“…A SENSE OF BEING SELF-PROPHETIC MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE”: KADDISH, PRESENTATION/ASSOCIATION COPY INSCRIBED BY GINSBERG TO POET LAUREATE WILLIAM MEREDITH AND WITH HIS CHARACTERISTIC ORIGINAL SKETCHES OF A SUNFLOWER AND A SKULL
GINSBERG, Allen. Kaddish and Other Poems, 1958-1960. (San Francisco): City Lights Books, (1961). Small octavo, original black and white paper wrappers. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. $2300.
First edition, first printing, of this significant collection of poems—including the title piece, part lamentation for his mother, part protest of American society—presentation association copy inscribed by the poet on the title page to acclaimed poet (later Poet Laureate) William Meredith: "For William Meredith. January 18, 78. Allen Ginsburg," with original sketches by Ginsberg including his characteristic "AH" inside a sunflower (referring to "Ah! Sun-flower" by William Blake) and a skull beneath a star of David with a flower growing out of it and crossbones beneath.
After Howl (1956) won Ginsberg widespread attention, Kaddish and Other Poems "confirmed his reputation as a poet of idiosyncratic accomplishment and direct emotional appeal. Taking its title from the Jewish form of prayer for the dead, the title poem mourns and celebrates Ginsberg's mother; the political perspective established by treatment of her socialist convictions provides the basis for the poem's continuation of his uncompromising critique of American society" (Stringer, 248-49). The poet later pointed to "a piece of 'Kaddish" (he didn't specify exactly which piece) as one of the few moments he felt "in command when writing… a sense of being self-prophetic master of the universe" (Spontaneous Mind, 52, 53). This first printing consisted of 2500 copies; with no printer's information on page 100 and with 7-line blurb on rear wrapper. Morgan A4a1.1. This copy is inscribed to acclaimed poet William Meredith. Meredith was recipient of numerous poetry grants and awards including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize, and was also named Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress. Meredith was elected Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1964 and held the position until 1987. Meredith occasionally criticized Ginsberg for his experimental inclinations, but the two poets ran in the same circles throughout their lives. The inscription includes original sketches by Ginsberg. The first sketch is of a sunflower with "AH" inside, a references to William Blake's illustrated poem "Ah! Sun-flower," which greatly influenced Ginsberg. In 1948, Ginsberg claimed to have had a hallucinatory experience that involved hearing Blake reading "Ah, Sun-flower" and two other poems. During the days-long experience, Ginsberg claimed to have witnessed the interconnectedness of the universe. Ginsberg's hallucination was not drug-induced, although he later experimented with different drugs attempting repeat the experience. Notably, Ginsberg's mother suffered from epilepsy, a condition that is sometimes heritable. Ginsberg wrote his "Sunflower Sutra" in 1955, as an homage to Blake's work. Additionally, Ginsberg was known for doing readings of "Ah, Sun-flower." The second sketch features imagery that dates at least back to Ginsberg's Columbia days when he drew a skull and crossbones (as well as other objects) on his window when an antisemitic cleaning woman refused to wash it. The sketch appears to have gained additional elements and symbolic significance over the years, as Ginsberg began to draw a star of David over the skull and depict a flower growing out of the skull's mouth.
Interior generally fine, only slightest rubbing and soiling to wrappers. A near-fine inscribed copy with wonderful provenance.