A Letter from Allen Ginsburg

Article excerpt

Although Chicago Review had published several poems by Allen Ginsberg in its feature on San Francisco writers (including one of his best-known works, "Malest Cornifici Tuo Catullo"), two letters from Ginsberg in the Autumn 1958 issue attracted particular attention. The letters show Ginsberg's enthusiasm for his cohort and introduce William S. Burroughs. But this was the issue which the Chicago Daily News said was "filthy" and which led to the suppression of the contents of what was to be the subsequent issue (see the discussion of these events in the note accompanying William S. Burroughs's work, above). University of Chicago Chancellor Lawrence Kimpton complained about the editor's preoccupation with the Beat writers: "Rosenthal was so infatuated... that even the business letters of these authors were sacred."(*) The issue also included work by Burroughs, Philip Whalen, and John Logan, among others. As former editor PETER MICHELSON recently told us, the suppression would have a lingering effect on the magazine's efforts to conduct business:

At least as late as 1964 we were obliged to supply the local postmaster a copy of each issue when we brought them to the dock for mailing. We would wait trying to look casual while he riffled through the pages. Occasionally he would ask about something, to impress upon us the weight of his office I suppose. Meanwhile, the PO workers were already processing the mags, and I doubt he would have stopped the mailing on his own hook anyway. So it was always a slightly bizarre charade, a legacy of the CR/Big Table fiasco. On the other hand, we were always aware we were going to have to go through it and at any given occasion it might not be a charade. And Naked Lunch wasn't liberated until 1966, etc. So censorship was a hovering specter.

December 9, 1957 Paris

Dear Mr Carroll:

Sorry reply so late - I sent your news to Philip Whalen, & he says he's sent you work by him & Gary Snyder. …