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Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and Peter Orlovsky discuss poetry

BROADCAST: 1960 | DURATION: 00:26:34

Synopsis

Poets Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and Peter Orlovsky, speak with Studs Terkel about their influences and what made them into the poets they are. Terkel reads a preface, written by William Carlos Williams, to Ginsberg’s poem “Howl.”

Transcript

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OK

Studs Terkel What did you say about Howard Johnson's?

Gregory Corso Well, you know, like it's, it's almost a mental dictatorship, because you can't get off the highway, you know, to go to another restaurant or something, you have to keep along the turnpike. And so they're all similar, and it looks like a big bathroom as soon as you go in and nothing is moving but, uh, the Coca-Cola machines and the cocoa machines, just turning, great symbols, turning, great undersea silence.

Studs Terkel Dear listeners of WFMT, in case you may be a bit befuddled or confused, this is the beginning of an interview, conversation with two certainly very alive young poets--

Gregory Corso Three!

Allen Ginsberg Three!

Peter Orlovsky Three!

Studs Terkel I beg your pardon.

Gregory Corso The angel is here, we brought an angel along.

Studs Terkel The voice you heard describing Howard Johnson's is Gregory Corso. In the center sits Allen Ginsberg, the author of perhaps what might be considered one of the militant anthems of Beat poetry, and I beg your pardon, I'm not up on

Allen Ginsberg No, his name is Peter Orlovsky, "Love in the Middle".

Gregory Corso And has only

Studs Terkel Peter

Gregory Corso Poems that I think are gonna be the two poems of the age.

Studs Terkel Peter Orlovsky--

Gregory Corso First poem and second poem.

Studs Terkel Whose voice we haven't heard yet. Peter, would you mind just saying, a commenting about the poet, just a bit, just to identify your voice?

Peter Orlovsky I come like a silver dollar on a bed.

Studs Terkel Good. That's Peter Orlovsky. So we have three Beat generation poets--

Gregory Corso No, no!

Peter Orlovsky Looks like a silver dollar on a bed.

Studs Terkel I see. And they are here in Chicago now, and--

Gregory Corso No, no, I love Shelley.

Studs Terkel You love Shelley?

Studs Terkel Yes. Shelley was another Beat.

Allen Ginsberg No, no, that

Studs Terkel Shelley was never Beat.

Gregory Corso These people,

Allen Ginsberg He's associating himself right now.

Gregory Corso I just completely dissociate myself from

Studs Terkel That's Gregory Corso.

Gregory Corso Yes.

Studs Terkel Allen Ginsberg, perhaps you--

Gregory Corso I hate them, I can't stand them.

Studs Terkel You can't stand

Gregory Corso You know I can't stand all these people. I don't like

Studs Terkel them You

Gregory Corso I'm very paranoid now, you're making me paranoid. I love Shelley, I love Keats and Wordsworth and Coleridge. I don't want any of this.

Studs Terkel You don't like them, but you love them.

Gregory Corso Oh, I love

Studs Terkel You love them, but you don't like them.

Gregory Corso No, no, I like them and love them.

Studs Terkel Both. I see.

Allen Ginsberg Come on, make up your

Gregory Corso I can't make up my mind about it.

Studs Terkel This is the--

Allen Ginsberg Shut up.

Gregory Corso Schizoid paranoia coming in.

Studs Terkel Let's see if we can settle for the moment, forego a schiz--a schizophrenia for a moment and see if we can just pin down certain basic precepts, if there are such things. What about the matter of--we hear the word "Beat" so much, it's been caricatured, ridiculed, now if we could handle it to begin with semantically, "Beat," does "Beat" mean defeated? Is "Beat" connected with jazz?

Peter Orlovsky Beats cry a lot. Because with Fra Angelico, who cried a lot before he painted Christ. He used to cry for four hours at a time--

Allen Ginsberg Before he painted the Virgin. Before he painted the Virgin.

Studs Terkel Allen, what about, uh, the philosophy of Beat? The outlook?

Allen Ginsberg Well, it's nothing, it's nothing that organized. The only place where it's organized is in the minds of journalists who are trying to organize it.

Studs Terkel What is it in your mind?

Allen Ginsberg It's a casual remark that Kerouac dropped one day, among many other casual remarks, which was picked up and written about. And so it became organized and less casual. As far as I know, the original scene was, he was, he and a writer named Clellon Holmes were sitting around talking about

Studs Terkel Clellon Holmes, who wrote "The Horn", excellent jazz book.

Allen Ginsberg Yeah. We're sitting around talking about, let us say, nine, 10 years ago, saying, "Well, if the other generation was a lost generation, what would people be naming this generation? But it was just, you know, like a goofy conversation. It wasn't a big, serious, formal, let us now give a formal name to a generation, as if there are, is such a thing as a generation.

Studs Terkel You won't be cubbyholed, in other words. I mean, this is just a label.

Allen Ginsberg Well, it's a label that's been picked up, but it is, it's actually quite a beautiful label in a way, it's poetically interesting. The remark is interesting. Kerouac said, "Well, this then would be a beat generation. Let's say, everybody's beat, everybody's sort of worn down to a point where they'll be able to receive God."

Studs Terkel Well, let's feel free, in this, let's make this a round-table with Paul and Gregory and Allen. What about--

Gregory Corso Peter!

Studs Terkel Peter, I beg your pardon.

Gregory Corso Peter, yeah, he's

Studs Terkel a-- Peter

Gregory Corso Peter Orlovsky, he's a Russian angel in America.

Studs Terkel He's a Russian angel in America.

Gregory Corso Yes, and he's come to Chicago to save Chicago.

Studs Terkel He's coming to save Chicago.

Peter Orlovsky If this is an [evening?], it's going to be saved here. There's a great tensity here, we feel it.

Studs Terkel And you want to save Chicago.

Peter Orlovsky No, no, I don't want to--

Studs Terkel No, no,

Peter Orlovsky I want to see Al Capone's old heritage. I really dig him. You know, I pay homage to him.

Studs Terkel You pay homage to Al Capone. Once upon a time, there was an evangelist here named Gypsy Smith, who sought to save Chicago by parading down Chicago's Red Light district years

Gregory Corso Oh, but nothing like that. Nothing ostentatious like that.

Allen Ginsberg Naked?

Studs Terkel No, would parade down naked, no, but on the subject of nakedness, that, we'll could come to that as we go along. Let's dig further. Allen started, but let Gregory and--

Gregory Corso Well, ask me a

Studs Terkel Peter.

Gregory Corso See how

Studs Terkel Or the question--

Gregory Corso Don't make me embarrassed.

Studs Terkel No.

Gregory Corso Just ask me

Studs Terkel All right. The question of, what is your out--what does your philo--do you feel defeated? Coming to the matter of, for getting the label 'Beat"

Gregory Corso No, no, no, no, no, no. I've so far have reached God, I think, and I'm gonna go beyond it now, so there's no defeat in that. I stand like Alexander in Tamburlaine.

Studs Terkel What is there beyond God?

Gregory Corso Oh, that's it! And I'm gonna find it.

Studs Terkel You want to find it.

Gregory Corso Yes, and I'm gonna have it.

Studs Terkel But what, what?

Gregory Corso And his hair, hair. I just wrote the poem "Hair". You want to hear "Hair"?

Studs Terkel Let's hear "Hair".

Allen Ginsberg Yeah, why don't we hear poetry?

Gregory Corso It's poetry, I think

Studs Terkel that's All

Allen Ginsberg I mean, I know you

Studs Terkel It's the thing of the occasion. All right. This is Gregory Corso, who wrote "Gasoline", other poems, will now read "Hair".

Peter Orlovsky The decadence of his style.

Studs Terkel I suppose you might say the moral, then, is that Yul Brynner's a pretty fortunate man.

Gregory Corso I actually was going to say, "Yul Brynner's Lament."

Studs Terkel I see.

Gregory Corso But I think he's ephemeral and such short-lived, so I just called it "Hair". "Hair" will always remain.

Studs Terkel I suppose--well, what would you say then? You say then the outlook in the poem is things are rough all over.

Gregory Corso No, I think that things are so [different? difficult?] because I do have lovely hair and I'm not complaining about any [soul?], see I'm not [cool?], and I do have nice hair, don't I? Right? No, in a sense. Right? So therefore, this is the whole thing that you're trying to get at, almost--

Studs Terkel This would not be of the Dylan Thomas school of poetry.

Gregory Corso NO! Oh, God-- More

Allen Ginsberg More like it than you know.

Studs Terkel Huh?

Allen Ginsberg It's more like Dylan Thomas than you would

Studs Terkel Well, go ahead, Allen.

Gregory Corso What would you

Allen Ginsberg Think of all the mad images in that, just like Dylan Thomas. "I see the angels washing their oceans of hair" is something that Thomas would have--

Studs Terkel He might

Allen Ginsberg Smiled at.

Studs Terkel Yeah, he might say it a bit differently, though.

Gregory Corso No, But I said this in connection with him about Beat, Allen, by giving him this as a subject that this has nothing to do with social standings at all, but a young person who is in the society talking about what? Hair, fried shoes. Anything that is beautiful and free.

Studs Terkel Question. Question. Anybody ans--you believe you represent the young generation of poets today?

All Three Poets No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Allen Ginsberg We're pariahs.

Studs Terkel Oh, you're

Allen Ginsberg All we represent is ourselves.

Studs Terkel You represent

Allen Ginsberg We couldn't represent anybody else. How is everybody's trying to go around representing somebody else? All we represent. All I represent is me, and all Gregory represents is him, and all Peter represents is Peter.

Peter Orlovsky All my home life.

Allen Ginsberg He represents his mother. Peter represents his mother and his three brothers and his sister.

Gregory Corso And they're all in a madhouse. They're

Studs Terkel I see. Allen--

Peter Orlovsky I want to

Studs Terkel Or this--or Peter--

Peter Orlovsky Well, you don't go around trying to represent anybody, do you?

Gregory Corso Do you represent

Studs Terkel I hope not. Myself.

Gregory Corso Maybe he represents Mahler and Beethoven. That's a--

Allen Ginsberg The only other thing we represent

Studs Terkel You love dead poets.

Allen Ginsberg No,

Studs Terkel You represent a lot of dead poets.

Allen Ginsberg Yeah, like Whitman.

Gregory Corso Whitman and Hart Crane and all those.

Allen Ginsberg And

Gregory Corso And Myakovsky. Essenine. And Shelley, of course.

Peter Orlovsky Myakovsky with rainbows

Allen Ginsberg Not to forget Christopher Smart.

Peter Orlovsky What? Nash.

Gregory Corso Nash. "Brightness falls from the air."

Allen Ginsberg Or somebody's gotta represent Shakespeare in Chicago.

Studs Terkel I think that WFMT listeners should see our three young poets and act--of course seeing them here I'd say it's part of the story as well as hearing, of course, as they talk, they make very vivid with--

Allen Ginsberg We wave our hands

Studs Terkel Gestures, yeah. Allen, why don't you--you say you represent yourself. What do you represent as an individual? What's your feeling about the world? It's a general

Allen Ginsberg Well, my feelings change every day.

Studs Terkel They change every day. Do you have any, any feelings of perma--any permanent, not permanent, but any solid feelings about the world today? "Howl" seemed to indicate that.

Allen Ginsberg The world exists. But in a way--what, what? Can I--Yes,

Gregory Corso

Studs Terkel What did you say about Howard Johnson's? Well, you know, like it's, it's almost a mental dictatorship, because you can't get off the highway, you know, to go to another restaurant or something, you have to keep along the turnpike. And so they're all similar, and it looks like a big bathroom as soon as you go in and nothing is moving but, uh, the Coca-Cola machines and the cocoa machines, just turning, great symbols, turning, great undersea silence. Dear listeners of WFMT, in case you may be a bit befuddled or confused, this is the beginning of an interview, conversation with two certainly very alive young poets-- Three! Three! Three! I beg your pardon. The angel is here, we brought an angel along. The voice you heard describing Howard Johnson's is Gregory Corso. In the center sits Allen Ginsberg, the author of perhaps what might be considered one of the militant anthems of Beat poetry, and I beg your pardon, I'm not up on the-- No, his name is Peter Orlovsky, "Love in the Middle". And has only written-- Peter Poems that I think are gonna be the two poems of the age. Peter Orlovsky-- First poem and second poem. Whose voice we haven't heard yet. Peter, would you mind just saying, a commenting about the poet, just a bit, just to identify your voice? I come like a silver dollar on a bed. Good. That's Peter Orlovsky. So we have three Beat generation poets-- No, no! Looks like a silver dollar on a bed. I see. And they are here in Chicago now, and-- No, no, I love Shelley. You love Shelley? Yes. Shelley was another Beat. No, no, that was-- Shelley was never Beat. These people, these He's associating himself right now. I just completely dissociate myself from all That's Gregory Corso. Yes. Allen Ginsberg, perhaps you-- I hate them, I can't stand them. You can't stand who? You know I can't stand all these people. I don't like them You I'm very paranoid now, you're making me paranoid. I love Shelley, I love Keats and Wordsworth and Coleridge. I don't want any of this. You don't like them, but you love them. Oh, I love verse, You love them, but you don't like them. No, no, I like them and love them. Both. I see. Come on, make up your mind I can't make up my mind about it. This is the-- Shut up. Schizoid paranoia coming in. Let's see if we can settle for the moment, forego a schiz--a schizophrenia for a moment and see if we can just pin down certain basic precepts, if there are such things. What about the matter of--we hear the word "Beat" so much, it's been caricatured, ridiculed, now if we could handle it to begin with semantically, "Beat," does "Beat" mean defeated? Is "Beat" connected with jazz? Beats cry a lot. Because with Fra Angelico, who cried a lot before he painted Christ. He used to cry for four hours at a time-- Before he painted the Virgin. Before he painted the Virgin. Allen, what about, uh, the philosophy of Beat? The outlook? Well, it's nothing, it's nothing that organized. The only place where it's organized is in the minds of journalists who are trying to organize it. What is it in your mind? It's a casual remark that Kerouac dropped one day, among many other casual remarks, which was picked up and written about. And so it became organized and less casual. As far as I know, the original scene was, he was, he and a writer named Clellon Holmes were sitting around talking about the Clellon Holmes, who wrote "The Horn", excellent jazz book. Yeah. We're sitting around talking about, let us say, nine, 10 years ago, saying, "Well, if the other generation was a lost generation, what would people be naming this generation? But it was just, you know, like a goofy conversation. It wasn't a big, serious, formal, let us now give a formal name to a generation, as if there are, is such a thing as a generation. You won't be cubbyholed, in other words. I mean, this is just a label. Well, it's a label that's been picked up, but it is, it's actually quite a beautiful label in a way, it's poetically interesting. The remark is interesting. Kerouac said, "Well, this then would be a beat generation. Let's say, everybody's beat, everybody's sort of worn down to a point where they'll be able to receive God." Well, let's feel free, in this, let's make this a round-table with Paul and Gregory and Allen. What about-- Peter! Peter, I beg your pardon. Peter, yeah, he's a-- Peter Peter Orlovsky, he's a Russian angel in America. He's a Russian angel in America. Yes, and he's come to Chicago to save Chicago. He's coming to save Chicago. If this is an [evening?], it's going to be saved here. There's a great tensity here, we feel it. And you want to save Chicago. No, no, I don't want to-- No, no, but I want to see Al Capone's old heritage. I really dig him. You know, I pay homage to him. You pay homage to Al Capone. Once upon a time, there was an evangelist here named Gypsy Smith, who sought to save Chicago by parading down Chicago's Red Light district years ago. Oh, but nothing like that. Nothing ostentatious like that. Naked? No, would parade down naked, no, but on the subject of nakedness, that, we'll could come to that as we go along. Let's dig further. Allen started, but let Gregory and-- Well, ask me a question. Peter. See how I-- Or the question-- Don't make me embarrassed. No. Just ask me a All right. The question of, what is your out--what does your philo--do you feel defeated? Coming to the matter of, for getting the label 'Beat" itself. No, no, no, no, no, no. I've so far have reached God, I think, and I'm gonna go beyond it now, so there's no defeat in that. I stand like Alexander in Tamburlaine. What is there beyond God? Oh, that's it! And I'm gonna find it. You want to find it. Yes, and I'm gonna have it. But what, what? And his hair, hair. I just wrote the poem "Hair". You want to hear "Hair"? Let's hear "Hair". Yeah, why don't we hear poetry? It's poetry, I think that's All I mean, I know you love It's the thing of the occasion. All right. This is Gregory Corso, who wrote "Gasoline", other poems, will now read "Hair". The decadence of his style. I suppose you might say the moral, then, is that Yul Brynner's a pretty fortunate man. I actually was going to say, "Yul Brynner's Lament." I see. But I think he's ephemeral and such short-lived, so I just called it "Hair". "Hair" will always remain. I suppose--well, what would you say then? You say then the outlook in the poem is things are rough all over. No, I think that things are so [different? difficult?] because I do have lovely hair and I'm not complaining about any [soul?], see I'm not [cool?], and I do have nice hair, don't I? Right? No, in a sense. Right? So therefore, this is the whole thing that you're trying to get at, almost-- This would not be of the Dylan Thomas school of poetry. NO! Oh, God-- More like it than you know. Huh? It's more like Dylan Thomas than you would think. Well, go ahead, Allen. What would you think Think of all the mad images in that, just like Dylan Thomas. "I see the angels washing their oceans of hair" is something that Thomas would have-- He might say Smiled at. Yeah, he might say it a bit differently, though. No, But I said this in connection with him about Beat, Allen, by giving him this as a subject that this has nothing to do with social standings at all, but a young person who is in the society talking about what? Hair, fried shoes. Anything that is beautiful and free. Question. Question. Anybody ans--you believe you represent the young generation of poets today? No, no, no, no, no, no, no. We're pariahs. Oh, you're pariahs. All we represent is ourselves. You represent yourselves. We couldn't represent anybody else. How is everybody's trying to go around representing somebody else? All we represent. All I represent is me, and all Gregory represents is him, and all Peter represents is Peter. All my home life. He represents his mother. Peter represents his mother and his three brothers and his sister. And they're all in a madhouse. They're all I see. Allen-- I want to say Or this--or Peter-- Well, you don't go around trying to represent anybody, do you? Do you represent anybody? I hope not. Myself. Maybe he represents Mahler and Beethoven. That's a-- The only other thing we represent is You love dead poets. No, You represent a lot of dead poets. Yeah, like Whitman. Whitman and Hart Crane and all those. And And Myakovsky. Essenine. And Shelley, of course. Myakovsky with rainbows around Not to forget Christopher Smart. What? Nash. Nash. "Brightness falls from the air." Or somebody's gotta represent Shakespeare in Chicago. I think that WFMT listeners should see our three young poets and act--of course seeing them here I'd say it's part of the story as well as hearing, of course, as they talk, they make very vivid with-- We wave our hands in Gestures, yeah. Allen, why don't you--you say you represent yourself. What do you represent as an individual? What's your feeling about the world? It's a general question. Well, my feelings change every day. They change every day. Do you have any, any feelings of perma--any permanent, not permanent, but any solid feelings about the world today? "Howl" seemed to indicate that. The world exists. But in a way--what, what? Can I--Yes, yes. Read Read

Allen Ginsberg I'll read you a poem, not only about the world, but about the whole universe.

Studs Terkel About the universe.

Allen Ginsberg About the whole universe!

Gregory Corso Not only

Allen Ginsberg Yes. Okay.

Studs Terkel All right. yeah.

Allen Ginsberg There's a poem called "Poem Rocket". It's about rockets, Sputniks, lunics, lunatics, everything.

Studs Terkel Timely. I gotta put my heart in as, you're gonna watch me as I listen to Allen. And I'd better be on good behavior.

Allen Ginsberg See, the title's that way--it's got a weird title 'cause I got a--I've made a picture of a rocket, too.

Studs Terkel I see.

Allen Ginsberg [Unintelligible]. 'Cause Apollinaire used to do funny things like that. He was a French poet.

Studs Terkel I see.

Allen Ginsberg So.

Gregory Corso You know what he said? Apollinaire. "Now is the time of prophecy without death as a consequence."

Studs Terkel Allen, you're going to read--

Allen Ginsberg Yeah, I'm going to read

Studs Terkel A poem called "Rocket"?

Allen Ginsberg "Poem Rocket".

Studs Terkel "Poem Rocket".

Allen Ginsberg Sure. Yes. And it, it's got an epigraph by Corso. Okay, now, a big, serious poem about the universe. [pause in recording]

Studs Terkel Strangely enough, that makes sense.

Allen Ginsberg Of course it makes sense.

Studs Terkel But I haven't quite figured out in what way.

Allen Ginsberg But it didn't even need $12 million.

Studs Terkel You said something earlier, and Orlovsky is--I'm sorry. Peter.

Peter Orlovsky Peter.

Studs Terkel Peter Orlovsky, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso. Just to sort of re--recount the cast of characters. Characters, not with quote unquote "personnel." The matter of, you speak of yourselves as individuals. Now, we live in a world that's pretty hectic, isn't it? Do you feel you're participants or do you withdraw from it? You know, I understand the angry young men of Britain participate, you know? Do you feel

Gregory Corso They make fun of each other. We love each other. We never put each other down. They're always putting each

Peter Orlovsky Well, you were putting me down five minutes ago.

Gregory Corso Oh, no, five minutes ago, I was just saying about the Beat thing the way he was talking about it, it sounded to me not Shelleyan, that's all. You know, like Shelley wouldn't put--

Allen Ginsberg Yeah, he made it, it wasn't beautiful

Gregory Corso See, it had to be very airy, ethereal for me, then I'd would've liked it.

Studs Terkel You, you love beauty. He's "Truth or beauty, beauty, truth."

Gregory Corso Well, no, no, no, there's sometimes truth--I'd like even lies. In fact, yes, [even?] lies.

Studs Terkel You prefer lies. But if lies are beautiful, if they're fanciful enough, is

Gregory Corso Are lies are beautiful to make man lie. It must be a beautiful gesture, you know. We'll conform to truth. But we will not conform to lies.

Studs Terkel Let's come back

Allen Ginsberg What does that mean?

Studs Terkel I, I have no idea-- you know what--you're a colleague of Gregory Corso's, Allen.

Allen Ginsberg Oh, yeah.

Studs Terkel What?

Allen Ginsberg I admire

Studs Terkel What did he say just then?

Allen Ginsberg Oh, for that infinitive solitude, where illusion spoke Truth's, divine dialect.

Studs Terkel Oh, let's come back, if we may--

Allen Ginsberg Is that clear?

Studs Terkel I'm sort of a groundling here, an earthling here at the moment. Let's see if I can

Allen Ginsberg What he was saying, I imagine, is "Oh, for that visionary fantasy moment where through ransacking the imagination you finally come on the golden key. And you open the trunk and out pours a great ocean of light."

Studs Terkel So it's--

Gregory Corso In other words, I've been to the--I don't need a rocket to get there. I am

Studs Terkel You, you're flying now.

Gregory Corso Yes, the rocket, I've been there with my own personal

Studs Terkel Imagination, then should--

Gregory Corso Yes.

Studs Terkel Fly freely.

Gregory Corso Great rocket. But the scientists [are offering?] man, but they have to get it to man, the actual steel, the metal to

Studs Terkel I see. I really don't expect answers to the questions I'm asking, but now and then I might hit pay dirt. I'm looking, for example. What about this matter

Allen Ginsberg No, I answered you very directly about, you asked me about what Beat was, and I told you, 'Well, this is the circumstances."

Peter Orlovsky Then he added that we participate in the world.

Allen Ginsberg Then I answered--yes, yes, we just came to Chicago.

Gregory Corso And we [leaned?] on the bus, and we told ladies, when we get off the bus, will we be hurt when we get off. And they said, "No, everything is all right. So we felt proud and great that we"--

Allen Ginsberg Yeah, we're participating in the world, I guess.

Gregory Corso Certainly are.

Allen Ginsberg To the extent that the world

Gregory Corso We made the people on the bus laugh.

Allen Ginsberg Like, for instance--

All Three Poets [All speaking at once]

Allen Ginsberg One, one, one person at a time. Otherwise we confuse

Studs Terkel That's true, yeah. No, the microphone is here, the microphone is stolid. It's just the listeners I'm worried about,

Allen Ginsberg Well, the microphone has a very strange sentience of its own.

Gregory Corso What do you think the listeners feel? I mean, do they feel awkward or something?

Studs Terkel I haven't the vaguest idea. Peter Orlovsky. What were you about to say?

Peter Orlovsky Uh, the Howard Johnson. We were running along the highway. We stopped at the Howard Johnson's and they have these little cards, you know? "What's your waitress's number? Did you like where, the way she served you? What did she serve you? Was it, was it enough? Was it too small? Was it too large? Do you have any comments about Howard Johnson's? The inside, how it looks?" So we filled out cards in each Howard Johnson's we stopped.

Gregory Corso But the frightening thing was, what is your waitress's number?

Allen Ginsberg Yeah, we

Gregory Corso And that scared us,

Allen Ginsberg So we kept answering that by saying, "This is a Gestapo question."

Gregory Corso It is, you

Allen Ginsberg It's a real mean question.

Gregory Corso Terrible

Allen Ginsberg Incredible question.

Studs Terkel This is

Allen Ginsberg Spying on the waitress.

Gregory Corso As if we would do that, squeal or something.

Allen Ginsberg Stool pigeon questions, and they encourage, you know, middle-class American families to come out and be stool pigeons on their waitresses.

Gregory Corso Yeah, nobody should--

Allen Ginsberg So what we filled it out, we filled it out, we participated in the world, we filled--we were the only ones that were participating in this particular project.

Studs Terkel You mean you won't--

Allen Ginsberg Yeah, nobody else

Gregory Corso Thousand of cards! Thousands of cards filled out. Thousands of comments.

Studs Terkel But you won't participate in something you consider immoral. Is that the idea? Basically?

Allen Ginsberg Well, no, I won't, I won't participate in something that I don't feel like participating in, and I certainly don't feel like participating in turning in a waitress or something like that. Would you?

Studs Terkel No, that sounds

Allen Ginsberg Would anyone? It's inhuman.

Studs Terkel It's inhuman.

Allen Ginsberg What we did do is we filled out cards criticizing their art, 'cause they got lousy art all over the walls. Disgusting, sort of big, sexy English shepherdesses done in a style that never existed on land or sea. But an imitation-type style.

Gregory Corso You're not supposed to say "sheeps." "Sheep."

Allen Ginsberg Sheeps.

Gregory Corso No, sheep.

Allen Ginsberg Sheep.

Gregory Corso No, not in that sense.

Allen Ginsberg Sheep, that's right.

Studs Terkel Let's forego Howard Johnson's for a moment if we may. There's something that William Carlos Williams, a distinguished--I know that distinguished is a square

Allen Ginsberg Well, he's a great poet.

Studs Terkel He's a great poet. You like the words--

Allen Ginsberg He's very

Studs Terkel Well, William

Allen Ginsberg We're all distinguished, in fact.

Studs Terkel We are. Even

Gregory Corso Even you, you have--

Studs Terkel Even I.

Gregory Corso We hear them putting

Studs Terkel Oh, outwardly, I

Allen Ginsberg To show how profoundly nervous you are?

Studs Terkel I see, that's it. Nervous?

Allen Ginsberg Profoundly. I must admit--

Gregory Corso Do you love us? See, we automatically give you

Studs Terkel I see.

Gregory Corso You can feel it right away.

Studs Terkel I don't know you

Gregory Corso But you can't get into it.

Allen Ginsberg Well, he's putting up with us.

Peter Orlovsky He's putting up with us.

Studs Terkel I'm curious, let's put it that way. And curiosity is a sign of, ah, flattering interest. William Carlos Williams, if I may for a moment, wrote a preface to Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl", and he said this: "It is a howl of defeat. Not defeat at all, for he's gone through defeat as if it were an ordinary experience, a trivial experience. Everyone in this life is defeated, but a man, if he be a man, is not defeated." Now, what does this mean to you? Allen?

Allen Ginsberg Well, it sounds to me like, well, he's a very old man, you know. Very,

Studs Terkel He's paying you a tribute here,

Allen Ginsberg Yeah, well, I know, but he's a very old man. So he's looking at it from the point of view of a man, actually, whose feet are washed in death, who's really about ready to go, looking back on life. I've written a long poem which is full of a lot of complaints among other things.

Studs Terkel It's filled with convic--

Allen Ginsberg Among other

Studs Terkel But wait--

Allen Ginsberg It's full of

Studs Terkel Coming back to William Carlos Williams, he wrote this as an undefeated man, he says, he says that you are not defeated.

Allen Ginsberg Well--

Studs Terkel Is

Allen Ginsberg He's saying like everybody in life, really, everybody gets defeated in a sense. I mean, we all die. So in that sense, if you want--until you get to a point where death is like for Whitman a beautiful experience, or, you know, a great gate that you pass through. Ever--until, 'til you get to a point where you can accept death.

Studs Terkel Well, don't you feel life?

Allen Ginsberg Everyone is--

Studs Terkel Don't you feel that life itself is a memorable experience? You

Allen Ginsberg Well, I don't think I'll remember it after I'm dead.

Studs Terkel I know, but you are alive now.

Allen Ginsberg Yeah.

Studs Terkel So I was hoping, I--perhaps you are, the three of you, very alive young poets, are you not? No matter whether people agree or disagree with you!

Allen Ginsberg Once and for all, the corny journalistic conception of the Beat generation being quote "negative" unquote, or putting down life, I think, is ridiculous. It is, it simply reflects the shallowness of people who comment on our poetry and the lack of perception. Like the end of my poem is a great big thing all about how the eternal war is here, hurrah for mercy and everything. Angelic bombs dropping all over the place. It's a big cry of "Hooray!"

Studs Terkel You mean this sardonically?

Allen Ginsberg NO!

Studs Terkel You say angelic bombs. You mean angelic bombs?

Allen Ginsberg Yes, certainly.

Studs Terkel Why--you consider bombs angelic that destroy.

Allen Ginsberg Oh, no, no, I'm sorry. I'm not making, I'm not speaking, I'm not speaking, I'm not speaking

Gregory Corso I do. I think it's angelic--

Allen Ginsberg The end of the poem is--

Studs Terkel Then you're anti-life, is that it?

Peter Orlovsky Oh, all life!

Allen Ginsberg Oh, you're just confusing the issue again.

Studs Terkel Go ahead, Allen. Come back to "Howl". Come back to "Howl" for a moment.

Allen Ginsberg You're lying.

Studs Terkel Come back to

Allen Ginsberg He's talking to me, anyway.

Studs Terkel You see, and now I know the audience will be a little confused, if I may while this little discussion goes back in the background, I will try to whisper to the audience that I think there is a serious near and a semi-seriousness, but we'll see if you can sort of discern the [unintelligible].

Allen Ginsberg No, the end of the poem, is where I am with you in Rockland, which is a bughouse. I'm saying, "I sympathize, I am with you." In other words, I'm not saying, "Go to the bughouse, stay there and don't bother me anymore." Dig? Are you following me?

Studs Terkel Well, then you--

Allen Ginsberg No, I'm saying something very simple.

Studs Terkel Go ahead.

Allen Ginsberg I'm writing a poem about a friend who's in the bughouse.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Allen Ginsberg I'm saying I'm with you

Studs Terkel This is Carl.

Allen Ginsberg Yeah. I'm with you in the sense that you know, I'm not putting you down for being there. I'm not saying I'm gonna go get myself a job on Madison Avenue and, uh, keep away from, uh, the accidents and irrationalities of life. What I'm trying to say is, "Okay, okay. Necessary to have some compassion for a brother. So where we wake up electrified out of the coma by our own souls' airplanes roaring over the roof." In other words, our own souls' airplanes, not the enemy's airplanes, but friendly. They've come to--that's, in other words, some great explosion of soul internally or feeling of our own or of compassion of our [own?]--

Studs Terkel I

Allen Ginsberg So, come roaring over the roof. They've come to drop angelic bombs. The hospital illuminates itself. Imaginary walls collapse. Oh, skinny legions run outside! O starry spangled shock of mercy. The eternal war is here, now, with us."

Studs Terkel I dig you

Allen Ginsberg We're in.

Studs Terkel I see.

Allen Ginsberg Oh, victory, oh, Victory! Forget your underwear. We're free. See? That's the

Studs Terkel In other words, you are compassionate.

Allen Ginsberg Anti-[life?].

Studs Terkel You believe in--you're afraid of that word.

Gregory Corso Love and compassion is a beautiful word.

Allen Ginsberg I'm

Gregory Corso I

Studs Terkel But you, you feel you are not? Now, are you putting--is this a facade?

Allen Ginsberg I don't know if I am compassionate or not. I'm just doing what I feel.

Studs Terkel Yeah. You don't want a label. You don't want labels. I see.

Allen Ginsberg No, it's not that I don't labels, but but if I go, if I say, "I am a compassionate poet," audience, man. I'd rather hint it sideways.

Studs Terkel Well, that that certainly makes sense. Well, what about? What do you think? Here's a question. Perhaps you can answer it, and you--

Allen Ginsberg In other words, have we disposed now, once and for all, of this problem of being anti-life? From the journalistic aspect. We might find a poetic way where it's beautiful to be anti-life.

Studs Terkel Certainly what you last said did hit--

Allen Ginsberg You know, I turn it over to Gregory to carry on the anti-life battle again, and I'll buy, I would buy Gregory's anti-life

Studs Terkel There are some listeners, I think, who are--I think Gregory horses around a bit, too. I think Gregory basically, no, I think basically, I think

Allen Ginsberg No, no, he waits for inspiration.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Gregory Corso I'm this way all the time. I'm sorry. I don't horse around at all, and that word, I don't understand

Studs Terkel Yeah, well, I

Gregory Corso I am the way I am. I

Studs Terkel You are the way you are. That's pretty important, to be as you are. I think

Gregory Corso So maybe I'm goofy, but nonetheless that's me, and--

Studs Terkel Allen's point there--

Allen Ginsberg He's

Studs Terkel The point you made about Carl, about this man who seemed bereft of what we think is sanity, right? Your

Allen Ginsberg Well, partly, I was saying that, like, he really isn't bereft [of self?] being the nation itself is bereft

Studs Terkel And our values, we saying our values, our accepted values are cockeyed.

Allen Ginsberg Sure, well, everybody knows that anyway, you can read that in "Time" magazine at this point.

Studs Terkel Yeah, but they don't quite say it that way.

Allen Ginsberg Yes, they do.

Peter Orlovsky They do, in a way they do.

Allen Ginsberg Turn to their religion page you'll hear all sort of harangues about how our values being screwy.

Studs Terkel What do you think--

spk_1 But everybody knows that anyway, that's

Studs Terkel What made you the, uh, the poets you are? What do you think brought about the feelings you have?

Allen Ginsberg Suffering.

Gregory Corso God.

Studs Terkel You say suffering and you say God.

Allen Ginsberg Lollipops, Peter?

Peter Orlovsky Lollipops, pennies.

Studs Terkel Pennies.

Peter Orlovsky Gum machines.

Studs Terkel Where does this leave us? I don't know where I'm left at the moment. Where does this leave us? As

Allen Ginsberg Well, what made you the way you

Gregory Corso You! What is the--

Studs Terkel Where does it leave me, I should say. Yeah. I'll have to figure this one out, but I want some--I'm not that I'm looking for anything specific, if I know it can't be done in a sentence. And since you are--

Allen Ginsberg Well, we're not refusing to be specific. He was talking about gum machines and hair, and I was talking about rocket ships and, uh, people, a guy that--a very specific person that I know who is in the bughouse, who I dig, and he's talking about lollipops. So this is not refusing to be specific. But in the "Diamond Sutra", which is a conversation by Buddha, it says that all conceptions of the existence of the self or the non-existence of the self are equally arbitrary, being only conceptions. So that when asked the question, "What is your conception of this, and what is your conception of that?" I realize in advance that any answer is going to be very, is going to evade the grist of things, actually.

Studs Terkel But don't

Allen Ginsberg You aren't listening to that, you were looking at his poem

Studs Terkel That's true.

Allen Ginsberg So let's continue with "Bomb".

Studs Terkel No, no, I'm sorry. I do--at the moment as you were talking, Allen you were right in chastising me here--

Allen Ginsberg Well, I wasn't even listening to myself, either.

Studs Terkel No, as you--just as you were talking, Gregory--

Allen Ginsberg It's in the end of the "Diamond

Studs Terkel Shoved [the "Diamond" aside?] into my hand called "Bomb", before we go into "Bomb" there's something you were saying, I wasn't very--

Gregory Corso I

Studs Terkel You did hand it gently. I apologize. You were--

Allen Ginsberg He waved it, he waved it like a--

Studs Terkel He waved it.

Allen Ginsberg He waved it like a pheasant's feather

Studs Terkel Let's get back to the comment you made. I think, is, is there any--can we pin it down? People do communicate,

Allen Ginsberg Yes, but I would say no idea's been in things, which is what Williams also says, in other words, no, let's not deal in big abstract--

Studs Terkel No, let's deal in specific-- Foolish

Allen Ginsberg Foolish generalization, and--

Studs Terkel Let's deal with--

Allen Ginsberg Get back to cases in point.

Studs Terkel Cases in point. You are a young

Allen Ginsberg Big, big [lawyers? liars?] of the abstract.

Studs Terkel You are a young poet from San Francisco.

Allen Ginsberg No, I'm from Paterson, New Jersey.

Studs Terkel From Patterson and have moved to San Francisco.

Allen Ginsberg No, no, I was in San Francisco several years ago, and I haven't been there for years. I've been in Europe

Studs Terkel But you are a young poet of our--how were you accepted in Europe?

Allen Ginsberg Oh, great.

Gregory Corso As a white plague! As in San Francisco was a white plague, so

Studs Terkel I see. You say "great," you say "a white plague," you say you're inspired by sufferings, you're

Studs Terkel Now, he is more of a poet than I am, actually. He says, as a white plague.

Gregory Corso As a

Allen Ginsberg You know, the plague is on now.

Gregory Corso It's on here. You don't know it. Look at your face, it's changing. Since we've seen

Studs Terkel Well, I must admit I'm a bit paler and a bit older since you've entered.

Allen Ginsberg Profoundly nervous.

Studs Terkel And pro--not nervous so much as confused. I'm confused. I want to understand--

Allen Ginsberg Have you ever read anything

Studs Terkel What you are driving--and I've read "Howl", I must admit, "Howl" [isn't?] the only thing I've read which moved me, parts of it moved me very much, and parts of "Gasoline" and other poems, and this one here, "I am 25".

Gregory Corso You want

Allen Ginsberg Oh, he's got a great poem about Chicago in

Studs Terkel Wait, "I am 25"--before you talk about Chicago. "I am 25". You want to read this? You wrote it. Or don't you care for this poem? Of course, this

Gregory Corso I like [everything? anything?] I write, but Chicago's better. See that, that is just journalistic, that kind of a poem, but--

Studs Terkel No, that, I wasn't thinking about the poetic quality, I was--

Gregory Corso "Chicago", this would be much more beautiful for Chicago, don't you think so?

Studs Terkel Let's do "Chicago". Okay, sure.

Allen Ginsberg Why not?

Gregory Corso "The last gangster." Well, now this is a great feeling about a man who's in a very desperate situation, who, when he's in it, says, "Good God, I wish I was maybe 50 years from now somewhere else." See, when he's really [enfronted?] with death.

Peter Orlovsky All right.

Gregory Corso It's a, elliptical poem. That's the death of Chicago, really.

Allen Ginsberg Cool.

Gregory Corso You know, it's there.

Studs Terkel Gee, if I could--see, wat I'm trying to do is, is to try

Gregory Corso Keep trying, because that's

Studs Terkel No, no, I shouldn't try to do anything with you but avoid a sort of preoccupation with death that I feel see.

spk_0 Was that death? That's not death!

spk_0 Are the three of you preoccupied with--this is the point, you say you're not anti-life.

spk_0 Well, we almost got killed on the highway, my God, coming over here. We went in an awful skid.

spk_0 We sleep with our doors locked now, [unintelligible], we don't walk under ladders, and when we see black cats we walk away, and we [big?] wherever [the "S"?] is

Studs Terkel Well, obviously, since we're opposed to form, you know what I suggest? Remember, we came out talking about Howard Johnson's. I imagine Miller, who's in the control room, if you could sort of gently fade us out after I find, if I can, a sort of, a credo from each. Is that possible? Not a credo, but a feeling about your work as a poet and as a human

Allen Ginsberg being. I

Studs Terkel What you want to say. Allen Ginsberg.

Allen Ginsberg Death is a letter that was never sent.

Studs Terkel All right. Paul--Peter Orlovsky.

Peter Orlovsky Um, Meow!

Studs Terkel Okay.

Peter Orlovsky I walk over a bridge of flowers.

Studs Terkel Gregory Corso.

Gregory Corso Fried shoes.

Studs Terkel Fried shoes. So we have fried shoes, death is a letter that was never sent, and I walk over a bridge of flowers, and meow in a sense.

Peter Orlovsky Yes.

Allen Ginsberg Well, that's life.

Studs Terkel That's life.

Gregory Corso That

Studs Terkel I said in a sense.

Gregory Corso What

Allen Ginsberg Well, that is, that all makes sense, you know, that all makes a great

Studs Terkel deal This

Gregory Corso When you're an old man and you sit all alone on the sofa by yourself in your living room, you're going to be thinking about your life, man, you're going to think how you spent it, you know the end is coming. It's there. That's what life

Studs Terkel You know--

Gregory Corso This is what's getting [them Beats so natural?] as to say fried shoes or death is a letter that

Studs Terkel I must admit, I feel very helpless at the moment, and a bit inarticulate--

Gregory Corso I think you're lovely, he looks

Studs Terkel But I think I can say that you're gonna be, safely say that tonight at the Bal Taberin room of the Sherman Hotel you will participate in a panel.

Allen Ginsberg Tonight?

Gregory Corso Tonight?

Studs Terkel Uh, no, this is, this is taped for tomorrow. But this is Thursday, let us assume and you'll be at the Sherman Hotel. See how we get confused, too, with night and day? And-- Oh,

Gregory Corso Oh, mention "Big Table".

Peter Orlovsky Mention the "Big Table",

Studs Terkel And

Allen Ginsberg We came here to help "Big Table",

Gregory Corso We

Studs Terkel "The Big

Allen Ginsberg We're involved in life, we came here to help "Big

Studs Terkel Oh, you are involved in something specific now, the "Big Table" is a publication edited by Paul Carroll of Chicago that will bring out the works I believe that were not brought out in the recent issue of "The Chicago Review.

Allen Ginsberg Right-o.

Studs Terkel And that will be published soon, so listeners will look for that.

Allen Ginsberg It'll be a crazy magazine.

Studs Terkel Be a crazy magazine, but tonight at the Bal Taberin room, and I believe Sunday from three to five at The Gate of Horn you will offer poetry readings and what not, and I imagine what not is probably very close--

Allen Ginsberg Mostly poetry, we hope.

Studs Terkel Mostly poetry.

Allen Ginsberg The more poetry, the better.

Studs Terkel The more poetry, the better. And my credo is a very simple one. "Take it easy, but take it."

Allen Ginsberg Oh, great, yes, by all means.

Miller There you