Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 544


Christmas Eve and we always like to put this up – and this (see here and here)


David S Wills has returned from the Siem Reap Writers Festival, following his talk, “On the Road – Ginsberg in Siem Reap & Other Beat Tales”, a fascinating over-view of Ginsberg as World Traveller, and, in this case, in particular, visitor to Cambodia (with some first-hand research on his 1968 book-length poem, Ankor Wat (sic))

“Yes that is A-N-K-O-R, with the G conspicuously absent. Why this was misspelled is a mystery, but there are at least two possibilities. Firstly, it should be remembered that the Khmer script is of course different from the Roman alphabet and thus any words rendered in Roman letters are merely a transliteration, with some transliterations more popular or common than others, and this changes over time, with globalisation and technological advancement generally bringing consensus. I live in Kampot, where it is still common to see the town name spelled both K-A-M and K-O-M-P-O-T, so perhaps Ginsberg encountered signage or documentation here that dropped the G. Indeed, some travel guides from that era used ANKOR, but I managed to find the travel guide Ginsberg actually had with him as he cycled around, printed by the National Tourist Office of Cambodia, and it spelled Angkor with a G. It is also worth noting that his journals from that period refer to Bangkok similarly, dropping the G so it says “B-A-N-K-O-K,” hinting that perhaps he had a tourist guide to the wider region that used this peculiar spelling.”

He goes on:

“The other possibility is just the fact that he was terrible at spelling and that his publishers, lacking the historical or geographical knowledge required to make that change, left the unusual placenames as he rendered them. A hint at the latter comes from the fact that he also misspelled Siem Reap and even Cambodia, and that in his complete collected poems, published a few decades later, the title was changed to Angkor with a G, with references to Bangkok similarly corrected.”

He goes on to look closely at the poem:

“To me, this poem is significant in terms of Ginsberg’s development as a poet and serves as sort of a missing link between earlier and later efforts. It highlights the poet’s fractured mind and his paranoia…In a sense, then, Angkor Wat is the setting for a poem about the poet’s uncertainty and his shifting world views in light of the expanded consciousness he had gained through travel..”

“The poem is also in part an attempt to fuse the lessons learned in Asia with his knowledge of the West, and in particular that abstracted view of the United States gained through years spent abroad. It is an examination of how Eastern and Western thought could be fused, particularly in light of the war in Vietnam and in a period where colonialism had just ended but globalisation was beginning..”

More on Ankor Wat and Angkor Wat from the Angkor Database – here

and check out Lars Movin‘s short film from 2004, (a travel notebook inspired by the poem (with excerpts read by American artist Lawrence Weiner)


A transcript of Willis’ entire talk is available on the Beatdom site, (as is his review (a somewhat scathing one, it should be pointed out) of Jonah Raskin‘s Beat fiction (Beat quasi-fiction), Beat Blues).  A brief end-of-the-year survey from Beatdom can be found here.


The EBSN (European Beat Studies Network) has just put up the first of the recordings from its 9th Annual Conference (of necessity, a virtual one) that took place in October of this year. Conference organizers Estíbaliz Encarnación-Pinedo, Benjamin J. Heal, and Chad Weidner introduce the event, followed by a short speech from EBSN president Oliver Harris.

“Spiralling Back to the Beats’ Spiritual Roots, Spiralling Forth to the Beats’ Neo-Shamanic Potential”  is the first feature, chaired by Beat scholar, Franca Bellarsi. Panelists/contributors include  Sarah Biratate (“A Wordsworthian Reading on Diane di Prima’s Quest for Interfusion”) Anikó Juhász (“‘The Skeleton of My Poetry’ – The Beat Generation’s Influence on Ferenc Juhász”) and Jeremy Wastiaux  (“The Ecopoetics of Jack Kerouac: Dissipative Structures in Visions of Cody and Mexico City Blues”).   More to follow.

The 10th Annual Conference will take place at the University of Murcia in Spain in 2022. The topic will be “Beat Times – Temporalities in Beat Writing” – For more details and a call for papers – see here


One comment

  1. Hi i’m from Brasil and i read some of your books that were published around here in pocket editions like Howl, On the Road and Naked Lunch.
    I’m not a writer but interested by them.

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