POETRY AS DHARMA PRACTICE: INTERVIEW BY RANDY ROARK
Randy Roark: Can you tell us a bit about what you consider to be your poetic lineage?
Jim Cohn: Poetic lineage is a living mythos. I transformed my devotion to liberation. That’s lineage. As a teenager, I spent hours at my friend John Oppenheim’s house listening to music. That’s when I realized people listen to different things when they hear a song. I could hear everything, but my natural focus was lyrics. Sandy Denny, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, Joni Mitchell, and Otis Redding were singers of my time who painted emotion in a way that made sense to my heart. What came through them were the ghosts of oral tradition lineages—blues and ballads. Theirs was a lyric poetry for which suddenly a trigger would go off and you’d start sobbing. But the song stayed with you. It never deserted you. In fact, it lifted you up.
I was influenced by individual poets associated with the Beat Generation—from their books,'> and from knowing them at the height of their collective pedagogic powers at the then newly founded Naropa Institute. By “influenced,” I mean I awakened to the notion of poetry as dharma. The lineage transmitter who touched me most was Allen Ginsberg, but I was also influenced by William Burroughs, Amiri Baraka, Philip Whalen, Gregory Corso, Joanne Kyger, Gary Snyder, the New York School poet Frank O’Hara, and second-generation New York School poets Ted Berrigan, Alice Notley, Bernadette Mayer, and Anne Waldman.
In the process of absorbing what was meaningful to me, the idea of “lineage” became something tangible, alive. In addition to the poets just mentioned, my library contains works of a few of my contemporaries—people like Basho, Antler, Thoreau, Eileen Myles, Robert Desnos, Mary Shelley, Andy Clausen, Wanda Coleman, Dante, Federico Garcia Lorca, Else von Freytag-Loringhoven, Paul Blackburn, Diane di Prima, Lorenzo Thomas, Thomas R. Peters, Jr., John Cage, Marina Tsvetaeva, Nanao Sakaki, the Baal Shem Tov, Bob Kaufman, Gertrude Stein, Hunter S. Thompson, Wang Wei, bell hooks, Marc Olmsted, Abraham Lincoln, Keith Richards, Shakespeare, videos by the American Sign Language poet Peter Cook, Han Shan, Bob Rixon, David Cope, as well as you.
I don’t belong to any lineage—you never find out if they accept you anyway. You can’t audition. I should say my sense of lineage does not go in only one direction. I sense that I’m as much a part of the invisible lineages of the future if not more than those of the past. I remember the future.
RR: Can you remember when you first became aware of poetry? Can you remember the first poem you wrote and why?
JC: My earliest conceptions of poetry showed me the importance of color, the resonance of color. The first poem I ever wrote was called “Red.” I wrote it because at age six or seven, I loved the color red, especially red as it appears in nature—in flowers, fire, and blood. So, the use of color in my own poetry is as likely as not some kind of connection to the vividness of childhood. I still remember red lollipops in my childhood doctor’s office. They were there on the wall of Dr. Ranbar’s office. If you could take the shot you were there to get without freaking out, the doctor would give you a red lollipop. I hated getting shots. I basically had to be held down. There was a message beneath those red lollipops taped to the wall about strangers—about not talking to them. So, red came to signify a complex of feelings.
The first poem I wrote that made me feel like I was connecting with others came much later. “George Washington Bridge, Lower Level, Clear Day” was something I’d written while living at Birdsfoot Farm, an organic farming commune in St. Lawrence County. I wrote that piece in January 1989, when I was thirty-five years old. The poem came in a flash as I drove across the George Washington Bridge carrying a truckload of firewood into Manhattan on a beautiful winter’s day. I wrote it in a cabin with no ninety-degree walls, a wood burning stove for heat, no running water, on a Royal manual typewriter with strips of correcto-tape. Although I had been writing poems since my days as a student at Naropa, lots of them, this poem convinced me that I was a poet when there was nobody around to affirm or deny that for me:
GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE, LOWER LEVEL, CLEAR DAY
Who would want to take
the lower level of the
GW on a crystal clear
day? If I put a fake
ice cube with a cock-
roach in their drink
Would they say any-
thing about it to me?
Would they feel a need
to discuss their right
to choose when faced
with duality? Would their
license plate have sig-
nificance? Would the letters
& numbers undulate like
a snake down the arm of
the Statue of Liberty
at Equinox? Do they like
Jackie Gleason more than
Pee Wee Herman? Have they
written books in Arabic
denouncing Mickey Mouse?
Do they own a string of
zipper factories? Do they
wash each blade of grass
in their yard with a damp
cloth? Do they have dreams
of their parents killing each
other? Are they afraid to
have children? Have they
ever fallen thru ice?
Been stuck in an electric
car between terminals at
the airport in Houston?
Were they children who
had run hotels in Mexico?
Were they child assassins
in Pol Pot’s army? Are they
a child with memories of
helicopters exploding stuffed
inside the body-bag of an
adult driving over the Hudson
River, clear day, on the
George Washington Bridge.
Just someone looking for
a place to rent. Just someone
on the way to a nursery
to water geraniums &
Easter lilies. Just
someone who uses a Spell
Check. An Image scientist.
Just someone doing a little
Inside trade. Had they seen
Yellowstone burn? Did they
carry a pair of Chicago
roller skates in the trunk?
Are there used condoms
in their ashtray? Does
their left rear tire
need a little air? Have
they been to the Panama
Canal? Do they horde toilet
paper in their basement?
Do they sleep with their
students? Had they been
ordered to kill their teacher?
Were there baby shoes
hanging from the rear-view
mirror? How old is their
hairdo? How long are they
planning to wear those
socks? Do they keep the
Christmas lights on their
house up all year? Do they
pray to St. Anthony when
they’ve lost something &
then find it! Are their
headlights on? Do they think
golf would be more interesting
if the fairways were
different colors? Do they
believe in Pro Wrestling?
Would they rather see
Llamas than dogs in the subway?
Is it someone related to
George Washington himself!
Could it be! Is it someone
who thinks the Tooth
Fairy real? A policy
strategist? A media wizard?
Maybe you grow ginseng root.
You were the Emperor’s Physician.
A Department of Corrections
officer. A security guard. Just
someone who lives the
house they were born in. The
people in a cheap hotel.
Was that a Laundry Worker
on strike driving down onto
the Lower Level? A painter
who saw only Anti-Space? Someone
good with structure? Someone
who didn’t need any.
Were they eating Melba
Toast? Do they know UPS
leases ships to the Navy?
When they shit, do they “Shit
from the heart?” Do they think
water-polo is played with rackets?
Had they learned to react
calmly to the death of strangers?
Do their windshield wipers
work? Do they consider the Cross-
Bronx Expressway “The Drop
Ceiling of Hell?” Are all
their brothers cops? Did
they know Mingus? Do they
live in an apartment full
of writers? When the President
left Washington, did they snap
off a parting salute? Just somebody
behind the wheel, thinking it’s
better to live our lives than
put a price upon them. Just
composing Verse—as in Universe.
As in the Future going on
foot thru a Crowd. Had their
fathers died of nightmares?
Do their sisters have exaggerated
& self-conscious attachments
to the Great Blank Spaces of
American Culture that seem to
reduce them to a tiny yet inextinguishable
song? Is their greatest vanity
Hairdressing the Hero? Do they see
the bridge as a Rainbow? Do they
think of rainbows as the Ever-Present
Unity Connecting Two Camps? Are
they 72-Hour-Awake-Truckdrivers on
Speed listening to Emmylou Harris
CDs? Does the Bridge remind them of
George Washington, cutting down the
cherry tree? Mother, I cannot tell
a lie. I cut down the Sacred Hoop
today. I cut down the great Tree
of Peace today Mother. Are they
en route to a Ta’i Chi Ballroom
for an evening of Slam Waltzing?
Is this Noise that I hear pieces of
Silence breaking off from the
enormous & dumb & incorrigible
mass inside them? Do they shriek
& squeal—those Tires—or is
that Sound the pressing of human
Energy & Existence upon us, without
there ever being a taking account
of the Destruction? Do the poets
of the Poolhalls dream blue
pizzas thinking of Rilke in Munich
bleeding like the Sun to say “It
lies in the nature of every finally
perfect love that sooner or later
it may no longer reach the loved one
save in the Infinite.” Do they
take this Lower Level for to glimpse
Swans below? Are their Hearts as
tender as the inside of red roses?
It impressed me that “George Washington Bridge” had come to me when it did and it still does. The idea of it came all at once and with it the assignment to write it. And then I did it. In doing it, I found it contained energy that was my energy and vision that was my vision. It was my construction and it was my own counterbalance to various other ephemera. And it was also a product of my own ephemera. Other poets one admires for the miracle of how they get the language to do things that can liberate your mind. The poem took the form of a Whitmanic catalog. It was like Whitman on LSD.
“George Washington Bridge” is not a difficult object to comprehend and I liked that very much. Still, nobody much noticed. I might as well as written it with invisible ink. But I did it because I had to. It was a 40-degree below zero night. Northern lights all green in the sky and there I was, writing by kerosene lantern light. Other poets far better known than I ever care to be have their ambitions. I had different ambitions. I wanted to let the people of the future know that I had been to my own mountaintop, which in that case, was the lower level of the George Washington Bridge. So, I see cultivated in this early poem a sense of fearlessness and fleetingness. I think the poem stands today as a clear expression of certain laws of culture and the incessant movement around those laws just by giving voice to my own ragged thought forms one night while removed in a little wooden hut with nothing to do but watch the snow blow in under the door.
RR: I’m curious about how your work with disability services, and specifically your experience with American Sign Language has affected you as a poet.
JC: Right Livelihood has to link to one’s sense of calling, what you came to this life to do. It also involves making of yourself a path of service to align who you are with the human condition. I have been graced with many lives, but the one associated with American Sign Language (ASL) poetics and the one consumed by disability services left their own particularimprints on me as a poet. My interest in ASL poetics began with Allen, but it was equally influenced by the ethnographic writings of Gary Snyder, particularly the book Earth Household. In 2009, the filmmaker Miriam Nathan Lerner completed an extensive documentary, two years in the making, on the history of ASL poetry. The film is titled The Heart of the Hydrogen Jukebox after “Howl.”
I was quite surprised to see myself honored in this film for the role I played in introducing Ginsberg to a deaf audience of poets in 1984 and in coordinating the first national Deaf poetry conference in 1987 because the last major contact I had with a Deaf literary arts audience, in 1990, was a debacle. I was literally booed off stage. Deaf people do not want to have a hearing person anywhere near something as revered to them as their language. I didn’t blame them, but that experience was instrumental in my moving forward. What affected me most during the period of my Deaf cultural immersion was my primary informant, Robert Panara, the single-most learned Deaf poet-scholar of the 20th century.
I did a lot of coordinating of bicultural and bilingual poetry readings between 1984 and 1987 in Rochester and was guided by an invisible hand that whole time. I met a young deaf poet named Peter Cook who went on to revolutionize poetic signing in a way that just blew away everyone who saw him perform, hearing or deaf, away. We became good friends. Peter collaborated with spoken word artist Kenny Lerner and together they formed a performance poetry show called the Flying Words Project that toured the world. A biography of those guys would be pretty shocking. They were as paradigm shifting as Chuck Berry and Boris Karloff.
I took the Pound-Fenollosa model, described in The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, and transposed that theory to ASL. Apparently, I was the first to do so. So, my reading at Naropa found an interesting application with ASL. That’s Right Livelihood. I didn’t have to take anything because it was all right there for me to give. I’m speaking of the rapture of all night talking in silence, the feeling that I was being transported. My mouth transposed to my hands and ears transposed to my eyes. It could get quite surreal and I wrote about it in my first book of prose essays, Sign Mind: Studies in American Sign Language Poetics. I found in ASL a complementary prosody to English, but with parameters more vivid than words, more of The Origins.
From 1988 to 1992 I opened and ran a disability services office for students at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. This was around the time of the passage of The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990—the civil rights act for people with disabilities. I went on to develop an intense personal interest in combining the fields of Disability Studies and Disability Services while working at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which I did from 1997 to 2009. I’m told this was my legacy.
I was heavily influenced by a single book—Masters of Mahamudra: Songs and Histories of the Eighty-four Buddhist Siddhas by Keith Dowman'>. That book, about the lives of the siddhas, more than any other source, gave me insight into working with people with disabilities and shaped how I practiced for nearly two decades in the disability services field. It was the way Buddhist psychology approaches the human condition that led me in 2003 to write a book called The Golden Body: Meditations on the Essence of Disability. Beyond the desire to mark or stereotype or produce composites of beauty and giftedness or anomaly and deficit based on the creation of an superior-inferior polarity, I came to the awareness that the essential nature of all beings lies within a higher indestructible norm— what Disability Studies literature refers to as personhood. The yearning for this awareness was reinforced daily and took my poetry to places I don’t think it would have gone if I had taken a different direction.
RR: I know you became a father for the first time at the age of 50. I’ve known one of my best friends—Zoe—since she was three and she’s about your daughter’s age. We play a lot of games and I’ve watched her learn how to reason, and now she’s old enough to read, so as we walk down the street she reads all the signs in the windows and bumper stickers on passing cars. Watching her grow in this way has been a very powerful experience to me. Are you aware of any ways that raising a child has affected your writing or your writing practice?
JC: Bringing up my daughter adds another kind of intention to my own writing practice—presence. Having met Billy Burroughs (1947-1981), the son of William Burroughs, as well as Jan Kerouac (1952-1996), the daughter of Jack Kerouac while at Naropa, I wanted my daughter to have a certain feeling of unshatteredness that I felt those two brilliant young writers did not seem to receive from their fathers or for that matter, that I did not receive from my birth father. My daughter is an Aries and I am an Aries and my mother was an Aries and her mother was an Aries. Aries are a very energetic people, very loving, very independent, revolutionary, creative people, very emotional. I feel bookended by my mother, who is dead, and my daughter. My mother always told me that she gained great inner strength from her children when she struck out as a single parent. I feel that as well, raising my daughter as a single parent.
We may be lying in bed, as we were last night, reading Oh, The Places You’ll Go, a book-length poem by Dr. Seuss, a very heavy poem, a Beat homage of sorts, a paean to Allen in a way, very surprising actually, and I’ll hear my voice saying the words “Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. / Wherever you go you will top all the rest. / Except when you don’t. / Because, sometimes, you won’t.” I’ll be wondering about the drawings—how they register the sense of ego-abyss like a funny looking cake or something. I wonder why my daughter chose me as her father and why she chose to return to this world when she did and who she was before and what she’s come here to do. And then I’ll look over at her in my other arm, the one not holding the book, and I’ll see she has fallen asleep and I’ve been having all these thoughts reading a children’s story to myself.
Having a child has definitely influenced me, even if my writing already had an established arc. The moment of her birth was a miracle. Being overwhelmed at times since then is not a bad thing. In fact, it allows me to practice emotional intelligence. Childrearing involves the awareness that as a parent, one’s habitual reactions to conflict, adversity, pain and loss are on full display. Being a parent provides infinite opportunity to look at one’s own anxiety, paranoia, aggression, and powerlessness. You want to give a child a sense of the importance of perseverance, staying with things that don’t come easy, chipping away at obstruction moment to moment. How do you do that if the moment something breaks the flow of your own day you revert to reactive behavior? A child gets her first model for dealing with adversity from her parents. Filibustering obstruction, refusing to look internally and take ownership for the things inside, does not help a child recognize their own natural confidence in their innate ability.
I did write a book-length poem to my daughter—The Ongoing Saga I Told My Daughter—a serial fem-action picaresque poem in 2010. Some people aspire to leave a zero-carbon footprint. Knowing that I probably won’t be around to see many of the milestones of my daughter’s adulthood, most of her achievements, I wrote Saga as a kind of zero-regret footprint. I meant to say that there is a way to live without the usual ways involving temporary forgetting or numbness or suicidal tendencies or withdrawal. And it also includes her sense of regret too. A child could resent the troubles her parents face emotionally, the evolutions her parents’ lives take apart from one another. A child could live to regret her devotion. I wanted to leave her my deepest affirmation—that she is a strong female, a force for good in the world.
Matriarchy was all I knew. For me, my mother was very much a prototype, a living proof, of the feminist writings Anne Waldman would produce decades later. She had the discipline and the willfulness to succeed in a man’s world. I probably channel that in Saga as an invocation to my daughter’s guides and guardian angels, gurus, dakinis, including her biological grandmothers who both died before she was three and a half. Saga is also a kind of cautionary tale against viewing familial and relational figures as if they are objects, consumer products, acquisitions, sugar-daddies. There’s a kind of softness to the poem, even though it describes scenes to suggest that we live in a predatory society. I wrote it at a time when she was still nursing. I wanted to write in the grammar of my own mind. At that time, my mind was like mush.
Being a parent is not much different than a nonstop poetry reading tour. You want to be present, do your best, give your all. It can be extremely painful to strive for emotional intelligence. Often we experience our lives without the resources that we’d like our children to exhibit. Sometimes being a father is like the Blues Brothers working behind chicken wire at Bob’s Country Bunker. I was fortunate to have lived in a time when fatherhood was a given. Single parenthood still carries the roulette of stigma—not the least of which is directed toward the children of single parents as somehow being less likely to succeed than those raised by two parents. I could knock myself out trying to show my daughter Little Walter or the Taj Mahal. I could take her to WNBA games or Istanbul or Disneyland only to discover that what really turned her on was the night we spent a snowstorm stranded at a hotel and the power went off and left us in complete utter darkness on the bed, giggling, like a pair of drunken monks. I wanted to leave her a poem she could return to as she grew up, where she could find solace, if she ever needed that, from me. I just wanted to leave her with something of my consciousness.
RR: What do you believe poetry’s place is in the current culture?
JC: William Carlos Williams, in his book The Embodiment of Knowledge, wrote that poetry is the Skeleton pointing out again and again to Intelligence the “special plea” of sentience—“the attacks upon it and their unreasonableness,” including the drawing of “false conclusions … of that general nature.” This was and is still very much poetry’s place. Poetry is a manifestation of no authority other than one’s self. This is not to say that there is a “self” or that there is an “authority” or that one’s self or one’s authority is greater or lesser than anyone else’s self or authority or that either your self or your authority is not ruled by the same falsities as those selves or authorities that wish to silence you or that you wish to silence or that anything created as “poetry” in this current culture is interesting as poetry to any other self or authority in this or any current culture.
You may be able to interface your internet multimedia device to your online social networking web pages and we may be able to instantaneously view and hear your latest intellectual endorsement with gapless playback, but will that be a place for poetry in any formulation of “current culture?” You may be highly organized, highly efficient in the craft and tools of your times. You may be a spiritual or political leader—with many people willing to follow you to the ends of the earth. You may be a young idol, a star, fully engaged in popular art or low art burlesque, with the adoration of millions from around the globe. You may be a magician of chaos, always one step beyond the law and the censors, able to create sensational spectacles, challenging governments, uncovering infinite incompetencies, bringing forth a full accounting. You may have founded a new criticism or healed yourself from some disease. You may be selfdeprecating in a totally arrogant way, the last existentialist on some kind of poetic quest for language, but if you do not mainline the whole, that is not poetry’s place in the current culture.
Somewhere in Talking in Tranquility, around the 1970s, the late poet Ted Berrigan—with whom I studied at Naropa, and interviewed, and appreciated for what he wrote, and what he could put into words—said that it’s obvious that the poet means nothing in contemporary society. The entire apparatus of manufactured reputation-identity has pretty much saturated everything. I understand that perfectly. You write poems, you want to get them publish, you want people to read them, you especially want them to like them, and you hope that connection becomes evident through commercial sales of your work or by some other means—maybe quantitative web traffic hits and sales.
In the past, there were poets whose work was good because they wrote it, their name was under it. It would take a real discerning eye to be able to tell which poems they’d written with the intention of making a major poetical statement and which poems they’d made just because the moment brought everything that person knew about making poems to bear on some little experience and the writing of some beautiful little poem. Ted often talked about Frank O’Hara—how Frank survived that, could bring an enormous amount of feeling to the most ordinary incident and give it “terrific significance.” That was in contrast to someone like Milton or Eliot, or even Whitman or Ginsberg, whose work I would read just to hear how words shape one’s thoughts about things.
Those poets were writing out of a place where they were pinnacle artists of their society. Today you have six billion beings speaking in blogs, digital journals, self-produced on-demand limited book runs. It’s a do-it-yourself digital printopoly. So, trying to get somebody to take your work to bed with them, or out to a mountaintop, or on the bus, or to the laundromat, or the coffeehouse, or wherever people are when they read is on a lot of people’s minds. And, of course, besides all that, the centuries of male poetic domination by whites shrouded in some kind of book industry mystique in any particular society is out the window. Poetry’s place in this global field is a matter of a universal demotic spirit. Some exhibitionist or well connected or Olympian-attitude jackoff’s always going to get more of her or his share of the limelight. People are going to be pissed off or think you’re dead wrong or that your poetry is unpure or ugly or asymmetric or too symmetric, redundant, too political, not political enough. For me, it was and remains an incredible achievement to write a poem.
I mean I will never know why “When Skeletons Make Love” came to me or “Coyote Steals The 2000 Presidential Election” or “The Rabbi Poems”—only that these poems, with their figures, came to me and through me at the particular moments of time that they did. I can pull myself out of wherever I am and whoever I’m with and still be there in that place with everything else going on as if nothing happened to me at all because for me, poetry requires equal treatment. My job is to create that kind of extradimensional space, as Ted described it, right out of the ordinary realm. Most of the people I meet have no idea what that means. They may accept ESPN instant replays or CNN footage replays or shoot off their guns listening to Rush Limbaugh or pull off the side of the road to listen to something on Democracy Now just to relieve themselves of their own ordinary aggression, burdens, hallucinations. They may repel their own simple common repressions that make them shun the ordinary feelings and views of others in order to make themselves feel superior, but they will not have any idea what it is like for a person, a poet, to actually conduct one’s life in a fearless and liberated manner.
RR: Who and what do you find has sustained you and your work as a poet?
JC: Some people make deals with the devil. Mine was with poetry. It’s what I came here to do. That was very clear to me. I had little choice in it. When the writing came I was there, even if I didn’t get it right. I didn’t come here to make lima bean omelets or to remove myself from equality. Poetry is not speculation to me. Although it makes judgments on what other people are thinking—where people are at, where their collective social acts are headed, their pretensions—it is more than a description or a compression of social thinking. Poetry is Vimalakirti telling Manjusri “My sickness … will last as long as do the sicknesses of all living beings.”
A body does crazy things. It causes and transcends bubbles and busts. I was sustained by a hairdresser from Florida who knew of no poetry, never even finished high school, except he knew all of Whitman by heart. Michigan poet David Cope was the janitor in the college where later he would teach Shakespeare and that, as well as his long correspondence with me, with knowing me, was sustaining. That the Milwaukee poet Antler wrote Factory sustained me, and that he and his partner, the eco-poet Jeff Poniewaz, remained devoted to one another was a gesture I found a model of human sustainability. The west coast post-punk Buddhist poet Marc Olmsted with his three-year meditation retreat and his shrine room in Oakland with its Tibetan Buddhist mandalas and giant movie horror film posters sustained me. The integrity of sheer fortitude brilliance in Andy Clausen sustained me, in his poesy and person. That Lesléa Newman wrote about Harvey Milk years before Sean Penn thought about playing him sustained me. That you wrote LIT was sustaining to me—the way you kind of recharged the entire Norton Anthology of Poetry as though you were driving an automobile that stops at refueling stations in order to give back energy to the grid.
There are hundreds of examples of sanity, compassion, candor, vivid invention, groundlessness, inclusivity, service, and wakefulness that gave me a kind of entry to off-limit useless procedures that were accidentally left there and accidentally mislabeled, but helpful to me. It wasn’t just that the poets I knew continued writing. It was that their poetry and their presence increasingly become a magnet, a storehouse of proof where one always changes and one never does. There may be an ATM in the lobby, but poetry is a more exact and closer form of economy for me. It’s bigger than the book industry, more charming than the United States Treasury. Inside a line, a line I was lost in writing, I was completely at peace with impermanence—the vastness of impermanence that makes the trillions of dollars leveraged against materialism but a speck of dust.
Poetry is not something that you drop off at the jeweler to be cleaned. It is the Gold Scale—the emptiness of all the Buddha-fields, wilderness, civilization. As such, I was also sustained by things that did not sustain me at all—those things you love in passing or that you never see in passing or care for correctly in passing or recognize correctly in passing or never get over in passing. And regardless of the tempo these things have over you—the unsustaining things—they are also sustaining. You don’t even have to know how you will be sustained or if you will be sustained or if there’s a portion of the federal bail-out waiting with your name and address on it for you or if you will have convictions or if you will advocate those convictions or renounce them or if you will simply be troubled by your convictions or see the signs, marks, and ornaments that underlie all convictions.
[Jim Cohn. “Poetry as Dharma Practice: Interview by Randy Roark.” In Sutras & Bardos: Essays & Interviews on Allen Ginsberg, The Kerouac School, Anne Waldman, Postbeat Poets & The New Demotics. Museum of American Poetics Publications, 2011.]