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March 19, 1978 - Image 13

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Michigan Daily, 1978-03-19
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Page 6-Sunday, March 19, 1978-The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily----Sunday, P

ginsberg
(Continued from Page 3)
negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix.. ."
And it remains a dominant force behind Ginsberg's
most recent verse: "Punk Rock you're my big cry-
baby/ I'll tell my deaf mother on you. Fall on the floor
and eat your grandmother's diapers/ Drums. Whatta
lot of noise you fart/ a revolution."
"Wiat do you think of punk rock?" Ginsberg
throws the question out to the audience at the poetry
workshop, and the response is predictable. "We don't
like it," volunteers one jean clad frizzy-haired fellow
while other heads nod in accord.
"I've been listening to a lot of it lately," retorts
Ginsberg. "I like the energy, another generation
taking up the ball; it reminds me of when I was
young." He pauses. "It reminds me of when I was
middle-aged and it reminds me of when I'm old too.
"I think there's a frank philosophical message
coming through-hopelessness. I think it's a very
useful thing to hear said in public. After telling a
generation to work within the system . . . ending the
war, getting everybody to sort of shut up, the punk
rockers are saying 'well, man, I'm willing to perish
with the system-no future for you, no future for me.'
That's what Johnny Rotten is saying, isn't it?
Everybody else wants to cover over the social-
political scene with a lot of optimistic bullshit. But the
essential problems remain on stage, unsolved,
unresolved. Take the energy thing,...
In the early seventies Ginsberg once confessed to an
interviewer that he was probably "too much disper-
sed in energy and activity, If the war were over, I
think that I would withdraw from the world and do a
lot of monastic things." Monastic? Though the war
has been over for several years, it hardly seems
possible.
During the war years Ginsberg had a favorite
theory about CIA involvement in drug traf-
ficking-the CIA profited from the Vietnamese black
market trade and in exchange propped up the Saigon
government; the resultant corruption of U.S. cities
gave our government reason for law and order
crackdowns. Now all possibility of a 'CIA-Saigon'
connection has dried up, but Ginsberg's enthusiasm
is not easily squelched. FBI subversion of the radical
left and the 'oil company-U.S. government-nuclear
conspiracy' now top the list of the poet's causes.
With the force of his peculiar brand of logic, Gin-
sberg pushes a twenty minute monologue from the
subject of Blake's energy to the energetics of punk
rock to the energy of energy. Energy. . . Blake, Gin-
sberg informs us, called it an "eternal delight." Gin-
sberg labels it a "heavy metal horror scene."
"The system, the oil companies and the energy
companies, in this case, Mobil, Gulf, Exxon-the
seven sisters-have never really confronted the
problem. I have a new poem that gives you the infor-
mation. 'Who Runs America' is the title. The
Secretary of State has traditionally been somebody
connected with the oil companies, therefore foreign
policy is oil policy. And these very few people who run
the scene are just goofing. You don't need to be a
technological genius to know that plutonium being
scattered on the earth irrevocably commits us to
250,000 years of high-technology culture, whether we
like it or not. Hitler promised his civilization would
last a thousand years. We're promising that ours will
last 250,000 years, that we'll take care of these con-
crete barrels of poisonous shit for the next quarter
million years.
"Energy which would be an 'eternal delight'
probably would be large-scale tree crop agriculture,
a renewable source of energy which would not only be
clean but also exquisite, friendly and beautiful. But
sure, with 250,000 years of atomic poison, it is
hopeless, 'no future for you, no future for me.,
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
It occurs to me that IJam America
Inam talking to myself again.
W HEN Ginsberg published "Indian Journals"
at the end of the sixties, enlivened by Bud-
dhist meditation and his mantra chant "Om," one
critic wrote disappointedly, "For me this second
stage in the Ginsberg saga has been even more
caJArMtpus 1ha ,he % lpwl'itge TJ eirst had th w
genuineness94f pfgr Apd 4fspair about it-it was
home grown and home felIf-6ut the second has been

clouded by great expectations ... nirvana in the pad,
nightly forever. There is terror for me in the miscon-
ception of what inner fantasy-life can make of the
stony world; and Ginsberg is one of the breeders of
that terror."
Eight years later Ginsberg is still chanting Om
(during his visit he "sat" with a local Buddhist group
for an hour one evening, and he also led his poetry
reading audience in a silent five minute long
meditation). -
But it is hard to see how that one critic could have
been more mistaken in his fears that Ginsberg, the
chanting buddha, would sap the powers of Ginsberg,
the apocalyptic American prophet. For the buddha
nourishes and the poet-prophet derives purpose.
Seated with Ginsberg in a natural foods restaurant
for a lunchtime interview, I have the chance to ob-

Ginsberg's success in fitting buddha into the marked-
ly American urban-violence scene as neatly as
television. The chant "Om Ah Hum" captures both
the vulnerability and the humorous posture of our-
selves as victims of inner city destruction.
"Generally, people are overwhelmed by anxiety,"
says Ginsberg. "Chanting dissipates anxiety.1' The
mediator "follows the outbreath, letting his thoughts
dissov.-with the breath and flow out with it."
Meditation thus serves as Ginsberg's counterbalance
to the punk rock ethic: "Punk rock-it reminds me of
something Abbie Hoffman once said-all he was
doing was shouting theater to a crowded fire. . . But
meditation-I always started with whatever
hysteria, whatever turbulence is going on. I sit down
with it. I watch it become winds.
"Consciousness gets clogged up in anxiety. My in-
terest in poetry is opening it up where you have a free
space, where you have a chance to solve those
political problems, where you have a chance at eter-
nity-that is, not doing anything."
At times now, he seems no more than a relic, his
monologues fueled by the energy of a man growing
older, obsessed by his range of interests, too fond of
his own time-worn ideas. Still he relishes the present
above all else, displaying a patience with students,
interviewers and audiences, and a calm delight in the
absurdity of age-wrinkles, balding and the waning
of his own desires.
The old smalldog trembling in Aprilsunlight
on winter-brown grass. Snow gone, so Youth
is gone, though this sunlight shines
on naked bodies West one more spring.
A redwing whistles, flying over the pine trees.

NE LAST GLIMPSE OF Ginsberg. It
is Friday morning, the day after one of the
worst blizzards in local memory. The world is white,
the streets are hopelessly clogged and the poet is
snowbound. The phone rings in the home of a Daily
reporter: It is Ginsberg, who has heard that the re-
porter is working on a storay about the FBI's dirty
tricks campaign against radicals in the late sixties
and early seventies, and he would like a look at some
FBI documents the reporter has collected.
Not too much later Ginsberg appeared at the
paper's offices, and there he remained for several
____________________________________ hours, held by realms of obscure counterintelligence
datarcollected on student radicals, some forged let-
ters, written to subvert and confuse the left's political
serve him shifting between the two states, not once, operations.
but several times. "$3.50 for this," he declares I tried to approach him a couple of times, but
aggressively, pointing to a bowl of rice and though always friendly and polite, it was clear that
vegetables, "is no improvement culturally at all from his interest in our interview, in Allen Ginsberg or his
a slophouse." A few minutes later he shyly pulls out a poetry, had waned completely. "I'm thinking of put-
joint and asks, "is it cool in here?" When the answer ting a book together of excerpts from these documen-
is negative, he puts it away without so much as a ts," he said to me in one rare communicative instan-
whisper. ce. But otherwise, like a child with a new toy, he had
Slowly but surely he barrages his listeners with the eyes for no one but my silent friend and his hundreds
doomsday messages-punk rock, energy crisis, the of FBI photocopies.
FBI, hopelessness. Then the flip side-a love poem, a "In the punk universe nobody trusts anybody,"
chanted nursery rhyme, a five minute meditative Ginsberg had said the day previous. "The agent him-
silence. self becomes the camp figure. You try for some sort
I want to carve a clear-cut formula out of his talk, of boy scout reform-let's be good people-and you
unearth his source of evangelical zeal. What results find yourself sucking the cock of an FBI agent. A
does he expect, what good can he possibly bring about whole generation has grown up to distrust boy scout
in this dim world through gimmicks like mass reforms. The artistic show of punk rock-bondage,
meditation? He shrugs. "They've got the experience Leathers, chains-is a consequence of the mental
of five minutes of actual silence. You plant a little bondage of a whole generation, of secret police
seed; you can't plant trees. At least for five minutes collecting dirty pictures and mailing forged
people weren't doing anything awful." documents."
* * , * But not until I watched him shuffling through the
I looked up at the crowd of kids on the stoop-a boy piles of papers, making copies, displaying his own
stepped up, put his arms around my neck memos, did I grasp the urgency with which he had
tender/y I thought for a moment, squeezed harder, his pressed his earlier remarks. He was a man with a
umbrella handle against my skull, mission eager to share information with a like-
and his friends took my arm, a young brown companion minded student. Still standing, unrecognized in the
tripped his foot against my ankles large office, he at times seemed to be no more than a.
as ! went down shouting Om Ah Hum to gangs of lovers on wanderer, stumbled in blindly to avoid the bad
the stoop watching * weather.
slowly apgreciating, why this is a raid, these strangers mean After he had returned to peer at the papers for the
strange business third time and finally left, my friend commented,
with what-my pockets, bald head, broken-healed-bone leg, "He had these FBI documents with hir, with all
my softshoes, my heart- these famous names in them but he didn't even know
Have they knives? Om-Ah Hum-Have they sharp metal what they really meant."
wood to shove in eve ear ass? Om Ah Hum ... Ginsberg the poet, Ginsberg the energy obsessed.
Grisbefg tfhe buddhst, ;thehold.mapi and the little pboy.
1'OEMSIKE. KK EPECEp<T LY: LISIEIoth h'arAssed by the FP3. Like any podjem he
"Mugging" quoted above seem to illustrate nis both brighter andless'realthh li£f '

Daily P

Ginsberg: A poet's pas~

A LLEN GINSBERG: The post-pubescent, loved
and discarded by fifties beats Jack Kerouac and
Neal Cassidy; the seeker standing nude in the apart-
ment of Timothy Leary, embarked on an early sixties
acid trip and determined to phone the president/ tell
the world about his altered consciousness; the
emerging politico-poet, guru to throngs of rebellious
students during upheavals like the Berkeley Free
Speech Movement; appearing in Ann Arbor at a 1971
"Free John Sinclair" rally along with counterculture
stars Rennie Davis, Bobby Seale and John Lennon to
protest Sinclair's arrest for possession of
marijuana; the Buddhist meditator, chanting "Ah"
during anti-war rallies at the 1972 Republican
Presidential Convention.
Ginsberg returned here in February of this year,
not to rally but to read poetry. His head was em-
phatically gray and balding, his eyes seemed tired
under the familiar gold wire-rimmed glasses. In
place of jeans he wore conservative corduroys, a tie
and a button-down white shirt, loose enough to hide
his full figure. He peered earnestly at a book of verse
with an air of academic intent.
Then he began singing, his voice full and rather
sloppy, eyes lit up like a playful child's, and as his
fingers pranced across the keys of a small accordion
the volume grew louder. He stomped his foot with
force enough so that his whole body bounced rhyth-
mically off his chair. At the peak of the last refrain
Ginsberg was smiling, mouth wide open, oblivious to
the gaze of all onlookers.
I had expected a younger man perhaps, one who,
like many of his comrades from the sixties, was only
just beginning to turn gray, to wrestle with the un-
comfortable reality of middle age. But Ginsberg, 51,
is of course already on the forefront of something dif-
ferent. His face and his manner seemed to embody

"His face and his manner
seemed to embody the ex-
tremes of an energetic ado-
lescent and a wisened sage
who hears too clearly the
sound of his own joints
cracking ... "
By Elaine Fletcher
the extremes of an energetic, dreamy and irreverent
adolescent, and a wisened sage who hears too clearly
the sound of his own joints cracking-with little in
between.

music, then asked, "Did you
audience at an afternoonI
stared at him blankly. He pr
that he thought the verse
prime, "ages fourteen to eig
der control by society-"Yo
at night you have to keep yot
His transformation of
Blakian verse into raspi
melody seemed an all too p
both Ginsbergs, the young
man. "I read all through Bl
ning to end. . . I've alway
vocal quality of poetry, an it
I tried to get Jagger to do BI
so I decided I would have t
of-factly. Ginsberg's musi
somewhat recent additior
always wrote rhyme poem
latent in them. But I was toc
cept perhaps in the shower.
to Blake-hymn-like, chanti
result of Dylan's influence
sberg's own poetic style.
"Dvlan's greatness is tha

P ROTESTORS AND hippie relics of the sixties rhythm patterns on his lyr
turn thirty and become computer programmers telligence as a poet is that
or politicians, coopted by the system or forced to vowels, his accents, the len
work from "within." But Ginsberg, the poet who the basis of how he woulc
passed his youth as a beat, his middle age in revolt naturally. I'm talking abou
(he was 40 in 1966, when the anti-war movement being energized by the liv
began gaining force), need suffer no such disgrace. And if you begin applying t
He lives comfortably on a farm in New York State off get fantastical syncopations
the sales from his many books of prose and poetry. To
keep in touch he makes visits to college campuses HE RHYTHMS of poe
For leisure he cooks up projects with old remnants of the liveliness of eve
the counterculture-he had a major role in the making concept that made "Howl,
of Bob Dylan's recent film, Renaldo and Clara. poem,'stand out in 1956; "i
"Your youth and your days are wasted in play, and generation destroyed b
} { your winters and nights-in disguise. . ." Gnsberg h teriealwakes,/ dragging
concluded the last chorus of a poem by William
..-t4 alk ;°cit 6f~anv ctIe~lihha reeerrlfy"e e . : - --.::::: efs

Elaine Fletcher is a former Sunday Magazine
e toA '(Pdts eitibnsr'were taken from Howl

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