Allen Ginsberg by Anne Waldman

Part of the Editor's Choice series.

BOMB 97 Fall 2006
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Home of the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company


I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg
by Bill Morgan (Ginsberg’s archivist for the last 20 years of his life): Viking/Penguin, October

Howl on Trail: The Struggle for Free Expression
edited by Bill Morgan: City Lights, November

The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Early Poems, 1937–52
Da Capo Press, October

Collected Poems
to be re-issued by Harper Collins, October

​Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg at Peter Orlovsky’s Montgomery St. apartment, San Francisco, July 1955. Courtesy of the Allen Ginsberg Trust.

Readers and audiences across the United States have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Allen Ginsberg’s landmark book, Howl and Other Poems, since October of last year. This iconic text was first published in the fall of 1956 as number four in the Pocket Poets Series from City Lights Books. When a second edition was printed the following year in London, part of the shipment was seized by US Customs on obscenity charges. When this tactic failed (City Lights simply sidestepped Customs by printing another edition in the US), local police arrested publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights Bookstore manager Shigeyoshi Murao, charging them with publishing and selling obscene material. This famous and controversial censorship trial came out on poetry’s side, with the judge ruling that the book was not obscene or without “the slightest redeeming social importance.”

Celebrations of the 50th anniversary reach a fever pitch this fall: with the publication of a new biography of Ginsberg, a book on the trial, and the re-issuing of several of this most radical and influential poet’s books and journals, the “social importance” of the work and its legacy are strong and audible. (Jerry Aronson’s salient documentary The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg is also available on DVD, and many recordings of Ginsberg’s readings and teaching from the legendary Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University are available on the Naropa Poetics Audio Archive.) Ginsberg was notoriously engaged in his vow to “keep the world safe for poetry,” as a cultural activist, Buddhist, and consummate citizen of the world who fought repression, censorship, prejudice, homophobia, and injustices of all kinds and was one of the most progressive, astute, and eloquent voices of the last century. “Well while I’m here I’ll do the work— / and what’s the Work? / To ease the pain of living. / Everything else, drunken dumbshow.”

Fun House Mirror, for Elizabeth Murray by Anne Waldman
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Related
Deborah Baker’s A Blue Hand: The Beats in India by Betsy Sussler
​Allen Ginsberg in Benares

While Deborah Baker’s packed compendium does indeed tell stories of the Beats in India and more—Corso’s confessions of unrequited love, Burroughs’s surly brushes with sex and death, Kerouac’s ad hoc pronouncements on writing and marriage—Ginsberg is the protagonist of this lush tale. 

Perdido by Gilbert Sorrentino

In 1953, or early 1954, Dan Burke was seeing, as they used to say, Claire Walsh, who was pregnant by another man, a lummox known as “Swede” to his lummox friends. 

Carlo Rotella’s Good with Their Hands: Boxers, Bluesmen, and Other Characters from the Rust Belt by Lawrence Chua
Carlo Rotella 01

Meet psych major and boxer Liz McGonigal, bluesman and entrepreneur Buddy Guy, and cops-turned-muses Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso in Carlo Rotella’s anthology of blue-collar life stories Good with Their Hands.

Originally published in

BOMB 97, Fall 2006

Featuring interviews with Anthony McCall, Sasha Chavchavadze, Tod Papageorge, Lynne Tillman, Nichole Argo, Steven Shainberg, Amina Claudine Myers, Theresa Rebeck, William Katavolos, Judith Linhares. 

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