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Some Ginsberg Broadsides

James D. Sullivan

Photographs and other images of Allen Ginsberg distributed in various media have spread and shaped his reputation as much as--perhaps more than--his poetry has.  Like his literary forebear Walt Whitman, he has represented himself as not only a writer, but also, in a variety of poses and costumes, as a photographic image.  Ever since the obscenity trial for Howl made him a public figure, he has used the notoriety that proceeds from his poetry to make public statements on political and social issues.  By the mid-sixties, Allen Ginsberg, as a public figure, . . . had become a node of articulation for a number of countercultural interests, among them anarchism and the hippie movement in general, sexual freedom, the legalization and use of hallucinogens, Eastern spirituality, rejection of industrialism and the work ethic, and opposition to the Vietnam War.  In the sixties, that multiply coded image was everywhere.  According to [his biographer] Barry Miles, "There had been Ginsberg jokes and cartoons in the press as far back as 1959, but now [ca. 1967] his picture cropped up everywhere as a pictorial shorthand representing the counterculture and hippie movement.  Many of the kids who had a poster of him on their wall had probably never read his poetry" (Ginsberg: A Biography [NY: Simon & Schuster, 1989]).  Yet they (and their parents) read that shorthand clearly.

Sullivan, James D.  On the Walls and in the Streets: American Poetry Broadsides from the 1960s.  Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1997.

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"Who Be Kind To."  San Francisco: Cranium Press, 1965.

"Kral Majales."  Berkeley: Oyez, 1965.

Allen Ginsberg, poster from photo by Fred McDarrah.  New York: n.p., 1966.

"Tear Gas Rag."  Cambridge, MA: Pomegranate Press, 1972.

"For the Soul of the Planet Is Waking."  Santa Fe: Desert Review Press, 1980.

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