Chosen by Ginsberg himself from nearly fifty years of experimental, groundbreaking verse, this selection, in his words, 'summarizes what I deem most honest, most penetrant of my writing', and includes lesser known and later works which go beyond his iconic 'Beat Generation' image. Presented chronologically, and ranging from early works such as "Paterson" (1949) to selections from "White Shroud" (1980-85) and "Cosmopolitan Greetings" (1986-92), and including the classic poems "Howl" (1955-56) and "Kaddish" (1959-60) as well as songs, recent uncollected poems and notes by the author, this volume brings together the most intensely personal verse of a great American poet - incandescent explorations that expand the consciousness with their breadth of vision and depth of humanity.
Allen Ginsberg made his mark, along with Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder and others, in the Beat movement, a poetry of social protest that refused perceived elitist boundaries. Tortured by the paranoia and mental illness of his immigrant mother, and by his own homosexuality in a society that was homophobic, Ginsberg's early work was as much a measure of his self-loathing as his detestation of social hypocrisy and injustice. His poems reached depths of humiliation and shame that presaged a mental breakdown, followed by recovery with the help of Buddhist philosophy. His best poetry rises above both personal despair and political propagandizing with satiric comedy, and cheerful self-parody, and is most readily appreciated when read aloud. This volume includes sixty pages of songs, some written in collaboration with Bob Dylan, which are not included in his Collected Poems 1947-1980.