Allen on “Investigative Poetics” continues
AG: Well all this is simply to say that there was some kind of vast and large-scale weird conspiracy to interfere with people’s lives, to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, to tell niggers (sic) to stop smoking grass, or tell white people to stop (emulating) the niggers smoking grass, for whatever reason. It entered into the poetry because there’s this old tradition of Theophile Gautier and the Club of the Hashashins (Club des Hashisihins), or Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, French poets of the 1870’s taking hashish, (Charles) Baudelaire’s writings on hashish, (Samuel Taylor) Coleridge on writing “Kubla Khan” in an opium dream, Thomas De Quincey’s “Confessions of an Opium Eater“, antique vedas written about soma, all sorts of aboriginal literature, as well as anthropological literature, as well as (the) Yellow Decades 1890’s literature by Havelock Ellis or Edward Carpenter or William James, dealing with anesthetic revelations. So drug dilletantism has always been some little element of literary history, and the most romantic and interesting parts. The French Decadent writers and the 1840’s French literary society with Gautier and (Eugene) Delacroix and Bauldelaire, and real high-minded people.
All of a sudden, if you’re a poet in 1940’s, (19)50’s America, you have all these real interesting poets and their backgrounds, but you find out there’s a huge police condition in this area, and so, naturally, you want to find out what those poets were into. Almost every poet in the (19)40’s and (19)50’s, particularly those who were influenced by Rimbaud (which is, like, one hundred percent, really!), from Jack Kerouac to Patti Smith – they all wanted to know what kind of hashish Rimbaud was taking, “naturally, wouldn’t you?,as (William) Burroughs says. Or what was it like to take opium? – or, just the natural inquisitiveness and curiosity, of poet, or of writer, or just vision-seeker, or smart kid, or old Bohemian, or elegant faggot, or strong-minded macho Hemingway, would also want to know what kind of opium was being used by the bull-fighters (if they were using it)! I mean, it’s just natural that you’d want to know what was going on behind the scenes, and yet here was this enormous police condition in this area, that was unnatural – especially if you read history and saw that they actually.. 1840 – Theophile Gautier and Baudelaire and those people – don’t they belong to a club where they meet every week, and take hashish, and write poems – or something? – What’s going on now, you can’t do that? You got to go to jail?”
So obviously.. then you scratch the surface and see the La Guardia Report that says there’s nothing wrong with marijuana. Then you go down to Times Square and you see all these big hoodlum-looking cops busting people for smoking grass, or carrying it, or trying to sell it. And you realize there’s something weird going on. And then you see all the junkies shuddering down the street, with their noses dripping, stealing your overcoat, and wondering what led to that condition and why the police are so mad at them (when they should be sending them to a doctor). And then you begin realizing that the plainclothes detectives are actually selling heroin, and, when you do more research, you realize that the head of the Narcotic Bureau’s Intelligence Agency, or the Special Investigative Squad has actually got a working relationship with Organized Crime and the Mafia. And then you do a little bit of more work and you realize historically, if you look up newspaper clippings, that every decade they bust the entire Narcotics Bureau for peddling, And then you do a little more research and then you’re involved in Anti-War activities and Vietnam, and you hear rumors that Air America has been transporting opium for the CIA. And then you get all involved with further research , and then, as you go into it deeper and deeper, you see that somehow or other there’s a working relationship between the Mafia, Organized Crime, and the dope bureaucracies and the Secret Police Intelligence bureaucracies. And that it’s all mixed into one potage. And so you have someone like Ed Sanders from the other side, who’s got the LEMUR newsletter, and “Total assault on the culture”, and “League For Sexual Freedom”, and “Fuck You/A Magazine of the Arts”, and “Junky’s Liberation Movement”, and Fugs singing “Police State”. And it all sort of becomes one large paranoaic system.
[tape ends here – to be continued]
[Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859)]
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty minutes in and continuing until approximately forty-five-and-a-half minutes]