Allen Ginsberg

June 16, 2006

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(1926-1997)

Irwin Allen Ginsberg
American Beat poet
Influenced by Romanticism, Modernism, jazz, Kagyu Buddhism, Judaism, and homosexuality
Follower of Walt Whitman, brought his homosexuality to the surface
As a gay teenager, Ginsberg began to write letters to The New York Times about political issues

“Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!”

“I’m a stenographer of my mind. I write down what passes through it, not what goes on around me. I’m a poet.”

Quotations:

I’m addressing you. / Are you going to let your emotional life be run by / Time Magazine? / I’m obsessed by Time Magazine. / I read it every week. / Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner / candystore. / I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library. / It’s always telling me about responsibility.  Buisness- / men are serious.  Movie producers are serious. / Everybody’s serious but me. / It occurs to me that I am America. / I am talking to myself again.

America you don’t really want to go to war. / America it’s them bad Russians. / Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. / And them Russians. / The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power / mad. She wants to take our cars from out our / garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Readers’ / Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia. / Him big bureaucracy running our fillingsta-/ tions.
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read. / Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us / all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious. / America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set. / America is this correct? I’d better get right down to the job. / It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes / in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and / psychopathic anyway. / America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

-America

it was the racks and these on the racks I saw naked / in electric light the night before I quit, / the racks were created to hang our possessions, to keep us together, a temporary shift in space, / God’s only way of building the rickety structure of / Time, / to hold the bags to send on the roads, to carry our / luggage from place to place / looking for a bus to ride us back home to Eternity / where the heart was left and farewell tears / began.

-In The Baggage Room At Greyhound

O dear sweet rosy / unattainable desire / …how sad, no way / to change the mad / cultivated asphodel, the / visible reality…
and skin’s appaling / petals- how inspired / to be so lying in the living / room drunk naked / and dreaming, in the absence / of electricity… / over and over eating the low root / of the asphodel, / gray fate…
rolling in generation / on the flowery couch / as on a bank in Arden- / my only rose tonite’s the treat / of my own nudity.

-An Asphodel

In back of the real / railroad yard in San Jose / I wandered desolate / in front of a tank factory / and sat on a bench / near the switchman’s shack.
A flower lay on the hay on / the asphalt highway / -the dread hay flower / I thought- It had a / brittle black stem and / corolla of yellowish dirty / spikes like Jesus’ inchlong / crown, and a soiled / dry center cotton tuft / like a used shaving brush / that’s been lying under the garage for a year.
Yellow, yellow flower, and / flower of industry, / tough spiky ugly flower, / flower nonetheless, / with the form of the great yellow / Rose in your brain! / This is the flower of the World.

-In back of the real (in whole)

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the side streets under trees with a headache self-consious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumberations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands!  Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes! -and  you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?
I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely  old grubber, poking among the meats in the  refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who  Killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you  my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.
Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

-A Supermarket in California (in whole)
 see Poetry Speaks

Howl (1955)

Noted for relating stories and experiences of his friends and contemporaries, its tumbling hallucinatory style, and the subsequent obscenity trial which it provoked
Dedicated to Carl Solomon, whom Ginsberg met in a mental institution

Quotations:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,/ dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix

ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and / now you’re really in the total animal soup of / time-

with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered / out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand / years.

Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all!  the / wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! / They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving! / carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the / street!

Carl Solomon! I’m with you in Rockland / where you’re matter than I am

I’m with you in Rockland / where the faculties of the skull no longer admit / the worms of the senses

I’m with you in Rockland / where you scream in a straightjacket that you’re / losing the game of the actual pingpong of the / abyss

I’m with you in rockland / where we hug and kiss the United States under / our bedsheets the United States that coughs all / night and won’t let us sleep

I’m with you in Rockland / in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-/ journey on the highway across America in tears / to the door of my cottage in the Western night

Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! / Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
The world is holy!The soul is holy! The skin is holy! / The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand / and asshole holy!
Everything is holy! everybody’s holy! everywhere is / holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman’s an / angel!

Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! Holy! Ours! / bodies! suffering! magnanimity!
Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent / kindness of the soul!

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