“Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!”—Allen Ginsberg
Before the host returned to the stage to begin the poetry reading, someone stopped him near the back of the audience where I sat and muttered something I couldn’t make out. I heard the host say Why did he kill himself? And the man responded He was disillusioned. And the host said Why should I know about him? Why? Why? And the man couldn’t say why in time and the host took the stage again, welcoming everyone to this really important and special reading that marked Allen Ginsberg’s 88th birthday, that beloved spirit. June was an egg that had only been recently cracked and the longest day of the year was still weeks away and this dark coffee shop backroom in Boulder, Colorado, USA, where the poetry reading takes place weekly when the sun drops like a Roman coin behind the Front Range, was populated with the fashionable young and fashionable old and although there weren’t any, there should have been candles flickering in concert to the artists’ lighted sprits as they read in earnest.
Basically speaking there are two types of people in Colorado (and perhaps elsewhere): the deceivers and the believers; those who live in disjunction with their massive inner life and those who attempt to live in tune with it. “My whole life I’ve been a fraud,” writes the narrator in David Foster Wallace’s short story Good Old Neon. “I’m not exaggerating. Pretty much all I’ve ever done all the time is try to create a certain impression of me in other people. Mostly to be liked or admired.” The definition of a deceiver. The narrator has committed suicide and is recounting his life to the reader from death.
He was disillusioned. Why? Why?
Both DFW and the anonymous man at the poetry reading imply that the transition from deceiver, from fraud, from phony, to believer, or authenticity (whatever that means) is as much an epistemic—or knowledge-based—transition as it is a physical one: a specific action, namely autoslaughter, is the only authentic moment these fraudsters believe they can create.
I was forewarned that Boulderites inhabited a distinctly different or wonky planet, but by that I didn’t know what was meant was: they have masticated on spiritual stuff and found the starch in their mouth might be turned gold. They pedal transcendence and believers are exceptional prey. The greatest commodity that pulses through this town is the quality of being earnest.
There are a number of people in Colorado who love guns more than life itself and therefore I believe they are machines. The degree to which they are believers is debatable, but more importantly, disturbing. When Cliven Bundy in Nevada pressed a certain button, the gunnies swarmed to their Queen Bee Bundy, who suggested black people were better off as property. What does Bundy know about a soul? Can he lick two types of ice cream and describe the difference? When writer Ta-Nehisi Coates says “The problem with Cliven Bundy isn’t that he is a racist but that he is an oafish racist,” does Bundy have the capacity to discern his argument? Does his swarm?
Like machines, #ColoradoGunLovers respond to simple input/output processes. Input: GUN-GRABBING LAWMAKERS WILL GRAB AT YOUR GUNS. Output: RECALL GUN-GRABBING LAWMAKERS. In a certain way, these machines are reified images of their creators. How do we level blame on the oafish machines manipulated by various moneyed interests, manipulated by, if you will, evil deceivers? Keep in mind the gun legislation passed in Colorado was, by any other name, not enough, not enough to stymie the disease we call a right. Basic background checks and limited magazines don’t keep hoarders from hoarding.
The last time he gave a full reading was in this reading series, and uh, we didn’t come here, it was Bull Frogs then, and uh, so uh, but uh, I drove out to pick him up at the airport, Allen Ginsberg liked to kiss everyone when he got off the plane—and then someone shouted from the audience Or stick his camera up your ass! The host had a specific LSD-rattled way of eking out a sentence and somehow he began speaking of the proclivity of a homosexual experience, everyone who needs to have one needs to have one, Ginsberg was a great guy, really father-like to me and though I thought there was more, he welcomed the first reader on stage and they began declaiming. Someone that looked and sounded like Lena Dunham took the microphone after a while and said Every poem is to someone else. And later an older woman stepped on stage and said I think I got bonked on the head or something, but I pretty much enjoy every single moment, it’s something I recommend. And she read A lake? And a tree? And me? Time to be.
Allen Ginsberg was a believer of such grand magnitude he could hoist belief on others. Like Wallace, Ginsberg has been deified, and like all gods, worshipers who bow at his shrine believe in their own Lutheran commerce with the text. “A concept is about how to look at the earth from the moon without ever getting there,” he writes in his poem “Is About,” by which he means we must be the orbital to our own self. We must see ourselves as others would see us. To be a believer means inhabiting the view of the deceiver and finding that we are lacking. It means to not buy goods that promise to fill the very basic human need to figure meaning. To be a believer means to be skeptical of the desire to live a more authentic life, which will bring your average Boulder consumer face-to-face with the transactional prospects of meditation, yoga, various actually discernable energies and auras, bootleg crystals with added properties to influence and/or somehow change those energies, dream catchers, sweat lodges, a paleo diet, the existence of such metaphysical creatures like fairies or imps, etc. All types of appropriated commodities.
He was disillusioned. Why? Why?
When Bundy drummed up the drones, his sect distorted history to fit their smallest concerns. They had no concept of self, or seemingly anything. They couldn’t see the earth from the earth, let alone the moon. Are they not authentic when they say “If [the Feds] are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot”? Authentic in their fantasy for a civil war holocaust that would pull their clan to victory? The point isn’t being a believer; it’s stepping outside of yourself to see yourself, to see what you’ve been sold and what you’re trying to sell, raging against the government with an automated rifle on the TV.
An old guard beatnik, his eyes big and wet, took the stage. God! State! Man! Science! Art! Says who? The night closed with a number of volunteers collectively reading Howl. Ginsberg’s spirit, if you believe in that sort of thing, was somewhere in the room. I could imagine him looking down at me. One of the last readers was a wiry woman with shaved hair and piercings. She moved like a mongoose to the stage. Her poem was long and called upon Nefertiti. She said I disgust me. I am vile. The audience screamed and hooted when she finished, and she moved off stage like an Egyptian goddess, and Ginsberg saw that it was good.