1994 Hot Springs workshop – 1

We featured earlier –here– Allen Ginsberg’s 1994 reading at Hot Springs, Arkansas. He also conducted a workshop on that occasion. A transcript of it follows here

AG:  Sorry I’m a minute late but the elevators are very slow.

Good afternoon. You all have these three page Mind Writing Slogans?. Does anybody nothave them? I’ll make this the structure of the teaching, and I think we have from one-thirty to three, so that’s not a lot of time. And what I’ll try to do is combine theory and practice, (if you have some pencils and papers to work with, or you can write on the back of these “Mind Writing Slogans”).

I should propose my qualifications. I’m a poet and my teachers were my father, (who was a lyric poet, which those of you who will have seen the movie shown know about). I spent my teenage years, (seventeen to twenty-two or so), living with and working with, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs around Columbia University, where I got my B.A. Subsequently, (I) had as mentor William Carlos Williams, (who’s a modernist poet and who was interested in an American idiom and an American rhythm, writing with the words that we actually speak, with ordinary speech, and building poems out of intense fragments of that ordinary speech), and, in the course of other years, met Ezra Pound and a number of other poets and exchanged some gists of information with them and received what I could. (I) spent a year, or longer, in India, where a certain kind of poetry is practiced, a sacred poetry, or poetry that has a sacramental context, and also studied both meditation and poetry and poetics with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan lama, (the late Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who founded Naropa Institute, the first Buddhist contemplative college accredited in the West), and also now study with Gelek Rinpoche, a Tibetan (born in Tibet) meditation teacher and aesthetician (because, in the Tibetan tradition, lamas, who are trained from childhood to teach meditation, are also trained in calligraphy, painting, poetics, history, and all the arts. It’s considered part of the activity of buddha-nature to also be eloquent, so, order your thoughts in a way that other people can understand them.

So that’s the background. And what I’m interested in transmitting, so to speak, at the moment, is the gists and piths of my own experience, from the point of view of writing, whether prose or poetry, as writing your mind, or writing down your mind, or being the secretary to your mind, so that the material of your own ordinary mind, your own natural thoughts is the subject that you can use in writing, that basically,.. that you don’t have to be ashamed of your self , of your own mind, of the extravagance of your own mind, the murderousness of your own mind, the gentleness of your own mind, the variation of fantasy from the most devastating Frankensteinian self-horror to the most amusing, tolerant, erotic, or kitchen-yoga cooking.

So, the first of… What I also have with me (is) a little workbook, with some illustrations for these slogans, drawn from more modern poetry and some Japanese, and the slogans are eighty-four in number. They’re just sort of like, gists, useful ideas, suggestive ideas, that I found myself repeating to myself, or teaching, and using ..used in teaching just to get the idea across of how to work with your mind.

And they’re divided into three sections.. There’s “What Have We Got To Work With?” – that’s sort of the grounds – What’s the Nature of our Minds? and Where Do We Begin? Secondly, once you get familiar or accustomed  to something as simple as your own thoughts and rely on them for subject-matter, how do you handle it?, how do you handle your mind,? how do you select out of the multitudinous thought-forms that rise?, how do you select thoughts and how do you narrow them down to verbal equivalents? And then the third part, What’s it all for?  Why do it at all?

So from the beginning, where we are, (which is in, for myself at least, if not for you, utter confusion, right now, on this spot, at this minute). What’s going on? What’s going to happen? What are we doing? What are we thinking?  Cross purposes? The very nature of mind is, after all, quite quixotic and mercurial. One minute you’re thinking about hot dogs, next minute you’re thinking about hot springs (sic) !, next minute.. so..  and you never know what you’re going to be thinking in two minutes (I mean is there anybody here who knows what they’ll be thinking about, what thoughts will be passing through their mind’s eye two minutes from now?, or one minute, even? I don’t). So there’s a necessary condition, which we all participate in, of continuous change, and maybe that might be cause for chaos, (or thinking that that might be chaotic or confusing, particularly if you don’t like your thoughts). So to begin with, before we get into it, since the basis of all of this bullshit is meditation, it might be interesting first to do a little brief taste of that meditation practice, silent awareness practice, before we go on to the actual poetic application of what we learn. [Allen looks around the room] – How many here have some kind of contemplative or meditative practice or experience?  – [show of hands]  – quite a few actually – How many don’t have any at all?  [another show of hands]– Yeah, well, there’s prayer, that’s one. So..

to be continued

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