It’s easy to remember the date I met and interviewed Allen Ginsberg. I was the Public Affairs Coordinator for KMTT-FM in Seattle, The Mountain. I had started doing public affairs interviews in 1990 and had just started a non-profit organization in December 1993. I was recording interviews out of a small office in the Tacoma Mall Office Building.
I started reading poetry as part of the bedtime stories I would read to my oldest daughter Rebecca and when Cosmopolitan Greetings came across my desk as a review copy. Soon that book would have the most elaborate autograph I would ever receive.
I’d read some Ginsberg at Wright Junior College in Chicago, but was pretty ignorant about his work and poetry in general, but genuinely interested. I do remember being intimidated and getting upset that he kept interrupting me, but at one point I said to myself: “When are you going to get another chance at something like this? Relax.” I did.
I was told that he treated everyone who interviewed him as a potential bodhisattva and I really could sense at ease at that point where I (to some degree) relinquished control over the situation. Of course I would delve deeply into his work and life, interview several of his friends in the poetry community and start an annual marathon that would honor him once a year.
In advance of the 12th Ginsberg Poetry Marathon, I’ll be presenting excerpts from my interview with Allen. Hopefully you’ll want to attend to learn more about his life and work, or the work of the Beat Generation poets. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to read on the open mic. My thanks to SICA and Subud Greater Seattle for allowing us to have this event in the Spring Street Center. Older members like to point out to me that Allen and Michael McClure were both “opened” in Subud. (See this essay on McClure and the Latihan.) Maybe the connection is deeper than we think.
Dylan was maybe the next generation and he said, back in 1975, that his inspiration to be a poet came from Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues, which he said :blew his mind” when he first read it. And I asked him, “Why?” And he said, “Well, it’s the first poetry that spoke to me in the American language, my own language.” So I think that’s the continuity. We’re using a living language rather than a dead literary language. Which is what William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound recommended, is use the spoken vernacular tone.
You can hear highlighted excerpts from the interview here: https://paulenelson.com/allen-ginsberg-june-12-1994/ and know that you can always find this page by looking at the American Prophets main page.