J.F.K. and Allen Ginsberg

In curating our current exhibit of poetry written in response to the death of John F. Kennedy, we were forced to greatly limit ourselves. The exhibit featured  John Hollander’s  poem “November 22, 1963” from the book Of Poetry and Power.  The online version of the exhibit also presents “Assassination of John F. Kennedy”  by Gwendolyn Brooks, from the same anthology.

Cover of "Of Poetry and Power"

Front cover of anthology “Of Poetry and Power”

The volume includes much interesting work, reflecting the variety of poetic responses that followed the events of November 22, 1963.  One example is an entry from one of the journals of poet Allen Ginsberg, dated November 22, 1963:

The black & white glare blink in the inky Air Force night
as the Helikopter rose straight up in the television frame
carrying President Johnson toward the newsphoto White House
past the tail flag of the giant United States of America super-jet
settled at rest and lonesome under the klieg light field
swarmed with cops brass photographers mikrophones blip
                                                                                      Macnamara chill

Long nosed Oswald suspect in Dallas of half mast pro Castro

Rather than striking an elegiac tone,  Ginsberg’s entry employs a distancing technique, evoking the aftermath of the assassination  as a set of media images, complete with “mikrophones blip.” Ginsberg  is reminding us that November 1963  was the first time Americans “experienced” a presidential assassination via television reports.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections has a number of volumes of Ginsberg’s published journals, including a first edition of The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice, which contains the poet’s earliest  journals and poems.

Front cover of “The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice”

 Special Collections also has Ginsberg’s published journals from the mid 1950s, as well as two signed copies of  journals from the  early 1950s and 60s.

Front cover of Ginsberg’s “Journals: Early Fifties Early Sixties”


Title page of Ginsberg’s “Journals,” signed by the author

Curtis Small

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