Sunday, July 24, 2016

William Burroughs - 1976 - 8 (Q & A)

   [William S Burroughs signing copies of The Western Lands at the Bunker, New York City, December 1987. Photo: Allen Ginsberg]

William Burroughs 1976 Q & A continuing from yesterday

Student: I read an interview with you once in Rat magazine, where  you said that nothing happens unless it’s written, and I was wondering if you meant that seriously, and how that fits in to this whole notion of a pre-recorded universe?

WSB: Yes, I meant it seriously, to some extent. When the Arabs say mektoub, (it is written), they mean just that, that, according to their concept of fate, it’s all written somewhere.

Student: When we’re writing things, we’re making things happen? 

WSB: Indeed we are. Yes. Didn’t (Karl) Marx make quite a lot happen? - Yes?

Student: And conversely that nothing happens unless somebody wrote it somewhere?

WSB: I would say nothing happens unless somebody, or some force, intended it to happen,  that will is what makes things happen. that of course is the magical conception of the universe – that nothing happens unless someone, some entity, some force, wills it to happen.  And you don’t… You’re made of much the same material as this table, but you move, right? – well, something moved you – I mean this table doesn’t move of itself and neither do you. And what moves you is your will , or a will, whatever it is (an) entity. 
Let’s see. Over there..

Student: One of the most interesting areas of exploration seems to be the connecion between your dream experience and your waking experience and it also seems that the way that we’ve been conditioned not to make this connection is by a whole lack of focus in our dream experience or our memories of dreams. I was wondering if you had any suggestions of how we can have a more focused connection between our dream awareness and our waking awareness and how we can use our dream states within our waking state?

WSB: Well, yes. I always write down my dreams. I keep a pad and pencil on a table, by the bed, on a table by the bed, and that’s the best way I think, because if you don’t write them down you’ll often forget them. Now there seems to be some kind of a difference between the..brain..the memory traces of dreams and say the memory traces of waking events, because I have woken up – I wake up and I’m too lazy to get up and write it down (it’s cold, maybe) .So, I’ll go over it five times in my head and I couldn’t possibly forget it and I wake up in the morning and it’s gone! – Now that would never happen with a waking event. Now whether it’s completely gone or whether it’s still there on some level, I don’t know, but the brain..the memory traces are not the same. But now the best way, I think, to use your dream experience is to write it down.

as someone named John Dunne (not the poet - he was a British mathematician and physicist),  and he noticed that some of his dreams seemed to refer to future events, and so he started writing them down, and he recommended that if you wanted to check this you have to write them down. I’ve got quite a few future events in dreams. But I wouldn’t have got them, you know, if I hadn’t have had the record there so I could compare it (although some dreams you remember without writing them down, some you can’t forget, so it really is quite mysterious. Yeah? Allen?

Allen Ginsberg: I’m interested in pursuing the difference between your method of introspection and Buddhist introspection. The Buddhist formula would be to observe the thoughts, or.. that is, observe the breath, and, in the course of observing the breath, thoughts would rise, and you’d automatically observe the thoughts as well, or see them clearly. Their point would be not to become attached to them. in the sense that.. not to enter into them to the point of getting perspective lost, that these are voices. In some respects, your own practice is similar, because what you’re doing is isolating the voices, exploring them to some extent, but without entering into them in the sense of taking them as a final universe, but actually, you’re approaching them suspiciously, as possibly pre-recorded attempts at a con-job on your mind, which is, basically, also the Buddhist point-of-view which is that all voices, and all interior dialogue, is a con-job, or a conditioned.. automatic conditioned repetition of a tape which is, in a sense, a con-job on the present, on present consciousness so that your image of a clear consciousness would be blue space without any content, and that’s very similar to the Buddhist image of dharmakaya, actually. So I’m wondering exactly where is the divergency here? Is that an aesthetic divergency, in that you’re interested in describing the structure of the con-job?

WSB: No, I was simply interested in getting material for writing for a novel.

AG: Right.Well that’s…Yeah..

WSB: So I’ve talked to Buddhists about out-of-body experience and things like that, and they said “Well, you shouldn’t pay any attention to that” Well, I said, “It’s my business to pay attention to it. That’s where I get my material”. Now, no doubt if you.. if your mind is a complete blank, if its empty of everything, then you would have nothing 
to write about  

AG: Well, yeah. So the Buddhists would say there would be people who have nothing to write about (except they would also say nobody’s mind is empty, that samsaric thought is continuous, or samsaric thought might be the equivalent of what we were talking (about), what you were terming a large-scale electromagnetic dome.

WSB: Yes well.  That would.. What I was talking about was that there might be, and probably are, attempts to control, in this way, through broadcasts, but that they have never been completely successful.. Yeah… well..

Student: When you achieve the state of blank mind I was wondering if there was effort involved in this, and if so it would seem that that would tend to undermine the state of ego-less-ness because something would have to be putting out this effort

WSB: No. It’s an inverse effort. The most difficult thing you can do is to do nothing (although it should be the easiest – so the easiest thing to do is the most difficult – just to do nothing) 

Student:  Do you attempt to quieten your mind or does it just suddenly happen?

WSB: No, you just don’t do anything.. That’s hard.

Student:  So you have to wait a while for your mind to quiet then?

WSB: Well, you nay have to, and you may not. It may not quiet. But it isn’t.. it isn’t an effort. If , as soon as it’s something you’re consciously doing, then you’re not doing it. I mean, if you’re trying to impose blankness on your mind then you can’t do it.

Student: Well I’ve had that experience before, I mean, just tuning into the environment in a really intense way...

WSB: Yeah, sure.

Student: …and actually blanking  out my mind and identifying with the environment and then finally coming to understand that I should give that whole idea of meditation up.

WSB: Well, sure.

Student: Do you have any information about the distinction between dreams that you have no recollection of and those which you have recollection of ?

WSB Well, if you have no recollection of them, you know, well, I don’t know how you can…how you can compare them, but I have pointed out that if you don’t.. if you don’t write a dream down, you will often forget it . But others, other dreams, you remember whether you write them down or not. Now, I don’t know why.Now, they may be.. the dream that you remember may be purely banal . It doesn’t have to be, you know an intense dream. So it’s just really something that I don’t know. I don’t think anybody does.
Student: You know, I simply meant that,you know, dreaming occurs all the time and there are only some dreams you remember...

WSB: Yes

Student: ...or faintly remember.

WSB: Yeah. Well, I don’t know why that is, because there doesn’t seem to be any common denominator. You could say that you remember intense dreams, or that the dreams that you forget areof a certain category, but I’ve never found that to be true.  Yes?

[Student/technician reminds the audience to come up front for reasons of audibility - "If anybody wants to ask a question, it’s probably easier to come over here…." ]

WSB: I think Miss Luster [sic] has a question there.

Helen Luster: You know, about this crystal machine? - and about this guy on Alpha Centauri (or) wherever it is [Editorial note - Luster is referring to an earlier question} – I’m really convinced it’s real – and it, necessarily, might be just recording everything we’re doing, not necessarily manipulating us, but just recording. That’s one thought. Another - I heard a doctor from a mental hospital in Napa, California, give a talk one time about psychosis, and he said that schizophrenics, paranoid schizophrenics, almost invariably get this idea (that) their minds are being controlled, and he said, “Why would they have the same fantasy all over the world, in different cultures, if it really weren’t true?’ – I mean people don’t usually all have the same fantasy. Another thing I want to say is about this crystal thing again. There’s a place in Palo Alto called “Crystal Alley” and they’re experimenting more and more in crystallography, and apparently they can record tremendous amounts of information on a very small, microscopic piece of crystal. So, if there were a big one somewhere, who knows what it might do?

WSB: Well there is.. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen or read about the crystal skulls. There are two of them in existence, one in.. well, not in existence but that have been found – there’s one os in the British (History) Museum, and it has been suggested that these are very potent magical objects, that all sorts of things are stored in these crystal skulls. 

                                                        [The Crystal Skull in the British Museum]

As to the similarity of paranoid so-called hallucinations all over the world, yes, I certainly had observed that, I’ve seen Arabs go mad and exactly the same thing - ”The American Embassy has wires in my head!” – That was a man who ran amok and killed six people a couple of days later, and the American Embassy pulled their guard in and just stayed out of it – they could’ve stopped him, they didn’t. But, as I say, he may actually have been hearing something . I don’t know if you all heard about the microwaves scandal that the… I heard about it from some people who had been there, that the Russians.. (at) the American Embassy in Russia.. people were getting sick because of some sort of microwave surveillance that the Russians were carrying on. So we can’t just assume that this man was not hearing something (and the same is true of any psychotic patient). Okay, yes….  [tape concludes]

[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-one minutes in and continuing until the end of the tape]

Saturday, July 23, 2016

William Burroughs - 7 (Q & A)

Student: [in media res] ….maybe something like that, and then… I was given sodium pentothel, and, trying to stay alert while going under, the last thing that went was my hearing. All my other senses went before them.
WSB: Well, naturally your sight would go first.
Student: And hearing, that just kind of folded back, and hearing was the first thing that came back.
WSB: Did you remember anything from the operation?
Q: No I don’t (didn’t)
WSB: Well, it’s there, it can be recovered - Yes?

Student:  In meditation, I sometimes have the experience of getting bored with pre-recordings and they just stop because (at a certain point)...
WSB: Well, excuse me, then what happened? I mean..was there a blank, or what? – there was no words?
Student: No but just certain types of internal dialogues I would get into stopped happening for a while. Then after the meditation experience was over for a while they came back.
WSB: No, what I was interested in was the dialogue that actually does occur during meditation. See, I spoke of the fact that these voices go on all the time, and one way, certainly, to, say, to contact them is to, say, put yourself in a meditative state, to lie down and make your mind a blank, as if you were just a recording instrument, and then you will hear something, you know, that is quite surprising. I wonder if you had any experience of that sort with meditation?
Student:  You mean, like voices?
WSB: I mean, what did you actually hear when you had suspended..suspended, you say, the boring everyday internal dialogue, was there some... did you hear something else?
Student: Well, not particularly. I would get into things, like composing songs and this and that, which… they were things that would dissolve after a while.
WSB: Yeah, because I’ve had the experience, say, of sometimes just sitting and deliberately cutting sensory input, of suddenly hearing a quite inexplicable voice, or a word, which may mean something to me later. It may be something I read in the newspaper next day, a name or something.  I say, “Why did I think of that?”. And the same thing happens in dreams - Yes?
[The next question from the floor is noted as inaudible. From here on in, with assistance, the speaker is led to a microphone in the front by the stage] - 

Student: I had an interesting experience with an unconscious voice. I had stayed up all night, I was trying to get tickets for a concert, and I came back and I fell asleep in my room and a friend came in, and I got up amd I thought I was telling him about the concert (I heard my voice telling him about waiting for the tickets), and he kept making funny faces, and finally I just went like this [gesticulates] - like he wasn't responding to me, so I went back to sleep. And later, he told me that I was telling him to go get his "golden shackle", and I kept yelling at him to go get his golden shackle, and I said ,“I have one. Where’s yours?”, and that I heard myself telling him about waiting. And it just totally surprised me, you know.
WSB: Well did this "golden shackle" have any particular significance for you, or was it just something more or less inexplicable ?
Student: The phrase itself still has meaning for me, but I haven’t worked with it that much. I.. It’s a full phrase to me. I was telling him  (sic - indicating his friend)
Student 2: I was scared
Student: Of course, he wasn’t responding. His responses were totally out of tune with what I was saying, you know.
WSB: No, I don’t understand. Were you still asleep or just waking up?
Student: I was sitting up in my (bed). I remember sitting up in my bed, talking to him, I was up.
WSB: Yes.
Student: But, apparently the voice that I was speaking…
WSB: Apparently, partly still-asleep.
Q: Right, right, yeah.
WSB: Yeah,  yeah, (I)  see what you mean, yeah.

Student:  You know this idea that “It is written” somewhere. ["Mektoub"]. I did an automatic painting years ago and I just started out sort of doodling on the canvas with a big brush and didn’t have anything in mind and I came up with this painting of a sort of a giant crystal machine and it looks like it might be out somewhere on another planet . And, it didn’t have any meaning for me at the time, and I just gradually.. I didn’t even know it was..I didn’t think of it as an automatic painting, I just sort of.. I named it "Alpha Centauri." And then, along beside this crystal machine were these sort of wraith-like forms and, it took me years before I finally came to the idea that this was really on some other planet and it was a machine that was manufacturing some kind of thought-forms and that we were sort of under its control
WSB: Well, yes, I’ve had experiences like that of something that seemed to come almost automatically, maybe writing  (I don’t draw so I don’t get much through that avenue) but which, later, has some very definite meaning, maybe something that I will use in a story, well, I will say, ”well, that's what this means” now. I think we all have those experiences - Yes?

Student: Once I was in a meditation camp and I started hearing very high-pitched sounds that seemed to resemble voices and the teacher chuckled and told me that I was hearing the devas singing and to forget about it, not to attach any significance to it anyway, and I’m really surprised.. interested to hear all this discussion of psychic phenomenon because it seems like there’s a very real danger in trying to interpret them in some way, (rather than) to let them be, especially within a meditative context. I mean, people.. I mean, Joan of Arc heard voices and the Buddhists would say “Big deal. So you heard voices? Go back and sit another couple of hours, before you’re put on the stake", or something”. It’s really.. it’s really strange to know how to work with these things without getting ego caught up in them. Do you have any feelings or thoughts or interest about this?
WSB: That’s a point where I have a very sharp disagreement with the Buddhists, because they say that everything that is, to me, material for writing, should not be paid attention to.As a writer, I do pay attention to these voices and I frequently use them. I get a voice like that and I say, “Who’s talking? What does he look like?”. I can elaborate that into a story. So if they just tell me that I shouldn’t pay any attention to these voices, I don’t pay any attention to them. 
Student: Well, within the context of writing is one thing..
WSB: Well that’s the context that I’m talking about here
Student: But you don’t attach yourself to them and get caught up in them?
WSB: I use them. I use them in writing. Now, listen, I don’t know what you mean by “attach myself “ to them, I get caught up in them, I elaborate from them, or.. use them in some way..

[Student/Technician interrupts -"If we can pause for a moment, we’ve got some trouble with the…"
WSB: "Excuse me, we’ve got some technical difficulties here" (a brief delay, and then Q and A resumes]

Student: I’ve noticed during extended periods of not having sleep that the phrase, “peanut butter alligator underground kindergarten spider”! …
WSB: "Kindergarten…." - What was that last again?
Student: “Peanut butter alligator underground kindergarten spider”…
WSB: “Kindergarten fighter”? – that is, a fighter in kindergarten? - Is that what it means?
Student: I don’t know
Student 2: “Spider”
WSB: Oh “Spider”. I thought you said “fighter”.
Student: And it’s continued, for, like, a period of years, and, I’ve begun to relax around it, but I find that..
Student 2: You ought to start using it as a mantra?
Student: No, I’ve tried using it as a mantra but.. I’m wondering whether it’s there all the time and whether, if I enter a state of mind in which either the voice itself is slower than I usually hear, or faster. that that’s when it’s.. it’s main access to my hearing (actually).
WSB: Well, it’s not something we know a great deal about. We know we have all these voices stored on tape, and they’re there, and then they can be activated to replay by various factors. So, they’re there, but they may not be playing back.

Student: I’m also interested in..what’s your definition of a psychosis? ..or what..where is that point where a psychotic would hear a pre-recorded voice whereas a person in some form of sanity. isn’t..
WSB: I don’t think there’s any line at all, The only line is that a psychotic maybe completely unable to deal with the real context. I mean, they can’t get around, they can’t get themselves across the street, that sort of thing.
Student: So the pre-recorded is not heard as a pre-recording but as some kind of message or order?
WSB: Yeah. They think that the voices are objective. As I said, they may well be objective, and I think we all hear voices all the time. But they.. I think it’s a sort of confusion of levels of reality really. Yes?

Student:  Your concept in the Naked Lunch on the sender turned my head around completely and I’ve been fascinated by the idea for years and it keeps coming back to me.And on a recent visit to Mexico I saw the great symmetrical lay-out of places like Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Palenque, and so forth. Could you tell us something about.. (and now that you’re talking about voices and so forth so this sort of ties in with this). Is there.. was there some way that they were actually.. at least they considered that they were working with..sending out ideas that.. I wasn’t sure if this was all fact or fiction when you were talking about the sender principle.
WSB: No, I think this happens all the time, that people are sending (with varying degrees of effectiveness). Now what..after all, what is the salesman saying? – “Buy my product, buy my product”. He is trying to send something into the mind of the client. So this happens all the time. Now.. But we could easily conceive of a group of people who were sending voices to a whole population (let’s say, with such equipment as I have described, that is the electromagnetic broadcast which produces voices in the mind)  
Student: Do you see those temples that they’re built in the Mayan area of Southern Mexico as.. Were those utilized as some form of energy accumulator and dispenser?
WSB: They might well have been. There’s a lot been written on pyramids lately. There are several interesting books on the psychic energies created by pyramids and by people meditating in pyramids, so that may well be a very important factor.
Student: How did you get..come across, or get turned on to, this idea of the sender?  For one person who would be, say, in a tower, and..
WSB: Well it could be one person, or any number. Well, from studying the Mayan civilization, the fact that about.. the priests consisted of about one percent of the population, and they really seemed to keep ninety-nine percent working. Much of the work, as far as they were concerned,  (it wasn’t (for) food, it was building these these temples), without any formal police apparatus. So I said, Well they must have used some sort of psychological control..
Student: Thank you
WSB: Yeah

Student: Given your disagreement with Buddhists about voices, I’m trying to somehow put that together with what you said about the writer’s own source and some notion of originality as the least interesting part of writing. What I’m curious about, then, is your conception of ego and where that fits in to those voices that one might transcribe.
WSB: Well, I think that in order to receive the voices, you have to suspend, should we say, the everyday, sort of defensive internal dialogue. So you do achieve a state which is more or less egolessness in order to receive the voices.
Student: What’s the difference between those voices, I mean the internal dialogue and the voices? I mean how do you discriminate that?
WSB: You don’t.
Student: You don’t?
WSB: You don’t.
Student: You just get it out?
WSB: Yes,  I mean I don’t think there is any short line at all. You don’t know how much of what you’re hearing is objective or subjective. It’s mixed, highly mixed..
Student: That has something to do with some difficulty I had Tuesday [sic] with somehow putting together some notion of spontaneous poetics and notions like “first words, best words” (sic) with doing the montages of the cut-ups, as opposed to just getting the stuff out on paper - you hear the voices (even if it’s from an ego-less place) and you put it down on paper. It seems like there’s as much problem with ego in contriving and manipulating pieces of paper as there might be trying to figure out which voices are defenses and which ones are the real thing.
WSB: Well you don’t have to figure it out. It.. they’re all.. they’re all mixed. It’s a question of what is usable for your artistic purposes. But by actually cutting up and rearranging, you get arbitrary combinations, you see, that keep you from contriving too much. You’re faced by something that has actually happened, been created from the actual cut-up, and I think that’s a very valuable exercise.
I mean it’s similar to an artist testing colors on his palette, saying “What does this look like? Let’s stir it around, (and) see what we get”

Student: I think it’s pretty evident that telepathy is a fact and, perhaps, the first point that one ought to make is that the tape-recorders which have picked up voices ought to be analyzed. There might just be something electronically in there which we have been looking for, in fact, to pick up thoughts. What worries me is, basically, the idea of pre-determination which came up. Either everything is pre-determined or nothing is pre-determined, (which is really basically the same thing). If we assume that all thoughts. of course, are recorded in a computer. If these thoughts are, in fact, sent out..humanity, I think, is quite sufficient to form every possible thought. If this can be picked up (which I think it can) then I think the idea of predetermination would be automatic, because every possible thought is then somewhere available. It could be, of course, that this is universal, but I don’t think the idea, the fascinating idea that if you would change the pattern of a hundred billion thoughts floating around and being constantly available that this would change our future by cutting up these un-cut-able energies.. I have difficulties understanding what you mean
WSB: Well, I don’t think that we have un-cut-able energies, and that, as I say, I’ve illustrated that any..any data, once it is out in front of people, loses is power, to some extent. Nor was I saying that I believe in a pre-recorded universe. I think it has been often tried but it is sort of the goal of many control machines to predetermine, to predict by control and control by predicting. Whether it’s ever been actually.. I don’t think it’s ever been actually complete. It’s just a, should we say, an ideal towards which control machines will tend to strive.

Student: I’m a painter and I’ve been using the cut-up technique in my painting. I’ll do a painting of, say, stripes, and then cut it into strips and reassemble it, and I find it’s remarkable the possibilities that are offered by this method  
WSB: Yes. As Brion (Gysin) said, “Writing is fifty years behind painting”. And if you use these methods that have been used by painters for tso long then you are accused of promulgating a cult of unintelligibility. No one paints cows in the grass anymore but best-sellers are still, basically, cows in the grass, that is, it’s purely representational narrative.
Let’s see.. yeah?

Student: Have you ever done the following experiment with the typewriter – just typed out random letters for a period of time, and then come out with.. you find that you come out with words ..and done anything with that? If you have, did you come up with anything particularly interesting that you’d like to relate, or whatever?
WSB: No, I’ve never gotten much results that way, and I’ve never been able to do, any, should we say, automatic writing in the strictest sense (I’ve never had my hand write something automatically, and I find the same on the typewriter) . And I don’t say it can’t be done, (just) I’ve never done it.

to be continued

[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-nine-and-a-half  minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-one minutes in]

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 277

More gems from the Paris Pompidou Center Beat Generation show:

                          [Wallace Berman - Untitled (Allen Ginsberg)  (1960)] 

[Gregory Corso - "There Is No More Street Corner" - undated - poem/manuscript]


Brion Gysin - “Calligraphie,” (1960)]

See also Pauline Magdeleinat's wonderful installation photos from the Pompidou show, (in Slash) - here 

and read Geoff Dyer in The Spectator on John Cohen's famous shot - "The picture that captures why Jack Kerouac will last forever" 

More on Beats-on-film - There's an impressive all-month-long film series currently taking place - 34 Beat-related movies! - (see here) - in Brazil 

More Summertime Round-Up - An interview with Allen  first published in Folha de São Paulo) and seven poems (in Portuguese) - see here 

We reported a few months back on our friend David S Wills over at Beatdom  and his horrendous data-loss  - more disturbing data-loss news - On June 27, without prior warning, Google summarily disabled poet-author, Dennis Cooper's blog, along with his 
g-mail account, with no more than a generic notification that he had "violated Google's terms of service". Cooper has tried unsuccesfully, for several weeks now, to get an explanation for the disabling of his accounts and to learn whether he will ever be able to retrieve the large trove of materials and creative work (over 14 years of work) that he'd had posted there.
For more on this story - see here and here and here (there are troubling censorship issues as well as wider concerns of data-storage)
Please, if you have time, go to this site - and  sign the petition - here  

There'll be a memorial for Bill Berkson tomorrow (Saturday) at the San Franciso Art Institute - We've noted some of the obituary notices and memories of him here - here's several more - from poet-friends, Lewis Warsh, Anne Waldman, Bernadette Mayer, John Ashbery - from art-world friends, David Levi Strauss, Robert Storr - ex-students, Jarrett Earnest, Patricia Maloney… As well as tomorrow's memorial in San Francisco, there'll be another one (more details to be announced) taking place in New York City in September.  

                                 [George Schneeman and Bill Berkson - "Stars Fell" (2008) - Painter-Poet Collaboration]

And in LA tonight - don't forget/don't miss Pat Thomas' presentation of  The Last Word on First Blues at Beyond Baroque (with additional special guest Ronee Blakley) - (and, for added Beatnik cred, Pat on bongos! - like we say, certainly, not to be missed!) 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ahimsa ("Returning To The Country For A Brief Visit")

Old-one the dog stretches stiff-legged,
soon he'll be underground. Spring's first fat bee
buzzes yellow over the new grass  and dead leaves
What's this little brown insect walking zigzag
Over the sunny white pay of Su Tung-P'O's Poem?
Fly away, tiny mite, even your life is tender -- 
I lift the book and blow you into the dazzling

Allen Ginsberg  4/20/73

Springtime 1973 Cherry Valley meditations (but also fitting for a long hot summer's afternoon). 

(on) -  "I do not know who is hoarding all this rare work." 

(from Allen's "Annotations to Amitendranath Tagore's Sung Poetry", one of nine such annotations - (the full poem-sequence is included in the 1977 collection, Mind Breaths))  

Allen, interviewed by Guy Amirthanayagam,  October 1997 -  (from Writers in East-West Encounter - New Cultural Bearings, 1982): 

Guy Amirthanayagam: Allen, the question I would like to begin with is, what effect do you think your interest in Buddhism has has on your recent poetry?

AG: Well, the title of my most recent book is Mind Breaths; and that relates to an increased awareness of mind, bodhi, awakening mind, through meditative attention to breath, which is the basis of zazen, or sitting meditation practice. So the poetry then becomes  conscious of mind and breath; poems as thought-forms rising in the mind, projected outward into the world on the breath. Breath is a basic notion in poetry. Buddhist interest also brought my attention to older models like Classical Chinese poetry – I’ll read you an example of that rather than talk about it. “Returning to the Country For a Brief Visit” was written on the margin of a book of poems by Sung Dynasty poets. I was imitating their style.