An Influential Neurotic Bodhisattva Bard

A few months after Mev died, I read all of Allen Ginsberg‘s poetry and several volumes of essays and journals. Somehow, his spirit cheered me. Recently, I’ve read several books about Ginsberg and what follows are a few excerpts from and about this influential neurotic bodhisattva bard.

Journalist Jane Kramer: “Once Allen Ginsberg actually came into your life, he settled there–intimate, indispensable, and so familiar that you could not imagine your life before him.” From “Howl” Fifty Years Later: The Poem That Changed America, edited by Jason Shinder, page 148.

Allen Ginsberg: “Cultivate the habit of noticing your mind and registering your own mind, too. Don’t wait to be discovered. Discover yourself. Publish your own work and circulate your work.” Quoted in American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and the Making of the Beat Generation, by Jonas Raskin, xvi.

Fellow poet and biographer Ed Sanders: “It was the same whenever Allen returned/There was that klieg light buzz to a room/A hush and electric spark at his entrance/I think it was because he made you believe wherever he went that the world was going to get better through the power of Bardery alone.” From The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg: A Narrative Poem, by Ed Sanders, 38.

Here’s his biographer, Bill Morgan: “Allen wanted to see everything, do everything, and meet everyone.” From I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg by Bill Morgan, 267.

Alicia Ostriker: “From America, Allen takes Whitman. The manly love of comrades, the open road, the democratic vistas stretching to eternity, and also the eyes of America taking a fall, which he plants later, in his mother’s head. America will always be, for him, infinite hope and infinite disappointment. That’s very Jewish.” From “Howl” Fifty Years Later, 123.

Morgan: “His vacuum cleaner had such a high pitch that he repeatedly switched it off to listen for Neal’s call, which never came.” From I Celebrate Myself, 91.

Ginsberg: “I mean, I always had Kerouac in mind when I got on a peace march and I always made sure it was like really straight, pure, surrealist, lamblike, nonviolent, magical, mantric, spiritual politics rather than just marching up and down the street screaming hatred at the president.” From Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews 1958-1996, edited by David Carter, 288.

Raskin: “Ginsberg read everything he could get his hands on–as though driven by an insatiable need for endless ideas and systems of thought, and as though his intelligence would die of hunger unless he went on feeding it books.” From American Srceam, 46.

Morgan: “His journal is crammed with lame excuses he invented for going to see Peter, much like any schoolboy’s crush on the prettiest girl in class.” From I Celebrate Myself, 194.

Raskin: “He assumed that the audience was on his level and he invited all of us to be part of a global conversation about literature and life.” From American Scream, 182.

Morgan: “He couldn’t bear to leave any letter unanswered, and his mailbox was always filled with correspondence from friend and foe alike. He answered them all, or at least tried to.” From I Celebrate Myself, 301.

Sanders: “And almost every day of these years he read torrentially and asked 10,000s of questions (Allen asked more questions, I think, than anyone I ever met).” From The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg, 28.

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