Iron Curtain Journals: January-May 1965

Univ. of Minnesota. Nov. 2018. 400p. ed. by Michael Shumacher. photos. bibliog. ISBN 9780816699599. $29.95. LIT
The first in a projected three-volume series of Ginsberg's unpublished travel journals, this book recounts the poet's trips to Cuba, the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and England in the first half of 1965. The entries include notes on daily activities; records of dreams and sexual liaisons; accounts of meetings with poets Nicanor Parra, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Andrei Voznesensky, and others; and a selection of unpublished poems and first drafts of published works, including "Kral Majales." Editor Schumacher (Dharma Lion: A Biography of Allen Ginsberg) provides explanatory footnotes as well as headnotes that supply context for each section. The journal reflects most Ginsberg's disappointment with communist attitudes toward free speech and individual liberty: his candid expressions of his views on homosexuality, drugs, and censorship lead first to his expulsion from Cuba, then Prague, where after being elected King of the May, he is accused of corrupting the youth. The journal concludes with Ginsberg's arrival in London. There he socializes with Bob Dylan and the Beatles and takes part in the legendary Beat poetry reading at Albert Hall.
VERDICT Documenting the growth of Ginsberg's international reputation as poet and activist, this book should appeal to the poet's devotees, particularly graduate students and researchers.

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