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Death and Fame: Last Poems, 1993-1997

Death and Fame: Last Poems, 1993-1997

by Allen Ginsberg

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Allen Ginsberg was one of the bravest and most admired poets of this century. Famous for energizing the Beat Generation literary movement upon his historic encounter with Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs in mid-century New York City, Ginsberg influenced several generations of writers, musicians, and poets. When he died on April 5, 1997, we lost


Allen Ginsberg was one of the bravest and most admired poets of this century. Famous for energizing the Beat Generation literary movement upon his historic encounter with Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs in mid-century New York City, Ginsberg influenced several generations of writers, musicians, and poets. When he died on April 5, 1997, we lost one of the greatest figures of twentieth-century American literary and cultural history. This singular volume of final poems commemorated the anniversary of Ginsberg's death, and includes the verses he wrote in the years shortly before he died.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
There has never been an American poet as public as Ginsberg. He bared -- and dared -- all: as Beat, as bohemian, as gay man, as Buddhist, left-winger, East Village stroller -- greeting all with messages of peace, dissent and sex. Despite his unorthodoxies, he belonged very much to a culture he helped build. Above all he was a survivor (unlike many of his compatriots), a seemingly eternal and yet contemporary voice always fresh with headlines. This volume, to be published on the second anniversary of his death, is no throwaway compendium of scattered verses. Rather, it is a perfect capstone to a noble life; the authentic, unmistakably Ginsbergian nature of its themes ("God"; "Excrement"; "Butterfly Mind") mixes effortlessly with remarkably intimate renderings of his approaching death. Though diabetes and heart problems plagued his last years, Ginsberg was not told of his metastasizing liver cancer till a week before he succumbed, during which time he worked on his last poem, "Things I'll Not Do (Nostalgias)," which poignantly lists friends and places and dreamscapes that will be forever unvisited by him. Robert Creeley's short foreword is a dissertation in abstract, reminding us of the inimitable Ginsberg cadences--"no poet more heard, more respected, more knew the intricacies of melody's patterns." It is "the last mind," says Creeley, of "the enduring friend." And no friend of Ginsberg's will be without this book; no friend of American poetry should be either.
Library Journal
"If you've an ounce of strength, use it to look inside," Ginsberg says in a 1996 poem, written as his health was failing. Chronologically arranged and judiciously edited, this volume collects poems from January 1993 through March 1997. Built around Ginsberg's trademark concerns, we find explicit homosexual erotica, with parts of the body that are usually kept hidden brought to the forefront. But Ginsberg's tenderness and caring is also much in evidence, as in "New Stanzas for Amazing Grace," a song reaching out to the homeless. In 21 poems written during the final month of his life, Ginsberg captures the child's sense of enchantment, often turning to whimsical rhyme; whether it's five pages of couplets pointing out CIA involvement in drug wars or giving advice to readers in poetry slams, we're returned to a time when putting words on paper was pure enjoyment (assuming the reader can overlook extensive annotations). Every book by Ginsberg should be in most libraries, but this one is essential.-- Rochelle Ratner, formerly with Soho Weekly News, New York
This posthumous collection gathers the last 21 poems written by Ginsberg. In them, he critiques politics and culture, celebrates his homosexuality, remembers bygone friends and lovers, and laments the effects of aging. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Pity the young reader who first encounters the famous Beat poet in this last volume written before his death in 1997. When they read Ginsberg's confession in "Is About" ("Allen Ginsberg is about confused mind writing down newspaper/headlines from Mars"), they won't know whether to laugh or feel sorry for this self-proclaimed "pederast" and "Beat icon." Certainly, new readers won't realize that this entire collection is nothing less than an endless (and unintentional) parody of every form and trope from Ginsberg's long career. There are: the political rants about the CIA and repressive Amerika ("Reverse the rain of terror on street consciousness U.S.A."); the quasi-Buddhist chantverse ("Catholicism capish/Catholicism capish/Catholicism abortion capish/Capish capish capish"); the biblical-Whitmanesque, long-line verse ("Walking with aching back at base of spine, walked stiffly to kitchen/toilet to pee"); the long, breathless bop prosody; and lots of childlike ditties and silly songs that prove once and for all that Ginsberg is not the second-coming of Blake. The title poem, a grandiose vision of his own funeral, catalogues his many lovers and samples the countless readers he's influenced. Old age and impending death inspire much scatology ("Shit machine shit machine/I'm an incredible shit machine"), none of it Swiftian. Further evidence that the Beat Generation is a sociological phenomenon (not an artistic one) that loses its bite out of its historical context. What might have shocked and entertained in the '50s, here seems the sad and pathetic ravings of a dirty old man.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
6.16(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.36(d)

Read an Excerpt

New Democracy Wish List

for President Clinton White House

Retro Axioms:

"Progress" ended in XX century.

Hyper-rationalism reduces natural complexity of nature through narrow
  thought abstraction; Hyper-rationalization, hyper-industri-
  alization & Hyper-technology create chaos.

U.S. command economy subsidizes fossil fuel and nuclear Energy &
  Science, Agriculture, Air & Motor Transport, Banking,
  Communications, Military Industrial Complex, licit & illicit
  psychoactive Drugs, also rules Mass Media via FCC. American
  Free Market is hi-tech myth with national socialist central-
  ized regulation implicit everywhere except small business &
  little magazines.

Muscle Power connected to appropriate hi-tech might rehabilitate

Lacks & Needs:

Fossil Fuels retard the planet. Detoxify America: tainted Fire
  poisons Earth, fouls Air & pollutes Water.

Emphasize prevention & alternative medicine with medical insurance
  rebates for not using Self-insured health credits: like
  mythic China, "Only pay Doctor when you are well."

Fund Ryan White Care Act, separate Church & State in Center for Dis-
  ease Control, fund bleach kits, needle exchange & plainspoken
  AIDS education, build infrastructure of decentralized com-
  munity based health care preventative medicine early inter-
  vention clinics for poverty class disease-prone high-risk
  teens women & men living with AIDS & TB inner city plagues.

Coordinate National crash program to research inexpensive anti-
  AIDS medicines.

Separate Church & State in arts, education & civil law. RestoreNa-
  tional Endowment for the Arts & FCC freedom from
  Fundamentalist political intrusion.

Sexuality's loose not fixed. Legalize it.

Decriminalize addictive drug problem, doctors can cure addiction or
  provide maintenance if no cure. Reduce mass-million expense
  on narcotics-addicted political prisoners overcrowding courts
  & jails, Medicalize drug trade.

Decriminalize marijuana, its disadvantages are minor; reserve hemp
  grass as unadvertised private small cash crop for failing
  family farms, encourage hemp fabric industries.

Privatize & entrust psychedelics to medical educational priestly
  professions. End Military monopoly on LSD research and

End tobacco farming subsidies, cut use. Ex-Nicotine lobbyists working
  in Clinton's new White House can stop smoking.

Shift agricultural subsidies toward grain beans & vegetable diet. Tax
  meat as a nutritional agronomic & ecologic disaster.

With massive scale reforestation rural & in wilderness, plant also uni-
  versal urban tree rows.

Establish Civilian Conservation Corps for Urban homesteading, thin out
  corrupt local bureaucracies obstructing populist housing re-

Encourage international trade in Eco-technology in place of enabling
  codependency on weapons trade.

Inaugurate National "Limits of Growth" Program for Population/Land

Jump start national state & city human and industrial waste compost &

Honor primary and secondary school teachers, elevate respect, reward
  educators as handsomely as Plumbers, reduce class crowding to
  human size, under 15 students; encourage national child-care

Take back money from SLA bankruptcy profiteer goniffs.

Purge U.S. military death squad subsidies in Salvador, Guatemala, etc.
  We backed up dictators in Zaire, Somalia, Liberia, Sudan,
  Angola, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Salvador, we're responsible: admit
   it then figure ways out.

Open CIA & FBI & NSA archives on Cointelpro raids, Government drug
  dealing, Kennedy/King assassinations, Iranian Contragate,
  Panama Deception, Vatican, Hand & Lavoro Bank thuggery, etc.
  including Bush-Noriega relations and other CIA client-agent

Open all secret files on J. Edgar Hoover-Cardinal Spellman- Roy Cohn-
  Joe McCarthy alcoholic Closet-Queen Conspiracy with Organized
  Crime to sabotage the U.S. Labor Movement, Native African-
  American Hispanic & Gay minority leaderships; and blackmail
  U. S. Presidents Congress each other for half century.

Get Government Secret Police (DEA CIA FBI NSA etc.) off our backs by
  the next millennium.

January 17, 1993

Meet the Author

Allen Ginsberg was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters as well as a winner of the National Book Award for Poetry. He was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1926, and died in New York City in 1997.

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