South American Journals

January–July 1960

2022
Author:

Allen Ginsberg
Edited by Michael Schumacher

PAPERBACK EDITION FORTHCOMING IN OCTOBER 2022

The great Beat poet’s observations, reflections, poetry, and mind-expanding explorations while traveling through South America

Allen Ginsberg’s observations in these pages, interspersed with poetry, dream notations, and musings about spirituality, amount to a critical chapter in the poet’s informal autobiography. Covering a tumultuous six months, Ginsberg describes his travels through Chile and Peru, his visit to Machu Picchu, and his search for a source for ayahuasca, or yagé, a mind-expanding drug recommended by William S. Burroughs.

"Edited with care to preserve Ginsberg’s idiosyncrasies, South American Journals features heightened spiritual longing and despair. It is essential to understanding Ginsberg, both as a pivotal poet and as a man." —Foreword Reviews

When Allen Ginsberg went to South America in 1960, ostensibly to attend a literary conference, he had a different kind of trip in mind. This would be another experience in the Beat poet’s journey deep into the realm of consciousness, the inward travel explored to exhilarating effect in his writing—whether in the poetry that had already earned him international acclaim or in the idiosyncratic journals that raised self-documentation to a new form of art. In his South American Journals, covering a tumultuous six months, Ginsberg describes his travels through Chile and Peru, his visit to Machu Picchu, and his search for a source for ayahuasca, or yagé, a mind-expanding drug recommended by his friend William S. Burroughs, another writer well traveled in altered states of consciousness.

Far from quotidian diary entries, Ginsberg’s observations in these pages, interspersed with poetry, dream notations, and musings about spirituality, amount to a critical chapter in the poet’s informal autobiography. Writing more during these six months than in any of his other journals, Ginsberg summons great ferment. In his distinctive accounts of all that he encounters, elevating travel writing to lyrical expression; in an abundance of poems published here for the first time, in both first drafts and polished forms; in his reports of fascinating conversations; and, in particular, in detailed passages that delve into inner recesses of his consciousness, Ginsberg recreates a journey like no other, one that reflects the workings of a uniquely creative mind in the world of his own making and in its mysterious, immutable counterpart in the South American landscape.

Cover alt text: Four repeated face photos of Ginsberg distorted in psychedelic pattern. Title typed below author signature.

Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997) was born in Newark, New Jersey. As a student at Columbia College in the 1940s, he began a close friendship with William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac, and he 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 twentieth century.

Michael Schumacher is author of Dharma Lion, the acclaimed biography of Allen Ginsberg, and editor of First Thought: Conversations with Allen Ginsberg and Iron Curtain Journals: January–May 1965 (all from Minnesota). He is also editor of The Essential Ginsberg.

This collection has been expertly edited by Michael Schumacher, whose uncanny ability to formulate a coherent text from random journal entries without interfering with the rhythm of Ginsberg’s breath and line structure adds to the over-all power of Journals. As noted, the book brings us Ginsberg’s uncensored mind as he experiences the countrysides of South America, with snippets of poems interspersed with journal jottings offering a sweet and intimate glimpse of a major literary force in his formative years.

Electric Review

While some of the journal entries read like stream-of-consciousness gibberish, there are moments of radiant, robust poetry reminiscent of Walt Whitman and the mystical, prophetic rapture of William Blake.

Gay & Lesbian Review

Perhaps most notably, the book reveals Ginsberg’s raw poetic talent: even in rough draft, his compositions often soar. Graced with a clear chronology and with facsimiles of original journal pages, this well-edited volume offers a welcome addition to beat generation scholarship.

Publishers Weekly

Copious and valuable source material provide students and scholars with noteworthy and new information about the poet. Those interested in the relationship between Eros and Thanatos in Ginsberg’s life and work will be especially rewarded.

Library Journal

Edited with care to preserve Ginsberg’s idiosyncrasies, South American Journals features heightened spiritual longing and despair. It is essential to understanding Ginsberg, both as a pivotal poet and as a man.

Foreword Reviews

Ginsberg's South American Journals is a gorgeous book. Its cover is riveting graphically, and its text is well formatted and gratifyingly easy to read.

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Contents

Editor’s Introduction

A Note on Editing Allen Ginsberg

South American Journals

Chile, Argentina, Bolivia

Peru

Select Bibliography by and about Allen Ginsberg