Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 487

Allen Ginsberg chanting mantra, in 1968 – excerpted from  Chicago Trial Testimony comic (illustrations by Pat Ryan), City Lights, 1975

from the script of the recently-released Aaron Sorkin film, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Government Witness: I remember also right in front of the group was Mr Allen Ginsberg.
Government Prosecutor Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt): Allen Ginsberg, the poet?
Government Witness: Yes. He was chanting a kind of war chant.

Allen (played by Alan Metoskie) is glimpsed marching and chanting, amidst a noisy and animated crowd, intoning a (peaceful) mantra

What’s he doing?
Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen): He’s channeling the energy, settling things down.
David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch): How is that working so far?

Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen): “The guy testified that Ginsberg was letting out a war chant, some kind of jungle signal to Beat poets that they should begin pelting the troops with blank verse!”

Absent, curiously absent, from Sorkin’s film is Allen’s trial testimony (that took place on two separate occasions). It is available and illuminating and instructive, the full transcript – here and here

Absent too, and at times troublingly distorted, is much else. We were particularly disturbed by the portrayal of peace activist, David Dellinger (see the unrepresentative cynicism in the remark above – and the outrageous suggestion that in the courtroom he resorted to violence).  The responsibility of filmmakers to accurate biography. We’ve been at this place before

From our Facebook note:

Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” premiered this weekend and among its most troubling fabrications was having David Dellinger, a consummate lifelong pacifist, punch a courtroom officer. Didn’t happen. Full stop. Jerry Rubin is reduced to a Cheech & Chong character, sidekick to Abbie, which he was anything but, Rennie Davis, ‘Made out to be a complete nerd who’s afraid of his own shadow,” (Davis’ own words on seeing the film on which he wasn’t even consulted!) and there’s general overemphasis on factionalism within the group, & disagreements between Hayden and Hoffman. It also completely lacks the cultural and literary context, omitting Paul Krassner, Ed Sanders, Phil Ochs, Judy Collins, and entirely leaving out Ginsberg’s legendary testimony, (Allen is only briefly featured, clownishly, at a march) You can’t fit everything into a film, but these were huge moments in American history. Fred Hampton, seen frequently conversing with defendant Bobby Seale in the film, was never in the courtroom, and Seale was bound and gagged for three days, not an hour or so as the film suggests. Seale is so prominently featured it should be titled the Chicago 8.”

Abbie Hoffman, David Dellinger, and Jerry Rubin

An essential read in this context is “I Was in the Room Where It Happened – One Woman’s Perspective on “The Trial of the Chicago 7”  by Nancy Kurshan (Jerry Rubin’s ex-, who, amongst other things, notes the lack of focus on women, both by the authorities at the time and by the film-maker).

Equally valuable is the valid (and necessary) excoriation by John Kendall Hawkins  – “Chicago 7 – Countercultural Leanings of America for Make Money Glorious Nation of Post-Truthvaluestan”.
Hawkins, in this piece, directly lambasts the director:
“In the one scene of the film that he appeared for any length of time, you made Allen Ginsberg look like a retard, mumbling a mantra. That’s the man whose tireless pleaful exertions to the Swedes led to Bob Dylan finally getting the Nobel prize in literature he deserved [Gordon Ball might be credited for this but not to split hairs] He could have been pictured howling like a madman and that would have been an improvement. But, seriously, Sorkin, given the lame witnesses you called to the film’s witness stand, it’s incomprehensible to me that you couldn’t have tapped the likes of more colorful characters who did appear and said interesting and germaine things…”

The Chicago Seven (absent is Bobby Seale) and their lawyers raise their fists in unison outside the courtroom in October, during the proceedings of the trial

Allen’s good friend, the literary editor/publisher, Tom Maschler died last week. Read his obituary in The Washington Post here 

Read his account of Allen in Wales and the composition of the classic LSD poem “Wales – Visitation”here


Bob Dylan – Inside Bob Dylan’s  Lost Interviews and Unseen Letters – don’t miss Douglas Brinkley’s revealing over-view of Tony Glover’s “Dylaniana’, a historic collection (coming up for auction by RR Auction in Boston next month)

Allen (from another time and place) –  AG in Peru in 1960

Allen Ginsberg, 33 years old, in Peru in 1960  – Photo:  GEC Archivo Histórico

Philip Whalen – we featured Steve Silberman’s journal notes a few weeks back, here’s another one (from David Schneider, Phil’s’ biographer) – “In Close Proximity – Part One” – excerpts from “Side Effect A Journal of Zen Life With Philip Whalen” – and Part Two here 

&, October 23rd, it’s the anniversary today of the birth of the great American Surrealist, Philip Lamantia


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