Collected Poems: 1947-1997

I see a direct lineage between Allen Ginsberg and, say, B-Real, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Raekwon or Nas. At the very least, they share an acute awareness of poetry as a tool for material & spiritual gain. Through a mic, pen, guitar or machine. Marijuana enjambments ("I be buggin' on Cezanne..." Paul's Boutique also impossible without Ginsberg), a vessel through cosmic Los Angeles or New York across sound dimensions, serious play. The 1,000+ pages of this final book ask for a subjective reading, preface and footnotes, epigraphs and allusions occur on a grand, exaggerated scale. You'll read him differently than me or her, we'll dismiss or smile at his ridiculous ego, think of it as New Jerseyesque swagger, attuned to sweet bodies & books.

Browse through the later books (White Shroud, Cosmopolitan Greetings, Death & Fame), find celebrity enshrined, disavowed, sought, dismissed. Common sense, a desire for particulars (since summer in London, 1967—Syd Barrett at Abbey Road studios—"Wales Visitation": "What did I notice? Particulars!"), seen through LSD though present long afterward echoes, they were always there around us, we just didn't notice them before. The ordinary quality of psychedelic reality, as John Lennon said: "Psychedelic vision is reality to me and always was..." In the best moments of hip-hop culture, Ginsberg's slogan fits: "Candor ends paranoia." There's the weight & glamour of decadence, never completely dismissed, lessons found in pleasure, sometimes awareness. Poetry a form of teaching, wide enough to include disparate blunders or discoveries, obvious contradictions, a political joy. Dissent as inevitable in our age.

The poems from March 1997 include death as part of the show, though still stylized (decades since: "...industry in eloquence and action in amour..."). He sees a gathering of groupies, lovers, scholars, friends & family at his funeral, still-living Satchidananda shows up at the party, so I feel included somehow when I read "Death & Fame." I'd want to add Indian Journals to this collection, the notebook a version of poetry, watching bodies burn at the shores of the Ganges, or chants before smoke from a chalice: "Bom Bom Mahadev!" My father's use of the Prajnaparamitra Diamond Heart Sutra to this day, which can be heard as Ginsberg chants it on The Clash's Combat Rock, too. ("Kick junk, what else can a poor worker do?") Generosity is the vortex of these pages, a shield against errors: "Who Be Kind To / Be kind to your self, it is only one and perishable..."

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