Thursday, May 19, 2011

Allen Ginsberg In The Sixties




Bob Dylan's unsolicited remarks about not being censored, but, rather, retrospectively, contained, over-simplified as mere "sixties icon" (speaking of his recent Chinese experience) gave us, here at the Allen Ginsberg Project, some food for thought.
"The Chinese press...tout(ed) me as a sixties icon...posted my picture all over the place with Joan Baez, Che Guevara, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg", Dylan complains.
Pausing momentarily to enjoy the symmetry of that list (Che's personality-poster face staring out at us, at the center of a "gang of five" (sic)), we wondered - is Allen, still, typically, regarded in this way in the West?
There's the 'fifties AG (now iconicized in James Franco's stellar performance in Howl), but there are 'seventies, 'eighties, and 'nineties Allens also (familiar to the general populace) surely? - no?
'Sixties Allen, as well as being the subject of this early monograph by Eric Mottram, was sympathetically described by Jane Kramer in her 1969 book, Allen Ginsberg in America, pointedly reviewed, that same year, by Kenneth Rexroth in The New York Times:
"..not really to put down Allen Ginsberg in America. It is unquestionably written with a full measure of affectionate sympathy and a large half-measure of understanding. Perhaps deliberately it is designed to domesticate Ginsberg, to summon him into the glass-table breakfast nook surrounded by the conservatory where he will turn the crisp bacon and coddled egg and crispies into honey and locusts...Ginsberg's verse (however) broke the iron crust of custom of the self-styled Reactionary Generation, deprovincialized American verse and returned it to the mainstream of modern international literature."
Rexroth's "sociological" review, in its entirety, can be read here.

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