Anne Waldman Autobiography:
Co-founding The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics
In 1974 I was invited along with Allen Ginsberg and Diane DiPrima to Boulder, Colorado, for the first summer program of the Naropa Institute, founded by Trungpa and some of his senior students. I'd spent time during several summers at Allen Ginsberg's farm in Cherry Valley, New York, approximately four hours from the city. Many friends, poets, artists, distinguished guests, Zen teachers, others would pass through. Allen was for the most part busy elsewhere but his longtime companion Peter Orlovsky was in residence during most of the two summers I spent time there, tending a large and energetic vegetable garden. The summer of 1974 poet Bernadette Mayer and some other friends joined me at the farm—she and I had just completed a reading/performance in Art Park near Niagara Falls—which started me thinking how best to take some of the poetic energy out of New York and generate an alternative place where poets could gather. Some way to live off the Lower East Side a spell. We should be able to schedule writing or contemplative retreats, write epic poems under the influence of a gibbous moon, sing to our vegetable garden. But the invitation had arrived to visit Naropa, the newly gathering experimental Buddhist school on the spine of the Rocky Mountain continent, an auspicious journey which altered the direction of my life.
At a meeting, which included John Cage, Gregory Bateson, poet Jackson Mac Low, Allen Ginsberg, Diane DiPrima “, had "worked," to which he replied, "It all came together at lunch." Allen and I were asked to design a poetics department in which poets could learn about meditation and meditators could learn about poetry. Fired up with the assignment we went back to the apartment (we were roommates that summer) and started making lists of all the people we'd want to invite, all the chairs we'd create to honor poets. The Emily Dickinson Chair of Silent Scribbling. The Frank O'Hara Chair of Deep Gossip. We founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics that same night, delighted we had a title, a moniker we both agreed upon and giddy with the imagination of what this school could be. Kerouac, because he had realized the first Buddhist Noble Truth, the truth of Suffering, and had written the spontaneous Mexico City Blues, an ecstatic series of choruses inspired by Buddhist thinking ("first thought, best thought"), be-bop, and his own lively poet-mind. Also a writer both generations of peers—my own and Allen's—might agree upon, acknowledging Kerouac's original praxis (nonstop spontaneity), tenderness of heart in the actual language, prodigious accomplishment in both prose and poetry. As well as being an influence on Ginsberg himself, a goad to William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and others, he had influenced writers such as Clark Coolidge and Ted Berrigan who were closer to my poetic generation. In addition, Kerouac had been not simply writer but culture hero, taking personal risks, epitomizing in his own "search" the yearning of the North American "soul" for higher consciousness or "satori"—a poetic realization of the tenderness and emptiness and interconnectedness of all beings on the planet. He represented for me the genius-witness to both the decline of our Western civilization—its cri de coeur—as well as its outrageous wisdom and delight. I threw the term "disembodied" into our school's banner to augment the notion that we were honoring a lineage, elders that had tread the path before us, such as Sappho, Blake, Whitman, H. D., Stein, Pound, W. C. Williams, Lorine Niedecker, Frank O'Hara. Our faculty was to be for the most part "at large," peripatetic. It was a bow, too, to the tantric Buddhist backdrop—the word "disembodied" sounded provocative, otherworldly? —of the Naropa Institute.
Anne Waldman. "Anne Waldman: 1945-," in Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series. Gale Research Series, Volume 17, 1993: 282-283.