Deliberate Prose: Selected Essays 1952-1995

Overview

Whether criticizing the American government, protesting the war in Vietnam, or denouncing capitalism, Ginsberg gave voice to the moral conscience of the nation. His personal essays on Jean Genet, Andy Warhol, Philip Glass, and others, give us compelling portraits of his fellow artists. And his views on poetry, free speech, Buddhism, and the Beats reflect the concerns of the postwar American culture he helped shape.

Provocative, playful, eloquent, and of the moment, these essays ...

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Overview

Whether criticizing the American government, protesting the war in Vietnam, or denouncing capitalism, Ginsberg gave voice to the moral conscience of the nation. His personal essays on Jean Genet, Andy Warhol, Philip Glass, and others, give us compelling portraits of his fellow artists. And his views on poetry, free speech, Buddhism, and the Beats reflect the concerns of the postwar American culture he helped shape.

Provocative, playful, eloquent, and of the moment, these essays offer a social history of modern America that remind us of the events and issues that preoccupied the minds of a nation -- and one of its most influential citizens -- in the postwar years.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"I got so mad I cut my beard and mailed it in an envelope to the district attorney." Sometimes lovely, sometimes slapdash, and sure to appeal to his broad contingent of fans, this sprawling compilation of 154 "essays" (many run only a page or so) memorializes Ginsberg's stances, opinions, reactions, experiences and proclamations. Gathering reams of fugitive prose from magazines and anthologies, and excluding prose found in Ginsberg's books of poems, this is more an omnium-gatherum than a best-of, inviting readers to sort through and make their own lists. Ginsberg (1926-1997) had begun to organize what would become this book when he died; editor Morgan, who took over the process, divides the work by theme into eight sections. "Politics and Prophecies" fittingly opens the collection, giving full vent to Ginsberg's Blakean visions of '60s, '70s and '80s America: these essays both epitomize their times and retain the most interest for most readers now. Other segments address "Drug Culture," "Mindfulness and Spirituality," "Censorship and Sex Laws," "Autobiographical Fragments," Ginsberg's own "Literary Technique" and appreciations of other writers, from Blake and Whitman to Auden and Andy Warhol. Ginsberg's best poems look casual, but the rereader of "Howl" or "Kaddish" may discover complexity, tragedy and form curled up inside their excitable wildness: this is also true sometimes, but hardly always, for these prose pieces. Yet even at their most fragmentary and notational, these paragraphs, essays, lists, declarations and blurbs recall Ginsberg's other virtues: a welcoming energy, an ecstatic drive, a belief in the eternal value of saying, as soon as possible, just what he thought. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060930813
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/2001
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: 1ST PERENN
  • Pages: 560
  • Sales rank: 1,358,406
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.27 (d)

Meet 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.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
Politics and Prophecies

Political Life

Poetry, Violence, and the Trembling Lambs
or
Independence Day Manifesto

Recent history is the record of a vast conspiracy to impose one level of mechanical consciousness on mankind and exterminate all manifestations of that unique part of human sentience, identical in all men, which the individual shares with his Creator. The suppression of contemplative individuality is nearly complete.

The only immediate historical data that we can know and act on are those fed to our senses through systems of mass communication.

These media are exactly the places where the deepest and most personal sensitivities and confessions of reality are most prohibited, mocked, suppressed.

At the same time there is a crack in the mass consciousness of America — sudden emergence of insight into a vast national subconscious netherworld filled with nerve gases, universal death bombs, malevolent bureaucracies, secret police systems, drugs that open the door to God, ships leaving Earth, unknown chemical terrors, evil dreams at hand.

Because systems of mass communication can communicate only officially acceptable levels of reality, no one can know the extent of the secret unconscious life. No one in America can know what will happen. No one is in real control. America is having a nervous breakdown. Poetry is the record of individual insights into the secret soul of the individual and because all individuals are one in the eyes of their creator, into the soul of the world. The world has a soul. America is having a nervous breakdown. SanFrancisco is one of many places where a few individuals, poets, have had the luck and courage and fate to glimpse something new through the crack in mass consciousness; they have been exposed to some insight into their own nature, the nature of the governments, and the nature of God.

Therefore there has been great exaltation, despair, prophecy, strain, suicide, secrecy and public gaiety among the poets of the city. Those of the general populace whose individual perception is sufficiently weak to be formed by stereotypes of mass communication disapprove and deny the insight. The police and newspapers have moved in, mad movie manufacturers from Hollywood are at this moment preparing bestial stereotypes of the scene.

The poets and those who share their activities, or exhibit some sign of dress, hair, or demeanor of understanding, or hipness, are ridiculed. Those of us who have used certain benevolent drugs (marijuana) to alter our consciousness in order to gain insight are hunted down in the street by police. Peyote, an historic vision-producing agent, is prohibited on pain of arrest. Those who have used opiates and junk are threatened with permanent jail and death. To be a junky in America is like having been a Jew in Nazi Germany.

A huge sadistic police bureaucracy has risen in every state, encouraged by the central government, to persecute the illuminati, to brainwash the public with official lies about the drugs, and to terrify and destroy those addicts whose spiritual search has made them sick.

Deviants from the mass sexual stereotype, quietists, those who will not work for money, or fib and make arms for hire, or join armies in murder and threat, those who wish to loaf, think, rest in visions, act beautifully on their own, speak truthfully in public, inspired by Democracy — what is their psychic fate now in America? An America, the greater portion of whose economy is yoked to mental and mechanical preparations for war?

Literature expressing these insights has been mocked, misinterpreted, and suppressed by a horde of middlemen whose fearful allegiance to the organization of mass stereotype communication prevents them from sympathy (not only with their own inner nature but) with any manifestation of unconditioned individuality. I mean journalists, commercial publishers, book-review fellows, multitudes of professors of literature, etc., etc. Poetry is hated. Whole schools of academic criticism have risen to prove that human consciousness of unconditioned spirit is a myth. A poetic renaissance glimpsed in San Francisco has been responded to with ugliness, anger, jealousy, vitriol, sullen protestations of superiority.

And violence. By police, by customs officials, post-office employees, by trustees of great universities. By anyone whose love of power has led him to a position where he can push other people around over a difference of opinion — or vision.

The stakes are too great-an America gone mad with materialism, a police-state America, a sexless and soulless America prepared to battle the world in defense of a false image of its authority. Not the wild and beautiful America of the comrades of Walt Whitman, not the historic America of William Blake and Henry David Thoreau where the spiritual independence of each individual was an America, a universe, more huge and awesome than all the abstract bureaucracies and authoritative officialdoms of the world combined.

Only those who have entered the world of spirit know what a vast laugh there is in the illusory appearance of worldly authority. And all men at one time or other enter that Spirit, whether in life or death.

How many hypocrites are there in America? How many trembling lambs, fearful of discovery? What authority have we set up over ourselves, that we are not as we are? Who shall prohibit an art from being published to the world? What conspirators have power to determine our mode of consciousness, our sexual enjoyments, our different labors and our loves? What fiends determine our wars?

When will we discover an America that will not deny its own God? Who takes up arms, money, police, and a million hands to murder the consciousness of God? Who spits in the beautiful face of poetry which sings of the glory of God and weeps in the dust of the world?

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