Ginsberg on Kerouac continues (Columbia Days)

Hal Chase, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs in Morningside Heights, New York, 1945

Allen Ginsberg memories of the young Jack Kerouac continues from here

AG: Let’s see.  I think that is before that then. So Kerouac was coming back and forth to New York from his home, father not yet fallen ill, I guess. I was living in.. I think Hartley Hall at Columbia, had written a long poem called “The Last Voyage”, derived from reading Rimbaud and Baudelaire (Baudelaire’s “L’Invitation Au Voyage”or Baudelaire’s Invitation To The Voyage” and “Le Voyage”, Rimbaud’s “Drunken Boat” (“Le Bateau Ivre”)The end of the Baudelaire was a favorite quote of all of ours at the time “Plonger au fond du gouffre, Enfer ou Ciel, qu’importe? / Au fond de l’Inconnu pour trouver du NOUVEAU! ) (plunge to the bottom of the depths, heaven or hell, what does it matter?/ at the bottom of the unknown to find the NEW”) it’s the end of .. “O Mort, vieux capitaine,” – (the last verse of “Le Voyage” of  Baudelaire) – Ô Mort, vieux capitaine, il est temps! levons l’ancre!/ Ce pays nous ennuie, ô Mort! Appareillons!/Si le ciel et la mer sont noirs comme de l’encre..” ( the last verse “The Voyage” of Baudelaire) –   It’s relating to “New Visions”, “Supreme Reality”, a parallel poem with Rimbaud’s “Drunken Boat”

So I had written “The Last Voyage”, as I say, like, jejune rhymed doggerel. Kerouac came uptown from seeing Burroughs to see me, ten o’clock in the evening, and I read him my long long long poem “The Last Voyage”, which..  (so we were young poets and I was reading him my big poem, and so that was, like, great),  and then he’d come from Burroughs, and (had) had an uncanny conversation with Burroughs, in which Burroughs had said, “Well, Jack, you know, the trouble with you is.. The trouble with you is you’re just tied to your mother’s apron strings, and you’re going to…  like, you’re going in a wide circle around her now but it’s going to get a narrower and narrower circle, and sooner or later you’re going to be right in there, like, not being able to move away from that, your mother. You’re going to wind (up). That’s your fate, that’s your destiny, that’s your Faustian destiny” And Kerouac was actually chilled and moved a little by (that), because it actually was an accurate insight on Burroughs part, that Kerouac was hung-up on his mother. I hadn’t realized that. I mean, just thought he was just another guy going in and out with his family but he really was hung-up and internalizing a great deal of his mother’s ideas.

So it was a sort of prophetic night,  and, by that time after we got all this talking done and made up some more poetry, it was maybe one o’clock. It was no..  Kerouac didn’t want to go back to Long Island.  I was sort of in love with him but I hadn’t told him. He didn’t even know I was queer even at that point. So he stayed over with me and slept in my bed.

I had  a little suite of two rooms and a bathroom, a really large brown-panelled wood rooms, nice big bed, sofas, digs, you know for elegant young college aristocrats, Columbia, Ivy League college. My roommate was a guy named William Ward Lancaster, who lived in the next room, with the door open. His father was the President of the National City Bank, it’s like a big deal, and I used to go out to his Manhasset, Long Island house weekends occasionally and have supper with them and Andrei Gromyko, who was then the UN Russian representative, and his father, Chairman of the Bank. was also the Chairman of the Soviet-American Friendship Society, and his mother was  the Chairman of the Karen Horney League (some kind of Karen Horney organization), I got to meet Karen Horney who was then a big liberal psychoanalytic lady. In fact, I told Lancaster later on that I had sex problems and that I’d like to be psychoanalyzed, naively, and so I got an introduction to go visit Karen Horney and get my case evaluated.

Anyway, so Bill Lancaster was in the next room in his bed and Jack and I were sleeping (we had our pyjamas on..or our underwear on.  And  I was a little scared because Jack didn’t know I was gay, as they say now, or was interested in him. And I thought he’d probably get very..beat me (well, he wouldn’t beat me up, but he’d probably… well , I just didn’t want to bring it up…too difficult).

Now at that time, I think Lucien had already been in jail.  There’d been some great scandal at Columbia involving us all as material witnesses to Lucien’s problems with the law, his friend David Kammerer being dead at Lucien’s hand. So that had been in the New York Times. All of us had been called into the Dean’s office, Nicholas McKnight.  Apparently there was some kind of surveillance system going on. My father had been called to the Dean’s office several times before and told that Kerouac and I and others had been staying up late till 3 a.m. drinking beer at The West End Bar on 113th Street and Broadway and closing the bars and this was a little scandalous, and I didn’t have much money actually and didn’t have any sense of style so I was always dressed a little Chaplinesque, ragged. I wasn’t shaving too much either.  So I probably looked a little bit funky, but not intentionally, it wasn’t an intentional style, it was I didn’t know better actually, I was just… I was in an Ivy League school, I didn’t have enough money really to get the right kind of clothes and I didn’t really actually have the taste, the educated taste yet. It took years of hanging around with Burroughs and Kerouac (well, hanging around Kerouac to get what? – that tweedy Horace Mann prep school look was like, and Burroughs to get what the bankers CIA look was like – Brooks Brothers. I didn’t really know about that until about 19..  probably two years until I was in school. I was somehow negligent about finding out. I’m making up for it now (1977 – sic).  I’m getting all sorts of Brooks Brothers suits from the Salvation Army everywhere at this point. So you’ll see that my sartorial splendor the rest of this term (especially at the poetry readings). But at the time I was kind of slobbish partly also I thought I was ugly, what the hell, I mean, there was not much I could do about it. I was an ugly duckling, so.. probably was with that kind of clothes…

to be continued      

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately nine minutes in and concludes at approximately sixteen-and-a-quarter minutes in  

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