Saturday, May 26, 2007

Ginsberg's Welsh Acid Trip

The absolute zenith of the hippy experience in Wales occurred in July, 1967, when Allen Ginsberg dropped some acid at Capel-y-Ffin.

Ginsberg had been invited to Britain by RD Laing to speak at the Dialectics of Liberation Conference in London. Other speakers at the event included New Age academic Gregory Bateson and black activist Stokely Carmichael.

After the conference Ginsberg and his British publisher Tom Maschler headed to the latter's Welsh bungalow in the Golden Valley. There they ingested LSD. Ginsberg is said to have sat cross-legged for hours tripping on the beauty of the Welsh landscape before penning the poem: Wales, A Visitation. Another version of the story has Ginsberg and Maschler embarking on an LSD-fuelled hill walk.

Maschler had the good sense to take photographs of the acid trip - Ginsberg in a pair of wellington boots staring at bits of ancient Welsh rock. They were published along with the poem in 1967, 1968 and 1979 (see pic).

Within the Ginsberg canon Wales, A Visitation is still highly regarded and seen as an early instance of ecological poetry. According to the Beat poet turned hippy guru the title of the piece is a reference to Welsh bards who went from village to village bringing news and stories in rhyme.

Various recordings are available of Ginsberg reading Wales, A Visitation; and in Jerry Aronson's documentary The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg you can actually see him reciting the poem.

Ginsberg's acid trip is another example of the rather odd significance of Wales to the hippy psyche.