When Ginsberg Met Monk

Dear Mr Monk,

Allen Ginsberg tells me that he has spoken to you about our mushroom research. We find that they do great things for talented people and we are going to continue giving them to people in the arts and learned professions.

I should like very much to talk to you about our research, and tell you about our results so far. I’ll be in New York the weekend of January 14th and shall give you a ring.

I have followed your work with respect and pleasure and look forward to talking with you.

Sincerely yours,
Timothy Leary

(Letter from Leary to Thelonius Monk c. 1961, published in White Hand Society: The Psychedelic Partnership of Timothy Leary & Allen Ginsberg, published by City Lights, 2010.)

Thelonious Monk & Allen Ginsberg
Monk and Ginsberg in Monterrey, 1963. Photo by Jim Marshall.

“Isn’t it funny? As Jim [Marshall] says, it looks like Ginsberg is looking at God. Again, Jim was there photographing the Newport Jazz Festival and so with all of Jim’s photographs, I think, we talked about that he captured the moment but also, it was really a different time back then. Those types of access–the all access that Jim had–doesn’t happen today because musicians have their handlers, managers. You have all of these layers that you have to go through but back then, there really wasn’t that. He would wander backstage at all of these festivals and concerts and he was able, through becoming a fly on the wall, to capture the moment.

“This was a tribute to Jim again, he saw that Ginsberg was totally stunned and amazed like ‘I can’t believe I’m talking to Monk’ and captured that photograph which is pretty incredible. Ginsberg was well known at that point too because of the ‘Howl’ that he had written. It’s just pretty cool for Ginsberg to be that shot. You almost feel voyeuristic when you look at that because it’s such an intimate moment for Ginsberg because it’s like wow, Jim caught it.”–Amelia Davis, assistant to photographer Jim Marshall.

Related posts:

This entry was posted in Books from City Lights Publishers, Throwback Thursday and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.