‘a magic universe’

Autograph Manuscript of his poem, "Aether," with annotations by Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder.

Lima: May 28, 1960.

Price: $45,000.00

About the item

Blue ink on lined air mail paper headed Via Aerea. Marked in pencil at head “copied from notebook” and dated at end. 19 ff. 1 vols. 4to. ‘a magic universe’. Old folds, small paper flaw to margin of last leaf, with bit of cellotape. Very good. With 1991 envelope with printed label addressed to Gary Snyder, docketed “Allen Ginsberg’s Aether — in his own hand — as given to GS”. Provenance: Gary Snyder.

Item #346601

The autograph manuscript of this long poem by Allen Ginsberg, a reflection on creation and the poet’s own mortality, composed at the Hotel Comercial, Lima, Peru, in May 1960. The manuscript varies slightly from the published text (which appears as the last poem in Reality Sandwiches (1963), and as pp. 242-254 of the Collected Poems). It bears Jack Kerouac's hand on the first page "by Allen Ginsberg" and his numbering to each page, as well as Gary Snyder’s signature at the foot of the first leaf, and a note on the verso of the last leaf from Ginsberg conveying the manuscript, “Gary — typed this up so thought you might amuse self some nite reading”.

It would seem the poem was first given by Peter Orlovsky to Kerouac, who records his reaction in a letter to Ginsberg from June 20, 1960:
"Peter sent me your aether notes, I numbered the pages before they get skewed up and even tied a paperclip on but if you want me to type them up for you also, I will. I probably will anyway as I would like to read it en toto fast. Great new long poem of yours. I haven't really studied it yet, answering letter first—But it surprised me that when you were really hi on ether and heaf the bells ("the sound of a bell leaving a bell." said Basho in a haiku) You thought of me, as I thought of you at the highest hi on mescaline last fall." (Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters, Penguin, 2011, p. 450)
The paperclip in question has marked the first couple and last couple of pages, but it no longer remains. Ginsberg invokes Jack Kerouac’s “wordy beard” in the poem, and their friend Philip Whalen, at the end of which he writes, “34 coming up — I suddenly felt old […] age of Burroughs (31) when we first met”.

In January 1960, Ginsberg traveled with Lawrence Ferlinghetti to Chile to attend a writer's confernce, and stayed in South America for six months, traveling to remote regions in search of yagé (ayahuasca), which he'd learned about in 1953 from the then initiate William Burroughs. The Yage Letters (1963), collects the correspondence between Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, first surrounding Burroughs' experiences in 1953, and later those of Ginsberg, in general chronicling this period of the poet’s life.

A long incantatory poem in Ginsberg’s hand, passed through those of Peter Orlovsky, annotated by his old friend Jack Kerouac, and eventually given to fellow Beat poet Gary Snyder. A choice and close American literary association.