using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Lions Roar : September 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2008 89 In incisive and elegant prose, the book casts light on those who ended up as only minor characters in Ginsberg’s and Snyder’s versions of events, including Kyger herself, the Bengali poets Sunil Ganguly and Buddhadev Bose, and a mysterious young woman named Hope Savage who was an elusive muse for fellow Beat Gregory Corso. By triangulating and supplementing the accounts in Ginsberg’s Indian Journals, Snyder’s Passage Through India, and Kyger’s Strange Big Moon, Baker offers a panoramic vi- sion of the Beats’ journey to the East. Baker portrays the Beats with their ragged edges intact, from Ginsberg’s and Orlovsky’s enthusiasm for opium dens to the pres- sures that Kyger felt from Snyder to conform to a pre-feminist model of womanhood. Baker writes, “When she got cranky, her husband expressed his disappointment. This naturally made her more so and became further grist for instruction. She needed to learn to take criti- cism. To learn humility. To sit cross-legged for hours.” Weaving a coherent tale out of the poets’ fragmentary narra- tives has its risks, as when Baker quotes the Dalai Lama bragging to his visitors, “I never meditate. I don’t have to.” She then goes on to say that Ginsberg was “thrilled with this answer.” But Ginsberg never mentioned the meeting in his Indian Journals, and Snyder’s detailed account in Passage Through India does not contain this exchange. Baker’s source for this quote, she told me in an e-mail, was one of Kyger’s letters. It’s unlikely, however, that Kyger’s rec- ollection was accurate. Even now, at age 72, His Holiness follows a rigorous daily practice regimen that includes hours of medita- tion, prostrations, and mantra chanting, as Pico Iyer tells us in his new biography, The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Four- teenth Dalai Lama. Baker’s book is also somewhat limited by her choice to treat the Beats as colorful pop-culture figures, rather than to closely exam- ine the effects of the trip on their writing and later careers. This deprives the book of its widest possible context: the absorption of Hindu and Buddhist ideas and practices into the West via a gen- eration of American poets for whom these represented not merely fascinating exotica but a workable foundation for daily life. Of all the poets in the traveling party, Ginsberg was the one most transformed by the journey. Then at the height of his fame, he found himself already regarded as a guru in America. But much of his writing in the wake of “Howl” and “Kaddish” was floundering and unfocused, mere metaphysical speculations un- der the effects of various drugs, such as the poem “Mescaline” that ends, “No point writing when the spirit doth not lead.” Ginsberg went to India to find answers from a culture that took spiritual questions seriously. As the poets toured ashrams and pilgrimage sites (trailed by an Esquire reporter and skeptical Indian govern- ment officials), Ginsberg cadged dharmic insights from every- one he met, from naked ascetics to big-league holy men such Ini light char ofe po an Hope Sa Beat Gregory Corso. SEPT 80-99.indd 89 SEPT 80-99.indd 89 7/3/08 1:34:49 PM 7/3/08 1:34:49 PM