The closer we come to grasping Ginsbergian spirituality, complex though it may be, the better-equipped we grow to move towards light – an underlying sense of hope and beauty at the heart of our human condition — when faced with scenarios in which bleakness would threaten to obscure it, whether on a personal, societal or even global scale. One cannot deny that “Howl” seems at times earthly, base and lewd, cluttered in format, and comprised of half-finished ideas rather than cogent argument. 13 Ibid., p. 53 33 Ginsberg, Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems, p. 57. 181 likes All Members Who Liked This Quote. The second section of “Kaddish” presents an opening line punctuated by dashes, perhaps in allusion to the poetic style of Dickinson who Ginsberg previously mentions in section I: “Over and over — refrain — of the Hospitals — still haven’t written your history — leave it abstract — a few images.” This line is thus not just in “remembrance of electrical shocks”38 but in remembrance too of one of the founding figures of US poetry, aligning Ginsberg’s poetic voice with Dickinson’s, so simultaneously paying homage to American literary tradition and infusing its narrative with the concerns of Ginsberg’s time. Allusions to the discourse between poets across generations in their shared attempt to “make the private world public”44 suggest a historical as well as personal value to the truths struck at in Ginsberg’s poetry. This word “strange” is repeated in the speculative description of Naomi’s nomadic lifestyle “moved thru Paterson, and the west, and Europe and here again.” There is a kind of fatigue to this description that polysyndeton helps to generate. Ginsberg foregrounds the fusion of this Buddhist ideal of asceticism, and uncovering more truth through possessing less, with mainstream popular culture. What we see, therefore, in the second half of Kaddish, is not a disintegration into doom and despondency but in fact a firework display of language and image whose embers fizzle into obsoletion to permit vision of the spiritual truth that lies beyond their expressive capacities. “Song” presents a more self-assured voice, anchored in the universality of the “miracle” of love and its portal to a higher mode of being, which is implied as its speaker rhetorically asks “who can deny?” this truth. Additionally, sibilance creates a soporific effect, and the exclusive use of monosyllabic words augments the delicacy of rhythm. San Cristóbal, María Margarita, “The Poem ‘A Supermarket in California’ Evidences how Self-identity is Commodified and Massified in Consumer Societies” (unpublished doctoral thesis, Universidad de Concepción, Chile 2009). 23 Ibid., p. 2. The poem’s shock-horror value and ability to penetrate the reader’s psyche lies not merely in its crudeness, but in the proximity that it places unsavoury concepts to familiar elements of our own reality: universal bodily functions and repressed demons, and their respective abilities to go awry or to rise up and derail our taken-for-granted sanity. Silberman: Ultimately, what is the legacy of what Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary created together? By Bill Morgan (London: Penguin Random House, 2017). This mounting intensity echoes the mood which evolves in the third section of “Howl,” in which the speaker reiterates his solidarity with the mentally ill Carl Solomon. The minor themes of drugs and sexuality work together to illuminate the major theme of spirituality. An instance of elevation which arises amidst the myriad of distress in “Kaddish,” in which darkness is explored on both a personal and national scale as the speaker moves from recounting a memory of “feeling depressed” to one of “the grey Depression,” is a pastoral image of the younger Naomi. 47 Ibid., p. 14. Use of the word “sutra” in the poem’s title yokes together Eastern and Western modes of thought, deriving from the Sanskrit word sutra meaning thread or rule. While flouting convention, Ginsberg acknowledges a debt to past US poets who have inspired him: most notably, Whitman. Allen Ginsberg spent the first half of 1965 out of the United States, visiting Cuba, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Poland, and England. Whiston, Paul, “The Working Class Beats: a Marxist analysis of Beat Writing and Culture from the Fifties to the Seventies” (unpublished doctoral thesis, Sheffield University, 2005). Ginsberg came in touch with the Hungryalist poets of Bengal, especially Malay Roy Choudhury, who introduced Ginsberg to the three fishes with one head of Indian emperor Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. Ginsberg's spiritual journey began early on with his spontaneous visions, and continued with an early trip to India with Gary Snyder. Allen Ginsberg / AP Micah Mattix-February 20, 2016 5:00 AM Kerouac, Jack, The Dharma Bums (New York: Penguin Books, 1976). Nowhere in his work is the consideration of trans-epochal emotional and thematic ties between his own artistry and that of his literary predecessors more evidently demonstrated than in the poem “A Supermarket in California.” Apostrophe is employed throughout this poem as he directly addresses the long-deceased Whitman in a spirit of admiration, camaraderie and play which unifies the writers as friendly companions. Lucy Jones. Previous Next ... (based on a book written by Ginsberg's friend Ken Kesey): lobotomies , shock therapy, angry nurses, and more. PDF. But I was definitely influenced by William Blake…. Route Publishing, Pontefract, UK (2005), pp. Rodosthenous, George, “The dramatic imagery of ‘Howl’: the [naked] bodies of madness,” Howl for Now. 21 Ginsberg, Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems, p. 2. And both groups of poets wrote in times when danger loomed: Whitman before and during the Civil War, and the Beats following World War II, when the threat of nuclear war became very real.45. 4 Ibid., p. 12.; Ibid., p. 19. The speaker balances the evocation of childhood memories — both his own, and Naomi’s — and recalled episodes from her life with amalgamated segments of imagery recalling a range of historical eras, delving into holocaust trauma and hinting at the consequential events and rapid processes of change which unfolded during Naomi’s lifetime. This humanises his narrative by bringing back our focus to the concrete presence of spectators Allen and Jack, yet also alludes to the transcendent through communicating a sense of rapturous celebration of the process of sight, and human ability to not only be aware of our world, but to recognise and appreciate this awareness. One of the most respected Beat writers and acclaimed American poets of his generation, Allen Ginsberg was born on June 3, 1926 in Newark, New Jersey and raised in nearby Paterson, the son of an English teacher and Russian expatriate. In contrast, Ginsberg’s work finds a potential for spiritual fulfilment within and around symbols of cultural corruption, such as the supermarket, which are inimical to the realisation of Whitman’s Transcendentalist values. My breath is long – that’s the measure, one physical-mental inspiration of thought contained in the elastic of a breath. Conners: I think their legacy is an openness and acceptance of authentic spirituality in American life. The speaker entreats Whitman to help both him and the reader make sense of America’s contemporary state in relation to its history, attempting to revive, or recreate a new set of values as the conventional American Dream has transpired to be a bitterly disappointing illusion. Yet I would argue that contrary to Wills’s assertion, “A Supermarket in California” presents a world-view which is far from “doomed,” Ginsberg calling upon Whitman not to mourn the extinction of his Transcendentalist ideals but to resuscitate them. These short lines alternate as if sustaining cautious equilibrium with one another in illustration of the notion of contrasts at the poem’s centre, building a majesty and beauty which are both aesthetic and conceptual. Pre-emptive of 1960s counter-culture, in which exploded artistic self-expression and a freer way of relating to community and relationships, Ginsberg’s poetry deals with life at its bleakest and harshest: feelings of vulnerability and inadequacy; the pain of romantic rejection; fear of ageing and death; a sense of despair for the state of a society devoid of warmth and meaningful values. 30 Nelson, Paul, “Projective Verse: The Spiritual Legacy of the Beat Generation,” Humanities, 7, 102 (2018) p.1. The Poetry Foundation, , [accessed Oct 2018 – March 2019]. This poem is Allen praying his grace transfer to you, reader. Hermann suggests that in Leaves of Grass, the “urge to unite with individuals of the same sex is a primal urge to unite with the Self within everyone,”34 so as in “Kaddish,” the act of gay sex is given a transcendent quality. 37, No. 46 Ginsberg, Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems, p. 14. Though “the dress of dust”40 can blanket individual experience, the word “dress” bringing with it connotations of pretension or artificiality, it is posited that when united, humankind is not comprised of “smut and smog and smoke” but a pure, sacred essence permitting creative authenticity, unearthed throughout the poem’s progression. Blake was, in a lot of respects, a British nationalist. He played a vital role in expanding the boundaries of personal freedom in America of the 1950s–1990s, blazing new paths for spiritual, communal and Though formally and thematically, “Song” is the simplest of the poems I have looked at, its concision encapsulates allusive sophistication and its message is one of fortitude and power, summarizing the essence of Ginsberg’s spiritual conscience, which draws out strength from images of delicate beauty. PDF. Montreal – 1969 – (Q & A – Conclusion – 2 ( Drugs and Spirituality)) Search for: Tags. dont follow my path. This fluid light triumphs through an ongoing process of movement, animating readers to seize life with the same gusto that overflows from Ginsberg’s work, while retaining sensitivity to its intricacy. Though temporary, this state of simple beauty and bucolic engagement is at the core of how the speaker remembers his mother. 43 Ibid. In universalizing spirituality, Ginsberg ensures that no reader is excluded, offering insight to all in a mood of open-armed inclusiveness. 4 (2010), pp. Beat Literature & the World, “A Comparison of Allen Ginsberg and Walt Whitman,” online blog posted by esprings, (7 November 2013) Download PDF Package. In the same year, 1954, and just like he did with Blake, Allen Ginsberg also composed a poem entitled “Love Poem on Theme by Whitman” 23 and as Brian Docherty noticed, 24 it is inspired by Whitman’s poem “The Sleepers”. Holy!Holy! On another level still, the deployment of dashes indicates the dissolution of language as an adequate vehicle for expressing the vast complexities of the human experience. 1 Note: this is based on definitions from His first published work, 'Howl and Other Poems' (1956), sparked the San Francisco Renaissance and defined the generation of the '50s with an authority and vision that had not occurred in the United States since T. S. Eliot captured the anxiety of the 1920s in The Waste Land. This is true not just of commonly-recognised Abrahamic scriptures such as the Bible, Torah and Qur’an, but also of texts from Eastern religions: namely the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which Ginsberg was inspired by after reading cover-to-cover. A fierce internal pace to “Howl” is generated as descriptions of night and day are coalesced, echoing the intensity of a counter-cultural existence fuelled by caffeine, alcohol, recreational drugs and late-night liaisons. Strikingly, the poem begins with the word “strange,” immersing the reader in a subversive narrative, not appealing to holy or peaceful language that a poem called Kaddish would perhaps more suitably suggest. (pp495–536) In London, Burroughs had begun to write what would become the first novel of a trilogy, published as Cities of the Red Night (1981), The Place of Dead Roads (1983), and The Western Lands (1987). Holy! Its genre occupies a liminal space between the confessional and epic, and while Ginsberg echoes these styles, “Howl” is characteristically his own, stubbornly rebelling against past formal constraints. Allen Ginsberg warns you. The depiction of light as intricately linked with notions of personal identity and the victory of self-expression over systemic suppression which emerges in “Howl” also appears as a running theme through Ginsberg’s other works. Holy! This hinders his capacity for self-expression, which is reduced to the description of “a few images run[ning] through the mind,” perhaps because the full details of these memories are too painful to fully unearth and have so been consciously or subconsciously repressed. This fed into his appreciation of the Japanese haiku form, which gives a detailed, impressionistic depiction of its subject, like how an impressionist painting approaches image, and of Williams’ poetry, which stresses the importance of rendering an image in its sensory forms. 18 Nelson, Paul, “Projective Verse: The Spiritual Legacy of the Beat Generation”, Humanities, 7, 102 (2018) – citing Duncan and Levertov. 1 p. 82-85, (2009) , [accessed 28 January 2019] p. 83. Holy! Self-actualization, in Dylan’s music as in Ginsberg’s poetry, is re-configured not as the conventional “American Dream” which hails capitalist monetary gain and career-ladder ascension but as its very opposite. Schumacher, Michael, On Being a Writer, (1989), p.47.(ed. To some extent, this image also trivialises the poem itself, reducing it to a “mad vision” whose hectic stream of impressions viscerally generates the effect of madness. My overall aim is to reveal how spiritual conscience as portrayed in the poetry of Allen Ginsberg is far from stilted, flat or dogmatic, but spurns these qualities in favour of a complex, burning source of light, whose many facets prompt us to continue contemplating questions of spirituality and its place in the world around us instead of preaching doctrine to be blindly received. Established in 2000 and edited by Denise Enck, Empty Mirror is an online literary magazine that publishes new work each Friday. When the familiar realm of human thought and life is rendered “strange,” one is by implication pushed towards finding meaning in a transcendent space. All rights reserved. Despite a general Beat mood of disenfranchisement with the “gaudy human nightlife of the city,” in “A Supermarket in California,” access to the kind of enlightened experience that would be attainable in “the wilderness” doesn’t require leaving the supermarket environment. There are a number of poems set in places like Varanasi (Benares) and Siem Reap (Angkor) that reflect Ginsberg’s traveling exploration of these systems. Contemporary poet Richard Eberhart commented that while he admired the poem’s rebellion against “everything in our society which kills the spirit” and how it “lays bare the nerves of suffering and spiritual struggle,” he also looked scornfully upon its “assuming that the louder you shout the more likely you are to be heard.”9 This is at the crux of the debate relating to the artistic worth of “Howl” which questions whether Ginsberg’s claims to its profundity, describing it as part of the Beats’ so-called New Vision, are justified or are sheer pretensions held up by a shabby scaffolding of shock-value only content. Such critique requires a level of psychological distance from one’s surroundings and their associated codes of value, possible only when mainstream convention is held up for external scrutiny. 7-8. Ecstatic time is signalled at the moment one feels ecstasy, announced perhaps in a scream or grunt of pleasure, and more importantly during moments of contemplation when one looks back at a scene from one’s past, present, or future.32. Line 4: The repeated use of the word "who" at the start of many consecutive lines is an example of anaphora. Required fields are marked *. Another element that has come to my attention is Ginsberg’s development of poetic self-consciousness. New Jersey-born Allen Ginsberg reached far beyond the American tradition with his vibrant life in poetry, bridging literary connections with past and present, recognizing the inter-relatedness of poetry and poetics from around the world. Allen Ginsberg wrote many poems of witness. There is an element of humour to the juxtaposition of the verb “published,” referring to an incredibly socialized and Earthly process, with the divine realm of “Heaven.” Yet in their coalescence, Ginsberg suggests the erroneousness of locating spirituality outside the everyday: rather, it is found within the fabric of our lives, which can encompass enlightenment “in spite of the most debasing emotions that life can offer a man,”3 as his poetry, and this dissertation, brings to awareness. 17 Ginsberg, Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems, p. 3. PDF. Akinchan Xaxa. 38 Ginsberg, Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems, p. 41. Most known for his interweaving of spirituality and poetry to create nuanced imagery, Allen Ginsberg’s literary career was far more than that of an average writer. Yet through this blatant, sometimes brutal, portrayal of the world — both internal and external — at its lowest, Ginsberg seeks transcendence, an endeavour made even more meaningful by his willingness to confront life’s darker elements. The poem is dedicated to Carl Solomon . To understand Ginsberg, we must engage with profound considerations about what it means to be human and to feel truly alive – or truly oneself – in a corporate universe which deadens this capacity. While the poem’s final state of “lights out in the houses” could be perceived as an image of darkness, it in fact symbolises peace as the artificiality of electric light has been turned off to make way for a purer spiritual contemplative space. Holy!The world is holy! 8 Ibid., p. 14. At the same time, anaphoric repetition of “who” in the poem’s first section, “Moloch!” in Section II and “I’m with you” in Section III generates a mantra-like rhythm, intermingling a sense of mysticism with the flow of description. While Ginsberg’s poetry brims with enthusiasm to sketch out a “New Vision” of uninhibited sensual freedom, emotional self-expression and spiritual self-actualization that reconnects man with his natural mode of being, it also exhibits the difficulties of loss and struggle in human life, occasionally faltering into self-doubt. In accordance with the definition that Michael McClure, another Beat writer, gives of a poem as “a porthole of consciousness and experience,”14 “Howl” utilises form to open and elevate the reader’s awareness. Oldmeadow, Harry, “To a Buddhist Beat: Allen Ginsberg on Politics, Poetics and Spirituality,” Beyond the Divide, 2:1, (1999) La Trobe University Bendigo. “Song” at once nurtures a profound sense of intimacy, venturing into the private sphere as it exists “in dreams,” “in thought” and “in imagination,” and inhabits the universal. Holy! . By Bill Strickland) [accessed 20 March 2019]. Both sets of poets and writers tended to portray the wilderness as divine, contrasted against the gaudy human nightlife of the city. Miles, Barry, Allen Ginsberg: A Biography (London: Virgin Books, 2000). Svonkin, Craig, “Manishevitz and Sake, the Kaddish and Sutras: Allen Ginsberg’s Spiritual Self-Othering,” College Literature, Vol. McClure, Michael, Scratching the Beat Surface: Essays on New Vision from Blake to Kerouac (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1994). In dissecting the relationship between Walt Whitman and the writing of Ginsberg, Wills asserts: Whitman’s American vision was one of criticism yet optimism, rather than the Beat philosophy of laying back and making their own little space in an essentially doomed society, while looking back to the past and lamenting the losses of freedoms and the rolling tide of development that led to the crushing weight of an uncaring world.48. 31, “Kaddish: About Kaddish” [accessed 20 February 2019]. 55 Ibid., p. 15. 14 McClure, Michael, Scratching the Beat Surface: Essays on New Vision from Blake to Kerouac (Middlesex: Penguin Books 1994), p.94. Light later appears in the image of the “wartime blue floodlight of the moon,” a description which though brief is striking in its combination of synthetic, natural and sociological elements. The Velvet Underground, Loaded (Cotillion Records, 1970). or. If we are to accept Merton’s identification of “the fashion of Zen” as “a symptom of western man’s desperate need to recover spontaneity and depth in a world which his technological skill has made rigid, artificial and spiritually void,” then technological advancements seen since the publication of “Howl” heighten a need for recourse to its spiritual message. Today's meditation features a portion of a poem by the late American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Spiritual Practice. Whereas “Howl” grounds its reader in a quasi-dystopian present, from which bursts the force of beatific light, “Kaddish” explores a more complex relationship with time, journeying into the past spanned by Naomi’s life and also considering the historical narrative that is invariably carried within religious traditions (such as the Kaddish prayer) and the broader motif of poetic discourse. PDF. While nineteenth-century convention inhibited Whitman’s homoerotic allusions from being so overt as Ginsberg’s, his vision of spiritual fulfilment dwells in nature and employs sensual imagery, with homosexual desires often implied. Free PDF. Akinchan Xaxa. Family Business: Selected Letters Between a Father and Son. It may be in part owing to this sense of spatial paradox that a tone of confusion is seeded in the poem, a lively and playful energy sustained as we are accosted by the juxtaposition of the miraculous with repeated tethers to arbitrary realities which appear to frustrate this effect, leading the speaker to “feel absurd47 in entertaining notions of transcendence. 10, No. 1 p. 82-85, (2009) , [accessed 28 January 2019]. While this connotes the speaker’s own ability to find sanctuary in reading and writing poetry from the darker sides of reality that “Kaddish” explores, it also suggests that the poem that we are currently engaging with through reading can be a candle for us, an incandescent beacon of hope offering relief from the same dukkha-ridden world that it describes. He pushes for liberation in spheres of the social, sexual and even historical, as the innovations of form exhibited in seminal works like “Howl” and “Kaddish” imply an attempt to re-work standard patterns of narrative. “Song” both visually approaches weight and light, and addresses these themes metaphorically. This “king kind light of mind”59 which flashes to the forefront across the darker themes raised in “Howl,” “Kaddish,” “Sunflower Sutra,” “A Supermarket in California” and “Song” is a signal of victory against all in the world which is contrived, prescribed and stifling: elements of our existence which mar the fulfilment of connecting with the higher self, in which state we are at our most authentic. The lines “and so must rest/ in the arms of love/ at last,/ must rest in the arms/ of love” seem particularly attuned with the melodic implications of the poem’s title, conveying a lullaby-like rhythm through repetition. Each week EM features several poems each by one or two poets; reviews; critical essays; visual art; and personal essays. Poetically experimental and politically dissident, the Beat poets expanded their consciousnesses through explorations of hallucinogenic drugs, sexual freedom, Eastern religion, and the natural world. Certain themes arise recurrently in Ginsberg’s work in conjunction with his quest to unearth and linguistically generate the light of higher consciousness, such as homosexuality, mental illness, and the fragmentation of society due to industrialization, mass consumerism and widespread disillusionment at humanity which came in the aftermath of two devastating world wars. He vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression. We hope that these Daily Meditations, prayers and mindful awareness exercises can be part of bringing spirituality alive in your life. On one level, this recurrent notion of “strangeness” reflects the speaker’s sense of estrangement from his selfhood resultant from grief, as the profundity of mourning causes a feeling of disconnection from what were previously ordinary thoughts and memories relating to his mother, now posthumously infused with pain and a self-inflicted distance with the aim of protecting from that pain. The effect of form 26 Bob Dylan, “Mr Tambourine Man,” track on Bringing it All Back Home (Columbia Records, 1965). Jess is a recent graduate of Durham University with a degree in Combined Honours in Arts (English Literature and Spanish). On one hand, this generates a sense of breakdown, the increased puncturing of the text mirroring Naomi’s psychological collapse and ultimate physical deterioration into death. This is a deeply unnerving realisation: a reality commonly obscured by social narratives for the sake of comfort and encouragement of subservience to the mythic constructs which underpin the functioning of Western civilisation. In Cuba, where he was to attend a poetry conference and judge a poetry contest, his rebellious, outspoken demeanor ran him afoul of Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government, and he was … 29 The Velvet Underground, “Oh Sweet Nuthin’,” track 10 on Loaded (Cotillion Records, 1970). Yet repetition of both words “sweeten” and “snatch” in this line and evocation of balance in the tender movement from sunset to sunrise also conveys a yin-yang-like notion of harmony. The labelling of the moon’s illuminating property as “wartime” is unusual in that it equates conflict with light, which would more often represent peace. Hippie Seraphim: Spirituality, Sexuality and Nonconformity in Allen Ginsberg's Footnote to Howl. Equally importantly, it is a theme which contextualises other focal points within Ginsberg’s work. Now there's an adjective. DOCX. Yet tied into this highly personal sensation of disjointedness there may also be a more general sense of the absurdity of the human condition, particularly our processes of thought — a uniquely flawed and incomplete method of computing the world — and arbitrary pursuits, illustrated here by Naomi’s upheaval to different homes., “Kaddish: About Kaddish”> [accessed 20 February 2019]. 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