Allen Ginsberg, LSD poetry and sacrificing chickens: the birth of the ’60s hippie underground revealed

Uncut celebrates the International Poetry Incarnation

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Conventional wisdom is that Barbara Rubin, Ginsberg’s companion, first suggested hiring the biggest hall in London, but Richter recalls differently. “The next day we tried to find a venue. I had been wandering around Kensington, and went to the Albert Memorial to smoke a joint and relax. I was sitting across from the Albert Hall and I thought, ‘My God, let’s really create a stir.’ I went over and they said they had a date a week later. I went back and told Allen. He went on TV and told everybody else. It was that simple.”

The 7,000-seat hall, usually the venue for the Proms and classical concerts, was booked. Now the fun of organisation began. “We fought a great deal,” admits Richter. “A bunch of free thinkers with nobody in charge.” The poets eventually settled on an international line up of 18 poets from six countries including Ginsberg and fellow beats Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso; Trocchi, Horovitz and Adrian Mitchell from the UK; Holland’s Simon Vinkenoog and Austrian Ernst Jandl. Ginsberg insisted that Trocchi act as compere, a job he took to with relish. Trocchi had some experience as a ringmaster. After reading erotic novel The Story Of O, he had organised an orgy at which he corrected the males on their sexual technique with a long wooden ruler.

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Trocchi also dominated a meeting at which the poets thrashed out a manifesto in the form of a collaborative poem. Horovitz explains, “Alex said, ‘Allen, never mind about the manifesto, do you think we should have our spikes out on stage?’ and I said ‘Oh come on Alex, some of us don’t even have spikes, let’s just have a poetry gig.’ Some of the poets were drug evangelists, while some were bored shitless with Alex being unable to do anything without fixing up despite his huge grandiose plans.”

Richter recalls one Trocchi scheme with a chuckle. “Alex wanted to sacrifice a chicken on an altar in the middle of the reading. We all said, ‘We can’t do that, the cops will bust us’, and he was saying ‘No, it’ll be great publicity.’ These arguments went on and on…”

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