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The Chicago Conspiracy Trial: Allen Ginsberg on the Stand

Q: In the discipline, there is a similarity of beauty of sound in poetry and in chanting?

A: Yes. …The poem, “Bhagavad-Gita,” you know, which is “The Song of God,” which is the Bible in India, has as its main character Krishna, who is the person talked about in the Mantra, Hare Krishna.

Q: So in a way, some of the chants are poems in themselves.

A: Yes, they are identical. Chanting and religious scripture in India, as [they are] in the West, [are] identical…. Our Bible is written in Hebrew poetry, too.

Q: And that combination of chanting and poetry has as its purpose a sort of spiritual uplifting of the audience?

A: Physically, really to locate and center you in your body and regulate your breathing so that you calm your breathing, calm your metabolism, and become aware of what is around you.

Q: I meant more than just the chanting, itself. I meant the kind of combination of the poetry and the chanting, the recitation of the poetry and the beauty of the sound, itself.

A: The recitation of poetry has a secret purpose of regulating your breathing, therefore, regulating the body chemistry, regulating the metabolism, and calming the breathing, actually to calm the breathing, and make it steady and even. Simultaneously the poetry, like the Hare Krishna Mantra, suggests images of the blue-bodied God Krishna, preserver of the world….

Q: You were named as kind of the Yippie religious leader…. Do you think in whatever sense you would like to put it that is a fair designation of your connection with the Yippie organization?

A: No, because the word leader was one we really tried to get away from, to get away from that authoritarian thing. It was more like—

Q: Religious teacher?

A:—religious experimenter, or someone who was interested in experimenting with that, and moving things in that direction….

Q: Now, in the course of your work, itself, Mr.Ginsberg, you go around to various places and recite your poetry…and chant?

A: Yes, I try to begin by invoking some deeper spirit than intellectual language. I begin really to try to calm my own body, calm myself by chanting, and to calm the audience a little so that they’re aware that I am here, that they are sitting there in their bodies, and that we are together in the same room and sharing our feelings.

Q: So when you, like in Lincoln Park that Sunday afternoon, when you chanted, and when you recited some of William Blake’s poetry, that combination of chanting and poetry, was within the context, as you see it, Mr. Ginsberg, of generating a spiritual and physical uplift to the audience?

A: Not so much an uplift, but a calm, a feeling of ease and relaxation to eliminate tension, to eliminate anxiety, to eliminate hysteria, to eliminate the hallucination of scary images of police with—

Q: Within that concept of yours as you designate yourself as the religious experimenter of the Yippie Organization, and I don’t mean to be tricky at all about this, I mean just to use words that are perhaps—

A: Yes.

Q:—familiar, this concept of physical calmness and acceptance is a part of the religious experience that you were attempting to experiment with and teach?

A: Yes….

Q: And both your poetry and chanting are a part of that same religious experimentation concept?

A: …Yes….

Q: Now when you went out to the Coliseum and you met Abbie Hoffman, you said when you met him you kissed him?

A: Yes.

Q: Is he an intimate friend of yours?

A: I felt very intimate with him. I saw he was struggling to manifest a beautiful thing, and I felt very good towards him….

Q: Now, you testified concerning a number of books of poetry that you have written?

A: Yes.

Q: One of them was the Empty Mirror.

A: Yes, a book of early poems written [from] 1946 to 1951….

Q: In the Empty Mirror, there is a poem called, “The Night-Apple”?

A: Yes.

Q: Would you recite that for the jury?

A: I would have to have the text to recite it. It is a very short poem. If you will give me the text, I will be glad to….

Q: …Could you recite that poem to the jury?

A: Yes. “The Night Apple.”

Last night I dreamed
of one I loved
for seven long years,
but I saw no face,
only the familiar
presence of the body:
sweat skin eyes
feces urine sperm
saliva all one
odor and mortal taste.

Q: Could you explain to the jury what the religious significance of that poem is?

A: If you would take a wet dream as a religious experience, I could. It is a description of a wet dream, sir.

Q: Now, I call your attention in that same [book] to page 14.

A: Yes.

Q: That has on it the poem, “In Society”?

A: Right.

Q: And is that one of the poems you have written, Mr. Ginsberg?…

A: Yes.

Q: …Can you recite that poem to the jury?

A: Yes, I will read it. “In Society.”

I walked into the cocktail party
room and found three or four
   queers
talking together in queertalk.
I tried to be friendly but heard
myself talking to one in hiptalk.
“I’m glad to see you,” he said,
   and
looked away. “Hmn,” I mused.
   The room
was small and had a double-decker
bed in it, and cooking apparatus:
icebox, cabinet, toasters, stove;
the hosts seemed to live with
   room
enough only for cooking and
   sleeping.
My remark on this score was under-
stood but not appreciated. I was
offered refreshments, which I
   accepted.
I ate a sandwich of pure meat; an
enormous sandwich of human
   flesh,
I noticed, while I was chewing on it,
it also included a dirty asshole.

More company came, including a
fluffy female who looked like
a princess. She glared at me and
said immediately: “I don’t like
   you,”
turned her head away, and refused
to be introduced. I said, “What!”
in outrage. “Why you shit-faced
   fool!”
This got everybody’s attention.
“Why you narcissistic bitch! How
can you decide when you don’t
   even
know me,” I continued in a
   violent
and messianic voice, inspired at
last, dominating the whole room.
Dream 1947

It is a record, a literal record of a dream as the other was a literal record of a dream.

Q: Can you explain the religious significance of that poetry?

A: Actually, yes.

Q: Would you explain it to the jury?

A: Yes, one of the major yogas or yoking—yoga means yoke—is bringing together the conscious mind with the unconscious mind and is an examination of dream states in an attempt to recollect dream states no matter how difficult they are, even if they include hysteria, sandwiches of human flesh, which include dirty ass holes, because those are universal images that come in everybody’s dreams.

The attempt in yoga is to enlarge consciousness, to be conscious that one’s own consciousness will include everything which occurs within the body and the mind.

As part of the practice of poetry, I have always kept records of dreams whenever I have remembered them and have tried not to censor them so that I would have all the evidence to examine in the light of day so that I would find out who I was unconsciously.

Part of Zen meditation and part of yoga meditation consists in the objective impersonal examination of the rise and the fall and disappearance of thoughts in the mind—all thoughts, whether they be thoughts of sleeping with one’s mother, which is universal, or sleeping with one’s father, which is also universal thought, or becoming an angel, or flying, or attending a cocktail party and being afraid of being put down, and then getting hysterical. In other words, the attempt is to reclaim the unconscious, to write down in the light of day what is going on in the deepest meditation of night and dream state—so it is part of a yoga which involves bridging the difference between public, as in this courtroom, and private, subjective: Public, which is conscious, which we can say to others in family situations, and private, which is what we know and tell only our deepest friends.

Q: Thank you….

Q: You also wrote a book of poems called Reality Sandwiches, didn’t you?

A: Yes.

Q: In there, there is a poem called, “Love Poem on Theme by Whitman”?

A: Yes….

Q: After having refreshed your recollection, would you recite that to the jury?

A: “Love Poem on Theme by Whitman,” Walt Whitman being our celebrated bard, national prophet. The poem begins with a quotation of a line by Walt Whitman; it begins with Walt Whitman’s line:

I’ll go into the bedroom silently
   and lie down between the
   bridegroom and the bride,

those bodies fallen from heaven
   stretched out waiting naked
   and restless,
arms resting over their eyes in the
   darkness,
bury my face in their shoulders
   and breasts, breathing their
   skin,
and stroke and kiss neck and
   mouth and make back be
   open and known,
legs raised up crook’d to receive,
   cock in the darkness driven
   tormented and attacking
roused up from hole to itching
   head,
bodies locked shuddering naked,
   hot hips and buttocks
   screwed into each other
and eyes, eyes glinting and charm-
   ing, widening into looks
   and abandon,
and moans of movement, voices,
   hands in air, hands between
   thighs,
hands in moisture on softened lips,
   throbbing contraction of
   bellies
till the white come flow in the
   swirling sheets,
and the bride cry for forgiveness,
   and the groom be covered
   with tears of passion and
   compassion,
and I rise up from the bed
   replenished with last
   intimate gestures and kisses
   of farewell—
all before the mind wakes, behind
   shades and closed doors in
   a darkened house
where the inhabitants roam
   unsatisfied in the night,
nude ghosts seeking each other out
   in the silence.

Q: Would you explain the religious significance of that poem?

A: As part of our nature—as part of our human nature—we have many loves, many of which are suppressed, many of which are denied, many of which we deny to ourselves. He said that the reclaiming of those loves and the becoming aware of those loves was the only way that this nation could save itself and become a democratic and spiritual republic.

He said that unless there were an infusion of feeling, of tenderness, of fearlessness, of spirituality, of natural sexuality, of natural delight in each other’s bodies, into the hardened materialistic, cynical, life denying, clearly competitive, afraid, scared, armored bodies there would be no chance for spiritual democracy to take root in America—and he defined that tenderness between the citizens as, in his words, an “Adhesiveness,” a natural tenderness, flowing between all citizens, not only men and women but also a tenderness between men and men as part of our democratic heritage, part of the Adhesiveness which would make the democracy function: that men could work together not as competitive beasts but as tender lovers and fellows.

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