Allen GinsbergPeter Orlovsky’s death earlier this week reminded me that June 3rd is Allen Ginsberg’s birthday. If he were alive, he would be 84.

It was the Beatles who turned me onto Eastern philosophy, but it was Ginsberg and the Beats who got me into Buddhism.

I saw Ginsberg only once. It was at the next-to-last Rolling Thunder Revue concert with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and a whole host of other folks on May 23, 1976 in Fort Collins, Colorado. I remember he stood off to the side of the stage and read silently from some little book while Bob and Joan were singing their hearts out on “Railroad Boy.” I thought that was kind of weird, and rather pretentious. Maybe he was looking for a poem, because later on he read one to the crowd. I don’t remember what it was but it had to do with rain, which we were getting a lot of that day. He was on my un-cool list for a few years until I realized that he had always been a little pretentious, and it was okay, so were all the Beats to a degree, and the hippies, and Dylan and the Beatles, and the rest of us.

Remembering Ginsberg today, on the day of his birth, here is the poem I wrote on the day he died:


allen ginsberg
howler at the world
queer poet of America
counter-cultural icon of my youth
propagator of kerouac
conspirator with cassidy
letter writer with burroughs
yage sage of beat angels
traveler to the east
chanter of Buddhist hymns
exorcist of the pentagon
demonstrator in Chicago
testifier at trial in Chicago
tripper with leary and kesey
song-maker with dylan
gentle heart of an angry nation
angry voice of a gentle people
vanguard of a new literary tradition
victim of cancer
form now dust
in a lotus position
skull polished
in the arcane pure void
to return
in another form
to live again
to laugh again
to love again
to be mad again
to howl again
for every
being heartwrecked
by monstrous beauty
and tongue plucked by
dulcet horror
who have no voice of their own


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