The great Beat poet’s observations, reflections, poetry, and mind-expanding explorations while traveling through South America
When Allen Ginsberg went to South America in 1960, ostensibly to attend a literary conference, he had a different kind of trip in mind. This would be another experience in the Beat poet’s journey deep into the realm of consciousness, the inward travel explored to exhilarating effect in his writing–whether in the poetry that had already earned him international acclaim or in the idiosyncratic journals that raised self-documentation to a new form of art. In his South American Journals, covering a tumultuous six months, Ginsberg describes his travels through Chile and Peru, his visit to Machu Picchu, and his search for a source for ayahuasca, or yagé, a mind-expanding drug recommended by his friend William S. Burroughs, another writer well traveled in altered states of consciousness.
Far from quotidian diary entries, Ginsberg’s observations in these pages, interspersed with poetry, dream notations, and musings about spirituality, amount to a critical chapter in the poet’s informal autobiography. Writing more during these six months than in any of his other journals, Ginsberg summons great ferment. In his distinctive accounts of all that he encounters, elevating travel writing to lyrical expression; in an abundance of poems published here for the first time, in both first drafts and polished forms; in his reports of fascinating conversations; and, in particular, in detailed passages that delve into inner recesses of his consciousness, Ginsberg recreates a journey like no other, one that reflects the workings of one of the best minds of his generation in the world of his own making and in its mysterious, immutable counterpart in the South American landscape.