Allen Ginsberg and the '60s Movement
The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/11/2016
Year Published: 2016
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21506
Book review of Eliot Katz' The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg.
Katz's central thesis is that Ginsberg's poetry, most importantly some of his best-known work published in Howl and Other Poems, was among the factors that helped not only to generate a counter-culture during the 1960s - an anti-establishment subculture associated with hallucinogenic drugs, art inspired by psychedelic phenomena, anti-authoritarianism and sexual freedom, summed up in the "hippie" movement of the time - but also to shape the radical political movement that grew up alongside and connected to that counterculture.
Katz rejects both the reductionist art-as-direct-propaganda school, which dominates within certain left political traditions, but also the elitist alternative which, in its most extreme forms, can portray art as some kind of purely abstract realm that is inherently degraded as soon as it attempts to relate to or comment on social realities. This is most significant for me, as a question I have been grappling with since I decided to become a practicing-poet-with-a-social-conscience more than a decade ago.