Two decades after the publication of Allen Ginsberg’s 1972 poetry collection, The Fall Of America, Roy Lichtenstein was entrusted with illustrating a selection of poems from the book. Ginsberg was a central member of the Beat Generation, a literary movement responding to changes in American culture and politics in the post-war era.
Ginsberg’s poem “Denver to Montana Beginning 27 May 72” describes the end of America and the spoilage of Mother Earth. Wanting to recreate forms of speech in his writing, Ginsberg uses the long-line method as a template for his poetic experimentation. The sentences therefore vary in length and are highly descriptive. Lichtenstein’s minimalistic 1992 vignette De Denver Au Montana outlines Ginsberg’s rumination on a hill, nestled between national parks and western grasslands, as the poet details the great nature splayed out in front of him.
Lichtenstein’s simplistic De Denver Au Montana presents a snapshot from an imaginary excursion. The print showcases two mountains rising into the striped sky and up towards the billowing clouds. The depicted natural formations are reduced to essential shapes and are drained of colour. As a result, De Denver au Montana has an underlying corporeal quality. South of the highway, near a snow covered top, we sit alongside the poet and Lichtenstein, above the vast green valley floor looking over the dusty pine ridges.