Michael Schumacher at the Paris Review:
In 1965, Bob Dylan gifted Allen Ginsberg with a Uher reel-to-reel tape recorder, which Ginsberg was to use to record his thoughts and observations as he traveled throughout the United States. Ginsberg, already heavily influenced by Jack Kerouac’s methods of spontaneous composition, felt the taping was an ideal way to pursue his own spontaneous work. He began planning a volume of poems, a literary documentary examining contemporary America, not unlike what Kerouac had done in On the Road, or what Robert Frank had accomplished in his photographs in The Americans. He would add one important element: the violence, destruction, and inhumanity of the escalating war in Vietnam—an edgy contrast to what he was witnessing in his travels, particularly his country’s natural beauty. The public’s polarized dialogue over Vietnam—and, earlier in the decade, the civil rights movement—convinced Ginsberg that America was teetering on the precipice of a fall.