Allen Ginsberg: How to Be

The past few mornings, our reading has been Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews with the poet Allen Ginsberg. Most of the interviews are very long, except one It asked a single question about how to balance working for obvious fortune and the creative life, concerns that resonate with just about everyone we know. Ginsberg’s answer totally blew us away. (We recommend reading it out loud.)

The interview is prefaced with an Editor’s Note: “As this interview was submitted in questionnaire form and the answers were written by Allen, no attempt has been made to render Ginsberg’s personal prose style conventional.

Q: Many of our readers are unfamiliar with your personal history—how you made a choice to quit the advertising “straight” world to embrace the creative underground of the 1950’s. Do you have any advice for others who are not quite sure how far to go?

Look in heart; check out your visions with your friends; be bold and careful at the same time; Mind includes both sides of any argument; balance body, feelings, reason and imagination: ALL 4 working together make whole man; read William Blake & Dostoyevsky; listen to old Blues (Leadbelly Ma Raney & Skip James); learn classical Buddhist-style meditation practice; try everything; ‘If you see something Horrible, don’t cling to it,’ sez Tibetan Lama Dudjon Rinpoche. See Charlie Chaplin, Marx Brothers & WC Fields. Read PLATO’s Symposium. Tell your friends everything. Give away all your secrets. ‘Be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.’ Feed everybody. Remember life includes suffering complete change and no ultimate personal identity, neither permanent Self or permanent God. Cheerful! Help everyone!

Now there’s some advice on HOW TO BE!

 

Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon

All evidence is that Ginsberg’s life was remarkable in its honesty and willingness to explore. You can read about it, and his move from advertising to beat poet here. Richard Avedon’s portrait of Ginsberg nails the forthrightness, heart, and candor of his youth that just got more so as he aged.

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