A Downbeat Beatnik


For their “This Day in Lettres” feature, The American Reader highlights this tender, conflicted missive from the poet Allen Ginsberg to his sometime lover Neal Cassady, dated July 3, 1952:

I will stay on in N.Y. longer. When I begin wandering in space, and among the subterraneans, and into the hung-up literary corridors, I get hung up on everything but the real pressures—money, love. Anyway I want to set myself up independent again, with a small apartment, a steady secure job, start laying again. With Dusty I seldom lay and it is no good really, though I like her alright.

I still have love longings and yet have not in my lifetime founded a relationship with anyone which is satisfactory and never will unless I change and grow somehow out of this egoistic grayness and squalor. Drifting like I am or could would leave me with no hope but stolen fruits. I had begun to get hung up on the metaphysical image and the subterranean peyotelites here. Must stop playing with my life in a disappointed grey world. Maybe go back to analysis. I am miserable now—not feeling unhappiness, just lack of life coming to me and coming out of me—resignation to getting nothing and seeking nothing, staying behind shell. The glare of unknown love, human, unhad by me,—the tenderness I never had. I don’t want to be just a nothing, a sick blank, withdrawal into myself forever. I can’t turn to you for that any more, can’t come to Frisco for you, because how much you love me, it is still something wrong, not complete, not still enough, not—god knows what not—you know how I was before and what I am, my hang-ups. Do you think that is all I shall get ever, so that is why I should come out? Maybe that is not bad idea but I still want to seek more. I suppose maybe I’m looking too hung-up at a simple sociable proposition.

I guess that’s true, too—I haven’t reread this—but I started off trying to say what I’m feeling. I just want something, beside the emptiness I’ve carried around in me all my life. Bliss of tenderness I think of, but that’s too monomaniacal and soft-hearted—maybe I should go out of myself somehow here and keep trying to get back to life.

(Photo: Ginsberg as captured by William S. Burroughs, from the “Beat Memories” exhibit at the Grey Art Gallery, which the Dish featured here. © 2012 Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved)