where I’m thinking about vowels and it’s thinking about what’s going to happen, seems to me so extraordinary. And if you were ever to look at earlier drafts of these poems, I think where you’d see revisions you’d see places where I had tried to pause to water a local seed, or tried to arrest the process because I had a sense of procedure that I could all of a sudden use—and then I would later have had the sense to cut all of that stuff out. But the Recital then comes to redeem all of its own beginnings—well, not redeem them but to clarify all of its own beginnings.

~~~

 

CS: Well, it’s not a garden, it is that furrow.

~~~

RK: Yes, sulca.\~~~

 

CS: And the fact that the furrow is there makes the garden tending unnecessary.

~~~

RK: Yes, and it does have that comfort to write in it.

~~~

 

CS: Well, I’ve read now the Loom poems that have been in Caterpillar, plus the Lady Isabella and the Mind’s Geography (section 4) that will be in the Active Anthology10 and the feeling of them all is that they proceed—though you read them vertically—there is a horizontal movement too, which is the cross-feeding process that seems to be happening. The poems seem to lie next to each other, and could be read across…

~~~

 

RK: Certainly that’s the way I’d love to publish it one day, in 47 columns, like the Assyrian Ashurbanipal tablets, where the words are going over the pictures, and certainly I’ve loved columns forever. And I suppose the longest of them is short enough that it could be a column on a wall somewhere. So you don’t fancy that just for yourself, I feel that always running sideways. The ones that have been printed in Caterpillar and the Lady Isabella and then many others that aren’t printed are largely narrative ones. And there are sections that aren’t narrative at all, where the Recital never begins and where it seems to me much duller, always, and I wouldn’t tend to send it out. And yet those are the places which are the notes of the textual developments….

~~~

 

CS: Uncompleted strands in the fabric where your reference lies….

~~~

RK: Well, but there they get rewoven in another way. And those sections are in a way more interesting still, because they’re as flat in linguistic procedure as most of the narrative sections seem to be—actually as you know they’re not really all that flat, but they play at being flat—but if once you step down to the level of observing them phonemically or even rhythmically, they do, I think, acquire a character—but a character you could easily miss, and perhaps are supposed to miss, as you read along.

~~~

 

CS: I thought at various points of Enslin, not so much in Forms as in Synthesis.

~~~

RK: Yes, I talk in several places of how this very much came out of Synthesis, out of seeing how boring he was able to be in that poem, and how boredom seemed a conquest—the next thing I had to fight about, to allow myself to be utterly boring, even to me, for the sake of what could come out of that boredom.

~~~

 

CS: That’s another interesting historical question; that seems very much to be what’s happening in the arts, the discovery in the last few years—very much a live question.

~~~

RK: But you see I want to create a boredom, not simply tolerate it by virtue of repetition or some other boring process. I want a process that isn’t boring, that is process, but that is allowed to be boring as it goes along, in the same way that wood is or a tree in November is, as compared to the same tree in January.

~~~

 

CS: I’m not saying really that there’s a single event….

~~~

RK: No, no, there is a single event, but it’s the event and its spectre again, and the spectre is far more conspicuous than the event, like what may be between the columns of a John Giorno poem, where I sometimes feel great excitement, something very, very authentic normally just sifts away and drains out of the holes in his method as much as anything else. I mean he has a method, and like any other method there might be some extraordinary stuff there. But the programmatics of boredom don’t interest me. I guess Wagner is the first to dare boredom, to dare the implications of it without making it programmatic?

~~~

 

CS: I was thinking about it in terms of those Greek festivals where you’d sit for days and watch play after play.

~~~

RK: How many of those did you watch, do you remember?

~~~

 

CS: No, I don’t, but the image of it has always been that you sit in a contest of forty playwrights or something and it all takes place before sundown on Friday.

~~~

RK: They may have clipped along in Noh play fashion with a lot of very fast chanting.

~~~

 

GQ: Well that’s the other side of it that entered into Yeats’ thinking and Pound’s thinking—that sense of time that must have helped a lot with The Cantos, to have that image of an unfolding reality. And Pound returns in the late Cantos again to the image of the Noh plays and their characters, taken now over Odysseus with which The Cantos began; but as they begin to open out Pound thinks back to the Noh plays as containing the deeper sense of time—particularly in The Pisan Cantos and Thrones.

~~~

 

CS: And that in fact you need all those “dull” middle Cantos . . .

~~~

RK: You do.

~~~

 

CS: In order to make the poignancy of the recurrence….

~~~

GQ: People who object to those tend to be the people who don’t take The Cantos as a whole.

~~~

CS: Reading on down now through the “furrow” to the work/ starts in the conviction of death”:

~~~

The shape of my death
like a furrow like a Helen like a
firebreak a warp in the mountains…

~~~

where it’s like you’re pushing over that recapitulation, going over all the things, reseeding, to get by very fast, and permit, instead of getting rid of, permit it to move on, so that the actual feeling of your working with it is sitting there….

~~~

RK: Yes, well that’s I suppose literally like a stretto in a fugue where everything enters, but very quickly, and in a fragmented way… [reads]:

~~~

~~~~~~~~L’aura
settling down to a long story
she reads in me.

~~~

I had no idea then what that story would be, except I did have a sense that it was about a skull. I knew that a skull would figure in it.

~~~

 

GQ: Though you already had the skull earlier…

~~~

RK: Yes, but that skull which appears in the varnished painting later becomes the thing that talks to me on the altar, becomes a real skull.

~~~

 

GQ: And in “L’aura” you’re thinking of?

~~~

RK: The air, l’aura, and Laura as girl’s name, and Petrarch’s of course, but mostly Arnaut Daniel’s. And that air which bears influence, since by Renaissance theory the influence of the stars were carried to us by the air, by l’aura, and hence “malaria,” the bad air, could cause us contagion and disease.

~~~

That landscape where we were living in Altadena California, the San Gabriels, was so extraordinary, to have those huge mountains right over head, and recognize them as so unstable, they’re utterly like gravel pits ready to crumble down at any moment.

~~~

Sweat it out. Which
direction has the music in?

~~~

It was my question now to the feminine being who was interrogating me, or whose interrogation started this.

~~~

North was always
where I wanted.

~~~

As simple as that, and again something I knew of myself.

~~~

Set out the oracle
eye turned to the blind inside
hoping.

~~~

And then “hoping” becomes “hopping” [laughs]

~~~

The hopping
frog-like people come
waving their reminders—
a pain in the ass…

~~~

 

 

GQ: Where do they come from?

~~~

RK: “Hoping.”

~~~

 

GQ: You mean right out of the activity of hoping.

~~~

RK: Hoping is just that [makes frog-like sounds, imitating frog-hops], eager leaps.

~~~

a pain in the ass
but their fingers are lucky.

~~~

Their fingers up the ass, or their fingers to the ground, that allow them to spring.

~~~

count them, they flicker
& communicate
what they learned
under the mountain.

~~~

 

GQ: Under the mountain—is that like “She it is Queen Under the Hill” in Duncan’s poem?

~~~

CS: “I was speaking, he said of American poetry, / or was it the other way round, / the way under the hill?”

~~~

GQ: Gerrit Lansing.

~~~

RK: “Under the hill” is the 19th century, or is it earlier, euphemism for going to the land of the fairies… to go under the hill. But that’s what I had in mind here. It isn’t a hill anymore, it’s a mountain—so much greater the elf that will lie under it.

~~~

GQ: At one point you said that the sequence of poems to come after The Loom was to be called The Mountain.

~~~

RK: So I thought.

~~~

 

GQ: What has become of those poems?

~~~

RK: The ones that had been achieved entered The Loom. You know, I have the lowest of all respect for one’s plans—literary plans or intentions. And the very fact that I knew that there was going to be another section meant that there wasn’t going to be another, wasn’t going to be another sequence. That was too programmed and I couldn’t live with my own intention, because knowing that had baffled it. The Loom had to go on to its proper end, i.e., where it stopped.

~~~

If I were to be in a position of someone saying to a critic, “Look at this,” I suppose what I’d call attention to is the way that each thing solicits the thing that follows it and summons it into existence—not necessarily directly—so that the “broad plain” is what is under the mountain in a literal meaning of the phrase—an obvious way of looking at it, there’s the mountain, there’s the plain.

~~~

A broad plain
not easy to see, drifts
of mist on it,…

~~~

again true enough to the circumstance of writing.

~~~

but the movements
aren’t all in the air,
something on the ground
has its own directions,
connections, does
not approach me.
Wrap the stole around me,
pick up the cup.

~~~

And somehow that came, I suppose, from the sense of picture, the sense of priest putting the stole on, with which the Catholic or Protestant minister begins his sacred task.

~~~

 

CS: There’s also something in the whole poem as it develops, which is very grounded—an image that has been with me since the first time that I read it, is that image of your feet walking the ground, knowing where to step….

~~~

RK: That comes out here, doesn’t it—knowing the way, letting the contact with ground….

~~~

Three times
I walked around it.
the place I knew it was,
until my feet
got the feel of the
shape of it.

~~~

 

CS: The connection of that with death—that the work starts “in the conviction of death” seems to me to have to do with that feel of the ground. That the conviction is what gives one feel of the ground. I don’t mean that in simply the sense of “grave,” but that literally that apprehension is what gives the edge to awareness, that makes it possible to hold to the ground, that makes it possible not to be in the air in the next moment.

~~~

RK: P. Adams [Sitney] tells me that “human” comes from “humanus” comes from “Humus” comes from the “ground,” the people “who walk on the ground.” And the Greeks of course call people “the ones who die,” the brotoi, which is the same as “mortos.”

~~~

 

GQ: Which is Adamah.

~~~

RK: Ground, Earth, yes. But I don’t believe that—I think the Latins were smarter than the Jews on that, I don’t think men came from the ground, they came to the ground, and that ugly second chapter of Genesis….

~~~

 

GQ: Or maybe that the ground came from them

~~~

RK: That would be all right, but that ugly second chapter where man is made from the ground, that’s what’s set us wrong ever since. Set right after the true story…

~~~

 

GQ: Doesn’t [Carlo] Suarès quarrel with that meaning anyway in The Cipher of Genesis?11

~~~

 

RK: Here he takes “Adam” as Aleph plus “blood” or what happens to you if you fuck around with women, I think is really what he’s after, that the spiritual Aleph is corrupted by the menstrual blood and flows into animal, becomes Ruach. Aleph lodges itself in the Ruach rather than the Neshamah. He doesn’t say that explicitly but I suppose…. That book is itself one that has to be read cabalistically, don’t you think. I mean he talks very blithely as if he were saying the whole story, but then you have to drop blithely a level down. Doesn’t he seem to talk about the Aleph lodged in the wrong one of its human faculties?

~~~

 

GQ: You like that book?

~~~

RK: Yes, very much. It’s a different take, a different kind of discourse about Kabbalah, than one is familiar with from the dreary pieties from the Jews and Christians who have unusually written about it; I suppose mostly Christians have written about it, and Hermeticists. Could you tell me why you thought Loom 44 would be an interesting one to talk about ta’wil in respect to?

~~~

 

GQ: Well, there was the sense of altars. And there was the fact that you seem in the poem to be literally circumambulating the Ka’abah—and that’s what I’d hope we get to when we come to the “three times” refrain (if we proceed in this line-by-line fashion). The other thing is that the poem seems to me a visualization, and I’d hoped to draw out of you some statement about your take on “Deep Image,” which we presented in America a Prophecy in your emphasis on the connection with “Projective Verse.” That hook-up you make there seems to flower in the idea of Image as process, Image as spiritual exercise or visualization in, say, the Tantric sense. And Section 44, like many of the others, seems to have that quality of image-making.

~~~

SQ: Also the question of ta’wil as the poem’s exegesis of its own first line, “The leaf.”

~~~

CS: For me it was the depth you reach—that image of the building of the altar that takes place when the narrative goes under, is so prepared and so profoundly created, it strikes me very deeply. Because it is that act of the maker, not now stated in some reverential fashion of the maker, but dramatically presented, and presented in a way which creates a multiple context for what that event actually is, and leaves it in the problematical nature that is essential to the depth that is being recalled.

~~~

RK: Here I must in honesty admit a speaker of a dream, or not quite a dream but a hypnagogic condition, which for many years I lived in, not every night but many nights, from I guess the time of my early 20’s or something like that. And that was I was building a wall of a cathedral, in just the way it’s described there, picking up blocks—lifting them and raising them to build an apsidial arch, or rather, the wall of the apse. And never in those dreams did it rise higher than my waist or chest—I don’t know whether I never could get it higher, but it never did grow higher. Because it’s a large task to drag these—lift, not drag—these great blocks of rock, which were dressed by someone unknown, or not by me, and were just found already dressed—bring them and place them. So for years that hypnogogic image remained there as a rather sacred thing. I may have told a few people about it but I certainly haven’t talked much about it. So that was lying in wait all this while. And as I got to the place in this poem where the building of the temple is proclaimed, in capital letters, almost as the title of what follows, I realized that I would finally have to disclose that in a direct way, live through that, enact that in the poem—and I did so. But that allowed me to find the altar. Because all those years I had built the wall, surrounding the place where the altar had to be, and then finally here was somehow able to assemble the altar as well. So it seemed like a realization of the meaning of that act, which, as a dream or hypnogogic condition bore always on the laborious nature of my life—you know, constantly writing, constantly making things and composing at a time when young men were not supposed to be doing that but whatever it was I was supposed to be doing. But the simple laboriousness with which I perceived my life, as this endless block-building, seemed now to be the same as my death, a death from which a life could be elicited, if finally that altar could be built, in the place so long prepared for the altar. And so it happened here. And that dream has not been with me since.

~~~

 

GQ: Since the writing of the poem…

~~~

RK: Since writing this.

~~~

 

CS: The poem has the feel of being that crucial an event…

~~~

RK: It’s interesting that it would have that for other people, it certainly did for me.

~~~

 

CS: That’s what it does, it seems to be—If I had to guess, I would have guessed it exactly as you say. I’ve never heard you talk about that dream, but the meaning of the dream in terms of your self-apprehension is clear. And that this represented a stage or an absolute rite of passage—and that it was the rite of passage, you could feel that.

~~~

RK: And the night before this was written another dream came, which is also in here. That is, I dreamt that I was lying in the rain, and the rain came and came and came and changed my face, as I slept; as the rain poured down on me my face changed. And that was as much as the dream gave me, and that turned into the—I think the same thing occurs here, the face is transformed by rain, something is washed away.

~~~

There’s another section of The Loom, not published, where I or somebody in my voice falls into a pit, in the rain, where he lies for seven days before he’s able to learn that he can tunnel through the mud as well as try to climb it; by becoming closer to it he can get out of it, in some way and in some odd country. And the theme of altars is established early on in the poem, long before any of this was happening, where there’s a lot of chit-chat about Protestants and altars and the importance of altars and that what we really need is a table to sit around. The altar is a sadly abstracted image of what men really need, humans really need, namely a table to sit down and talk to one another around. And that goes off into Olson and me playing with his table in the kitchen, a few reminiscences, and doesn’t really come back to tables. Except that table becomes text, the thing between us, which allows us to relate and deal. I think a lot of it gets into this section. But what specifically pleased me when you chose to talk about this was that it is Recital. And like any real Recital is not paraphraseable. Its source can obviously be pointed out, even as Corbin can say the image of the pearl comes from this gnostic fable, the image of traveler comes from that gnostic fable. The actual terms of the Recital are non-paraphraseable, but still exegetible, somehow.

~~~

But this gets painfully close to the problem where process becomes procedure. Or where, in talking about one’s process, one could seem to be talking about a procedure, that would be transferable as a method, to somebody else.

~~~

 

GQ: And here we’re back to the thing we were talking about before, of a performance that cannot be repeated. One time forms, one time events. Do you want to go on with this same sort of process?

~~~

 

RK: Well, I’ve said the unknowable things, the things as to its source that could not be known—they could be intuited as Chuck does intuit them—but I think anybody is as able as I to see the connections, perhaps better able than I.

~~~

CS: There’s one other theme that moves through it, and that is the question of  “the lights”:

~~~

But now I hastened
over this unlikely plain
lit by the glow
that forced itself
out of my heart,
a consort of pains
lighting up
wheels of my body,
rotae, the turns
that gave off light
inside me—
that was the strangeness
in running,
that I was source
of the only light
& source of the running too.
I could do as well
to stand still. I did
& the lights went out.
Wherever the valley
was coming from it
wasn’t from me.

~~~

Through the source of the “lights” seems to be yourself, you propose, why should I do anything, but that then the lights go out and you have to get back into doing it in order that the source that’s behind it will in fact in-form it. This seems to be a resolution or statement of both sides of a concern which at various points you are at pains to express either side of: either to express the interest of the silence, the emptiness, the receptiveness, or the abhorrence of the emptiness. And in this case you seem to get it straight.

~~~

 

RK: Yes. Very much so. Getting it straight. It seemed like one of the purest fairy-tale parts of that Recital—just the observation that when you stop doing it the light goes out. Whatever that is. To locate, not the source, there, but the condition in one’s own activity.

~~~

 

CS:

John of the Oak was here:
these words, as letters,


hang in the air
over the mercurial eye


that maybe saw & always
answered as if it did.


The words pretend
to be painted on the wall.


John. Everything pretends
to be just the place where we find it.


We find it sighing, we kiss it
singing, we call it Real


& measure with our newfangled minds
the distance from that glistering Real


to those heavenly twins our eyes,
& call that
the world. That is,


the place where John was
when he wrote or said,
John was here.

~~~

*

~~~
Now John is somewhere different…

 

[from "Arnolfini's Wedding" (1972)]13

 

In a sense, Loom 44 is a demonstration of that place, of that difference. What happens when the whole thing turns inside out at the end of the poem? It opens on that space in which the altar is being built.

~~~

 

RK: Certainly. And that would be the first thing you’d see in it, or that I’d see in it. It is one continuous landscape and not, I think, discontinuous from this, I mean, anymore than the inside of a hat is discontinuous from the outside of a hat.I think the room does turn inside out. I’ve seen rooms do that, you’ve been in rooms that turn inside out—

~~~

GQ: Of course—we have that convex mirror in our house—it seems a literal property of the convex mirror, which we’re dealing with after all in the Arnolfini Wedding situation, how a room seen in a convex mirror “invaginates voluptuously” was I think the phrase that came to mind in
“Somapoetics 11: The Metazodiac.”14

~~~

CS: Gerrit’s living room on Washington Street had a trick of doing that all the time—

~~~

 

RK: Washington Street—the house with the white curtains?

~~~

CS: It was on a hill so that at any moment if you would become aware of what was outside of those curtains you would feel yourself continuous with it.

~~~

SQ: There was a recurring dream of mine as a child, my mother walking in the bedroom door, the distance growing growing and the whole place—inside becoming outside—I can still find the place in my head that has that image.

~~~

 

RK: It’s hard to feel that now though. I’ve tried to feel that in bed at night, the first time when I was a child when I suddenly knew that I was in an immense place and at the far far end of it there were dinosaurs—in no way threatening, I liked dinosaurs quite a lot—but they weren’t there either as zoo or as threats but there, where they lived. And my sense of the sudden vastness was frightening—the size was frightening—that what I thought was a room was in fact all there was and that all there was was an immensity incomparably greater than the feeble sky a few thousand feet above us whatever those layers of color are that we see as a color. But I think the continuousness of all the spaces is important for me and that all those works open into the same place, not into different places, so that perhaps ultimately all my poems have to be turned inside out to find that single region that they refer to.

~~~

~

~

 

NOTES

~~~

[First published in Vort: Robert Kelly (Vol. 2, No. 2: 1974, Silver Spring, Maryland), editor, Barry Alpert]

~~~

~

1. Engl. transl. Willard Trask, Bollingen Series LXVI, Pantheon Books, New York, 1960. French edition publ. 1954.

2. Ed. G. Butterick, Four Seasons Foundation, San Francisco, 1971, p. 63.

3. Engl. transl. Ralph Manheim, Bollingen Series XCI, Princeton Univ. Press, 1969. French edition publ. 1958.

4. “Thabritius and Beya” = “Sulphur” (Thabritius, Gabricus, Kybric, etc. from Arabic kibrit) and “The White One” (Beya, Beja, Beua, etc. from Arabic al-baida) = Alchemical “synthesis of opposites…often represented as a brother‑and‑sister incest, which version undoubtedly goes back to the ‘Visio Arislei’…where the cohabitation of Thabritius and Beya, the children of the Rex marinus, is described.” See Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, Bollingen Series XX, Princeton University Press, Second Edition, 1968m pp. l53n. and 327 (pars. 434ff.) The Chymical Wedding, also called The Hermetic Romance of Christian Rosenkreutz, by Johann Valentin Andreae, was published in German in 1616 and in English in 1690 (transl, Exechiel Foxcroft). Perhaps the most important Alchemical work of the 17th Century, and a cornerstone of the Rosicrucian movement, its sheer literary power and certain historical importance have been strangely ignored until recently. Full text, with extensive commentary by Rudolf Steiner, in A Christian Rosenkreutz Anthology (1968), ed. Paul M. Allen, Rudolf Steiner Publications, 151 North Moison Road, Blauvelt, New York, 10913. See also Frances A. Yates’ important study, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London and Boston, 1972.

5. Written in 1962 and reprinted in Twenty Poems, Matter Books, Annandale-on-Hudson, 1967.

6. In The Mill of Particulars, Black Sparrow Press, Los Angeles, 1973. A Book of Buildings is a complex cluster of short pieces—some 16 in number, 25 pages in length—to which the following Note refers: “American matchbook covers propose instruction. Helen found some she thought would provoke me, and so they did: blue-greyish badly drawn vistas of famous buildings, with a little letterpress on the back, telling about them. Big Ben. Arc de Triomphe. Eiffel Tower. Leaning Tower. Sphinx. There was a Taj Mahal too, but it came to nothing. I thought as I wrote these things: all my life I’ve felt such trivial things, such degraded images, as obligations. Hence the theme of all my life crept in, ineluctably caught up with Bruce Baillie’s movie to Ella’s song. To amend these things. Amende your selues, writes Myles Coverdale, to translate Jesus’ call to metanoia.” (p. 163)

7. See facsimile edition of Michael Maier’s Atalanta Fugiens in Gardening: Maitreya Three.Shambala, Berkeley, 1972: “Emblema XXXVI,” p. 88.

8. In The Opening of the Field, Grove Press New York, 1960, p. 62; reprinted New Directions.

9. “Vivaxis” is the name given “the geographical point where a permanent magnetic alignment was introduced into the atomic structure of our bones…at the approximate time of our birth…characteristic of the earth’s magnetism of that particular geographical point”: Frances Nixon, Born to be Magnetic, Vol. I, Magnetic Publishers, British Columbia, 1971, p. 13.

10. An Active Anthology, ed. G. Quasha, 1974, Sumac Press, Box 39, Fremont, Mich., 49412.

11. Carlo Suares, The Cipher of Genesis: The Original Code of the Qabala as Applied to the Scriptures, Shambala, 1970; Bantam, 1973.

12. Roger Shattuck, The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant‑Garde in France, 1885 to World War I, Vintage Books, (1955) 1968.

13. Printed in The Mill of Particulars, p. 119; also Red Crow II, ed. Thorpe Feidt, Gloucester, 1973.

14. George Quasha, Somapoetics (Book One), Sumac Press: Fremont, Mich., 1973, 103.

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