Allen and I met on three occasions: First, in New Orleans in 1971.
During the week we visited schools where Allen chanted and read his poetry, stirring up the younger children who would try to imitate his chanting. Allen walked the streets of the Quarter carrying a long, brass trident from India and wearing beads. He had shaved; so the characteristic beard was missing. But he was otherwise clearly the Beat poet. He chanted on the Quad, drawing a large crowd of onlookers, and on the night of the Symposium he had a group of Hare Krishna followers join him on stage for a lively chant.
Allen Ginsberg and friend
at the Olivier House,
Second, in San Francisco:
It was probably in 1980 when I lived on Russian Hill all summer, but it could have been any summer from 1976-1980 when I spent several weeks each year with my friend Julian. I attended a reading and party at City Lights, hosted by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and featuring a colorful assortment of writers. Another friend of mine named Tess was there and doing her bit socializing and charming Ferlinghetti, among others. There was ample wine; so most people were quite relaxed.
I knew Allen wouldn't remember me, but I walked over to him and asked if he remembered his visit years ago to New Orleans. When I identified myself, he politely pretended to remember the evening we spent together, and remarked how much he liked the French Quarter and its hedonistic delights. Speaking of which, he then lowered his voice, and whispered slyly to me with a grin, " Did we sleep together?"
Third, with Dar in New York at an Aperture opening featuring Ginsberg's photography:
Aperture opening in 1993 featuring Ginsberg's photography. It was
a bustling, crowded opening-- very New York chic. Allen looked fatigued
and sat on one of the few seats outside the gallery entrance. Darryl
spoke to him and I resisted the urge to remind him of our past
encounters. I enjoyed the photographs-- there were several of William Burroughs, and a nude of Allen and Peter Orlovsky. Allen was proud of the photograph Darryl was asking him about-- a lovely boy on a Greek Island-- or was it that the boy was Greek? I recall the photo-- a beautiful face and torso.
Ginsberg Reading Howl in 1956
So now we have his voice, the photographs from 1971 and, of course, the thousands others have taken and shared. The films and videos bring back his image and his voice to us. His own
photos give repeatedly his wry humor and heart. And yet, if ever there was a spirit that was likely to be reincarnated, I think the soul of Allen Ginsberg is it. He reminded me always of the Hopi trickster Kokopelli.
Allen Ginsberg, W. S. Merwin, and I
Lunch, New Orleans