Anne Waldman & Laura Wright’s The Beats at Naropa has been on the shelves for almost a year now, but since we just recently got our hands on Marc Olmsted’s review of the book, it’s more than worth mentioning again, alongside Marc’s, thorough, entertaining, and anecdotal walk through the book, that gives us a little background on Naropa as well.
The cover photo says it all. It’s 1975. There’s Allen Ginsberg with Bell’s Palsy after an allergic reaction to antibiotics – half his face is slack and his hair and beard untrimmed – no tie yet. He looks pretty kooky to say the least– hands on knees in formal meditation pose. Gregory Corso has his arms looped around both Allen and William Burroughs. He looks like a kid who’s just kicked the other team’s ass. Burroughs is somber, yet somehow more in relaxed meditation pose than Allen. Anne Waldman, dressed down, is still ’70s post-hippie chic—boots, shawl, a long dress.
It is an astounding time at Naropa Institute (later University). Just one of these faculty at a conventional college would have been a coup. But at Naropa, these were just the core from at least 1975 through the early 80s.
Diane di Prima, Philip Whalen, Robert Duncan, Merce Cunningham, Stan Brakhage – to say nothing of ahead-of-his-time-and-culture lama Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, whose English was better than most Americans, brought together a scene unparalleled.