Online Interviews With Allen Ginsberg Essay Research

Online Interviews With Allen Ginsberg Essay, Research Paper

Peter Barry Chowka

Peter Barry Chowka: Allen, since we’re in this automobile setting, I want to ask

you: much of your poetry, especially in The Fall of America, was composed in cars

on your various travels. In so many of the poems which came out of automobiles in the

sixties you really captured the essence of the times, the Vietnam war reports on the

radio, the lyrics of the rock music happening then. I wonder if, lately, you’re writing

poetry while on the road in automobiles?

Allen Ginsberg: Not so much. Occasionally, I still write travel poems in

airplanes, but not as often. It might be that the times have changed. Also, we were doing

a lot of cross country traveling in cars in the early and mid-sixties. More than now.

PBC: A lot of your most recent poetry, especially some that you read last night

(Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.) contains very spiritual, and specifically Buddhist,


AG: Not so spiritual; it’s more practical observations during the course of

meditation or after.

PBC: "Down-to-earth" spiritual, then. You don’t like the word


AG: Yeah, I’m not even sure if the word is helpful because it gets people all

distracted with the idea of voices and ghosts and visions. I used to get distracted that


PBC: How do you select which poems you’re going to present at a reading? Do you

consider what type of audience you feel will be there?

AG: Well, I read there years before with my father in a celebrated moment, for a

Washington society lady who invited us. I met Richard Helms, the head of the CIA, at the

last reading . . .

PBC: Helms was at the last reading?

AG: Yes. And so this time I was all hyped up, ’cause [William] Burroughs was

coming along, too: Burroughs, who’s the great destroyer of the CIA, with his prose.

PBC: Were you able to sense any reaction from the audience last night to the

kinds of things that were being read?

AG: I don’t think there were any CIA people there this time, (laughs) I was a

little disappointed: there were only secret agents — no big fish. I prepared poems that I

hadn’t read in Washington before, or poems that were extremely solid; I wanted a solid,

good reading of high-quality poems rather than just sort-of random poems, daily journal

poems. So I picked "pieces" that were complete in themselves. For me the high

point was a long, ranting, aggressive, wild poem ("Hadda be Playing on the Juke

Box") linking the CIA and the Mafia and the FBI and the NKVD and the KGB and the

multinational cash registers.

PBC: One line I especially liked was "Poetry useful if it leaves its own

skeleton hanging in the air like Buddha, Shakespeare and Rimbaud." Would it be

correct to say, from this line and from some of the other poetry you read, that your

sadhana now is the spreading of the dharma through poetry?

AG: Well, I’ve been working in that direction with Chogyam Trungpa, especially

influenced by staying all summer at Naropa Institute at the Jack Kerouac School of

Disembodied Poetics, which is ideationally modeled on Kerouac’s practice of spontaneous

utterance and Milarepa’s similar, or original, practice.

PBC: It was Kerouac who originally turned you on to Buddhism, wasn’t it?

AG: Yeah, he was the first one I heard chanting the "Three Refuges" in

Sanskrit, with a voice like Frank Sinatra.

PBC: And he wrote that as-yet unpublished volume Some of the Dharma,

which, I think, consisted of letters he wrote to you about Buddhism?

AG: Yeah, and he also, in the mid-fifties, wrote Mexico City Blues, which

is a great exposition of Mind — according to Trungpa. I read aloud to Trungpa halfway

through Mexico City Blues on a four-hour trip from Karme-Choling, Vermont, down to New

York, and he laughed all the way. And I said, "What do you think of it?" And he

answered, "It’s a perfect exposition of Mind."

PBC: Trungpa is a recognized poet in his own right. Do you think you’ve become

so close to Trungpa because you’re both poets?

AG: Oh, yeah, that’s a big influence. He encouraged me originally to abandon

dependence on a manuscript and to practice improvisational poetry. He said, "Why

don’t you do like the great poets do, like Milarepa; trust your own mind."

PBC: Compose it and then forget it; not necessarily write it down?

AG: It’s unforgettable in the sense that it gets on tape. The best thing I ever

did was a long "Dharma/Chakra Blues" in Chicago last year, but the tape is

completely incomprehensible and I can’t transcribe it. That is an old tradition, like Li

Po writing poems and leaving them on trees, or Milarepa singing to the wind with his right

hand at his ear to listen to the sound, shabd.

PBC: How long have you known Trungpa now? He seems to have become a great

influence in your life.

AG: An enormous influence. We first met on the street in 1971, in front of Town

Hall (New York City). I stole his taxicab; my father was ill and I wanted to get my father

off the street.

PBC: It was purely an accidental encounter?

AG: Yeah. I said "Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum" and

gave him a "Namaste" when he was introduced. I asked him years later what

he thought of my pronouncing the Padma Sambhava mantra to salute him, and he said,

"Oh, I wondered if you knew what you were talking about." (laughs) He’s been

pushing me to improvise, to divest myself of ego eventually, kidding me about

"Ginsberg resentment" as a national hippie characteristic, and warning me to

prepare for death, as I registered in a poem called "What Would You Do If You Lost

It?" published by the Lama Foundation.

PBC: As far as the "resentment" aspect, has he influenced you in that

direction? For example, many of the poems you read last night seemed more contemplative,


AG: He has provided a situation in which I do sit, like at the Naropa seminaries

or at the intensive sitting meditations where Peter [Orlovsky] and I have gone and sat for

a week at a time in retreat cabins in the Rocky Mountains, or where I’ve sat weeks alone,

and he’s suggested that I not write during those weeks when I’m in retreat — which has

resulted in a lot of post-sitting, meditative, haiku-like writings. He’s also made me more

aware of the elements of resentment, aggression, and dead-end anger in my earlier poetry

and behavior, which is useful to know and be mindful of. It doesn’t necessarily curb it,

but I’m able at least to handle it with more grace, maybe, as last night, where I read a

whole series of meditative poems and then this outrageous attack on the CIA-Mafia-FBI

connection. But it was put in a context where it was like the normal explosion of, maybe

even, vajra-resentment, so that it doesn’t become a dominant paranoia but is seen within

the greater space — the flow of Mind Consciousness while sitting — of continuing

mindfulness over the years. Trungpa’s basic attitude toward that kind of political outrage

is that things like gay liberation, women’s liberation, peace mobilization, have an

element — a seed — of value in them; but it depends on the attitude of mind of the

participant as to whether it’s a negative feedback and a karmic drug or a clear, healthy,

wholesome action.

PBC: Often those political movements can become so mutually exclusive that they

serve to isolate one from a lot of the potential . . .

AG: Or so filled with resentment that they become dead-ends. More and more, by

hindsight, I think all of our activity in the late sixties may have prolonged the Vietnam

war. As Jerry Rubin remarked after ‘68, he was so gleeful he had torpedoed the Democrats.

Yet it may have been the refusal of the Left to vote for Humphrey that gave us Nixon.

Humphrey and Johnson were trying to end the war to win the election, while Nixon was

sending emissaries (Mme. Claire Chennault) to Thieu saying, "Hang on until I get

elected and we’ll continue the war." Though I voted for Humphrey in ‘68 I think a lot

of people refused to vote, and Nixon squeaked in by just a couple of hundred thousand


PBC: And now, eight years later, we might get Humphrey again anyway.

AG: So that might be the karma of the Left, because of their anger, their

excessive hatred of their fathers and the liberals, their pride, their vanity

. . .ourvanity, our pride, our excessive hatred. It may be

that we have on our karma the continuation of the Vietnam war in its worst form with more

killing than before. We may have to endure Humphrey so that we can take the ennui or

boredom of examining what we’ve wrought when we got "exciting" Nixon. In a way

it all balanced out; maybe it was better that Nixon got in because then we had Watergate

and the destruction of the mythology of authority of a hypocrite government.

PBC: Since this is 1976, a year of inevitable increase in political discussion,

I’d like to ask the following question. Your Buddhist practice seems not to have

interfered with the acute politic concern, for the CIA and other issues, which you

continue to display in recent poems like "Hadda Be Playing on the Jukebox." How,

if at all, has your work with Trungpa — your extensive meditation practice — changed

your outlook on North American or world politics?

AG: It has changed it somewhat from a negative fix on the "fall of

America" as a dead-end issue — the creation of my resentment — into an appreciation

of the fatal karmic flaws in myself and the nation. Also with an attempt to make use of

those flaws or work with them — be aware of them — without animosity or guilt: and find

some basis for reconstruction of a humanly useful society, based mainly on a less

attached, less apocalyptic view. In other words, I have to retract or swallow my

apocalypse. (laughs)

PBC: That’s a lot to swallow. Do you have any specific thoughts on the American

political scene in this Presidential election year?

AG: Governor Jerry Brown.

PBC: Is the condition of the Left refusing to support Humphrey in ‘68 the main

thing that comes to mind in talking of the mistakes of the sixties, or are there other

things that you’ve realized, as well?

AG: Well, that’s sort of a basic mistake you can refer to that everybody can

remember in context, I think, so it’s a good, solid thing. What was the point of the Left?

It was saying, "End the war." What was the action of the Left? It refused to

support Humphrey because he wasn’t "pure" enough (laughs), so there was an

apocalyptic purity desire which maybe was impractical, or "unskillful means."

PBC: Which seems to go along with what I know about Trungpa and his teachings,

in general: that it should be a very down-to-earth, practical sadhana, which doesn’t

include requirements of stringent vegetarianism or giving up cigarette smoking.

AG: And which is mindful of that quality of resentment which he characterizes as

"Ginsberg resentment" or "America Ha-Ha." I was resentful, at first,

when he came on with that kind of line. Actually, I voted for Humphrey, so I wasn’t

dominated that much by resentment, but it seems to be a stereotype, maybe ’cause Trungpa

reads too much Time magazine. He’s entitled to his opinion, and I’m surely

profiting psychologically from him because there’s enough insight in that to make me halt

in my tracks and think twice, thrice.

PBC: Do you see his movement in contemporary Buddhism as the most vital one in

America at this point?

AG: Shakespeare has a very interesting line: "Comparisons are odious."

So to say "the most vital" — well, everybody’s doing a different kind of work

– some quiet, some more flashy. I seem to be able to relate to Trungpa best, although I

must say that it may be that the looseness and heartiness and charm of his approach is not

necessarily the deepest for my case. I notice I’m very slow in getting into my

prostration: of 100,000 prostrations, I’ve done only 10,000 and I’m way behind, maybe the

last in the class. But I guess he’s gotten a lot of people more deeply into foundation

practices, perhaps on more of a mass scale than any other Tibetan lama, if that’s any good

count. I suppose it’s the quality of the student that counts. Trungpa’s movement is a very

rational and classical approach to Buddhism, in his real serious attention to sitting:

"Go sit, weeks and weeks and weeks, ten hours a day."

PBC: It’s primarily silent meditation?

AG: His basic approach is to begin with shamatha, a Sanskrit word meaning

peaceful mindedness, creating tranquillity of mind. It consists of paying attention to the

breath coming out of the nostrils and dissolving in space, the outbreath only, and is a

variety of vipassana practice, which begins with concentration on the breath passing in

and out just at the tip of the nose, or Zen practice which involves following the breath

to the bottom of the belly.

PBC: What is it about the Tibetan style of Buddhism that first attracted you?

AG: Originally it was the iconography: the mandalas, the Wheel of Life,

and the Evans-Wentz books, some of which were recommended by Raymond Weaver, who was a

professor of English at Columbia University in the ’40s. Weaver gave Kerouac a list of

books to read after he read an unpublished early novel of Kerouac’s titled The Sea Is

My Brother — a list which included the early gnostic writers, The Egyptian Book of

the Dead and The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The Herukas — the

many-armed, fierce guardian deities — reminded me of visions I’d had in 1948 relating to

William Blake’s poem, "The Sick Rose"; visions of terror — of the universe

devouring me, being conquered and eaten by the universe. I used The Tibetan Book of the

Dead while ingesting ayahuasca in New York City in 1960-61. Later on, some

contact with Dudjom Rinpoche in India reinforced this interest in Tibetan Buddhism.

PBC: How has your study of Tibetan Buddhism, and your work with Trungpa

Rinpoche, altered or expanded your own awareness?

AG: The shamatha meditation which I’ve practiced for a number of years

under Trungpa Rinpoche’s auspices leads first to a calming of the mind, to a quieting of

the mechanical production of fantasy and thought forms; it leads to sharpened awareness of

them and to taking an inventory of them. It also leads to an appreciation of the empty

space around into which you breathe, which is associated with dharmakaya. In the

tradition of the vipassana practice, this leads to insight into detail in the space

around you, which is exemplified in William Carlos Williams’ brief poems noting detail in

the space around him. I’ll paraphrase his poem "Thursday" — "I’ve had my

dreams, like other men, but it has come to nothing. So that now I stand here feeling the

weight of my coat on my shoulders, the weight of my body in my shoes, the breath pushing

in and out at my nose — and resolve to dream no more." In terms of external

manifestation rather than just subjective awareness, an observer could see in me some

results of that "widening of the area of consciousness," which is a term that I

used at the end of Kaddish. For example, since 1971, I’ve come to improvise poetry

or song on the stage, trusting my own mind rather than a manuscript. Also, I do a lot of

sitting, which is, in itself, a self-sufficient activity.

PBC: Before you began to study with Trungpa, you’d never associated yourself

with a spiritual master?

AG: I had worked with Swami Muktananda — "Kundalini Swami," as

Gary Snyder calls him, and sat for a year and a half with a mantra that he had

given me.

PBC: You knew Swami Bhaktivedanta (leader of the International Society of

Krishna Consciousness) as well.

AG: Since ‘66 I had known Swami Bhaktivedanta and was somewhat guided by him,

although not formally — spiritual friend. I practiced the hare krishna chant,

practiced it with him, sometimes in mass auditoriums and parks in the Lower East Side of

New York.

PBC: You really did a lot to popularize that chant. Probably the first place I

heard it was when I saw you read in ‘68.

AG: Actually, I’d been chanting it since ‘63, after coming back from India. I

began chanting it, in Vancouver at a great poetry conference, for the first time in ‘63,

with Duncan and Olson and everybody around, and then continued. When Bhaktivedanta arrived

on the Lower East Side in ‘66 it was reinforcement for me, like "the reinforcements

had arrived" from India.

PBC: You mentioned your trip to India in the early sixties. Do you consider that

to be very significant in your orientation afterwards toward your present spiritual goals?

AG: My trip wasn’t very spiritual, as anybody can see if they read Indian

Journals. Most of it was spent horsing around, sightseeing and trying the local drugs.

But I did visit all of the holy men I could find and I did encounter some teachers who

gave me little teachings then that were useful then and now. Some of the contacts were

prophetic of what I arrived at later here in America, because I met the head of the Kagyu

order, Gyalwa Karmapa there, and saw the black crown ceremony in Sikkim in ‘62 or ‘63. He

subsequently visited the U.S. with Trungpa as host. I went to see Dudjom Rinpoche, the

head of the Nyingma sect and got one very beautiful suggestion from him about the

bum LSD trips I was having at the time, which I’ll quote again: "If you see something

horrible, don’t cling to it; and if you see something beautiful, don’t cling to it."

PBC: Has LSD been less of a factor in your life lately?

AG: Less, though it was a strong influence and I think basically a good

influence. I went through a lot of horror scenes with it. Finally, through poetic and

meditation practice I found the key to see through the horror and come to a quiet place

while tripping.

PBC: Do you ever find it possible to do serious meditation while under the

influence of drugs, or do you find the two exclusive?

AG: I haven’t tried since I’ve been more deeply involved in meditation. The last

time I took acid, I went up into the Teton Mountains, to the top of Rendezvous Mountain,

and made a little sitting place on the rocks, near the snow. Just sat there all day,

unmoved, unmoving, watching my breath, while white clouds pushed casting shadows on the

stillness of the white snow. It was like sitting up in the corner of a great mandala of

the god-worlds thinking of the hells — bombing Cambodia — going on down the other side

of the mandala, the other side of the round earth; and then breathing, and the thought

dissolving, and the physical presence of the place where I was resuming, sitting in a

white snowy place in the middle of the whole "empty" vast full universe.

PBC: The reason I asked is that most teachers I’ve heard of have counseled

against using drugs or have said they’re an impediment on the path, although many people

have reported experiencing profound mystical meditative states while under the influence

of certain drugs, and that drugs have opened them to a more expansive consciousness.

AG: I think that even those teachers who disapprove of the use of drugs by their

students do credit the LSD wave with opening up people’s awareness to the possibility of

alternative modes of consciousness, or at least a search for some stable place, or perhaps

leaving their imaginations open to understand some of the imagery, such as the wheels of

life. Trungpa’s position is that "psychedelics" are too trippy, whereas people

need to be grounded; everything is uncertain enough as it is. The world, societies, mind

are uncertain. What’s needed is some non-apocalyptic, non-ambitious, non-spiritually

materialistic, grounded sanity, for which he proposes shamatha meditation and

discourages grass and acid, which is logically sensible. I think he may have some more

ample ideas about that for specific situations.

Peter Barry Chowka: I want to talk a little about the concept of

"egolessness," which is something a lot of us have trouble defining and

practicing. Last night you mentioned the three marks of existence are "change,

suffering and egolessness."

Allen Ginsberg: Trungpa lectured on that at Naropa last year, very beautifully,

and I turned it into a stanza:

Born in this world

you got to suffer

everything changes

you got no soul

representing suffering, change/transiency, and anatma or no permanent essential

identity, meaning, in a sense, non-theism, or nonselfism. It’s a description of the nature

of things, by their very nature. It might knock out Krishna and Joya and God and some

notions of Christ and some notions of Buddha. It may not necessarily knock out devotion or

the quality of devotion, though.

PBC: How long ago was your poem "Ego Confession" written? I’m curious,

because the line in it that I picked up on was the first one: "I want to be known as

the most brilliant man in America."

AG: Yeah, it’s obviously a great burlesque, a take-off on myself, shameful,

shocking. (laughs) I wrote it in October ‘74, listening to Cecil Taylor play in a

nightclub in San Francisco, sitting next to Anne Waldman, who is the co-director of the

Kerouac School of Poetics at Naropa. And I was so ashamed of what I wrote down that I

wouldn’t let her see it, I hid my notebook from her with my hand. Within a month I

realized that the poem was funny.

PBC: Do you have any new poems in your notebook that you’d care to read for us

while we’re on this trip to Baltimore?

AG: I think the text of the "Gospel of Noble Truths" hasn’t been

printed anywhere. It’s a gospel style song, for blues chord changes one/four/one/five/ and

next stanza return to one. There’s another reflection of that theme in a poem I wrote

along on the Rolling Thunder Review.

Lay down Lay down yr Mountain Lay down God

Lay down Lay down yr music Love Lay down

Lay down Lay down yr hatred Lay yrself down

Lay down Lay down yr Nation Lay yr foot on the Rock

Lay down yr whole Creation Lay yr Mind down

Lay down Lay down yr Magic Hey Alchemist Lay it down Clear

Lay down yr Practice precisely Lay down yr Wisdom dear

Lay down Lay down yr Camera Lay down yr Image right

Yea Lay down yr Image Lay down Light.

Nov. 1, 1975

PBC: Is Dylan the "Alchemist" in those lines?

AG: Yeah, the poem is directed to him, because we were considering the nature of

the movie we were making, which will be a nice thing, a sort of "dharma

movie," hopefully, depending on how it’s edited. The movie made along the Rolling

Thunder tour (120 hours of film which will have to be reduced to three) has many "dharma"

scenes. It was like a Buddhist conspiracy on the part of some of the directors and film

cameramen; the director Mel Howard was out at Naropa last year. In every scene that I

played I used the Milarepa mantra "Ah" and kept trying to lay it on Dylan

or the audience or the film men.

PBC: Much of Dylan’s music, even from the middle, electric period of his career,

has impressed me as being very Zen-like in a lot of its imagery. Knowing him well as you

do, do you think he has been influenced by Zen or Buddhism?

AG: I don’t know him because I don’t think there is any him, I

don’t think he’s got a self!

PBC: He’s ever-changing.

AG: Yeah. He’s said some very beautiful, Buddha-like things. One thing, very

important, was I asked him whether he was having pleasure on the tour, and he said,

"Pleasure, Pleasure, what’s that? I never touch the stuff." And then he went on

to explain that at one time he had had a lot of pain and sought a lot of pleasure, but

found that there was a subtle relationship between pleasure and pain. His words were,

"They’re in the same framework." So now, as in the Bhagavad Gita, he does

what it is necessary to do without consideration of "pleasure," not being a

pleasure junkie, which is good advice for anyone coming from the top-most

pleasure-possible man in the world. He also said he believed in God. That’s why I wrote

"Lay down yr Mountain Lay down God." Dylan said that where he was, "on top

of the Mountain," he had a choice whether to stay or to come down. He said, God told

him, "All right, you’ve been on the Mountain, I’m busy, go down, you’re on your own.

Check in later." (laughs) And then Dylan said, "Anybody that’s busy making

elephants and putting camels through needles’ eyes is too busy to answer my questions, so

I came down the Mountain."

PBC: Several of his albums have shown his interest in God, especially New


AG: "Father of Night," yeah. I think that is, in a sense, a

penultimate stage. It’s not his final stage of awareness. I was kidding him on the tour, I

said, "I used to believe in God." So he said, "Well, I used to believe in

God, too." (laughs) And then he said, "You’d write better poetry if you believed

in God."

PBC: You’ve been fairly close to Dylan for a number of years now . . .

AG: No, I didn’t see him for four years. He just called me up at 4 a.m. and said

"What are you writing, sing it to me on the telephone." And then said,

"O.K., let’s go out on the road."

PBC: He was encouraged by a letter you’d written him about your appreciation of

his song "Idiot Wind?"

AG: Denise Mercedes, a guitarist whom Dylan admires, was talking to Dylan, and

he mentioned to her that he was tickled. I had written a long letter to him demanding

$200,000 for Naropa Institute, to sustain the whole Trungpa scene, just a big long kidding

letter, hoping that he’d respond. He liked the letter, he just skipped over the part about

money. (He doesn’t read anything like that, I knew, anyway.) But then I also explained

what was going on at Naropa with all the poets. I said also that I had dug the great line

in the song "Idiot Wind," which I thought was one of Dylan’s great great

prophetic national songs, with one rhyme that took in the whole nation, I said it was a

"national rhyme."

Idiot wind

Blowing like a circle around my skull

From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol

Dylan told Denise that nobody else had noticed it or mentioned it to him; that the line

had knocked him out, too. He thought it was an interesting creation, however he had

arrived at it. And I thought it was absolutely a height of Hart Crane-type poetics. I was

talking earlier about resentment. "Idiot Wind" is like Dylan acknowledging the

vast resentments, angers and ill-temper on the Left and the Right all through America

during the sixties, calling it an "idiot wind" and saying "it’s a wonder we

can even breathe" or "it’s a wonder we can even eat!"

PBC: Right, and directing it at himself, as well.

AG: Yeah, talking about it within himself, but also declaring his independence

from it. There’s a great line in which he says, "I’ve been double-crossed now for the

very last time, and now I’m finally free," recognizing and exorcising the monster

"on the borderline between you and me."

PBC: You’ve obviously been impressed by Dylan and his music during the last


AG: He’s a great poet.

PBC: Is it possible for you to verbalize what kinds of influence he’s had on

your own style of poetry?

AG: I’ve done that at great length in the preface to a new book, First Blues,

which has just been published in only 1,500 copies, so it’s relatively rare. I wrote a

long preface tracing all the musical influences I’ve had, including Dylan’s, because I

dedicated the book to him. He taught me three chords so I got down to blues. Right after

Trungpa suggested I begin improvising, I began improvising and Dylan heard it, and

encouraged it even more. We went into a studio in ‘71 and improvised a whole album.

PBC: Which has never been released. Do you think it ever will be?

AG: Oh, on Folkways, or something.

PBC: Back to the Rolling Thunder Tour. Perhaps you can place it in the context

of the Beat movement of the fifties and the consciousness expansion of the sixties.

Something you said while on the tour indicated that you saw it as being perhaps that

important; you said that "the Rolling Thunder Revue will be one of the signal

gestures characterizing the working cultural community that will make the seventies."

AG: Wishful thinking, probably, but at the same time wishful thinking is also

prophesy. It seemed to me like the first bud of spring. I thought that the gesture toward

communalism — almost like a traveling rock-family-commune that Dylan organized, with

poets and musicians all traveling together, with the musicians all calling each other

"poet" — "sing me a song, poet" — was a good sign. The fact that he

brought his mother along — the "mysterious" Dylan had a chicken-soup, Yiddish

Mama, who even got on stage at one point . . .

PBC: Not to mention bringing his wife Sara and Joan Baez.

AG: Sara came, and his children came. And Sara met Joan Baez and they all acted

in the movie together, and Joan Baez brought her mother and her children, and Ramblin’

Jack Elliot had his daughter. So there was a lot of jumping family.

PBC: Sounds like Dylan tying up a lot of loose karmic ends.

AG: Right. As he says in the jacket notes to the Desire album,

"We’ve got a lot of karma to burn." To deal with or get rid of, I think he


PBC: It was really a unique tour, bringing you primarily to small towns and

colleges in New England . . .

AG: The Beat moment was arriving at Jack Kerouac’s natal place, Lowell,

Massachusetts, and going to Kerouac’s grave.

PBC: Was Dylan moved during that experience?

AG: He was very open and very tender, he gave a lot of himself there. We stood

at Kerouac’s grave and read a little section on the nature of self-selflessness, from Mexico

City Blues. Then we sat down on the grave and Dylan took up my harmonium and made up a

little tune. Then he picked up his guitar and started a slow blues, so I improvised into a

sort of exalted style, images about Kerouac’s empty skull looking down at us over the

trees and clouds while we sat there, empty-mouthed, chanting the blues. Suddenly, Dylan

interrupted the guitar while I continued singing the verses (making them up as I went

along so it was like the triumph of the Milarepa style) and he picked up a Kerouac-ian

October-brown autumn leaf from the grass above his grave and stuck it in his breast pocket

and then picked up the guitar again and came down at the beat just as I did, too, and we

continued for another couple of verses before ending. So it was very detached and

surrendered; it didn’t even make a difference if he played the guitar or not. It was like

the old blues guitarists who sing a cappella for a couple of bars.

PBC: Has Dylan ever acknowledged to you that Kerouac was an influence on him or

that he’s familiar with his work?

AG: Yes, oddly! I asked him if he had ever read any Kerouac. He answered,

"Yeah, when I was young in Minneapolis." Someone had given him Kerouac’s Mexico

City Blues. He said, "I didn’t understand the words then, I understand it better

now, but it blew my mind." So apparently Kerouac was more of an influence on him than

I had realized. I think it was a nice influence on him.

PBC: Which poem was he reading from Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues?

AG: It’s one toward the end of the book, which he picked out at random. I had

picked out something for him to read and, typical Dylan, he turned the page and read the

other one on the opposite side of the page. (laughs)

PBC: Which one did you pick out for him to read?

AG: "The wheel of the quivering meat conception turns in the void,"

the one that, I think, ends, "Poor! I wish I were out of this slaving meat wheel and

safe in heaven, dead." There was another one I picked which lists all the sufferings

of existence and ends, "like kissing my kitten in the belly, the softness of our


PBC: Was it your suggestion that Rolling Thunder include Lowell on the tour?

AG: No, Dylan had chosen it himself. We did a lot of beautiful filming in Lowell

– one of the scenes described by Kerouac is a grotto near an orphanage in the center of

red brick Catholic Lowell near the Merrimac River. So we went there and spent part of the

afternoon. There’s a giant statue of Christ described by Kerouac. Dylan got up near where

the Christ statue was on top of an artificial hill-mound, and all of a sudden he got into

this funny monologue, asking the man on the cross, "How does it feel to be up

there?" There’s a possibility . . . everyone sees Dylan as a Christ-figure,

too, but he doesn’t want to get crucified. He’s too smart, in a way. Talking to "the

star" who made it up and then got crucified Dylan was almost mocking, like a good Jew

might be to someone who insisted on being the messiah, against the wisdom of the rabbis,

and getting himself nailed up for it. He turned to me and said, "What can you do for

somebody in that situation?" I think he quoted Christ, "suffer the little

children," and I quoted "and always do for others and let others do for

you," which is Dylan’s hip, American-ese paraphrase of Christ’s "Do unto others

. . .," in "Forever Young."

So there was this brilliant, funny situation of Dylan talking to Christ, addressing

this life-size statue of Christ, and allowing himself to be photographed with Christ. It

was like Dylan humorously playing with the dreadful potential of his own mythological

imagery, unafraid and confronting it, trying to deal with it in a sensible way. That

seemed to be the characteristic of the tour: that Dylan was willing to shoulder the burden

of the myth laid on him, or that he himself created, or the composite creation of himself

and the nation, and use it as a workable situation; as Trungpa would say,

"alchemize" it.

We had another funny little scene — I don’t know if these will ever be shown in the

film, that’s why I’m describing them — with Dylan playing the Alchemist and me playing

the Emperor, filmed in a diner outside of Falmouth, Massachusetts. I enter the diner and

say, "I’m the emperor, I just woke up this morning and found out I inherited an

empire, and it’s bankrupt. I hear from the apothecary across the street that you’re an

alchemist. I need some help to straighten out karmic problems with my empire

. . . I just sent for a shipload of tears from Indo-China but it didn’t seem to

do any good. Can you help, do you have any magic formulae for alchemizing the

situation?" Dylan kept denying that he was an alchemist. "I can’t help, what’re

you asking me for? I don’t know anything about it." I said, "You’ve got to,

you’ve got to be a bodhisattva, you’ve got to take on the responsibility, you’re the

alchemist, you know the secrets.” So he asked the counterman, who was a regular

counterman at a regular diner, to bring him some graham crackers and some Ritz crackers,

ketchup, salt, pepper, sugar, milk, coffee, yogurt, and apple pie. He dumped them all in a

big aluminum pot. Earlier, I had come in and lay down my calling card, which was an autumn

leaf, just like the one Dylan pocketed in the graveyard — the leaf which runs through

many of the scenes in the movie, representing, like in Kerouac’s work, transiency,

poignancy, regret, acknowledgement of change, death. So I threw my calling card leaf in

the pot and Dylan threw in a piece of cardboard, and then he fished out the leaf, all

muddy, and slapped it down on the counter on top of my notebook, where I was taking down

all the magical ingredients of his alchemical mixture. Then I said, "Oh, I see the

secret of your alchemy: ordinary objects." "Yes," he said, "ordinary

mind." So that was the point of that. Next I said, "Come on, look at my

kingdom," and he said, "No, I don’t want anything to do with it" and he

rushed out of the diner. I followed him out, like in a Groucho Marx movie, and stopped:

turned to the camera, lifted my finger, and said, "I’ll find out the secret."

Then we redid the scene and, coyote magician that he is, with no consistency, he suggested

towards the end of the scene, "Well, why don’t we go look at your kingdom?" So

he led the way out and we went to see the "empire." He was completely

unpredictable in the way he would improvise scenes. All the scenes were improvised.

PBC: During the Rolling Thunder tour some of the participants expressed the hope

that it might continue as some sort of functioning community. Are there any indications

now, several months later, that that may come to pass, either through the film or another

tour of the Midwest?

AG: I don’t think it was intended to be a continuously functioning community in

any formal way, like people living together. I don’t think the energy would depend on that

group of people continuing any more than, say, all the San Francisco poets living

together. I think it might be necessary for those people to disperse and de-centralize,

and also for Dylan to try something new — not do just one thing, but continue

open-hearted experimenting.

PBC: With (by now) ten years added perspective to your heralding a "new

age" in The Fall of America, what are your present views on what the artist

and the poet can do to hasten the advent of that "new age?"

AG: To paraphrase the poem: "make laughing Blessing." That particular

quotation (which begins this interview), is probably the happiest and most optimistic, and

at the same time the most egotistically righteous, lyric in The Fall of America. It

invokes the spirit of both Hart Crane, who committed suicide, and Whitman, who didn’t

commit suicide, in building an American bridge to the future. I don’t know, though. I

don’t have any simple answer to what the poet can do or should do.

PBC: Theodore Roszak’s chapter on your work, in The Making of a Counter

Culture, quotes Wordsworth:

We poets in our youth begin in gladness;

But thereof in the end come despondency and madness.

As you approach your 50th birthday, your life outwardly seems to be the opposite of

Wordsworth’s dictum. Would you credit your Buddhist viewpoint and practice with having

made the difference?

AG: My own common sense, and my experience of my mother’s madness as a kind of

preventive antitoxin, as well as the ripening of my own awareness and peaceableness

through shamatha meditation.

PBC: Prior to your vision of Blake in 1948, had you ever gone through an

agnostic, or questioning, period concerning religion, spirituality, God . . .

and, if so, did that vision bring you back to the realization of the imminent

transcendence of God within everyday reality?

AG: I had absolutely no interest in religion, God or spirituality before the

vision, although Kerouac and I had concocted a search for a "New Vision" back in


PBC: An aspiritual "New Vision?"

AG: Yes. We didn’t have any idea what we were looking for.

PBC: Your experience seems to parallel what many young people underwent in the

sixties and seventies. First, de-programming themselves from heavy religious conditioning

they had undergone as children, and then coming back to a spiritual sensibility, either

through drugs or . . .

AG: I never had any religious conditioning and I never came back to any.

PBC: You’re fortunate in that case.

AG: Yeah, thank God!

from New Age Journal, April 1976. Copyright ? by Peter Barry Chowka. Online Source

Interview with Ginsberg (8/11/96)

INTERVIEWER: Could you tell me how you personally

experienced the restrictive Cold War atmosphere that came through the Fifties?

ALLEN GINSBERG: Well, part of that atmosphere was the sort of anti-Communist hysteria

of McCarthyism, but culminating in ‘53 or so, with the execution of the Rosenbergs. It was

a little harsh. Whatever they did, it wasn’t worth killing people, you know, killing them.

I remember sending a wire to Eisenhower and saying: "No, that’s the wrong

thing." Drawing blood like that is the wrong thing, because it’s ambiguous; and

especially, there was one commentator on the air, called Fulton Lewis, who said that they

smelt bad, and therefore should die. There was an element of anti-Semitism in it. But I

remember very clearly on the radio, this guy Fulton Lewis saying they smelt bad. He was a

friend of J. Edgar Hoover, who was this homosexual in the closet, who was blackmailing

almost everybody.

But that year, ‘53, I was living with William Burroughs in New York, and he was

conceiving the first routines of Naked Lunch, which were parodies of Cold War

bureaucracy mentality and police state mentality. And I remember that year very vividly,

that Mosaddeq was overthrown in Iran, in Persia, because it was suspected that he might be

neutral, or left, though he wasn’t, but he really wanted to nationalize the oilfields,

which the Shah later did anyway. And I remember the CIA overthrew Mosaddeq, and he wept in

court; and we’ve had karmic troubles and war troubles with Iran ever since. That was the

seed of all the Middle Eastern catastrophe we’re facing now.

[At the] same time, in 1953, the Arbenz government in Guatemala was overthrown, and I

was much aware of that, despite the neutrality of the American papers and the lack of real

reporting. The actual event was that Allen Dulles was running the CIA, I believe; John

Foster Dulles was Eisenhower’s Secretary of State; they both had relations to the… I

think it was the Sullivan and Cromwell law firm. The Sullivan and Cromwell law firm were

representing United Fruit, and so, for the United Fruit’s interests we overthrew a

democratically elected leader … Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. And that was followed by…

well, what is it?… 30 years or 40 years of persecution of the Guatemalan indigenous

peoples, with the death of 200,000 of them – at least so the New York Times says -

particularly under the later leadership of General R?os Montt, who turns out also to have

been a disciple of Pat Robertson, the right-wing moralist, Bible-thumping Christ

announcer, assuming for himself the morality and ethics of Jesus.

So many, many seeds of karmic horror: mass death, mass murder, were planted in those

years, including, very consciously for me – I was quite aware of it – the refusal of John

Foster Dulles to shake Zhou Enlai’s hand at the Geneva Conference which ended the French

war in Indochina, or was supposed to end it. Now the Americans had been sending France $40

million a year to pursue that war, and then the Americans cut off the funds, so the French

didn’t have funds. But as Bernard Fall points out, and many others, General Salan and

others maintained the war through the proceeds of the opium sales in Chelon, the Chinese

section of Saigon, and the war was funded for a while by them. Then, when the Americans

finally took over, with a puppet president, Diem who had been cultivated in the Merinal

Academy in the East Coast by Cardinal Spellman… another flaming faggot, who in disguise

was a sort of a war dragon and one of the instigators of the Vietnam War… so Diem was a

Catholic, and we had installed him as the puppet in a Buddhist country. So, when I arrived

in Saigon in 1963, coming after several years in India, I was astounded to find that this

Buddhist country was being run by a Catholic American puppet. And, in sitting down with

David Halperstam and I think Charles Morer and Peter Arnett and others, who were reporting

for the American newspapers, I got a completely different idea in the early Sixties, ‘63,

May 30th ‘63 to… oh, June 10th or so… completely different idea of what was going on

in the war than I’d had reading the papers abroad or in America. They all said that the

war could not be won; there was no light at the end of the tunnel; and Ambassador Lodge’s

reports to the President were false, or hyper-optimistic and misleading; and that they

were getting flak and criticism for reporting what they saw on the spot there. But to go

back to the Fifties, what was … it felt like in the Fifties – given all these karmic

violent errors that the CIA was making in Iran, in Latin America, the real problem was

that none of this was clearly reported in the press. It was reported with apologies or

with rationalizations or with the accusation that Arbenz was a communist, or that Mosaddeq

was a communist. Mosaddeq was mocked, especially when he wept in court, with tears that

were tears, and very tragic, both for America and Iran. And he was considered … you

know, in Time magazine, which was sort of the standard party line, like the

Stalinist party line, he was considered the… you know, some kind of jerk.

Of course, in those days Walt Whitman was considered a jerk, and William Carlos

Williams was considered a jerk, and any sign of natural man was considered a jerk. The

ideal, as you could find it in advertising in the loose organizations, was the man of

distinction: actually, a sort of British-looking guy with a brush moustache and a tweed

coat, in a club library, drinking – naturally – the favorite drug, the drug of choice of

the Establishment. And this was considered and broadcast as… advertised as the

American century. Well, you know, Burroughs and I and Kerouak had already been reading

Oswald Spengler on the decline in the West and the cycles of civilizations, and found this

proclamation of the American century a sort of faint echo of Hitler’s insistence on his

empire lasting 1,000 years, or the Roman Empire’s neglect of the central cities. And we

were thinking in terms of the fall of America, and a new vision and a new religiousness,

really, a second religiousness, which Kerouak spoke of in the Fifties, and exemplified,

say, with his introduction to Eastern thought into the American scene, from the beginning

of the 1950s through his book Mexico City Blues, poems which were

Buddhist-flavored, through his open portrait of Gary Snyder in The Dharma Bum(s),

the book The Dharma Bums – a long-haired rucksack revolution, a rebellion within

the cities against the prevailing war culture, and a cultivation of the countryside and

the beginning of ecological considerations and ecological reconstruction.

So you had McCarthyism, you had a completely false set of values being presented in

terms of morality, ethics and success: the man of distinction. You had to put down the

most tender parts of American conscience, Whitman and Williams. You had the aggression of

the closet queen J. Edgar Hoover and the alcoholic, intemperate Senator McCarthy working

together. You had a stupid Post Master General, Arthur Somerfield, who presented the

President, Eisenhower, with Lady Chatterley’s Lover on his desk, with dirty words

underlined; and it was reported, I think in Time or in Newsweek, that

Eisenhower said, "Terrible – we can’t have this!" And so there was censorship,

particularly censorship of literature towards…it was not… like, unconsciously or

inadvertently, the things that were censored were the anti-war, anti-macho,

anti-imperial texts, whether the beginnings of Burroughs’s Naked Lunch in the

Fifties, Kerouak’s Visions of Cody, which could not be printed in those days, Lady

Chatterley’s Lover, Henry Miller. So we had D.H. Lawrence banned, Catullus banned; the

Satyricon and Petronius’ Arbiter couldn’t be printed completely in English,

it had to be printed in Latin in the Modern Library editions.

So we had electoral censorship, literary censorship. You had a large-scale electoral

censorship on a much more subtle, vast wave, with the CIA, bankrolling the Congress for

Cultural Freedom and a number of literary magazines, like Encounter, Truth,

(We Won in?) Africa, Demonat, and others. Stephen Spender, I

remember, used to complain to me that he’d bring in articles critical of the American

imperium in Latin America, and somehow Laskey, or whoever was working with him, or Arnold

Beichman, I don’t know – somehow, when he left their office, they would… it was rejected

and nothing but anti-Communist, anti-Russian screeds were there. Very good reporting in

that aspect, very good, but on the other hand there was no balance in reporting the

horrors of American imperial invasion and overthrow and CIA subversion – all over the

world, actually – much less CIA invasion of the intellectual body politic, with the

funding of the National Student Association, Congress for Cultural Freedom, all those

magazines; even the Pen Club was tainted with that for a while. So there was this invasion

of subsidy for a somewhat middle-right-wing party line. And the interesting thing is, most

of those people that were working in the CIA, that worked that out, were ex-commies; they

had the same Stalinist mentality: they just transferred it over to the right wing, and it

prevails to this very day. But it was… ex-radicals, or even Marxists, who, disillusioned

by the show trials of 1937 and the anti-Semitism of Stalin, went all the way over to the

to the extreme right and began suppressing their understanding of the trouble with the

American capitalism and imperialism, and didn’t strike a good balance, as did a few

intellectuals, like Irving Howe, an American who had explored the World of Our Fathers,

Ian McGuint… the first-generation of Slavic, Russian and Jewish geniuses that rose out

of the American soil after the great immigrations of 1895, which is part of my family too,

because my mother came over from Russia in 1895.

So, to summarize: in the Fifties you had invasion of the intellectual world, subtly and

secretly, by the CIA. You had invasion of political worlds in the Middle East, in Central

America and Africa, I presume, and in Asia, again with secret police. I believe it was

Wesley Fischel, the professor at East Lansing, Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin, who

trained President Diem’s secret police and brought them over intact to Saigon, under the

auspices of the CIA, back in the early Fifties, when Diem was installed, ‘56 or so. You

had a subversion of student activity and a blanketing of student protest. That’s why you

had the extreme rise of SDS, and later (Prairie Fire?) in the early Sixties, because

normal student investigation and rebellion against the status quo had been suppressed by

CIA funding of the National Student Association, with the presidents of the Student

Association quite witting.

You had a literary atmosphere where there was censorship, where there was very little

vigor, where an Eliotic conservative attitude was dominant in the academies, which

excluded then Whitman as canon or Williams as canon or Minna Loy, or Louis Nightecker, or

Cobracussi or Charles (unclear), or the whole imagist/objectivists’ lineage which came

into prominence in America in the Fifties and transformed American poetry to open form. So

you had a closed form in poetry, and a closed form of mind, is what it boils down to.

INT: So how did it feel for you as an individual, with

writing in a very different way about very different subject matters, to be coming through

that period?

AG: Well, it was fun. (Laughs) First of all, I was gay,

and once I came out of the closet in 1948, all during the Fifties I was astounded at the

cowardice or silliness or fear of the rest of the gay literary contingent, although I

think one or two writers had been up front, like Andr? Gide or Jean Genet, of course, and

Gore Vidal in America, who broke some ice.

But between Burroughs and myself, we were (Laughs) completely out of the closet, and

thought it was all funny or, you know, absurd, the repression and the persecution of gays

in those days. I remember I got kicked out of Columbia for… I had hosted Kerouac

overnight – he slept in my bed, and I was a virgin at the time, and this is back in the

Forties, ‘46 or so… and quite chaste; we slept together because it was too late to go

home to his mother on the subway – and somebody found out about that he was staying over,

and when I came downstairs there was a note: "The Dean will want to see you."

And I went to see Dean Nicholas McKnight of Columbia College, and he looked at me and

said, "Mr. Ginsberg, I hope you realize the enormity of what you’ve done."

(Laughs) And I took a look and I realized I was surrounded by madmen (Laughs) – they were

completely nuts, you know, and, you know, thinking something horrible was happening.

So that was the atmosphere late Forties, early Fifties, actually. And then I think

probably by ‘55-’56 in the… I’d sort of given up on New York ’cause it was too

restricted and too much in the closet, and too academic; there was no way of getting

anything as wild as Kerouac’s writing or Burrough’s routines or Burroughs’s novel Queer,

which we put together in ‘53, or In Search of Yahe, 1953, though we had managed to

publish his book Junkie, which is a realistic account of the stupidity of the war

on drugs, and the troubles of drug(s) too.

But the literature we were producing just for ourselves, without any intention of

publishing, just for the pleasure of writing and amusing ourselves and extending our

imaginations, and each others’ imaginations, you know, I think in the dedication of (.?.)

in 1956, I mentioned Kerouac’s 13 novels and Burroughs’s Naked Lunch and Neal

Cassady’s First Third, and saying "All these books are published in

heaven." I didn’t think they’d be published in our lifetime; things seemed so closed.

And it’s that closed mind, I think, that was responsible for the ineptness of the Cold

War. Certainly, a cold war of some kind was necessary, but I think probably rock’n’ roll,

blues, blue jeans, the counter-culture, did as much, if not more, to undermine the

authority of the Marxist bureaucracy, certainly in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland -

probably in Russia, too, and the internal corruption within Russia did as much to

undermine it as all the trillions of dollars that we went into debt for military hardware

which was never used, or rarely used.

INT: What was your assessment of the Russians during

this period?

AG: Well, very mixed, you know. My mother was a communist

and my father was socialist, so I grew up with knowing the fight. And I never was a

communist – I was more apolitical in a sense, until I went to Saigon in ‘63, and saw

the… But that wasn’t it, because I did make mockery of some of the McCarthyite Cold War

straightness. I think my poem America says: "Them Russians, them Russians and

them Russians, and them Chinese and them Russians, they’re after us, they want to take our

cars from out of our garages." And I said, "OK, America, I’ll fight them – I’ll

put my queer shoulder to the wheel." They still don’t let gays in the military in

America, so…

I was sort of neutral in the Cold War, since it seemed to me a balance of aggression on

both sides; a preponderance of heavy, heavy police state in Russia, and not so heavy in

America at all, though a police state for junkies, certainly, and it has grown and grown

and grown, where we do have a generic police state for people who are committing the

political crime of smoking grass, or the illness … or involving the illness of

addiction. We have more people in jail now than anywhere else. But in those days, the

Government was also spreading all sorts of mythological nonsense about marijuana, despite

the Guardi report giving it a clean bill of health.

So there was a little element of police state here, and certainly in areas that I was

familiar with. There was an enormous element of the American police state in Latin America

and in Iran and so forth. So, Americans did not take that in account. It’s almost as W.E.

Dubois, the great black philosopher, said, that the problem was not merely race, but that

people who were prosperous were willing to enjoy their prosperity at the expense of the

pain, suffering and labor of other people. Like, I understand that we withdraw, from

Africa hundreds of billion of dollars of raw materials every year, and then complain when

they want some foreign aid. (Laughs) Or that, as of those days to these very days, we’ll

lend them money to expand their coffee plantations, but not to make their own coffee

factories and sell it abroad. So we’ve been sucking the blood out of our client and

undeveloped nations like vampires, and that’s why America has this prosperity; and people

are not willing to recognize that – not only America, but Western Europe. I mean, I was

quite aware of that and thinking in… thinking in those terms in the late Forties, early


But by ‘65, I’d had several very interesting incidents. I went down to Cuba and,

complaining about Castro’s treatment of homosexuals, found myself after a month under

arrest and expelled from the country, to Prague. In Prague, I found I had quite a bit of

money from royalties, and so took a tour of Russia and saw what was going on there in

terms of police state and bureaucracy; came back to Prague, was elected the King of May by

the students, and immediately expelled by the Minister of Education and the Minister of

Culture, as an American homosexual narcotic hippie – a poor role model for Czechoslovakian

youth. At that time, I think it was May nineteen-ninety… And in ‘65 I ran into Havel as

a student, an acquaintance which we renewed when he became President, and he reminded me

that we’d met. If you ask Havel, or see his interviews with various jazz figures who

influenced him, you’ll find that the inspiration for the rebellion in Eastern Europe was

very much the American counter culture, and the English counter-culture: the Beatles,

Dylan, Kerouac, Burroughs, Soft Machine, the Fugs: a very important rock group singing

‘Police State Blues’ and ‘River of Shit’ (Laughs) in the early Sixties in America.

So I found I was kicked out by the Prague police and the Havana police. Then, when I

got back, I took part in various anti-war manifestations. But I found that the day I’d

arrived in Prague, I had been put on the dangerous security list of J. Edgar Hoover, as a

crazed, violent, or … I don’t know what he thought I was. And that he should talk, I

must say… (Laughs) Maybe he thought my homosexuality was a threat to America or


But anyway, on April 26, 1965, the day I arrived in Prague, to be kicked out two weeks

later, I was put on the dangerous security list here. Then I found that… in ‘65-’66,

that the Narcotics Bureau was trying to set me up for a bust, partly for my anti-war

activity, partly anti-war on drugs, anti-police corruption activity, and so they tried to

set me up for a bust, several different people busting people and threatening to throw the

book at them unless they went to my apartment and planted marijuana. So I complained to

Robert Kennedy and to my various Patterson, New Jersey representatives in Congress, and

New York. And years later, when I got my papers from the FBI under the Freedom of

Information Act – because you can get your papers after 15-20 years – I found that the FBI

had translated a denunciation of me by the Prague youth newspaper (Lada Fronta?),

saying that I was a corrupter of youth and alcoholic – which I’m not – and not to be

trusted, and had sent it over the Narcotics Bureau to send to my representative,

Congressman Jolson, wanting him not to answer my questions and request for protection and

complaints about the set-ups, the entrapment procedures of the Narcotics Bureau, because I

was irresponsible, as is proved by this communist newspaper (Laughs), and that anything I

said might be turned to embarrass him. So I realized that the Western police and in

certain areas, the Western police and the communist police, by 1965, were one

international mucous membrane network (Laughs) – there was hardly any difference between


INT: Very good answer. Can we go back to the emergence

of the counter-culture? Some of your writings hit a very popular vein and you became very,

very popular…

AG; Yeah.

INT: Could you describe to me a little bit about why

you think that happened, what they were and why that happened, and what the elements of

this… what your philosophy was, if you like, that emerged from this period?

AG: Well, the main themes, actually, of a whole group of poets – that would be Gary

Snyder, myself, Philip Wayland, Jack Kerouak, William Burroughs, Michael McLure, Philip

Lamonti of the surrealists, the San Francisco group, and the New York group, the beat

group, as well as to some extent the Black Mountain group – one: spontaneous mind and

candor, telling the truth in the public forum, completely difficult during the time of

censorship and party-line mass media, moderation and… well, deceptiveness, deceptiveness

in terms of the American violence abroad. And…

(Interruption – change tape)

INT: So, we were talking about…

AG: Yes, the counter-culture.

INT: … the counter-culture and new revolutionary

(Overlap) (.?.).

AG: (Overlap) What were the tenets or themes of the counter-culture, as I know them

from the Forties and Fifties, meaning the beat group and some allied friends.

INT: Uhum.


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