It’s true—I never slept with Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg at the 1983 West Virginia Inc. Writers Conference, at Cedar Lakes Resort in Ripley W.Va., from Boyd Carr illustrations at the time. Read full profile here.

By Douglas John Imbrogno | | june4.2023

In honor of iconic American poet Allen Ginsberg, who would have turned 97 yesterday on June 3, 2023, here is a music video of my 2004 song “I Never Slept With Allen Ginsberg.” The tune was inspired by the day I interviewed the poet when he was the keynote speaker at the 1983 West Virginia Writers conference at Cedar Lakes in Ripley, W.Va. And also by what happened later. After his address, a group of us gathered with him around a bonfire. Juiced by his squeezebox tunes, political chatter, William Blake poems set to song, and other substances, we went deep into the Appalachian night. Below are excerpts from an article I published upon launching a music video of the song in 2021. And here is the 1983 Huntington Herald-Dispatch profile, produced from my interview with Allen. His words and spirit remain pertinent to this day.

You can share “I Never Slept With Allen Ginsberg” from its Youtube link and also hear it on Spotify as part of my first album by garagecow ensemble.

Excerpts from this 2021 article:

I was a cub reporter of three years at the Huntington Herald-Dispatch in Huntington WV, still a greenhorn in West Virginia after, arriving in its cascading hills as a transplant from Cincinnati and the pancake flats of the Ohio heartland.

I was certainly starstruck, meeting up with Ginsberg for a sit-down interview in a wood-hewn meeting room at the rural center. I was a lover of not just his poetry, but the work of godfather-to-the-BEAT movement Lawrence Ferlinghetti, plus the breathless avalanche of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” which might as well have been a single run-on sentence, if a glorious one.

If you read his poetry collections, including “Mind Breaths” and “Plutonian Ode,” you learn Allen was wont to meet lovers at events showcasing his skills and lauding his talents—and then sometimes would write often graphic poems about their after-hours meetups.

But when we met in Ripley, alone in that meeting room, no arched eyebrows and ‘See-you-later?’ glances passed between us during the course of our entertaining two hours together. (Here instead, is what we talked about.) Later that day, Allen went on to deliver his keynote address to the writers’ conference. But the day was not yet done with this “poet of his time.” Word went around that there would be a bonfire as the sun fell beyond the hills that ringed the center. And Allen would be there.

I was part of a posse of 20 or so folks who gravitated to the fire circle in a dell. Allen, looking bemused, took a seat as someone stoked the fire into a blaze. A joint began a circuit of the circle for those interested. I was. (Back then, although not anymore.) … It wasn’t until the turn of the century that a song finally percolated up from that memorable day and evening.

Years later, after absolutely no fame and glory had descended on me and the song, and after the Internet had finally birthed into being, I web-searched the tune’s noteworthy title. I discovered it had indeed gotten radio airplay!

On a small public radio station out of Princeton, New Jersey.

On a program called: “Songs You’ll Never Hear on the Radio.”

This would be very, very true … | READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

Various versions of Allen Ginbserg through the years of his long, creative life.

“I Never Slept With Allen Ginsberg”
by Douglas John Imbrogno
(copyright 2004/2023)

Allen plays the squeezebox while we pass a joint around.
Singing poetry of William Blake while sitting on the ground.
Talking of the Rockefellers, how they rule the roost,
with their ancient dirty dollars and the power it produced … 

I never slept with Allen Ginsberg, but I miss him still.
Yet I visit with him now and then — guess I always will.

The campfire spits a dozen sparks, they glow like fireflies.
Above our heads a thousand stars lie frozen in the skies.
I have no place to sleep tonight, I didn’t get a room.
I will lay my head beside this blaze as if it were a womb.

I’m just a tourist in his world, a poet of his time …
About all I can offer are these verses and these rhymes.

I ask about Jack Kerouac.” I loved him,” he replies.
He gazes at me smartly with those drooping, knowing eyes.
I tell him of a favorite line of poetry he wrote:
The million unutterable thoughts of frogs...’
“Jack gave me that,” he notes.

With just a single gesture I could maybe share his bed.
But it’s not his body that I want, but what’s inside his head.

The campfire burns to ember, everybody goes to sleep.
In a marijuana vision, I see things that seem so deep.
Trees around the conference ground, raise up their limbs in praise …
For the everlasting holy moment of these holy days.

I never slept with Allen Ginsberg, but I miss him still.
Yet I visit with him now and then — guess I always will.

Twenty years beyond that night, I lay in reverie,
With “Mind Breaths” and “Plutonian Ode’s” erotic poetry.
I could have been a poem and brought some comfort to the man.
But I was just a timid boy, I was just a wide-eyed fan…

I never slept with Allen Ginsberg, but I miss him still.
Yet I visit with him now and then -— guess I always will.
I never slept with Allen Ginsberg, but I miss him still.
Yet I visit with him now and then — guess I always will.

“I Never Slept With Allen Ginsberg” song and music video credits:

Douglas Imbrogno
Gar Ragland 
Ammed Solomon 
Bob Webb

Bobby Lee Messer
FIRE CIRCLE (in video):
+ Doug Minnerly
+ Members of Beyond the Vale Sustainability Collective, Hurricane WV

from “An Elegy for Allen Ginsberg” (2006 film)


CHARACTERS, PART 1: A music video about how I never slept with Allen Ginsberg: November 4, 2021: What do you get when you mix famous poet Allen Ginsberg, a bonfire deep in the West Virginia hills, an interview, and a recording studio. Well, 30 years later you get a music video.

CHARACTERS, PART 2: Allen Ginsberg speaks up in West Virginia: November 4, 2021: In Part 2 of our Allen Ginsberg in West Virginia history, we reprint an interview with the poet who was featured at the 1983 WV Writers Inc., conference deep in the West Virginia hills.

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