Tentatively, Convenience's Reviews > Beats at Naropa

Beats at Naropa by Anne Waldman
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I started reading this bk b/c I was en route to Naropa to do a presentation in Amy Catanzano's class & a 'performance' at the PAC (Performing Arts Center) there. As such. I wanted to inundate myself in things-Naropa. My reading of it coincided w/ the flight there, the visit there, the flight home, & the 1st day of my being home.

I have mixed feelings about the 'Beats'. The one or 2 novels I read by Kerouac as a teenager struck me as mediocre. The poets never interested me much. Even though I respect Ginsberg somewhat as a political activist, I've still never read a bk by him - although I've read individual poems, etc..

Burroughs, on the other hand, has been very important to me. Nonetheless, Burroughs' shooting of his wife has always struck me as colossally stupid & his heroin addiction, despite all the negative things he sd about it, was still widely influential in glamorizing heroin use - another thing I find colossally stupid.

Making matters worse for me personally is that I grew up in BalTimOre where the 'Beat'-influenced poetics scene was largely apolitical & was mainly interested in alcohol & heroin abuse & the use of simple vocabularies. BalTimOre had multiple poetics 'scenes' & I did feel some solidarity w/ the Beat/Bukowski influenced folks but more w/ the visual/sound/'language' folks. These latter were more embracing of larger vocabularies & more experimental form. For me, the 'Beat' poets are a pretty unimaginative bunch, formally - despite imaginative & radical lifestyles.

Those disclaimers aside, I read this bk w/ substantial interest. For one thing, it consists of transcripts from Naropa University's Audio Archives - an endangered species of profound importance. In fact, for me, one of the highlights of this bk is Steven Taylor's "Remember the Future: Archival Poetics and the War on Memory" in wch the value of Naropa's archive specifically & such archives generally is strongly addressed & supported. Diane de Prima's memories are similarly valuable.

This bk is an invaluable resource for those interested in the 'Beats' - esp b/c it doesn't always come from the expected direction. Take this exchange:

"BURKE: Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. Looking back, how do you see their place in history?

"SANDERS: I usually don't talk about the Yippies. You know they say politics make strange bedfellows." [..] "Abbie was the Jim Thorpe of the radicals. He was incredibly talented; he was very brilliant. He just didn't believe in himself as an artist. And so he didn't take his writing seriously." [..] "Unfortunately though, he couldn't ever slow down enough to pay attention to art, [to] creative writing."

I find this exchange fascinating partially b/c I have great respect for Hoffman & partially b/c I find it somewhat interesting that Ed Sanders seems to be emphasizing art over activism - wch I'm not sure I'd do. I like Hoffman's writing - but if Hoffman had been only a writer instead of primarily a political activist I wdn't be nearly as interested in him. It's the people who're actually out there in the world doing things that I think are the most 'important'.

The chapter entitled ""Frightened Chrysanthemums": Poets' Colloquium" was yet-another thing here that interested me greatly. Perhaps the highlight of it for me was the aspect where one gets to read the progress of Burroughs' absorption of the idea of having a meditative practice w/o his typewriter present - an idea he's initially resistant to. To see that such an acerbic, critical, & highly stubborn thinker was capable of changing his opinion in a dialog is one of the best signs of how intelligent he really was.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 12, 2010 – Finished Reading
October 13, 2010 – Shelved
October 13, 2010 – Shelved as: literary-criticism
October 13, 2010 – Shelved as: literature
October 13, 2010 – Shelved as: philosophy
October 13, 2010 – Shelved as: poetry
October 13, 2010 – Shelved as: politics

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