From HARPER’S MAGAZINE, January 1990, Readings
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
[Reprinted from “The Puritan and The Profligate,” an interview with Allen Ginsberg in the December issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture , published in Rockford, Illinois. The interview was conducted by John Lofton, a former columnist for The Washington Times.]
JOHN LOFTON: In the first section of your poem “Howl” you wrote: “I saw the best young minds of my generation destroyed by madness.” Did this also apply to you?
ALLEN GINSBERG: That’s not an accurate quotation. I said the “best minds,” not “the best young minds.” This is what is called hyperbole, an exaggerated statement, sort of a romantic statement. I suppose it could apply to me too, or anybody. People who survived and became prosperous in a basically aggressive, warlike society are in a sense destroyed by madness. Those who freaked out and couldn’t make it, or were traumatized, or artists who starved, or whatnot, they couldn’t make it either. It kinda cuts both ways. There’s an element of humor there.
LOFTON: When you say you suppose this could have applied to you, does this mean you don’t know if you are mad?
GINSBERG: Well, who does? I mean everybody is a little mad….
see here for a transcript of the extraordinary interview