inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #101 of 127: Peter Conners (peterconners) Tue 23 Jun 09 07:21
    
I’m currently researching and writing a book about the relationship
between Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary. About ten years ago, I was
researching Allen Ginsberg’s archives at Stanford and I became
fascinated with the correspondence between the two men. So after a
decade percolating in my brain, I finally felt ready to tackle the
book. For the past couple of years, I’ve been gathering hundreds of
pages of primary resources (correspondence, FBI/CIA files, back issues
of professional journals, forms that Leary used in his studies, etc.
etc.) and reading every worthwhile book I could track down. Those have
been slowly digested and now I’m about 125 pages into writing the book.
It’s tentatively titled, The White Hand Society: The Psychedelic
Partnership of Allen Ginsberg & Timothy Leary. I’m mainly interested in
the early 60s, when Leary was still at Harvard, and he and Ginsberg
were working closely to bring Ginsberg’s many contacts into the
Psilocybin Project. There were a very interesting couple of years
before the media & authorities got involved when Leary was still
considered a rising star in the field of Psychology and their belief in
the Project was earnest and passionate. The division of labor was
clear: Ginsberg was to help Leary make the contacts and urge people
toward participation in the Project and Leary was to be the
professional face who contextualized the drug in a way that straight
society understood. In those years, a fascinating roster of poets,
musicians, painters, publishers, filmmakers, and other related people
either passed through Harvard to take psilocybin or took it with Allen
and Timothy in NYC (Robert Lowell, Barney Rosset, Thelonious Monk,
Willem de Kooning, Charles Olson, Aldous Huxley, Kerouac, Burroughs…).
Of course, things got public and the media entered the fray shortly
thereafter – that stuff is interesting & will be included in the book
too. But I’m most interested in this quiet, underground period that
really served as the launching point for the psychedelic movement on
the East Coast. 

When I’m not working on The White Hand Society, I’m making final
adjustments and working on some additional poems for my next poetry
collection, The Crows Were Laughing in their Trees. That book is coming
out in 2010 with White Pine Press, the same great poetry publisher
that brought out my last collection, Of Whiskey & Winter. My agent also
has a couple of rock music-based novels that she’s beginning to shop
around, so we’ll see what happens with those. One of the things I’ve
learned in the literary trenches is to focus on your next project – the
only thing you can control in the writing world is the project you’re
working on. Ultimately, that’s the most interesting thing to the writer
as well.
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #102 of 127: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 23 Jun 09 07:56
    

<the Beatles (et al.) had flooded the world with color and optimism.>

Amazing how four lads from gray, industrial Liverpool could trigger a
major expansion of consciousness with colour and vibe.  Peter, you're 
tapping into the government sanctioned origins of the "flood" with this
new writing project. MK-Ultra (and the related testing at Harvard) may
be the ultimate example of unintentional kulturmutation.  Good luck
with the book!   
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #103 of 127: Steve Silberman (digaman) Tue 23 Jun 09 10:37
    
Having enjoyed your Dead book very much, I can't wait to read your 
Ginsberg book!

Get a load of this photograph:

<http://www.stevesilberman.com/downloads/ag.hitchcock.leary.ferling.sinaloa.63.
jpg>

That's Allen, Peggy Hitchcock, Tim, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti at the old 
Sinaloa nightclub in SF, a classic boho tourist trap.  I imagine that 
Peggy is playing a significant role in your book.  I'm friends with one of 
her sons, or stepsons.  She's still alive.

Allen, of course, was very intentional about wanting to change the world
-- going all the way back to his conversations about "the new
consciousness" with the nucleus of the Beat Generation in NYC in the late
'40s.  I think that overestimating the effect of that meme on the hippie
movement would be hard to do, but on the Dead...  Garcia seemed to be more 
interested in the "art" aspects of Beatdom than the political aspects.  
Like Dylan, and in a similar way, really.
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #104 of 127: Steve Silberman (digaman) Tue 23 Jun 09 10:42
    
I remember the first time I saw Ginsberg's kitchen in NYC, with pictures 
of Walt Whitman, Rimbaud, and various mandalas and whatnot on the walls, 
and soy sauce and macrobiotic stuff in the cabinets, thinking, "This looks 
just like one of my friends' kitchens."  And then I thought, "Of course it 
does...  Allen invented it!"
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #105 of 127: Peter Conners (peterconners) Tue 23 Jun 09 11:05
    
Hi Steve,

Many thanks for the good words on GUD and the great photo, etc. Yes,
Peggy will certainly come into play as soon as I get the gang off the
Harvard campus. Since I'm focusing primarily on the relationship
between A.G. & T.L. though, a good deal of my work has been
pre-Millbrook, including going back to the New Vision days in the 40s.
I'm also covering Albert Hofman and Huxley, along with the lesser known
pioneers Dr. Humphry Osmond, Dr. John Smythies, etc. Probably no real
Dead until I get to the '67 Be-In, and even then, only a mention.

Of course, as soon as you start discussing A.G.'s part in the early
phases you automatically bring in an amazing cast of characters, so the
book is also a study in the points where art/literature met
science/psychology and spawned the psychedelic baby. It's been an
illuminating project so far - fascinating having so many of the
original letters, etc. New & unforseen connections behind every page. 

>MK-Ultra (and the related testing at Harvard)<

Scott - do you know of a specific relation between the Psilocybin
Project and MK-Ultra? There was certainly govt behind lots of studies
and there was no doubt monitoring at every phase of Harvard, but I
haven't come across any direct funding connections. I'd welcome any
insights along those (or any other) lines. 

Peter
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #106 of 127: Peter Conners (peterconners) Tue 23 Jun 09 11:07
    
"And then I thought, "Of course it does...  Allen invented it!""

Nice! Yup, definitely tracking it all down to the source. 
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #107 of 127: Steve Silberman (digaman) Tue 23 Jun 09 11:07
    
HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Department of Social Relations

Center for Research in Personality
Morton Prince House
2 Divinity Avenue
Cambridge 38, Massachusetts

12 27 60


Allen

  Phone me collect DE 2 6223

    Want to talk to you.

      Nothing urgent, just moving so fast that I want to

        keep in touch.

          The ripples from that last weekend keep spreading.

            Big attack on monotheism.

              Well, not attack. We don't put down.

                What I mean is, big campaign to show people

                  They are Gods.

Peter

  You know all this, I guess.

    But they sure need to know it here.

Lafcadio

  The children ask about you
  
    They hope you'll be back here soon.

I've been writing ten twenty pages a day.

Finally revised (what you knew before) that 

you have to write about the mushrooms (by which I

     mean most moments of face-smash into real)

     in poetic beat.

All well here.

Phone

Love


        Tim
  
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #108 of 127: Peter Conners (peterconners) Tue 23 Jun 09 11:28
    
Great one, Steve! One of the areas that really pulled me in is the way
Leary started to incorporate hip slang - even free verse poetry -
after merging with Ginsberg's crew. The letters are a very revealing
way to see that transformation. You can see the split clearest when
Leary describes a situation to his professional peers and then
describes the same situation in letters to A.G. et. al. The clearest
example of that is in his Concord prison testing. He was working to
legitimize the Project and get quantifiable data (which he needed to
do), but he was also getting to turn on all these "cons" to psilocybin,
playing them jazz records, showing them art books, etc. So you have
these professional write-ups and presentation papers about the study,
then you have these hip letters to A.G. about turning on these guys to
all this new art. 

In other words, it's linguistically apparent when, as they say, the
worm turned.   
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #109 of 127: Steve Silberman (digaman) Tue 23 Jun 09 11:34
    
Awesome!
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #110 of 127: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 23 Jun 09 11:55
    

<do you know of a specific relation between the Psilocybin
Project and MK-Ultra?>

Other than the timeframe and funding from the US government, I don't
know the specific ties. (The book Acid Dreams is a good starting point
for the big picture stuff).  

Have you thought about contacting Baba Ram Dass/ Richard Alpert in New
Mexico about your project?  We're not going to have these direct
sources around to ask much longer, and so much of this information has
been largely suppressed over the years, (an indirect victim of
misinformation campaigns and a War on Drugs that started well before
Nancy Reagan).  Yet, as Steve's great post just showed, there are some
great pure artifacts out there if you're willing to mine for them.  

As for the Dead, you're probably aware that Robert Hunter took part in
the same V.A. MK-Ultra tests that Ken Kesey did circa 1960. 

IMO, this is the least studied, core component of the tumultuous '60s
and why more books like the one you are writing are important.        
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #111 of 127: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Tue 23 Jun 09 12:09
    
heh. I read that description of the new book and thought, wait til
<digaman> gets his hands on that. :)
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #112 of 127: Peter Conners (peterconners) Tue 23 Jun 09 12:41
    
At this point, I havent' been in touch with Alpert/Dass, but I've been
in touch with many executors and experts in order to get my hands on
all the letters and other primary resources. As I mentioned, I've got
hundreds of pages of those already in my possession. I've been
gathering them for a couple of years now (and, frankly, it's a real
pain in the ass... but that's another story). It's great stuff and is
forming the core of my book. For example, right now I'm looking at back
issues of the Harvard Crimson... specifically, an article written
about the Project and published 2/20/62 by Dr. Andrew T. Weil (who was
then, of course, not a best-selling integrative medicine guru, but a
student working at the Crimson). Amazing how those circles keep
spinning outward...

Yes, Acid Dreams is a great resource too. But to clarify, I haven't
seen any funding connection between Leary's Harvard project and the
govt or MK-Ultra. That would be a very important tie if it was in fact
present, but from what I can see, it's not. 
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #113 of 127: David Gans (tnf) Wed 24 Jun 09 12:25
    

Peter, our interview has officially ended, but I hope you'll stick around.
The topic will remain open, and I hope you've seen enough of the WELL to want
to stay with us.
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #114 of 127: Peter Conners (peterconners) Wed 24 Jun 09 12:38
    
David and Everyone - many thanks for asking me to do the interview.
There's so much great, smart energy happening here and it was truly
stimulating to be a part of it. I definitely plan on sticking around
and checking out other discussions, etc. "Just gotta poke around" And
I'll check back in here from time-to-time to respond to any other
Growing Up Dead or related questions too. Peace & blessings to one &
all, Peter
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #115 of 127: (dana) Wed 24 Jun 09 13:02
    
Thanks for joining us, Peter.
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #116 of 127: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 24 Jun 09 13:52
    
Yes, thanks Peter.
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #117 of 127: what another day it takes: (oilers1972) Wed 24 Jun 09 20:09
    
Indeed, thank you Peter.  I can't wait for your new books.
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #118 of 127: Infradibulated Gratility (ssol) Thu 25 Jun 09 05:15
    
Likewise!
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #119 of 127: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 26 Jun 09 13:25
    
Great conversation.  Thanks everybody.
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #120 of 127: Peter Conners (peterconners) Thu 2 Jul 09 16:16
    
Hey Everyone,

Just wanted to let you all know that my very own "Head Set" airs
tomorrow (7/3) on the G.D. channel on Sirius/XM! I read short sections
from Growing Up Dead and put together some other intros to accompany
the tunes. All the songs are from shows between 1987-1989.

The show airs tomorrow (7/3) at 5PM EST. For Sirius/XM subscribers,
the Grateful Dead channel is #32.

Cheers,

Peter

Cheers,
Peter
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #121 of 127: John (delphinus) Mon 6 Jul 09 03:19
    
Thanks all!
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #122 of 127: Robin Russell (rrussell8) Tue 7 Jul 09 13:14
    
I'm sorry I missed this discussion. I am looking forward to reading
your new book, Peter. You know you have it made when your book becomes
a TWA on the Well.
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #123 of 127: Peter Conners (peterconners) Tue 7 Jul 09 13:16
    
Thanks, Robin. I'm still popping in here, so feel free to send along
any questions once you dig into the book!
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #124 of 127: David Gans (tnf) Tue 7 Jul 09 14:55
    
Peter, come visit <deadlit.> and <tours.> and <gd.> !
  
inkwell.vue.355 : Peter Conners, Growing Up Dead
permalink #125 of 127: Peter Conners (peterconners) Wed 8 Jul 09 07:49
    
Thanks for the reminder, David! I just popped into Deadlit and found
the Beat discussion... jumped right in.

BTW, thanks again for providing the tunes for my Head Set. It was
great sitting with friends around ye olde sirius radio and listening to
the set of late 80s greats.
  

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