Wait Till I’m Dead: Uncollected Poems by Allen Ginsberg edited by Bill Morgan is the latest and possibly the last update to the complete works of Allen Ginsberg which already number at over 1,200 pages. Ginsberg needs little introduction even to the most secluded or unread person — The standout poet from the Beat era who continued to write poetry until his death in 1997.
Wait Til I’m Dead is a collection that spans Ginsberg entire career and from a variety of publications. Included areMarrahwannah Quarterly, High Times, Shambhala, Fag Rag, City Lights Journal, and from a live impromptu performance at Shakespeare and Company in Paris. Many of these were pieces done at the spur of the moment like “Cleveland Airport.” Others are memories like his last conversation with Carl Solomon as Solomon lie dying in a hospital.
The introduction is provided by Rachel Zucker who first read Ginsberg in college and want more poetry in her education. She calls Ginsberg her gateway drug to poetry. The English chair was happy to comply with Bishop, Moore, and Plath but nothing moved Zucker like Ginsberg. In what is probably the best quote on poetry I have read, Zucker says, “Allen was a good mother to me. He invited me into the kitchen of poetry and made me a sandwich.”
This is a great collection of Ginsberg’s work that has not made it in his complete collection. Because these poems were not included in the complete collection of his work one may wonder if they are worthy of reading or just poems rejected by previous editors. The work here is well worth the read. It is Ginsberg, and as far as the quality of the work, it is like a bootleg Bob Dylan concert. It is the artist in perhaps in his truest form. There is a visible evolution in the work as it covers half a century of writing that is more recognizable in a shorter collection, yet it is always, without a doubt, Ginsberg.
Death spoke out of the singer’s throat; While, staring through a drunkard’s eyes, Fate confounded drinker’s lies:
For all the drinks that they had tried, Death still sat there at their side.
And death peered with contemptuous calm. From the barman’s open palm.
“A Night in the Village”, 1944
Where can he go with alcohol and the landlord’s
eviction notice comes to us all?
gentrification will oust us from our nest
where to put books and file cabinets heavy with paper gold? Wake, smoke,
another cigarette with aching back and the last breath though cancered
Bob Dylan Touring with Grateful Dead, 1986
I meet Carl Solomon.
What is it like in the afterworld?
“It’s just like the mental hospital. You get along if you follow the rules.”
Dream of Carl Solomon, 1996
Wait Till I’m Dead: Uncollected Poems is a worthwhile addition to any Ginsberg or Beat book collection. Grab a sandwich for poetry’s kitchen and enjoy.