Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Allen Ginsberg

Putonian Ode, City Lights, 1977
What new element before us unborn in nature? Is there
a new thing under the Sun?
At last inquisitive Whitman a modern epic, detonative,
Scientific theme
First penned unmindful by Doctor Seaborg with poison-
ous hand, named for Death's planet through the
sea beyond Uranus
whose chthonic ore fathers this magma-teared Lord of
Hades, Sire of avenging Furies, billionaire Hell-
King worshipped once
with black sheep throats cut, priests's face averted from
underground mysteries in single temple at Eleusis,
Spring-green Persephone nuptialed to his inevitable
Shade, Demeter mother of asphodel weeping dew,
her daughter stored in salty caverns under white snow,
black hail, grey winter rain or Polar ice, immemor-
able seasons before
Fish flew in Heaven, before a Ram died by the starry
bush, before the Bull stamped sky and earth
or Twins inscribed their memories in clay or Crab'd
washed memory from the skull, or Lion sniffed the
lilac breeze in Eden--
Before the Great Year began turning its twelve signs,
ere constellations wheeled for twenty-four thousand
sunny years
slowly round their axis in Sagittarius, one hundred
sixty-seven thousand times returning to this night
We are not supposed to be so directly political in our poetry. One learns this in most creative writing workshops fairly quickly. Though likely not at Naropa, where Ginsberg taught. "Tell it slant," is a great line to remember, but slant is often read as "tell it sanitized." We reserve our revelations for describing pearls of sweat on bodies or dew on petals.

In these days of climate change and the attendant numbness or hysteria around it, we should be mindful of our reluctance to face these difficult moments. In poetry and otherwise. Delight & Instruct.

Watch an excerpt from a film about the days following Ginsberg's death.

Here is Patti Smith reading Ginsberg in 1998, amazing:

You can hear several fabulous recordings of Ginsberg thanks to Ubu.

Finally, it seems NYC poet Nathaniel Siegel has organized a festival after Ginsberg. HOWL Festival goes on this September in the Village.

I only heard Ginsberg read once. It was in the early 90s while I was a student at Concordia. I happened upon the very last ticket. The line snaked outside around the Hall Building on de Maisonneuve. An enormous crowd in and out, and so raucous that they had to rig up speakers so people outside could hear if I recall correctly. Inside, with a little spot light and his squeezebox, Ginsberg read for over an hour. It was the best reading I've ever heard.

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