Read, Listen, Rinse, Repeat

17 October 2013
9:51 AM


So the dust has finally settled, and my babbling in my last letter has now been decreased to a hum in my veins, something that keeps me restless, but not anxious enough not to be able to do anything. I think I can do a bit of work today (yesterday was a different story).

Something I wanted to tell you before the earthquake shattered my reverie: I read about this article, Staying Conscious, via Daily Om. I thought it was something I can do, and I am thinking how some of it sounds ridiculously easy and simple, and yet very hard to practice.

A summary, and because I like lists:

Staying Conscious

1. Live simply and live deliberately.
2. Stay in touch with yourself.
3. Support or teach others as often as you can.
4. Consciously choose what you will allow into your being.
5. Acknowledge the beauty that resides around you.
6. Nurture your ties to your tribe.
7. See the larger picture.
8. Embrace the challenges that life presents to you, and challenge yourself often.
9. Move your body.
10. Make time for stillness, silence, and solitude.

I guess the constant struggle for me is what I want to do versus what I get to do. On any given day, at any given time, I am always at odds with the things that the situation allows to happen, and all of the ideas and to-do’s in my head.

I struggle with the idea of control–if only I can have a hold on everything, if only I can direct objects and things and people according to my plans, if only, if only. I realise, of course, that that will never happen. But I haven’t gotten to that point yet where I accept that that’s how it is. I’m still on the ‘I guess I have to settle with this’ mindset, on the forcing-myself-to-be-content-because-that-is-all-I-will-get mindset.

I struggle with facing the mountain of things-I-have-yet-to-do and believing that it is something to conquer versus it is a monument of my failures. I mean–there are days when I say nothing is insurmountable, but there are also as many days (probably more) when I just feel so STUCK.

So yeah. That is something to work through. Yesterday was part of that. I suppose the next step after identifying what you want is having a plan. I’m wary about that, because, well–you know–I have a bad history with plans. But we’ll see. Do you have the time to read a terribly long and meandering email from me (yet again)?

Here is a film I’m planning to watch before the week ends:

Because most days I am ugly, old, and surly, and this is my kind of movie, my kind of people.

It’s the Beats week in ModPo, and last night I tuned in again for another webcast. Quite a discussion on the idea of self-indulgence, which some think/feel is often (negatively) perpetuated by Allen Ginsberg and company.

I must confess–I like Ginsberg. Perhaps I am more on his side of things than Kerouac’s. I was introduced to Howl in my senior year in high school; I remember how blown away I was, and at the same time, how utterly mindfucked. It was at an elective class–creative writing–and my teacher is in his twenties and has quite knowingly heaped upon us his personal canon of poetry (which included Archibald Macleish’s Ars Poetica). I loved it, that class. Up until then I didn’t know my cup was empty.

I always get the feeling that Kerouac tries hard to convey that he is unaffected and aloof, when he actually is; I believe he has put a lot of thought into his doings, that it’s not as loose and spontaneous as he projects it to be. In some sense I feel that Ginsberg is more sincere in his efforts, that there is a rootedness there despite the talk about exploration and being free. There is a lament in his writings, a sense of loss, a protest, a howl that echoes and reverberates–something that I can recognise, and relate to, despite the age differences, despite the time, despite the location. It’s not all abstraction, is what I want to say. Whereas the influence, the image, of the open road–that Into the Wild/Eat, Pray, Love self-discovery notions of the West–continues to annoy the fuck out of me. I still maintain that a lot of it is bullshit and ignorant of what pilgrimage is, what homelessness is, what alienation is. Or maybe I am just showing my hand, my third-world bitterness. (Which is why I loved how all of this is balanced with Creeley in the syllabus, which is perfect, which is just the answer to all the existential and philosophical angst that imbued the Beat generation.)

Anyway–what changed my mind about Kerouac last year was a discussion about jazz. I thought about it, and I realised that if I approach Kerouac’s poetics and prose in the same manner that I understand jazz, then I might actually come to like him, because he seemed to operate on the same framework. Jazz is largely about improvisation, but underneath that is, first and foremost, a mastery of technique. It is the embodiment, at least for me, of “learning the rules before you break them.” Kerouac admired this, at least I think so. He may have married this with his interest in Buddhism, and if I look at his work in that perspective, then I can recognise that maybe it is not all posturing and pretentiousness.

I haven’t read his books (not yet), but since reading it last year I found myself attached to his Belief and Technique for Modern Prose. I see it as a guide to life, even, and not just writing.

Here is an excerpt of a letter from Ginsberg to Kerouac:

And now with all this conflict of theologies, I made out my credo:

1. The weight of the world is love.
2. The mind images all visions.
3. Man is as far divine as his imagination.
4. We go create a world of divine love as much as we can image. (That is, we must go on interpreting recreating the given blank world (lack of imagination is death by physical starvation) according to the most extreme absolute of divine love divinity that we can conceive.)

I haven’t said much about Neal but will in next letter whenever it is. At the moment my greatest pleasure has been in looking at him as in a great dream, the unreality of it, that we are in the same space-time room again. As if resurrection from dead past, fresh and full of life, though with the drag of old knowledge, but we have not yet begun to talk. I don’t know what it is I want to tell him. Or he me yet.

As to you Kerouac, it is clear that your heavenly duty, your Buddha balloon, is to write, and that your unhappiness is undeserved in a way that only acceptance can make clear.

Your isolation like mine is sad and frightful mainly the blind alleys of money and love but life is not over, and much to be written and much to be respected in all of us not just for being humanity but for having tried and actually achieved a thing, namely literature and also possibly a certain spiritual eye at this point. And Neal who has money and love is desperate at the gate of heaven for he is unhappy with his existence. God knows what starvation’s behind the blankness, was behind, now he is seeking in his soul. As for Bill he thinks he is lost. Lucien knows his way but may have a period of having to expand his spiritual horizon in order to accommodate the depth and height of possibility and this may be preceded by the appearance of a prison in his soul, not his existence.


The weight of the world is love. Under the burden / of solitude, / under the burden / of dissatisfaction / the weight, / the weight we carry / is love.

There are more things to tell you (always), but I want to end with a poem I read and heard last night, which has taken my heart:

Caroline Bergvall

I’m catching a ride with friends

There’s a few of us

This is a ride

It’s ridden when you ride

You’re ridden if you ride

If I am I am

I am if I am ridden

Riding rides the rider

Once a rider ride

Yet once the riding rides

Get rid of the rider

This is a difficult

This is a very difficult thing to do

Mainly I ride what I

Mainly I ride who I know

Mainly I’m ridden

And I don’t know

This ride is in your ear

It rides your ear is ridden

I ride this as it comes up

The others have been doing this for awhile

He’s been

She’s been doing this for awhile

She’s a good example of what follows

Riding follows exercise

Much of what follows

Has been kept unridden

Practice rides the exercise

And it follows

Everything is

Rideable with practice

The heart is an exercise

She’s a good

She’s a good exercise

Riding follows practice

This is riding

I am that I am rideable

Love is an exercise

London, November 4th, 2004.

I am not sure of the spacing. This is the only place where I found the text of it.

I heard it on PennSound Radio while waiting for the webcast. And oh, the reading. It gave me the shivers. You must hear it. It’s more than a reading, more than a performance. It is a meditation, a prayer almost:

I created this audiotext as a piece of writing. The audio recording allowed me to consider the actuality of the sounded or macro inscription of writing as it is taking place. It was a way of recording the physical and social but also intimate activity of writing. The emphasis was on exploring listening as a reclaimed aspect of writing. Gestures of writing as audible tracing. The piece itself deals with a verbal slippage between ‘writing’ and ‘riding’. Pronunciation is a reminder of the motivated hold between accent and cultural belonging. I use the oral, sounded phonemes ‘t’ and ‘d’ as my basic measure to signify cultural accent. They shift between the British dry ‘t’ of the writer and the American wet ‘t’ of the wrider. Like an action on and with another, writing the riding might bring up fantasies of desire. Ride is both ars poetica and love song.

And with that I take my leave. I go to the rest of my day.

Good morning,


One thought on “Read, Listen, Rinse, Repeat

  1. I am always ready for a long email from you =). I’m cutting down my to-do list so that I can actually reply to them fully because I know I owe you one already!

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