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Joanne Kyger

Letter to Nemi April 10 1962.


Hello dear Nemi, Yass I got your letter before I left Japan and I bought you a lovely green sari which I will send you later from Japan. Please send me all your paintings in return. I cannot stand the Indian mentality, they are very 1930's and vile & bad tempered beyond BElief. Allen Ginsberg said he would like to hit his walking stick over the heads of some dirty little boys who were hanging around staring at us in a bus stall the other day. I have reviled them beyond words but unfortunately they don't understand fuck & get you shiteating asshole hands off my luggage & things like that. Actually the heat now makes one more foul. And when they're not trying to shine your shoes as you walk along or stuffy a baby in your face through a train window or trample you to death trying to get a train seat before you, they are acting unbearable hoipoloi and asking you what part of the 'States' you're from, and telling you how screwingly SPIRItual they all are, and how they have two transistor radios in their family.

Nemi I do hope my humah was not so heavy handed in my last letter that you misinterpreted my zealous social and political goals. Do not worry. I still hate everybody.

Peter Orlofsky locks himself in the bathroom all night and smokes opium and then vomits all the next morning so we travel slowly.

We met the Dalai Lama last week right after he had been talking with the Kind of Sikkim, the one who is going to marry an American college girl. The Dal is 27 and lounged on a velvet couch like a gawky adolescent in red robes. I was trying very hard to say witty things to him through the interpreter, but Allen Ginsberg kept hogging the conversations by discribing his experiments on drugs and asking the Dalai Lama if he would like to take some magic mushroom pills and were his drug experiences of a religious nature until Gary said really Allen the inside of your mind is just as boring and just the same as everyone else's is it necessary to go on; and that little trauma was eased over by Gary and the Dalai talking guru to guru like about which positions to take when doing meditation and how to breathe and what to do with your hands, yes yes that's right says the Dalai Lama. And then Allen Ginsberg says to him how many hours do you meditate a day, and he says me? Why I never meditate, I don't have to. The Ginsberg is very happy because he wants to get instantly enlightened and can't stand sitting down or discipline of the body. He always gobbles down his food before anyone else has started. He came to India to find a spiritual teacher. But I think he actually believes he knows it all, but just wishes he Felt better about it.


How is that veterinarian you were going out with. Has his wife had kittens yet/har har. I do think the masses stink, really I do Nemi, don't worry. We are leaving India immediately just as soon as we make ourselves unpopular with some rich girl Allen Ginsberg knows in Bombay who has an air conditioned apartment. If you could just see us, our appearance. I try to keep body and gentility together but it is getting spiritless since I have had to wear the same black dress for the last three months (I wear it all day & stay up half the night laundering it. I have discovered, by the way, that ironing is not really necessary, you just tell everyone that you jus got up from a nap.) But Allen Ginsberg i running around in an unwashed white Indian (grey) pajama outfit and flapping his arms & legs, or else very short shorts from Israel, and a Greek shirt and red nylon socks. He is balding on top, his curling hair down his neck.

But if you think His hair is long, you should see Peter Orlofsky whose hair actually falls over his face to his nose in front (but that's all right because he can take drugs behind it easier) and down to his shoulders in back & a tee shirt, that doesn't quite cover 7 inches of his stomach in the front and some tennis shoes full of holes without any shoe laces. The Indians for their own perverse reasons seem to adore him. Gary persists in wearing one gold earring. Whenever I see any other American tourists I am so embarrassed I could die. You see I am thoroughly middle class at heart and all I want to do is learn how to play bridge. Don Allen took all my poems for his next anthology, then later on asked Gary to ask me to send him a short biography, and absolutely no word to me. He's a Grove Press editor. If someone doesn't get famous out of my acquaintances my life will be just wrecked because all the bawdiness for no purpose. If I don't write a short pure jewel of a novel or get some poems published I'm going to POison someone. Actually I've sent nothing out because my typing is so poor after working all those years with hangovers at Brentano's. There's no booze in India. I haven't had a drink for 4 months now . . .

I dearly hope Time magazine pays no attention to us until I am in the foreground with my smart published novel and nifty green silk toreodor pants and all my jewelry from the Tibetan market. I weight 119 lbs & have crows feet at the corners of my lovely beatnik eyes. I am going to try those face recipes for rose petals you sent, very soon. Before its too late. The thing is, I am sounding rather bitter because its been years since I've been able to get any wild martini attention. All I do is stand around in this black drip dry dress in India.

You'll have to figure out how to wear the sari yourself, or you can make it into a dress or something. Tell me how you've arranged the studio. Have you painted it flat white yet? I am too repelled by the Indians to ask how to drape a sari. Actually the country itself and the things in it are quite lovely oh hell hell. I hope Dave B. doesn't take all of the price of your paintings in commission. Write SOOn.

Love Joanne.


Reprinted with permission
from The Japan and India Journals: 1960-1964,
Tombouctou, 1981


J A C K E T  # 11 
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