Features February 1985
The phenomenon of Allen Ginsberg
On Allen Ginsberg’s poetry.
I’m so lucky to be nutty.
—Allen Ginsberg, “Bop Lyrics” (1949)
The very first poem in Allen Ginsberg’s Collected Poems 1947-1980 seems, in a way, to prophesy Ginsberg’s entire career. It is titled “In Society,” and it dates from 1947, when the poet was twenty-one years old. The poem records a dream: Ginsberg is at a high-society cocktail party, is more or less ignored, and is told by a woman, “I don’t like you.” He screams at her:
. . . “What!”
in outrage. “Why you shit-faced fool!”
This got everybody’s attention.
“Why you narcissistic bitch! How
can you decide when you don’t even
know me,” I...
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