Allen Ginsberg Reads a Poem He Wrote on LSD to William F. Buckley

On Sep­tem­ber 3, 1968, William F. Buck­ley invit­ed poet Allen Gins­berg onto his TV pro­gram, “Fir­ing Line.” It was an odd encounter. “We’re here to talk about the avant-garde,” Buck­ley says grandil­o­quent­ly. “I should like to begin by ask­ing Mr. Gins­berg whether he con­sid­ers that the hip­pies are an inti­ma­tion of the new order.”

“Ah,” says Gins­berg, “why don’t I read a poem?”

Buck­ley smiles uncom­fort­ably as Gins­berg reach­es into his bag and pulls out a poem called “Wales Vis­i­ta­tion,” writ­ten under the influ­ence of LSD dur­ing a vis­it the pre­vi­ous year to the ancient ruins of Tin­tern Abbey, on the Riv­er Wye in South­east Wales. It was the same place that inspired William Wordsworth to write his “Lines Com­posed a Few Miles above Tin­tern Abbey” in 1798 and Alfred, Lord Ten­nyson to write “Tears, Idle Tears” in 1847. Buck­ley set­tles back in his chair as Gins­berg reads three of nine stan­zas from “Wales Vis­i­ta­tion,” begin­ning with the first:

White fog lift­ing & falling on moun­tain-brow
Trees mov­ing in rivers of wind
The clouds arise
as on a wave, gigan­tic eddy lift­ing mist
above teem­ing ferns exquis­ite­ly swayed
along a green crag
glimpsed thru mul­lioned glass in val­ley raine–

To fol­low along with the oth­er two stan­zas recit­ed by Gins­berg and to read the rest of the poem, you can open this page in a new win­dow. Also don’t miss Gins­berg read­ing his sig­na­ture Beat poem, “Howl”. It’s a rol­lick­ing 26 minute affair, and you can always find it in our col­lec­tion of Free Audio Books.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

William F. Buck­ley Meets (Pos­si­bly Drunk) Jack Ker­ouac, Tries to Make Sense of Hip­pies, 1968

Ken Kesey’s First LSD Trip Ani­mat­ed

William F. Buck­ley Flogged Him­self to Get Through Atlas Shrugged

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