SELECTED POEMS 1947-1995 does not provide a lot of new poetry from Allen Ginsberg, but it is a satisfying collection. Fans of Ginsberg’s earlier works will find their favorites here, and a few new interesting poems. This book is a trimmer, more focused selection than his 1985 COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, but it still provides a chronological tour through the work of this major American poet. His usual themes, which include class oppression, gay love, the teachings of Buddhism, and the decay of contemporary America, are explored through the poems of nearly five decades. The old favorites, such as “Howl,” “A Supermarket in California,” and “Sunflower Sutra,” are all here, as well as some poems written since his last major collection. Some of the earlier poems have been edited, becoming generally shorter, more political, and less ebullient; not all readers will find these changes good. However, the major anthology pieces remain unchanged, and the essential Ginsberg is contained within these covers.
Designed in part to show the change in Ginsberg’s work over the decades, what the book does best is to present a distillation. Issued in the year of Ginsberg’s seventieth birthday, SELECTED POEMS 1947-1995 allows the reader to browse through the work of a lifetime devoted both to exploring the expressive possibilities of poetry and to using poetry as a vehicle for social change. While the social context changes considerably over the decades, the basic voice does not. From his early City Lights paperbacks, Ginsberg has written rough, ecstatic, mystical, uncensored poetry, and it is heartening to see that he is writing it still.
Sources for Further Study
Boston Globe. December 15, 1996, p. N15.
Library Journal. CXXI, August, 1996, p.77.
Maclean’s. November 11, 1996, p. 95.
The New York Times. October 8, 1996, p. C13.
The New Yorker. LXXII, November 4, 1996, p. 98.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLIII, August 26, 1996, p. 95
San Francisco Chronicle. September 29, 1996, p. REV5.