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This week at The Paris Review, we’re highlighting three archive pieces written by contributors to our new issue. Read on for Allen Ginsberg’s Art of Poetry interview, José Saramago’s “The Tale of the Unknown Island” (as translated by Margaret Jull Costa, subject of the Summer issue’s The Art of Translation No. 7), and Lucille Clifton’s poem “shadows.”
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Allen Ginsberg, The Art of Poetry No. 8
Issue no. 37 (Spring 1966)
Has there been a time when fear of censorship or similar trouble has made your own expression difficult?
This is so complicated a matter. The beginning of the fear with me was, you know, what would my father say to something that I would write. At the time, writing “Howl”—for instance like I assumed when writing it that it was something that could not be published because I wouldn’t want my daddy to see what was in there. About my sex life, being fucked in the ass, imagine your father reading a thing like that, was what I thought. Though that disappeared as soon as the thing was real, or as soon as I manifested my … you know, it didn’t make that much importance finally. That was sort of a help for writing, because I assumed that it wouldn’t be published, therefore I could say anything that I wanted. So literally just for myself or anybody that I knew personally well, writers who would be willing to appreciate it with a breadth of tolerance—in a piece of work like Howl. Who wouldn’t be judging from a moralistic viewpoint but looking for evidences of humanity or secret thought or just actual truthfulness.