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Newly Released Tapes of Allen Ginsberg and Me

by Richard Poe
Saturday, August 30, 2014

1:25 pm Eastern Time
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Allen Ginsberg

The Allen Ginsberg Project recently released audio recordings of me and my classmates interacting with our teacher Allen Ginsberg (shown above). In the summer of 1981, I took part in Allen’s writing apprenticeship program at Naropa Institute.

TALK about a blast from the past!

Here’s an audio recording of me, as a 22-year-old student in Allen Ginsberg’s “Expansive Poetics” class at Naropa Institute. I’m reading a poem by Velimir Khlebnikov in the original Russian. You can tell Allen is thrilled!

(Transcript here. Audio download here. Streaming audio here. My reading starts at the 6:39-minute mark).

In the summer of 1981, I did a writing apprenticeship with Allen at Naropa. The Allen Ginsberg Project recently released audio recordings of some of those classes.

Allen was a great performer. Many of the lessons he taught me I’ve been able to apply to public speaking, media appearances, and — most recently — to the narration of my forthcoming film The Way of the Kayak.

The newly-released Naropa tapes demonstrate how dramatically my reading style improved under Allen’s guidance. Compare my anemic reading of Garcia Lorca on June 25 with my energetic rendition of Khlebnikov on July 28, only one month later.

June 25, 1981 – Richard Poe reads from Garcia Lorca, with comments from Allen Ginsberg.

(Transcript here. Audio download here. Streaming audio here. I begin reading at the 1:21:34-minute mark.)

July 28, 1981 – Richard Poe reads from Velimir Khlebnikov, with comments from Allen Ginsberg.

(Transcript here. Audio download here. Streaming audio here. My Russian-language Khlebnikov reading starts at the 6:39-minute mark.)


Listening to these tapes is like entering a time machine. You never know what forgotten wonders you’ll uncover. I was fascinated, for instance, to stumble upon these remarks which Allen made to the class on June 25:

ALLEN GINSBERG: Well, last night at the party, I was talking with, uh, Richard Poe, who’s an apprentice, and I couldn’t figure out exactly what he wanted to apprentice to me about, what we were, what our relationship was poetically. And, uh, in a drunk last night, he said, “I figured out finally. What I wanted, was interested in, is, uh, learning how to read poetry aloud.” Which I hadn’t considered so much of, as a formal subject, but it turned me on, because actually that’s what I’ve been doing in the class, so I, uh, make that more, to make that more conscious. Uh, my own training in reading aloud comes from being turned on by Kerouac. Kerouac used to read Shakespeare aloud, as well as his own writing. Or Rabelais. Or any other text. You might get yourself a chair, Richard, if you can find one. You know where they are? We were just talking about you.

RICHARD POE: You were?

ALLEN GINSBERG: Yes, you’re the subject of the class.

(Transcript here. Audio download here. Streaming audio here. Quoted remarks begin at the 2:38-minute mark)


Grateful thanks to the Allen Ginsberg Project for releasing these tapes. It’s amazing to be able to listen in while Allen interacts with me and my classmates during those long-ago days at Naropa.

Wherever you are, Allen, thank you for the precious gift of your instruction and encouragement. We will never forget you.

UPDATE: August 31, 2014
Apparently, Naropa just finished digitizing its entire collection of 4,500 hours of analog tape. See this announcement.

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