Saturday, 4 October 2014


Bugs (pictured here with John Giorno) interviewed John Giorno for the January 24, 2008, cover story of Montreal's HOUR magazine

John Giorno remembers the moment he met Allen Ginsberg like it was yesterday. It was 1958, and they were both attending a reception at Columbia University where Giorno was a student and editor of The Columbia Review.

Giorno idolized Ginsberg, a Columbia grad whose landmark 1956 poem Howl is one of the principal works of the Beat Generation, along with Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch.

"When I first read Howl I was a 19-year-old gay man in 1950s America and Allen was the first writer to reflect my mind," Giorno recalls today. "I didn’t see Allen standing with his back to me, but his elbow was sticking in my rib. My girlfriend said, ‘There’s that poet you like.’ Well, he liked young boys and I was a poet and we started blabbing. He liked me. Then there was this [other] guy who put his chin on my left shoulder and it was Jack Kerouac! He’s tanned and three inches from my face."

Giorno laughs.

"I was just awestruck – On the Road had come out a year earlier. I was speechless. He looked like a tanned Marlon Brando! He leaned forward and spoke in my ear and I’m thinking, ‘Jack Kerouac’s lips have just touched my ear!’ I still don’t understand what he said!"

Giorno, now 72, would become lifelong friends with Ginsberg, Kerouac and later Burroughs, so much so that the internationally acclaimed poet has become known as one of the last living sons of the Beat Generation. "I’m a bit younger than all of them, that’s why I’m a son. But it’s one of those meaningless titles."