Wait Till I'm Dead: Uncollected Poems

Grove. Feb. 2016. 256p. ed. by Bill Morgan. ISBN 9780802124531. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780802190208. POETRY
OrangeReviewStarMuch more than a footnote to 2006's massive Collected Poems, 1947–1997, this carefully chosen gathering of Ginsberg's fugitive pieces, some unpublished and others long buried in obscure magazines, spans his college days in the 1940s through 1996, the year before his death at age 70. For five decades Ginsberg adhered to a personal ars poetica ("I must write down/ every recurring thought —/ stop every beating second"), which for better or for worse influenced generations of poets beyond the Beats. An example of this spontaneous aesthetic at its liveliest is the heretofore uncollected "NY to San Fran," a 27-page Whitmanic reverie of hallucinogenic scope the poet set down in a notebook during a 1965 crosscountry flight. But Ginsberg could pivot when appropriate, as in the formal unpublished elegy to his father, the poet Louis Ginsberg, composed in 1976.
VERDICT Together with the editor's informative notes, this volume not only complements its larger predecessor but similarly offers an impressionistic microhistory of the 20th-century American counterculture, its restless consciousness and broad emotional register filtered through the unbridled visions of one of its most outspoken icons. Ginsberg fans and scholars alike will appreciate the wealth of new material included. [See Prepub Alert 8/3/15.]

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