Books: Mainstreaming Allen Ginsberg

Pushing 60, the poet has a six-figure contract

"The first thing is to straighten your spine," says Allen Ginsberg, as he starts his tai chi chuan, the Chinese exercises he recommends for healthful testicles and liver. With arms extended and hands as graceful as cobra heads, he begins the ritual steps, fluidly shifting his weight from one slippered foot to the other. The martial exercise is based on a subtle principle. "The aggressor is off balance," Ginsberg explains. "The person who is nonaggressive is in balance."

This is a fetching idea and one that applies to America's most public poet. Approaching his autumnal years, the man once feared as...

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