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In Memory: Allen Ginsberg

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3:30 AM, sixteen years old, apcx of powerful acid journey, hiding under trees in the darkest corners of central campus, sipping wine and reading Ginsberg's The Fall of America listening to Allen's voice in my reader' s head, pages damp with rain. Grasping the 188-paged City Lights edition glyphed fulla visions, feeling a presence always happy to adviseyoungermen: Bepretty, intelligent, attentive, delicatelyderanged. Useful lunatic guidance. Freedom is when you put on the dress. Reject outmoded patterns of conformity. And please leam not to die so fast and gruesome. Kerouac's Big Sur, the DT journals, a timeless plea for clear water detox. However confusing or miserable one's life may seem, every moment is potential for poems. Take good notes, do not panic. Never lose track of the happinessgi ven at birth. Meanwhile, the very fabric of loneliness and alienation can, could and did serve as spore and seed for creative expression. Kaddish, Allen's struggle with his own mother's insanity and death, is an even better example of this principie, but at sixteen I hadn't seen that yet. These things come haphazard. First encountered Howl as set to music by the Village Fugs, who sang, in their stone freak yodeling way, William Blake's Ah Sunflower.Weary of Time, instigator of Ginsberg's own cosmo-awakening (see SunflowerSutra). It took time to digest, to compost as I grew. Only by surviving and paying attention did the threads come together in the weave which today warms the brain and protects the heart against uglyassed, unimaginative pop culture. This Únele kept me sane, still helps. Today I have that same battered copy of "The Fall of America," pages stained with red wine, blueannotati ve ink and traces of long since vaporized rainwater. And America ues to fall. Twenty-four years later, still invariably moved by the longrunning strudel of descriptions which I' ve only recently learned were transcribed off of cassette tapes covering many miles of on-the-spot voice reporting as Allen rode in the back of a VW microbus, tooiing south from Canadian Border to San Francisco with Gary Snyder. Everything is admissible in this court of samsara. All that has happened resonates in all directions. None of this superfluous, nothing ruled out. Raunchy poem bearing the title GRAFFITI 12TH CUBICLE MEN'S ROOM SYRACUSE AIRPORT 1 1 NOVEMBER 1969 - still utterly relevant. We honor you, Allen Ginsberg, for your own brave takes on the Truth. Welcome, ghost of Lenny Bruce: "When I'm interested in a truth, it's really a truth truth, one hundred per cent. And that's a terrible kind of truth to be interested in." This is an American trad ilion. One which we should always celébrate. And for speaking openly, without hesitation, of that which was real to you, never for a moment holding back, in fact risking your life calling the C.I. A. out on their madness, avance and sociopathic narcotics trafficking; for your own brave takes on the Truth, we honor you, Allen Ginsberg. Every time we see the bumper sticker: "DARE to Keep the C.I.A. Off Drugs," think of Allen happily singing his "C.I.A. Dope Calypso." Brazenly, out loud. This our tradition of American discourse in spite of the Lie. William S. Burroughs says Allen stood for coming out of all the closets. 1957: Howl confiscated as obscenity, warrant for the arrest of Lawrence Ferlinghetti just for handling the thing. Like Lenny, the outspoken one struggles with a culture seriously strung out on Denial. Today in 1997owcanbefoundsafely esconced in the Third Edition of the Norton Anthology . Uncensored. And this was the honest descriptive of what you lived. Broken, the false shell of euphemism; torn down, the scrim of not-to-say-it; shattered, the artifice of somebody else's prescriptiveshame. I am not ashamed. Thisis in life, these are the Uves ofthose I have met and known. This is an inheritance from our poetic ancestors. Wal t Whitman scaring the 1 9th Century shitless with his honesty . Ezra Pound devising acryptic personal system of historical reflective mayhem. William Carlos Williams, the source of a principie: Cut the crap and speak clearly, no unnecessary frills, thank you. "There's no reason why every line must begin at the left hand margin. A silly habit, as if all the thoughts in the brain were lined up like a conscript army . . "Paterson, Williams' cut-andpaste masterpiece of modern poetic, includes three letters from a young Ginsberg, coming up in New Jersey, devising his own way of seeing. Honesty like never before in print. Language honored as magie. Anne Waldman, introducing her poem, Iovis, writes: "Words are used here with awe, dread, submission, humor, cheek, as if they were sacred creatures - pulsating, alive, mocking. As such they are little mirrors." Clear language for running the changes anew. Allen was part of a circle of minds similarly willing to innóvate according to these principies. Diane di Prima, Philip Whalen, Lew Welch, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Gather more names, place them in a spiral on the ceiling. Remove clothing, light candles, dance. There is no separation. Indra's web, a bejewelled connective net; we feit it every where as we adjusted to the news that Allen had left his body. Winds howled mightily that week over the face of our land; Michigan' s Winter was reluctant to ebb away. Allen' s nature, I feel, is covering the Earth, even as the spirits of percussionist Tony Williams and themighty songstress LauraNyro inhabit the crest of our atmosphere. Anyone may sense these presences. But not by using the internet, which is a shoddy imitation of Indra's weave. Turn that thing off and look instead at the night sky over our town. Ann Arbor has had a fairly consistent relationship with Allen Ginsberg. I'm thinking of his appearance at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally at Crisler Arena, the readings at Rackham Auditorium, Hill Auditorium, our up-close time with him at Shaman Drum Books and in the friendly space at Jewel Heart. In a broader, deeper sense, Allen had a lot to do with Ann Arbor's stratified countercultural reality . He inspired a willingness to do things differently. So much has been opened for us. So possible now to carry on with the work of seeing to it that boredom and conformity do not drive our people out of their minds, into premature, unnecessary destruction. In many ways, however, (as I watch the faces of giggling, drunken suburbanites on Main Street, Saturday night), our task is as challenging as ever. Following the principies of cutand-paste, we include this fragment of intercepted E-mail sentby schoolteacher Mike Rains, remembering a Ginsberg book-signing at "Ann Arbor Jewel Heart Luminous Store" 1 797: "I said what I wanted to say. That the life he lived was full and good for me to see. He had helped me, and thanks. 'Well ... I've been havingfun' He drew a picture with the letters A.H. in the center of a flower that had a stem that curled down and up as a snake that rose and encircled the blossom ..." Ginsberg leaves me with a willingness to combine materials and inspiration from all directions and time periods. Check his little booklet: "Your Reason and Blake's System" (1992 Hanuman Books): "Blake's imagination and the imagination of Tibetan poetics and painted Thangkas are oddly similar, both in the same realm of mind-projection and exercise of three-dimensional visualization. The Tibetan and Blakian traditions deal with extremely rarified, subtle and very definite worlds of imagination. Both Blake's and Tibetan symbols serve as fixed images for meditation and contemplation of psychological archetypes." And as always clear ethics form the basis of action. This from Gelek Rinpoche, Allen 's last teacher and vital motivating forcé behind Ann Arbor's Jewel Heart Center (from Love and Compassion, a weekend course, 1992): "Do kindly genérate a pure motivation. The word pure here means we are not doing something just for the benefit of our material lifc, but to gain a better benefit for all sentient beings ..." As for Wulfie, my chant is henceforward to Tara, in all her colors, the Goddess in all of her aspects. To walk alone through the park at dawn breathing deeply to voice aloud in cycle: OM TARA TU TARA TURE S V AHA and work in the wake of all who've come before, harming none, providing a fertile bed for the truth to flourish. Breathe Allen, sing Allen, loving grace in all directions Allen, change is the principie here, and Allen's just keeping with the program.


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