The Fall of America Journals, 1965–1971

Univ. of Minnesota. Nov. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9780816699636. $34.95. LIT
The last in a three-volume series of Ginsberg’s unpublished travel journals chronicles the poet’s activities at the height of the turbulent 1960s. As Ginsberg drives across America in a Volkswagen camper, he records his poems and observations on a Uher tape recorder, later transcribing them into his notebooks. The journal contains many unpublished poems, as well as first drafts of others that appeared in later collections, including The Fall of America, which won the 1974 National Book Award for poetry. Ginsberg’s protests against the Vietnam War, his research into the CIA’s involvement in drug trafficking in South East Asia, and his participation in the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago are among the activities documented. More personal entries mourn the passing of old friends, particularly Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac, for whom the first drafts of eulogies, “On Neal’s Ashes” and “Memory Gardens,” are included. Writings on an Italian journey highlight several meetings with Ezra Pound, including one in which Pound laments his worst mistake “the stupid suburban prejudice of anti-Semitism.” A trip to India to witness the famine in 1971 yields one of Ginsberg’s finest poems, “September on Jessore Road.”
VERDICT Ably edited by Schumacher, this book provides a wealth of source material for researchers on Ginsberg’s life and work during this period.
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