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Allen Ginsberg, The Naropa Sessions: The Figure Five

This is one in a series of ten lectures given by Allen Ginsberg at the Naropa Institute in Boulder Colorado, in the summer of 1975.

In this segment of the Naropa Sessions, Allen Ginsberg discusses the poet's awareness of him/herself in space. To that end, he uses the work of William Carlos Williams as a reference. By using the self in space as a formal device, one is able to contextualize a given work and relate it to visual culture. Ginsberg argues and Williams's work is explicitly referenced and visa versa in the works of the early 20th Century West Village artists; in Alfred Stieglitz’s school. Specifically, the works of Marsden Hartley, Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth- whose painting The Figure Five is mentioned in Williams's work. As a result of this dialog, Ginsberg claims that the late poet's work influenced the poetry that paralleled the Abstract Expressionist and Pop art movements.

The Naropa Institute was founded by Chögyam Trungpa, an exiled Tibetan tuku, in 1974. This liberal arts school initially offered MFA's in the visual arts, dance, theater, and poetry; as well as undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Buddhist Studies. It was founded with the intent of creating a dialog between the “world's wisdom traditions.” Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, and John Cage were among the faculty, who together formed the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poets.


Historic Audio from the Archives of Charles Ruas


An unparalleled collection of recovered and restored programs from the seventies produced by Charles Ruas, and featuring Allen Ginsberg, John Giorno, Anaïs Nin, William Boroughs, Buckminster Fuller, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, and Jorge Luis Borges, among numerous others.