I love the Open Culture site and I’m always anxious to share a good find. The other day I fell down a Beat rabbit hole at the site before stumbling upon this set of recordings of Allen Ginsberg teaching the history of Western poetry at the Jack Kerouac School for Disembodied Poetics in 1974. There are 13 complete lectures in the series and everyone of them is available to listen to, share and download at Open Culture. Here’s the description from the site…
…I have found poetry one of those distinctive practices of which the practitioners themselves—rather than scholars and critics—make the best expositors, even in such seemingly academic subject areas as the history of poetry. Of course, poets, like critics, get things wrong, and not every poet is a natural teacher, but only poets understand poetry from the inside out, as a living, breathing exercise practiced the world over by every culture for all recorded history, linked by common insights into the nature of language and existence. Certainly Allen Ginsberg understood, and taught, poetry this way, in his summer lectures at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied poetics, which he co-founded with Anne Waldman at Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s Naropa University in 1974.
Here are the 18th and 19th recordings which capture the first and second halves of a lecture that starts with Ginsberg’s mentor William Carlos Williams and ends with Ginsberg discussing peers like Gregory Corso and Jack Kerouac…
First half of a class about the history of poetry by Allen Ginsberg, from a series of classes during the summer of 1975. Ginsberg discusses the American poet, and one of his mentors, William Carlos Williams. Ginsberg reads selections from Williams’ work, and discusses his style and background. Second half of a class on the history of poetry by Allen Ginsberg, from a series of classes during the summer of 1975. Ginsberg discusses the poets William Carlos Williams, Gregory Corso and Jack Kerouac. He includes several personal anecdotes about the poets and reads selections from their works. A class discussion follows….