The Spontaneous Poem at Convocation at the start of term is an old Naropa tradition, initiated by our founder, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and carried on usually by one faculty or staff of the Kerouac School as conduit. We do this to bring us all into a collective moment and to create a context we can carry throughout the year until the next turn of the proverbial wheel. In our case it is the dharmachakra representing the eight-fold path:
Samma-Ditthi — Complete or Perfect Vision
Samma-Sankappa — Perfected Emotion or Aspiration,
Samma-Vaca — Perfected or whole Speech.
Samma-Kammanta — Integral Action.
Samma-Ajiva — Proper Livelihood.
Samma-Vayama — Complete or Full Effort, Energy or Vitality.
Samma-Sati — Complete or Thorough Awareness.
Samma-Samadhi — Full, Integral or Holistic Samadhi.
Hence, the Spontaneous Poem always has eight lines. They are composed by Naropa Community members who are present at covocation who have submitted their names to a collective sort-of pot. They are consequently pulled blindly, at random until the poem has been completed.
This year Swanee was the Kerouacian representative. She led everyone into the space of composition by instructing us, “…to step into your place of inspiration. Try and speak from an image or a feeling. If there was something said during convocation which inspired you, strike out from there. Whatever is calling you is your message, your transmission for this moment. Please keep it to a phrase or a sentence. Please also speak slowly and maybe repeat the line as I will be recording by type as we speak. Don’t worry about how poetic it may or may not sound. Whatever you say will be some kind of truth. When each consequent name is called, you do not need to necessarily follow the lines or logic which came before you. In the spirit of our founders, your first thought is the best thought. In the spirit of Jack Collom, poetry is everywhere. Let us take a collective breath and begin:”
For the video of the composition of the poem, please visit our YouTube channel.
And so it began. One after the other names were read aloud and lines given by Dennis Kerr, Isaac Eide, Paul Gomez, Judith Simmer Brown, Richard Brown, Kate Blassl, Allen Ginsberg, Charlotte Rotterdam.
It was an unusual moment indeed to pull Ginsberg’s name. Ever prepared for such events from beyond the veil, Swanee performed some bibliomancy with one of Ginsberg’s pocket book series published by City Lights, “Plutonian Ode & other poems” (bibliomancy is a divination technique where you hold your intention or question and find a place in the book at random for your answer/message). He was very clear, “this line right here, where your thumb is”. Professor Schelling noted how Swanee paled before reading the line, “too many happy Nazis”, holding her violently trembling hands for the room to see her shaken composure, the serenity of positioning in the poem coming to a severe point, the whole room responding audibly. No doubt this is exactly the point Ginsberg would be making if he were present with us in life.
Here’s a clip of Paul Fowler, BA in Music faculty leading the Performing Arts Center in an intonation of the poem: ‘Too Many Happy Nazis‘ (If you’d like to see a live stream of the whole convocation, visit the live stream.)
It was a strange parallel to the Faculty entering for convocation to the tune of the Game of Thrones theme song and the sense that here is the Night’s Watch, those who are attending to the real work to be done in a world full of distraction and games, the swords in the darkness, the watchers on the wall, the shields that guard the realms of men… & Ginsberg seems to have a very clear idea of who the White Walkers are. While we recommit ourselves to the work which reconnects in our collective moment at convocation, Ginsberg reminds us why this is so important in the collective national & global moment around us.
The Spontaneous Poem has been sent to Giovannina Jobson, Naropa University’s Contemplative Practice Coordinator for its next evolution– print copy! and we will announce when that is made publicly available to see. When it is, it will be interesting to look back and see how these lines themselves correlate with the eight-fold path (hint: Ginsberg’s line was the 7th!).
Until then here is the copy of Allen Ginsberg’s poem in full which supplied the line for his biblio-mantic contribution (please note the line which comes AFTER ‘too many happy Nazis’!):