Plath’s Play

September 4, 2010

Found this cool article that I thought some of you might be interested in.

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Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish”

September 2, 2010

The fish has caught the speaker.     No, Really:  The fish has CAUGHT the speaker.    This is the shocked impression that I was left with after the last stunning line of Bishop’s “The Fish.”

As the speaker cradles the impressive weight, and recognizes each detailed wound – the speaker is left in a paralyzed, appreciative vacuum:  the only thing they can manage to do is to gaze, memorize.  Every inch of The Fish is a full narrative.  A Fish is worth a thousand words.

At the climax, there is no loss of victory by releasing The Fish; nothing is forfeited.  The Fish has left his impression: the five hooks in his lip, his white sea lice, his sea weed.  The Fish leaves with a surreal purposefulness.

The Fish has caught the speaker.

A quick thought concerning “The Man-Moth,”  why was “The Fish” larger, clearer and more emotionally personified than the Man-Moth, a creature that is half human? What does this imply about the regal-ness of the natural world?

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Surface observations

September 2, 2010

Bishop seems fascinated with the terrestrial.  Her book opens with a description of a map and her thoughts of what it represents of the real formations of the earth.  Then we read her description of travelling from the way the city takes over the land and the country begs it to slow down.  There continues to be a very earthy tone in “The Monument,” confusing wood and clouds and sea, finding woodgrains in them all. “A sea of narrow, horrizontal boards/lies out behind our lonely monument, / its long grains alternating right and left/ like floor-boards–spotted, swarming-still,/ and motionless. A sky runs parallel,/ and its palings, coarser than the sea’s:/ splintery sunlight and long-fibred clouds.”  “The Believer” acts as another poem that takes the Earth as a subject, but it has the twist of whether it is something that works for us (“He said: “up here/ I tower through the sky/ for the marble wings on my tower-top fly.”) or a power acting against us: “The spangled sea below wants me to fall./ It is hard as diamonds; it wants to destroy us all.”  The poem has a feeling of faith and perception about its subject matter, but the Earth is what we have faith in, instead of a divine power.

The “Man-Moth,” however, takes and earthy subject and sends him on a quest to investigate the hole in the sky (the moon).  It has a sense of supernatural and otherworldness to it, and I enjoyed it for the out-of-body feel it had.

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Eyes are the Window to the Soul

September 2, 2010

The cliché line, “your eyes are the window to your soul,” can be supported by two of Bishop’s poems. These two poems being “The Man-Moth” and “The Fish.” The narrator speaks in each of these poems as having looked into the subject’s eyes and defining the character by the shape and darkness of their pupil or iris. “If you catch him,/ hold a flashlight up to his eye. It’s all dark pupil,/ an entire night itself…Then from the lids/ one tear, his only possession.” Through the man-moth’s eyes, we see the loneliness of his world, the darkness he lives in. His world is so dark, the audience can only see with a flashlight.

In addition, I could never before say I have felt any remorse for a fish; however, Bishop’s poem, “The Fish,” has changed my assumption. Through the fish’s eyes, I felt pain, uselessness, “but shallower, and yellowed,/ the irises backed and packed/ with tarnished tinfoil seen through the lenses…they shifted a little, but not/ to return by stare.” The fish is performing everyday, mundane routines. His yellow eyes show how sick he is of this life, so sick, he no longer fights when he is hooked. His shallow life consists of nibbling the bait, being hooked and escaping. Life is rough for this little Nemo and how could it not be with five hooks in your grim, bottom lip?

The poems that we read today were a mockery – which made them that much more captivating- and makes me believe that to show us the subject of her poems, the man-moth and the fish, Bishop had to do so through the cliché belief of looking in on the window of their souls.

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Bishop and Heaney

September 1, 2010

I don’t know about everyone else,  but I found parts of Heaney’s essay, “The Redress of Poetry” quite tough to follow. It seemed like he was continuously shifting his analysis back and forth between poetry’s connection to political and societal ideas, traditions etc., and to its inherent relationship to the natural world through language and the complex interaction between the two. But I really couldn’t say much more about it, and certainly nothing more concrete. However, one passage in particular stuck out to me, and I thought about it after reading  Elizabeth bishop’s poem ” The Fish.” The passage from Heaney is on page 15 of his essay:

“On the contrary, I want to profess the surprise of poetry as well as it’s reliability; I want to celebrate its given unforseeable thereness, the way it enters our field of vision and animates our physical and intelligent being in much the same way as those bird-shapes stenciled on the transparent surfaces of glass walls or windows must suddenly enter the vision and change the direction of real birds’ flight. In a flash the shapes register and transmit their unmistakable presence, so the birds veer off instinctively. An image of the living creatures has induced a totally salubrious swerve in the creatures themselves. And this natural, heady diversion is also something induced by poetry and reminds me of a further (obsolete) meaning of ‘redress’…“Hunting. To bring back (the hounds or deer) to the proper course.’ In this ‘redress’ there is no hint of ethical obligation; it is more the matter of finding a course for the breakaway of innate capacity, a course where something unhindered, yet detected, can sweet ahead into it’s full potential.”

Obviously, Heaney is relaying (or trying to relay) a lot in this passage, but I’m most taken in by his thoughts on the relationship between the representation of the “real world” through poetry (and language) and the physical form of the thing itself, the actual animal–in Bishop’s case: the fish. Here’s an excerpt from the last 21 lines of Bishop’s poem “The Fish”:

A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels–until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go. (55-76)

I’m sure there can be many readings of this poem: maybe the rainbow that flows forth over the oil and the rusted engine symbolizes the romantic idea of the triumph and power of nature over mankind’s attempts to control it; maybe the fish’s “victory” in this poem, and perhaps the narrator’s as well, is that same triumph–the continuous ability of the fish to outlast and survive a man’s (or woman’s) attempts to capture and kill it. Or maybe the fish is a metaphor for something else entirely.

Regardless of these readings, I found Bishop’s presentation of the fish to point back to the passage from Heaney’s essay. Through her language, Bishop has re-created this particular fish for us, and maybe this image of the “real” creature is the one that touches that intelligent part of one’s brain, that through her capacity to reproduce the “real world” through poetic language, Bishop has presented to us the “unhindered potential” of her poetic form of the fish.

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How Beautiful a Fish Can Be

September 1, 2010

This evening is the first time that I have read Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “The Fish”. Before now, my only contact with the poem was through a spoken performance given in my Literature in Performance class one year ago. When I first heard the poem I couldn’t really focus on it and it was hard for me, a lot of the time, to follow what was being said, i.e. the basic narrative. However, upon this reading, silently, at first I was much more involved in the poem and found myself lost in the splendorous “victory” the speaker feels at catching the fish after it’s having got away so many times.

I loved the way our understanding of the fish built up and up, at first unimpressed by his “grunting weight, / battered and venerable / and homely.” It is almost easy to miss that key word–venerable–in lieu of the numerous derogatory adjectives: “his brown skin…like ancient wallpaper” or “full-blown roses / stained and lost through age”. Again, we are led to a pleasant description–the “full-blown roses” only to be disappointed on the following line through their shriveled metaphoric state. It is easy to find yourself disgusted by the “barnacles,” the skin “infested / with tiny white sea-lice” or the impoverished state of the “rags of green weed” hanging beneath his body.

And yet, Bishop takes us by the hand, walking us through her own evolving perception of the fish. We begin to see that the creature isn’t entirely helpless, that, in fact, if we are not careful in how we handle him, we may be “cut so badly” by his “frightening gills”. His “coarse white flesh,” forcing us to think about the skin of the fish, is described (instead of in scaly terms that might bother many who are unaccustomed to finding beauty in such humble places as fish) as being “packed in like feathers”.

She goes on to describe his eyes as “far larger than mine,” usually taken as a good quality, though she does qualify this line, making them “shallower, and yellowed”. It seems as though the speaker would like to raise the fish to her level, but must ultimately face the truth of reality: she is the fisher, it the catch. This goes on until she has elevated the fish still further, turning the “five big hooks” into “medals with their ribbons / frayed” and the “old pieces of fish-line” into a “beard of wisdom”. From here, she has turned this “homely” fish into a veteran of war and thus her simple catch into a feat deserving of victorious celebration. The “oil” becomes beautiful in her eyes, a “rainbow” that spreads to all around her “until everything / was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!”

And finally, the anti-climactic last line: “And I let the fish go.” At first, we may wonder why the speaker does this. But upon further reflection, and a second reading, we remember that the fish “didn’t fight. / He hadn’t fought at all.” The repetition of the lack of will on the fish’s part along with the short length of the lines adds emphasis to them. We must acknowledge, as the speaker ultimately does, that, if the fish is anthropomorphized into a noble war veteran, he must be treated as such. One can almost see it, swimming in its lake, tired of being caught, tired of being let loose, tired of being the object of human’s pleasure at his own physical expense. And just as quickly as it came, the victory has left.

On another note, related to my introduction, after reading this silently to myself and thinking about all that I have written here and more, I decided to read the poem to a friend of mine. Curiously enough, upon the first reading to them, despite the feeling I put into the reading, they (like me) didn’t follow the narrative. After reading it aloud to them a second time they were better able to understand the poem. But, I wonder why this is. Does it have to do with our disposition towards things that we listen to on a daily basis? Are we as attentive as we should be or as is required to appreciate (or even understand on a more basic level) the things we perceive? Seems like an unrelated and more philosophic point of inquiry, but it never hurts to get the wheels turning a bit. I hope you all enjoyed this poem as much as I did.

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Multimedia Report on The Beats

September 1, 2010

The Beats Wiki

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UMW WIki Tutorial

September 1, 2010

As promised, the UMW Wiki tutorial is up, the only thing I need to add is embedding audio, besides that it should cover a lot. Let me know what questions you have.

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Graphing poetry

September 1, 2010

(By Deborah S.)  The graphic on the board in yesterday’s class was useful because it drove home the point that art is relevant.  I think another, more intricate way, to visualize the concept of Poetry (as an entity in its own right) is through Cubism.  In the Cubist style of art, many sides of the subject are shown at the same time—you experience all its aspects, see all its faces and angles.  You can look at a Cubist work repeatedly and see a new facet every time.  A good example is the painting “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2” by Marcel Duchamp.  See how full of movement the painting is, how we seem to see it from many directions.  I believe a poem is like a Cubist painting.  That’s why many poets can write truthfully about one subject, although each one says something completely different and they often contradict one another.

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On the Relevance of Poetry

September 1, 2010

I must admit that I am deeply moved by the arguments posited in Adrienne Rich’s What I Found There. Rich reminds us to be careful what we wish for. While many poets, today, lament the perceived impotence of poetic forms, most would probably not feel comfortable in a society where writing poetry could lead to internment in prison or a mental hospital, and even death. And yet, this is the price some have paid, for popularity among the common public, in non-democratic societies.

Dana Gioia argues in his essay, Can Poetry Matter?, that the very freedoms of which we are so proud, (Those that enable free trade and relatively free speech, without fear of reprisal) are at least partially responsible for the public’s loss of interest in poetry. He points to the political and economic climate, referring to the close involvement of academia and the rewards system that permeates the university.   He goes on to blame the close subculture of poetry, mentioning among other things, loss of the critics’ voice.

I do not, however, believe that academia is solely to blame for poetry’s downfall, but that the decline is more closely linked to Adrienne Rich’s argument. As a group, American’s are spoiled. Although, we can say what we like without fear of reprisal, we have lost sight of just how precious that right is. Likewise, as Gioia suggests, we take our poetry and our critic’s voice for granted. Rather than say and print that which is necessary we succumb to the free market pressures of our society, leaving behind a wreckage of barely recognizable self- congratulatory propaganda.

Which leads to Rich’s most important arguments, “We must use what we have to invent what we desire” (215). “A revolutionary poem will not tell you who or when to kill … It reminds you … where and when and how you are living and might live __ it is a wick of desire. .. A revolutionary poem is written out of one individual’s confrontation with her/his own longings … in the belief that its readers … deserve an art as complex, as open to contradictions as themselves” (241). This desire, then, to create a complex and contradictory art that relates common humanity is what will continue to hold poetry in a place of relevance within society and within the hearts and minds of its readers, despite any monetary value, large or small, that our free-trade economy chooses to place upon it, now or at anytime in the future.

Works Cited
Gioia, Dana. Can Poetry Matter? Essays on Poetry and American Culture. Saint Paul: Graywolf, 1992. 1-21.

Rich, Adrienne. What I found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics. NV: ww.Norton, 1993.
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Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

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Thursday Poems?

August 31, 2010

Yesterday Dr. Lorentzen was lining up readers for Thursday Poems, and I took the only open slot, October 21.  I could read alone that day, but I thought I’d see what the feeling was for CoPo doing something collaboratively– not required, but whoever wanted to–from our coursework.  Responses, suggestions?

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Spectrum of Criticism: Brooker v. Heaney

August 31, 2010

Fresh out of class, I wish we didn’t have to leave just as the discussion was getting good.  The vertical line of the spectrum that we created on the board posed a dichotomy that was widely agreed to be “problematic”: poetry existing for the sake of art, beauty, and expression  Vs.  poetry functioning as a factual necessity of life.

Two critics that we didn’t really have a chance to compare directly, Jewel Spears Brooker and Seamus Heaney, both attack this dichotomy directly.

Brooker asserts that there was validity in just attempting to capture experience in words as she asks “Can we look at September 11 in terms of aesthetics alone?”  Brooker offers the possibility that some experiences just wont fit into the words we try to use, but that we, as poets, are still able to try.

Heaney poses poetry not as a simple means of expression, but  as an intrinsic necessity – that poetry satisfies a mysterious vacuum in the world of expression and communication.  He cites Havel: “Poetry is a state of mind, not a state of world.”  This quote pulls another binary argument onto our discussion: the natural process of language  Vs.  true representation of the world. Poetry is fueled by obligation, and even in its flawed nature, it is fundamental in human communication.

Both Brooker and Heaney bend the two ends of our art-or-necessity-axis until they are aligned.  Poetry is the attempt to capture indescribable experience in fixed words, but is it impossible to try and fully succeed, or it is impossible to try and fail?

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What do you think?

August 31, 2010

In Dana Gioia’s essay Can Poetry Matter?, she quotes Robert Bly claiming:

“We have an odd situation: although more bad poetry is being published now than ever before in American history, most of the reviews are positive. Critics say, “I never attack what is bad, all that will take care of itself,”. . . but the contrary is full of young poets and readers who are confused by seeing mediocre poetry praised, or never attacked, and who end up doubting their own critical perceptions” (21).

Acknowledging this essay was written in 1992, is Bly’s claim that we as critics are actually depreciating the standard of quality and of future performance still relevant? Do you feel affected by this?

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Oh, Audre Lorde

August 30, 2010

Of all the essays we were assigned to read, Audre Lorde’s is the one that has hit closest to home for me.  Her essay functions as a sort of call to arms for women, a reminder that for us poetry has been and always will be a part of our history, hidden and kept safe in the dark places within.  To all those who would say that poetry is merely a form of entertainment, a luxury, a mess of wordplay and funny rhymes, Audre Lorde stands as a firm reminder that “it is vital to our existence” and to deny that would be to deny womanhood in a sense.

Poetry helps us to give shape to our grief.  It allows us to express images, sounds, and dreams in a way that may not make sense, but must be spoken of (or written about) and at least we must try. Audre Lorde says that there are no new ideas, no new pains; we have already heard and felt them all.  But we continue to write about these things because if nothing else female poets are in constant dialogue with each other specifically. We are reminding one another of where we’ve been and where we are going. Who we are and what we are becoming. Our poems are expressions of empathy and love for one another. It is our process of remembering and passing down our collective and personal histories.

I think she is right. Maybe there are no new ideas, no new joys or sorrows or pains. And is that a bad thing? Maybe the poets who try to focus all their creative energies into creating something the public has never seen or heard of before have got it all wrong, and to get caught up in that defeats the purpose of poetry.  I don’t know. All I know is that Audre Lorde is awesome and her essay was a very uplifting and beautiful end to my night.

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The First of a Series of Completely Emotional Responses

August 30, 2010

I have not yet finished reading Dana Gioia’s essay, “Can Poetry Matter?” and already I have been moved to tears. For many years the facts of this essay have remained dormant in the back of my mind, hiding behind the towers of well-known poets and poems–all from authors long deceased not only in body, but in the minds of the majority of people, world-wide.

I have stopped my first reading to take down some thoughts. My heart has been pinned down by the enormous weight of the subject at hand–the decline of poetry in the world, but specifically America. (Even as I write this, I am reminded of poetry’s lack of place, particularly by the reports from FOX News, which have chosen to cover the trial of Paris Hilton, instead of any number of events occurring in the world of poetry today.)
While reading I have had thoughts of grand upheavals in reaction to this article–storming into the first Aubade meeting (Sept. 2 from 5-6:00 p.m.) and demanding that, not only do we go through the necessary steps to reprint this essay at the start of this Fall’s publication, but to change utterly the content of the letter from the editor at the front of the issue and instate a new policy to include critical or insightful reader-responses to the art. Instead the editor’s shout-outs to friends and praise of the work within the publication, an honest statement that not all of the art included is up to par and an entreaty for the readers to vigorously peruse the magazine and decide for themselves what earns its keep. In my dream, this all goes beautifully. Hundreds of students, teachers and those in the community who seek the Fall issue of Aubade write in to praise, to critique, to condemn, to contradict and most importantly to serve as a testament to reader’s attentive observation and interaction with the text.

All of this, whirling the activist dust of my mind into a terrific tornado, banging against the walls of my skull and begging for an explosive release of phonemic breath. And yet the pressure begins to change and I know also that, even if I burst into that meeting, waving the essay about with my hand and insisting, I most likely be asked to leave. I most likely would.
And still, I cannot help but be disturbed. I cannot help but wonder at a solution. I cannot help but hope Gioia will provide one at the close of this essay, but her title is not promising.

I’d like to talk about possible alternatives to the current method of poetic publishing and ask you all if you have any thoughts on possible solutions.
There are some big problems pointed out by this text, among them the regressive nature of the inner circle of readers, publishers and critics; the neglect of poetry by the world at large, especially the realms of media and politics; the stress on quantitative, not qualitative work by writers throughout academia; and many more, and, honestly, I don’t know what to do about them.

[Edit]:

I just finished reading the essay and I must say, I was not disappointed. I am glad to see six tips on how to amend the crisis of poetry in our culture.
So, it is here that I would like to open the floor to other suggestions for how to amend the situation, in a similar vein as Gioia’s. Here are some of my own:

1) Memorize your favorite poems. Maybe take 5-10 of your favorite poems and dedicate the time to memorizing them. I’ve done this with only one poem in its entirety and parts of many more, but I’ve found it has added to my appreciation for the lyric qualities of the poem. Not only does this better your personal appreciation of the poem, the poet and poetry in general, but it’s also a cool thing to do on a whim for a group of people (I usually only do so for my close friends and loved ones) but every time I’ve done so it has incited a reaction at worst and at best an interesting conversation.

2) Talk to friends and family about the state of things in the world of poetry. As simple as it sounds, talking to people as if poetry were politics will, I think, increase awareness of it and, hopefully, get people to hold up higher standards for themselves. Let us not be the “jackals,” but let our “snarling” by a call, a command to the Muse for the well to fill, to be over-filled.

That’s all I can think of for now. I’ll add more if I think of something else.

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Christopher Walken a poet at heart

August 30, 2010

In this new day and age, so many celebrities are trying to reach in artistic fields that they very well know they shouldn’t. Actors trying to be singers, singers trying to be the next Apprentice and so and so forth. Plus, every famous person seems to author at least one book in their lifetime which almost always becomes a hit because of its famous author alone not the literary quality of its contents. With that said and done, i would like to show you a rare instance where an actor successfully bridges the gap to full-blown poet. Enjoy.Christopher Walken does Lady Gaga

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/AJDx3H_hvI8" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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Poem of the Day

August 29, 2010

Mainstream culture is relearning about the fro. (We used to write it as ‘fro, to show its Roots.) Imagine: This lady never has a bad hair day.

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Sylvia Plath read “Lady Lazarus”

August 26, 2010

I know this is a little bit early for Plath, but I’ve always loved this poem and this reading of it. I still get chills whenever I hear it. What a creepy video too, right? An interesting choice of visuals. Particularly eerie to me is the original papers where she wrote them–the handwriting and the scribbles.

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Here’s also an interview that I found interesting:

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Poem of the Day Podcast

August 26, 2010

Learn Out Loud is a really brilliant resource. Once you sign up (don’t worry, it’s free), you have access to this vast archive of audio and visual media. The feature that will probably be the most useful to us is the Poem of the Day Podcast. Many contemporary poets have been featured over the last few weeks, Adrienne Rich, Mary Oliver, & Carl Sandburg among them. You have the option to stream the audio online or download it as an MP3 to your iTunes. I am not certain if all of the poems are read by the poets themselves, but the ones I have listened to are; I imagine that the Lord Byron poems were probably not read by him, though. Below is a link to an Elizabeth Bishop poem:

Download Lullaby for the Cat, Elizabeth Bishop

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Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg

August 26, 2010

Just wanted to let everyone know that there is a cool exhibit up at the National Portrait Gallery in DC right now that features Allen Ginsberg’s photography. It includes pictures of famous members of the Beat movement (such as Jack Kerouac) as well as photographs of his friends, lovers and himself. The exhibit ends September 16th, which actually coincides with the week we will be studying Ginsberg.

Maybe we can get together a CoPo car pool?

Link to the exhibit is here.

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Digital Media Project Example

August 26, 2010

Digital Media Project Example

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Dylan and Ginsberg

August 26, 2010

Hey all,

Saw this article the other day and thought it would be an interesting read for how some of the beat writers like Kerouac and Ginsberg was interacting with other artists in America at the time, namely Bob Dylan. The article has some interesting cursory biographical information concerning Ginsberg’s life and his poems and who could turn down such a great story? I know it’s a little long, but if you have free time I highly recommend it. There’s also a host of other stories concerning the Gins here. Everything from the ridiculous “last soup” to something interesting from the poet’s own mouth.

It was also interesting to discover the title of the article as advertised, “Bob Dylan and the Beats.” Made me wonder if America today cares more for singer poets than for written poets? What do you think–are people bigger fans of someone like Bob Dylan or someone like Allen Ginsberg? I tend to think that simply for his iconic status, Dylan is favored. Perhaps people favor something they can see rather than something they read or can hear? (thinking Kennedy vs. Nixon debate) Thoughts?

Happy reading!

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Copo example

August 26, 2010

This is some example text. This is a link.

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

Download Ginsberg

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Welcome to CoPo

August 19, 2010

Every beautiful poem is an act of resistance.

–Mahmoud Darwish

1941-2008

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