Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Naropa 1975 Another Classroom Improvisation


[Kobun Chino Roshi, sitting Sesshin, Naropa University, July 1989. photo.c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

We recently presented the “Death Is..” Improvisation. Here’s another, from our continuing NAROPA lecture transcriptions (from a class conducted on July 9 1975, where Allen’s special guest was his father, Louis Ginsberg).

Randy Roark explains (and notes): “ The class begins, again, with a roll call. This time the students have to respond by saying whatever is on their mind. As the roll continues, Ginsberg begins to try to steer the class into composing a continuous poem about their environs. The following transcription is much edited from the original tape (for instance, deleting the call-and-response of the student names and (other) non-essential material for clarity’s sake), but will (hopefully) somewhat demonstrate Ginsberg’s poetic teaching in action.”

AG: We’ll take the roll again, only this time will you answer by presenting whatever is in your mind, not what’s on a book or not what’s written down on paper. If you can remember a line of your own, from your mind, then do it, that’s alright. But no quoting anybody else this time. [The first student responds “Here”] – It’s got to be more than three words.

Student 1 : Dark, humid, starting to rain, thinking about the day

S2: Tinted haze encircling the moon.

AG: It’s getting very pretty.

S3: I was thinking about going to the Dathun..And I was also thinking that..

AG: Condense it. Thinking about the doc? Going to the doctor? See, I can’t hear. Thinking about going to the Dathun? And also?

S3: It seems like it would be better than going to..Sesshin

AG: Thinking about going to Dathun, better than going to Sesshin. We might keep it on the.. we’ve got a line going now.


[Dathun meditators, via Karme Choling Blog]

S4: In the land of Buddha…

AG: Well, how about here, in Boulder? Because everyone was up in the air with the weather and the mental thought of the moment. It might be interesting to get a poem continuous about the planet and the weather and Boulder (Colorado) and the mountains and where we are.

S4: It’s a long walk to here

AG: Where’s here?

S4: (no answer)

AG: It’s a long way to Sacred Heart

S5: Through the forest of pianos that makes no rustle of keys

AG: It’s a long way to Sacred Heart/ Through the forest of pianos that makes no rustle of keys.

S6; Oh, the intrepid tubers!

AG: All the intrepid tubers? Okay, so the next one, see if you can follow-up the “intrepid tubers”

S7: Perforated reality.

AG: All the intrepid tubers/ Perforated reality. Remember, keep it to where we are, or getting around to where we are, or keep it in a straight line.

S8: No night falls without magic free?

AG: No night falls with out magic free?

S9: The mind plays empty

AG: While it’s doing what?

S9: That’s for the next person

AG: Okay. But we’ve still got to keep it on the street, leaving Sacred Heart, or we can make some sense, at least. We’ve had some tubers perforating reality while the mind plays empty

S10: The harmonium works on a hinge, so too the human voice.

AG: The harmonium works on a hinge, so too the human voice.

S11: It’s one light-switch up, one light-switch down.

AG: One light switch up, one light-switch down. Allen, flick the switch [the next student’s name, Student 12, is Allen Flick]

S12: (indecipherable)

AG: What were you thinking when you were thinking?

S 12: A combination of total emptiness and paranoia.

AG: One light switch on, one light switch off/ total emptiness and complete paranoia

S12: Thank you.

AG: You had it. Although you might have been a little more specific about the paranoia. I mean, if we’re going to be concrete in the poem..

S13: For an invitation to the open poetry-reading, Thursday night, Room 10, 7PM.

S14: That’s like a commercial.

AG: Total emptiness and total paranoia.

S15: To get there I eat of the poetry reading, you have to pass the red barn, comma, a truncated fetus.

AG: To get there I eat at a poetry reading, you have to pass the red barn, comma, a truncated fetus. Good.

S16: Ripped toes, big skin.

AG: You stumbled on the barn? Ripped toe, big skin.

S17: I can hear no one, they all have beards between their legs

S18: The day was not a color but a sound.

S19: Stained keys, black and brown pianos, a hole in my side.

S20: Coffee and cherry pie with calcium proportionate and the record head might not work.

AG: Coffee, cherry pie with calcium proportionate and the record head might not work?

S20: I tried it, though, and it does.

S21: Debating the pros and cons of saying that I’m here.

AG: Were you here last time?

S21: Yes I was and you missed me last time

AG: So what was your line last time?

S21: You missed me.

AG: What was your line last time?

S21: You missed me. I just got a chance to say you missed me and then you went on.

AG: And your line this time, “Debating the pros and cons of saying that I’m here”?

S22: With soft ill though saving it for later.

S23: I don’t like the altitude anymore. It only makes me thirsty.

S24: Thoughts gathering on the shimmering lips of the mind.

AG: Thoughts gathering on the what?

S24: On the shimmering lips of the mind.

AG: On the shimmering lips? Speaking of thoughts gathering on the shimmering lips of the mind? It’s not bad because I’m thinking about the situation, but it would be interesting if everybody would lay out something that was outside themselves. Still in the atmosphere, because we started in the atmosphere and it was a good beginning. You realize that if you listen ti everything that’s going along, there’s a continuous chain of thought forms, that we could actually create a “chain poem” - Do you all know what “chain-poems” are? - A chain-poem is when a lot of the Surrealists (and a lot of other people way before – the Japanese and the Chinese also used to do it) contribute linked verses, line after line, going around in a circle, or people spontaneously uttering lines and then (having them) taken down by a scribe, or by a tape-recorder, but everybody conscious of the fact that they were writing a poem, not a bunch of fragments. And so the humor was to cap the other person’s line. Relating to the last person’s line. So, “The shimmering lips of the mind…”

S25: Day and I were sitting on the fence. One got off, and the other commenced, “Why do I give a shit, I didn’t see it”.

AG: Who was sitting on the fence with you?

S25: It was day and night.

AG: Day and night were sitting on a fence, one got off?

S25: The other commenced.

AG: The other commenced, “What do I give a shit, I didn’t even see it”. Does that come out of the “shimmering lips of the mind”?

Louis Ginsberg: [Allen’s father is present, guest-lecturer in the class] – Shimmering lips wouldn’t say those words.

AG: Shimmering lips wouldn’t say those words, says the elder Ginsberg. Did they ever say “shit” in your class?

Louis Ginsberg: No, not in mine.

AG: Well, this is a class in spontaneous poetry.

Louis Ginsberg: No, no. Those were the olden days/

AG: In spontaneous poetry, all they can come out with is “shit’ all time! Last time, my big teacher’s comment [Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s?] was “a bunch of coprophiliacs!

S26: Red lips, big fat lips, eat the mind.

AG: Red lips, big fat lips that eat the mind?

S27: And say “No Smoking” above the blackboard psycho-cultic eclipse of personalities.

AG: Red lips that eat the mind/ and say “No Smoking” aboard the blackbird psycho…

S27: No, “No Smoking” above the blackboard psycho-cultic eclipse of personalities.

AG: Psycho-cultic eclipse of personality?

S 28: Lips don’t eat anything. They don’t have to have teeth

S 29: I didn’t hear what you just said

AG: Something about teeth. It was a dental image. You can continue with laughing gas.

Louis Ginsberg: Put some teeth in it!

S29: White, gold, black, enamel

AG: What ? White, gold, black, enamel what? teeth?

S29: White, gold, black, enamel teeth

S30: White, gold, black, enamel . You’re such a fine, fine fellow, but you almost missed me, you almost missed me, because, because you said, “Bullshit, bullshit, blullshit” , and then you went for the quick hit, quick hit, quick hit.

AG: Pretty good. Rhythm. Okay, now we’ve got some rhythm going.

S31: Boulder would be Valhalla if it only had a jack-in-the-box

AG: Boulder would be Valhalla had it only a jack-in-the-box

S32: All my friends wear cockroach antlers.

AG: All my friends are cockroach handlers? That’s nice. “Wear” or “were”?

S32: All my friends wear cockroach antlers

AG: “Wear”, oh – All my friends wear cockroach antlers. “Cockroach antlers” is pretty good. I had a line like that – “Radiator cockroach waving your horns at the wall/ What’ll I feed you, I don’t eat meat at all/ Go tell the bed buggies they better stay out in the hall?” – for a blues.

S32: Does it have a melody with it? Mine has a melody ?

AG; [singing] “Radiator cockroach/ Waving your horns at the wall/ What’ll I feed you/ I don’t eat meat at all/ Go tell Mr Bed Buggie/ Better wait out in the hall”. [This is his “Come Back Christmas: Blues Stanza” from “First Blues”] What was yours? You had a melody?

S33: [singing] : “All my friends wear cockroach antlers/ hmmm/ cockroach antlers / All my friends wear cockroach antlers/ Dah dah dah do dah”..

AG: That’s rhythm n’ blues. Mine was a blues. Yours was more of a rock n roll.

S33: Walt Disney.

AG: Walt Disney?

S34: Smith and Barnes of Chicago have just started a psycho-cult to eclipse our personalities.

AG: Smith and Barnes of Chicago have just started a psycho-cult to eclipse our personalities.

S35: (indecipherable)

AG: Louder

S36 (for S35): The hormone hit Paris. The thyroid roamed Italy

Louis Ginsberg: Ginsbergs can’t hear it.

S36 (for S35): The hormone hit Paris. The thyroid roamed Italy.

AG: The hormone hit Paris. The thyroid roamed Italy. Just louder, that’s all.

S35: The hormone hipped pear, a thyroid puberty

AG: The hormone hipped pear, right? – A thyroid hit puberty?

S35: Just a thyroid puberty

AG: A thyroid puberty

S37: So let’s start a rumor or myth.

AG: So let’s start a rumor or..?

S37: Or myth

AG: A myth. Let’s start a rumor or a myth.

AG: Is Al Santoli here? (left under my bed when Gregory Corso departed to his other apartment was half a poem of yours). What’s your line?

Al Santoli: The difference between a man and a hawk. A hawk smokes a pipe and a man flies through clouds.

AG: The difference between a man and a hawk. A hawk smokes a pipe and a man flies through clouds.

S38: Reconstructed ocean, my saltwater body oozes itself .

AG: Reconstructed ocean, my saltwater body oozes itself .

S39: People call me Jean, at home, in the oven.

AG: Good luck sir, don’t burn it. Were you here the last time? [looking at class-roster].

S39: Yes

AG: Then I goofed then. What was your line last time?

S39: Help, I’m alive.

S40: We could break off the antlers and put them in Larry’s sock-hole.

AG: Sock hole? We could break off the antlers and put them in Larry’s sock-hole. What’s a sock hole? A sock hole? A hole in a sock?

S41: Music is raining on the mike.

AG: Hmm. Music is raining on the microphone.

S 42: I wish I were

AG: you wish you were raining on the microphone. You were here last time too, weren’t you?

S43: With one squeaky galosh

AG: You wish you were raining on the microphone with one squeaky galosh.

S44: Let us, let us, let us, let us

AG: Let us, let us, let us. Is that “to eat” [i.e. “{lettuce”] or “to be permitted”

S44: Both

S45: Florid green illuminescence playing beautifully


[Aqua luminescence, via Vancouver Aquarium]

AG: What was the vern?

S45: Verb?

AG: Florid green illuminescence…

S45:..playing beautifully

S46: On the way out of the Boulderado Hotel, two old ladies smeared in rogue, has Roman clowns and clouds of jasmine.

AG: Two old ladies smeared in rogue and..?

S46: ..has Roman clowns and clouds of jasmine.

AG: Has Roman clowns and clouds in jasmine. Okay, Louis (Ginsberg)?

Louis Ginsberg: Yes, sir.

AG: What’s your line?

Louis Ginsberg; What’s the good word? “Is life worth living? It depends on the liver”. “Not having beard as a bard, but with Allen it grows on you”.

AG: He says that to all the classes!

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