Spontaneous Mind by Allen Ginsberg
Selected Interviews, 1958-1996

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The interviews collected in Spontaneous Mind, chronologically arranged and in some cases previously unpublished, were conducted throughout Allen Ginsberg's long career.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.


About Allen Ginsberg

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Allen Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1926, a son of Naomi and lyric poet Louis Ginsberg. As a student at Columbia College in the 1940s, he began a close friendship with William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac, and he later became associated with the Beat movement and the San Francisco Renaissance in the 1950s. After jobs as a laborer, sailor, and market researcher, Ginsberg published his first volume of poetry, Howl and Other Poems, in 1956. "Howl" defeated censorship trials to become one of the most widely read poems of the century, translated into more than twenty-two languages, from Macedonian to Chinese, a model for younger generations of poets from West to East.Ginsberg was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, was awarded the medal of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French minister of culture, was a winner of the National Book Award (for The Fall of America), and was a cofounder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute, the first accredited Buddhist college in the Western world. He died in New York City in 1997.
Published April 3, 2001 by Harper. 624 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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The best material in the collection comes from interviews done for the Paris Review, the New York Quarterly (where he can expatiate on his aesthetics for sympathetic and thoughtful questioners) and, ironically, Playboy (where the sheer length and breadth of the dialogue gives him enough room to s...

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Publishers Weekly

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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 Chronicles interview by John Lofton, who wanted "to confront [Ginsberg] with the Truth of God's ...

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