The Fall of America Journals, 1965–1971 (Paperback)

The Fall of America Journals, 1965–1971 By Allen Ginsberg, Michael Schumacher (Editor) Cover Image

The Fall of America Journals, 1965–1971 (Paperback)


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An autobiographical journey through America in the turbulent 1960s—the essential backstory to Ginsberg’s National Book Award–winning volume of poetry

Published in 1974, The Fall of America was Allen Ginsberg’s magnum opus, a poetic account of his experiences in a nation in turmoil. What his National Book Award–winning volume documented he had also recorded, playing a reel-to-reel tape machine given to him by Bob Dylan as he traveled the nation’s byways and visited its cities, finding himself again and again in the midst of history in the making—or unmaking. Through a wealth of autopoesy (transcriptions of these recorded poems) published here for the first time in the poet’s journals of this period, Ginsberg can be overheard collecting the observations, events, reflections and conversations that would become his most extraordinary work as he witnessed America at a time of historic upheaval and gave voice to the troubled soul at its crossroads.

The Fall of America Journals, 1965–1971 contains some of Ginsberg’s finest spontaneous writing, accomplished as he pondered the best and worst his country had to offer. He speaks of his anger over the war in Vietnam, the continuing oppression of dissidents, intractable struggles, and experiments with drugs and sexuality. He mourns the deaths of his friends Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac, parses the intricacies of the presidential politics of 1968, and grapples with personal and professional challenges in his daily life. An essential backstory to his monumental work, the journals from these years also reveal drafts of some of his most highly regarded poems, including “Wichita Vortex Sutra,” “Wales Visitation,” “On Neal’s Ashes,” and “Memory Gardens,” as well as poetry published here for the first time and his notes on many of his vivid and detailed dreams. Transcribed, edited, and annotated by Michael Schumacher, a writer closely associated with Ginsberg’s life and work, these journals are nothing less than a first draft of the poet’s journey to the heart of twentieth-century America.

Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997) was born in Newark, New Jersey. As a student at Columbia College in the 1940s, he began close friendships with William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac, and later became associated with the Beat movement and the San Francisco Renaissance in the 1950s. After jobs as a laborer, sailor, and market researcher, he 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. He received the National Book Award in 1974 for The Fall of America.

Michael Schumacher is author of the acclaimed Ginsberg biography Dharma Lion (Minnesota, 2016). Along with Ginsberg’s Iron Curtain Journals and South American Journals and Conversations with Allen Ginsberg (all from Minnesota), he has edited Family Business, selected correspondence between Allen and Louis Ginsberg, and The Essential Ginsberg, a reader of Ginsberg’s best work. 

Product Details ISBN: 9780816699650
ISBN-10: 0816699658
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press
Publication Date: October 18th, 2022
Pages: 400
Language: English

"Allen Ginsberg's The Fall of America Journals, 1965-1971, glistens brightly with openhearted compassion, keen-eyed observation, Bodhisattva mindfulness, political daring, and angelic vision. Expertly edited by Michael Schumacher, every page sparkles with fierce poetic intimacy. The Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, LGBTQ equality, and counterculture insurgency are all nobly documented by Ginsberg. A blowtorch book of Beat/New Left literature for the ages. Highly recommended!"—Douglas Brinkley, editor of Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954

"Following in the footsteps of legendary photographer Robert Frank's groundbreaking The Americans and Jack Kerouac's opus On the Road, Allen Ginsberg gives us deep insight into his poems in The Fall of America. What makes this collection of journals memorable and deeply insightful is that the spontaneous observations cohere in radically unexpected ways. It is the very fundamental questions it asks of an America in total transformation, at warp speed, that makes The Fall of America Journals, 1965-1971 so powerful. If there's one thing you will see at the end of the book and the original collection of Ginsberg poems it refers to, it's that every poem this book refers to is a prismatic hall of mirrors with an incredible back story. Sometimes, it's the stories about the stories that make it all converge. A must read for anyone who enjoys progressive poetry that builds worlds upon worlds upon worlds."—Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky

"It is interesting to follow along with Schumacher’s notes as to what is being recorded and where it falls into The Fall of America. Having both books open and available is rewarding — the inspiration and the final product."—Evilcyclist’s Bookshelf

"The Fall of America Journals, 1965-1971 is a book that describes America’s beauty and its bloodshed; its glories and its shame. It is a history, a road journal, a poetic odyssey with islands of magic, mountains of snow, psychedelic elixirs inducing visions. And dreams. An odyssey and an omnibus, these journals are a work meant to live on a nearby shelf, to be opened if in need of inspiration or assurance. It serves as a road atlas in a universe with multiple dimensions and numerous points of entry."—CounterPunch

"This massive collection is another extremely valuable insight into the life and work of Allen Ginsberg and will soon become required reading for Ginsberg scholars. Michael Schumacher has done excellent work transcribing Ginsberg’s tapes and chicken-scratch handwriting into an entertaining volume. His notes, occasionally inserted to fill a gap in Ginsberg’s own journaling, are intelligent and informative."—Beatdom

"Yet more catnip for Ginsberg fans and students of 20th-century American literature."—Kirkus Reviews

"The Fall of America Journals, once again deftly edited by Michael Schumacher, presents us with the real-time results of Ginsberg’s studies as we stand witness to the shape of the poet’s bare mind in this epic travelogue that sired Ginsberg’s classic collection of poems, The Fall of America."—Electric Review

"Anyone with an interest in Beat literature will find endless treasure here."—Elliptical Movements

"The Fall of America Journals—which contain a wealth of facsimile pages and photographs in addition to the poet’s jottings—cement Ginsberg’s status as a prophetic bard as well as both a historian and protector of democracy."—Rain Taxi Review of Books

"A fascinating look at the things that were on Ginsberg's mind under a wide variety of conditions."—Gay Lesbian Review

"Schumacher's footnotes and occasional contextual explanations are vital, as is his sorting out of nonessential material. Schumacher's greatest contribution may be rendering the handwriting into readable print."—CHOICE

"The Fall of America Journals is a fascinating look into the daily life and creative processes of a major American literary figure."—ALH Online Review