Beats at Naropa
On Beats at Naropa: Editors Anne Waldman and Laura Wright in Conversation
Laura Wright: What was the impetus behind this project?
Anne Waldman: Editing a Beats at Naropa anthology seemed a compelling project, because principals from this historical generation—William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Diane di Prima to name a few—had been at The Jack Kerouac School at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. From the start. And it was a great choice to get you involved, Laura, because you had been through the Naropa writing program, are a poet yourself, and have impressive editing skills. And Coffee House was, of course, very supportive.
LW: Could you speak about the early years?
AW: Allen Ginsberg and I came to Boulder in the summer of 1974 not expecting to found a poetics school, albeit a poetic school we decided to name for the outrider Jack Kerouac. We found ourselves in this marvelous predicament of being anti-academic (Allen was adverse to giving grades, for example), yet being encouraged to start an educational community, and to create a unique pedagogy based on discourse, or as Allen called it “high talk”—meaning smart, provocative, original. Poets would teach what they know, and things would be discussed, mulled over. The Beat writers had intervened on the culture. It wasn't just a matter of simply offering the usual kind of writing workshops, but reading and thinking lectures, panels, presentations, as well. The Beat writers have been exceptional as political and cultural activists, investigative workers, translators, Buddhists, environmental activists, feminists, seers. There's so much legendary history here.