Tablet: Allen Ginsberg Goes Behind the Iron Curtain

By Jake Marmer

Iron Curtail Journals (Allen Ginsberg)A few years ago, I brought a group of poetry students to Stanford University’s library to see the archive of Allen Ginsberg’s work. The iconic Beat poet had left a large collection of papers, photographs, and artifacts, and the curator had selected a dozen gems for us. There was one item that my students remembered far more than all the others: a plastic bag containing Ginsberg’s beard. Apparently, in his heyday, when asked for donations, the poet would shear his facial growth, and have it auctioned off by charities, for substantial sums.


In both his life and poetry, Ginsberg thrived on blurring the lines between deeply private and public, often at the edge of exhibitionism. This is, perhaps, at its most striking in the recently published Iron Curtain Journals: January-May 1965 , edited and expertly annotated by Michael Schumacher.


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