In 1968, there were major protests in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. Eight high-profile counterculture figures were arrested and charged with conspiracy and incitement to riot. This page provides a copy of a transcript of Allen Ginsberg’s testimony during the trial in 1969, with commentary and editorial summaries by journalist Abe Peck.
I encountered this material in Countdown 3, a paperback magazine published in 1970. It’s reprinted here with Abe Peck’s permission.
But before we get to the reprinted material, here’s a note about Bobby Seale. There were originally eight defendants—called the Chicago Eight—but the only Black defendant, Black Panther Party co-founder and chair Bobby Seale, was mistreated by the judge and then removed from the trial, leaving the seven white defendants who became known as the Chicago Seven.
Specifically, here’s Wikipedia’s description of what happened. Content warning for a judge illegally having a Black man bound and gagged in the courtroom.
Seale requested that the trial be postponed so that his attorney Charles Garry could represent him (as Garry was about to undergo gallbladder surgery). The Judge denied the postponement, and refused to allow Seale to represent himself. Seale vehemently protested the judge’s illegal and unconstitutional actions, and [argued] that they were […] also racist. The judge in turn accused Seale of disrupting the court, and on October 29, Judge Hoffman ordered Bobby Seale to be bound, gagged, and chained to a chair, citing a precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court case Illinois v. Allen. For several days, Seale appeared in court bound and gagged before the jury, struggling to get free and managing to make muffled sounds. Defense attorney Kunstler declared, “This is no longer a court of order, Your Honor, this is a medieval torture chamber.” […] Ultimately, Judge Hoffman severed Seale from the case, sentencing him to four years in prison for contempt of court, one of the longest sentences ever handed down for that offense in the U.S. up to that time. Due to the judge’s unconstitutional actions, the contempt charges against Seale were soon overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals.
(I’m not sure how accurate that “soon overturned” line is. I’m seeing various sources that seem to imply that Seale spent a couple of years in prison before the sentence was overturned.)
For more details, see a Federal Judicial Center page about Seale. That page seems to no longer be on the FJC site; I’m linking to a saved copy of the page at archive.org.
The rest of this page, below, was transcribed from Countdown 3 in June 2020. I (Jed) have corrected the titles of Ginsberg’s books and made a couple of other small changes; my changes are enclosed in [[double brackets]]. The notes in [single brackets] are by Abe Peck.
Some of the text is NSFW. Also, content warnings for the following:
- Descriptions of police violence.
- An anti-gay slur (spoken by the prosecution lawyer) at the end, and another word that’s often used as an anti-gay slur but isn’t intended that way here.
- A white American talking about Asian religions and religious practices in ways that may not be accurate.
Oh, Your Honor, I object
The Chicago Conspiracy Trial will be spoken about for decades to come as the great revealing light for millions of Americans who had not wanted to believe that their America is managed by a corrupt government and ruled by unjust laws. The Conspiracy Trial was the trial of one consciousness by another. It recorded a meeting between an ancient life force struggling to be born again and a decaying America that cannot understand anything we believe in, from Black Panthers to White Magic. Multiple books on the Conspiracy Trial are available now but we have decided to reprint the following confrontation between Allen Ginsberg, poet and man of the Planet, and the forces of law and ignorance in Chicago. The transcript was provided and the commentary added by Abe Peck of Rat. Any resemblance between the prosecution and the Court to real people is purely coincidental.
Thursday: Len Weinglass for the Defense
Q. Will you please state your full name?
A. Allen Ginsberg.
Q. What is your occupation?
Q. Have you authored any books in the field of poetry?
Q. Will you indicate to the jury the titles of the books you have authored?
A. In 1956, Howl and Other Poems, in 1960, [[Kaddish]] and Other Poems, in 1963, Empty [[Mirror]] and Reality Sandwiches, and in 1968, Planet News.
Q. Now, in addition to your writing, Mr. Ginsberg, are you presently engaged in any other activities?
A. I teach, lecture, and recite poetry at universities.
Q. Where have you studied?
A. In India and Japan.
Q. Could you indicate for the Court and jury what the area of your studies consisted of?
A. Mantra Yoga, meditation exercises, chanting, and sitting quietly, stilling the mind and breathing exercises to calm the body and to calm the mind, but mainly a branch called Mantra Yoga, which is a Yoga which involves prayer and chanting.
Q. How long did you study?
A. I was in India for a year and a third, and then in Japan studying with Gary Snyder, a Zen poet, at Dai Tokuji Monastery, D-a-i T-o-k-u-j-i, I sat there for the Za Zen sitting exercises for centering the body and quieting the mind.
Q. Are you still studying under your former teachers?
A. Yes, Swami Bahkti Vedanta, faith, philosophy, Bahkti Vedanta, B-a-h-k-t-i V-e-d-a-n-t-a, I have seen him and chanted with him the last few years in different cities, and he has asked me to continue chanting, especially on public occasions.
Q. In the course of a Mantra chant, is there any particular position that the person doing that assumes?
A. Any position which will let the stomach relax and be easy, fall out, so that inspiration can be deep into the body, to relax the body completely and calm the mind, based as cross-legged.
Q. And is it, the chanting, to be done privately or is it in public?
Mr. Foran. Oh, your honor, I object . . .
The Court [Judge Hoffman]. I think I have a vague idea of the witness’ profession. It is vague.
Mr. Foran. I might indicate also that he is an excellent speller.
The Court. I sustain the objection, but I notice that he has said first he was a poet, and I will give him credit for all of the other things, too, whatever they are.
The Witness. Sir—
The Court. Yes, sir.
The Witness. In India, the profession of poetry and the profession of chanting are linked together as one practice.
The Court. That’s right. I give you credit for that.
[[Extraneous speaker-name without speech removed here by Jed.]]
[Allen says that he worked with Jerry on antiwar rallies in Berkeley during 1965, and was at the Human Be-In held in San Francisco in 1967.]
Q. Would you describe for the court and jury what the be-in in San Francisco was?
A. A large assembly of younger people who came together to—
Mr. Foran. Objection, your honor.
The Court. Just a minute. I am not sure how you spell the be-in.
Mr. Weinglass. Be-in, I believe. Be-in.
The Witness. Human be-in.
The Court. I really can’t pass on the validity of the objection because I don’t know—understand the question.
Mr. Weinglass. I asked him to explain what a be-in was. I thought the question was directed to that possible confusion. He was interrupted in the course of the examination.
Mr. Foran. I would love to know also, but I don’t think it has anything to do with this lawsuit.
Mr. Weinglass. Well, let’s wait and find out.
Mr. Foran. This is San Francisco in 1967.
The Court. I will let him, over the objection of the government, tell what a be-in is.
The Witness. A gathering together of younger people aware of the planetary fate that we are all sitting in the middle of, imbued with a new consciousness and desiring of a new kind of society involving prayer, music, and spiritual life together rather than competition and war.
Mr. Weinglass. Did you have occasion—and was that the activity that was engaged in in San Francisco at this be-in?
A. There was what was called a gathering of the tribes of all the different affinity groups, political groups, spiritual groups, Yoga groups, music groups, and poetry groups that all felt the same crisis of identity and crisis of the planet and political crisis in America, who all came together in the largest assemblage of much younger people that had taken place since the war . . .
The Court. Now having had it explained to me, I will hear from you.
Mr. Foran. I object, your honor.
The Court. I sustain the objection . . .
[Bill Kunstler, the other defense attorney, calls Foran out for laughing at Allen’s answer.]
[Allen then describes his first meeting with Abbie about [[Yippie]].]
A. We talked about the possibility of extending the feeling of humanity and compassion of the human be-in in San Francisco to the City of Chicago during the time of the political convention, the possibility of inviting the same kind of younger people and the same kind of teachers who had been at the San Francisco human be-in to Chicago at the time of the convention in order to show some different new planetary life-style than was going to be shown to the younger people by the politicians who were assembling . . .
Q. Do you recall what Mr. Hoffman said in the course of that conversation?
A. Yippie!—among other things. He said that politics had become theater and magic; that it was the manipulation of imagery through mass media that was confusing and hypnotizing the people in the United States and making them accept a war that they did not really believe in; that people were involved in a life-style that was intolerable to the younger folks, which involved brutality and police violence as well as a larger violence in Vietnam, and that ourselves might be able to get together in Chicago and invite teachers to present different ideas of what is wrong with the planet, what we can do to solve the pollution crisis, what we can do to solve the war in Vietnam, to present different ideas for making the society more sacred and less commercial, less materialistic, what we could do to uplevel or improve the whole tone of the trap that we all felt ourselves in as the population grew and as politics became more and more violent and chaotic.
. . . I was worried as to whether or not the whole scene would get violent. I was worried whether we would be allowed to put on such a situation. I was worried whether the government, you know, would let us do something that was funnier or prettier or more charming than what was going to be going on in the convention hall.
[The above was struck from the record. Allen went on to describe a phone conversation with Jerry about plans for Chicago.]
A. Yes. He said that he thought it would be interesting if we could set up tents and areas within the park where kids could come and sleep, and set up little schools like ecology schools, music schools, political schools, schools about the Vietnam war, to go back into history, schools with Yogis.
He suggested that I contact whatever professional breathing-exercise Yogi Swami teachers I could find and invite them to Chicago and asked if I could contact Burroughs and ask Burroughs to come also and teach nonverbal, nonconceptual feeling states.
[Len Weinglass asks Allen about a statement he made at a Yippie press conference held in March of 1968.]
A. My statement was that the planet Earth, at the present moment, was endangered by violence, overpopulation, pollution, ecological destruction brought about by our own greed, that the younger children in America and other countries of the world might not survive the next thirty years, that it was a planetary crisis that had not been recognized by any government of the world and had not been recognized by our own government, nor the politicians who were preparing for the elections; that the younger people of America were aware of that and that precisely what was called psychedelic consciousness; that we were going to gather together as we had before in the San Francisco Human Be-In to manifest our presence over and above the presence of the more selfish elder politicians who were not thinking in terms of what their children would need in future generations or even in the generation immediately coming or even for themselves in their own lifetime and were continuing to threaten the planet with violence, with war, with mass murder, with germ warfare, and since the younger people knew that the central motive would be a presentation of a desire for the preservation of the planet. The desire for preservation of planet and the planet’s form, that we do continue to be, to exist on this planet instead of destroy the planet, was manifested to my mind by the great Mantra from India to the preserver God Vishnu whose Mantra is Hare Krishna, and then I chanted the Hare Krishna Mantra for ten minutes to the television cameras and it goes:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna
Hare Hare, Rama Hare, Rama Rama
Q. Now in chanting that did you have an accompaniment of any particular instrument?
Mr. Foran. Objection is immaterial. He wants to know if there was accompaniment of an instrument.
The Court. By an instrument do you mean—
Mr. Kunstler. Your Honor, I object to the laughter of the Court on this . . . I think this is a serious presentation of a religious concept.
The Court. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand it because it was—the language of the United States District Court is English.
Mr. Kunstler. I know, but you don’t laugh at all languages.
The Witness. I would be glad to explain it, sir.
The Court. I didn’t laugh. I didn’t laugh.
The Witness. I would be happy to explain it.
The Court. I didn’t laugh at all. I wish I could tell you how I feel. Laugh, I didn’t even smile.
Mr. Kunstler. Well, I thought—
The Court. All I could tell you is that I didn’t understand it because whatever language the witness used—
The Witness. Sanscrit, sir.
The Court. What is it?
The Witness. Sanscrit, sir.
The Court. Sanscrit?
The Witness. Yes.
The Court. Well, that is one I don’t know. That is the reason I didn’t understand it.
The Witness. There is a popular song put out by the Beatles with those words.
The Court. I am not interested in—
Mr. Foran. Your Honor, of course the laughter came from everybody that Mr. Kunstler is usually defending for laughing.
Mr. Kunstler. Your Honor, I would say—you mean from the press?
The Witness. Might we go on to an explanation.
The Court. Will you keep quiet, Mr. Witness, while I am talking to the lawyers?
The Witness. I will be glad to give an explanation.
The Court. I never laugh at a witness, sir. I protect witnesses who come to this court. They are entitled to the protection of the Court. But I do tell you that as I am sure you know, the language of American courts is English. The English language, unless we have an interpreter for the remainder of this witness’ testimony.
Mr. Kunstler. No. I have heard, Your Honor, priests explain themselves in Latin in American courts and I think Mr. Ginsberg is doing exactly that same thing in Sanscrit for another type of religious experience.
The Court. No, no. You are mistaken.
Mr. Kunstler. Your Honor, I can’t—
The Court. I don’t understand Sanscrit. I venture to say the members of the jury don’t. Perhaps we have some people on the jury who do understand Sanscrit, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t even have known it was Sanscrit until he told me.
Mr. Kunstler. Your Honor, I don’t think it is being offered for people to understand the literal meaning of the words. It is being offered as an example of what he did before national television.
The Court. I can’t see that that is material to the issues here, that is all.
Mr. Weinglass. Let me ask this: Mr. Ginsberg, I show you an object marked 150 for identification, and I ask you to examine that object.
Mr. Foran. All right.
[Allen opens a box and begins to play music on what everyone in the court suddenly learns is a harmonium.]
Your Honor, that is enough. I object to it, Your Honor. I think that it is outrageous for counsel to—
The Court. You asked him to examine it and instead of that he played a tune on it.
Mr. Foran. I mean, counsel is so clearly—
The Court. I sustain the objection.
Mr. Foran. —talking about things that have no conceivable materiality to this case, and it is improper, Your Honor.
The Witness. It adds spirituality to the case, sir.
The Court. Will you remain quiet, sir.
The Witness. I am sorry.
The Court. My obligation is to protect you, but my obligation is to see that you act in accordance with the law.
The Witness. I agree, sir.
Mr. Weinglass. Having examined that, could you identify it for the Court and the jury?
Mr. Foran. I object to it. It is immaterial.
Mr. Weinglass. I am not offering it. It is an exhibit marked for identification. We are entitled to have it identified.
The Court. You are entitled to have it identified. What is it?
The Witness. It is an instrument known as the harmonium, which I used at the press conference at the Americana Hotel.
The Court. All you were asked was what is it, sir.
The Witness. It is a musical instrument which is used to accompany Mantra chanting, to accompany the chanting of the Hare Krishna Mantra, and other Mantras. It is commonly used in India—
The Court. You have answered that, sir.
Mr. Foran. I object to that.
The Court. I sustain the objection.
Mr. Weinglass. Now in the Mantra chanted at the press conference, were you accompanied with that instrument?
A. I was accompanying myself on that instrument. I was chanting, rather than pronouncing it as I did before. At the press conference, I chanted.
Q. Will you explain to the Court and to the jury what chant you were chanting at the press conference?
A. I was chanting a Mantra called the Maha Mantra, the Great Mantra of Preservation of that aspect of the Indian religion called Vishnu, the Preserver, whom every time human evil, human evil rises so high that the planet itself is threatened, and all of its inhabitants and their children are threatened, Vishnu will preserve a return.
Mr. Foran. I object to that. [Editor’s note: He would.]
The Court. Oh, yes, I sustain the objection, and I strike the answer of the witness. I direct the jury to disregard it. When you offer anything in a foreign language, sir, and you think it is material, you must have an interpreter here so that the witness can be—
The Witness. Sir, it is a legal record here.
The Court. Did you hear what I said earlier?
Mr. Weinglass. If the Court pleases, I do have an interpreter. The interpreter happens to be the witness.
The Court. Oh, no, that would hardly be fair. An interpreter must be responsible to the Court, and he must take a special oath. I don’t know whether you know that or not, but we have a special oath here for interpreters.
Mr. Weinglass. It is my understanding that an interpreter is only used when the witness is not proficient in the English language and requires the aid of an interpreter.
The Court. He used another language here.
Mr. Weinglass. And he has the capacity to explain it to the jury. Therefore an interpreter is not necessary.
The Court. It is impossible to cross-examine a man when he is using Sanscrit which is a language—
The Witness. I am speaking English, sir.
The Court. Which is not used. Now I have tried to be as kind as I could to you.
The Witness. I am trying to be kind to you.
The Court. I don’t want you to interrupt me when I am speaking.
[The jury is released for the day.]
Friday, December 12
[Before the session starts, Lee Weiner requests permission to leave for forty-five minutes to fix his glasses. The judge asks that he waive his right to be present. Lee’s reply is “Allen could never hurt me. Yes.”]
[Allen is asked by Len Weinglass to describe a meeting with Jerry held at Allen’s house in mid-April of 1968. This happens just after Allen has listed the categories of the Youth International party.]
Q. Looking at the top of the document, the left-hand column, is there a category indicated?
A. Yes, Music.
Q. Music. And then is there another category listed under that?
Q. And another category listed under that?
Q. Another under that?
Q. Under that?
Q. Under that?
Q. The next.
Q. And the last one?
Q. And your name appears in which category?
A. The religious category.
[The meeting is then discussed. Weinglass asks him to say what was related.]
A. Then I asked him what his personal intentions were for the Festival of Life, how he felt about it, what he wanted out of it, and he said he felt it was necessary that a lot of people come; that the only way a lot of people would come is if there were really good vibrations coming out of us and that he wanted it to be a peaceful gathering.
I asked him that specifically because I was scared— [An objection to a statement of feeling is made and sustained.]
A. I told him that I was scared of getting into a scene where I would get beaten up or a mob scene because I was not used to that and I didn’t want to. I was just simply frightened of too large a gathering which would involve conflict and fighting and getting my head busted in, and so I asked him how he felt about it, whether he was going to work for an actually peaceful gathering or not, because I didn’t want to participate unless it was going to be organized peacefully, and he said he wanted it to be peaceful because he wanted a lot of people there.
[A similar question is asked about a meeting with Abbie by phone in mid-August.]
A. He said literally, “The city officials are not granting us a permit and are hanging us up and dangling it in front of us and trying to discourage us from having a public assembly in Chicago during the time of the convention, he would continue applying to City Hall for permission and that possibly they might even call off the festival if they absolutely could not get permission, but would continue to the last day applying and try to get cooperation from the city.”
[Allen is not allowed to testify about how he flew to Chicago on August 13 to meet with city officials on behalf of a permit. The grounds are that no defendants were present. Allen manages to get in two “Hare Krishnas” before the judge shuts him off. He also mentions that he and the Yippies hoped for a nonviolent event, but the judge orders that struck from the record. Allen then testifies about a meeting held across from Lincoln Park the day before the convention.]
Q. Will you relate to the Court and jury what Jerry Rubin said?
A. Jerry Rubin said that he didn’t think the police would attack the kids who were in the park at night if there were enough kids there, that he didn’t think it would be a good thing to fight over the park if the police started fighting with the kids, if the police attacked the kids and tried to drive them out of the park as the police had announced at 11:00, that as far as he was concerned, he wanted to leave the park at 9:00 and would not encourage anybody to fight and get hurt that evening if the police did physically try to force everybody out of the park. That was on Saturday night, the first night when people would be in the park.
Q. Did the defendant Abbie Hoffman say anything at this meeting?
A. Abbie Hoffman said the park wasn’t worth fighting for, that we had on our responsibility invited many thousands of kids to Chicago for a happy festival of life, for an alternative proposition to the festival of death that the politicians were putting on, and that it wasn’t right to lead them or encourage them to get into a violent argument with the police over staying in the park overnight. He did not know, he said he didn’t know what to say to those who wanted to stay and fight for what they felt was their liberty, but he wasn’t going to encourage anybody to fight, and he was going to leave when forced himself.
[Allen is asked what he did when the police showed in the park that night.]
Q. Without relating what you said to another person, Mr. Ginsberg, what did you do at the time you saw the police do this?
A. I started the chant, O-o-m-m-m-m-m-m, O-o-m-m-m-m-m.
Mr. Foran. All right, we have had a demonstration.
The Court. All right.
Mr. Foran. From here on, I object
The Court. You haven’t said that you objected.
Mr. Foran. I do after the second one.
The Court. After two of them? I sustain the objection.
Mr. Weinglass. If the court please, there has been much testimony by the Government’s witnesses as to this Om technique which was used in the park. Are we only going to hear whether there were stones or people throwing things, or shouting things, or using obscenities? Why do we draw the line here? Why can’t we also hear what is being said in the area of calming the crowd?
Mr. Foran. I have no objection to the two OMs that we have had. However I just didn’t want it to go on all morning.
The Court. The two, however you characterize what the witness did, may remain on record, and he may not continue in the same vein.
Q. Did you finish your answer?
A. I am afraid I will be in contempt if I continue to Om. We walked out of the park. We continued chanting the Om for at least twenty minutes, slowly, gathering other people, chanting, Ed Sanders and I in the center, until there were a group maybe of 15 or 20 making a very solid heavy vibrational change of aim that penetrated the immediate area around us, and attracted other people, and so we walked out slowly toward the street, toward the Lincoln Park Hotel.
Q. What was occurring in the park at the time you began your Om chant?
A. A great deal of swift and agitated motion in many different directions without any center and without any calm. When we began chanting, as it included more and more people, there was one central sound and one central rhythmic behavior vocalized by all the people who participated and a slow quieting of the physical behavior of the people that were slowly moving out of the park. They all moved in one direction, those who were involved in the chanting, out of the park and away from the police calmly without running and without physically agitated behavior.
[On Sunday, Allen accompanied Dave Dellinger to meet with another city official. Allen’s plea for permits got the same result as had the previous four months of requests. Allen then returned to the park and chanted Om and a William Blake poem about tyranny. Allen is not allowed to recite the Blake poem, but gets in another Hare Krishna chorus when he describes how he and about one hundred other people chanted after the police invaded the park and took several people off in a police car.]
Q. What did you do when you saw the policemen in the center of the crowd?
A. Adrenalin ran through my body. I sat down on a green hillside with a group of younger people that were walking with me at about 3:30 in the afternoon, 4:00 sat, crossed my leg, and began chanting O-o-m, O-o-m-m-m, O-o-m-m-m, O-o-m-m-m.
Mr. Foran. I gave him four that time.
The Witness. I continued chanting for seven hours . . . About six hours I chanted Om and for the seventh hour concluded with the chant
Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare Hare,
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare Hare.
[Allen is asked to describe the scene at the barricade, where two hundred people chanted amid burning cans, cries of outrage, and the fanatic dedication to protecting the park that had become a symbolic home.]
Q. As you got there, what was occurring at that barricade?
A. There were a lot of young kids, some black, some white, shouting and beating on the tin barrels, making a fearsome noise.
Q. What did you do after you got there?
A. Started chanting Om there.
Q. And were you joined in that chant?
A. For a while I was joined in the chant by a lot of other people who were there until the chant encompassed most of the people by the barricade and we raised a huge loud sustained series of Oms into the air loud enough to like include everybody.
Q. Now did anything occur that caused that process to stop?
A. . . . Just as it reached like a great unison crescendo when all of a sudden a police car came rolling down into the group, right into the center of the group where I was standing, and with a lot of crashing and tinkling sound of glass and broke up the chanting, broke up the unison and the physical—everybody was holding on to each other physically—broke up that physical community that had been built and broke up the sound chant that had been built.
[Allen describes chanting on the shores of Lake Michigan, the gassing of the ministers in Lincoln Park, and Dave Dellinger’s attempts to secure peace on Michigan Avenue on Wednesday.]
Q. Could you explain to the Court and jury what you meant in that last statement of your message?
A. Immobilize an entire downtown Chicago street full of scared human beings, uniformed or naked—by immobilize I meant shut down the mental machinery which repeats over and over again the images of fear which are scaring people in uniform, that is to say, the police officers, or the demonstrators, whom I refer to as naked meaning naked emotionally and perhaps hopefully naked physically.
Q. And what did you intend to create by having that mechanism shut down?
A. A completely peaceful realization of the fact that we were all stuck in the same street, place, terrified of each other, and reacting in panic and hysteria rather than reacting with awareness of each other as human beings, as people with bodies that actually feel, can chant and pray and have a certain sense of vibration to each other of tenderness . . . which is what basically everybody wants rather than fear.
[Thomas Foran conducts the cross-examination. Foran spends ten minutes establishing Allen’s connection to the Yippies as chief “religious experimenter.” He makes some veiled remarks about Allen kissing Abbie and Tim Leary’s “religious experiences,” and then has Allen recite the following poem:]
Last night I dreamed
Of one I loved
for seven long years
but I saw no face
only the familiar
presence of the body;
sweat skin eyes
feces urine sperm
saliva all one
odor and mortal taste.
[The following dialog then transpires:]
Q. Could you explain to the jury what the religious significance of that poem is?
A. If you would take a wet dream as a religious experience, I could. It is a description of a wet dream, sir.
[Foran asks for a recitation of “In Society.”]
A. Yes, I will read it.
I walked into the cocktail party
room and found three or four queers
talking together in queertalk
I tried to be friendly but heard
myself talking to one in hiptalk . . .
I ate a sandwich of pure meat; an
enormous sandwich of human flesh,
I noticed, while I was chewing on it
it also included a dirty asshole. . . .
Q. Can you explain the religious significance of that poetry?
A. Actually, yes.
Q. Would you explain it to the jury?
A. Yes, one of the major yogas or yoking—yoga means yoke—is bringing together the conscious mind with the unconscious mind and in an examination of dream states in an attempt to recollect dream states no matter how difficult they are, no matter how repulsive they are, even if they include hysteria, sandwiches of human flesh, which include dirty assholes, because these are universal images that come in everybody’s dreams. The attempt in yoga is to enlarge consciousness, to be conscious that one’s own consciousness will include everything which occurs within the body and the mind.
[Allen recites “Love Poem on Theme by Whitman,” which is about the voice of the poem sharing a bride and groom’s wedding night.]
Q. Would you explain the religious significance of that poem?
A. As part of our nature, as part of our human nature, we have many loves, many of which are suppressed, many of which are denied, many of which we deny to ourselves. He said that the reclaiming of those loves and the becoming aware of those loves was the only way that this nation could save itself and become a democratic and spiritual republic. He said that unless there were an infusion of feeling, of tenderness, of fearlessness, of spirituality, of natural sexuality, of natural delight in each other’s bodies into the hardened materialistic, cynical, life-denying, clearly competitive, afraid, scared, armored bodies, there would be no chance for spiritual democracy to take root in America and he defined that tenderness between the citizens as in his words an adhesiveness, a natural tenderness flowing between all citizens, not only men and women but also a tenderness between men and men as part of our democratic heritage, part of the adhesiveness which would make the democracy function; that men could work together not as competitive beasts but as tender lovers and fellows.
So he projected from his own desire and from his own unconscious a sexual urge which he felt was normal to the unconscious of most people, though forbidden for the most part to take part.
“I will go into the bedroom silently and lie down
Between the bridegroom and the bride.”
He projected as he did in another poem, orgy, city of orgies, as he called New York, he projected physical affection even to the sexual—or his phrase is physical affection and all that is latently applied between citizen and citizen as part of the adhesiveness which would make us function together as a community rather than as a nation among the fabled damned of nations, which was his phrase in the essay “Democratic Vistas.” Walt Whitman is one of my spiritual teachers and I am following him in the poem, taking off from a line of his own and projecting my own actual unconscious feelings of which I don’t have shame, sir, which I feel are basically charming actually.
[Allen is asked by Weinglass on redirect to recite “[[Howl]].” He does so with all the emotion of an Old Testament prophet threatening sinners and standing with the oppressed. The jury is transfixed by the words, the energy, the waving arms and bobbing head of the wonderful madman before them. When he recites the lines]
Moloch. Moloch. Nightmare of Moloch.
Moloch the loveless.
Moloch the heavy judger of man
[and points an accusing finger at Hoffman. The judge shrinks from the eternal judgment like Sauron the evil wizard in Lord of the [[Rings]]. The scene is one of Old Testament fervor. The judge manages to resume his composure, but not before everyone in the stilled courtroom hears the lines]
Moloch the cross-boned soulless jailhouse
And congress of sorrows,
Moloch whose buildings are judgment.
Moloch the vast stone of war.
Moloch the stunned government.
[Allen continues, climbing higher with each incantation. He reels [[off]] 1,000 words, and suddenly drops off]
“That is fragmentary.”
Mr. Weinglass. I have nothing further.
The Court. Within the limits of that examination, I will permit further examination.
Mr. Foran. No thanks.
The Court. Nothing. You may go, sir.
The Witness. Thank you.
[Abbie Hoffman cries and joins the defendants and half the court when they rise in tribute as Ginsberg leaves. Lee Weiner leaves the courtroom to thank Allen for appearing. John Froines tells everyone how he has been “profoundly moved.” And Thomas Foran whispers to his assistant as Allen heads for the elevator, bowing and chanting his way through a crowded hallway. Foran is overheard as he mutters, “That goddamned fag.”]
The Chicago Conspiracy Trial officially ended last February, after five months, 22,000 pages of transcript, over 200 witnesses and scores of unprecedented acts of official repression and brutality. According to the jury, none of the seven Conspirators left (after Bobby Seale was assigned his own one-man Conspiracy Trial at a later date) had conspired to do anything. Lee Weiner and John Froines, indicted for teaching the use of incendiary devices, were found to be free of any guilt whatsoever. The other five (Dave Dellinger, Rennie Davis, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin) were found to be guilty only of crossing state lines on their way to a demonstration, and once at that demonstration, speaking to the crowds. Even before the jury rendered its verdict, however, Judge Julius Hoffman, sensing that the prosecution had not proved its case, took direct action. Judge Julius handed down vicious contempt sentences to all of the defendants and to their two attorneys, Bill Kunstler and Len Weinglass, ranging from two and one-half months for innocent Lee Weiner, to four years for attorney Kunstler.
The cost to appeal all of Judge Hoffman’s decisions is staggering. Send your checks made out to the “Chicago Legal Defense Fund,” to The Conspiracy, [[address elided by Jed]], Chicago, Illinois 60604