The Fall of America Journals, 1965-1971

2020
Author:

Allen Ginsberg
Edited by Michael Schumacher

The Fall of America Journals, 1965-1971

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. 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. 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.

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.

The Fall of America Journals, 1965-1971

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.

The Fall of America Journals, 1965-1971

Contents



Editor’s Introduction


A Note on Editing Allen Ginsberg


Acknowledgments



The Fall of America Journals



1965


1966


1967


1968


1969


1970


1971



Postscript: Denver to Montana, 1972


Appendix A: Allen Ginsberg’s Descriptive Note Ending The Fall of America


Appendix B: Acceptance Speech for 1973 National Book Award for The Fall of America


Select Bibliography by and About Allen Ginsberg