Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Beat Root: Chronicling the adventures of Beat seeker Allen Ginsberg by C.Carr

In November 1956, the first copies of Howl and Other Poems went on sale at City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, and Allen Ginsberg marveled that his publisher, fellow poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, had decided to print a thousand copies. How would they ever sell that many? Howl, of course, proved to be an explosion in consciousness heard round the world, and nearly a million copies are now in print. It's hard to imagine a poem—or poet—having such impact ever again.

The Beats were the first bohemian movement born under the eye of mass media, thus also the first to gain huge fame that flattened them into images, or caricatures. In Ginsberg, detractors saw merely the most infamous of the bearded bathless Beats, while admirers saw a visionary, Dharma seeker, fearless activist, and master of the long buoyant line. Who was the human underneath it all? Two new books about Ginsberg's life address the question. I Celebrate Myself (a biography) and The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice (selections from his earliest journals) have just been published to coincide with Howl's 50th anniversary. more...


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