Hope Savage

Hope Savage, Kolkata, 1962  – photo: Peter Orlovksy, courtesy Stanford University Libraries / Allen Ginsberg Estate

Hope Savage – “Mystery Girl”.  Hope Savage.   Kevin Ring’s Beat Scene book, a short monograph, came out back in 2011.   Further information on “The Beat Generation’s Missing Woman” (from the equally mysterious “Wanderling“) may be found here:

“In March of 1961”, “Wanderling” writes”, “35 year old Allen Ginsberg, the acclaimed poet of the Beat Generation, left the United States on an extended travel agenda that would eventually take him to India by February, 1962. He spent the next fifteen months traveling throughout India and a few close by countries, returning to the United States in July of 1963 through Japan to Vancouver then home.
Six months prior to his departure from India, sometime after midnight December 11, 1962, Ginsberg boarded the Doon Express at the Howran Station in Calcutta headed toward Benares. Standing on the platform and waiting to the last second to get on the train before it pulled away, Ginsberg squeezed out every moment of time he could bidding adieu to a young woman ten years his junior he had been crossing paths with on-and-off over the years since his early days as a struggling poet in New York. After the train station goodbyes neither Ginsberg nor any of his ragged band of Beat Generation followers would ever see her again, she apparently disappearing into the hinterlands and milieu of the sub-continent and lands beyond.

The young woman on the platform was Hope Savage, a magnetically charismatic and fabulously beautiful American..”

Hope Savage, the one-time girlfriend and love-of-his-life for Gregory Corso

Gregory Corso (1930-2001)

Gregory to Allen, in a letter dated August 23, 1956 :

“(She) dug me and gave me a place to live and has been with me up till a month ago when I decided that I wanted to go to California. She went back home and expects to join me soon. She sends me money and delightful letters and I love her very much. Was she, who taught me. She has fantastic memory, only nineteen, can recite and feel all of Shelley, yes all, “Prometheus (Unbound)”, “Alastor”, “(The) Revolt of Islam”, and also fifty stanzas of Swinburne’s “The Triumph of Time – but more! She is going to kill herself on her twentieth year. She planned her death two years ago. The year that I lived with her was all her … she’d lock herself in a room and would walk up and down up and down … spoke to no one but her Gregory … weep, she’d weep and weep … I can’t really inform you about her, but I tell you she is the greatest person I’ve ever met, and if ever you meet her, I doubt if you’d disagree. Her name is Hope Savage.”

Whatever happened to Hope Savage? – Deborah Baker‘s 2008 book A Blue Hand – The Beats In India sets out in pursuit and is arguably, the definitive analysis. Baker was able to piece things together (somewhat), assisted by the invaluable letters of Hope to old friends, Jerry (David) and Robbie Madden, not to mention some old-fashioned literary sleuthing.

“Seems she has been in Aden, Ethiopia and Iran and then back to India”, Gary Snyder wrote Allen, en route traveling, early in ’62.

“Unable to secure a travel permit, in April 1960 Hope had abandoned (her) dream of Bhutan for (a) free Air India ticket to Yemen. She had settled in its port city of Aden for a year, making what would become her final visit to her family the following June. Upon returning to India that winter, she found her way to a remote and inhospitable valley in the western Himalayas, before moving south to the desert city of Udiapur in February. She had arrived in Delhi and was wondering where to go next when she found a note from Allen Ginsberg at the American Express office. On Gregory’s instructions, he’d been keeping his eyes peeled for her..”

But what about after 1962? – The legends continue(d). “Baker reconstructs Savage’s evolution from rebellious Southern belle to ethereal, bhang-dazed, erudite and enigmatic itinerant, but ultimately has to let her slip away into the thin air of an existence that continued on an increasingly elusive course”, reviewer Celia McGee writes, (reviewing her book for the New York Times) – She is able to track her through Cuba and Mexico, to the Soviet Union, Italy and Paris, before finally losing the trail.

Was she a spy? The Indian authorities (so she believed) considered her to be one.  Did she have kids? (allegedly seen in the early’70’s with two in tow, but no). Was she finally the victim of mental-breakdown and electro-shock therapy? Baker is doubtful (“While Hope Savage’s purported shock treatments have been published as uncontested fact elsewhere, I can neither attest that she said this, nor confirm that if the said this, it is, in fact, a true statement”)

Ange Mlinko in the London Review of Books – “Baker seems to see Savage as a Beat purer than the boys who used their spiritual goals to further their literary aims – (even more than, in Corso’s phrase, “our Rimbaud“) – “leaving no writing behind, Savage could disappear into legend, a saint of refusal”

Beat mysteries – like “what happened to Lew Welch”?    The whole point of the mystery is, ultimately, that we’ll never know.

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