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Christopher Luna by Alisha Jucevic for the Columbian

Christopher Luna by Alisha Jucevic for the Columbian
Christopher Luna by Alisha Jucevic for the Columbian

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Neeli Cherkovski and Jack Foley on Allen Ginsberg

Many thanks to Neeli Cherkovski and Jack Foley for their kind permission to post the following pieces about Allen Ginsberg, a person whose life and work inspired many of us to become poets:

Allen Ginsberg

Thursday, April 17, 1997


Editor -- He just couldn't help himself. George Will (Chronicle, April 10) must have been offended by the spontaneous, heart-felt tributes to poet Allen Ginsberg pouring in from everywhere, printed in the nation's leading newspapers after the poet's death.

Mr. Will, a defender of so called sacred values when they protect the privilege, splendor and bank accounts of his own class, is hardly the man I'd want to be instructing us on poets and poetry. He'd have to go back to the Bible and root out all those bad prophets who stood before the gates of Jerusalem haranguing the people for their greed and their war-like ways. He'd even find fault with that unmarried, bearded, long-haired gentleman who ran around with 12 male friends and upset the money- lenders in the temple.

Will alludes to Allen receiving a six-figure advance from a major New York publisher, as if that were something to be ashamed of. In reality, the author of ``Howl'' had long ago established a Fund for Poetry and his open hand helped many of his colleagues to survive.

George Will and his band of right-wing media mouths are meant to go the way of Senator Joseph McCarthy who brutalized our country with his self-right ]eous paranoia: Communists and homosexuals were taking over the country. Ferret them out. Smoke them out. All he succeeded in doing was bringing out the best in America, and he himself was exposed.

Allen Ginsberg stood for the free voice of each one of us, the beauty in every single soul, not just in the few self-chosen who think they own America.

San Francisco


I saw him first eyeing me from Radio Shack
pretending to look over electronic equipment
but really wondering what hot stuff he might haunt
Since dying, he’d become a chicken hawk
At the DVD store I “accidentally” brushed against him
He was surprisingly solid
“Excuse me, Mr. Ginsberg,” I said,
“I thought you were dead.”

“Young man,” he answered, “I am dead”
and then he laughed a big laugh
“You expect me to haunt supermarkets? Or book stores?
I try to keep in style.

What’s a nice poetic young man like you
with a copy of On the Road in his pocket
doing in a place like this?
Wanna see me change?”

What I had seen was the old Ginsberg of the 90s
hunched over, professorial, and with that funny squint
in his eye. Suddenly he was Hippy Ginsberg
of the 60s—loud, funny, dominant, bearded

He began to sing—badly
(death had not changed that)
until I was afraid that people would notice us
but actually no one turned around,
it was as if we couldn’t be heard by anyone

“Hare Krishna!” said Ginsberg, ha ha ha
“How about it, kid,
Wanna get laid? You look a little like Neal Cassady
Or at least some of you looks like some of him.
How about it, you wanna have sex?”

“I don’t think so, Mr. Ginsberg. I’ve never had sex with a ghost.”
"Nothing to it,” he answered,
and suddenly my clothes were off
and I had an erection
and I was coming as I’d never come before.

Ginsberg hadn’t touched me,
and he was still standing there fully clothed, laughing.
“How did you do that?” I said.
“It’s just a trick we ghosts have. Pleasure is heaven. Heaven is pleasure.
You get me? The Beat Generation, Kerouac said,
that was just a bunch of guys trying to get laid.
In heaven we do it all the time.”

“You’re in heaven?”
“Well, I’m somewhere, and I call it heaven. Even the CIA is there,
and all the people they killed. We all get on pretty well together.”
Suddenly he was Professor Ginsberg again. “Same multiple identity,”
he said as he vanished
“into air, into thin air”

In my hand was a book whose title was The Posthumous Writings of Allen Ginsberg
but as I tried to open the book
its pages withered and vanished.

“You’ll have to wait for that volume,” said Allen’s voice
and he laughed again. “Wouldn’t you like to have that book?
You’ll have to write it yoursel—”

Courage teacher, old poet, have you become an owl of wisdom, a hawk of power, a swan of beauty, a sunflower, a leaf, a bit of sunlight, a worm burrowing in the earth?—

Have you become

Jack Foley

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