ADD POEM FOR TUESDAY

September 27, 2010

I am shocked and appalled to find that I omitted this from the syllabus somehow: “Bronzeville Woman in a Red Hat,” 103-106.  Please add it to your readings for 9/28.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: , , ,

Thoughts on Brooks’ two mothers

September 23, 2010

I wanted to do a brief reading of parts of Brooks’ poem “A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi. Meanwhile, a Mississippi Mother Burns Bacon,” focusing on the relationship between the two mothers and the persistence of red throughout the work. I think this is an absolutely brilliant poem; Brooks takes the perspective of the white wife ( instead of the black mother, a victim that I thought might draw more sympathy from a reader) and uses the form of the traditional ballad with a hero, a damsel in distress, and a “dark” villain, and then, deconstructs this perspective completely and systematically throughout the poem.

In the middle of the fifth stanza, on the top of page 77, Brooks writes (about the white mother), “So much had happened, she could now remember now what that foe had done/Against her, or if anything had been done.” Up until this point Brooks had gone through the ballad structure and subverted it; she says the supposed dark villain is really a “blackish child” and that the supposed white knight “rushing/With his heavy companion to hack down (unhorsed)/That little foe.” Now that we see she can’t even remember how she was wronged by the dark “little foe”, we are better able to envision the guilt that must be flowing through her every thought–primarily symbolized through the color red reappearing.

It is almost as if this guilt is inherited, that the red flows through her kids; at one point the husband slaps her child and “Surely her Baby’s cheek/Had disappeared, and in its place, surely/Hung a heaviness, a lengthening red, a red that had no end.” And later the red comes oozing from her husband’s hands and mouth. And a hatred for him grows from her guilt.

But I couldn’t really find much mention of Emmit Till’s mother until “The Last Quatrain.” In class, Professor Scanlon suggested that we consider the idea of a common motherhood connection between the women, and, the degree to which this connection transcends racial boundaries. From what I read, the redness is present in the The Last quatrain as well, but it is more attributed to the mother’s environment than to her immediate emotions and psychological state; however, maybe the red –and perhaps this word suggests both guilt and grief– has spread so much that it completely envelops her surroundings. I think Brooks did want to forge some kind of connection between the two mothers, especially with the inclusion of the red theme in the last quatrain; but I’m not sure to what affect their feelings of grief and guilt as mothers really transcend racial boundaries. I couldn’t really find any direct evidence to support that argument. Did anyone else find anything in the text that supported or maybe even refuted this idea?

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: , ,

go with the flow.

September 23, 2010

Since we only had time to ask, “Alright, what the heck is Brooks saying here?” in class, what did everyone think of the poem? Did anyone feel like Brooks tries so hard to disguise the basic plotline that she winds up taking away from the flow of her poem? Does Brooks get too lost in her imagery? The poem felt very forced to me, like she went back over it multiple times to make sure every word was thoughtful enough, and I feel like that kind of labor ruins the beauty and idea of a poem.

When you have to try that hard to get what’s even going on, how can you really feel it?

I thought Bishop’s and Ginsberg’s poems flowed very easily, but reading The Anniad I felt like I was choking over every line. It’s not just the “guessing game” element of the writing style, but I think Brooks tries to take on too many things at once, image-wise, and that all of these images don’t quite go together/add to each other/build the poem up in the right way. Brooks’ poems didn’t leave an impression on me, as Bishop’s poems left impressions image-wise and Ginsberg’s did emotion-wise.

I think of Bishop and I think of unique, colorful descriptions of fishing, of that one fish with flower-patterned scales who had a beard like war medals. I think of the neat comparison of a trip from the country to the city as being like traveling up the leg of a man and into his chaotic, pulsating brain. I think of Ginsberg and I think of anger and despair, and a flow that was so effortless that I can remember individual lines of his poems. I think of Brooks and all I can easily recall is “tan man” and “Fine Prince,” a million food descriptions of black skin and really tangled images. I think of repressed, daydreaming characters hiding behind layers and layers of ambiguity who can’t spit out what they mean, leaving the flow of the poems…blocked.

Categories: Uncategorized.

KADDISH CHALLENGE

September 22, 2010

Think about your own cultural and or religious belief system. Then, in response to your relationship to someone real or imagined, living or dead (or to Allen and Naomi’s relationship if you like), What would your version of the Kaddish look like?

The following is my seizured attempt at the Irish Catholic version of the Kaddish.
You may notice that my Elegiac Epistle varies somewhat from Ginsberg’s Kadddish, in that, it, for the most part, abandons the repetition of the recipient’s name. That is because we (Irish) invented the understood pronoun – and frankly, it doesn’t matter whether it is understood or not, because it only lends to the circuitous nature of the traditional Irish art of story-telling; however, for the sake of those who are not Irish, I will try not to lose you in confusion.

Last Epistle to Robbie
June 14, 1963 – June 26, 1978
Carried on the wings of doves
accompanied by the cries of vultures into eternity

I

My mind wanders back – to a warm June evening – the last time we were together.
The light turns green, we wait to cross –
wait for the traffic to slowly inch forward-
wait – until the bottleneck clears
and the cars start moving faster,
wait – for just the right moment.
Then we enter our dance with eternity,
laughing and running, we jump and dodge
in-and-out of speeding cars,
daring God to take us.
But He refuses to answer.

We run into Highs flush with adrenaline,
confident in our invincibility.
You offer to spend your last dollar
on a candy bar for us to share.
Waiting to pay – someone calls out a question
from somewhere in the back of the store.
The clerk looks away
for only a second.
I lift a pack of Marlboros from the counter,
put them in my pocket – You pay.
We go out into the night.

We walk next door to the coin laundry.
We’re alone – we’re broke –
You busy yourself with a coat hanger
trying to jimmy the coin slots.
I thumb through the Children’s Illustrated Bible,
a free sample with mail-in postcards in the back,
left on a table in a dimly lit corner
by some lonesome evangelical salesman,
who chose this place –
because it was safe – an easy sale;
no attendant to ask for permission.

I wonder how he stumbled into this place – whether he got lost in his travels.
If he had to forge some paperwork –
Was God happy? Did God smile?
I ask you if you believe,
God has a sense of humor. You say ‘Yes.”
Just then your body shutters all over;
the shock tosses You across the room.
I scramble to retrieve seven coins
scattered across the floor.
I place them in your hand, but you hand them back.
You say you’re ready to go now.

Outside, you hand me a golf ball
and save two for yourself.
We heave them wildly into the vast emptiness.
From out of the darkness – the sound of shattering glass –
wild cries; we run for ourlives , feeling
the breath of our unknown pursuer,
his steps at our backs, as we flee into the night
laughing and shrieking for joy amidst cries of foul.
The unseen stranger, intent on retribution, stumbles
and we are saved by a root springing up from the darkness.
The chase ends in silence.

II

I got the call from your sister three days ago –
She said they found you dead,
crushed under the weight of your Grandfather’s favorite tractor.
I think back to our elaborate dances – taking chances with God
and daring him to answer.
It seems funny, now, how God made the call
when You were doing nothing at all wrong this time.

I remember you telling me once about your parents being deaf
and how it was like you and your sister had your own secret code;
You could speak and your parents couldn’t understand.
You even said you shared a private language, like twin-speak;
only you weren’t really twins, just Irish –
ten months of separation – I thought of her then,
making all of the calls and funeral preparations.

III

I stand at the threshold of the dimly lit parlor,
peering in. A wooden memory pressed tightly in my hand.
I linger- a moment more, outside the door,
staring lovingly at the cross that has left
its imprint upon my hand,
unsure whether I want to part
with this symbol of our relationship
but I know that you, Robbie, would want it.

Looking down into my sweaty palm,
I see –
its just a plain wooden cross, upon a leather strap-
No Jesus hanging – No crown of thorns –
Just a memory.

Wordlessly, your sister waves me in
and I make my meager offering.
She speaks to your parents, silent words
flowing effortlessly from her fingertips.

Your parents, standing on opposite sides of the room,
erupt in angry gestures,
arguing, over the closed lid of your casket.
They grind out guttural utterances.
I imagine that I understand.
Your mother’s hands wave emphatically
through the air, and the frown on her face
shows her displeasure.

Even without words I understand,
her answer is no; but, Robbie, your father
unleashes a crescendo of words.
They dance silently from his lips and body
his eyes pleading for understanding.
Finally, your sister asks me to leave
your cross with her. Your parents will decide
the final disposition of my gift.

As I turn to go, the priest enters
offering little words of comfort
your parents don’t hear.
Discerning his somber black mantle
and escarpment boasting a simple cross,
I wonder –
If he really has faith
in the power of exorcism.

He catches my eyes,
looks in piercingly –
I stare back at an edifice rended.
Peering into the precipice
I see –
You and I dancing into eternity.
The priest, his conversation ended,
turns away.

Homily

Blessed be the Lord, our God, the one true
God who goes before us to make a place
at the table of his father, with all
the Saints who go before him.

Oh Hosanna on highest, in your mercy
all praise and glory are yours forever.

Blessed be the child who goes before us.
Blessed be his father and his mother;
grace to his parents left in their sorrows
to carry on without his cherub face.

Oh Hosanna on highest, in your mercy
all praise and glory are yours forever.

Blessed be the mourners who remember
the loss of his tomorrows. Peace to those
who gather here to say farewell
to this tiny fallen angel of God.

Oh Hosanna on highest, in your mercy
all praise and glory are yours forever.

Blessed be the one son of God who died,
was buried, and rose again to atone
for the sins of all who have fallen short
throughout eternity. Peace be with them.

Oh Hosanna on highest, in your mercy
all praise and glory are yours forever.

Amen. Forever and ever. Amen.
Go now, my brothers in eternal peace
The Lamb of God be with you forever.
Amen – Clink, Clank, Scatter rosary beads.
Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling DesignDesigned by Tim Sainburg from Brambling DesignDesigned by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: ,

Parody of Ginsberg’s “America”

September 22, 2010

As promised, a parody written by a former student, Lauren Ireland, in which she addresses the Grandma from Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”  You will enjoy it more if you read “America” first.

Ginsberg Responds to Flannery O

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: , ,

A Bronzeville Mother and a Mississippi Mother

September 22, 2010

From the University of Memphis special collections (see the first site Sirena links to below in her post on Emmett Till):

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: , , , ,

Another Look at “the mother”

September 22, 2010

I want to take a look at some of the content we didn’t get a chance to talk about in class yesterday in regards to Brooks’ “the mother”.  Looking at the first paragraph, Brooks uses a lot of “you’s” to discuss abortion – “You remember the children,” “you will never…”.  It’s as if in this section she’s staying disconnected from the topic – she’s almost lecturing the audience on what will happen if YOU go through this process.  I interpreted this disconnect as Brooks reflecting on what would certainly happen if you were to have an abortion – possibly even doubting the act, presenting it as a disgrace or mistake.  The line “you will never” is repeated three times, an emphasis on what is taken away from you in this context.

After the first paragraph, Brooks shifts into using “I” as the subject for the rest of the poem.  “I have heard in the voices”, “I have contracted”.  She is no longer staying disconnected to the topic – we hear her personal experiences and her thoughts on the subject.  However, I think there is still a sense of disconnect with the subject, only now it is more of a disconnect by way of uncertainty.  “If” is used at the start of a few lines in the second and third stanzas, as if to ask if her decision was the right one, or as if to ask permission to be forgiven.  There are also a number of questions posed within the second two stanzas: “Whine that the crime was other than mine?” and “how is the truth to be said?”.  Both reemphasize the uncertainty of the mother, and although there is no longer a disconnection with the topic, Brooks has staged her poem as a constant flow of uncertainty; a feeling that I’m sure goes hand-in-hand with the decision of abortion.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Jon Pineda

September 21, 2010

People,

I thought you might be interested in checking out the website of our visiting writer, Jon Pineda.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: , ,

Throwback to Ginsberg

September 21, 2010

Hey Guys,

I know a few of us went to the National Gallery to see the Ginsberg Photography exhibit, but since everyone couldn’t make it, here are a few photographs:

http://www.homo-neurotic.com/2010/08/31/polyamorous-beats/

Categories: Uncategorized.

Bronzeville

September 21, 2010

A great deal of Brooks’ poetry focuses on Bronzeville, a traditionally African American neighborhood in Chicago.  This link has information about Bronzeville and links out to several other sites as well.  Here are a few images :

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: , , , ,

Emmett Till

September 21, 2010

Here are some websites I found. Warning: the first offers a gruesome picture of Emmett during his funeral where his mother requested it be an open casket. The picture is located under the section ‘pictures of Emmett Till.’

 http://www.emmetttillmurder.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Emmett_Till

Who Killed Emmett Till (Youtube Video)

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Categories: Uncategorized.

A different View of Ginsberg

September 19, 2010

Before my roommate and I went to dinner the other night, I sat down to read Kaddish. While she waited for me to finish, she read a fiction novel. When I was finally done, I pointed out a few passages for her to read while I got ready. To my surprise, while I was getting ready, I heard her laughing, hysterically. I came out and she was reading Kaddish, and laughing. I hadn’t really taken it that way, humorous that is. Instead I’d read it as sad, angered, internally pained and confused. But as she pointed out the bits and phrases, the words tossed around carelessly, erratically, frantically; I realized it could almost be considered humorous. Very dry humor, but to some humor none the less. What if Ginsberg was being humorous in a way. I mean sure, he was describing his inner pain and the torment and love that was his mother, but it was almost as if he was trying to mock his own pain, see the ironies and inconsistencies and make light of a situation that was fairly dim. His mocking tone is his mother’s key in a way. Maybe, in his own wry, ironic, dry, sarcastic humor, he is grieving.

Maybe, when he says “Blessed be He in homosexuality! Blessed be He in Paranoia!”, he’s mocking the idea of anyone being blessed. Maybe only God himself is blessed in those things and we are not. Maybe Ginsberg thinks all of it sucks, and all of it is ironic and terrible and twisted. He says:

“with your eyes of abortion/ with your eyes of ovaries removed/ with your eyes of shock/ with your eyes of lobotomy/ with your eyes of divorce/ with your eyes of stroke”

And how could that many terrible things happen all at once? And isn’t it a little funny that repeatedly bad things happen, that it just gets worse and worse, and perhaps it’s just a little bit easier to take when you look at it humorously.

I started laughing after a minute, and my roommate said “Dude, I could write this. You just have to be a little crazy. You just have to stay up without sleeping, it’s like rambling every thought he has. If I knew this was poetry I’d be a poetic genius.”

At first I thought the comment kind of pompous, kind of arrogant, then she pointed out these lines:

“caw caw all years my birth a dream caw caw New York the bus the broken shoe the vast highschool caw caw all Visions of the Lord/ Lord Lord Lord caw caw caw Lord Lord Lord caw caw caw Lord”

I mean she’s right. What sense does that make? They aren’t even full sentences. It’s just a train of thought, one that holds a feeling that connects to the rest of his poem that he’s trying to relate to others or trying to rid of. Let’s say someone stays up all night. They’ve got papers, they’re partying, but they decide to forgo sleep because they have too many things to do the next day that they can’t possibly oversleep for. So they stay up the rest of the next day, but the same thing happens again. And finally around the forty-eight hour mark of no sleep they decide to write a poem. They are delirious, they are a little crazy, and they are honest and real about something in whichever way they want to be.

So, is it true? Can anyone recite their pattern of thoughts and make it interesting enough to read and call poetry? Is it tangible that any one person can write a fluid stream of consciousness that is literally a mentally vomiting of every thought and emotion into a quick stream on a page? I’m not saying it’s perfect without editing, every poem needs time, but the idea that’s originally written, and the feeling that’s originally written is ultimately the same.

What if for Ginsberg dashes didn’t mean anything about the reading or the structure? What if for Ginsberg dashes represented the end of one thought and the start of another that are all in such quick succession and all linked so invariably to one another that he needs to pause, but his thought isn’t stopping so nothing else suffices. It can’t possibly be with the sentence before, it’s a new thought. Though stemmed from the old he has to make a break, therefore the dash. The dash just belongs. It’s not thought about because it represents thought.

Can anyone do what Ginsberg does if they’re crazy enough? If they have enough crazy things to think about, can they blather it all onto a page, edit it and have a poem? Did Ginsberg really put any more thought into it besides what he was thinking, besides what he was feeling, or was it really ultimately, originally a regurgitating mechanism from living through so much pain, and repressing it all?

Categories: Uncategorized.

A very short close reading

September 18, 2010

So I know this is totally old news, but back to Kaddish.  On page 15 when Ginsberg is talking about leaving Naomi at the Lakewood house, he says, “…have left Naomi to Parcae.”  Parcae is a reference to the Fates of ancient mythology.  They controlled the life and death of every living being–in the movie Hercules they’re the ones that share the eyeball and cut the string that sends people to Hades, and in real mythology, even the gods feared them.  The word Parcae means ‘sparers’ (I got all this mixed up when I told it to Dr. Scanlon on Thursday–good thing I decided to check Wikipedia), and the ancients called them that in hopes that if they had a nice name, they would be kinder to the human race.

So, Ginsberg says he has left his mother to these divine beings–calling them by the name that requests a better treatment.  It also seems like, at the age of 12 after leaving her there in “Lakewood’s haunted house–left to my own fate bus” he’s dealing with the Parcae a little bit on his own.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Elegant garden of beauty

September 17, 2010

The sestina that Smontgom wrote is lovely, and it vibrates with color.  A painting by John William Waterhouse, “Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May,” has the same illuminated beauty as this poem.

Categories: Uncategorized.

“Footnote to Howl”

September 17, 2010

This post somewhat relates to this one and I was originally going to make it a comment there, but then my discussion got too out of hand and, besides, the Footnote deserves its own damn post considering it got virtually zero class discussion.

I’m finding it hard to believe that the discussion of “Howl” has thus far left out the “Footnote”. For, what is the function of a footnote in any piece of writing? To me, I’ve always seen them as author’s comments on a piece of writing, but though sometimes the information may seem unnecessary to the work as a whole, I find that most footnotes are inserted in order to help illuminated the object of the footnote. In this case, I see Ginsberg’s “Footnote” as being one of the main keys to discovering Ginsberg’s reading, or perhaps even the reading he wants us to have, of “Howl”.

We talked a little bit in class about how some thought the “Footnote” to be cynical due to its excess of “Holy” things, but I find myself in the opposing camp. I read nothing but sincerity in Ginsberg’s voice in that part of the poem. I see Ginsberg reclaiming the horrors of the “Howl-land” as Katherine put it. This lends to her reading of section three as well, except for the sanitation in my view. Instead I see Ginsberg embracing the horror in a Naomi sort of moment where he sees “the key…in the sunlight at the window”.

In this way I see “Howl” and the “Footnote” as comforting in a way–the soothing image of arriving at a cottage in the night is incredibly palpable for me–but I think overall the comfort comes from our ability as humans to acknowledge anything in the world (including the good, the bad and the mundane), embrace any of them and reclaim them to be our own “Holy” things. It seems to me that there could be no greater victory for Ginsberg than his ability and ours to do this.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Thoughts on Kaddish

September 16, 2010

After class today I was stuck on that final image in Naomi’s letter to Ginsberg: the key being in the bars of the window. I felt like there was something else that I wanted to articulate about it, but I didn’t necessarily know what that was or why I thought so. Later this afternoon, I was talking to a friend on the phone about a class on Beat poetry she is taking at the Yale Divinity School. Currently they are reading Burroughs, and she quoted this to me:

“A man who doesn’t know he’s in prison can never escape. As soon as you realise the planet and your body constitute an almost escape-proof jail, as soon as you know you are in prison – you have a possibility to escape.”

William S. Burroughs

So, feedback  time: do you guys think this is what Naomi was trying to say in her letter? Can we see her bars as manifestations of body and earth, or is that taking it too far? Or can we ever take the Beats, interpretively, too far?

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: , ,

Ginsberg and Whitman

September 16, 2010

I was re-reading Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” and, after our reading for “Howl” last class, I started to see a lot of parallels. Weirdly, (though I think incidentally) section 3 of each involves the direct address, “I’m with you” or “I am with you” to invoke a sense of solidarity in poetry with the reader.

This got me thinking about the differences between Whitman and Ginsberg and for what use they might be using this kind of poetry. What do you all think?

I think that Whitman, though he does get very personal, ends up speaking about something much more objective than Ginsberg. He doesn’t seem to be as steeped in himself in that he generates a kind of identity with all others in America. I’m not sure to what extent Ginsberg is doing that or not, but it seems to me he’s definitely not at the same intensity as Whitman. What do you all think?

“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”

“Howl”

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Kaddish

September 16, 2010

Links for information on/text of the traditional Jewish Mourner’s Kaddish:

Here and here

Also of interest, a theatre production of “Kaddish.”

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: , , ,

Ginsberg Reading

September 15, 2010

UPenn has a lovely page dedicated to a collection of recordings of Ginsberg reading his stuff aloud, as well as singing William Blake’s Songs of Innocence. How do you think we measured up to Ginsberg?

http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Ginsberg.php

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: ,

BAM Multimedia Report

September 15, 2010

Below is BAM’s multimedia report but first watch the youtube clip below. Amiri Baraka offers an awesome view of the black aesthetic. BAM!

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/OI9jZQwbQdY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Black Arts Movement Multimedia Report

Categories: Uncategorized.

Arms open wide

September 15, 2010

To respond to Amanda, no, I don’t believe that a poet needs to be a bit squirrely to produce “staggeringly excellent” poems.  It’s just that so many poets/artists/musicians do have their problems.  (And friendships with them are probably painful.) 

If their visions do produce poems, sometimes those poems are not excellent.  They simply stagger.  Those kinds of poems have to be mended and tended, in order to make them comprehensible.  Audre Lorde in her essay says, “We can train ourselves to respect our feelings and to discipline (transpose) them into a language that catches those feelings so they can be shared.”

And isn’t communication what poetry is about?  The poet may be a lonely Who shouting at Horton—I’m here!  Or the poet may have felt, learned or remembered something that he or she must share, or else die.  In her essay, Adrienne Rich describes poetry as a method for “call[ing] up images that were in danger of being forgotten or unconceived.” 

As for the reader of poetry, he or she is hoping to find communication, as well.  Connection, comprehension, cohesion.  Not every poem is for every reader, but I believe that for every reader, there is a poem, and for every poem, there is a reader.

Poems are sent out into the world like dandelion fluff.  They drift.  Sometimes they land on someone’s cheek, and tickle.

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Categories: Uncategorized.

off the naughty list

September 15, 2010

1. Can creative writing only be staggeringly excellent if the writer is a little unbalanced mentally? Do we “mistake” their messed up serotonin levels for genius? Do we love Sylvia Plath because she was depressed, Coleridge because he did opium and Wilmot because he was constantly drunk? If this is the only reason why their perspectives are so fresh and dazzling to us…well, does that matter? Lastly, would you want to be friends with your favorite poet?

2. What do you think of confessional poetry and the Beats? Share Bishop’s view that they were too whiny and tell-all, or do you think that’s what poetry should be? I just read Wordsworth and Coleridge for Lorentzen, and I gulped Samuel T down but couldn’t stand the simplistic style of Wordsworth. For me, poetry is wild and emotional and packed with imagery and so on–it doesn’t matter how arrogant and self-indulgent it may come off as (as some people thought Howl did).

Go forth and debate.

P.S. I’m excited about the Howl writing challenge.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Rockland

September 14, 2010

I don’t remember if we mentioned this in class or not, but apparently Howl is now a movie and it’s coming out later this month. James Franco plays Ginsberg and the film is set right around his obscenity trial. Here’s a short clip of Franco reading I’m with you in Rockland :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIZeJmGpKeg&feature=related

I don’t think the end of part 3 of Howl necessarily suggests a feeling of victory. I feel like Ginsberg and Carl Solomon are reacting against the conventions of mainstream society in the fifties, and perhaps this society is represented in the idea of Rockland in the third part of the poem. It’s true that Rockland was a mental hospital and it’s true that Carl Solomon was clinically depressed (as was probably Ginsberg), but I think Rockland also represents the controlling power of authority in general. Ginsberg and Solomon were defiant of the mainstream ideas of the modern American capitalist society and the power of repression that our government possessed; maybe this idea of fighting against authority is a central idea in Ginsberg’s Rockland.

On the title page of the book Howl, I noticed that Ginsberg has included a brief excerpt from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. It reads:

“Unscrew the locks from the doors!

“Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!

I have always interpreted this line as Whitman wanting America to see the equality  of all people (including women and homosexuals and slaves). For his time Whitman was a very radical thinker: he openly wrote that he helped an escaped fugitive slave; he wrote passages of pretty clear homo-eroticism, and he argued that the beauty of the human body and form was equal in both sexes. Whitman wanted to give a voice to those who were repressed in American society, and I think that Ginsberg wants to follow in the same vein by voicing the plight and struggle of people in his generation who rebel against the conventions of 1950’s mainstream American society. “Howl,” the title itself suggests an animalistic  cry for freedom from this restrictive society.

But I don’t think there is ever a real victory attained or anything won; there is only the solace in fighting and the realization of human companionship and connection during this struggle against authority.  For Ginsberg, perhaps this feeling of solace comes in the freedom of the soul: “we wake up electrified out of the coma/by our own soul’s airplanes roaring over the/ roof they’ve come to drop angelic bombs the/ hospital illuminates itself  imaginary walls collapse (26).” While this passage certainly is suggestive of a victory, i think that it more-so represents Ginsberg having a vision. Otherwise, wouldn’t he have chosen to end his poem here, with the suggestion of real freedom? Instead the very next line is: “I’m with you in Rockland.” The very last line is suggestive of a connection Ginsberg feels to Solomon and perhaps to all his fellow non-conformists in their struggle against conventional authority.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: , , , , ,

Public Apology

September 14, 2010

I have unfairly maligned the following:  Sarah, Jennifer, and Maryanne.  All have posted comments on the blog, which I had forgotten our sidebar doesn’t “count” even though I certainly do.  These three are officially moved off the Naughty List.  Mea culpa.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: , , ,

Post-class Recap: Ginsberg’s “Howl”

September 14, 2010

On a very personal note, when I first finished reading “Howl,”  I felt like death had his hand on my back.  I was filled with an over-whelming sadness, mournfulness,  hopelessness – and I was breathless, I hadn’t noticed how engaged I was, while reading silently to myself, until I stopped. The end felt like running ten miles straight then slamming into a brick wall.

I had to take a time-out.  I was too worked up, too guilty, too shamed.  I  took a ten minute time-out to calm myself down.           And then,     I read it again.

Was anyone else completely shaken by this poem?

Now, to discuss the point that Dr. Scanlon left us with:

Is the end of “Howl” victorious? Is it comforting?

The ending tone of “Howl” depends entirely on how it is read.  The fluid pauses dictate if the final note is of victory (Ginsberg and Carl Solomon proudly standing on the roof of Rockland, unstoppable, and underwear-less) or of a quiet, safe comfort.   Given the choice, I prefer the latter, which emerges if the last poegraph if read like so: “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”   This interpretative reading functions to separate the reader, who was formerly confronted as the “you” in this direct address, from Carl, who is an unfamiliar, ruined, and dangerous figure. This reading places him safely back into “my dreams,” where the violent, grotesque reality of everyday life cannot harm the reader.

Although the above interpretive reading places the frightening images of Howl-land behind glass, sanitizes them, the ending could also easily (possibly more truthfully) be victorious.  If read straight through, in one breath, the parting emotion evokes that of my above ridiculous image of Carl and Ginsberg. They have wrestled with the land of Howl, and they have emerged heavily scathed but still breathing.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Page 5 of 7« First...«34567»
css.php