Allen Ginsberg, author of the Beat Generation poem/manifesto Howl, travelled to Burlington, Vermont, in February of 1986. 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 Sandinista’s in Nicaragua, and other leftist government’s 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.” Lewis adds that “[Noam] Chomsky was one of a long line of liberal thinkers, musicians and artists who flocked to the mountain city.”
Ginsberg, who was a controversial figure in many regards, 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.