Over his lifetime, Allen Ginsberg may have most espoused the cultural freedom and social mores of San Francisco and New York. But by 1983, the poet associated with the Beat Movement had also come to admire the attitudes of Burlington, Vermont, where he would travel to commune with his Buddhist teacher, Chogyam Trungpa.
It was here that Ginsberg met with mayor Bernie Sanders, the current senator and democratic presidential candidate, and now a newly resurfaced image from Yoga Journal photographer Phyllis Segura recalls the brief relationship between these two alleged socialist agitators.
Ginsberg scholars, particularly those who fetishize the writer's every piece of ephemera, are more than familiar with the poem that resulted from impressions of Sanders' Vermont. But the work, "Burlington Snow," didn't make its way to a larger audience until last summer when it was included in a Guardian profile of the White House hopeful. The poem, handwritten and signed, is contained in Sander's mayoral archive, and you know, it's quite sweet. It's from 1986, so a few years after the above photo.
Socialist snow on the streets
Socialist talk in the Maverick bookstore
Socialist kids sucking socialist lollipops
Socialist poetry in socialist mouths
—aren't the birds frozen socialists?
Aren't the snowclouds blocking the airfield
Social Democratic Appeasement?
Isn't the socialist sky owned by
the socialist sun?
Earth itself socialist, forests, rivers, lakes
furry mountains, socialist salt
Isn't this poem socialist? It doesn't
belong to me anymore.
Ginsberg's admiration for Sanders, however, may not have been entirely mutual, as Forward now learns. Once, Sanders introduced Ginsberg to the public before a reading, only to reportedly leave when the poet took a graphic turn.
According to Steven X. Taylor, who accompanied Ginsberg both literally and musically for many years, "What happened was we gave a show in some big municipal building and Bernie got up and introduced Allen.. Bernie was proud to present Allen and Allen was then in the habit, if he had a new poem, he'd try it out on people... and he had a very graphic poem about anal sex. He had this kind of dirty streak, and he liked to talk dirty in public. It was partly gay activism and it was also something that he did."
Sanders stood up and “turned and walked out," according to Taylor. "You know I thought (at the time), ‘What a nightmare for a politician.’ I thought, ‘Oh, God, he’s a socialist. Already he’s got problems. But now he’s got Allen up here reading about anal sex.’ It was not a good thing for Allen to do. He should not have done it. He should have been more careful, but he got excited. He got excited when he performed, and he was a great performer..."
The name of that fateful poem, by the way, is "What You Up To." It is probably not about Bernie Sanders.