Ego Confession

By Ginsberg, Allen | Chicago Review, Summer-Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

Ego Confession


Ginsberg, Allen, Chicago Review


"Ego Confession" was inspired by a Cecil Taylor concert in San Francisco which Allen Ginsberg attended with Anne Waldman. As the jazz pianist played, Ginsberg wrote the first line into his journal: "I want to be known as the most brilliant man in America." He later said of the episode, "I was so ashamed of what I wrote down that I wouldn't let her see it. I hid my notebook from her with my hand Within a month I realized that the poem was funny. It's obviously a great burlesque, a take-off on myself, shameful, shocking. "(*) The poem was solicited by the editors of the "Talking American Poetry" issue, which appeared in Summer 1975. It has since appeared in his Mind Breaths: Poems 1972-1977 (City Lights, 1978), Collected Poems: 1947-1980 (Harper & Row, 1985), and Selected Poems: 1947-1995 (Harper Collins, 1996).

I want to be known as the most brilliant man in America

Introduced to Gyalwa Karmapa heir of the Whispered Transmission Crazy Wisdom Practice Lineage

as the secret young wise man who visited him and winked anonymously decade ago in Gangtok

Prepared the way for Dharma in America without mentioning Dharma-scribbled laughter

Who saw Blake and abandoned God

To whom Leafy the Messianic Fink sent a message darkest hour steel sheets "somewhere in the Federal Prison system"

who went backstage to Cecil Taylor serious chat chord structure & Time in nightclub

who fucked a rose-lipped rock star in a tiny bedroom slum watched by a statue of Vajrasattva -

and overthrew the CIA with a silent thought -

Old Bohemians many years hence in Viennese beergardens'll recall

his many young lovers with astonishing faces and iron breasts

his gnostic apparatus magical observation of spiderwebs

extraordinary cooking, lung stew & Spaghetti la Vongole and recipe for salad dressing 3 parts oil one part vinegar much garlic and honey a spoonful

his extraordinary ego, at service of Dharma and completely empty

unafraid its own self's spectre

parroting the gossip of gums and geniuses famous for their reticence -

Who sang a blues made rock stars weep and moved old black guitarists to laughter in Memphis -

I want to be the spectacle of Poesy triumphant over the trickery of the Omniscient breathing its own breath thru War tear gas spy hallucination

Whose common sense astonished gaga Gums and rich Artistes

Who could call the Justice department & threaten to Blow the Whistle

Who stopt the Wars, turned back petrochemical Industries' Captains to grieve and groan in bed

Who chopped wood, built forest houses & established farms

distributed his monies to poor poets & nourished the imaginative genius of the land

Sat silent in the roar of jazz writing poetry with an ink pen -

wasn't afraid of God or Death after his 48th year -

Let his brains turn to water under Laughing Gas his gold molar pulled by futuristic dentists

seaman knew ocean's surface a year

carpenter late learned bevel and mattock

son, conversed with elder Pound & treated his father gently

- all empty all for show, all for the sake of Poesy

to set surpassing example of sanity as measure for late generations

Exemplify Muse Power to the young avert suicide

accepting his own lie & the gaps between lies with equal good humor

Solitary in worlds full of insects & singing birds all solitary

- Who had no subject but himself in many disguises

some outside his own body including empty air-filled space in forests & cities -

Even climbed mountains to create his mountain, with ice ax & crampons & ropes, over Glaciers -

* Quoted in Barry Miles, Ginsberg: A Biography (New York: HarperPerennial, 1990), p.

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