Allen Ginsberg on never working again (and living a “literary and quiet city-hermit existence” instead)

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Image: Carl Solomon, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs at the Gotham Book Mart celebrating the reissue of JUNKY, NYC, 1977.


I recently came across a wonderful quote from Allen Ginsberg, the Beat Generation poet best known for his incredible epic poem “Howl” (“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”) and wanted to share it with you.

I think that often we find ourselves reading books, articles and websites that push us to do more, see more, and be more, and I love that this conveys the opposite. Yes, motivating ourselves is important, but so is simplifying life and enjoying the little moments.

It reminds me somewhat of this Nicholas Carr quote: “there needs to be time for efficient data collection and time for inefficient contemplation, time to operate the machine and time to sit idly in the garden”.

But here’s the Ginsberg quote:

“I really would like to stop working forever–never work again, never do anything like the kind of work I’m doing now–and do nothing but write poetry and have leisure to spend the day outdoors and go to museums and see friends. And I’d like to keep living with someone — maybe even a man — and explore relationships that way. And cultivate my perceptions, cultivate the visionary thing in me. Just a literary and quiet city-hermit existence.”

Around 1953 Ginsberg began seeing a therapist at Langley Porter Institute, San Francisco, and recalls saying the above to him. He also remembers the therapists’ response: “Well, why don’t you?”

Mentioned in On the Poetry of Allen Ginsberg by Lewis Hyde (p405)


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