First Thought: Conversations with Allen Ginsberg

November 1, 2020
First Thought: Conversations with Allen Ginsberg

"The way to point to the existence of the universe is to see onething directly and clearly and describe it. . . . If you seesomething as a symbol of something else, then you don't experiencethe object itself, but you're always referring it to something elsein your mind. It's like making out with one person and thinkingabout another." —Ginsberg speaking to his writing class at NaropaInstitute, 1985With "Howl" Allen Ginsberg became the voice of the BeatGeneration. It was a voice heard in some of the best-known poetryof our time—but also in Ginsberg's eloquent and extensivecommentary on literature, consciousness, and politics, as well ashis own work.Much of what he had to say, he said in interviews, and many ofthe best of these are collected for the first time in this book.Here we encounter Ginsberg elaborating on how speech, as much aswriting and reading, and even poetry, is an act of art.Testifying before a Senate subcommittee on LSD in 1966; gentlypressing an emotionally broken Ezra Pound in a Venice pensione in1967; taking questions in a U.C. Davis dormitory lobby after avisit to Vacaville State Prison in 1974; speaking at length onpoetics, and in detail about his "Blake Visions," with his fatherLouis (also a poet); engaging William Burroughs and Norman Mailerduring a writing class: Ginsberg speaks with remarkable candor,insight, and erudition about reading and writing, music and fame,literary friendships and influences, and, of course, the culture(or counterculture) and politics of his generation.Revealing, enlightening, and often just plain entertaining,Allen Ginsberg in conversation is the quintessentialtwentieth-century American poet as we have never before encounteredhim: fully present, in pitch-perfect detail.