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Buddhadharma : Winter 2007
buddhadharma| 63 |winter 2007 revIews Marc OlMsted is the authOr Of What Use am I a hUngry ghost? Poems from 3-year retreat (Valley cOnteMpOrary press), which is intrOduced by allen GinsberG. he is cur- rently wOrkinG On a MeMOir titled Don’t hesItate: 23 years of KnoWIng allen gInsberg. The good news about Tony Trigilio’s book is that he definitely knows the work of allen Ginsberg well. he is fully versed in Ginsberg’s writings, from “howl” to the far less known “white shroud” and “Black shroud,” written in the poet’s final years. Trigilio has also studied the countless interviews with Ginsberg and all of the various critical examinations that have been written about him. The bad news is that Allen Ginsberg’s Buddhist Poetics is written in academic- speak, which means it is primarily for other academics. it also means that if you don’t know a particular word, it won’t be in a dictionary you can lift with one hand. This being said, both the amateur and professional Beat scholar, as well as anyone interested in the details of the development of american Buddhism, may want to investigate it. Poet Ginsberg is primarily remem- bered for writing “howl,” although his “Kaddish” continues to rise in critical acclaim and may easily surpass “howl’s” regard within the next hundred years. The man who wrote these poems in the fifties looked like a beefy Buddy holly, but Ginsberg’s image is most often associ- ated with the sixties, as the cover of this book shows him, playing finger cymbals and chanting (most of his mantras at that time were hindu). still, this is not really the Buddhist student he became in the seventies, when his teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche cleaned him up and got him to trim his hair (and even shave off his beard at one point!) and wear a blazer and tie. The shaggy allen Ginsberg of the sixties did lead his audience to the bud- dhadharma. The Ginsberg of the human Be-in in san Francisco’s 1967 summer of Love showed up not only with the usual suspects of that period (like Tim Leary), but also with premier Zen master suzuki Roshi. (Trigilio neglects to mention suzuki Roshi’s presence at this event.) From oM to aH: The spiritual evolution of allen Ginsberg Allen ginSberg’S buddhiSt poeticS by tony trigilio Southern illinois university press 288 pages; $45 (hardcover) reviewed by marc olmsted lizaMaTThewS