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Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews, 1958-1996 Paperback – March 26, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060930829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060930820
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #469,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ginsberg apparently approached each interviewer "as a future Buddha"; open to any opportunity for conversation, he answered every question, no matter how rude or peculiar. An unpublished 1983 interview here with Steve Foehr consists of one query about the relationship between art and commerce and Ginsberg's seven-page answer ("I simply hung on and tried to get it all written down," says Foehr); others fill only half of a page. The Beat master reiterates that all of his thoughts and expressions emerge from his 1948 auditory hallucination of the voice of William Blake, whose poetic rhythms, childlike innocence, social vision and volatile emotionalism infused Ginsberg's every utterance thereafter. Taken together, these interviews read like an immense jazz oratorio, with rising and falling riffs on prosody, politics, sex, hallucinogens, ecology, jazz, psychoanalysis, Buddhism and his favorite authors Blake, of course, and also Whitman, Pound, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams and Kerouac. Editor Carter, who worked with Ginsberg on one of the first gay cable television shows, provides helpful headnotes for all 30 interviews (culled from some 350), and a "Biographical List" identifies approximately 200 people mentioned in the text. 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 is surely the 1988 Chronicles interview by John Lofton, who wanted "to confront [Ginsberg] with the Truth of God's Word." As Lofton tries to compel the self-described "excitable visionary Jewish Buddhist" to admit the error of his ways, Ginsberg demonstrates his essential sweet nature and his love of verbal Ping-Pong. Carter captures the best of his witty, generous chatter here.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Ginsberg pumped out poems for 50 years. Yet his greatest gift was for conversation. When he conversed, he used a, an, and the like any normal person, which makes his talk more readable than his article-deficient writing. When he conversed, he didn't goof off as he did when reciting, and that makes what he said more cogent than what he wrote. So this generous selection of Ginsberg interviews is the best introduction to date to his intentions as artist and public figure. He explains the combination of Charles Olson's conception of "projective" verse with Jack Kerouac's instructions in spontaneous composition that became his own poetic practice according to the maxim "First thought, best thought." He explains that he was in Chicago for the riots during the 1968 Democratic presidential nominating convention on a peacekeeping mission. He explains his lifelong lust for men and boys as a matter of healthy candor, of Whitmanian adhesiveness, of acknowledging beauty, etc. And he is convincing, especially when facing an unfriendly interlocutor, such as William F. Buckley and the born-again Christian who talked with him for the paleoconservative journal Chronicles. But he is convincing about his sincerity more than his wisdom--or so many may think, even as they nod appreciatively and murmur, "Oh, now I get it." Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Allen Ginsberg was born in 1926 in Newark, New Jersey, a son of Naomi Ginsberg and lyric poet Louis Ginsberg. In 1956 he published his signal poem, Howl, one of the most widely read and translated poems of the century. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, awarded the medal of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French minister of culture in 1993, and co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute, the first accredited Buddhist college in the Western world, Allen Ginsberg died on April 5, 1997.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. Schwartz on October 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is loaded with information and after almost 600 pages later; here I am with an overview. Most of the books I read tend to be around 200 to 300 pages, so this book is like two or three books put together, consisting of different interviews from the 1950's to the 1990's and a very mixed bag, packed with intriguing thoughts of poetry, prosody, prose, Ginsberg and the Beatific scene that emerged from the late 1940's that subsequently influenced the psychedelic generation of the 60's.

There is some real insightful information on poetry here, very educational and foundational to the beatnik poetic movement, and poetry in general. Ginsberg relates his influential poets that inspired him, molding his thought processes and way of life. From Ezra Pounds, Walt Whitman, the painter Cézanne, William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, Rimbaud and from 1948 a mystical experience with the words of William Blake, whose voice appeared to him after masturbating and subsequently experiencing some other mystical visions and awareness. Blake, although not a living person from our time era, became Ginsberg's guru upon the advise of an Indian teacher. In some cases of poetry and linguistic teaching of stanzas and crescendos, I was reminded of Peter Eckermann's, Conversations of Goethe and their discussions.

There are great explanations of the spontaneous style of poetry, the Buddhist flashes of thoughts that come from the spaces between thoughts, that spring up in the perception of the moment, the present flash to be written down in that precise way, the style of momentary thought speech converted into writing and there you have Kerouac and Ginsberg and Burroughs, except with Burroughs it is with flashes of mental pictures converted into words.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By ron sterzinger on March 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
i am a ginsberg fan and so i am biased but this book of interviews is really an enjoyable read. sure some of the interviews are dated but they really show the great intuitive thinker and off the cuff debater the allen ginsberg really was.
especially fun is his debate with john lofton who attempts to bury ginsberg in his born-again brand of conservativism. also fun is allen's transcripts from the chicago seven trial. i actually found this a hoot.
also his discussion on poetics is quite enlightening.
we miss you allen; your shining mind, intelligent wit and your shaman boddisattvic spirit
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John A. Gregorio VINE VOICE on April 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Allen Ginsberg was a poet, teacher and activist. I believe all these facets of his art were always part of him, but each had a period of ascendancy. The fifties,the poet. The sixties, the teacher, and the seventies, the activist. Later, we see the wise elder of the tribe. A generalization but useful in understanding Ginsberg. All three are found in this great book of interviews. The introduction by Edmund White explores the skills demonstrated in his use of the interview. The choice of interviews are wonderful. The interplay of Ginsberg and the interviewers are like a watching the perfect tennis match where the beauty of the play is as enjoyable to the spectator (reader) as the score (content). The interviews cover a wide range of topics which reveal as much as Ginsberg intended, and in the best of them, more. This may be a better place to read a "biography" of Ginsberg than in the standard form.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bohdan Kot on January 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
"Spontaneous mind," a collection of interviews, is an uncensored perspective of Allen Ginsberg's life, work and the events of his time. The poet felt the interview was an art form, an opportunity to discuss and teach about writing, music, spirituality and whatever topic may surface. Although some celebrities may shun the interview, Ginsberg clearly held a passion for the medium which is quite palpable throughout this collection. In fact, Ginsberg does not flinch at any of the questions, but instead attacks them with fervor and honesty.

The editor, David Carter, includes several vigorous and worthy spars. A conservative William Buckley begets a heated discussion about America in 1968 concerning drugs, censorship and the Vietnam War. A stoic Christian confronts the Buddhist devotee with God's Word. Ginsberg patiently reaches for truth and understanding with compassion in every interview. He is generous with his thoughts but at times the interviews are long-winded. This is the inherent danger of being spontaneous, the cliche of beatniks being free-spirits who spout non-sequiturs off the top of their heads seems eerily true at times. However, the text is a lucid portal for the reader to glimpse the beatnik world through the eyes of one of its gods. Ginsberg's history is an indelible part of beatnik culture. William Blake, Walt Whitman, Jack Kerouac and numerous other notable influences are also discussed.

Bohdan Kot
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