The History of Poetry 1

After a short break, we continue today with our serialized NAROPA transcription
The History of Poetry – Allen gave this class on June 16, 1975.

AG: …Was it alright?… It wasn’t a total bore? – So I’m going to go back, since there is some empty space, since people don’t know some earlier poetry, I’m going to go back and do a fast shuttle through my favorite early poems, in English. Later on, we might go back further and get to Anacreon, but I want to start with “The Seafarer” Anglo-Saxon, originally. So when would that be? When … Read More

Spiritual Poetics 12

[Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara), Bodhisattva of Compassion, Thangka by Rinchen Gyalpo]

It’s interesting that there’s two streams of writing now among younger people that I see – one of which is.. above the ears – sort of psychotic, schizophrenic poetry, maybe modeled on rock lyric and on (Bob) Dylan, or sumpin’ – but it’s all “dancing dominoes behind the minstrel sky”, which Dylan did well that one time, somehow, it fits with him, but there’s a solely imaginary poetry that’s written, and then, there’s a whole bunch of rock poetry, and just private poetry, or school poetry, which does include … Read More

Spiritual Poetics 9 (Milarepa Didn’t Have A Tape-Recorder)

Before going on, I would like to read, in that context, a couple of texts – William Carlos Williams, and a little scribbling by (Jack) Kerouac . But I wanted also to continue with the notebook/tape-machine problem. Means. With tape-machines.. if you want to carry them around.. because they’re harder to carry around than a notebook, though it seems, for media-oriented kids, or people grown up in the last ten years, they’re so available, and the petro-chemical wonderland is so bewildering, it seems it may be just as basic as a notebook now, for the high-school kid to carry … Read More

Spiritual Poetics 8

[Sappho (c.630-612BC – c.570BC) – “portrait of a young woman” from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli]

Because it’s too much to say, you gotta pay attention – you can’t do that, you just get self-conscious, so, it’s more remembering what caught your attention when you weren’t trying to pay attention. So it’s slightly subliminal in that sense. So with the normal waking mind, we don’t generally remember what we.. well, except once in a while, everybody does, and then tells his friend, his best friend, “You know what I saw today, walking down the street – a weird scene … Read More

Spiritual Poetics 7

AG: Just writing down whatever you want to write down, what would you come up with? What’s the quality that I’m promoting, that I’m peddling? What’s the feeling of that kind of writing? Well, someone gave me a little pamphlet of poems that were very good samples. I don’t know how they were written but they felt sincere and interesting – “It’s not a death-wish/It’s giving up when your muscles hurt/and that I’m afraid of life”. I had been doing some building-work, and, actually, it’s.. that’s.. a real accurate note. It’s something that’s very personal, and yet everyone knows that … Read More

Spiritual Poetics 6

Student: It encourages me that India has had this experience of yoga and meditation for a millennia, tho’ I don’t get the sense that Hindus write poetry like yours.
AG: They sure do!
Student: They write the Vedas and the write the hymns to the deities, but they don’t write things about suicide-notes and they don’t subject you to the garbage of the mind
AG: If you think the mind is.. I don’t know if I want to buy that “garbage” phrase, I mean, the mind is the mind.
Student: You don’t have to buy…
AG: Well, first of all, … Read More

Spiritual Poetics 5

[Pablo Neruda – (1904-1973)]
Student: Do you find that even just transcribing down straight thoughts tends to focus your attachment to your thoughts sometimes? I found that…

AG: Focus your attachment? What do you mean?

Student: Yeah, with journals. I found that keeping journals, I got so attached to thoughts, so aware of thoughts that I would, I think, actually, subtly manufacture more to make a more pleasing journal.

AG: Well, yeah, there’s a certain amount of baroque elegance that can be indulged in, playfulness. If it’s playful enough, it’s alright. Sometimes. Because that’s just sheer abundance and playfulness, but … Read More

Spiritual Poetics 4

Student: Does it always have to do with what you choose to use?, whether you’re typing, or writing, or (using a) tape-recorder (amassing) amounts of material in that way?

AG: Right. Very much so. Yeah. I want to go into that, actually, in about four sentences. I just want to get to the nub of “selection”, because that used to be a big academic argument – the principle of selectivity, and “beatnik” writers being un-selective, and that selection was so important, that you really had to make fine intellectual distinctions between different kinds of thoughts, and only choose the (most) … Read More

Spiritual Poetics 3


[seed syllable AH, (in fact an A) – Calligraphy by Chogyum Trungpa. Source:< "Calligraphies by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, 1980, Los Angeles"]

The title of the course is “Spiritual Poetics”, which was just a spontaneous title arrived at when we had to have a title, but it might as well be used. And we’re beginning with considerations of breath, considerations of vowel, and the relationship between vowel and intelligence, vowel and soul, I’ll try to define more clearly the words I’m using.

Vowel and intelligence and vowel and soul, as they are etymologically connected as breath and soul have been connected, as with Chogyam (Trungpa)’s teaching – … Read More

Spiritual Poetics


Allen Ginsberg Class – NAROPA Institute July 31, 1974

AG: (This) I got from Karma Thinley, who’s a lama, friend of (Chogyam) Trungpa in England – OM, you might want to write it down so it won’t be mysterious: OM (O-m.) SARASWATI (S-a-r-a-s-w-a-t-i) , Sar-a-swa-ti – how many have heard of Saraswati? – okay, Om-Saraswati, HRIH (H-r-i-h), SOWAH (S-o-w-a-h – So-hah), so it’s easy, Om-Sarawati-Hrih-Sowah

[Raja Ravi Varma – Saraswati (1848-1906)]

“Om”, you know – body sound, salutation. Saraswati – is generally pictured with a veena in one hand and a book in the other. Riding, what?. Riding … Read More