Tag Archives: Allen Ginsberg

An End to Madness

I have seen the best kinds of madness
destroyed by my generation:
all strange chaotic magic stilled
in the great press of conformity’s
graveyard silent stare,
all tangents pruned before they fruit,
left in the harsh day’s sun to wither;
all brave ideals, like beach sand,
swept out into a sea of doubt;
all savage and bewildered strength,
enough to change a planet’s course,
seduced into self-destruction,
enslaved to spin a hamster’s wheel
or worse, to fabricate ennui.

17 MAY 2012

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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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Staggering Fact of the Day

It is estimated that when Allen Ginsberg died, besides the manuscripts (both his own and those he schlepped around for friends), miscellaneous papers and other drafts for publication, he had over 60,000 pieces of correspondence, representing every letter he had either sent or received for his whole life.

Besides the obvious pack-rat comment that could be laid to Ginsberg, that’s one hell of a lot of letters. I’m lucky if I can keep track of the bills due just this month, let alone have space for obviously boxes and boxes of pages.

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Outside the Morphology of Poetics

For about two years, I have immersed myself in the classic forms of Poetry, forcing myself when I write to use common stanza forms with their dictates of rhyme and meter. I felt this was a necessary exercise to “formalize” my training as a poet – after all, one can’t begin except at the beginning. The imposition of form, particularly with respect to the traditional Welsh meters, I felt was essential in determining whether or not I could in fact have qualified as a “bard” in the traditional, Celtic Druid sense.

And I feel that I have achieved a certain degree of success in this endeavor, not the least of which is the creation of roughly a poem a day for two years – some of which have been collected into a manuscript that is currently under consideration for the Walt Whitman award.

It may seem strange that a collection of sonnet forms is what I submitted for this competition, particularly since Walt Whitman himself was a champion of new forms, so to speak, and did not adhere to the sonnet, or any other form, on a regular basis. But the point was that Whitman, although one of my earliest poetic influences, was not the only luminary on my horizon. There have been others who used form that heavily influenced my development, although my real impetus to focus my writing was my discovery (really, at the age of 28) of Henry Miller, who I owe a great debt of consciousness regarding writing, and Allen Ginsberg, whose biography by Barry Miles I am currently reading, and jazz by virtue of attending Berklee College of Music.

My initial attempts were to create my own beat Poetry – and being under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, various hallocinogenics and other mind-altering substances and conversations only served to fuel that fire. It was later, in Memphis, where the drug of choice was coffee, that my real experimentation began – using form as a vehicle for modifying sentence structure, creating new words, stringing thoughts Joyce-like in endless streams of consciousness, playing with the sound of language as integral to its meaning, and so on. And so began the manic creation of reams of paper filled with words. At the time, too, I considered myself a songwriter; so to contrast the freeform, Ornette Coleman style of “free jazz” Poetry, there were structured songs that used, like Willie Nelson is wont to do, ten-dollar words. And the constant abstraction wrought by needing to write regularly, in order to have something to present on a weekly basis at readings, to discuss among fellow poets, and to keep my mind (racing on caffeine) occupied.

Now, I find myself weaned of the frantic pace of living that ultimately deteriorated my health to a degree, and while I still write manically at times, these episodes are more structured. I use smaller words, I discovered the other day; so today I deliberated introduced the word “sinew” into a poem. At times, Robert Frost is like a lighthouse – a clear signal in the storm, and at the same time, a marker at the end of a dangerous shoreline. And Blake. One of my earliest influences, I discover by reading Ginsberg’s biography another parallel to that mystic soul. It’s like my appreciation of David Crosby. Ginsberg, Crosby, Yeats, Dylan, Joyce – with each of them there are aspects of their childhoods, their philosophies, their paths, that are mirrored in my own, but not mirrored or traced, because I had no foreknowledge of their presence on them; more like we sought for Truth using the same instinctual guides.

But back to Poetry. The point of all that is that while my work has been shaped and honed and pointed by form and meter, and these things will always affect, influence and inform my work, that they are merely lines to choose to color within, or blur, or ignore altogether.

BTW, can anyone recommend a good overview of the theoretics of modern Poetry? Besides, say, TS Eliot’s commentaries, or Stevens’ A Necessary Angel?

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While Reading of Ginsberg’s Life

To wake
while reading William Blake
to taste of life in dreamlike doses
flexing the sinews of the mind
in the fight against some status quo
that lumbers, like a Clydesdale pair
to drag a dying culture’s broken-wheeled cart
along the muddy ruts
of road built to achieve a purpose
travel to the same crowded cities
filled with lives teeming with uncertainty
holding fast to corroded dreams
that emphasize our lack of clarity

the underlying pinions of capitalism
wasted on the ill-at-ease, the wayward pilgrims
seeking truth despite the cost
their families shamed and raked with muck
in vain attempts to build illusions
that all’s right with the world

there is a need for change, for growth.

26 APR 2004

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For Allen Ginsberg

I can hear you breathing, America
Will you catch up with me
Dangling your embittered and jealous umbilicus
Who among you when your child asks for bread
Will hand him a grenade?
It’s not some dark sin that hides you
That tangles itself between your hunchback slouch
Taking the offense
And turning it to saccharine misgiving,
Writing manifesto after manifesto
In depressed Republican villages,
Burning books
(besides, who reads?)
That betray the lies:
The absence of a common enemy
A booming peacetime economy
Unprecedented availability of information.
No one wins this anti-trust action,
I can hear you breathing,
Cursing your unseen enemies
In the absence of the rear view mirror
I was young, once,
But you were born to bed pans and liquid food,
To hearing aids and walking sticks,
To constipation and incontinence.
Can you hear me, America?


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I have seen the great minds of my own mad
generation, lost there on the long road
to find-out, trolling in a dry wasteland
of television idols and false dawns;
of lingering doubts on the new world
order, lolling aimlessly at the trough
of some prefabricated nightmare dream,
where the subtle shimmer of some bright lie
draws even the most ardent activist
for truth into a warm apathetic
mire; of an amnesiac culture
that cannot even raise its voice above
the dull murmur of its own Machine; but
I am not my father’s Allen Ginsberg.

I have wandered out into the somber
night, high on the watered-down and cut smack
of misinformation, finding only
spare hints and veiled clues to the universe;
weak honeyed colored shots of Nirvana;
bits and broken pieces of some grand scheme
to resurrect the spirit of this place;
and in the tepid water of a fetid spring
have washed away only part of the sad
sickness that saps the strength of will, and hope,
leaving only a malaise of selfish
preoccupation with the status quo.
In this stark and violent land I have learned
I am not my father’s Allen Ginsberg.

Against the bleak sunrise of a new war,
the best minds of my generation blink
their startled eyes, like stunned deer in the road
that can only wait, paralyzed, surprised
as the blanket of our greed, frayed and torn,
looses itself from our stooped, weak shoulders
and we are discovered, naked and cold
on the fallow field of our investments;
as the slow, steady churning wheels of death
advance towards us, we pretend deafness,
turning a blind eye, or shifting our stance
so we can imagine there is no cost.
I cannot find a way to change this scene;
I am not my father’s Allen Ginsberg.

31 JAN 2003

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