DEATH AND FAME by Allen Ginsberg


Last Poems 1993-1997
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Pity the young reader who first encounters the famous Beat poet in this last volume written before his death in 1997. When they read Ginsberg’s confession in “Is About” (—Allen Ginsberg is about confused mind writing down newspaper/headlines from Mars—), they won—t know whether to laugh or feel sorry for this self-proclaimed “pederast” and “Beat icon.” Certainly, new readers won—t realize that this entire collection is nothing less than an endless (and unintentional) parody of every form and trope from Ginsberg’s long career. There are: the political rants about the CIA and repressive Amerika (—Reverse the rain of terror on street consciousness U.S.A.—); the quasi-Buddhist chantverse (—Catholicism capish/Catholicism capish/Catholicism abortion capish/Capish capish capish—); the biblical-Whitmanesque, long-line verse (—Walking with aching back at base of spine, walked stiffly to kitchen/toilet to pee—); the long, breathless bop prosody; and lots of childlike ditties and silly songs that prove once and for all that Ginsberg is not the second-coming of Blake. The title poem, a grandiose vision of his own funeral, catalogues his many lovers and samples the countless readers he’s influenced. Old age and impending death inspire much scatology (—Shit machine shit machine/I—m an incredible shit machine—), none of it Swiftian. Further evidence that the Beat Generation is a sociological phenomenon (not an artistic one) that loses its bite out of its historical context. What might have shocked and entertained in the ’50s, here seems the sad and pathetic ravings of a dirty old man.

Pub Date: March 8th, 1999
ISBN: 0-06-019292-5
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1999


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