Dr. Michael Aldrich was asked “Do you know what poems of Irwin Allen Ginsberg best represent his view on Marijuana?” His remembrance of Allen follows.
In Memory of Irwin Allen Ginsberg
one of the first originators of the pot protest in the 1950s.
I once wrote an entire article about Allen’s contributions to the marijuana movement, entitled “Allen Stoned & Straight,” that was published in a small book of tributes called KONREKI. I once asked Allen if he would be our (marijuana movement’s) Gandhi, he snorted and said, “I’m no Gandhi, I’m a poet!” (Truth to tell, he was both.)
Allen’s best writing about marijuana is not in a poem, but in a beautiful essay he wrote called “The Great Marijuana Hoax,” published in a 1966 (maybe November?) issue of Atlantic Monthly. It was revised and footnoted and became the centerpiece of David Solomon’s book, “The Marijuana Papers,” about 1967. It’s one of the best descriptions of being stoned that I’ve ever read– and I’ve read ’em all. Allen had spent the previous summer looking through Lindesmith’s drug research files in Indiana, and his article is also a cogent and well-documented blast against the narcs for perpetuating lies, even after Harry Anslinger was forced to resign as head of FBN.
Harry Giordano took over FBN and when I challenged him to a duel (a pro-legalization article in the Humanist, which Giordano wrote the counter-argument for), he simply sent a badly re-written re-hash of Anslinger tripe. It was the first pro-legalization piece I published (1968) and quoted Allen quite a bit.
Thereafter Allen used to come up to SUNY-Buffalo to do readings and he always made it a point to speak to our little LeMar group of students (the first college chapter of LeMar in the world), teaching us to chant various mantras he’d learned in India, getting righteously ripped with us and always looking for young boys to make his day.
He and Ed Sanders and Bill Burroughs and Randy Wicker set up the first New York LeMar in 1965, had rallies at the Women’s Prison, and TIME published photos of Allen with signs, “Pot is a Reality Kick” and “Pot is Fun!” He also used to lead rallies and marches in an unusual manner like a kick-line of Rockettes– the most famous example being the time he linked arms with Burroughs, Mailer, Jean Genet and Terry Southern and charged through the Lincoln Park tear-gas dancing and growling in Chicago August 1968. We gathered in the lobby of the Hotel Lincoln right after that, I remembered Andy Weil’s instruction that smoking pot would alleviate the tear-gas (to some extent), we retired to Ed Sanders’ room to cure the coughing with better coughing. Practical wisdom (Aristotle’s Saphrosyne) was Allen’s way of life.
A thousand flowers bloom in Allen’s poetry and life, and I miss him terribly.
Cordially, Dr. Mike Aldrich
Others reflect on Ginsberg’s Life