January 13, 2009

Letters of Allen Ginsberg & Gary Snyder, NY Times Review. “America’s most famous living poet” goes from “Madness to Gladness.”

The Beat Generation—bookended by the looks and style and All-Americansim of the 50s and the counter-culture sex drugs jazz and rebellion of the late 60s—defined Beat as both beat down and a state of holy beatitude—a beautiful almost Catholic black-and-white dark sadness. But Ginsberg, along with Japhy Ryder (Gary Snyder) outgrew his fellow Beats and left behind mere brilliant unhappy emotionalism and angry, righteous political activism…

Within a quarter-century, however, Ginsberg had become America’s most famous living poet, attracting a congregation in which common readers mingled with political activists, students of oriental philosophy and a variety of social casualties. Words­worth’s famous pronouncement — “We poets in our youth begin in gladness; / But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness” — appears to have been put into reverse by Ginsberg. The open homosexual and Blake-inspired visionary took every opportunity to demonstrate that candor triumphed over shame — by taking off his clothes at a poetry reading, for example. Madness to gladness was his determined course. If the world seemed reluctant to follow, the solution was obvious: change the world…

…for the rest of the NY Times review, click here.

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