The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems, 1937-1952

The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems, 1937-1952

by Allen Ginsberg

These first journals detail the inner thoughts of the awkward boy from Paterson, New Jersey, who would become the major poet and spokesperson of the literary phenomenon called the Beat Generation.

The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice covers the most important and formative years of Ginsberg's storied life.

Conversations with Kerouac, his beloved muse Neal Cassady, and others have been transcribed from Ginsberg's memory, and information will be found here relating to the famous murder of David Kammerer by Carr--a startlingly violent chapter in Beat prehistory--which has been credited in New York magazine as "giving birth to the Beat Generation." It was also during this period that he began to recognize his homosexuality, and to think of himself as a poet.

Illustrated with photos from Ginsberg's private archive and enhanced by an appendix of over 100 of Ginsberg's earliest poems, The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice is a major literary event.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Poetry
  • Rating: 3.93
  • Pages: 523
  • Publish Date: October 10th 2006 by Da Capo Press
  • Isbn10: 0306814625
  • Isbn13: 9780306814624

What People Think about "The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems, 1937-1952"

More than anything, this book has helped drive home the difference between the concept of a diary and the concept of a journal. In fact, I often found their passages more helpful than Ginsberg's own words. So, DO buy this book if you are interested in Ginsberg or the Beats.

Bits of writing that came under such or such influence (drugs) and lists of books Allen Ginsberg read over time. I guess as it often is the case with journals, this might not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you like Ginsberg's way with words in prose form as well as in poems and are generally interesting in his thought you might like this.

In many passages Ginsberg comments explicitly on his search for the subjects with which he wants to work in his writing, and here one can trace how some of the themes with which his work is associated emerge in early form in his journals in the process of his working with them. Late in the book a mature style emerges that reflects the techniques and language Ginsberg employs in the poetic work for which he is best known. In addition to his descriptions of his personal experiences, his experiments with prose fiction, and his early poems, Ginsbergs journals include his descriptions of his dreams, outlines for novels and ideas for stories, and a few of his letters, for instance to his father and to one of his professors, the critic Lionel Trilling. The poems included in the book reflect Ginsbergs work with language and form. With multiple versions of Pull My Daisy (and early versions of other poems that appeared elsewhere in different forms) one can trace how Ginsberg revises his poetic work.

I think the best new insights in the book come when A.G. talks about the period when Herbert Huncke lived with him (again, this will mean very little if you don't know who Huncke is and his importance to the Beat scene). But this book presents the story of that period in A.G.'s words and it is the clearest, most lucid description of where he was coming from at the time and how that situation developed.

When it comes to Allen's college years, the journal turns into a recounted transcript of heavily-buzz-worded arguments on art & meaning with a few "friends" (Lucien Carr specifically) as well as verbose descriptions of his chaotic dreams...which is where I've started to wander off & read other things. One time while at Cafetto, I was approached about looking something akin to a young Allen Ginsberg.

It started out interesting as an earnest and somewhat naive young Ginsberg makes his way out into the world on a journey of discovery.

Eager to follow a childhood hero who had received a scholarship to Columbia University, Ginsberg made a vow that if he got into the school he would devote his life to helping the working class, a cause he took seriously over the course of the next several years. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac, all of whom later became leading figures of the Beat movement. The group led Ginsberg to a "New Vision," which he defined in his journal: "Since art is merely and ultimately self-expressive, we conclude that the fullest art, the most individual, uninfluenced, unrepressed, uninhibited expression of art is true expression and the true art." Around this time, Ginsberg also had what he referred to as his "Blake vision," an auditory hallucination of William Blake reading his poems "Ah Sunflower," "The Sick Rose," and "Little Girl Lost." Ginsberg noted the occurrence several times as a pivotal moment for him in his comprehension of the universe, affecting fundamental beliefs about his life and his work. The event has been hailed as the birth of the Beat Generation, in no small part because it was also the first public reading of Ginsberg's "Howl," a poem which garnered world-wide attention for him and the poets he associated with.