Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Allen Ginsberg - Montreal 1969 (Q & A - 2)

                                                            [Allen Ginsberg in 1969]

Q: (One of the most disturbing themes I think I see studying your poetry deals with tragedy…)
AG: One of the most persistent themes that deals with..?.. that's appearing..?, studying my poetry.. - yes?..
Q:…that deals with.. the amount of pain and agony that life represents - (and) the 
liberation that death brings..
AG:  (Oh, so, curiously enough, the pain that life represents, and…?)
Q: The liberation…

AG: The liberation of death.. That's specifically in (Jack) Kerouac s sonnet-like poem ["211th Chorus'] -  “Poor! - I wish I was free/ of that slaving meat wheel/ and safe in heaven dead",  yes..

                                 [Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) - (Kerouac had just died a week previous to this interview]  

Q: (Of course),  but, at any rate. Do you find that life offers you, much more. like, a disproportionately greater amount of pain, more than pleasure.? - And if so, what prevents you from commiting suicide?

AG: The only reason is I'm scared of committing suicide!   Do I find that the life has a disproportionate amount of pain more than pleasure, and if so, what’s preventing me from committing suicide? - It’s like the Ol’ Man River – “I’m tired of living and scared of dying”. Also I’m afraid I’ll commit suicide and jump into the arms of some kind of giant octopus God who’ll say, “Aha, you thought you’d got away, eh?” – The usual acid-head fantasy.  I’ve found, at the moment, melancholy, (a bit), but not real pain. I’m not lonely, really. The thing that really bugs me is physical pain (as for anyone). (If) I’m not able to get around that.. I wouldn’t want to be in a state of continuous physical pain. I think that is the one thing that would drive me out. Kerouac had that, I think, towards the end, almost continuously. He had drunk so much that his actual liver was… he had cirrhosis of the liver, and he literally, like, in the phrase, “rot-gut”, he drank so that his stomach hemorrhaged. He drank a hole in his stomach, so that must have been extremely painful.
So I’m very heavily influenced by his love, or his tenderness, or his image of me and his image of himself, and of the universe, his particular Buddhism. You know the Buddhist doctrine is dukkha dukkha , you know, trouble, trouble, samsara, illusion, maya, the world that we’re in is primarily a restless place by its very nature, because of the change of..
[tape ends here and then resumes]
                                                                          ["Dukkha, Dukkha"]

… (It was) inexplicable that when I got out of Columbia, I still couldn’t read the financial page, I literally couldn’t read the financial page, I’d never been trained. I didn’t know how banks operated. I had to go to Ezra Pound in getting some conception of, like.. like actual basic theory of economics – the functioning of banks – banks are the con game, which is a hallucinatory con-game, which is something that still hasn’t penetrated (except some of the Birch-ites know it, oddly)

Q: But they don’t want to tell anybody about it

AG: Well, they don’t know how, you see.

Q: I’m not sure if they want to anyway

AG: So then in English?...they hadn’t.. The English novel in the twentieth- century, which was heavy on Edith Wharton and (said) nothing of Henry Millerand both of them were roughly of the same time - or Willa Cather say, who was of the same age-group as Miller was  taught as a classic, Willa Cather – and Miller was obliterated completely, mainly because, though, a few of the teachers , professors, had read Miller in Paris, or had . had a secret copy of Miller, at one time, in their possession, they literally were scared of the illegality of proposing Miller as reading to class

Q: Do you..were you… I don’t know. Were you ever involved in the political McCarthyism of the 'Fifties  or was anything…

AG: Well, not entirely. I joined.. You see, I was at school in the 'Forties
Q: Yeah

AG: – 1944-48

Q: Were you teaching during the 'Fifties?

AG: No

Q: Just writing

AG: No, well, when I got out of school I couldn’t get a job. In school, I joined the Young Communist-type, early Young Socialists League . Everybody was scared of doing that at this time. Signing anything was..was.. Not that people were scared of it politically, like (with) (Joe) McCarthy , it was more that it was considered bad form and kind of vulgar to join a group like that, political.. (you) don’t want to challenge the entire system (because that was considered quixotic and immature at Columbia).At the same time, (Percy Bysshe) Shelley was considered a punk poet and (Walt) Whitman was considered a creep and an eccentric rather than in the main line of American letters. And William Carlos Williams was considered a  provincial jerk. And more rigid prosody was considered (the) high class.  Like Yvor Winters or John Crowe Ransom, were considered super and ok.  Classic ideas – singing, Zen Buddhism, tantra, any magic(al) tradition, were considered creepy and outside of the pail of formal propriety. So the 'Fifties…let’s see, (19)49 I was in the bug house, (19)50 I was in.. washing dishes in Bickford's, (1951), I was working for National Opinion Research Center (which did surveys into opinion-making. You know, like what people think about Korea or something, for University of Chicago). And then, from there, I went into advertising, applying that to do market research, pick people’s brains. So for about two years I went into that and learn the technology of (the) brainwashing for Ipana toothpaste, to find out how it was done, and how you mould public opinion (how at first you sample public opinion, and then make a feedback advertising campaign - like “Does Ipana "make your teeth sparkle"? or does it "make you glamorous"? - and then they spent a lot of money to find out that people associated glamor with furs and associated sparkling with pearls - so they spent another million dollars on advertising campaigns, you know, to kind of make you see teeth sparkling. So….

 And then, (so) I told the people that I was working for that the work I was doing could be done by an IBM machine. So they assigned me to make a transfer, and I did, and I got myself… did myself out of a job, and went on unemployment, started writing (about (19)53.  And that was the last time I worked..

[Allen is introduced to a guest -  then continues]  - Hi  …let’s see McCarthy was around (19)51-2-3….and was like a heavy symbolic thing around. The trouble is the reactions to McCarthy were all very square. I mean everybody got scared when they saw somebody being a fancy-pants intellectual..nobody had the humor to get up and take out his prick in the Congressional Hearing, like Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman do. I mean nobody had the... Everybody accepted the terms of the argument, you know, and was intimidated by being called “UnAmerican” or “Communist”.

I mean, people were afraid of being called "Communist". People were afraid of words, actually!  Actually, McCarthy, you know, was like a faggot type, in a way. I mean there was a lot of rumor about it in fairy circles at the time. But everybody was afraid to talk about it like that, you know. What it was, basically, was Time magazine, or actually I think what it was was the CIA had so completely taken over all the intellectuals and paid everybody and the student groups in the mid 'Fifties -  that everything was official short-hair culture, secretly financed by the CIA, (because the CIA had subsidized the Congress For Cultural Freedom  and was running that and their magazines and that was where most of the independent intellectuals were supposed to be – and they were also running the student groups, running the NSA, in America. So there was an official culture that was, like..
And that’s still.. In other words, the virulence that is with us now with the SDS is a bi-product of the suppression of all anarchistic humanistic populist tradition by the CIA in the 'Fifties, when there should have been an expansion of heart and an expansion of consciousness in the Academy and among the students then. That was all bought off, diverted, and re-channeled by CIA manipulation, so that when it finally came out, in the 'Sixties, it came out in a much much more violent (way).  

[Audio for the above can be heard here, (third segment), beginning at approximately sixty-two-and-a-half minutes in, concluding at the end of the third segment, and then continuing on the fourth segment, concluding at approximately seven-and-a-quarter minutes in on the fourth segment ] 

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