Poetry and Meditation

Allen Ginsberg, Boulder Colorado, June 1994. photo c. Steve Miles

In the upcoming months we’re hoping to publish, here on The Allen Ginsberg Project, a number of transcriptions of, previously-unpublished, lectures and talks given by Allen. Let’s begin this week with a 1993 class given at the Schule Fur Dichtung (Vienna Poetry School), initially transcribed by Christian M Katt, with further revisions by Ide Hintze and Juergen Berlalovich – Allen on Meditation and Poetics .

The talk is given prior to a showing of two classic “Beat” movies – Pull My Daisy and Renaldo and Clara (Renaldo and Clara is a Beat movie? – most certainly!) Allen comments briefly, at the end of the piece, on both films).

He attempts here “an about three or four minute description of the practice of sitting meditation”. “(If) you can be patient for those five minutes or so”, he tells his students, “then, when you leave this theater, you will have a trick that you can take home and use for the rest of your life”. Furthermore, “in the course of (this) you might find out that you become more and more familiar with your own thought-productions, and so this turns out to be useful in poetry”.

These were lessons that he learnt, of course, from his own teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche . Here is rare footage of Trungpa lecturing on meditation at NAROPA in 1974.

A transcription (made by Allen) of a visit by Trungpa to his “Meditation and Poetics” class in 1978 can be found here .
And here is Allen at NAROPA in the ’80’s (1987, to be exact) lecturing on Charles Reznikoff and William Carlos Williams , and others, in the context of the mind in operation – meditation practice and “ordinary mind”.Perhaps best, and most distilled, however, is this – “If you want to know how to meditate/I’ll tell you now ’cause it’s never too late”..”If you can’t think straight and you don’t know who to call/it’s never too late to do nothing at all.”


  1. Didn't expect to see my thirty year old typewriter on here today. I transcribed the Chogyam Trungpa Meditative Poetics piece and presented it to Allen who made a series of edits. The version here is the second generation, to which I affixed his name and date on the end. Always felt great humility vis a vis my time with Allen and took great care never to intrude beyond my station. Wouldn't have dreamed of putting my own name on it.

    Still have the original manuscript, or perhaps a copy–wouldn't be suprised if Allen kept the original–with the edits on it in my archives somewhere. As I remember, he mostly excised extraneous comments.

    Recall Allen feeling that these were highly important teachings of the Rinpoche's. My poetics were always more of the Western brand, so in the grand tradition of meditative consciousness, I never really paid it any mind.

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