Electric Review

Culture & Criticism Since 2003

Journal Entries, Poems & Jottings From A Once In A Millennium Poet

IRON CURTAIN JOURNALS. January-May 1965. Edited by Michael Schumacher. University Of Minnesota Press.

“These journals are a welcome and relevant addition to Ginsberg’s huge oeuvre and persistent legacy.”

– Anne Waldman

Cover courtesy of University of Minnesota Press.

Allen Ginsberg’s life could very well be termed ‘the heroic journey of a poet.’ In turn, this volume just released from  University of Minnesota Press chronicles one of his voyages that took place during the first half of 1965.

Iron Curtain Journals comes to us Ginsberg’s most intimate travelogue, recording his observations and experiences as he moved through Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Poland, Auschwitz and England.

And while it’s true that most “journals” suffer from a dry and stale ‘you had to be there’ tone, Ginsberg’s work suffers no such fate. Because the poet’s mind was so active, because it was always searching, his prose resonates with the same richness and detail that’s gleaned from his legendary poems. Accordingly, this volume  spotlights the bare edges of Ginsberg’s poetics as he melds them with a keen awareness of the politics of the times.

And the poet writes from Cuba:

“Analysis of Govt policy, sex repression for training of obedience. Castro a great Charmer but Absolute law. Preparing emergency military state buildup like Russia-China, no change possible but increasing control & rigidification for 20 years or until U.S.  Threat abates – advised me not to sleep with anyone –   they’ll get into trouble…” (At page 70)

And later, Ginsberg writes from the Soviet Union:

“After midnight,

the red brick Kremlin wall, old bells,

deep red electric stars stop the

Ruby gate peaks,

the golden clock moves slowly,

bootsteps echo on the vast black

lawn of cobblestone…” (At page 173)

The power of Iron Curtain Journals gets a big-time boost from editor Michael Schumacher, who also wrote Dharma Lion, the hallmark biography of Ginsberg’s life. Schumacher obviously knows Ginsberg’s work thoroughly, and this knowledge allows his to capture the subtle inflections of the poet’s pace perfectly. The ending result is a book that compels both attention and introspection as we come to experience a piece of what this once in a millennium poet saw as he traveled the circuit in 1965.

by John Aiello


Talk to Rat:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on February 1, 2019 by in 2019, In the Spotlight, January 2019, Rat On Fiction & Nonfiction and tagged , , , .
In accordance with FTC Guidelines on blogging and product reviews, The Electric Review discloses that the books, records, DVDS and other products reviewed are submitted to us by publishers, record labels, publicity firms, artists, manufacturers and creators free of charge. The Electric Review further states that these entities and individuals submit materials to us of their own volition and understand that the submission of material is for discretionary consideration by the Editor and is not to be construed as to be in ‘exchange’ for a review.
The Electric Review does not serve as a ‘for-hire’ advertising vehicle and the submission of material for review creates no agreement either express or implicit requiring us to provide comment on a book, record, film, product or event. In sum, The Electric Review accepts no payment for the publication of a review. Instead, commentary is published as a free public service with reviews based solely on merit and the lasting classroom or cultural value of a given work: this compendium of essays meant to serve as an electronic library and on-going teaching resource surveying the 21st-century landscape.
Website copyright: John Aiello & The Electric Review. All rights reserved.
Violations of this notice are subject to sanction under United States Code: Title 17.
Reproduction of material from any Electric Review pages without the written permission of John Aiello or the named author is strictly prohibited.
%d bloggers like this: