Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Lawyer, the Poet

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Lawyer, the Poet

Article excerpt

IN FEBRUARY, TOM STODDARD, FOUNDER OF LAMBDA LEGAL Defense and Education Fund and the Campaign for Military Service, champion of lesbian and gay and human rights, legal luminary, and now a tutelary divinity of progressive people everywhere, arrived in Paradise: cocktails with James Madison and Ida Lupino, testimonial dinners, epic sex parties, day trips to hell to witness the agonies of slow-roasting homophobes. Two months later a round, bearded bald man, who on wings of gorgeous ecstatic poetry had been a frequent visitor to Paradise, also arrived (after a brief but intense and enlightening purgatorial for having supported the North American Man-Boy Love Association) to take up permanent residence: Allen Ginsberg.

Stoddard's memorial service was a celebration of the majestic power of reason--in the hands of a brilliant, courageous, indefatigable practitioner--to move mountains. Anyone there who wasn't as politically engaged as he or she ought to be (and who is?) left feeling chagrined and inspired. The service reflected Stoddard's impossible energy and his large-spirited politics, which anticipated goodness forthcoming from even the flintiest places, if only one were willing to work for it.

There's a rumor--and I hope it's true, but I can't confirm it--that there was a discussion in the offices of The New York Times the day Allen Ginsberg died: Should his picture be on the front page of the paper? It was on the front page, but I hope the rumor's true because it demonstrates how spectacularly indigestible a real radical like Ginsberg remains. No laurel-wreathed investiture, no opulently produced anniversary volumes can transform the fundamental dangerousness of a poet like Ginsberg, breaker of vessels, madman. Bertolt Brecht dismissed play wrights who "hate capitalism because it is not harmless as they themselves strive to be." Ginsberg hated capitalism and strove mightily to be full of harm to the harmful, part of Moloch's overthrow.

Stoddard and Ginsberg: representing two great polarities (artificial as all such polarities must be), two lodestars beneath which all our contradictions and hopes are feverishly engaged. Stoddard believed in law, in the progressive potential of American constitutional democracy. Ginsberg, a Buddho-anarchist, participated in many political actions but belonged to no movement, including any organized lesbian and gay rights movement. …

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