Selected Poems, 1947-1995by Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg, one of America's most distinguished living poets, turned 70 this year. Selected Poems 1947-1995 commemorates his brilliant career and honors a landmark birthday. Ginsberg personally chose the selections for this handy volume and has written a retrospective Apologia that places the poems from each decade in their historical and literary context. Here… See more details below
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Allen Ginsberg, one of America's most distinguished living poets, turned 70 this year. Selected Poems 1947-1995 commemorates his brilliant career and honors a landmark birthday. Ginsberg personally chose the selections for this handy volume and has written a retrospective Apologia that places the poems from each decade in their historical and literary context. Here are well-known masterpieces such as the lyric "Howl" and the narrative "Kaddish" - classic works of American literature - as well as more recent gems, the long dream poem "White Shroud," the visionary "After Lalon," and the political rock lyric "The Ballad of the Skeletons." The pieces included in Selected Poems 1947-1995, which span five decades of work, document Ginsberg's spiritual path during a life devoted to exploring the creative possibilities of the conscious mind. Ginsberg's verse is always raw-toned, often whimsical, in both style and content, and displays elegant technical variety from singable exact lyrics to Sapphics to Skeltonics to twelve-bar blues to projective open-form verse and "spontaneous bop prosody." Ginsberg takes readers on a tour of his intelligence as a poet, from the transcendent-themed early poems such as "Magic Psalm" (1960) and "T.V. Baby" fragments (1961), to the poetic realism of the later 1960s with which he confronted and challenged a nation at war, to the integration of song (rags, ballads, and blues) into his poetic repertoire in the early 1970s. Many long poems - including "The Fall of America" and "Iron Horse" - have been edited to reveal exquisite passages hitherto unnoticed by many readers. Ginsberg's immersion in Eastern thought and his hands-on practice of Tibetan Buddhism is reflected in poems throughout this collection. In contrast, readers will delight in highlights of his erotic narrative "Contest of Bards" (1977), at once baroque and idiosyncratic, which was inspired in great part by a marathon reading of William Blake's complete poetry. His most recent
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Read an Excerpt
I walked into the cocktail party
room and found three or four queers
talking together in queertalk.
I tried to be friendly but heard
myself talking to one in hiptalk.
"I'm glad to see you," he said, and
looked away. "Hmn," I mused. The room
was small and had a double-decker
bed in it, and cooking apparatus:
icebox, cabinet, toasters, stove;
the hosts seemed to live with room
enough only for cooking and sleeping.
MY remark on this score was under-
stood but not appreciated. I was
offered refreshments, which I accepted.
I ate a sandwich of pure meat; an
enormous sandwich of human flesh,
I noticed, while I was chewing on it,
it also included a dirty asshole.
More company came, including a
fluffy female who looked like
a princess. She glared at me and
said immediately: "I don't like you,"
turned her head away, and refused
to be introduced. I said, "What!"
in outrage. "Why you shit-faced fool!"
This got everybody's attention.
"Why you narcissistic bitch! How
can you decide when you don't even
know me," I continued in a violent
and messianic voice, inspired at
last, dominating the whole room
Dream New York-Denver, Spring 1947
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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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