Daily Archives: April 28, 2004

Another Thought on Ginsberg

From Barry Miles’ biography of Ginsberg (link under current.reading), page 488:

Eorsi [Hungarian poet Istvan Eorsi] pointed out that, unlike Mayakovsky [Vladimir Mayakovsky, Georgian poet, see * below], who had to live with the revolution that he prophesied and helped to create, Allen [Ginsberg] had to live with the fact that the revolution he helped to create did not win, but lost. By this he meant the Beat, hippie, anarchic, flower-power, LSD-using, pot-smoking, sexual freedom movement of the 1960s, which was being swamped by the neo-conservativism of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

… and is still in full swing today, sadly.

* Brief biography of Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) from Russian Poetry Land – Mayakovsky: Born in Georgia in the village of Bagdadi, into the family of forester, in 1902 he went to secondary school in Kutaisi and later studied in Moscow where the whole family moved after his father’s death. Mayakovsky left school in 1908 to devote himself to underground revolutionary work. At the age of fifteen he joined the RSDLP(B) and carried out propoganda work. He was arrested three times and in 1909 he was kept in solitary confinement in the Butyrsky prison. It was there that he has began writing Poetry. He joined the revolution and made a lot of the perfect artworks as the comunist. But he was very unordinary man, the kind Bolshevics dislike. There was internal conflict between him and the ruling circles. He was found dead in his own room. The official version was suicide. The truth is still unknown.

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New Orleans: Imagine It Educated

Their America is seventy-percent against them,
but they do not know, these kids in New Orleans
their ebony faces eager or sullen or lost in some other world
lugging heavy booksacks on their narrow shoulders
facing teachers tired of trying to pretend
reading of themselves in textbooks they cannot translate
into their short-term teen idiom
between commercial breaks

It is their America because it is just like them
stubborn, proud and undereducated
looking in the rear view mirror, not to see what’s gaining
but to fix their hair and make sure their teeth are clean
one hand on the wheel, the other on the cell phone
loaded with ring tones by Mozart, who they’ve never met
talking smack about their teachers
planning what dress to wear this Saturday night

They think of America like the French Quarter, but clean
not knowing of the patina left on the great melting pot
from colors that tried to mix in and remained seared, on the edges
they shout out “Black Power” without benefit of Carmichael
in the Dirty South, greet Malcolm like a friend at the movies,
assigned Ellison’s Invisible Man every February without fail
their indignation rising with each chapter
hating themselves for needing MTV and Cosmopolitan

It is their America because they do not know
that seventy percent of the world is like them
different shades against which white pales
language not heard in the broadcasters’ flat Midwest
like the French Quarter, but dirtier
filled with cardboard shacks and rusted tin hovels
no yearly prom dresses, new cars or bling bling
and roaches more fierce than meek palmettos

Their America is seventy-percent black
because the world is like New Orleans, right?
And most will never see beyond the Huey P. across the river
where the white sheets hang damp on the clothelines
fresh-washed after a night of bonfires
marking the line across which Louis Armstrong
swore never to come back,
and they made him the city’s patron saint, anyway.

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