The interviews collected in Spontaneous Mind, chronologically arranged and in some cases previously unpublished, were conducted throughout Allen Ginsberg's long career. Always a candid and engaging subject, Ginsberg considered the interview an art form, as well as an opportunity to get his message across to many people, which, as a student of Eastern religions, he believed was his spiritual obligation. In these interviews, dating from the late 1950s to the mid-1990s, Ginsberg speaks frankly about his life, his work, and the events of his time.
Ginsberg's progressive and controversial views on politics and censorship dominate his interviews, from his conversation with the conservative William F. Buckley on PBS to his comments in the Dartmouth Review about U.S. policy in Central America to his testimony at the Chicago Seven trial. Ginsberg discusses his literary influences, including Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Walt Whitman, and William Blake, and offers insights into his own poetry, particularly his innovations in rhythm, meter, and syllable emphasis. A well-known experimenter with drugs, campaigner for their legalization, and believer in their ability to expand consciousness, Ginsberg here describes his LSD trips and his marijuana highs, and explains how they influenced the creation of "Kaddish" and other works. And he talks about his personal life with candor, revealing details of his sexual affairs with fellow Beats Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, and Neal Cassady, and his longtime relationship with Peter Orlovsky.
Provocative and illuminating, Spontaneous Mind allows us to hear once again the impassioned voice of one of the most influential literary and cultural figures of our time.
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Allen Ginsberg was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters as well as a winner of the National Book Award for Poetry. He was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1926, and died in New York City in 1997.From Publishers Weekly:
Ginsberg apparently approached each interviewer "as a future Buddha"; open to any opportunity for conversation, he answered every question, no matter how rude or peculiar. An unpublished 1983 interview here with Steve Foehr consists of one query about the relationship between art and commerce and Ginsberg's seven-page answer ("I simply hung on and tried to get it all written down," says Foehr); others fill only half of a page. The Beat master reiterates that all of his thoughts and expressions emerge from his 1948 auditory hallucination of the voice of William Blake, whose poetic rhythms, childlike innocence, social vision and volatile emotionalism infused Ginsberg's every utterance thereafter. Taken together, these interviews read like an immense jazz oratorio, with rising and falling riffs on prosody, politics, sex, hallucinogens, ecology, jazz, psychoanalysis, Buddhism and his favorite authors Blake, of course, and also Whitman, Pound, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams and Kerouac. Editor Carter, who worked with Ginsberg on one of the first gay cable television shows, provides helpful headnotes for all 30 interviews (culled from some 350), and a "Biographical List" identifies approximately 200 people mentioned in the text. If the 1972 Gay Sunshine interview is the most intimate of these pieces and the excerpt from Ginsberg's testimony in the 1969 Chicago Seven trial the funniest, the strangest entry is surely the 1988 is surely the 1988 Chronicles interview by John Lofton, who wanted "to confront [Ginsberg] with the Truth of God's Word." As Lofton tries to compel the self-described "excitable visionary Jewish Buddhist" to admit the error of his ways, Ginsberg demonstrates his essential sweet nature and his love of verbal Ping-Pong. Carter captures the best of his witty, generous chatter here.
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