Lectures On Poetry, Politics, Consciousness
Ball has found a most benign use for his Sony -- eavesdropping on Allen Ginsberg's 1971 cross-country college lecture tour at UC Davis, Wisconsin State, Wyoming, St. Louis and, of course, Kent State. No one is better on his feet than Ginsberg, our only poet who has achieved international celebrity status through his crowd-pulling hypnotic readings, and the thrall in which he holds his audience is powerful even in transcription. The material here on the politics of drugs -- comprising twenty years research on our Draconian policies toward addicts (like friends William Burroughs and Herbert Huncke) -- was first given in a seminar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. The poet relates his own experience of gnostic consciousness and Zen presence to prosody . . . . But by far the most valuable sections are the conversations with Robert Duncan on recent twentieth-century poetry in which Ginsberg recalls his own evolution as a poet (reading some surprisingly insipid poems written in the '40's), the influence of Williams' colloquial voice, his love affair with Cassady. An appendix includes one new poem and a handful of Blake's songs as musically adapted by Ginsberg. This intimate exposition of personality and creativity is the most vivid understanding we have of the major contemporary poet.