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.’



Who Killed Emmett Till (Youtube Video)

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

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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?

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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?

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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”


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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.”

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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?


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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

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