Synopses & Reviews
Here, for the first time, is a volume that gathers the published verse of Allen Ginsberg in its entirety, a half century of brilliant work from one of America's great poets. The chief figure among the Beats, Ginsberg changed the course of American poetry, liberating it from closed academic forms with the creation of open, vocal, spontaneous, and energetic postmodern verse in the tradition of Walt Whitman, Guillaume Apollinaire, Hart Crane, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams. Ginsberg's classics Howl, Reality Sandwiches, Kaddish, Planet News,
and The Fall of America
led American (and international) poetry toward uncensored vernacular, explicit candor, the ecstatic, the rhapsodic, and the sincere—all leavened by an attractive and pervasive streak of common sense. Ginsberg's raw tones and attitudes of spiritual liberation also helped catalyze a psychological revolution that has become a permanent part of our cultural heritage, profoundly influencing not only poetry and popular song and speech, but also our view of the world.
The uninterrupted energy of Ginsberg's remarkable career is clearly revealed in this collection. Seen in order of composition, the poems reflect on one another; they are not only works but also a work. Included here are all the poems from the earlier volume Collected Poems 1947-1980, and from Ginsberg's subsequent and final three books of new poetry: White Shroud, Cosmopolitan Greetings, and Death & Fame. Enriching this book are illustrations by Ginsberg's artist friends; unusual and illuminating notes to the poems, inimitably prepared by the poet himself; extensive indexes; as well as prefaces and various other materials that accompanied the original publications.
"Counterculture icon, beat apostle, Buddhist chanter, heir to William Blake, unapologetic explorer of intoxicating substances, world traveler, political protest leader, celebrant of gay sex, chronicler of New Jersey Jewish heritage and of Lower East Side post-hippie bohemians, Ginsberg (1926 1997) became by the midpoint of his career the most famous American poet of his era. At first hardworking and tormented, later on a spontaneous, welcoming mentor, the writer who in Howl (1956) 'saw the best minds of my generation starving hysterical naked,' and who mourned his psychotic mother in the wrenching title poem of Kaddish (1960) kept creating entertaining (if not quite so innovative) poems, for almost three decades after he rose to fame. This first complete collection of Ginsberg's work reproduces his 1980 Collected Poems including all the extensive notes: here are 'Howl' and 'Kaddish' and the great anti Vietnam War poem 'Wichita Vortex Sutra'; here too are the poems about Prague and Cornwall, Benares and Shanghai and the Australian outback, the songs and chants in quatrains (with sheet music) and the unashamed odes to beautiful young men. This complete edition adds White Shroud (1986), Cosmopolitan Greetings (1994) and the aptly titled Death and Fame: Last Poems (2000). A hefty, vivid and important tome, it should remind us just how much Ginsberg accomplished." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Allen Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1926, a son of Naomi and lyric poet Louis Ginsberg. As a student at Columbia College in the 1940s, he began a close friendship with William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac, and he later became associated with the Beat movement and the San Francisco Renaissance in the 1950s. After jobs as a laborer, sailor, and market researcher, Ginsberg published his first volume of poetry, Howl and Other Poems
, in 1956. "Howl" defeated censorship trials to become one of the most widely read poems of the century, translated into more than twenty-two languages, from Macedonian to Chinese, a model for younger generations of poets from West to East.
Ginsberg was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, was awarded the medal of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French minister of culture, was a winner of the National Book Award (for The Fall of America), and was a cofounder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute, the first accredited Buddhist college in the Western world. He died in New York City in 1997.