Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

First Thought

Conversations with Allen Ginsberg

2017

Michael Schumacher, Editor

First Thought

The Beat Generation’s best-known poet, in previously uncollected interviews, on reading and writing, poetry and politics

Here through previously uncollected interviews, we encounter Allen Ginsberg elaborating on how speech, as much as writing and reading, and even poetry, is an act of art. Revealing, enlightening, and often just plain entertaining, Allen Ginsberg in conversation is the quintessential twentieth-century American poet as we have never before encountered him: fully present, in pitch-perfect detail.

With a knowledge born out of personal interviews conducted with Allen Ginsberg himself, Michael Schumacher understands more about Ginsberg’s poetry than anyone alive. This book presents Ginsberg’s own words in a thought-provoking, entertaining, and intelligent way. It is destined to be a perfect companion to any study of Ginsberg, the poet.

Bill Morgan, author of The Typewriter is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation

“The way to point to the existence of the universe is to see one thing directly and clearly and describe it. . . . If you see something as a symbol of something else, then you don't experience the object itself, but you're always referring it to something else in your mind. It's like making out with one person and thinking about another.” —Ginsberg speaking to his writing class at Naropa Institute, 1985

With “Howl” Allen Ginsberg became the voice of the Beat Generation. It was a voice heard in some of the best-known poetry of our time—but also in Ginsberg’s eloquent and extensive commentary on literature, consciousness, and politics, as well as his own work. Much of what he had to say, he said in interviews, and many of the best of these are collected for the first time in this book. Here we encounter Ginsberg elaborating on how speech, as much as writing and reading, and even poetry, is an act of art.

Testifying before a Senate subcommittee on LSD in 1966; gently pressing an emotionally broken Ezra Pound in a Venice pensione in 1967; taking questions in a U.C. Davis dormitory lobby after a visit to Vacaville State Prison in 1974; speaking at length on poetics, and in detail about his “Blake Visions,” with his father Louis (also a poet); engaging William Burroughs and Norman Mailer during a writing class: Ginsberg speaks with remarkable candor, insight, and erudition about reading and writing, music and fame, literary friendships and influences, and, of course, the culture (or counterculture) and politics of his generation. Revealing, enlightening, and often just plain entertaining, Allen Ginsberg in conversation is the quintessential twentieth-century American poet as we have never before encountered him: fully present, in pitch-perfect detail.

First Thought

Michael Schumacher is author of the acclaimed biography of Allen Ginsberg, Dharma Lion, and editor of The Essential Ginsberg. His books Torn in Two: The Sinking of the Daniel J. Morrell and One Man’s Survival on the Open Sea, November’s Fury: The Deadly Great Lakes Hurricane of 1913, Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and Mr. Basketball: George Mikan, the Minneapolis Lakers, and the Birth of the NBA are also published by Minnesota.

First Thought

With a knowledge born out of personal interviews conducted with Allen Ginsberg himself, Michael Schumacher understands more about Ginsberg’s poetry than anyone alive. This book presents Ginsberg’s own words in a thought-provoking, entertaining, and intelligent way. It is destined to be a perfect companion to any study of Ginsberg, the poet.

Bill Morgan, author of The Typewriter is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation

Michael Schumacher has dug deep and come up with a treasure trove of Ginsbergian thought—on topics ranging from sex and drugs and rock & roll to the genesis of "Howl" and On the Road. We even get a writing how-to via the transcript of a Naropa classroom discussion between Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, and William S. Burroughs. This fascinating compendium is the perfect addition to the Beat canon.

Holly George-Warren, author of A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton and editor of The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats*

Schumacher provides an introduction to “First Thought” that ought to make Ginsberg fans scream with joy.

San Francisco Chronicle

First Thought

Contents
Introduction: Ginsberg’s Visions of Ordinary Mind
Michael Schumacher
Portrait of a Beat
Al Aronowitz, 1960
Ginsberg Makes the World Scene
Richard Kostalanetz, 1965
Ginsberg in Washington: Lobbying for Tenderness
Don McNeill, 1966
A Conversation between Ezra Pound and Allen Ginsberg
Michael Reck, 1968
Identity Gossip
Gordon Ball, 1974
A Conversation with Allen Ginsberg
John Tytell, 1974
An Interview with Allen Ginsberg
James McKenzie, 1978
Slice of Reality Life
Stephen M. H. Braitman, 1974
Visions of Ordinary Mind (1948–1955): Discourse, with Questions and Answers, June 9, 1976
Paul Portuges, 1976
Allen Ginsberg Talks about Poetry
Kenneth Koch, 1977
Words and Music, Music, Music
Mitchell Feldman, 1982
William Burroughs, Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg: How to Notice What You Notice, How to Write a Bestseller, How to Not Solve a Crime in America
Allen Ginsberg, 1985
Dreams, Reconciliations, and “Spots of Time”: An Interview with Allen Ginsberg
Michael Schumacher, 1986
No More Bagels: An Interview with Allen Ginsberg
Steve Silberman, 1987
Ginsberg Accuses Neo-Conservatives of Political Correctness
Kathleen O’Toole, 1995
A Conversation with Allen Ginsberg
Tom McIntyre, 1995
The Beats and the Boom: A Conversation with Allen Ginsberg
Seth Goddard, 1995
Allen Ginsberg: An Interview
Gary Pacernick, 1997
Chronology
Books by Allen Ginsberg