Allen Ginsberg, author of the Beat Generation poem/manifesto Howl, was feeling the Bern long before it was popular.
In February of 1986 Ginsberg travelled to Burlington, Vermont. Bernie Sanders, who was mayor of the town at the time, had attracted national attention for openly referring to himself as a Democratic Socialist and for his outspoken support of Fidel Castro, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and other leftist governments and movements.
As Paul Lewis writes in an article for The Guardian, a trip Sanders took to Nicaragua and his efforts to convince President Ronald Reagan to meet with Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega were “hailed by leftwingers across the country” and “cemented Burlington’s reputation as a magnet for anti-establishment types.”
“Chomsky was one of a long line of liberal thinkers, musicians and artists who flocked to the mountain city,” writes Lewis.
Ginsberg titled his ode to Sanders “Burlington Snow.” A note on the handwritten and signed poem suggests he read it at the Maverick Bookstore in Burlington on 21 February 1986. The original handwritten copy of the poem remains in Sanders’s mayoral archives.
Socialist snow on the streets
Socialist talk in the Maverick bookstore
Socialist kids sucking socialist lollipops
Socialist poetry in socialist mouths
—aren’t the birds frozen socialists?
Aren’t the snowclouds blocking the airfield
Social Democratic Appearances?
Isn’t the socialist sky owned by
the socialist sun?
Earth itself socialist, forests, rivers, lakes
furry mountains, socialist salt
Isn’t this poem socialist? It doesn’t
belong to me anymore.
This article, “Allen Ginsberg Wrote a Poem for Bernie Sanders,” originally appeared at The Progressive Standard in June of 2016 under the byline of “Jason Clarke” and was republished at The Frank Martin Review on 26 June 2016. Featured image courtesy of Wesley Fryer/Flicker under an Attribution Creative Commons Generic 2.0 license. The image is cropped here.