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THIS CHARMING MAN, ALLEN GINSBERG

Testimony from the 1968 Chicago Conspiracy Trial

The prosecution is asking Ginsberg to explain/defend his sexually explicit “Love Poem on Theme by Whitman,” and Ginsberg here tells of what he channeled from Walt Whitman...

 

"Unless there is 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 will be no chance for spiritual democracy to take place in America."

 

How amazing is that? In many ways this film is a continuation of conversations this straight son had with his recently out gay dad about relationships. He wanted me to finally stay with someone, and he and I would talk and argue and finally get past the niceties that kept things between us sweet yet flat for so long. I learned a whole lot more about love, vulnerability, commitment, sex, and the confusion that is relationships from my gay dad than I did when he was my straight dad.

My parents were married in 1955, even though they both knew my dad was gay, at a church in San Francisco, just blocks away from the apartment where Allen Ginsberg was simultaneously writing his poem “Howl”. How multilayered, strange, and hard to fix are the options available to different souls at the same historical moment?! So not only is Ginsberg’s “Howl,” and his apartment, and his soul part of the landscape of Beginners, his euphoric intertwining of the personal and the political has always been very inspiring to me. In the 1968 trial Ginsberg goes on to tell the judge...

 

GINSBERG: "Walt Whitman is one of my spiritual teachers and I am following him in this poem, taking off from a line of his own and projecting my own actual unconscious feelings, of which I don’t have any shame, sir; which I feel are basically charming, actually."

 

THE COURT: "I didn’t hear that last word."

 

GINSBERG: "Charming."

 

PROSECUTOR: "I have no further questions."

 

For more Ginsberg: Allen Ginsberg, Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews, 1958-1996

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