October 9, 2012

let's be undecided, let's take our time

Chris Johanson, Untitled, 1996

* From a Paris Review interview of Jack Gilbert:


This may sound silly, but what is poetry?


It’s a challenge. It’s boring—sometimes. It’s maddening. It’s impossible. It’s a blessing. The craftsmanship, the difficulty of making a poem—rightly, adequately, newly. If nothing else, it’s wonderful to be that close to magic.


What, other than yourself, is the subject of your poems?


Those I love. Being. Living my life without being diverted into things that people so often get diverted into. Being alive is so extraordinary I don’t know why people limit it to riches, pride, security—all of those things life is built on. People miss so much because they want money and comfort and pride, a house and a job to pay for the house. And they have to get a car. You can’t see anything from a car. It’s moving too fast. People take vacations. That’s their reward—the vacation. Why not the life? Vacations are second-rate. People deprive themselves of so much of their lives—until it’s too late. Though I understand that often you don’t have a choice.

You knew Ginsberg. How did you meet?


We had an argument about meter. He was trying to explain anapests to one of the young poets in North Beach. I leaned over and told him he was wrong. He was fresh from New York and of course thought he knew everything. He was affronted. We started arguing. Finally, he admitted I was right and he took out a matchbook, scribbled his address on it, handed it to me, and said, Come and see me. I liked him.

When he came to town he wanted to write little quatrains. They were neat, but they weren’t very good. We liked each other, but I kept laughing at him nicely. One day, he got on a bus and went across the Golden Gate Bridge to see me in Sausalito. The streets turned to lanes, and the lanes to gravel, and the gravel turned into a path and then just woods. Up and up. He finally reached the abandoned house where I was living. After we talked, he said he had something he wanted to show me. He got two pages out of his bag. I read them and then read them again. I looked at him and told him they were terrific. Those two pages eventually became “Howl.”

* Thee Oh Sees live. From February 9, 2011 at Great American Music Hall.

* "I suspect that there is no serious scholar who doesn’t like to watch television." -- Umberto Eco


Anonymous klipschutz said...

Big thanks for posting the Gilbert excerpt. The interview is an inspiration. What a life!

12:46 PM  

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