This is my first Ginsberg collection, and I’m not sure how many more I’m going to try. While the percussion and the music of some of the poems were fun and exhilarating, I found most of the book to be boring and tedious. Not all of it is Ginsberg’s fault. The book only covers the mid-1970s, and I wasn’t yet born, let alone sophisticated enough to understand world events via poems. I’m sure they would’ve hit me harder as a contemporary.
What I did appreciate in the book was Ginsberg dealing with getting older and feeling less sexy. Last year I reviewed a Leonard Cohen book that dealt with similar themes. This book finds Ginsberg worried about his body, worried about younger lovers, and the like. Mortality is always great fodder for poems. Here’s a few lines in particular I liked from “Don’t Grow Old”:
Will that happen to me?
Of course, it’ll happen to thee.
Will my arms whither away?
Yes yr arm hair will turn grey.
Will my knees grow weak & collapse?
Your knees will need crutches perhaps.
Will my chest get thin?
Your breasts will be hanging skin.
Where will go – my teeth?
You’ll keep the ones beneath.
What’ll happen to my bones?
They’ll get mixed up with stones.
I enjoyed these lines about cocaine in “Snow Blues”from Rolling Thunder Stones:
Nobody saves America by sniffing cocaine
Jiggling yr knees blankeyed in the rain
When it snows in yr nose you catch cold in yr brain
I also enjoyed this setup for a poem: “Sunrise Ceremony Verse improvised with Australian Aborigine Song-sticks at request of Medicine-man Rolling Thunder Nov. 5, 1975.” Mr. Ginsberg lived a different life than I do.
I don’t recommend this book.