An Interview with Will Alexander / By : Giorgia Pavlidou and Mohsen Elbelasy

Interview by :

Giorgia Pavlidou and Mohsen Elbelasy

Giorgia Pavlidou

Mohsen Elbelasy
Poem by will alexander Published in the first issue of the room surrealist magazine
Art wwork by : will alexander

In a lorikeet cave
motions exist of disintegrated swans
in a translocated lake
brimming with harvested poisons
sealed by corrupted post-mortem
such swans
staggered by microbial reasoning
their aggressive nests
anatomical with anomaly
with drifts of strenuous incarnadine leanings with a thirst which hurts conspiritorial invasives alive
with coronal oceans
open
like a clouded trail of rendings

analogous
with the “Asks” the pelicans the
perhaps with “the petrols “& the ” gannets” under the moniker power of darted mocking portions
the swans looking back on solemn blood perusal
like a form of death breaking roses on a shore

it is the example of programs
of lost & compacted lenses
turning
within charismatic “Fall Line”
or an ” isoneph”
or what an avian would announce in Greenland as a “Katabatic Wind”

the swans
like a haze of magnetism
or implied gondola locations
where the scent of each lorikeet is consumed
& brought to dazzling eclipse refulgence

in another foci
in another depth
their form self-challenged
in a cloak of suns
their power de-revealed
with 7 moons burning
reduced to 2 intense incendiary magnets

& these incendiary magnets
like a nexus of phantoms
scattered across a geometric optometry

Glossary
Fall Line-“…different elevation regions, where coastal and piedmont meet.

isoneph-a line on a map connecting points that have the same percentage of cloudiness.

“Katabatic Wind”-rapid downward motion of air.

Will Alexander

The interview :

1. How would you describe the difference between the surrealism of poets such as 

Rene Daumal, Roger Gilbert-Lecomte + others from Le Grand Jeu and the group organized around Andre Breton?

1 . We have the greater part of the century to peer at this dynamic in hindsight. In this context time is not an abstract where we can compose opinion via theoretical luxury. The circumstance seemed to define tendencies. It seemed Breton was resolved around society and it’s fractures and Daumal Lecomte and Le Grand Jeu were more focused on evolutionary skills and behaviours that seemed less prone to the theatrical and the visible. The tensions between both forces precluded a synthesis between both parties and the exterior tendency that was Breton’s ambit with his grand yet insidious proclamations could never find succor within the inner praxis that was Le Grand Jeu. I do not want to look at their exclusive tendencies via ideological hindsight but through what I consider to be akin to be my individual poetic tendency never suffused or energized by what I’ll venture to call theoretical ideology. But of the two dynamics I seem organically kindled by the inner tendencies of Le Grand Jeu. While at the same Breton and my understanding of his praxis limited action continues to bear a kind of scalding fruit for me. It feels as though the protracted synthesis of these double approaches is still transpiring for me personally and for the world at large. It remains a synthetic fissioning that remains largely unknown.

2. You’re also a visual artist. How does the visual and verbal interact in your experience? How are the drawings of poets such as Artaud, Lorca and Henri Michaux different or similar to the work of visual artists who aren’t poets?

2. It is interesting you should mention Lorca. It was his crossing over into the medium of visual expressing that began fueling my attempt at visual expression. About this same I found a book of Miro’s drawings and the combination created for me a fissioning, an electricity of the possible that was palpable and inspired my initial pencil drawings. What followed was discovery of Michaux ‘s and Artaud’s work in the medium that gave further resonance to my inner bulletins that had been hatched and were already thriving. And of course Breton’s recognition of the interior model was right in keeping with my poetic hearing as I was fortunate to never pass through the tribulation that remains realism. Because of this internal training I am able to look at an unnamed abstract work by Byron Baker (my artistic commrade) and instantly access and name them. It is like psychic squinting through darkness where verbal accuracy spontaneously transpires and a title appears that mutually enriches both the inner spirit and the spontaneous architecture of the drawing at hand. 

3. Are you visited by alchemical, metaphysical beings or other intermediate creatures similar to the Irish faeries? If yes, are these friendly visits? Would you say that the poet is a sort of postmodern shaman? What about poets such as Ezra Pound or the Italian futurists?

3. For me poetic consciousness has been enhanced by participation via conscious participation within oneric states.. Not for me being weakened in these and guided by recognizable beings but by the raising of the inner awareness during the experience of these states Not a spectacular answer as if one were whisked away by giant birds into unknown regions of the empyrean as part of my oneiric pergrination and carried to unknown kingdoms like some invisible Ibn Battuta. My experience in these states realizes itself via subtle shifts of awareness. It is akin to Tibetan sleep yoga where in my case a consciousness transpires and what follows is lingual capacity seems to self- transmute and expand not solely via the subconscious mind but also by its influence on the conscious mind. In my case there exist another component that was explored by what Sri Aurobindo understood as a vertical or largely unexplored supra-conscious verbal field. Not a sudden verbal entry but protracted seepage into the outskirts of this plane rather than a gaudy precipitous entry, something less spectacular than a rush of images that spill from say ingestion of something akin to Ayahuasca or perhaps a sudden experience akin to St. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. I’m speaking here of subtle enhancement not as lingual subtrahend but as subtle expansion of verbal power that cannot be solely governed by the conscious mind with its parameters. This is why I’ve always understood the poet’s quest as being akin to the subtle elements of the shaman’s quest in search for higher wonder. A quest not unlike the rays that issue from an expanding inner verbal realization. A quest certainly not without its shadows and misgivings but an enriched inner quest where even what are considered by the conscious mind to be mistakes or failings open onto a plane that suffuses one with magnetic lingual energetics.

This being energy that remains that condenses as luminous pressure and invisibly transmutes language via inner living pressure. Again this remains the intermingling of the conscious and subconscious mind with the higher states. Of course such exercise varies from person to person but what is basic to all who experience this realm remains expanded lingual seepage not as sonic provocation but as state of mind that remains alchemic while at the same time conveying what I understand to be a lingual architecture of the highest accuracy. Moving onto another issue broadly paraphrasing Philip Lamantia and his understanding of Pound, he knew that Pound remained not unlike a kin ponderous furniture that shadows and engulfs a crawl space. When he speaks of Camoens and other topics in one of his early essays there exists a compelling brilliance. But what offsets this brilliance are examples such as his anti-Semitic tenor and his rants on Radio Rome. He remains a confusing figure that not unlike Marinetti who proponded the artistic tenor of Mussolini. Of course none of the above artists were capable nor seemed to have had the moral or instinctual capacity to enunciate verbal remedy by remaining silently complicit with conditions as they persisted in places such as the Congo or Mississippi. Unfortunately poets such as Pound and Marrinitti remain an intrinsic part of the scholarly canon that have infected generations of poetic practitioners with their moral obtuseness and blindness. Years back Aldon Neilsen did a book ( I think it was entitled Reading Race) that examined the letters of the Modernists and they were shot through with sentiments that any Southern segregationist at the time would approve of. In contrast there was never this mode of tiredness that corroded the province of the early Surrealists when they renounced French colonial action during the middle 1920’s during the Rif War in North Africa. This was a tact that Pound and his fellow travelers never seemed to embody. For me the power of language need never be reduced to such racial ideology but always invoked by interior power as a psycho-emotional cleansing state capable of protracted irradiation.

4. Can you tell us how you survived psychologically when you were producing work but weren’t publishing yet? What would you say to younger poets who work in obscurity while living in a culture that tells them they’re wasting their time?

4. I will respond with the term psychic sporulation not unlike long-term survival of spores across great galactic distance. I was always at difference with poetry that espoused great provincial merit whether it occurred in Los Angeles, It felt to me that seemed poetry suffered under the pall a provincial enclave always limited according to one’s inner borders in turn supported by others that remained confined to a specific inner geography where the part ceases intermingling with the whole. During these prior times I felt surrounded by imaginative suffocation, that in some sense has extended into the present. I remember carrying around a copy of Eagle or Sun translated by Eliot Weinberger it was like talisman warding off unwanted quotidian energies attempting to subject and capture my nascent imagination via the forgotten particulars of the moment. All my moments were consumed with feeding the imagination. This was done quietly as there was no principle community that I was able to feed into at this imaginative intensity. It was during this period I made initial forays into San Francisco meeting Philip Lamantia in the process. This meeting provided me a spark that helped transfigure and has never abandoned me. His energy, his direct link to Breton I experienced as verbally authentic and created for me a kind of verbal ethics, not a static ethics mind you, but a transmutable relationship according to the moment. For instance, a word may internally announce itself to your consciousness and may alter its trajectory some seconds or moments later without the conscious mind interfering. I refer to this state as an ethics of the instantaneous. Because my inner life was so active it allowed me motion via inward sporulation through an era that now seems permanently dimmed and protracted as it continues in the chronicals according to imaginative declination. 

5. What are you working on at the moment?

5. For the past number of years I have been working at accelerated sustainment. At present there are a half dozen publications due. I don’t want to display what for some would be a tedious listing. Superficially none of the books resemble one another. First of there is the recently published Colloquy At The Abyss a Conversation with poet Harold Abramowitz, then coming closest in time will be a portion of The Contortionist’s Whispers concerning inner lingual exercise with my poetic doppelganger. It is the first of three condensed volumes (loosely ignited by Michele’s Leiris volumes Rules of The Game”) and there is a simultaneous volume due a colloboration with east coast poet Heller Levinson entitled Dialogics, as well a study on what I consider to founding Renaissance of the modern world. The book is entitled On Dar el-Hikma one of advanced early centers of learning founded in 1004 by Calif al-Hakim centered around a spate of learning that seems to have been willfully squandered and partially recovered by the West. Then there is a 600 page volume of poetry entitled The Combustion Cycle that includes various states of verbal shamanism ranging from a hummingbird in a Peru through a revolutionary shaman in Angola, to voice of a transmute Dailit in India. It was written near the beginning of the present century but has taken time to find a home. Then there is Refractive Africa due out from New Directions that takes into account the tornado that is Africa. It takes into account a poetic meditation on Amos Tutuola, with the central pillar of the book being an imaginative meditation on the Congo, and the book is ended by a poem on the Madagascan poetic fabulist Jean-Joesph Rabearivello. Then there is a book of ink and pencil drawings due out from Chax Press in Arizona. Along with the above there remains a hidden essay book that I been accruing for well over a year entitled Anterior Wattage. If this wasn’t enough there is a group of new plays entitled Treason ín The Northern Theatre. Things have been accruing at such a pace that I just write all the while ceasing to consciously keep track of myself. Then there are other visual and musical projects that can’t be mentioned at this time. Simply put, I go wherever the energy leads me during a given period. At this point any linear catalogue of this energy would annul itself at first precipitation. 

6. What do you think about American poetry of the last ten years?

6. I can’t dole out some definitive assessment of the generic poetic landscape. Í know over the past decade or so some of my associates such as Heller Levinson, Carlos Lara, Janice Lee, Nathaniel Mackey, Andrew Joron, Tongo Eisen-Martin, Marcella Durand, Ivan Arguelles, Anthony Seidman, Brenda Ijima, the late Ron Allen and Adam Cornford have been putting out notable work. Of course this is not a demotic list which I am incapable of doing. The concept of contests and competitions and notoriety leads to pitfalls and destabilization of the imagination placing the work into the eroding context of the moment. I think poetic work needs register like invisible seismology picking up the currents of the intellectual atmosphere just to paraphrase Lautreamont. Again to paraphrase Henry Miller decline can be a great energizer for the writer. What the current planetary civilization seems to presently emit seems none other than precepitous decline signalled by many groups and experts always scripting the present as a cacophanous appendix. I think the best thing for the writer is to concentrate on the writing and let the paradigm makers flourish via their monetary abstractions and abstractions.

7. It seems that you’ve never joined an organized surrealist group inside or outside the US. Why is that?

7. Joining a group has always been for me like melding in with a pre-existing narrative. It is energy that seems immurred in prior experiment. À curious containment seems to transpire and because certain leaps of thought can never fully transpire beyond it’s fixed grammar., Group thought tends to broker the individual saplings’ energy. Its wayward spells of growth at times seems to alter consensus mandate and cause unnecessary friction. Thus possibility remains curtailed. So the original energy sought for can never be medicinally realized. Energy is stoked by dissonance that alters the standing narrative. This alteration seemed key in one of Artaud’s last letters to Breton. A verbal particleof his stands out to me concerning the body having the capacity to invoke its own “electrical revolution”. These two words in combination evoked for me the need to search the inner trail of its burning ciphers, that magically intoned the wayward. It seems one must energize early attempts at working on self-definition, at empowering tendencies of personal verbal craft so as to invoke verbal maturity. Any form of self-ideology detracts from this process. The key here is the desire to look inward to not be swayed by the trends of the momvent. As Lorca once stated not ” now now now” but he understood this to be long-term verbal sustainibility. Yet the negative aspect of this sustainability remains a curious isolation from the protection provided by the group that helps absorb personal blows from the rationalists at a sensitive time in one’s development. One is caught at a cross roads between inner experiment and momentary insulation from the group that provides poetic protection from the psychology that issues from the rhetoric of the capital markets. For me the evolution of organic poetic grammar is not unlike living one’s reality on a razor’s edge creating havoc in one’s psycho-physical kingdom. This experience equates experience with Rimbaud’s understanding of withstanding the poet’s test of withstanding organic disorginazation. This remains particularly difficult in a society replete with the superficial rhetoric that demands a transactional posture towards language. This posture being none other than unspoken ideology of step by step procedure. At times this remains an opaque and embrangling experience for the poet because one is forced to convey quotidian verbal remnants with friends and acquaintances who side with the caution that is pragmatism and that tends to favour that which has been collectively condoned. It is not unlike poetic fervour of Sor Juana when surrounded on all sides by the conventions inflicted by the nunnery. For me I was surrounded by imaginative verbal inhibition that had filtered into the enclave known as South-Central Los Angeles. Having had a chance to have some exposure to the streets of North Philly and South Side Chicago all these communities seem to form an ensemble they internally resemble one another. All these regions are rife with curious clarification by deficit, yet exceptions such as Eric Dolphy and Sun Ra arose from this standing deficit creatively transmuting this deficit. One’s whole praxis as a poet is to lingually transmute deficits that the atmosphere seems to insure, providing another scale create or scope that unlit tendencies of the imagination will evolve to.

8. As an Egyptian poet (Mohsen) it is important to me to learn how you regard ancient Egyptian civilization,

I know you’re interested in Egyptian alchemy, magical arts, intellectual and other artistic developments,

Can you elaborate on these interests? 

8. When you initate philosophy texts with fragments from the Pre-Socratics an initial blunder is immediately condoned. This in turn sustains a tremor in collective thought. It was Schwaller de Lubicz’s understanding that the root of present Civilization was sired not in Greece but in Phraonic Egypt via the first seven dynasties of its pyramidal building. Egypt was not only defined by its pyramidal magic but by its skills of the mind. I often point out that Plutarch named the Egyptian teachers who were principal in instruction of those such as “Solon, Thales, Plato, Eudoxus, Pythagoras.” He points out that Pythagoras was instructed by Oenuphis of Heliopolis. Saying this it must be remembered that the initial African builders were Nubian and that the initial great dynasties of Egyptian pyramidal building were African. The majority of confusion on this topic issues from colonial Egyptology of the recent 20th century. These scholars try to somehow suggest that some Northern or European element fostered the mathematical psychology of these eternally standing structures. One need simply look at the dating of Greece and that of Egypt so as to get a proper perspective of who organically authored the pyramids. Not that one is seeking an African first simply on the basis of heritage, but as an evolutionary standard for consciousness on this planet. Not that I have come close to Egyptian mastery of detail that now engulfs the present psychic field (whether officially acknowledged or not) I continue to engage with its psychological resonance soaked as it is in my present kinetic registration. This registration being endemic to my poetic resonance a resonance that is in organic contradistinction to the scholar as research magnet. I think it is possible to poetically absorb detail in such a manner that the detail is broadened and flows into vision consumed by an endemic malleability not unlike that of glass when it emerges from a kiln. I am not speaking of generic inaccuracy but of the essence of the detail as it flows into living consciousness therefore emerging with transmuted strength. This being different than the scholar who isolates the original detail and convenes it in a moribund state sans its implied imagination. So in this state ancient Egypt never retains an existential electricity, a living energy that I can be poetically plumbed via fresh and unembrangled vigour. For me Egypt is not some quaint secondary rhetoric to be pored over in accordance with the stillness that condones scholarly ownership, an ownership that I understand to be advancement according to rational acumen. My absorption of this acumen is more akin to the spirit that Sun Ra provided for us as he sonically flourished within the realms of what we call the right brain. Within the present state of affairs a notion has been registered that the right brain mitigates detail, but on the contrary it absorbs detail to such a degree that it flows in a such a manner that it remains open to existentential transmutation remaing resonant within the present. As a creative being I am not inclined to demotic representation of lists stunted in prior immurement. For me knowledge must be restored via its living fragments rather than taking things whole cloth from a prior context. This was the principle that the Moors when making use of Greek invention so that these inventions evolved beyond their former habitats so that new osmosis was made possible. For me the mental range advanced in Egypt lives at a scale that present mind presently aspires to.

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