Early Days & Plans At Naropa

The Allen Ginsberg Library at Naropa University

Naropa Summer Writing Program just concluded this past week.  In our continuing deep archive dig, we thought to begin the new month with this little excerpt from a (July 30) 1979 Ginsberg interview at Naropa (with Roberta Lefkowicz and Mike Smith), a little snapshot of the early days, notice of some of the first, early,  plans and participants..

AG:  Questions …

RL:  Right.

AG:  … from Roberta Lefkowicz and Mike Smith.

RL:  I’m afraid that….

AG:  July 30th, 1971.

MS:  Nine.

AG:  I mean 1979.

RL:  Who are the core faculty in poetics?

AG: (The) core faculty(are) Dick Gallup, who is core faculty and sort of on-going overseer of students and executive director so to speak, or manager of the program; Anne Waldman and I, who are advisers and co-directors, and Michael Brownstein who is on a year’s sabbatical now, after having worked here for four years continually.

RL:  Who are the summer faculty?

AG:  Summer faculty.  This summer?

RL: Um-hmm.

AG:  Well, there are the three core faculty working this summer. Peter Orlovsky, who is just about core faculty since he’s here a good deal of the time, plus …

MS:  (Who else?)

AG:  … Larry Fagin, who, I think, has been teaching continuously in the second session.  Was Larry here the first session?

MS:  Yeah.

AG:  First and second sessions.  And then the visiting poetics academy and the summer visitors.

RL:  Does that include Susan Sontag this term?

AG:  No, Susan Sontag cancelled at the last minute.  And she’ll be replaced by John Giorno and William Burroughs, Jr. for the reading, and Giorno will do the teaching.  I asked her a year ago and she said she was coming, and then she reaffirmed that she was coming …

RL:  Susan.

AG:  … yeah, and then just before the summer she said that she had a film or play she was making in Rome, so she couldn’t come.

The rest of the summer faculty are as listed in the catalog. I think it began with … what was the name of the little girl from New York?

RL:  Kathy Acker.  No.

AG:  Kathy Acker.

RL:  Oh, yeah?

AG:  It began with Kathy Acker, continued with Carl Rakosicontinued with Fielding Dawson, continued with Robert Creeley. Kathy Acker, Robert Creeley, and then Carl Rakosi, Fielding Dawson, and went on to Kenward ElmslieJoe Brainard will continue the second session with Helen Adam, who arrived today, and then go on with Ted Berrigan and John Giorno, I think.  There may be one or two others that I don’t remember.  Oh, then Ken Kesey and Eileen Myles (are) going to be givi ng a reading — I don’t know if (Eileen’s) teaching (but) I think (she) is going to be Anne’s (Teaching Assistant), or something like that.

RL:  What are their backgrounds?

AG:  Which ones?

MS:  They have that all listed in the catalog.

The only questions I wanted to ask were just kind of opinion questions.  What have you felt … like I wanted to ask, kind of … there’s no other place like Naropa as far as the number of poets coming, you know, high quality….

AG:  Well, there’s the number of poets that are coming, it’s the distinguished nature of the poets in certain fields, like Burroughs or Fielding Dawson or Carl Rakosi, or Peter, for that matter, or Anne.

MS:  And you.

AG:  The other thing is that all of the teachers and poets here are people who have made some kind of individual, original contribution to 20th century literature of themselves, or are part of a movement or school who has made an original contribution, or are singular individuals – like Burroughs, or Rakosi. Rakosi, for instance, was a member of the Objectivists School and was a collaborator with many famous writers, like (Charles) Reznikoff, Louis Zukofsky, Ezra Pound who first published him – and so forth.  So that really goes back into history.  So, historically interesting people.  And then Fielding Dawson went to Black Mountain and was an old friend of Creeley, so we had both Creeley and Dawson — real true representatives of the whole Black Mountain School, and students of Charles Olson,as they were.  So the selection is on the basis of historical movements and historical currents, as well as individual achievement.

MS:  But there’s basically no other place in the United States right now that’s doing anything similar, or..?

AG:  I think there are fragmentary attempts, and there may be similar attempts to cover historical movements, but I don’t believe any of the historical movements that are being covered are what we might call open-form, projective verse…

to be continued

And, as a bonus (and related) here’s a link to a 1978 Allen Ginsberg-Anne Waldman Naropa fund-raiser

and a planning session from 1981

From the 1970’s, 1980’s “Institute” to the current fully-accredited  Naropa University – What a remarkable journey it’s been!  –  (and will continue to be – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, its founder, famously conceived of it as a “one-hundred-year experiment”)

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