Interview with John Lofton 1989

We stumbled across this humorously puerile You Tube video-skit based on Allen’s interview with the arch-conservative former Washington Times columnist John Lofton and couldn’t resist posting. The You Tube page takes you to the full script of the interview on Beliefnet as it was printed in Harpers Magazine in January 1990 [or it did, the link, that particular link, no longer works], so we figured that we may as well just post the link here too, but with the caveat (and that’s a huge caveat) that it’s abridged and that the complete version is published in David Carter’s meticulously transcribed and edited collection of Ginsberg interviews, Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews 1958-1996 (with an introduction by Vaclav Havel), which we can’t recommend enough. David Carter points out that John Lofton wrote in 1999 that he’d wanted to interview Allen to “confront him with the Truth of God’s Word.” He also points out the first transcription was done by Lofton himself.

From HARPER’S MAGAZINE, January 1990, Readings
[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….

It continues..

see here for a transcript of the extraordinary interview


  1. John Lofton was a friend of mine in the decade before his death. As he described, the Right loved him as long as he was standing at the tent door pissing outside. But when he turned around, everyone started hating him. This interview was younger, pissing-outside-the-tent, John Lofton.

    He was quite the aggressive interviewer at times … with drove me nutty too … but like all of us, he was a work in progress. I miss John, and I only wish a better conversation could have occurred between these two men. Oh what a world it could be if we didn’t have to pick right vs left all the time.

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