Read Indian Journals by Allen Ginsberg Free Online
Book Title: Indian Journals|
The author of the book: Allen Ginsberg
Edition: Grove Press
Date of issue: August 13th 1996
ISBN 13: 9780802134752
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 7.23 MB
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For those unfamiliar with him, Allen Ginsberg was an icon of the counter-culture in America, particularly in the 1950s as an original member of the Beat Generation. His oppositional activities continued into the 1960s, for instance in his vocal opposition to the war in Vietnam (he was among those who marched on the Pentagon in 1967 in protest of the war) and in his associations with other youth movement personalities such as Ken Kesey and Bob Dylan. This book is Ginsberg’s journal from 1961-2, when he was in India with his lover, Peter Orlovsky, and looking for a guru (Ginsberg had been learning about Buddhism from other writers like Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac; the latter's book Some of the Dharma is Kerouac’s notes on Buddhism written specifically for Ginsberg).
In this journal, Ginsberg describes his surroundings—the Taj Mahal, for instance, and the cities of Calcutta and Benares, with their beggars, opium smokers and holy men. Mortality is a significant theme in the journal, as Ginsberg seems always to be passing one funeral pyre or another (it is frequently in these passages that Ginsberg’s commentary works best, in terms of description and vividness); in addition, in a number of passages, Ginsberg, now 37 and beginning to show signs of grey, comments on his own personal mortality.
As a poet, Ginsberg belongs to the bardic tradition that includes William Blake and Walt Whitman (his long lines are particularly reminiscent of Whitman), and the modernist tradition, particularly imagism, that includes poets like Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams. This book includes drawings, photographs, descriptions of dreams and many poems. In the poems, Ginsberg comments on war, on love, on America, on politics, on Buddhism, and on death.
For me, the journal is limited in a number of ways, most of them having to do with Ginsberg’s approach to Eastern religion on one hand, and his approach to poetry on the other. While Ginsberg describes the ways in which the Hindu deities, such as Kali, Shiva and Ganesh, are represented in pictures, he does not comment on the central ideas of the religion. Nor does he comment on yoga or meditation or other practices associated with Eastern religion. It would have been interesting to read what Ginsberg says about these subjects, especially with regard to his work as a poet, or simply with regard to his interests in altered states of consciousness. There is a good passage in which Ginsberg discusses the kind of dreams he experiences while under the influence of opium, but more frequently he smokes “ganja” while in India and, again, there is little comment on what this does for his consciousness or for his poems. There are a few interesting pages, however, in which Ginsberg discusses how his writing and that of his contemporaries is different from earlier artists. In addition, one can see Ginsberg working on his poetic style; although here he is writing prose, the language he employs is poetic, and sometimes his approach to syntax and grammar, which includes omitting punctuation, results in sentences that require more than one reading. The book is readable, but for someone who has never read Ginsberg before, I’d recommend starting with the work for which he is best known, "Howl."
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Read information about the authorIrwin Allen Ginsberg was the son of Louis and Naomi Ginsberg, two Jewish members of the New York literary counter-culture of the 1920s. Ginsberg was raised among several progressive political perspectives. A supporter of the Communist party, Ginsberg's mother was a nudist whose mental health was a concern throughout the poet's childhood. According to biographer Barry Miles, "Naomi's illness gave Allen an enormous empathy and tolerance for madness, neurosis, and psychosis."
As an adolescent, Ginsberg savored Walt Whitman, though in 1939, when Ginsberg graduated high school, he considered Edgar Allan Poe his favorite poet. Eager to follow a childhood hero who had received a scholarship to Columbia University, Ginsberg made a vow that if he got into the school he would devote his life to helping the working class, a cause he took seriously over the course of the next several years.
He was admitted to Columbia University, and as a student there in the 1940s, he began close friendships with William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac, all of whom later became leading figures of the Beat movement. The group led Ginsberg to a "New Vision," which he defined in his journal: "Since art is merely and ultimately self-expressive, we conclude that the fullest art, the most individual, uninfluenced, unrepressed, uninhibited expression of art is true expression and the true art."
Around this time, Ginsberg also had what he referred to as his "Blake vision," an auditory hallucination of William Blake reading his poems "Ah Sunflower," "The Sick Rose," and "Little Girl Lost." Ginsberg noted the occurrence several times as a pivotal moment for him in his comprehension of the universe, affecting fundamental beliefs about his life and his work. While Ginsberg claimed that no drugs were involved, he later stated that he used various drugs in an attempt to recapture the feelings inspired by the vision.
In 1954, Ginsberg moved to San Francisco. His mentor, William Carlos Williams, introduced him to key figures in the San Francisco poetry scene, including Kenneth Rexroth. He also met Michael McClure, who handed off the duties of curating a reading for the newly-established "6" Gallery. With the help of Rexroth, the result was "The '6' Gallery Reading" which took place on October 7, 1955. The event has been hailed as the birth of the Beat Generation, in no small part because it was also the first public reading of Ginsberg's "Howl," a poem which garnered world-wide attention for him and the poets he associated with.
Shortly after Howl and Other Poems was published in 1956 by City Lights Bookstore, it was banned for obscenity. The work overcame censorship trials, however, and became one of the most widely read poems of the century, translated into more than twenty-two languages.
In the 1960s and 70s, Ginsberg studied under gurus and Zen masters. As the leading icon of the Beats, Ginsberg was involved in countless political activities, including protests against the Vietnam War, and he spoke openly about issues that concerned him, such as free speech and gay rights agendas.
Ginsberg went on publish numerous collections of poetry, including Kaddish and Other Poems (1961), Planet News (1968), and The Fall of America: Poems of These States (1973), which won the National Book Award.
In 1993, Ginsberg received the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (the Order of Arts and Letters) from the French Minister of Culture. He also co-founded and directed the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Colorado. In his later years, Ginsberg became a Distinguished Professor at Brooklyn College.
On April 5, 1997, in New York City, he died from complications of hepatitis.
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