In 1968

Broadcasting today from Providence, RI (courtesy of Veterans Day off from work). My situation is relatively bare, or basic. For writing, I work with a black Blueline notebook, a Pilot G-2 pen (fine black ink) and whatever texts I might need at the time (book, pamphlet, chapbook, manuscript, newspaper, magazine, etc.). Add to these the physical and mental habits (coffee, trees, beer, music, incense & whatnot), along with a place to sit to read and write. I read somewhere (in an interview) that John Ashbery prefers to write in public places, so that sometimes the conversations or words around him seep into his writing. Words (particularly writing them down onto paper) serve as a vortex for protection, warmth in any city. Words in this blog context seem somehow to be that protection, while also representing the weight of self-centeredness and a form of undressing over time.

Writing here has definitely had an effect on my notebooks, taking precedence for the moment. I don't always like that feeling of disrobing in public. I chuckle whenever I think about the anecdote of Ginsberg in Los Angeles in the late 1950s at a reading. When someone in the audience asked him what he meant about being "naked" in his poetry, he proceeded to disrobe, finishing the rest of the reading unclothed. We "Third World"ers are often portrayed as being naked savages (see The Tempest). The nakedness here in blogging is not complete (obviously). The editor inside the poet is always in control, more or less. Perhaps the liar within the poet is also here, behind the scenes. Along with the person who always says: "But enough about me. What about me?"

Stephen Spender's The Year of the Young Rebels (Random House, 1968) is overdue back at the BPL, so I'm rushing to finish it. Today, I came across two interesting excerpts:

"Society is arranged in concentric circles so that the inhabitants of each circle talk only to one another, like voices in a whispering gallery, but never reach the inner circles of power. The intellectuals speak to other intellectuals, the poets read the poems of other poets. No phrase has more mocked at the imagination than Shelley's about the poets being the unacknoweldged legislators of mankind.

American writers are perhaps at heart Shelleyans and have never quite accepted the idea that the imagination has nothing to say about public affairs. They may not, like Walt Whitman, want to guide the democracy, but all the same they wish to feel that poetic consciousness in some sense represents the whole democracy, and, even if hiddenly and secretly, influences it. With part of his mind the American writer has been driven to regard himself as a member of an elite, and as such he has acquired a certain arrogance. Yet he never forgets that the penalty of being a member of a literary elite is exclusiveness which means being excluded as well as excluding. He would like, on some existential plane of his expressed consciousness, to be equal to the whole breathing conscious acting democracy."
(pp. 102-103)

"The Third World is called in then to provide the revolutionaries of the west with the revolutionary situation which is lacking in their own countries. As [Daniel] Cohn-Bendit remarked in the interview with Jean-Paul Sartre, from which I have quoted, the conditions for revolution, which are those of serious economic crisis, converging with an active movement of workers as well as students, do not exist today, and, as a consequence 'we have to struggle forward on the basis of a global challenge.'

The students in the west do well to concern themselves with the Third World. Indeed, they can be criticised for not doing so seriously, when they simply invoke the concept of vast areas where there is a real revolutionary situation and class struggle in order to provide their own struggle in quite different circumstances with the context of a global 'revolutionary situation.' If they were really concerned with the Third World they would talk more about problems which concern it and less about tactics of guerrilla revolutionary war which they may borrow from it. They would discuss nutrition, illiteracy and population, in which they seem to take very little interest."
(pp. 108-109)

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