cover image Death & Fame: Poems, 1993-1997

Death & Fame: Poems, 1993-1997

Allen Ginsberg. HarperCollins Publishers, $23 (116pp) ISBN 978-0-06-019292-1

There has never been an American poet as public as Ginsberg. He bared--and dared--all: as Beat, as bohemian, as gay man, as Buddhist, left-winger, East Village stroller--greeting all with messages of peace, dissent and sex. Despite his unorthodoxies, he belonged very much to a culture he helped build. Above all he was a survivor (unlike many of his compatriots), a seemingly eternal and yet contemporary voice always fresh with headlines. This volume, to be published on the second anniversary of his death, is no throwaway compendium of scattered verses. Rather, it is a perfect capstone to a noble life; the authentic, unmistakably Ginsbergian nature of its themes (""God""; ""Excrement""; ""Butterfly Mind"") mixes effortlessly with remarkably intimate renderings of his approaching death. Though diabetes and heart problems plagued his last years, Ginsberg was not told of his metastasizing liver cancer till a week before he succumbed, during which time he worked on his last poem, ""Things I'll Not Do (Nostalgias),"" which poignantly lists friends and places and dreamscapes that will be forever unvisited by him. Robert Creeley's short foreword is a dissertation in abstract, reminding us of the inimitable Ginsberg cadences--""no poet more heard, more respected, more knew the intricacies of melody's patterns."" It is ""the last mind,"" says Creeley, of ""the enduring friend."" And no friend of Ginsberg's will be without this book; no friend of American poetry should be either. (Mar.)