Spontaneous Poetics – (Morning Meditation – 1)

Philip Whalen in ceremonial Zen garb at the Hartford Street Zen Center, San Francisco, circa 1991

Allen Ginsberg’s Spontaneous Poetics/Improvised Poetics class continues, August 6 1976.

[Original transcriber’s note – “As in all tapes from this summer, this is recorded by a not-very-attentive teacher’s assistant somewhere in the middle of the lecture hall. The windows are open, it’s summer, the students are restless and the dialogue between Ginsberg and (Philip) Whalen is often (regrettably) lost in the mix”]

[Whalen arrives in the classroom, partially attired in ceremonial robes]

AG: (Oh! the) glory!

Philip Whalen:  This is only part of it. I’m not wearing my…   (it’s in my bag at home)…
It’s.. (This is) great for zazen in the morning – or in the evening.. (and)..

AG: [to class] – Philip, I believe, is what’s titled a sensei.

Philip Whalen: I don’t have a title, as far as I know…

AG: Occasionally.. he (has), once, acted as chief monk at Tassajara sitting Center

Philip Whalen: Oh, that’s what Bill (Kwong) gets to be.. Bill gets to be sensei, but he’s been a monk many years longer than I was. He was selected.. he was supposed to be one of Baker roshi‘s dharma heirs.. but [Shunryu Suzuki] the old man died before he got all the final ceremonies made up

AG: Isn’t there something.. Wasn’t Baker roshi supposed to do something about that?

Philip Whalen: Somebody will. It will probably be alright

AG: So if anybody wants to do any sitting – Bill Kwong, his class was (when)?

Philip Whalen:  Seven.. but now we’re just going to sit from eight to nine..

AG: Every day?

Philip Whalen: …and then we’ll do zazen from six to seven….

AG: Oh, six to seven in the evening, you’re sitting?

Philip Whalen: Yeah.. (we’ll) sit in the morning with everybody..(but) I don’t see any point in  having  separate sesshins, everybody will sit together, with all the rest of Naropa, at eight..

AG: Where is that at? Karma Dzong or here?

Philip Whalen: Next door

AG: So what are your hours?

Philip Whalen:  The same time as everyone. We sit there, eight to nine..

AG: Eight to nine in the morning

Philip Whalen: …and then, yeah, at night, from six to seven, we’ll sit there..(do the) traditional Zen thing, we’ll sit for an hour too

AG: So six to seven..

Philip Whalen: At night

AG: ..at night, you’ll be doing the traditional.. See, I’m confused what’s the schedule… I’m asking you what is the schedule? (because I don’t know)..

Philip Whalen: Yeah, eight to nine

Allen: Eight to nine in the morning? Six to seven (in the evening). And which will be the Zen style?

Philip Whalen: It’s all the Zen style.

[Audio of this initial banter can be found here, beginning approximately a minute-and-a-quarter in, and concluding approximately three-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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