cover image Allen Ginsberg: South American Journals January–July 1960

Allen Ginsberg: South American Journals January–July 1960

Edited by Michael Schumacher. Univ. of Minnesota, $29.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8166-9961-2

Scholars and fans will appreciate the rich source material and skillful editing in this generous edition of the poet’s South American journals, from Ginsberg biographer Schumacher (Dharma Lion). Chronicling a six-month trip through Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, and Peru in 1960, the journals include observations on South American life and politics, recollections of vivid dreams and random thoughts, and drafts of many poems published later, here seen in their original context. Ginsberg’s erotic longings appear recurrently—especially those for lover Peter Orlovsky, though in Peru, Ginsberg records in detail an erotic dream featuring friend Neal Cassady—as do unvarnished glimpses of mid-century queer culture. The journals also reveal Ginsberg’s sense of encroaching age—at only “33 1/2” years old—and longing for bygone days with such fellow beat writers as Kerouac (“All that time in San Francisco’s gone away—but could come back if we all collected there again”) even as he seeks to expand his mental horizons through the psychedelic drug ayahuasca. Perhaps most notably, the book reveals Ginsberg’s raw poetic talent: even in rough draft, his compositions often soar. Graced with a clear chronology and with facsimiles of original journal pages, this well-edited volume offers a welcome addition to beat generation scholarship. (Nov.)