The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg by Eliot Katz is a look at Ginsberg’s writing as a reflection on his politics and society. Katz is the author of seven books of poetry His first full-length poetry book, Space and Other Poems for Love, Laughs, and Social Transformation was published in 1990, with introductions by Allen Ginsberg and Amiri Baraka, and a front cover drawing by Leon Golub. Katz is also the author of two prose e-books, Three Radical Poets: Tributes to Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Adrienne Rich (2013) and The Moonlight of Home and Other Stories of Truth and Fiction (2013).
Katz is a poet that knew Ginsberg and worked with him. From my reading, Katz’s primary thesis is that unlike many of the yuppies and radicals Ginsberg never mellowed out in his opinions and remained a liberal voice for social justice throughout his life. He remained someone who spoke the truth about things that were not spoken of. There is little doubt of his leftward lean. He lived through an era where elected left-wing governments were overthrown by the United States. It was also an era that saw Eisenhower sign an executive order firing all gay government employees. On local levels bars and clubs were raided by police. Through the examination of The Howl (the annotated edition), Kaddish, and America Katz examines Ginsberg’s politics.
Katz gives insight to the works of Ginsberg providing background to those who might have dismissed the Ginsberg writing as outside the realms of accepted poetry and “social values.” There is also an examination of the writing style with comparisons to Blake and Whitman. Ginsberg was also not just a Beat poet he wrote from the late 1940s until his death in 1997. The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg is more than a biography. It is a study of poetry writing, politics, and the evolution of American society. This book is an excellent look at Ginsberg and the world he saw around him.