Allen Ginsberg Doesn’t Believe in Ghosts

Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg,Lowell, MA, 1975 – photo: Ken Regan

[2014 update – the video that accompanied this post is now no longer available}

So this delightful snippet of Ginsberg footage recently re-surfaced – Allen among his file-cabinets on East 12th Street. The tape begins in media res (Allen rifling through his things)

AG: (There’s a) – photograph with (Bob) Dylan at (Jack) Kerouac’s grave, (I’ll) see if I can find it. Here’s some photographs of the Rolling Thunder tour..let’s see, yeah, [shows Ken Regan’s photo] – This has been in the newspapers and all. Actually, this is an interesting photo if you can zero in on it. Peter (Orlovsky)’s over here, Dylan is strumming, thinking, Kerouac’s grave-stone here, copy of Mexico City Blues here, and I’m improvising, but I’m in a kind of inspired state at that instant (‘cause my breath is (on), my hands are lifted, you know, like..(Ahhh)), pretty bad tombstones all around.

Interviewer: Do you feel still in touch with Jack Kerouac?
AG; You mean his wandering…?
Interviewer: His spirit?
AG: Nah
Interviewer: No?
AG: Not.. you mean it literally?.. like…
Interviewer: Yeah
AG: .. life-after-death-like? spooks?
Actually there is.. Yes, I’ll show you..stay where you are, I’ll be right back – [Allen goes over and picks up book of poems] – What I feel about that is in a poem (reads from “Returning to the Country for a Brief Visit”) – “Reading Sung Dynasty poem, I think of my poems to Neal,/ dead a few years now, Jack underground/ invisible” – underground/invisible – “their faces rise in my mind, Did I write truthfully of them? In later times/ I saw them little, not much difference their dead./ They live in books and memory, strong as on earth.”
So, in touch with “books and memory”, but ghosts? “No. (I) don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe in ghosts.”

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