Detail View: RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive: Interview

Filename: 
ds_0027_cohninterview_cap_01.mp4
Identifier: 
ds_0027_cohninterview_cap_01.mp4
Title: 
Interview
Creator: 
Cohn, Jim, 1953-
Subject: 
Cohn, Jim, 1953- Interviews
Subject: 
American Sign Language literature
Subject: 
American poetry 20th century
Subject: 
Deaf Poetry
Subject: 
Deaf, Writings of the, American
Subject: 
ASL poetry
Summary: 
Part of a collection of interviews made for a film on ASL poetry, "The Heart of the Hydrogen Jukebox." Jim Cohn describes how he became involved with poetry as a college student, meeting Allen Ginsberg and other noted poets, and attending the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. As a poetry student, he was interested in the representational aspect of the Chinese written character, and drawn to the visual quality of ASL. In 1982, he joined the two year interpreting program at NTID. He learned about Deaf poetry and poetics from Robert Panara and Patrick Graybill whom he considered his spiritual teachers. Other Deaf poets also influenced him such as Ed Sollenberg and Dorothy Miles. He reflects upon the Deaf Beat Summit he arranged for an interpreting class, inviting Allen Ginsberg to present with Robert Panara. An earth-shattering moment occurred when Patrick Graybill translated the phrase "hydrogen jukebox" from Ginsberg's poem, "Howl". That meeting created an explosion of ASL poetry talent. After the summit, Cohn started the popular BirdBrain Society Poetry Reading Series on campus where ASL poets Peter Cook and Debbie Rennie performed. Jazzberries also became a venue for poetry readings which were interpreted for the Deaf audience. Deaf people could access poetry readings by hearing poets by talented poetics interpreters such as Miriam Lerner, Donna Kachites, and Susan Chapel. When Cohn attended graduate school, he continued his Deaf poetry studies and learned more about Clayton Valli and Ella Mae Lentz, who were ASL poets. He published a paper on the New Visible Poetics in Sign Language Studies and thought about hosting a national Deaf Poetry conference to bring together these talented Deaf poets. The 1987 National ASL Deaf Poetry conference was held at NTID featuring Patrick Graybill, Ella Mae Lentz and Clayton Valli who represented the first ASL school in the modern era (late 20th century). The experimental, spontaneous Deaf poetics embodied by Peter Cook and Debbie Rennie was introduced. Their work involved using interpreters (Kenny Lerner and Donna Kachitas) which exposed them to hearing audiences. Their works had surrealistic qualities and experiments in form which was beyond language. The mix of things was right for Rochester for Deaf poetry....like the mix of things was right in Paris for the Beats in exile. They were all in exile from something and looking for a way to be themselves as poets in a society that was not and grows less interested in the power of the personal in poetic expression.
Publisher: 
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Digital Publisher: 
Rochester Institute of Technology - RIT Libraries - RIT Archive Collections
Contributor: 
Lerner, Miriam Nathan
Date of Original: 
2007
Date of Digitization: 
2018
Broad Type: 
moving image
Digital File Format: 
mp4
Physical Format: 
DVD
Dimensions of Original: 
122 minutes
Language: 
American Sign Language
Language: 
English
Original Item Location: 
RITDSA.0027
Library Collection: 
Sculptures in the Air: An Accessible Online Video Repository of the American Sign Language (ASL) Poetry and Literature Collections
Library Collection: 
Miriam and Kenneth Lerner ASL Poetry Collection
Digital Project: 
2018-2019 CLIR Grant-ASL Poetry and Literature
Catalog Record: 
https://albert.rit.edu/record=b3954964
Catalog Record: 
https://twcarchivesspace.rit.edu/repositories/2/resources/815
Place: 
New York - Rochester
RIT Spaces and Places: 
Henrietta Campus
Rights: 
RIT Libraries makes materials from its collections available for educational and research purposes pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. It is your responsibility to obtain permission from the copyright holder to publish or reproduce images in print or electronic form.
Rights: 
CC BY-NC-ND: Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Transcript: 
[FURNITURE SCRAPING ON FLOOR] MAN: IF YOU COULD START OUT WITH YOUR--SPELL YOUR NAME. MAN 2: NOW? MAN 1: YEAH. SAY [INDISTINCT]. MAN 2: OK. THIS IS JIM COHN. IT'S THE 7th OF JULY-- MAN: CAN YOU SPELL YOUR LAST NAME? COHN: MM-HMM. 2007. MY NAME IS SPELLED C-O-H-N. DO I GET AN "A"? MAN: YOU GET AN "A." COHN: OK. WOMAN: AND IT IS THE DAY FOR THE BIG CONCERTS, TOO. COHN: WHICH CONCERTS? WOMAN: THE AL GORE--YEAH. COHN: OH. WOMAN: CONCERTS ROUND THE WORLD. COHN: OH, THE LIVE--WORLD AID-- LIVE WORLD? WOMAN: YEAH, LOVE TO [INDISTINCT]. COHN: I DON'T THINK THERE'S ANYBODY PLAYING IN THERE THAT I'D WANT TO SEE. WOMAN: HA HA HA! [INDISTINCT] ANYWAY, SO, LET'S START OUT BY-- I NEED YOU TO START WAY BACK. I NEED YOU TO GO TO TALK ABOUT NAROPA, 'CAUSE THAT'S WHERE YOU MET ALLEN GINSBERG, RIGHT? WAS HE ONE OF YOUR TEACHERS? DID HE TEACH THERE? COHN: RIGHT. ALLEN GINSBERG FOUNDED THE NAROPA INSTITUTE WITH ANNE WALDMAN. WOMAN: WHAT YEAR WAS THAT? COHN: THE JACK KEROUAC SCHOOL OF DISEMBODIED POETICS WAS FOUNDED IN '80--NO, '74, 1974 IN BOULDER, COLORADO. ALLEN WAS A DISCIPLE OR A STUDENT OF TRUNGPA RINPOCHE, AND HE AND ANNE WALDMAN FOUNDED THE NAROPA INSTITUTE'S KEROUAC SCHOOL OF POETICS AT THAT TIME. AND I TOOK MY FIRST CLASS FROM ANNE WALDMAN IN 1976 AS A SENIOR WHILE-- WHILE BEING A SENIOR AS AN ENGLISH MAJOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER. I TOOK A CLASS OF HERS THAT SPRING SEMESTER CALLED "POETICS." WOMAN: DID YOU ALREADY CONSIDER YOURSELF A POET AT THIS TIME? OR WERE YOU WRITING POETRY OR WERE YOU JUST SORT OF STARTING GETTING-- COHN: KIND OF NOT REALLY MUCH. AND I WAS AT NAROPA OFF AND ON BETWEEN '76 AND 1980, AND I WAS WORKING FOR BURLINGTON NORTHERN IN 1979 AND LIVING IN MISSOULA, MONTANA, AND I HAD WRITTEN ALLEN GINSBERG A LETTER TO APPLY TO BE A TEACHING ASSISTANT FOR, UM... THAT SEASON, AND I HEARD BACK, AND I WAS HIS T.A. THEN IN THE SUMMER OF 1980, AND I WAS--COMPLETED A CERTIFICATE OF POETICS PROGRAM THERE THAT YEAR AS WELL. SO, I WORKED CLOSELY WITH ALLEN IN THE SUMMER OF 1980. AND THE PROJECT I WORKED ON WITH HIM AT THE TIME WAS A YOUNGER POETS COLLECTION FOR CITY LIGHTS BOOKS, FOR LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI IN SAN FRANCISCO. THERE WERE 3 YOUNGER POETS THAT ALLEN GINSBERG CHAMPIONED. THEY WERE ANTLER, WHO LIVES IN MILWAUKEE, WHO HAD PUBLISHED A GREAT, LONG WORK CALLED "FACTORY." THERE WAS THE POET ANDY CLAUSEN, WHO WAS AN EX-MARINE IMMIGRANT TO THE UNITED STATES WHOSE POETRY WAS THOUGHT TO CARRY ON THE LINEAGE OF NEAL CASSADY, WHO WAS A FRIEND OF JACK KEROUAC AND ALLEN GINSBERG'S AND THE BEAT POETS. AND THERE WAS A THIRD POET NAMED DAVID COPE FROM MICHIGAN, WHO HAD SENT ALLEN POEMS, AND ALLEN WAS ENAMORED WITH HIS POETRY. HE FOUND IT IN THE TRADITION OF THE OBJECTIVIST POETS GOING BACK TO WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND CHARLES REZNIKOFF, THE CHICAGO LAWYER POET. SO, I WAS WORKING WITH DAVID COPE AND CORRESPONDING BETWEEN HIM AND ALLEN IN '80. AND IN--DURING THAT SUMMER, I WENT TO A DOCTOR'S VISIT WITH ALLEN, WHO HAD HAD A PARTIAL STROKE DUE TO SOME BAD MEDICATION HE HAD TAKEN. AND HE WAS AT THAT POINT IN HIS 60s, EARLY 60s, I THINK. AND WE WERE SITTING IN A DOCTOR'S OFFICE, AND IN THE WAITING ROOM, HE STARTED TALKING TO ME ABOUT GOLDEN AGES OF POETRY. AND HE HAD MENTIONED THAT EZRA POUND, WHO HE HAD KNOWN AND CHAMPIONED DURING THE TIME THAT EZRA POUND WAS CHARGED WITH TREASON AND PLACED IN ST. ELIZABETH'S HOSPITAL IN D.C. FROM THE TIME OF HIS INTERNMENT AROUND 1946 TO HIS RELEASE IN THE FIFTIES AFTER 11 YEARS, UM... POUND HAD BEEN THOUGHT TO BE TREASONOUS TO THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT FOR MAKING ANTI-AMERICAN, ANTI-PRESIDENTIAL ATTACKS FROM ITALY IN THESE RADIO GIGS HE WAS DOING, LIKE iPOD KIND OF RADIO SHOWS HE WAS DOING OUT OF ITALY DURING THE WAR. AND ALLEN SAID HE HAD LEARNED FROM POUND THAT THE GOLDEN AGES OF POETRY WERE ALWAYS HAPPENING WHEN TRADITIONAL, ACADEMIC, FORMAL, OFFICIAL-LANGUAGE, DOMINANT-LANGUAGE STATES WERE HIT WITH VERNACULAR, STREET LANGUAGE OF THE PEOPLE, AND THAT WHEN THAT LANGUAGE BUSTED THROUGH SORT OF THE OFFICIAL ENGLISH, THE "THIS IS HOW WE'RE GOING TO THINK ABOUT LIFE, THIS IS--" YOU KNOW, HEAVY-IRON, CONCEPTUALIZED REALITY, ACCOUNTABILITY LANGUAGE, YOU KNOW, INTEGRITY LANGUAGE, YOU KNOW, SORT OF CREDO LANGUAGE OF-- LIKE WE'RE ALL GOING TO BE GOOD CITIZENS AND GOOD PATRIOT. WHEN THAT LANGUAGE IS BUSTED OUT BY SORT OF WHAT PEOPLE ARE REALLY THINKING ABOUT THEIR GOVERNMENT OR WHAT THEY'RE REALLY THINKING ABOUT THEIR LIFE OR WHAT THEY'RE THINKING ABOUT SEX OR WHAT THEY'RE THINKING ABOUT POLITICS. HOW THAT--THE POETRY-- THAT LED TO POETRY THAT WAS REALLY A MORE TIMELESS AND KIND OF ETERNAL AND FOR THE GENERATIONS TO COME KINDS OF WORK. AND SO, THIS HAPPENED IN A DOCTOR'S OFFICE, LIKE, 5 MINUTES. AND THIS WAS VERY POWERFUL FOR ME. AND-- WOMAN: HE DIDN'T JUST READ IT OUT OF THE "READER'S DIGEST"... COHN: OH, NO. NO, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT-- WE'RE TALKING DANTE, AND ALLEN HAD A-- JUST AN ABSOLUTELY...YOU KNOW, AUDIO AND VISUAL GRAPHIC MEMORY, SO, FOR POETRY. PROBABLY THE LAST GREAT LIVING POET OF OUR-- IN AMERICA WHO HAD THAT KIND OF PRODIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE OF POETRY AND POETIC CULTURE AND POETIC HISTORY. WOMAN: DID HE THINK THAT THAT HAPPENED, THAT THESE GOLDEN AGES HAPPENED BECAUSE OF LINGUISTIC SHIFTS OR CRITICAL MASS OF PEOPLE USING THE MORE COLLOQUIAL THING SO THAT IT BUTTED UP AGAINST IT BECAUSE OF DEMOGRAPHICS OR BECAUSE IT WAS A POLITICAL THING? WHY WOULD IT HAPPEN THAT SOMETHING WOULD CHALLENGE? WAS IT A POLITICAL THING THAT WAS THE INCEPTION OF THE CHALLENGE TO THE HEGEMONY OR WAS IT THE-- THE LINGUISTIC CONFLAGRATION? YOU KNOW WHAT I'M SAYING? COHN: YEAH, I THINK HE GENERALLY LOOKED AT IT AS A COMBINATION OF CULTURAL, POLITICAL, SPIRITUAL, EVOLUTIONS. YOU KNOW, I DON'T THINK HE WOULD ISOLATE IT INTO JUST "IT WAS THE LANGUAGE" OR "IT WAS JUST THE POLITICS" OR "IT WAS JUST A CERTAIN--" BUT IT WAS A COMING TOGETHER SORT OF A--OF A PERFECT STORM OF ART, SO THAT--SO THAT ART EXPRESSION THROUGH POETRY IN PARTICULAR, WHICH WAS THE GENRE IN QUESTION WAS THROUGH LANGUAGE ITSELF, WAS IN FACT THROUGH THE SUBJECTIVE, THROUGH PEOPLE CLAIMING, AS THEY WOULD, LIKE, RIGHT NOW, BECAUSE WE LIVE IN THIS WORLD OF REALLY SELF-PRODUCTION, A LOSS OF A SORT OF OMNISCIENT, OMNIPRESENT, OBJECTIVE NEWS. WHEN THOSE KINDS OF CONTROLS ARE LOOSENED OR ELSE PRIED OFF BY, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE, BY PARTICULARLY ARTISTS, THEN IT'S A COMBINATION OF SOCIAL, YOU KNOW, POLITICAL, THE ACADEMIC, THE GOVERNMENTAL IS JUST-- THAT GETS PRIED OFF PEOPLE'S BACKS. THEY JUST SEE THINGS DIFFERENT WAY. THEY JUST SEE SORT OF WARS AS COMPLETELY-- THE WAR THAT THEY'RE IN THAT'S BEING FOUGHT FOR A CERTAIN KIND OF REASON, THEY JUST DON'T AGREE WITH THE GOVERNMENT, AND SO, YEAH, I THINK IT'S A COMBINATION. WOMAN: MM-HMM. SO, HE SAID THIS ALL TO YOU SITTING IN HIS DOCTOR'S OFFICE. COHN: WELL, HE BASICALLY JUST TALKED ABOUT POUND AND THE GOLDEN AGES OF POETRY. AND SO, I TOOK HIM HOME TO HIS APARTMENT, WHERE HE LIVED WITH THE POET PETER ORLOVSKY, AND WHILE HE WAS TEACHING THAT SUMMER AT NAROPA. AND I WAS WALKING DOWN THE STREET IN BOULDER, AND I JUST HAD ONE OF THOSE LIGHT BULB MOMENTS WHERE, FOR SOME REASON, I THOUGHT ABOUT SIGN LANGUAGE, AND THAT IN TERMS OF, "HUH, "I THINK I HAVE TO LEARN ABOUT SIGN LANGUAGE. "I THINK SIGN LANGUAGE MIGHT BE A CONFLUENCE POINT WHERE "WHAT DEAF PEOPLE MIGHT BE THINKING AND CREATING "MIGHT HAVE A SIMILAR KIND OF EXPERIENCE, "AT LEAST FOR AMERICAN LETTERS, IF NOT FOR AMERICAN CULTURE IN GENERAL." IF THAT--IF WHAT THE LANGUAGE OF THAT-- THAT UNOFFICIAL, IN THE SENSE OF DISABILITY OR IN THE SENSE OF STEREOTYPES, IF THAT IS KNOWN TO GREATER NUMBER OF PEOPLE, THAT THAT MIGHT FLOOD OUT SOMETHING THAT IS SO MISCONCEIVED, SORT OF SO HEAVILY CONCEPTUAL AND NOT BASED IN ANY KIND OF TRUTH OF WHAT'S HAPPENING. SO, THAT'S WHEN I SORT OF MEANDERED BACK AND FORTH TO TRY TO BEGIN TO LEARN SIGN LANGUAGE, TO TRY TO BEGIN TO MEET THIS WORLD AND ENTER INTO IT. WOMAN: YOU HAD NEVER MET A DEAF PERSON BEFORE OR SEEN ANY SIGN BEFORE OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT? COHN: NOT REALLY. NOT REALLY. [WOMAN CLEARS THROAT] DID YOU RIGHT AWAY... COHN: EXCEPT MAYBE A DEAF PIANO TUNER I--I KNEW ONE TIME. YEAH. WOMAN: HE ALWAYS--LOWER RANGE WAS ALWAYS OFF, RIGHT? [LAUGHTER] WOMAN: NEVER GOT THOSE LONG NOTES. DID, UM... [INDISTINCT] OH, YEAH, I HAVE TO BE QUIET. OK. QUIET. SORRY. I'LL COUGH ONE MORE TIME, OK? MAN: YEP. [WOMAN COUGHS] I WON'T DO IT ANYMORE. OK, THANKS. DID--SO, YOU HAD THIS IDEA AND DID YOU IMMEDIATELY TRY TO FIND A SIGN CLASS THAT WOULD HELP YOU? COHN: YOU KNOW--AHEM-- MY--MY LEARNING SIGN LANGUAGE ESSENTIALLY EVOLVED LIKE AA MEETINGS OR SOMETHING. I WOULD BE IN TOWNS AND I WOULD, LIKE, SEE THERE WOULD BE A SIGN LANGUAGE CLASS, AND ACTUALLY, AT THAT TIME, THERE WERE SIGN LANGUAGE CLASSES EVERYWHERE AS SOON AS YOU JUST LOOKED. YOU WOULD GET-- I WAS TRAVELING A LOT. AND SO, I WAS LIVING IN MY TRUCK IN ARCATA, CALIFORNIA, AT THAT POINT, AND I TOOK A CLASS OUT THERE...AFTER THAT. THAT WAS MY FIRST FORAY AT A COMMUNITY COLLEGE, I THINK, UM... UP NEAR EUREKA, AND THEN I WAS AT SUNY NEW PALTZ. I WAS REALLY TRAVELING CROSS- COUNTRY A LOT AT THAT POINT. I WAS HITCHHIKING AROUND AND WORKING ODD JOBS. AND, UM... SO, YEAH, I SLOWLY ENDED UP HERE AT NTID, WHERE WE ARE NOW, AT THE NATIONAL TECHNICAL INSTITUTE FOR THE DEAF. IN '82, AFTER HITCHHIKING BACK TO NEW YORK STATE FROM...UPSTATE NEW YORK-- WHEN MY SIGN LANGUAGE CLASS COMPLETED, MY FIRST ONE, WHICH WAS MAYBE A MONTH OR TWO, AND AT THAT TIME, I GOT PICKED UP BY A GUY WHO WAS A STUDENT HERE AT RIT. WHO HAD TOLD ME, "WOW. THERE'S A LOT OF DEAF PEOPLE "HANGING OUT AROUND THIS PLACE WHERE I STUDY. DO YOU WANT TO COME SEE THE CAMPUS?" AND SO, YEAH, I WAS HERE FOR MAYBE A HALF-HOUR, AND I CHECKED INTO AN INTERPRETER TRAINING PROGRAM HERE AND WAS INTERESTED IN THAT AS A WAY TO KIND OF DO BOTH, THE THINGS I WANTED TO DO, WHICH WAS LEARN SIGN LANGUAGE FOR MY OWN SORT OF PERSONAL GROWTH AND INTEREST AND ADMIRATION AND ACTUALLY MEET POTENTIALLY THE POETS OF MY GENERATION WHO WERE DEAF. WOMAN: DID YOU--[CLEARS THROAT] WHEN YOU STARTED TAKING SIGN-- I KNOW WHEN I STARTED TAKING SIGN, THE TACTILE/KINESTHETIC THING WAS LIKE JUST THIS IMMEDIATE HIT, LIKE THIS IS WHAT MY HANDS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING. YOU KNOW, I REALLY FELT THIS IMMEDIATE...THING THAT I WANTED TO DO THIS MORE. DID YOU--DID ANYTHING RESONATE FOR YOU WHEN YOU STARTED LEARNING SIGN THAT WAS HELPING YOU ALONG THE PATH TO FIND THE ANSWER YOU WERE LOOKING FOR IN TERMS OF THE POETICS AND JUST WERE LEARNING-- OR DID YOU ALREADY SEE POSSIBILITIES IN THE VISUAL ASPECTS OF IT? OR DID ANYTHING ABOUT IT HIT YOU THAT WAS LEADING YOU MORE TOWARDS THAT KERNEL THAT HAD COME TO YOU IN THE BEGINNING OF YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS, I GUESS? COHN: I DON'T KNOW IF I HAD, LIKE, GREAT THOUGHT PROCESSES OR MUCH OF THOUGHT PROCESSES ABOUT...ABOUT THAT, BUT WE HAD READ-- I HAD READ AS A STUDENT "CHINESE AS A MEDIUM--" "THE CHINESE WRITTEN WORD AS A MEDIUM FOR POETRY"-- SOMETHING LIKE THIS-- IS A TITLE OF A BOOK BY ERNEST FENOLLOSA AND EZRA POUND-- A LITTLE BOOK THAT REALLY INTERESTED ME ABOUT THE REPRESENTATIONAL ASPECT OF THE CHINESE WRITTEN WORD AS A MEDIUM FOR POETIC EXPRESSION-- SORT OF THE REPRESENTATIONAL ASPECT WHERE A WORD VISUALIZES SOMEHOW OR REPRESENTS SOMEHOW WHAT IT IS ABOUT. SO, I DON'T THINK IT WAS NECESSARILY A MIND/HAND CONNECTION OR SORT OF THE, YOU KNOW, PAINTING ON... PAINTING PICTURES ON HEAVEN. UM...KIND OF QUALITY OF SIGN LANGUAGE, IT DRAWS A LOT OF PEOPLE TO IT. BUT I GUESS I WAS INTERESTED IN THE SHEER, UM... THE SHEER VISUAL QUALITY OF THE SIGN AS A--AS-- TO BE REPRESENTATIONAL OF THINGS AS THEY ARE OR TIME AS IT IS BEING DESCRIBED IN THE MOMENT OR RE-CREATING PAST OR... SO THAT SIGN LANGUAGE WAS THIS MACHINE FOR MAKING POEMS WAS REALLY FASCINATING FOR ME. IT WAS VERY REPRESENTATIONAL, AND IT BEGAN TO MAKE ME SEE OUR OWN SPOKEN OR WRITTEN ENGLISH LANGUAGE AS SO ABSTRACT, SO IN OUR HEADS, AND SO POTENTIALLY FILLED WITH NEUROSES OR HALLUCINATORY EXPERIENCE. IT WAS NOT REP--YOU KNOW, TIED TO THINGS THEMSELVES, THINGS AS THEY ARE. THAT WAS ACTUALLY A GROUNDING, INSANE, BOTH CONTEMPLATIVE AND SORT OF MEDITATIVE PRACTICE. SO, ACTUALLY, SIGNING WAS REALLY A PRACTICE OF MEDITATING THE WORLD AS IT IS, AS IT APPEARS. WOMAN: BUT DOESN'T THAT... MEAN THAT YOU'RE SAYING THAT SIGN DOESN'T HAVE THE SAME CAPABILITY OF BEING ABSTRACT IN THIS FORM, INCREDIBLY CONCRETE, AND IN A SENSE, THAT MEANS THAT THAT MAKES IT SEEM THAT IT DOESN'T HAVE THE SOPHISTICATION OF BEING ABSTRACT OR THE--YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? LIKE, YOU ARE VIEWING IT WITH QUALITIES THAT WERE COMFORTING TO YOU BUT AREN'T NECESSARILY TRUE, I'M WONDERING. COHN: RIGHT. NOT REALLY. I MEAN--I-- THOSE ARE--THAT'S SORT OF-- THAT WOULD... WHEN PEOPLE STUDY DEAF CULTURE OR ASL CULTURE, THEY TEND TO PUT THESE--SET UP THESE OPPOSITIONAL CAMPS OF THE, YOU KNOW... I THINK WILLIAM STOKOE DID A GREAT JOB OF, PARTICULARLY AS A HEARING PERSON-- AND THAT WAS AN INFLUENCE OF--FOR ME AS WELL. LIKE, FROM THE LINGUISTIC COMMUNITY TO SORT OF UP THE ANTE ON ASL FOR PEOPLE TO ADMIT THAT-- PEOPLE HAD TO ADMIT THAT THIS LANGUAGE... THAT THIS WAS A LANGUAGE. I JUST--AND OBVIOUSLY, FOR ME, ASL IS AS MUCH A LANGUAGE ON PAR WITH ANY OTHER LANGUAGE. AND ONE OF THE DEFINITIONS OF LANGUAGE, PARTICULARLY IN ARGUMENTS AROUND ASL, IS DOES IT OR DIDN'T IT HAVE AN ABSTRACT QUALITY. WERE DEAF PEOPLE REALLY CAPABLE-- WERE THEY REALLY THINKING IN THE SAME WAY? WAS THEIR COGNITION OF A SAME SET AS THE REST OF THE PEOPLES AND THEIR LANGUAGES OF THE WORLD. SO, I'M NOT SORT OF SAYING THAT IT'S, I THINK, IT WAS THAT REPRESENTATIONAL ARGUMENT THAT SORT OF CONNOTES IT. THIS WAS A PEOPLE THAT WAS INCAPABLE OF ABSTRACT THINKING, AND THEIR LANGUAGE WASN'T CAPABLE OF ANY KIND OF... ANGELIC OR PHILOSOPHICAL OR MATHEMATICAL CAPABILITIES EQUAL TO, YOU KNOW, THE EGYPTIANS OR, YOU KNOW, THE GREAT CIVILIZATIONS OF THE WORLD, BUT WHAT'S INTERESTING IS, THERE'S A HU-- THERE IS THE HISTORY OF THIS DRAG IN OPPOSITIONAL NATURE OF THESE ARGUMENTS, AND THAT WAS NO PROBLEM FOR ME AT ALL. I JUST THOUGHT, AS A POET, THAT THE VISUAL QUALITY IS PREMIER BECAUSE THE LINEAGE I COME FROM WAS-- LANGUAGE ACTUALLY HAS 3 SORT OF FUNCTIONS. AND THE PREMIER BEING, AS POUND WOULD SAY, THE PHANOPOEIC FUNCTION BEING THE VISUAL, THAT THAT IS THE MOST TRANSLATABLE, THAT PEOPLE CAN UNDERSTAND THAT, REGARDLESS OF WHAT CULTURE THEIR FROM, WHAT LANGUAGE THEY SPEAK. AND, AS A POET, I WANTED TO ULTIMATELY BE PART OF A TRADITION THAT WOULD SPEAK SORT OF CROSS-GENERATIONALLY OR INTRAGENERATIONALLY ON A GLOBAL LEVEL. SO, SIGN LANGUAGE, FOR ME, WITH THE EMPHASIS ON THE LANGUAGE BEING A GIVEN, UM... AND THE SECONDARY ASPECT WAS THE SIGN WAS THE VISUAL, WAS THE PHANOPOEIC. SO IT WOULD BE THE MOST CROSS-CULTURAL, LIKE REGARDLESS OF TIME AND SPACE. THE OTHER ASPECTS OF POUND'S SENSE OF LANGUAGE WAS WIT... AND MELODY. AND I THINK PEOPLE TEND TO SORT OF NOT SEE THE RHYTHMIC ELEMENTS OF ASL. THEY KIND OF GET FASCINATED, PARTICULARLY NOVICES. PARTICULARLY MYSELF AS A NOVICE, I WAS FASCINATED WITH THE VISUAL AND NOT NECESSARILY UNDERSTANDING THE MELOPOEIC, THE MUSICALITY OR THE RHYTHMIC ELEMENTS OF SIGN, BUT I THINK THAT THAT CAME LATER. AND I WAS PROBABLY UNCONSCIOUSLY, AS A BEGINNER, MAYBE EVEN MORE INFLUENCED BY THAT AS A HEARING PERSON THAN I WAS THE VISUAL. AND SO I THINK--BUT AS A-- AS A QUESTION OF, LIKE, "WAS IT ONE OR THE OTHER?" OR "DID I THINK ASL WASN'T A LANGUAGE AT FIRST?" OR "WAS I INVOLVED IN A STRUGGLE TO UPLIFT IT WITH OTHER PEOPLE?" THAT--THAT WAS ALREADY DONE. TO ME, THAT WASN'T EVEN AN ISSUE WORTH DISCUSSING. I WAS JUST INTERESTED AS A POET IN THE VISION, SORT OF THE WIT AND THE MUSIC. AND I'M--OVER TIME, BEGAN TO SEE ALL THOSE ELEMENTS AS A PART OF IT, THE MORE I COULD LOOK IN AND UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS BEING COMMUNICATED AND PRODUCED. WOMAN: SO, THAT'S-- [CLEARS THROAT] WHEN YOU-- THAT'S WHEN YOU'RE HAVING CONVERSATIONS WITH PEOPLE. BUT WHAT WAS HAPPENING-- LIKE, WHEN YOU WERE HERE AND YOU DECIDED TO GET INTO THE TRAINING PROGRAM? AND I'M ASSUMING THAT WAS JUST AS A FAST TRACK TO LEARN IT AS FAST AS YOU COULD. DID YOU EVER HAVE ANY ASPIRATIONS TO BECOME AN INTERPRETER? - YEAH, YEAH. - YOU DID? I NEEDED A JOB. I MEAN, I HAD A DEGREE IN ENGLISH. SO, YOU KNOW, THE QUESTION THEY ASK-- ENGLISH GRADUATES ALWAYS ASK IS, "DO YOU WANT THAT WITH FRIES?" - HA HA HA! - YOU KNOW, SO, UH... YEAH, SO I HAD BECOME A PIANO TUNER AFTER I GRADUATED FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO IN BOULDER AS AN ENGLISH MAJOR, 'CAUSE I WAS TRYING TO FIND A WAY TO MAKE IT IN THE WORLD AS AN ARTIST. AND THEN I WENT FROM BEING-- MY OWN PERSONAL KIND OF BACK- AND-FORTH VISION WAS SOMEHOW-- ON ONE HAND, I'D BECOME A PIANO TUNER AND TECHNICIAN. ON THE OTHER HAND, I WAS DIVING INTO BECOMING A SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER-- BOTH VOCATIONALLY. AND THAT WAS KIND OF CONFUSING AT THE TIME. BUT I DON'T THINK--IT WAS NOT A FAST TRACK FOR ME. IT WAS JUST, UM... BUT IT TURNED OUT TO BE A MAJOR SORT OF, LIKE, ANTHROPOLOGICAL KIND OF JOURNEY, WHICH, I THINK, ANYBODY COULD FRAME THEIR EXPERIENCE AROUND. I THINK OUR STUDIES HERE AT NTID WERE SENSITIVE ENOUGH TO SORT OF PERMIT THE ETHNOGRAPHIC OR JUST SORT OF THE INFORMANT PROCESS TO EMERGE AS A REAL WAY TO ACTUALLY LEARN LANGUAGE. YOU HAD TO MEET PEOPLE. YOU HAD TO BE A SOCIAL AGENT TO DEAL WITH LEARNING THIS LANGUAGE. AND YOU--BECAUSE THERE WERE CUSTOMS AND ATTITUDES AND WAYS OF LIFE THAT YOU COULDN'T JUST LEARN DEVOID OF THE PEOPLE INCORPORATING THE LANGUAGE. SO, THAT WASN'T PARTICULARLY-- THAT WAS SORT OF FAST-TRACK BEING HERE AT THIS MECCA OF DEAFNESS. WOMAN: MM-HMM. SO, WE WOULD GO TO THOSE DEAF PARTIES. AND, YOU KNOW, WE WOULD SMOKE A LOT OF DOPE AND EVERYBODY WAS HIGH, AND THEN PEOPLE WERE LISTENING TO MUSIC, YOU KNOW, FULL BLAST, SO THAT YOUR BONES FELT LIKE THEY WERE GONNA JUST KIND OF TURN TO DUST BECAUSE THE MUSIC WAS SO LOUD. AND PERHAPS THAT WAS A SORT OF ABU GHRAIB WAY OF, LIKE, YOU KNOW, HEAVY-METALIZING HEARING PEOPLE TO TORTURE THEM INTO SOME KIND OF FORM OF AUDITORY SHUTDOWN SO THAT THEY COULD-- AND MAYBE IT WAS CONSCIOUS, BUT I THINK TO UNDERSTAND THAT MY CONTEMPORARIES WHO WERE DEAF AND PARTYING WERE AS MUCH SORT OF IN THIS UNDERGROUND KIND OF SCENE OF--THEY WERE HIPSTERS, THEY WERE--HAD THEIR OWN NETWORKS, THEY SORT OF HAD THEIR OWN ARTISTIC SENSIBILITIES, AND THEY WERE DEEPLY ENGAGED IN, LIKE, WHAT THIS LANGUAGE THAT THEY WERE PARTICULARLY ENGAGED, MORE THAN AMERICANS ARE WHO HAVE A SORT OF FUNCTIONAL LITERACY, BUT NO REAL COMPETENCY IN THEIR LANGUAGE. THEY SPEAK. THEY USE THIS-- THEY USE THIS LANGUAGE, ENGLISH, BUT THEY DON'T REALLY HAVE MUCH, AS A WHOLE, A SENSIBILITY OF WHAT IT'S ABOUT, WHAT IT'S DOING. AND SO THE WHOLE KIND OF DEAF PARTY SCENE OF THAT TIME IN THE EARLY EIGHTIES AROUND HERE, PARTICULARLY ON THIS CAMPUS AND AROUND THE CAMPUS, WAS, I THINK, VERY HEADY, YOU KNOW, VERY INVESTIGATORY OF WHAT--WHAT WAS GOING ON. AND THERE WAS SORT OF LIKE THIS SORT OF SENSE OF... HUGE POSSIBILITIES AND CHANGE. WOMAN: SO, YOU MEAN PEOPLE WERE ACTIVELY SITTING AROUND TALKING ABOUT THE LANGUAGE THEY WERE USING. THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT ASL IN, LIKE, A SELF-REFLEXIVE WAY, TALKING ABOUT, "HERE'S WHAT I DO, AND WHAT CAN THIS LANGUAGE DO WHEN WE--" YOU JUST TOLD THAT STORY-- DENNIS WEBSTER-- AND THAT WAS SO COOL HOW YOU DID THAT SHIFT WITH THE CINEMAT-- YOU KNOW, I MEAN, PEOPLE WERE TALKING ABOUT THE LANGUAGE AND HOW YOU WERE USING IT. YEAH, YEAH. THEY WERE... THEY, YOU KNOW--AND... THERE'S THIS SORT OF SOCIAL... YOU KNOW HOW... SORT OF LIKE YOU COP HOW A PERSON'S BODY LANGUAGE IS OR YOU COP THEIR MOVES. AND, UM... I THINK IT'S LIKE DRESS, IT'S LIKE COSTUME, TOO. I MEAN, PEOPLE WOULD PICK UP ON HOW PEOPLE ARE DOING THINGS AND LANGUAGE. AND THAT WOULD KIND OF FLOAT OFF AND AROUND AS SORT OF THIS WAY OF BEING FOR POTENTIALLY FOR SOMEBODY ELSE, AND SOMEONE MIGHT INHABIT THAT SPEECH COSTUME OR THAT SPEECH CODE. AND I THINK THAT THAT WAS KIND OF--THAT WAS MORE PLASTIC THAN FOR HEARING PEOPLE, BUT NOT PARTICULARLY, BECAUSE THERE'S JUST SORT OF STYLES OF VERNACULAR GETTING SPUN OFF--NEW WAYS, NEW WORDS IN A LANGUAGE AND WAYS OF SAYING THINGS THAT WERE JUST KIND OF TYPICAL OF PROBABLY COLLEGE-AGE STUDENTS. WOMAN: WELL, THERE'S ALSO THE WHOLE THING ABOUT THAT THIS IS WHEN THE RUBELLA BULGE IS HAPPENING IN THESE KIDS WHO ARE THE FIRST MAINSTREAM KIDS AFTER 94-142 AND 504, WHICH PASSED IN '74 OR '73. [CLEARS THROAT] IT WAS REALLY BEING DONE, YOU KNOW, BY THE LATE SEVENTIES. PEOPLE--THESE KIDS WERE MAINSTREAMED. AND A LOT OF THEM WHO, HERETOFORE, HAD BEEN IN THE SCHOOLS FOR THE DEAF ARE FINALLY COMING--ARE COMING IN FROM MAINSTREAM PROGRAMS AND FINALLY GETTING INTO THIS INFUSION OF SIGN LANGUAGE, TOO. - SO I WONDER IF PART OF IT IS-- - RIGHT. WOMAN: THE FACT THAT A LOT OF THE EXCITEMENT, STILL, IS KIDS COMING IN HERE AND FINDING A PEER GROUP AND FINDING SIGN AND THAT THEY'RE NOT THE ONLY ONE. AND, "YOU SIGN THAT WAY," AND "YOU SIGN THAT WAY, AND THAT'S WILD." OR "I'VE NEVER DONE IT, SO ...WELL..." OR "I HAVE A COCHLEAR IMPLANT. SCREW THIS..." COHN: RIGHT. LIKE, EACH DEAF SCHOOL IS KIND OF LIKE ITS OWN SLAM CENTER. IT WAS LIKE EVERY SCHOOL WAS A POETRY SLAM. AND SO THIS WAS LIKE THE BIG AMERICAN SLAM SORT OF STAGING OF IT ALL AT THAT POI--AT THAT MOMENT, SO THAT--AND PEOPLE WERE, YOU KNOW, SORT OF NOT PARTIC-- I MEAN NOT PARTICULARLY JUDGMENTAL IN A-- I MEAN, MAYBE AESTHETICALLY, BUT NOT PARTICULARLY-- I MEAN, MORE OF WANTING TO GET ALONG AND MEET AND SORT OF SURPRISED BY IT, LIKE, "OH, YOU KNOW, LIKE, YOU SIGN 'CHICAGO' DIFFERENT THAN I SIGN 'CHICAGO'" OR, YOU KNOW, AND/OR JUST THAT VARIANCE OF REGIONAL-- REGIONAL DERIVATIONS OF LANGUAGE. I THINK PEOPLE WERE SORT OF MESMERIZED, FASCINATED BY THAT. AND YOU'RE RIGHT. SO, THERE WAS A CERTAIN INTERNAL CONFLUENCE OF THINGS GOING ON AT THAT PARTICULAR MOMENT FOR THAT PARTICULAR GENERATION OF STUDENTS THAT HAD ARRIVED HERE SORT OF IN THIS BULGE OF, UH...EARLY TO MID-EIGHTIES IN ROCHESTER, AND THAT PROBABLY BROUGHT-- AND THEN WHEN PEOPLE LIKE PETER COOK... HE WAS ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE, KIND OF COMING INTO ALL OF THAT. AND YOU MIGHT HAVE HAD A SENSE THAT... SOMEONE IN THAT GROUP MIGHT HAVE BEEN DESTINED OR ABLE TO SORT OF SEE IT ALL AND TAKE IT ALL IN AND SOMEHOW PUT IT BACK OUT THERE IN A WAY THAT WAS BIG ENOUGH AND NEW ENOUGH THAT IT WAS GOING TO BLOW PEOPLE'S MINDS. WOMAN: WHAT WAS HAPPENING... SO, YOU TALK ABOUT THAT THERE WERE CONVERSATIONS HAPPENING AND STUFF IS--THAT PEOPLE WERE ACTIVELY ENGAGED IN EXPLORING IT. [CLEARS THROAT] WHAT WERE THE PERFORMANCE THINGS THAT WERE HAPPENING? LIKE, WHEN YOU GOT HERE AND YOU FIRST BECAME AWARE OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN TERMS OF WHEN YOU'RE SEEKING POETRY, YOU'RE SNIFFING IT OUT LIKE GLUE, YOU KNOW. AND SO, WHERE WAS THE INKLING THAT THIS IS WHAT WAS HAPPENING WITH IT? YOU KNOW, THERE'S THE CELLAR, THERE'S BIRD'S BRAIN, AND I DON'T QUITE HAVE THE CHRONOLOGY OF THAT OR... OR THINGS LIKE THAT. IF YOU CAN TALK ABOUT THAT, IT WOULD BE GREAT. COHN: SO, I GOT HERE IN...1982, AND I WAS IN A 2-YEAR PROGRAM HERE. AND I THINK THE EARLY PART OF MY TIME DURING THAT PROGRAM WAS TRYING TO CONNECT WITH THE POETRY SCENE OF ROCHESTER ITSELF, WHICH WAS ITS OWN SORT OF REGIONAL OFFSHOOT OF NEW YORK SCHOOL POETS TO SOME DEGREE, REGIONAL NEW YORK STATE POETS, AND, UM...OFFSHOOTS OF BEAT GENERATION AND BEGINNINGS OF POST-BEAT ERA POETRIES. AND THAT WAS ALL SORT OF AROUND JOE FLAHERTY'S WRITERS & BOOKS LITERARY CENTER IN ROCHESTER. AND AT THAT POINT, I WAS MEETING PEOPLE AND GOING TO READINGS THERE BECAUSE I HAD MET A LOT OF POETS AND STUDIED WITH A NUMBER OF THEM AT NAROPA AT THE KEROUAC SCHOOL. AND SO I WAS HUNGRY AS A YOUNG POET AT THAT POINT TO JUST KIND OF CONNECT WITH THE POETRY SCENE HERE. AND THERE WERE... PEOPLE LIKE PHILIP WHALEN WOULD COME THROUGH TOWN. SAM ABRAMS WAS--WHO TAUGHT AT RIT, ENGLISH, WAS HERE. UM...AND, UM... ANNE WALDMAN WOULD COME THROUGH. SOME OF THE MAJOR POETS FROM DOWNSTATE NEW YORK WOULD COME UP. 'CAUSE ROCHESTER WAS A PART OF BOTH THE NEW YORK CIRCUIT AND SORT OF A NATIONAL SCENE. SO POETS WERE RUNNING THROUGH TOWN, AND I WAS MEETING MY OWN CONTEMPORARIES HERE, TOO. AND THEN AS THAT KIND OF EVOLVED AND I GOT TO MEET THE POETS WHO WERE HEARING AND STEEPED IN VARIOUS LINEAGES HERE IN... IN AND AROUND THE RIT CAMPUS, ONE DAY, THE POET SAM ABRAMS ASKED ME IF I HAD ANY ACTIVITIES PLANNED FOR A VISIT BY ALLEN GINSBERG TO ROCHESTER TO DO READING IN THE COMMUNITY AND ALSO AT THE COLLEGE HERE, AT THE INSTITUTE HERE. SO, I THOUGHT, "WELL, YEAH, I MIGHT LIKE TO TRY TO SEE "IF I COULD SET UP A MEETING WITH ALLEN GINSBERG AND ROBERT PANARA"-- THE POET ROBERT PANARA-- "AND THEY COULD SORT OF WORKSHOP TOGETHER. "AND THAT MIGHT BE INTERESTING TO THE POETS AND LANGUAGE ARTISTS HERE ON CAMPUS." UP UNTIL THAT POINT, ON THIS END OF THINGS, I HAD REALLY SORT OF MADE MYSELF A DISCIPLE OR A STUDENT OF PANARA'S. AND I HAD KIND OF GONE TO HIM AS IF HE WAS A CERTAIN KIND OF TEACHER, BUT LIKE A SPIRITUAL TEACHER, AND I WAS INTERESTED IN THE LINEAGES OF DEAF POETRY AND POETICS HERE THAT HE HAD GREAT KNOWLEDGE OF, AND I WAS IN AWE OF THE INFORMATION HE WAS GIVING ME. I'D SAY PATRICK GRAYBILL, AS WELL, WAS-- HE KIND OF CAME LATER FOR ME, BUT IT WAS A DIFFERENT KIND OF SORT OF SPIRITUAL AND AESTHETIC ENERGY I GOT FROM HIM, BUT THOSE TWO WERE PLAYING A BIG PART IN SORT OF MY SORT OF INTERNAL DEVELOPMENT OF SEEING, OF LEARNING MORE ABOUT DEAF LINEAGES AND DEAF POETICS TRADITIONS. AND I THINK BY THE TIME THAT ALLEN AND BOB MET FOR THIS SORT OF DEAF BEAT SUMMIT IN FEBRUARY OF '84, I FELT PRETTY WELL VERSED IN BOTH OF THOSE LINEAGES. THE BEAT LINEAGE CAME OUT OF, YOU KNOW, A LONG TRADITION THROUGH WHITMAN AND-- [CLEARS THROAT] WOMAN: DO WE HAVE TO WAIT FOR A SECOND? BECAUSE-- - HELP! - HA HA HA HA! - MAKEUP! GET IT? - HA HA HA HA! MAN: OK, ANYTIME. COHN: THE BEAT TRADITION THAT I THINK WAS SO INFLUENTIAL TO ME REALLY COMES DOWN TO THAT LINE FROM GINSBERG TO WHITMAN, THROUGH BLAKE, AND SO FORTH. BUT, UM... I THINK THE DEAF TRADITION THAT I WAS SEEING THROUGH STUDYING WITH PANARA JUST HAD TURNED ME ON TO A TRADITION OF STRUGGLE AND OF VARIETY THAT WAS SO NEW TO ME AND OF INTEREST. THE...PROBLEM THAT I WAS SEEING WAS, UM... A LOT OF ISSUES OF TRYING TO EMULATE AS OPPOSED TO KIND OF TRYING TO... SUBJECTIVELY DO YOUR OWN THING. AND, UM... THE LEVEL OF EXPERIMENTATION AND SPONTANEITY-- I'M NOT SURE I'M A PERSON WHO CAN JUDGE THAT IN DEAF POETIC LINEAGES, BUT THE GREAT GOLDEN AGE SCHOOL THAT PANARA HAD, BOTH SCHOLARLY CHAMPIONED AND PARTICIPATED IN AT GALLAUDET UNIVERSITY WAS-- SEEMED TO ME, WHEN I SORT OF HAD A CHANCE TO LOOK AT THE "SILENT NEWS" ANTHOLOGY, WHICH WAS THE--PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT WRITTEN TEXT OF DEAF POETRY TO THAT TIME, AND ON SOME LEVEL, AND NOT PARTICULARLY FORTUNATELY, MAY CONTINUE TO BE LIKE THE PRIMARY TEXT OF DEAF TRANSMISSION OF POETRY IN WRITTEN FORMS IN THE SENSE THAT THAT'S NOT PARTICULARLY THE MOST VITAL, LIKE, ASPECT OF WHAT HAS HAPPENED AND WHAT POTENTIALLY IS MOST RELEVANT ABOUT DEAF POETRY. THAT SCHOOL SEEMED TO BE ENGAGING MOSTLY IN A CLOSED FORM KIND OF POETICS OF RHYMED COUPLETS AND THINGS SO THAT PANARA'S POEM ON HIS DEAFNESS IS PROBABLY ONE OF THE MORE EXQUISITE KIND OF SONNETS FORMATIONS, BUT DIDN'T REALLY CONVEY A SENSE OF ASL. I MEAN, IT WAS--HE TRANSLATES IT, OR HE PERFORMS IT AS A SIGNED POEM AS WELL AS A POEM IN SPOKEN ENGLISH. HE DOES BOTH TOGETHER, BUT THAT WAS NOT TOO INTERESTING TO ME. THAT'S NOT WHAT WAS REALLY INTERESTING TO ME. OCCASIONALLY, I WOULD SEE POEMS IN WRITTEN FORM BY, LET'S SAY THE POET ED SOLLENBERGER, WHO WAS LIKE A BUM-- SORT OF LIKE A CLASSIC, SORT OF BUDDHIST, DEAF BUM IN LOWER EAST SIDE OF NEW YORK WRITING SORTS OF OBJECTIVIST POEMS THAT WERE IN AN OPEN FORM, THAT WERE SORT OF DESCRIBING EVENTS AS THEY WERE, AND THAT WAS OF INTEREST TO ME. THAT WAS PART OF WHAT MY LINEAGE WAS ABOUT. WOMAN: DID YOU SEE HIM PERFORM USING SIGN ANYWHERE? THERE WERE NO FILMS OF IT OR... COHN: NO, NO. BUT I WAS INTERESTED, ALSO, IN THESE PEOPLE LIKE ED OR DOROTHY MILES BECAUSE THEY WERE PEOPLE WHO WERE ALSO-- I COULD SEE SOMEHOW, THEY WERE STRUGGLING WITH THEIR OWN PERSONHOOD AND COMING TO TERMS WITH THAT THROUGH POETRY, WHICH I THINK WAS... SOMETHING I COULD RELATE TO. AND I THOUGHT THAT THAT WAS SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE WOULD REALLY WANT, COULD RELATE TO... THE EMOTIONALITY OF IT. AS POUND SAYS, "ONLY EMOTION ENDURES." SO, THE FACT THAT DOROTHY MILES WAS, LIKE, MANIC DEPRESSIVE AND SUICIDAL, AND BOTH SHE AND SOLLENBERGER DID COMMIT SUICIDE AND WONDERING SORT OF WHAT THEIR COMMUNITIES HAD CONTRIBUTED TO THEIR ISOLATION OR THEIR HAPPINESS WAS... WAS REALLY RELEVANT TO ME, TOO, BECAUSE I COULD SEE THIS SORT OF COMMON GROUND OF, UM...THE HEART. OR I COULD SEE THIS COMMON SUFFERING, NOT IN THE WAY HEARING PEOPLE AS A DOMINANT SORT OF FORCE, LIKE, SUBJUGATE DEAF PEOPLE TO THE REALM OF SUFFERING, UM... AS A WAY TO SORT OF CREATE THE NORM OF ABILITY, BUT JUST EVERYDAY COMMON SUFFERING THAT A PERSON WHO WOULD MEET ANOTHER PERSON ON THE STREET COULD RELATE TO. SO... I WAS INTERESTED IN THINGS LIKE, WERE... HOW COMMUNITIES RESPOND TO THE POET. AND OWNERSHIP THAT COMMUNITIES TAKE. YOU KNOW, I WAS INTERESTED IN HOW ROBERT FROST WOULD APPEAR AT JFK'S INAUGURATION. AND SOMEHOW, POETRY HAD, AT THAT POINT, IN EARLY SIXTIES, HAD STILL THIS LEVEL OF, UM... DYNAMISM THAT THE COUNTRY COULD RELATE TO. IT EMERGED THIS SPRING, THE SPRING OF 2007, WHEN, UM... OH, I'M BLANKING ON HER NAME. SO I APOLOGIZE, BUT, UM... WE HAD A POET AT VIRGINIA TECH, NIKKI GIOVANNI, WHO WAS CALLED UPON AND GAVE THE GREAT EULOGY FOR THE STUDENTS THAT WERE MASSACRED BY A KOREAN STUDENT WHO HAD MASSIVE DEPRESSION AND WENT POSTAL, LIKE, ON THE STUDENTS ON THAT CAMPUS. AND THERE YOU HAD SORT OF A RELEVANT POETIC FIGURE SORT OF RISING AS THE SPOKESPERSON OF THE PEOPLE AND THEIR SUFFERING AND DESPAIR AND SOLIDARITY. SO, I'M SAYING THAT BECAUSE I THINK THE POETS-- [COUGHS] IN THE DEAF WORLD THAT I WAS LEARNING ABOUT REALLY HAD, PERHAPS, GREATER STRUGGLES TO JUST SORT OF WORK IN THE CONTEXT OF LANGUAGE WITHOUT HAVING TO SORT OF REPRESENT THE PEOPLE. AND I THINK THE DEAF COMMUNITY HAD AND CONTINUES TO HAVE TO TRY TO LAY CLAIM TO THEIR POETS AND THE PRODUCTIONS OF THOSE POETS AS SORT OF SOME KIND OF PROOF OR SOME KIND OF-- LIKE THE POET'S WORK IS IMMEDIATELY SORT OF ABSCONDED BY THE COMMUNITY AS SOME KIND OF PROOF OF THE-- YOU KNOW, AGAIN, THE CAPABILITY OF THIS GROUP OF PEOPLE IS SOMETHING THAT I DON'T THINK, LIKE, IN THE BEAT GENERATION WHEN, IN THAT GENERAL CONTEXT OF GOING AGAINST THIS MASSIVE WITCH HUNT AND BLACKBALLING OF PEOPLE AS COMMUNIST OR AS DEVIANTS OR AGAINST THE STATE OR IN TODAY'S TIME, YOU KNOW, UNDER THE PATRIOT ACT, IN A SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY THAT, LIKE, JUST THOSE BASIC ISSUES OF GOING AGAINST WHAT PEOPLE ARE THINKING OR SAYING SOMETHING THAT THE GOVERNMENT FINDS OFFENSIVE OR IS CENSORABLE. I DIDN'T SEE A LOT OF INITIATIVE BY THE DEAF COMMUNITY TO... TAKE A LOOK AT THEIR OWN SORT OF NEED TO SORT OF SURVEILLANCE OR CENSOR OR CLAIM THE POETRY THAT WAS HAPPENING. AND SO, PEOPLE HAD A DESIRE TO SORT OF APPEASE, I THINK, THAT WAS AS STRONG AS THE SENSE OF FUN AND JUST EXPERIMENTATION THAT WAS STARTING TO COME OUT WITH PEOPLE JUST DOING POETRY AND THERE BECOMING, LIKE, A GROWING BODY OF WORK. AND I THINK THAT THE WORK, ESSENTIALLY, THEN, IN MY TIME... IT WAS KIND OF CLEAR THAT ASL WAS THE PLACE WHERE THE POETRY REALLY WAS. AND IT WAS GREAT THAT THERE WAS A BODY OF WORK FOR HEARING PEOPLE, A DEMONSTRATION TO, LIKE, THEM THAT THERE WAS REAL CITIZENSHIP OF DEAF PEOPLE AS WELL. BUT I THOUGHT THAT THAT, AGAIN, WAS SOME KIND OF PROOF OF HUMANITY THAT DIDN'T REALLY NEED TO GO ON ANY LONGER. I DIDN'T THINK THAT ANYONE HAD TO STRUGGLE TO OVERCOME LIKE A SENSE OF PARIAHOOD ANY LONGER. I JUST THOUGHT THAT THAT WAS A DONE DEAL. AND WHY DON'T WE JUST GET ON TO, LIKE, "LET'S SEE THE POETRY, MAN." WOMAN: SO, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT STUDENTS WHO WERE BASICALLY PRODUCING THE THINGS THAT YOU'RE SEEING. YOU'VE COME FROM ... YOU'VE SEEN--YOU'VE BEEN STUDYING WITH PANARA. YOU'VE SEEN WHAT--YOU TOUCHED ABOUT DOROTHY MILES. AND BERNARD BRAGG IS VERY MUCH IN THAT MIX, TOO. BOB TOLD ME YOU GOT TO LOOK AT BRAGG'S STUFF. HE DID THINGS THAT NOBODY ELSE DID. ...TALKED ABOUT... BUT YOU GET HERE, AND NOW THIS MEETING TAKES PLACE, WHICH I ALSO WANT YOU TO TALK ABOUT A LITTLE BIT IN A SECOND. BUT ALL OF THE THEORETICAL AND ACADEMIC OVERLAYS WE'RE PUTTING ON RIGHT NOW DIDN'T EXIST FOR THESE STUDENTS WHO WERE JUST GETTING STONED AND MESSING AROUND. COHN: RIGHT. WOMAN: SO, WHAT WERE YOU STUMBLING ONTO? WHAT WERE YOU--LIKE, DID YOU JUST GO TO A PARTY AND THERE WERE THESE PEOPLE WHO STOOD UP AND STARTED DOING STUFF, AND DID IT LOOK DIFFERENT THAN STORYTELLING? HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU'D HAPPENED UPON THESE KIDS WHO WERE EXPERIMENTING WITH SOME KIND OF THING THAT YOU MIGHT THINK WAS THE POETRY YOU'D BEEN SNIFFING FOR? COHN: WELL, THE FUNNY PART OF THAT TIME, FOR ME, WAS REALLY... I WAS SEEING THINGS ONE WAY, AND OTHER PEOPLE WERE SEEING THINGS A DIFFERENT WAY. SO, I WAS SEEING WHAT WAS HAPPENING AS POETRY. UM... A LOT OF TIMES, EVEN NOW, SOMEONE WILL WRITE A POEM AND WANT TO SHOW IT TO ME, AND I'LL GO, "THIS IS TERRIBLE. "THIS IS, LIKE, NOT HOW YOU TALK AT ALL. "THIS IS NOTHING THAT HAS TO DO WITH YOUR REALITY REALLY AT ALL. THIS IS LIKE YOU TALKING LIKE YOU THINK A POEM SHOULD BE." AND IN THAT REGARD, WHAT I WAS SEEING WAS REALLY POETRY. AND THE CIRCUMSTANCE WAS... DEAF PEOPLE DID NOT THINK OF POETRY AS A DEAF THING. SO, THAT'S THE INTERESTING... CONCEPTUALIZATION THAT WAS HAPPENING. AND WHAT I WAS INVOLVED WITH WAS... THIS SENSE OF, I'D SAY, "MAN, THAT WAS A POEM." AND PEOPLE WOULD SAY-- DEBBIE RENNIE WOULD SAY, "NO. A POEM EQUALS ENGLISH. "SO, I CAN'T POSSIBLY BE DOING THAT. "BECAUSE I HAVE THIS, AT BEST, YOU KNOW, "ADVERSARIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THAT LANGUAGE. "AND SO, I CAN'T POSSIBLY BE DOING POETRY. "I CAN'T POSSIBLY BE A POET. I CAN'T POSSIBLY HAVE THIS IDENTITY." SO, I THINK WHAT I MIGHT HAVE BEEN INVOLVED WITH WAS ON SOME SMALL LEVEL A TRANSMISSION OF POETRYHOOD OR POET IDENTITY AND REALLY TRYING TO LAY, SORT OF A--CLEAR A GROUND TO THE POTENTIAL TO JUST SEE THAT IF PEOPLE JUST SAT THERE BY THEMSELVES OR STOOD THERE ON A STAGE BY THEMSELVES AND ESSENTIALLY DID THEIR OWN LANGUAGE...PERFORMANCE OR, AS WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS SAID, "A POEM IS LIKE A COMPLEX MACHINE." IF WHAT THEY HAD CREATED AS A PIECE WAS IN AND OF ITSELF NOT JUST A THEATRICAL OR A DRAMATIC THING, WHICH DEAF PEOPLE DID FEEL VERY COMFORTABLE WITH AND DEAF CULTURE DID EMBRACE FROM THE SILENT MOVIE ERA ONWARD, BUT IF, IN FACT, THAT SOLITARY PERSON SORT OF SPEAKING CANDID, NAKED, VIVID, MEMORABLE MIND COULD DO... THEN, IN FACT, THERE WAS THE IDENTITY THAT THEY MIGHT BE PARTICIPATING IN THE POETIC TRADITION THAT GOES BACK TO THE BEGINNINGS OF DANCE AND MUSIC AS WELL. AND SO THAT'S WHAT THOSE CONVERSATIONS WOULD ESSENTIALLY BE ABOUT, WAS, "YEAH, I THINK YOU'RE WRONG. I THINK WHAT YOU'RE DOING IS POETRY." WOMAN: DID THEY THINK WHAT THEY WERE DOING WAS STORYTELLING OR WHAT DID THE--IF THERE WAS A LABEL TO BE HAD, WHAT IS IT THEY THOUGHT OF INSTEAD THEY WERE GONNA DO? "I'M GONNA SHOW YOU A BLANK RIGHT NOW. WATCH ME. "I'VE BEEN WORKING ON THIS THING, THIS BLANK. WHAT DO YOU THINK?" WHAT DID THEY THINK THEY WERE DOING? COHN: YEAH, I THINK YOU'RE RIGHT. UM...AND FOR SOME REASON, THE STORYTELLING TRADITION, FOR ME, WAS SEPARATE FROM POETRY. AND IN AND OF ITSELF, IT IS MORE... IT HAS A GREATER GRANDIOSITY. IT'S NOT ROCK 'N' ROLL, BUT IT'S DEFINITELY A HIGHER STATUS THAN POETRY. AND I GUESS I JUST THOUGHT THAT THERE WAS AN ABSENCE OF SELF, OF THE SORT OF, UM... IT WASN'T REALLY ALLOWING PEOPLE TO SORT OF LAY CLAIM TO THEIR OWN MIND AND THEIR OWN HOLINESS AND THEIR OWN SANITY. IT WASN'T ABOUT THEM YEARNING FOR THAT. IT WAS IN A STORY AND IN SORT OF CARRYING A STORY FORWARD, IT'S IN, LIKE, THE NATIVE AMERICAN TRADITION, WHICH IT WAS MORE SIMILAR TO. I THINK IT WAS ABOUT MOVING CULTURAL VALUES, LIKE, FORWARD THROUGH TIME AND CULTURAL MEMORY. AND WITH THE ESSENTIALNESS IN A NON-WRITTEN LANGUAGED PEOPLE, UM... THAT ELEMENT CANNOT EVER DIE. IF IT DOES, THE PEOPLE WOULD DIE. BUT POETRY WAS SOMETHING ELSE THAN THAT AS WELL. AND THERE WAS SOMETHING POTENTIALLY ABOUT THAT MODE, THAT ARTISTIC MODE, THAT WOULD EVEN BE OF GREATER VALUE TO THE PEOPLE, I MEAN, IN A SORT OF SHAKESPEAREAN KIND OF SENSE THAT THERE WAS A PERSON THAT CREATED THAT STUFF AND WENT THROUGH THE WORLD EXPERIENCING SOMETHING THAT BECAME SOMETHING ELSE, BUT-- OR DANTE, IN A SENSE OF CREATING A PERSONAL COSMIC VISION AND THE VALIDITY OF THAT AMONG MANY REALITIES. SO, THE ULTIMATE SENSE OF THAT, FOR ME, WAS IN CONVERSATIONS WITH PETER COOK AND WHEN WE FIRST MET AND, UM...BEFORE ALLEN CAME TO CAMPUS AND ASKING PETER IF HE'D LIKE TO GO SEE THIS THING AND HIM SAYING, UH... "WELL, I'VE BEEN TO A POETRY READING OR TWO." AND THAT, IN AN OF ITSELF, WAS REALLY EXCITING FOR ME. UM...AND... BUT HE WOULD SAY, YOU KNOW, HE'D LOOK AT THAT SCENE, AND HE'D SEE PEOPLE SITTING LIKE WE'RE HERE SITTING NOW, AND, YOU KNOW, HE'S-- I'M NOT SIGNING RIGHT NOW. AND I'M TALKING ABOUT DEAFNESS. AND SO HE'S SITTING THERE AT A POETRY READING WATCHING SOME CAT ON A BAR STOOL WITH, YOU KNOW, A PIECE OF PAPER IN FRONT OF HIS FACE, AND HE'S TALKING AND-- OR DOING HIS POEMS, AND PEOPLE ARE SITTING IN THE AUDIENCE. AND IT'S SORT OF LIKE, YOU KNOW, DEAF PEOPLE ARE SORT OF LIKE ITALIANS IN A CERTAIN WAY. I MEAN, THEY'RE JUST VERY GESTICULAR. AND AMERICANS ARE SORT OF LIKE, YOU SIT WITH YOUR HANDS FOLDED IN YOUR LAP, LIKE I'M DOING HERE. AND YOU'RE NOT REALLY-- THERE'S NO EXPRESSIVENESS. THERE'S NOTHING SORT OF--THERE'S NOTHING COMING OFF THE BODY. THERE'S NO STARDUST. THERE'S JUST NO ACTION COMING OFF. IT'S JUST BORING. SO, I THINK, AS A DEAF PERSON, WHAT WAS FASCINATING TO ME WAS MY INITIAL TAKE FROM PETER COOK WAS THAT THIS WAS AN EXCEEDINGLY BORING ACTIVITY, EXCEEDINGLY PEDANTIC. AND SO WHAT WAS KIND OF EXCITING WAS-- I MEAN, I LIVED, BREATHED POETRY MYSELF, SO-- AND I HAD JUST STUDIED WITH THESE BEAT MASTERS, PEOPLE THAT APPEARED IN KEROUAC'S "ON THE ROAD." I HAD BEEN STUDYING WITH GARY SNYDER, THE ECOLOGICAL POET AND ZEN MASTER POET. I HAD STUDIED WITH PHILIP WHALEN, WHO WAS ALSO A ZEN MASTER. AND I HAD STUDIED WITH ANNE WALDMAN. AND THE POETRY I WAS READING WAS ABOUT A WAY OUT OF THIS PRISON MIND OF THE CLOSED POETIC FORMS, WHERE PEOPLE WOULD SAY THINGS LIKE-- INSTEAD OF TEACHING STUDENTS ABOUT PROSODY, AS IF THE FORM DICTATED THE CONTENT OF POETRY, I WOULD STUDY PEOPLE LIKE FRANK O'HARA, WHO, IN HIS MANIFESTO WOULD SAY... "ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FORM IS "YOU WANT TO WEAR YOUR PANTS TIGHT ENOUGH SO EVERYBODY WANTS TO GO TO BED WITH YOU." AND SO, THAT WAS AN ELEMENT THAT I WAS WALKING AROUND THINKING ABOUT. AND, IN FACT, IT WAS SEXY WHAT WAS HAPPENING POETICALLY IN ASL. IT WAS SEXUAL. IT WAS SENSUAL. IT WAS ACTIVE. IT WAS, UM... IT WAS BREAKING DOWN CONVENTIONS. AND THE ARGUMENT THAT THEN HEARING POETRY, IN FACT, THE REVERSE OF WHAT HEARING PEOPLE WERE TRYING TO IMPOSE, WAS THAT DEAF PEOPLE THOUGHT THAT HEARING POETRY WAS JUST A DRAG WAS GREAT. IT WAS GREAT BECAUSE WE WERE INVOLVED THEN IN SOME KIND OF CONTEST OF WILL AND CONTEST OF, LIKE, "OH, YEAH? I'M GONNA SHOW YOU, BUDDY. YOU KNOW, WATCH OUT." AND, YOU KNOW, FOR SOME REASON, ALLEN GINSBERG HAD EVEN, I THINK, THE SORT OF MYSTIQUE OR THE MYTHOS OF HOW, THE CREATION OF HOW WAS STRONG ENOUGH THAT EVEN SOMEONE WHO WAS DISINTERESTED IN HEARING POETRY, LIKE A YOUNG PETER COOK, WHO WAS MORE INTERESTED IN SORT OF AVENUES OF THEATER FOR THE DEAF AND STORYTELLING AND BEING ON THE ROAD AND EXPERIENCING A KEROUAC KIND OF EXISTENCE IN A TOTALLY DEAF FRAMEWORK, IT WAS SOMETHING THAT WAS OF INTEREST TO HIM ENOUGH TO COME. IT WAS SOMETHING OF INTEREST TO PATRICK GRAYBILL ENOUGH TO COME, WITH ALL HIS THEATRIC BACKGROUND. THESE PEOPLE KNEW OF THE HEARING WORLD OF POETRY VIA ALLEN GINSBERG, WHO HAD SOMEHOW SORT OF COME THROUGH SO MANY AIRWAVES THAT IT JUST-- NOTHING COULD KEEP HIM OUT, IT SEEMED, OF PRETTY MUCH ANY CULTURE. SO, THOSE PEOPLE SHOWED UP AMONG STUDENTS AND... ADMINISTRATORS AND-- WOMAN: WERE YOU THERE, TOO? COHN: AND INTERPRETING STUDENTS, WHO ACTUALLY-- IT WAS A CLASS FOR MY INTERPRETING STUDIES THAT SOMEHOW I HAD ARRANGED THAT THE CURRICULUM FOR THAT DAY WOULD BE THIS ONE WORKSHOP. AND THEY CAME AND HUNG OUT. KIP WEBSTER INTERPRETED THAT SESSION AS THE MAIN INTERPRETER. I THINK I INTRODUCED THE TWO OF THEM, AND THEY SAT THERE AND THEY DIALOGUED AND DID SOME POEMS. PANARA PERFORMED HIS POEM "ON HIS DEAFNESS," AND ALLEN BEGAN TALKING ABOUT HOW HIS POEM-- HOW IT HAD BEEN TRANSLATED INTO MANY LANGUAGES, BUT THE KEY ELEMENT OF IT THAT HE WAS INTERESTED IN IN THAT MOMENT WAS HOW THE PHRASE "HYDROGEN JUKEBOX" COULD BE--THAT THAT WAS SOMETHING THAT HAD DIFFICULTIES BEING TRANSLATED INTO OTHER LANGUAGES. AND HE WAS CURIOUS HOW IT MIGHT BE TRANSLATED-- [COUGHS] INTO ASL. AND PANARA GOT UP, AND HE SORT OF DID AN INTERPRETATION OF HOW HE THOUGHT IT MIGHT GO. AND I BELIEVE ALLEN SAID, "YOU KNOW, YOU'VE MADE--" SOMEONE EXPLAINED TO ALLEN THAT HE MADE THE SIGN OF AN "A" BOMB WITH HIS HANDS IN THE "A" SHAPE. SO, IT WAS LIKE AN "A" BOMB EXPLODING. AND THE IDEA OF A "HYDROGEN JUKEBOX" WAS... THAT THE WORLD WAS INSANE ENOUGH SUCH THAT, LIKE, IT HAD CREATED THIS CANNED MUSIC, THAT EVEN THE MUSIC WAS CANNED INSIDE OF SOME KIND OF MECHANICAL APPARATUS, LIKE A JUKEBOX AND THAT, ESSENTIALLY, THE SAME WAY THAT SORT OF THE LYRIC FORMULATIONS OF DEAF POETRY UP TO THAT POINT IN THE CLOSED FORMS WAS, LIKE, CANNED HEARING MUSIC PRESENTED TO DEAF PEOPLE. UM, AND IN THE MORE LARGER CONTEXT THAT IS SORT OF-- EXPRESSION WAS BEING CANNED, MASS-PRODUCED, MASS-DISTRIBUTED, AND MASS-CONSUMED. AND THEN SORT OF THIS MASS, SORT OF, CAPITALIST HALLUCINATION WAS JUST GONNA-- WE'RE ALL LOST IN THIS MATRIX OF--OF JUST... JUST THE SAME, JUST OF A HOMOGENOUS MIND. AND SO WE COULD ALL JUST PARTAKE OF THE SAME HALLUCINATION, BUT IN TERMS OF EXPLORING REALITIES OR DHARMAS OR GODS, WE WEREN'T GONNA HAVE THAT DISCUSSION IN THIS LIFETIME. SO, THE BEATS, ESSENTIALLY, I THINK, IN ALLEN'S FORMULATION OF THE JUXTAPOSED WORDS "HYDROGEN JUKEBOX" WAS SUCH THAT THE ROLE OF POETRY WAS IN CERTAIN TIMES, IN THEIR TIME, WAS TO BASICALLY SHATTER THAT. AND THAT NUCLEAR--THE CREATION OF A WHOLE NUCLEAR WORLD WAS, IN FACT, PEOPLE HAD PRODUCED THAT THEMSELVES. AND SO, IN THE MIDST OF ALL THIS CANNED LIFE, WE WERE CREATING OUR OWN DESTRUCTION. AND SO HE FELT THAT PANARA HAD GOTTEN IT WRONG AND ASKED FOR OTHER VOLUNTEERS, OTHER PEOPLE TO SORT OF INTERPRET THAT. AND PATRICK GRAYBILL GOT UP THERE AND DID HIS, YOU KNOW, FAMOUS--WHERE HE SORT OF OUTLINED THE SHAPE OF THE JUKEBOX, AND THEN SORT OF LIKE PUT DOWN THE REC-- OR THE REC--HE KIND OF PUT HIS ARM OUT TO GRAB A RECORD, AND THEN THAT TURNED INTO COMING DOWN, AND THEN HERE CAME THE TURNTABLE. AND THEN IT CREATED THE BOMB, THE SORT OF, THE POTENTIAL OF SORT OF SOMETHING KIND OF HAPPENING AND FASTER AND FASTER, JUST THIS SENSE OF LIKE THIS BOMB EXPLODING. AND...IT WAS THAT "AH!" MOMENT FOR EVERYBODY IN THE ROOM. I MEAN, ALLEN, IN PARTICULAR, WAS STRUCK BY, UM... THE ACCURACY OF LANGUAGE AND THE ENERGY OF THAT PRESENTATION OF THOUGHT AND WAS DELIGHTED AND THREW BACK HIS HEAD AND LAUGHED. AND EVERYBODY IN THE ROOM LAUGHED, TOO. AND PATRICK GRAYBILL, YOU KNOW, HUMBLY JUST KIND OF THEN TOOK HIS SEAT, AND I THINK THAT THAT, YOU KNOW, WHATEVER HAPPENED FORE AND AFT, THAT MOMENT WAS, YOU KNOW, IMPORTANT, BUT I THINK THAT THAT VISUAL PRESENTATION WAS A HUGE TRANSMISSION FOR EVERYTHING THAT WOULD HAVE TRANSPIRED AFTER THAT. WOMAN: AND SO, AFTER THAT WORKSHOP, WHAT WAS GOING ON? LIKE WHAT WAS PETER, FOR INSTANCE, AND HIS OTHER FRIENDS--WHAT WERE THEY DOING PRIOR TO THAT THAT WAS EXPERIMENTAL? AND THEN, RIGHT AFTER IT, HOW DID IT COME FORWARD IN WHAT THEY WERE TRYING AFTER THIS? COHN: WELL, I CAN'T REALLY SPEAK FOR PETER, PER SE, OR ANY OF HIS PALS. THEY WERE ON THE ROAD-- THEY WERE DOING THIS THEATER, AND THEY WERE REALLY DIGGIN' IT. THEY THOUGHT THAT WAS VERY COOL, AND I'M SURE IT WAS. WOMAN: THIS THEATER--LIKE THE REGULAR NTID THEATER, YOU MEAN? COHN: HE WAS DOING SOME KIND OF THEATER TROUPE. I KNOW I HAVE PHOTOGRAPHS OF SOME NOTEBOOK OF TOUR THAT HE WAS INVOLVED WITH AT THE TIME. AND OF ALL THE FOLKS I MET, I WAS REALLY HANGING, JUST BEGAN HANGING OUT WITH PETER AT THAT POINT. WE WERE WATCHING-- I'D GO TO HIS HOUSE, HIS DORM ROOM, OR MAYBE IT WAS, AND THEY HAD, LIKE, 3 TELEVISIONS. THEY WATCHED--THEY WATCHED 3 TVs AT ONCE. AND YOU COULD SEE, LIKE, AND WE WERE WATCHING THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES. AND IT WAS FUNNY. YOU KNOW, LIKE, THE PICTURES, THE FEEDS WERE ALL, LIKE, A LITTLE BIT OFF ON EVERY CHANNEL. AND SO, LIKE, IT WAS THE SAME THING, BUT THE FEEDS WERE OFF, SO EVERYTHING WAS SORT OF DELAYED BETWEEN THESE 3 TELEVISIONS COMING ON. AND, YOU KNOW, I DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY THOUGHT ABOUT THAT, BUT I JUST THOUGHT THAT THIS IS HOW THEY'RE DOING BUSINESS OVER THERE. THIS IS JUST HOW THEY WORK, AND I JUST THOUGHT IT WAS...OK. YOU KNOW, I LIKED THESE PEOPLE A LOT. AND, YOU KNOW, I THINK, WE ESSENTIALLY WOULD JUST SORT OF GO BACK AND FORTH ABOUT, "HEY, MAN, "I WANT YOU TO DO THIS POETRY. "YOU KNOW, I'D LIKE YOU TO TRY THIS AND, UH... YOU INTERESTED? AND I THINK YOU COULD DO IT." AND ACTUALLY, HE SOMEHOW HAD GOT SOMETHING FROM THIS WORKSHOP-- AND, YOU KNOW, I DON'T KNOW WHAT HE GOT, PER SE. UM... BUT HE ESSENTIALLY, I GUESS, GOT SOMETHING TO SAY, "I WANT TO TRY TO DO THIS," BECAUSE I THINK HE REALIZED MAYBE HIS OWN REAL POETIC NATURE AND WASN'T HUNG UP ON THE IDENTITY OF BEING A DEAF PERSON. HE PROBABLY HAD HIS OWN ISSUES WITH BEING A HEARING CHILD AND HAVING SOME HEARING AND THEN BECOMING DEAF. SO, IN SORT OF THE WORLDS OF STATUS, I MEAN, HE PROBABLY WASN'T FROM A DEAF FAMILY OF 9-- 90, YOU KNOW, GENERATIONS OF DEAF PEOPLE, SO HE WASN'T PURE DEAF EITHER. SO HE WAS AN OUTSIDER, TOO, AND... WOMAN: AND ORAL ... COHN: AND ORAL. YEAH, SO, HE HAD HIS OWN OUTSIDER ISSUES, AND MAYBE HE JUST FELT LIKE, I DON'T KNOW, HE JUST DIDN'T CARE ENOUGH ABOUT WHAT HE SHOULDN'T BE DOING IN THE SAME WAY THAT I REALLY DIDN'T CARE TOO MUCH ABOUT WHAT I SHOULDN'T BE DOING AS A HEARING PERSON. AND, UM... WE DIDN'T TALK ABOUT THAT, PER SE, BUT I THINK WE JUST KIND OF HIT IT OFF AS TWO PEOPLE. SO, SOMEHOW I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE REALLY GOOD TO TAKE THE ENERGY FROM THAT AND START AN ASL POETRY SERIES, AND WE USED THE CAMPUS. THERE WAS SOME KIND OF CLUB-LIKE ATMOSPHERE THING. AND ALLEN GINSBERG HAD A POEM CALLED "BIRDBRAIN" WHICH WAS A FUNNY POEM, AND, UM... ESSENTIALLY CALLING THE GOVERNMENT AND SORT OF THIS SENSE THAT WE'VE HAD ALL THIS MONEY AND ALL THIS POTENTIAL TO DO THE RIGHT THING IN FOREIGN DOMESTIC POLICIES AS A NATION, BUT SQUANDERED IT EVERY SINGLE CHANCE THAT OCCURRED. LIKE, WE'RE INCAPABLE AS A NATION OF MAKING WISE, SORT OF 7-GENERATION'S KIND OF DECISION AND BENT ON JUST MASS DESTRUCTION, PLANETARY DESTRUCTION. SO, UH... PETER HEADLINED THE FIRST BIRD'S BRAIN SOCIETY POETRY READING AND SERIES. AND THEN, THERE WERE SEVERAL AFTER THAT, AND THEY WERE WELL ATTENDED, AND, UM, PEOPLE LIKED THAT. THE FORMER CLOWN, MIMEIST DEBBIE RENNIE, SHE GOT INVOLVED WITH THAT, TOO. AND SO, I THINK THAT THERE WAS A GOOD BALANCE OF GENDER ENERGY, TOO, THAT WAS TAKING THIS IN, THAT, "I THINK I CAN BE DEAF AND BE A POET, "AND I CAN USE MY OWN LANGUAGE TO DO THAT. "AND I CAN SORT OF MAKE IT UP AS I GO, "SEEPED WITH THE LINEAGES THAT I'VE ALREADY COME TO EMBODY "AND SEE WHERE THAT GOES WITHOUT REALLY KNOWING WHAT LIES AHEAD WITH THAT." AND... SO, THOSE TWO REALLY STOOD OUT. I THINK MAYBE PATRICK GRAYBILL MIGHT HAVE READ-- AND I DON'T KNOW IF PANARA CAME DOWN AT THAT POINT AND EVER SHOWED UP AND DID SOMETHING. HE M-- WOMAN: YOU SAY HE SAW A COUPLE. COHN: I THINK HE CAME TO THEM. BUT, UH, YOU KNOW, HE WAS WORKING AS A PROFESSOR HERE AND TEACHING A HUGE LOAD AND, YOU KNOW, EDUCATING STUDENTS TO LITERATURE. SO, THAT WAS HIS THING AT THAT POINT, DOING SCHOLARSHIP AND LITERATURE. AND AT THE SAME TIME THAT WAS HAPPENING, THERE WAS A CLUB IN ROCHESTER CALLED JASPER'S IN AN OLD FIRE STATION DOWN ON MONROE AVENUE THAT WAS-- HAD GIVEN US PERMISSION TO SORT OF START A SERIES THERE AS WELL, POETRY SERIES. AND SO, THE ROCHESTER POETS-- THE CIRCLE I HAD BECOME INVOLVED WITH HERE IN TOWN-- REALLY STARTED THEN BEING A... EXPERIMENTAL STAGE FOR INTRODUCING INTERPRETERS, SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETERS TO A HEARING AUDIENCE. AND THEN, BY DOING THAT, ALLOWING DEAF AUDIENCE MEMBERS TO COME AND START SORT OF SEEING WHAT THE HEARING POETS WERE DOING AND NOT JUST SITTING THERE READING PIECES OF PAPER, BUT UNDERSTANDING WHAT THOSE WORDS WERE SAYING. AND SO THOSE TWO THINGS STARTED HAPPENING ALMOST SIMULTANEOUSLY, AND...THERE WERE GREAT SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETERS-- THE MOST DEDICATED, SELF-DEDICATED SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETERS THAT WERE ALSO PART OF THAT MIX, TOO. AND AS A SIGN LANGUAGE STUDENT-- SO I WAS INVOLVED WITH THOSE SORT OF THIRD-WORLD FOLKS, THIRD-MIND FOLKS, EVEN-- PROBABLY THE CLOSEST, AND THOSE WERE PEOPLE LIKE YOURSELF, MIRIAM, AND DONNA KACHITES AND SUSAN CHAPEL, IN PARTICULAR. THE THREE OF YOU WERE SO DEEPLY INVOLVED IN TRANSLATIONS OF HEARING TEXT, WRITTEN TEXT TO ASL FOR PRESENTATION PURPOSES AND SERIOUS, COMMITTED, YOU KNOW, AESTHETIC-MINDED PEOPLE, LIKE, TRYING TO GET THIS RIGHT, AS IF YOU WOULD DIE IF YOU HAD GOTTEN THE WRONG WORD OR YOU'D CREATED THE WRONG SIGN. AND STUDENTS OF THE PERFORMANCE OF THAT AND, YOU KNOW, INTENSE FEEDBACK SESSIONS ABOUT A PERFORMANCE, LIKE, "DID I TRANSLATE THIS RIGHT, AND DID THIS MAKE SENSE?" SO, AUDIENCE... PLAYERS, INTERPRETERS-- ALL THIS STARTED COMING TOGETHER IN THIS IN THIS REALLY UNUSUAL WAY THAT REALLY HAD NEVER HAPPENED ANYWHERE, AND I WAS QUITE SURE THAT THIS HADN'T HAPPENED ANYWHERE. AND I DON'T THINK IT MATTERED THAT IT HAD NEVER HAPPENED ANYWHERE WITH THIS VELOCITY. BUT IT WAS HAPPENING, AND I SAW MYSELF, AT LEAST, A PART OF SOMETHING THAT I KNEW WAS A GOLDEN-AGE MOMENT THAT POUND HAD TALKED TO ALLEN ABOUT. AND SO, ESSENTIALLY, I WAS SEEING A DREAM OF A GOLDEN AGE UNFOLD RIGHT BEFORE MY EYES. AND ESSENTIALLY, I WAS JUST WALKING THROUGH IT. AND WE BEGAN BRINGING IN GREAT POETS. ANDY CLAUSEN CAME TO ROCHESTER AND WAS INTERPRETED. THE NEW YORK CITY POET BERNADETTE MAYER CAME UP AND DID A READING THAT WAS INTERPRETED. AND DEAF PEOPLE WERE BEING EXPOSED TO NEW YORK SCHOOL AND SORT OF BEAT, POST-BEAT POETICS AND POETRIES, AND JUST THIS KIND OF DIFFERENCE PERSONAL STYLE THAT EACH PERSON WOULD BRING TO THINGS. AND IT WAS... IT WASN'T DONE BY-- THAT WASN'T THEN CARRIED OVER INTO ASL... [CLEARS THROAT] BY NOVICES WHO WERE PUTTING OUT A SECOND- AND THIRD-RATE GLOSS OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING, BUT, IN FACT, I THINK, WERE PUTTING OUT THESE MEANINGFUL TRANSLATIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS OF ACTUAL FORM AND CONTENT AND EXPRESSION, YOU KNOW, IN THE WHOLE BODY WAY THAT ASL IS ABOUT. AND, UM... AND THE DEAF END OF THINGS WAS REALLY STARTING TO COALESCE INTO THIS ALMOST, LIKE, BREAKTHROUGH SENSE OF, LIKE, "WOW, YEAH." I THINK IT'S POLITICALLY IMPORTANT TO ME. UM... I THINK THE POETS MIGHT HAVE BEEN THINKING SOMETHING LIKE, "THIS IS A POLITICAL ACT FOR ME TO DO ASL POETRY, "AND IT'S BOTH SOMETHING FOR MY PEOPLE AND IT'S BOTH SOMETHING FOR MYSELF." AND, IN FACT, IT WAS A BREAKTHROUGH MOMENT THAT ASL EQUALED POETRY AND POETRY MIGHT EQUAL ASL. AND SO IT ALLOWED PEOPLE TO BE FREE OF KIND OF THE ACADEMIC LINGUISTIC DISCUSSIONS OF, LIKE, "IS IT-- "YOU KNOW, CAN ASL HAVE POETRY, OR ASL CAN'T HAVE POETRY." I MEAN, THESE KIND OF ONGOING DISCUSSIONS CERTAIN CLASSES OF PEOPLE LOVE TO ENGAGE IN. I THINK THE MOST EXCITING MOMENT IN THAT WHOLE ERA THAT HAPPENED WAS SOMETIME THEN AROUND '84 WHEN I SAID TO KENNY LERNER, WHO WAS A HEARING HISTORY MAJOR WHO WAS OUT HERE TO TEACH, UM... THAT HE SHOULD MEET THIS GUY NAMED PETER COOK, BECAUSE I SOMEHOW THINK THAT THEY WOULD BE GREAT FRIENDS AND NOT PARTICULARLY LIKE-- AND, IN FACT, PETER NEEDED SOMEONE TO SORT OF WORK WITH HIM ON THE END OF GETTING HIM INTO THE EARS OF HEARING PEOPLE SO THAT THEY COULD GET A FULL UNDERSTANDING WHAT WAS HAPPENING. SO, I SAID, "YOU SHOULD MAYBE MEET THIS GUY." AND I SAID THE SAME THING TO PETER COOK. AND THE TWO OF THEM MET, AND THAT'S SORT OF A WHOLE OTHER CHAPTER OF THINGS. MIRIAM: I MEAN, HOW DID DEBBIE AND DONNA END UP WITH KENNY LERNER? DID YOU PUT THEM TOGETHER, OR WERE THEY ALREADY FRIENDS? COHN: WELL, I WAS... I WAS BEFRIENDED BY A YOUNG, BRILLIANT, LONG ISLAND, UH... INTERPRETER-- DONNA KACHITES, WHO-- [CLEARS THROAT] WE LATER MARRIED, UM... AND THAT BECAME A SCENE IN AND OF ITSELF FOR A LOT OF PARTIES, IN A LOT OF POETRY PARTIES-- AFTER-HOURS KINDS OF PARTIES THAT WOULD HAPPEN, UM... AFTER READINGS. AND SO THERE WOULD BE SORT OF PSEUDO-DEAF, PSEUDO-HEARING, PSEUDO-INTERPRETER KINDS OF BASHES AFTER THE READINGS. AND I THINK THAT WE-- SHE HAD FOUND HERSELF INTERESTED IN DEBBIE RENNIE AND HER WORK, AND, UM... WE WERE ALL FRIENDS. SO THAT, LIKE, KENNY, PETER, DEBBIE, DONNA, YOURSELF-- WE WOULD START HANGING OUT AND GOOFIN' AROUND. AND I THINK WHEN DEBBIE SORT OF TOOK UP THE CHALLENGE DURING THE BIRD'S BRAIN SOCIETY TO GET OUT HER POETRY, WHEN THAT TRANSLATED TO DOWNTOWN ROCHESTER INNER-CULTURAL POETRY READINGS AT JAZZBERRYS, AT THAT SERIES, THERE WAS--I RAN WITH TODD BEERS, POET IN TOWN. UM...SHE NEEDED SOMEBODY TO BE HER VOICE AS WELL. AND SHE CHOSE DONNA KACHITES, WHO WAS EXCEEDINGLY GIFTED POETIC INTERPRETER. AND THEY SORT OF BONDED IN THE SAME WAY THAT KENNY LERNER AND PETER COOK BONDED. SO, YOU HAD SORT OF THIS CROSS-GENDER-- SO, YOU HAD IT HAPPENING THROUGH THE FEMININE AND THE MASCULINE. YOU JUST HAD THESE--THIS WASN'T JUST A MALE THING HAPPENING, AND IT WASN'T JUST A FEM THING HAPPENING. IT WAS HAPPENING REGARDLESS OF GENDER, SO IT WAS HAPPENING--SORT OF, THERE WAS A FULL-BLOWN DIVERSITY KIND OF THING GOING ON THAT POETRY COULDN'T ENCAPSULATE. MIRIAM: AND AROUND THEN, ALSO, THERE WERE THESE IMPROV TIMES WITH STEFFA. SHE HAD IN THESE WORK-- SHE HAD A LOFT OR STUDIO SOMEWHERE. AND IT SEEMED LIKE THE DANCE STUFF WAS INCORPORATING SIGN, THE SIGN WAS INCORPORATING DANCE, SOMETHING LIKE THAT. I DON'T KNOW IF YOU KNOW-- COHN: I DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THAT. MIRIAM: OK. OK. THERE'S SOME ELEMENTS OF THAT IN THERE I HAVE TO EXPLORE, YOU KNOW-- - OK. MIRIAM: THAT THE DANCE STUFF IMPORTS DEBBIE A LOT AND HIT PATRICK THAT DEBBIE HAD THE DANCER-LIKE QUALITY TO HER MOVEMENT AND WONDERED IF MAYBE THAT WAS WHY... UM...HOW LONG DID BIRD'S BRAIN-- BIRD'S BRAIN GO? COHN: NOT TOO LONG. MAYBE, LIKE... I THINK TILL THE END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR, PROBABLY TO THE END OF SPRING '85, IF...MAYBE TO...YEAH. IT WENT--OR MAYBE THE SPRING OF '84. AFTER GINSBERG DID COME, WE DID A FEW SESSIONS, AND THEY RAN OUT. AT '84. THAT'S DEFINITELY THE SPRING OF '84, 'CAUSE I GRADUATED FROM THE INTERPRETER TRAINING PROGRAM HERE IN '84, AND THEN WENT ON TO BECOME A DEAF EDUCATOR... QUOTE, UNQUOTE, THROUGH MY STUDIES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER, AND I DON'T THINK I CONTINUED THAT. [COUGHS] THAT'S WHEN I BEGAN THINKING ABOUT WHAT HAD HAPPENED. I MEAN, SO, BY '85, I WAS ALREADY THINKING ABOUT WHAT HAD HAPPENED, WHICH MEANS... WHAT HAD ESSENTIALLY HAPPENED, WHICH WOULD BE, UM... THIS CROSS-CULTURAL EXCHANGE AND THIS SORT OF TRANSMISSION OF BEAT ENERGY AND BEAT TRADITIONS, WHICH IN AND OF THEMSELVES ARE NOT ABOUT THE POET, PER SE, BUT WHAT TRADITIONS THE POET IS CARRYING FORWARD IN A NEW WAY. UM...THAT TRANSMISSION HAD HAPPENED. AND SO YOU HAD THE EARLY SORT OF POETIC CAREERS OF PETER COOK AND KENNY LERNER, DONNA KACHITES AND DEBBIE RENNIE, AND MYSELF AS SORT OF THE ODD MAN OUT IN ALL WAYS YOU COULD IMAGINE, LIKE FORMING A LITTLE TROUPE CALLED "BRIDGE OF." AND I THINK THAT WAS A VERY SHORT-LIVED PERFORMANCE TROUPE. WE PERFORMED AT THE HUDSON CLEARWATER REVIVAL, AND WE DID ANOTHER SHOW IN VERMONT I THINK AT UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT IN BURLINGTON. AND I THINK AFTER THAT, IT WAS KIND OF CLEAR THAT KENNY AND PETER WERE DOING A THING THAT WOULD SOON MORPH INTO THE FLYING WORDS PROJECT, AND THAT WAS THEIR VEHICLE. AND DEBBIE AND DONNA'S THING WOULD BE SOMEWHAT OCCASIONAL AND, UM...BUT NOT AS LASTING AND NOT REALLY AS-- IT DIDN'T PRODUCE AS MUCH WORK FOR THE PARTIES INVOLVED. SO, I DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT WAS ABOUT IN TERMS OF LONGEVITY, BUT THE WORK THAT THEY CREATED WAS WORK THAT THEY CREATED. AND IT WAS-- IT'S A BODY OF WORK. MIRIAM: WELL, AND AT THIS TIME, TOO, WAS WHEN YOU DECIDE-- '87 IS WHEN THE FIRST NATIONAL DEAF POETRY CONFERENCE HAPPENS-- SEPTEMBER OF '87. AND YOU HAD CONTACTED ME, UH... IN THE WINTERTIME. MY MOM HAD DIED. I WAS LIVING IN NEW MEXICO WITH MY DAD TAKING CARE OF HIM, AND YOU HAD CALLED ME AND SAID, "I'M THINKING OF DOING THIS THING IN THE FALL. "YOU WANT TO HELP ME DO IT? "YOU WANT TO HELP ME COORDINATE THE INTERPRET FOR IT, AND WILL YOU HELP ME COORDINATE INTERPRETING SERVICES?" WHATEVER. AND SAID, "SURE. THAT SOUNDS GREAT." SO, AND THAT STARTED REALLY ROLLING IN THE LATE SPRING AND ALL SUMMER WITH THE PLANNING. SO, WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO DO THAT, AND HOW DID YOU PICK-- THE LOCAL PLAYERS WE KNOW ABOUT, BUT CLAYTON AND ELLA WERE INVOLVED IN THAT, TOO. SO, WHAT WAS YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THEM? HOW DID YOU GET ALL THAT TOGETHER? COHN: WELL, UM... I THINK WHEN I WAS IN GRAD SCHOOL, I WAS--I CONTINUED MY INTEREST IN DEAF POETICS, SO-- AND DEAF HISTORY, SO I HAD COME ACROSS CLAYTON VALLI'S WORK AND ELLA MAE LENTZ'S WORK, AND I WAS INTERESTED IN WHAT THEY WERE DOING. I WAS INTERESTED IN VALLI'S COMMITMENT TO ASL FROM A TOTALLY DIFFERENT, YOU KNOW, HISTORY THAN WE WERE--THAN WHAT HAD HAPPENED HERE AT ROCHESTER, WHICH WAS PRETTY MUCH LIKE A BEAT KIND OF THING. AND ELLA LENTZ WAS JUST SOMEONE-- YOU KNOW, YOU'D ACTUALLY SEE HER PICTURES IN YOUR ASL BOOKS. YOU KNOW, IT WOULD BE, LIKE, HER FACE IN THERE WHEN YOU'RE LEARNING A SIGN. IT WOULD BE LIKE ELLA'S-- ELLA PRESENTING THE SIGN FOR LIKE, YOU KNOW, WHATEVER, YOU KNOW, COOKING OR SOMETHING. AND IT'S LIKE THIS WOMAN IS A RADICAL, YOU KNOW, POET ON THE WEST COAST, AND SO VALLI'S, YOU KNOW, HARDCORE, COMMITTED, SENSITIVE, A GAY, YOU KNOW, POET ON THE EAST COAST. SO IT WAS SORT OF THIS SENSE OF LIKE, OK, I WONDER IF THERE'S A POTENTIAL TO PULL TOGETHER A NATIONAL KIND OF SENSIBILITY OF A POETRY CONFERENCE FOR THE DEAF. BUT A LITTLE BEFORE THAT, WHILE I WAS DOING MY STUDIES, I HAD WRITTEN A PAPER FOR-- THAT EXPLORED WHAT HAD HAPPENED IN ROCHESTER FROM THIS DEAF BEATS SUMMIT IN '84. AND, YOU KNOW, IN THE PAST, I'VE HAD A POET FRIEND, RANDY ROARK, WHO I'M VERY CLOSE TO ALL THESE YEARS FROM MY STUDENT DAYS WITH HIM AT NAROPA. RANDY HAD SORT OF--WAS LEFT TO TYPE UP ALL THIS CONVERSATION THAT ALLEN GINSBERG HAD HAD IN ALL HIS CLASSES AT NAROPA, AND THAT AMOUNTED TO OVER 28,000 PAGES OF DISCOURSE. IT WOULD HAVE GONE INTO... THAT I DON'T THINK HAS REALLY BEEN PUBLISHED YET, BUT WHEN I LOOK AT PIECES, POSTHUMOUS PIECES, OF ALLEN'S LIKE DELIBERATE MIND THAT HAVE COME OUT, THAT'S THE KIND OF THING WHERE HE HAD A STUDENT, ACTUALLY THEN TYPE UP THESE TALKED, ON-THE-TONGUE TAPES. BUT SO I HAD WRITTEN ALLEN TO BE HIS APPRENTICE, AND IT TOOK A CERTAIN KIND OF AUDACITY TO DO THAT, AND SAYING LIKE, "I THINK YOU SHOULD HAVE ME AS AN APPRENTICE." AND RANDY ALWAYS HOUNDS ME TO THIS DAY THAT THAT TOOK A LOT OF BALLS, YOU KNOW, LIKE, TO SORT OF THINK THAT YOU WERE, LIKE, SOMEBODY THAT SHOULD, YOU KNOW-- THAT SOMEBODY SHOULD THINK THAT THEY'RE SOMEBODY ABOUT. AND--[COUGHS] SO I'D WRITTEN THIS PAPER, OF WHICH I THINK I RECEIVED A "B" FROM MY TEACHERS, AND I WORKED ON IT MORE, MAYBE 6 MONTHS. AND I THINK IT WAS CALLED "THE NEW VISIBLE POETICS" OR SOMETHING. AND I'D SENT THAT TO WILLIAM STOKOE, WHO WAS STILL ALIVE AND DOING SIGN LANGUAGE STUDIES OUT OF GALLAUDET. AND I HEARD BACK FROM HIM IN A LITTLE OVER A WEEK THAT HE WOULD BE GLAD TO ACCEPT THIS PAPER, AND HE THOUGHT IT WAS TERRIFIC AND HE WANTED PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT THIS. AND THAT LITTLE PAPER WOULD HAVE INFLUENCED, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE LIKE DIRKSEN BAUMAN AND THE MORE HEAVY-HITTER ACADEMIC POETICS... PROFESSORS IN THE ACADEMIES, YOU KNOW, TEACHING POETRY. SO, BEFORE WE GET TO A NATIONAL POETRY CONFERENCE, THERE SEEMED TO BE A NEED TO KIND OF RISE THINGS UP THROUGH AS MANY CHANNELS AS POSSIBLE IN TERMS OF CREDIBILITY. AND THAT LITTLE SEMINAL PIECE WAS A PART OF THAT THAT PROBABLY GAVE ME THE EGO TO PROCLAIM AGAIN AS A HEARING PERSON SOMETHING I WAS SEEING IN A CULTURE THAT WAS REALLY-- HAS A DIFFICULT TIME WITH HEARING PEOPLES TRYING TO LAY CLAIM TO ANY KIND OF SENSE OF WHAT IS AND ISN'T GONNA HAPPEN FOR THEM, A BASIS. BUT IT WAS WHAT I SAW AND IT WAS SORT OF MY OWN THING, AND IT SORT OF CAUSED SOMETHING TO HAPPEN. I'M NOT SURE WHAT, BUT I DO THINK IT CAUSED SOMETHING TO HAPPEN LATER IN TERMS OF DEAF STUDIES. AND, UM... SO SOMEHOW WE GOT THE BREAD. WE HAD A REALLY WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL ADMINISTRATIVE PERSON AT NTID AROUND THAT TIME, ADELE FRIEDMAN, AND SHE SOMEHOW WAS VERY... SHE WAS SORT OF LIKE A VICTORIAN-MIND WOMAN. SHE MIGHT HAVE BEEN LIKE A FRIEND OF MARY SHELLEY'S OR SOMETHING. SHE MIGHT HAVE LIKE SEEN "FRANKENSTEIN" WHEN IT WAS BEING, YOU KNOW, HATCHED OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. OR WHEN, YOU KNOW, WHEN SHELLEY WAS OUT OF TOWN OR, YOU KNOW, IN HIS ROWBOAT, LIKE ROWING TO ITALY OR SOMEWHERE WITH BYRON, AND SHE WAS AT HOME, YOU KNOW, LIKE, YOU KNOW, TAKING SPEED AND VALIUM AND, LIKE, WRITING "FRANKENSTEIN" OR SOMETHING, SOMEONE LIKE ADELE FRIEDMAN MIGHT HAVE BEEN LIKE HER FRIEND OR SOMETHING. I DON'T KNOW. AND SHE UNDERSTOOD JUST INTUITIVELY THAT THIS WAS REALLY IMPORTANT AND SORT OF BROKERED THE DEAL THAT WOULD ALLOW US TO TRY AND SORT OF PULL OFF A NATIONAL POETRY CONFERENCE HERE, WHICH WAS A PLACE ESSENTIALLY THAT HAD VERY LITTLE INTEREST AS A TECHNICAL INSTITUTE IN POETRY AT ALL, WHICH, ON THE OTHER HAND-- AND IT'S VERY CORPORATE-LOOKING ENVIRONMENT-- AND ON THE OTHER HAND, IT'S KIND OF FILLED WITH ART STUDENTS-- PEOPLE WHO REALLY ARE VERY CREATIVE YOUNG PEOPLE, SO... THE LINE-UP WAS PATRICK GRAYBILL, ELLA MAE LENTZ, AND CLAYTON VALLI. SO THEY SORT OF REPRESENTED SORT OF AN ESTABLISHED ASL FIRST SCHOOL OF THE MODERN ERA. AND THIS ERA IS LIKE LATE 20th CENTURY. AND THEN THERE WAS THE INTRODUCTION OF WHAT HAD HAPPENED HERE, WHICH WAS ESSENTIALLY THE BEGINNING OF AN EXPERIMENTAL, I WOULD SAY SPONTANEOUS KIND OF KEROUAC, GINSBERG, WALDMAN KIND OF SENSE OF DEATH POETICS EMBODIED BY DEBBIE RENNIE AND PETER COOK WITH THEIR OWN TRADITIONS, VAST TRADITIONS, OF THEATER, DANCE, CLOWN, MIME, SORT OF LINEAGES THAT THEY EMBODIED AS WELL, AND IN CONJUNCTION WITH HEARING INTERPRETERS THAT WERE BRINGING AN ADDITIONAL... QUALITY TO THEM. IN DEBBIE'S CASE, IT WAS, I THINK, SHE WAS PRODUCING THE WORK HERSELF AND SHE WAS USING DONNA KACHITES MORE AS AN INTERPRETER. BUT IN THE RADICAL FORMATION OF PETER COOK WITH KENNY LERNER AND THE, YOU KNOW, THE SORT OF TENSION THAT THAT CREATED ON THE COMMUNITY ITSELF AND SORT OF THE MISUNDER-- THE POTENTIALS FOR MISUNDERSTANDING, IT WAS REALLY A COLLABORATION OF WORK BEING CREATED BY A HEARING AND DEAF PERSON WITH A DEAF FACE AND A HEARING KIND OF RADICAL MIND. SO... PETER COOK ESSENTIALLY WAS THE HEADLINER IN MY MIND. AND I ARRANGED THE CONFERENCE SO THAT HE WAS THE HEADLINER, HE WAS THE LAST. AND WE HAD PANELS AND WE HAD READINGS. AND... THERE WAS JUST A LOT OF GET-TOGETHER STUFF GOING ON, AND IT WAS JUST--AND WE DOCUMENTED IT. AND I THINK THAT WAS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT I'D GAINED FROM NAROPA, WHICH NOW HAS ITS OWN AUDIO ARCHIVES, WHICH IS SO VAST. AND THEN COMING TO NTID, THAT WAS SOMETHING THEY COULD DO. AND SO THAT WAS VERY GOOD 'CAUSE WE HAD REALLY HIGH QUALITY DOCUMENTATION TOOLS AT OUR DISPOSAL, AND THEY WERE INTERPRETED, FULLY INTERPRETED. AND SO THEY WERE... STRONGLY ATTENDED, AND THE PEOPLE THAT MET EACH OTHER, I THINK, WERE BONDED. THERE WAS SORT OF THIS SENSE OF HIGH-LEVEL-, BEST-MINDS POETS COMING TOGETHER AT BOTH ENDS OF A GENERATION OR SEVERAL GENERATIONS. BUT THERE WAS THAT SENSE OF BEST MINDS OF A GENERATION KIND OF COMING TOGETHER AND PRESENTING THEIR WORK WITH GREAT DIGNITY AND DIFFERENCE. MIRIAM: DID YOU FEEL THAT YOU CAUGHT ANY FLACK FOR--YOU MENTIONED VERY BRIEFLY ABOUT BEING A HEARING PERSON INVOLVED IN THIS AND THE SENSITIVITY THAT YOU HAD TO HAVE TO THE FACT THAT DEAF PEOPLE SO OFTEN FEEL THAT THEIR THINGS ARE CO-OPTED AND WHATEVER. DID ANY OF THAT SPILL OVER DURING THE CONFERENCE, OR WAS IT OVERTLY DEALT WITH? I KNOW THAT KENNY HAD TO DEAL WITH THAT OF THE-- YOU KNOW, AND PETER HAD TO DEAL WITH HAVING KENNY AS HIS PARTNER, YOU KNOW. "YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE A HEARING PERSON INVOLVED IN THIS; "THIS IS DEAF STUFF, SACRED TERRITORY; WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?" KIND OF THING AND SLOG THROUGH THAT. COHN: YEAH, I THINK KENNY LERNER TOOK ON THE BULK OF DISPARAGEMENT AND... AND DISCREDITING. THERE WAS... IT WASN'T MEANT, YOU KNOW, I THINK, IN ANY KIND OF TRULY MALICIOUS WAY. IT WAS JUST MEANT-- IT JUST HAPPENED. IN THE SAME SENSE, HE WAS CAST INTO THE ROLE OF LIKE '65 NEWPORT DYLAN PLUGGING IN, AND HE JUST SORT OF HAD TO FACE THAT. AND ESSENTIALLY, I THINK HE DIDN'T CARE AND IT WASN'T HIS DEAL. ESSENTIALLY, THAT WAS OTHER PEOPLE'S PROBLEMS ABOUT... AND THE THING WAS, PEOPLE WOULD KEEP COMING BACK. THEY ACTUALLY LIKED WHAT WAS HAPPENING SO MUCH. AND AT THE SAME TIME, IT'S ONE OF THOSE GREAT MOMENTS WHERE IN TRUE ART, LASTING ART, WHERE YOU'RE DISAGREEING WITH IT EVERY STEP OF THE WAY THAT YOU'RE FALLING IN LOVE WITH IT. AND SO, AS THEIR WORK STARTED THEN REALLY BEING EXPOSED TO THE DEAF COMMUNITY IN A NATIONAL WAY, AND IT'S--IT IS VERY-- I DON'T KNOW HOW DIFFICULT IT IS NOW, BUT IF YOU WANT TO START BANGING THE DRUMS OF THE DEAF GRAPEVINE, THAT MESSAGE GETS OUT THERE PRETTY FAST. AND I THINK THAT PEOPLE WERE CONFUSED IN ESSENCE BY WHAT PETER WAS PUTTING OUT IN TERMS OF A POEM AND HOW HE WAS USING ASL AS POETRY, BECAUSE IN A WAY, HE WAS PUTTING IT OUT SUCH THAT HE UNDERSTOOD WHAT IT WAS ABOUT, BUT HE WASN'T PARTIC-- BUT THEY DIDN'T. SO THERE WAS A QUESTION OF, LIKE, "WELL, THIS POEM ISN'T, LIKE, ABSOLUTELY MAKING SENSE TO ME," BUT THAT DIDN'T MEAN THAT EVERY LINE WASN'T BRILLIANT OR EVERY PHRASE OF PICTURE-MAKING WASN'T JUST TAKEN FROM MOST MEMORABLE SCENES OF LIFE SO THAT THEIR IMPACT WAS, IN FACT, GREAT. BUT HE WAS DOING POETRY IN A CONTEMPORARY SENSE THAT, LIKE, HE WAS MAKING THE SENSE OF HIS OWN MIND AND HE WAS MAKING-- HE WAS LAYING THAT OUT AS HIS GIFT FOR PEOPLE. AND HE WAS ALSO LAYING OUT A GIFT THAT WASN'T HIS OWN MIND OR EVEN NECESSARILY HIS OWN-- HE DIDN'T NECESSARILY EVEN NECESSARILY AGREE WITH IT BECAUSE HE HADN'T PARTICULARLY WRITTEN THE ENTIRE THING THAT HE WAS DOING. HE WAS JUST PULLING OFF THE-- HE WAS THE CONVEYER OF THE BOMB THAT SORT OF THE BOMBER HAD MADE ON SOME LEVEL. AND--BUT PETER'S SENSE OF-- AS THE BOMB CARRIER WASN'T LIKE-- WAS REALLY THE SENSE THAT WE HAD WISHED FOR POETRY COMMUNITIES AROUND THE WORLD INSOFAR AS POETRY BOMBS INSTEAD OF SUICIDE BOMBS. I MEAN, THEY WERE LIKE-- THEY WERE ANTI-SUICIDE BOMBERS. AND ESSENTIALLY, THEY WERE SPREADING, THEN, THIS SORT OF RADICAL MESSAGE OF MIND THAT JUST WOULD FILL PEOPLE WITH IMAGINATION AND THE POTENTIAL TO TELL A STORY THAT WASN'T SO LITERAL OR BE STUCK TO A STORY THAT WASN'T SO START- TO-FINISH NARRATIVE, AND, IN FACT, WAS A STORY MORE LIKE CUT-AND-PASTED OR IN A BOROUGH'S TRADITION OF-- OR IN A SAMPLED KIND OF MANNER OR IN A CINEMATIC MANNER, WHERE YOU'RE LIKE LOOKING AT TECHNIQUE OF VIEWS AND ANGLES AND EXITS AND ENTRANCES AND TAKING THAT WHOLE HISTORY AND TOTALLY JUST TURNING IT UPSIDE DOWN AND INSIDE OUT. AND THEY WERE DOING ALL THAT. PEOPLE THOUGHT IT WAS INCREDIBLE, AND IT WAS NOTHING THAT THEY HAD EVER SEEN BEFORE. AND REGARDLESS OF OTHER DEAF MEDIA FIGURES AT THE TIME, WHETHER IT--BECAUSE EVEN SOMEONE LIKE BERNARD BRAGG, WHO WAS PROBABLY THE MOST WELL-KNOWN DEAF MEDIA FIGURE, ACTOR, THEY WEREN'T REALLY DOING THEIR OWN THING. AND THEIR OWN THING WAS PROBABLY NOT A THING THAT WAS SORT OF BENT BY... INTRODUCTION OF SORT OF, SHALL WE SAY, ALTERNATE CONSCIOUSNESS. AND... THERE WAS AN ALTERNATE CONSCIOUSNESS UNIVERSE BEING CREATED HERE. AND I THINK THAT THAT WAS THE THING THAT PEOPLE WANTED TO GO INTO, AND IN A FEARLESS MANNER. SO... I THINK A COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE WERE AT ONCE TOTALLY ANGERED BY THE INTRODUCTION OF AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE, YOU KNOW, PARALLEL UNIVERSES, PARALLEL COSMOS, INTO THEIR OWN HANDS BY THIS ONE GUY WITH A HIDDEN HEARING PERSON. AND I THINK KENNY TOOK A LOT OF THAT ON. BUT ESSENTIALLY, THE WORK IS ALL THAT MATTERS. AND THE WORK THAT WAS BEING DONE WAS VISIONARY IN A NEW SENSE AND ALSO COUPLED TO GREAT VISIONARY WORK OF THE PAST, EVEN WITHOUT NECESSARILY BEING LITERATE IN A VERY CONSCIOUS OR A STUDIOUS MANNER TOWARDS IT. SO I THINK KENNY TOOK THE HEAT. I RECALL HIM SORT OF LIKE, YOU KNOW, SHAKING HIS HEAD LIKE, YOU KNOW, "WHY ME?" HE WAS SORT OF THE PERSON THAT WAS CRUCIFIED. AND MY CRUCIFIXION. CAME LATER AND... THAT WAS AT ANOTHER CONFERENCE, YEAH. MIRIAM: YEAH, I'M NOT SURE WE'RE GONNA GO THERE TODAY. IT'S FURTHER THAN THAT TIME THAN THIS TIME. COHN: THAT'S GOOD. MIRIAM: 'CAUSE I THINK-- COHN: I MEAN, IT'S NOT REALLY A CRUCIFIXION, EITHER. MIRIAM: WELL, IN A SENSE... [INDISTINCT], BUT I THINK FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS, SINCE THAT WAS THE LIT CONFERENCE AND IT GOES INTO OTHER REALMS... COHN: GOOD. MIRIAM: I THINK I'M GONNA KEEP IT ON POETRY, AND I MEAN-- COHN: GOOD. MIRIAM: NOT EVEN GO IN TO THAT-- EVEN THOSE OTHER CONFERENCES-- COHN: OK, YEAH. MIRIAM: ...AT ALL. I MIGHT CHANGE MY MIND ABOUT THAT LATER, IN WHICH CASE I'LL FLY YOU BACK. COHN: I HOPE YOU DON'T. MIRIAM: HA HA! I DON'T THINK WE NEED TO FOR THIS STORY. I'M REALLY WORRIED ABOUT TIME-- - YEAH, OK. MIRIAM: FOR YOUR LITTLE GIRL AND STUFF. LET ME JUST SEE IF THERE'S ANYTHING THAT I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO HAVE. PRETTY MUCH GOT EVERYTHING. I THINK THE ONE THING THAT I'D REALLY LIKE YOU TO ADDRESS... IS THERE A WAY THAT YOU CAN DESCRIBE WHY THE STUFF THAT DEBBIE AND PETER WAS DOING, WHY IS IT BEAT? IT'S HARD TO PUT A DEFINITION ON WHAT BEAT POETRY IS AND WHY ALLEN GINSBERG WAS BEAT. WHY ARE THESE BEAT-- WHY ARE THESE DEAF POETS CONSIDERED BEAT? WHY DO YOU SEE IT AS A TRANSVERSE OF THIS DEAF BEAT POETRY? SO, MAYBE--I DON'T MEAN TO BE SIMPLISTIC, BUT IS THERE A WAY THAT YOU COULD SAY, YOU KNOW, WHY WAS BEAT POETRY AT ALL DIFFERENT FROM THE THINGS THAT CAME BEFORE IT AND WHY WOULD YOU--IF YOU COULD SAY WHY THIS WOULD BE CALLED BEAT POETRY IN THE DEAF COMMUNITY? COHN: WELL, I JUST THINK THAT THE BEAT GENERATION WAS A MARKETING... IT WAS MARKETING LINGO. UM... AND IT WAS A WAY TO DEFINE A GROUP OF PEOPLE FOR MARKETING PURPOSES. SO, YOU KNOW, THERE'S NO REAL BEAT GENERATION, PER SE. THERE'S NO GENERATIONS, PER SE. I DO THINK THAT... AND IN RETROSPECT, I DON'T THINK I WAS WRONG IN SORT OF, LIKE, CHARACTERIZING THIS AS A DEAF BEAT SUMMIT. I DO THINK THAT ALLEN GINSBERG, IN PARTICULAR, WAS FOCUSED ON COMPASSION, AND HE WAS FOCUSED ON MAINLINING-- THE POET'S JOB WAS TO MAINLINE INTO MASS SUFFERING. SO... YOU HAD TO HAVE A SE-- YOU HAD TO SORT OF ACCESS YOUR OWN SECRET MIND TO GET THERE. AND SO, YOU HAD TO DISCLOSE. AND I MEAN, YOU KNOW, ON SOME LEVEL, PEOPLE ARE--WE'RE ALL HUNG UP ON DISCLOSURE, PARTICULARLY IN THE KIND OF SOCIETY WHERE, YOU KNOW, THEY HAVE CAMERAS STUCK TO OUR EYEBALLS LOOKING AT US, AND THEY KNOW WHERE WE'VE BEEN OR THEY KNOW WHAT WE'VE BOUGHT. THEY KNOW. SO, BUT... YOU KNOW, IN THE REALM OF DISABILITY OR IN THE REALM OF, YOU KNOW, THAT UNFILLED FIELD OF DEAFNESS, THAT'S NOT A DISABILITY AND NOT NECESSARILY ABILITY, BUT, IN FACT, IS REALLY ITS OWN ASPECT OF LIFE. IT SORT OF PLAYS-- IT SORT OF PLAYS THE FENCE. IT PLAYS IT BOTH WAYS. AND I MEAN, WHEN THE TIME COMES TO NOT BE--HAVE THAT SORT OF... COALITION, YOU KNOW, IT CAN BE--IT'LL GO EITHER WAY. AS A PEOPLE. BUT AT THAT POINT... AND NOW... I'D... I CAN'T SAY FOR SURE, BUT... I'VE KIND OF, LIKE, LOST MY TRAIN OF THOUGHT. MIRIAM: HA! WELL, I WAS ASKING ABOUT WHY PETER AND DEBBIE WOULD BE CONSIDERED-- WHY YOU WOULD THINK THEY WERE DEAF BEAT POETS? LIKE, WHY IS THEIR POETRY DIFFERENT FROM ELLA, CLAYTON, AND PANARA? IT OBVIOUSLY IS WHEN YOU LOOK AT IT, JUST AS ALLEN GINSBERG IS DIFFERENT THAN EMILY DICKINSON. AND EMILY DICKINSON HAD JUST AS MUCH COMPASSION AND SELF-DISCLOSURE. I MEAN, THAT'S WHAT THE WHOLE THING WAS ALL ABOUT. SO I'M NOT REALLY SURE THAT THE SELF-DISCLOSURE PART-- I MEAN, POETS ALL THROUGH THE AGES, IT'S BEEN THE IMPETUS FOR THEIR ART AND THEIR SELF. IT'S ALL ABOUT SELF-DISCLOSURE AND ALL ABOUT THAT SORT OF ANGST AND WELTSCHMERZ AND ALL THAT KIND OF THING. COHN: RIGHT. MIRIAM: SO IS IT FORM? IT SEEMS THAT THERE'S A GREAT DEAL OF IT THAT HAS TO DO WITH FORM. PANARA TALKED ABOUT THAT IN OUR INTERVIEW, OR DURING THE WORKSHOP, ABOUT FREE VERSE AND HOW FREEING IT WAS TO BE ABLE TO NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT. SO, THE LACK OF FORM IN A SENSE OR THE PLAYING OF FORM, OR IS THERE ANY OTHER THING? COHN: I DON'T THINK THAT FORM RULED FOR PETER COOK OR DEBBIE RENNIE. AND THAT'S NOT TO SAY THAT THEIR WORKS AREN'T EXCEEDINGLY FORMAL. UM... THE FORMAL ELEMENTS ARE PROBABLY WHAT WE SEE. AND THOSE ELEMENTS ARE THE THINGS THAT PROBABLY ARE THE THINGS THAT ARE AFFECTING US MOST ON SOME LEVEL. BUT I THINK IT'S THE VISION THAT THEY BRING TO THE POEM. I THINK IT IS A LEVEL OF DISCLOSURE THAT THEY BRING TO THE POEM. I DO THINK THAT THEY BROUGHT A SECRET MIND TO THE POEM AND LET IT OUT THERE. AND I--EVERYTHING FROM... YOU KNOW, EVERYTHING FROM PETER COOK DOING HIS ORAL PRESENTATION "IF I WAS ORDERED NOT TO TALK" TO--WHICH IS AN ULTIMATE KIND OF SECRET-MIND DISCLOSURE, WHICH CARRIES A LOT OF EMOTION AND A LOT OF INTEGRITY WITH IT, TO HIS SORT OF MORE SURREAL-- AND I GUESS IT WAS THE SURREALISM THAT THEY BROUGHT TO THEIR POETRY, SO THAT THEY REALLY WERE NOT HUNG UP ON THE REPRESENTATIONAL. THEY WEREN'T PRESENTING POEMS IN THE CLASSIC SORT OF STORYTELLING OR IN AMERICAN LETTERS WAY, OBJECTIVIST WAY, SORT OF LIKE OBITUARY KIND OF LIKE WRITING, LIKE "AUNT ROSE HAD 4 CHILDREN AND SHE DIED. AND SHE'S BURIED HERE." BUT THEY--OR "THE SNOW CAME DOWN AND IT WAS BEAUTIFUL." BUT THERE WAS A SURREAL SENSE OF... ALMOST IN THE SENSE OF LIKE SOMEONE LIKE ROBERT DESNOS, THE FRENCH POET, OR THE SENSE OF... THERE'S SOMETHING REALLY INTERNATIONAL ABOUT WHAT THEIR VOCABULARY WAS. AND... AND THEIR VOCABULARY EXHIBITED A CERTAIN KIND OF SURREAL SENSE OF TIME AND SPACE AND LIFE THAT I THINK IS PART OF THIS ALTERNATE CONSCIOUSNESS THAT THE BEAT GENERATION TURNS OUT BEING SORT OF ABOUT IN A SENSE OF AN ON-THE-ROAD CULTURE. IT'S PART OF THAT STREET LANGUAGE THAT IS, YOU KNOW, SEES LIKE "TIME" MAGAZINE AS OFFICIAL U.S. SORT OF DOCTRINE ON WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE WORLD THIS WEEK. BUT I THINK LATER, AS TIME WENT ON, AND FOR MYSELF AND MY CONNECTION WITH THESE POETS, IS THAT, YOU KNOW, WE'RE NOT BEAT GENERATION POETS. SO, WE WERE SOMETHING ELSE, AND OUR TIME HAS NOT BEEN DEFINED. AND WE DON'T HAVE SCHOLARS AND CRITICS STUDYING US WITH NECESSARILY AS MUCH CERTAINTY BECAUSE THE MEDIA ISN'T TELLING THE WORLD WITH ANY KIND OF CERTAINTY THAT THIS IS EVEN HAPPENING, LET ALONE THAT THIS IS GOOD. SO... I CONSIDER THE SURREALISTIC QUALITIES, THE ADVENTURES IN FORM, WHAT IS BEING BROUGHT, SORT OF TO THE MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS IS IN THEIR POEMS, SUCH AS "DEJA VU SALESMAN," WHICH WAS ALWAYS A-- I REMEMBER BEING SO KNOCKED OUT WHEN I SAW THAT. LIKE, I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING. I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT THIS IS BEING FORMULATED. SO I WAS NEVER AT A SENSE THAT THIS ISN'T HAPPENING TO ME THROUGH FORM, BUT I WAS TAKING IN SOMETHING PERSONALLY THAT WAS LIKE BEYOND LANGUAGE. IT WAS SORT OF IN THE META LANGUAGE LEVELS THAT YOU COULD GO TO IN LIKE SPALDING GRAY'S "SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA," OR YOU KIND OF GO INTO WHEN YOU'RE READING A POEM WHERE YOU'RE JUST-- YOUR WORLD AND THE WORLD THAT YOU'RE READING ABOUT OR WATCHING IS SORT OF CREATING THIS WHOLE OTHER MOVIE IN YOUR MIND WHILE IT'S GOING ON THAT IS EVEN--IT'S A COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS THAT YOU'VE ENTERED INTO. SO THIS PERSON HAS OPENED DOORS TO SORT OF A HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS. AND... AND IT WAS HAPPENING AFTER THE BEATS. SO MY AFFINITY WITH THE DEAF POETS OF MY LIFETIME NOW IS THAT WE'RE PART OF A POST-BEAT ERA, WHICH, YOU KNOW, IS DEFINED BY DIFFERENT PARAMETERS AND GREATER COMPLEXITIES AND MORE INSTANT COMMUNICATION AND ENCYCLOPEDIC STYLES FROM WHICH TO CHOOSE FROM, ALMOST AN OVERPLAY OF POTENTIAL STYLES. I MEAN, YOU CAN HAVE ITALIAN-- YOU CAN RIP OFF PASSAGES OF ANYTHING FROM THE INTERNET AND PUT IT INTO YOUR POEM, OR YOU CAN DO-- YOU CAN SORT OF RIP OFF ANY VISUAL THAT YOU SEE AND PUT IT INTO YOUR POEM. I MEAN, JUST THE EXPLOSION OF THE VISUAL OR TEXTUAL WORLDS THAT WE'RE LIVING IN DEFINES US DIFFERENTLY THAN THAT ERA THAT WE CAME FROM, BUT I THINK THAT THERE'S A GREAT AFFINITY FOR WHAT I SAW IN THE DISREGARD FOR OFFICIAL VERSIONS OF THE WAY THE WORLD IS FROM THOSE TWO POETS THAT THE OTHERS DID NOT RECEIVE, OR THEY WALKED WITH A MORE MILITANT OR A MORE, UH... THEY WERE IN A MORE AMBIGUOUS TIME OF BEING ALONE, TRYING TO WORK OUT FOR THEMSELVES A SENSE OF WHAT WAS RIGHT FOR THEM, UM... AND... BY THE TIME--IT SORT OF WAS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PERRY COMO AND THE BEATLES. IT JUST WAS LIKE THAT MUCH OF A CULTURAL EXPLOSION AS A DIFFERENCE. AND WHERE--THERE WAS A CERTAIN TRANQUILITY THAT I THINK CLAYTON VALLI WAS AFTER...AFTER, A NEED FOR SERENITY. AND I THINK ELLA LENTZ WAS ENGAGED IN A CERTAIN KIND OF MILITANCY. AND PATRICK GRAYBILL WAS INVESTED WITH A CERTAIN KIND OF PATHOS OR ETHOS, A CERTAIN KIND OF SOULFULNESS THAT--AND SKILLED WITH, AS WE'VE TALKED ABOUT, A WHOLE OTHER PATRICK GRAYBILL SENSE OF BEING ABLE TO ACTUALLY--TO RIP OFF HIS CLOTHES. AND THEN THERE WAS THIS WHOLE OTHER BEING, IN FACT, THERE, BUT SORT OF RESTRAINED, FIGHTING AGAINST RESTRAINED, HIS OWN RESTRAINT. I THINK THERE WAS AN ELEMENT OF RESTRAINT THAT PEOPLE WERE STILL SHACKLED BY, THAT SOMEHOW THIS COLLECTION OF HEARING AND DEAF AND MEN AND WOMEN AND GAY AND STRAIGHT AND... DEAF AND HARD-OF-HEARING AND POSTLINGUAL AND, YOU KNOW, PRELINGUAL AND... AND THE VARIOUS BEAT TRADITIONS THAT HAD BEEN BROUGHT FORWARD THAT THE POETS WHO WERE HEARING WERE EMBODYING IN THEIR OWN SEPARATE KIND OF CHANNELS AND CARRYING FORWARD. I JUST THINK THAT THAT BRANG WITH IT THIS WHOLE OTHER SENSE OF LIKE, YOU KNOW, THE SKY'S THE LIMIT. "WE'RE JUST GONNA "TEAR THIS HOTEL ROOM UP "AND THEN WE'RE GONNA GO DOWN AND DO THE SHOW, "AND THEN WE'RE GONNA COME BACK "AND, YOU KNOW, AND WE'RE GONNA, LIKE, LOOK AT WHAT WE DID "AND TALK ABOUT IT ALL NIGHT LONG, "AND THEN WE'RE GONNA KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT. AND WE'RE NOT GONNA STOP TALKING ABOUT IT." AND WHY IT WAS SO INTERESTING TO TALK ABOUT, I JUST THINK IT WAS. AND WHY IT WAS ROCHESTER? I JUST THINK IT WAS... IT JUST HAPPENED FOR ITS OWN REASONS, WHICH ISN'T AN ANSWER, BUT I JUST THINK THE MIX OF THINGS WAS RIGHT, THE SAME WAY THE MIX OF THINGS WAS RIGHT IN THE PARIS HOTEL, YOU KNOW, FOR THE BEATS WHEN THEY WERE IN EXILE. SO WE WERE ALL SERVING IN EXILE FROM SOMETHING, I WOULD THINK, AND LOOKING FOR A WAY TO JUST BE OURSELVES AS POETS IN A SOCIETY THAT WASN'T AND ACTUALLY GROWS SORT OF LESS INTERESTED IN TRULY WHAT THE POWER OF THE PERSONAL IN POETIC EXPRESSION. MIRIAM: IT WAS THE "HYDROGEN JUKEBOX." COHN: YEAH. [MIRIAM LAUGHS] MIRIAM: JUST BLEW IT UP. HA HA! - THAT'S IT. - OK. - THAT'S GREAT. - ALL RIGHT. - THAT'S GREAT. - ALL RIGHT. MIRIAM: THAT'S REALLY GOOD. [MAN SPEAKS INDISTINCTLY] MIRIAM: ISN'T IT AWESOME? - ISN'T THAT AWESOME? - WHAT? MIRIAM: HOW ARE WE GONNA EVEN FIGURE OUT WHICH PARTS, YOU KNOW? IT'S AWESOME. ONE THING I WANTED TO TELL YOU-- I JUST DIDN'T WANT TO TAKE THE TIME--WAS THAT, ONE OF THE THINGS PATRICK SAID WAS THAT WHEN HE WATCHED THE SAMPLER DVD I GAVE HIM, HE WAS VERY STRUCK BY THE FACT OF HOW HE AND ELLA AND PANARA AND CLAYTON WERE JUST STANDING STILL, CAMERA ON THEM, FACE FORWARD, AND THAT DEBBIE AND PETER MOVED. AND HE SAID, SO HE REALIZED THAT HE COULD MOVE. AND SO HE DECIDED TO TRY A COUPLE OF THINGS LATER WHERE HE MOVED, AND HE'S LIKE... JUST SAID IT WAS SO FREEING. HE DIDN'T KNOW HE COULD MOVE. I MEAN, THERE WERE JUST THINGS THAT WERE SO EMBEDDED IN PERFORMANCE OR IN-- COHN: WISH WE TALKED ABOUT THIS. SO IT WAS JUST LIKE BEING AT A HEARING POETRY READING. MIRIAM: IN A SENSE. WELL, I WOULDN'T SAY THAT-- IT'S STILL VISUALLY VERY INTERESTING TO WATCH PATRICK GRAYBILL-- COHN: RIGHT, BUT THERE WAS STILL-- MIRIAM: THAT THERE WAS THIS RIGID THOUGHT, VERY FORMALISTIC. COHN: LIKE ANGLICANS-- LIKE YOU'RE IN CHURCH. MIRIAM: RIGHT. AND I HAVE HIM SAYING THAT, YOU KNOW. THAT'S IT'S VERY-- YOU KNOW, THAT HE FELT-- YOU KNOW, THAT, "WOW, WE WERE ROOTED IN THAT STAGE. WE WERE JUST STANDING THERE." AND THE OTHER THING I WAS THINKING OF WAS THAT WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT ALL THE IMAGES-- COHN: KENNY'S NOT GONNA SAY I LEFT OUT PROBABLY THE BEST PARTS OF ALL THIS. I'M REALLY DISAPPOINTED THAT IT WASN'T LAST NIGHT, BUT... MIRIAM: OH, OH, OH, WE CAN REVISIT THAT. COHN: I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS, YOU KNOW. MIRIAM: OH, HA HA HA! THE OTHER THING I WAS THINKING, YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT THE IMAGES AND ALL THE THINGS THAT POETRY COULD DO NOW AND ALL THE MEDIA AND ALL THE THINGS YOU COULD DO, AND IT'S LIKE WIKI POETRY, YOU KNOW-- - MM-HMM. - GRAB, GRAB, GRAB. COHN: YEAH. I THINK PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE USED THAT EXAMPLE. MIRIAM: RIGHT. I WAS JUST THINKING IN MY MIND, "OH, THAT'S WHAT IT'S LIKE." BUT ANYWAY, THIS IS JUST GREAT. AND THE OTHER THING WAS LIKE WHEN YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT DEAF PEOPLE AND THEIR OWN SORT OF SET THERE SOMETIMES, IT WORKS BOTH WAYS. THEY WORK BOTH SIDES OF THE FENCE. IT COULD BE LIKE THAT. IT'S NOT EVEN A DISABILITY. IT'S LIKE IT'S OWN SEPARATE THING. IT'S LIKE TEXAS. [LAUGHTER] - I SHOULD HAVE SAID THAT. - IT CAME TO ME, THAT THE DEAF IS LIKE TEXAS. COHN: IT'S LIKE TEXAS. MIRIAM: JUST LIKE TEXAS, YEAH!
Notes: 
"This project is supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation."
Notes: 
Title supplied by cataloger
Other Title: 
Heart of the hydrogen jukebox