This diary is cross-posted to my blog, where I've posted a great photo of Ginsberg, naked, in the lotus position. The link is safe for work!
The New York Times this week wrote about the declassification of hundreds of hours of transcripts of telephone conversations taped by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, which are available for public inspection at the National Security Archive maintained by the George Washington University.
The Times mentioned a conversation between Kissinger and the gay beat poet and counter-culture icon Allen Ginsberg, which in and of itself was trippy, but the content, about the two politically polar opposites appearing on TV in the buff to bring peace to Vietnam, was so far-out I had simply had to read the actual transcript of the call.
The brief transcript piques my curiosity about how Ginsberg was able to get Kissinger on the phone, why Kissinger didn't hang up the phone when it was suggested they debate the Vietnamese/USA conflict in the flesh, did the two ever meet in person and was the meeting taped, why did the transcribers put a "(?)" after the words "gay liberation"?
Here are my favorite lines from the call, from Ginsberg, of course:
"I gather you don't know how to get out of the war."
"You may have to subject yourself to prayer."
They don't make gay heroes they way they used to before the movement and community underwent professionalization. I'm sorry we no longer have queer visionaries like Ginsberg communicating with power-brokers at the top level of American society, and challenging them like this.
In a NY Times book review about a new collection of poetry from Ginsberg contemporary Jack Spicer, we learn of other, um, attempted acts of peace by the "Howl" creator:
He had other contacts with Ginsberg. The editors write, in an unintentionally hilarious biographical entry for 1959: "At a drunken party in Berkeley, Allen Ginsberg attempts to fellate Spicer in public in the name of love, peace, and understanding; gets rejected."
This is the transcript of the Kissinger call, as posted at the GWU archive:
7:50 pm, April 23, 1971
G: I am calling at the request partly of Senator McCarthy. Senator McCarthy told me to, call you. My idea is to arrange a conversation between yourself, [CIA Director Richard] Helms, McCarthy and maybe even Nixon with Rennie Davis, Dillinger and Abernathy. It can be done at any time. They were willing to show their peaceableness and perhaps you don't know how to get out of the war and who by private meeting --
K: I have been meeting with many members representing peace groups but what I find is that they have always then rushed right out and given the contents of the meeting to the press. But I like to do this, not just for the enlightment of the people I talk to but to at least give me a feel of what concerned people think. I would be prepared to meet in principle on a private basis.
G: That's true but it is a question of personal delicacy. In dealing with human conscienceness, it is difficult to set limits.
K: You can't set limits to human conscienceness but --
G: We can try to come to some kind of understanding.
K: You can set limits to what you say publicly.
G: It would be even more funny to do it on television.
G: It would be even more useful if we could do it naked on television.
K: (Laughter )
G: It might be too ____ but under some kind of circumstances. What shall I tell them that would be encouraging?
K: That I would think about it very seriously.
G: Good deal.
K: I will call Senator McCarthy. I am leaving town for a conference that I have had scheduled for some time but I will be back on Monday. When did you intend to do this?
G: During the May Day Meetings in Washington. They will be lobbying and they could meet with you. May 2 or 3.
K: May 2nd or 3rd. Damn it! I would like to do it in principle but --
G: It is a good principle.
K: Now wait a minute. I don't know about those dates, I may not be in town. If not, we can do it at some other reasonable date.
G: I gather you don't know how to get out of the war.
K: I thought we did but we are always interested in hearing other views.
G: If you see [CIA Director Richard] Helms, ask him if he has begun meditating yet.
K: [About what. ]
G: . . . . . . . . . . on the opium market . . . . . . Long Chin (spelled phonetically). He promised to meditate one hour a day. I still have to teach him how to hold his back straight.
K: How do I reach you?
G: City Lights, San Francisco.
K: Where are you calling from?
G: Sacramento, California -- I just gave a talk on gay liberation (?) to the students here, and I am going to San Francisco to join the march there. I will be at the following number --
K: I won't be able to call you, I am leaving town. How can I reach you after Monday ?
G: I will be there until June 15th.
K: You are not coming here?
G: If I were needed, I could arrange --
K: No, no - - I will call McCarthy.
G: Talk to him, I will try to arrange a private meeting. It would be good to talk to the Army too, you know the war people and the anti-war people.
K: It i s barely conceivable that there are people who like war.
G: They might have some ideas, they have been to Hanoi.
K: I will call McCarthy. If we can set it up on a basis of --
G: You may have to subject yourself to prayer.
K: That is a private matter that is permis sable.
G: Of course.
K: Okay, I will call McCarthy.