start

off to what i feel is a strong start for the new semester. i’ve been feeling invigorated and motivated and all that good jazz. i’m ready for my thesis, ready to treat myself better, ready to prepare myself for the real world ahead.

i mentioned i’ve started to develop a new routine, in order to keep my mental & physical health sound: i wake up, do my exercises,  make myself a cup of coffee, and sit down at my desk to write poetry in my little book before i log on to my computer, or anything else really. i’ve been feeling very good since starting to do this, which is important to me – i don’t want to have ebbs & flows of motivation & productivity – i need a consistent routine, and i think i’ve found it.

Allen Ginsberg Talking to His Father
22 Dec 1969, Miami, Florida, USA — Miami, Fla.: Allen Ginsberg, poet of the flower generation, points to his father during a press conference on his arrival in Miami. Dr. Louis Ginsberg interrupted his sons talk at a local temple with a “Shame on you Allen” when the younger Ginsberg advocated the use of drugs. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

additionally, i’ve ordered a few more books for my thesis (more biographies, more primary Allen sources). one of the books came in today – Family Business: Selected Letters Between a Father and Son, a book containing the letters sent between Allen & his father, Louis. there was one particular letter i was hoping to find, that has been described in a few biographies – one in which Allen comes out to Louis about his sexuality, his affair with Neal, and his subsequent dropping out of Columbia. i assumed that, oh, you know, this book of letters between them would have, you see, the letter in question.

it does not.

instead, it offers a paragraph that explains what the letter says; but alas, no such letter is documented in this book.

however, that doesn’t mean this book is a complete “failure.” there’s two letters from the summer of 1948 that follow Louis’ anger & disappointment in his son.

  1. The infamous reply from Louis, in which he only writes, “Exorcise Neal.”
  2. A reply from Louis critiquing a poem Allen wrote.

i’m excited to get the rest of the books, especially Spontaneous Minds.

in the mean time, here’s a (lesser) rough draft of two of the poems i wrote this past week

one

two

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title

I’m also still struggling with a working title… for some reason, though, I keep gravitating toward the words “binge” or “bent.” Maybe moreso bent, as it can be a slang for being intoxicated and gay, which fits Allen to a T.

I’m only worrying that the title might mess with maybe how the poems may feel. I don’t know if that sounds weird, but I can’t explain it. But if I do go with either of those words, I want them to be a play on one of Ginsberg’s titles, or even a line in his poetry. Specifically, I’m focusing on the poems he wrote in East Harlem from June-July in 1948. I think my most promising idea right now is maybe calling it “The Bent Rose.” It’s a play on Blake’s “The Sick Rose,” which is the poem Ginsberg was reading when he had his vision. Also, the image of a bent rose might be intriguing, so it could be a possibility, but something in me isn’t 100% sold – and isn’t Allen himself a bent rose, a vulnerable flower that’s been crippled by emotional turmoil?

Additionally, but maybe off topic, one of my favorite poetic lines Ginsberg uses toward the end of Part I of “Howl” is “and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination” (117). That image of the yellow paper rose, in my opinion, is a symbol of his mother, after he signed the papers for her lobotomy. Maybe he also saw himself as a flower? That’s a question for another day.

I’m still thinking about it, trust me, but for now I’m going with “The Bent Rose.” I think. Maybe.

the week

Moving forward, it’s time to begin planning on how this project is going to take shape. In my head since the start of the semester, I’ve had this vague idea of how I wanted it to look, particularly in a digital space. I want to implement pictures from places Ginsberg has been (whether they’re taken from actual photos of his or ones I can take myself), and layer the picture with various clickable easter eggs. For example, if I have a picture of his apartment, I want the user to click a typewriter and have a poem come up, or if they click the radio, maybe a snippet of Jazz starts. Like I said, that’s how I envisioned it at the beginning of the semester, so the idea still seemed a little broad. However, I’ve honed the time period of my project down from a decade to a particular week.

From here, I’m focusing on the week in Allen’s life of when he had his vision that William Blake spoke to him for the first time – I believe that is an extremely important period in his life, and an event that made something inside him change tremendously, in terms of writer identity. In the summer of 1948, he had experienced what he could only describe as enlightenment, as he heard Blake speak to him (Morgan 103). That same time period, he was experiencing a flood of emotions – all of his friends were off doing things while he was stuck taking summer classes, Neal Cassady had rejected him, his dad was disappointed with his homosexuality, and so on. He smoked week everyday in that apartment in Harlem, alone and stuck with his thoughts. I feel like that time period has such potential in creating poetry and is pivotal in how Allen had started to think of himself, especially as a writer, and a prophet.

Thus, for my thesis, I want each section to be envisioned as each day of the week. I need to go back to his interview with The Paris Review to see if he mentions the exact date (or at least day of the week), because I want that to at least have some weight of reality. That will be my next move. The rest of the outline for the day of the week and certain events will be fleshed out after that climax.

Additionally, I know I talked about the digital space project earlier – I’ll map that out more in the future! There’s also strong possibility for a paper version, which I think is totally probable For now, though, I’m focusing on outlining the week. In a few days, I’ll storyboard more of this (mostly, after my portfolio is due for my class tomorrow!)

put down your cigarette rag

I wanted to reread “Kaddish” today, and then when I finished, I wanted to hear it read by Allen himself. I know I’ve heard a recording of it before by him, but the one I was listening to just wasn’t doing it a lot of justice. I have it in the back of my mind to listen to an actual kaddish read aloud, because Dr. Rich says it will change the reading of the poem after listening to an actual one, which interested me.

Regardless, I went on Spotify, because Allen Ginsberg (as well as all the Beats) have channels full of recordings of them reading their work. Allen, too, loved to sing and record music, particularly later on – I haven’t really listened to any of it besides “Father Death Blues,” but I’ve been finding them amusing. I think they all speak to his character.

I also ordered three more books, one being Peter Carey’s book about Ned Kelly. The other two are also biographies about Ginsberg, so I’m wondering how / if they differ or can add anything that Bill Morgan hasn’t already covered in his biography of Allen. At any rate, they should be here next week, so I’m excited to read them.

In terms of the proposal: I’m still looking at what OED wants, and I guess I’m struggling writing my proposal to fit my thesis to it. I don’t know why I’m having such a difficult time with it.

poem for allen

Image result for young allen ginsberg eugene

Last Wednesday, Dr. Rich (the professor kinda sorta related to good old Allen) handed me a piece of paper before class started. He said it was a poem he had written a number of years ago, and he had more or less forgotten about it until our conversation had triggered the memory of it. Dr. Rich said he’s been having a lot of flashbacks and thoughts of Allen since our discussions about his own early life and encounters with Allen, and he wanted to share the poem with me, which I’ll share on this blog now:

 

To Allen Ginsberg

 

When I saw you on Public Television

You sparked tearful memories

About our family

 

Their concealments and jealousies

How your Aunt Rose was kind to me

But my father called her a Communist

 

What did that mean Allen

That she couldn’t hug me

Or I could not talk to her

 

Your Uncle Sam was the nicest man

I ever knew giving us rides in his Packard

While he spoke of his life in Russia

 

My mother and Bubba listened and glowed

I think my father was jealous and agry

Because he hated Russia and the pogroms

 

I never met your father

But he gave my Zeyde a copy of

The Everlasting Minute

 

I have it now next to Howl

But not my grandfather’s poetry

Bubba burned it after he died

 

So I finally called your Aunt Honey

Today after months of delay

Her voice richly intelligent

 

I want to talk to her more

To ask about you

Rose Naomi Sam Joel Claire

 

– Dr. Morton D. Rich

 

I was very emotional after reading the poem, and really appreciated that he was sharing it with me. After class, we talked more about Allen’s Aunt Rose and some other stories about the family. He also suggested I listen to a traditional kaddish, and then revisit Ginsberg’s “Kaddish.” Even if some of this seems “off topic” for my thesis, I don’t necessarily think it is – I enjoy listening to any real life knowledge of Allen, and I think it will all feed in to the character’s mythology. I told Dr. Rich that even if he remembers wrong, it still works out – any truths or untruths about Allen that he really believes are helpful and enjoyable.

exciting stuff?!

Last night I found out my professor for Writing for Young Adult and Children is kind of related to Allen Ginsberg – what?!

Apparently, his mom’s first cousin married Ginsberg’s aunt. So there’s kind of a relation / kind of not. His older brother, who was roughly around Ginsberg’s age, would hang out with young Allen. My professor would too, during his younger years, but since he wasn’t as old as the “older” boys, they sometimes excluded him. Needless to say, he lived a few blocks from Allen in Paterson, and more or less grew up with the young poet. He’s met Naomi a few times, but never Louis.

I told my professor about my fascination with Allen and my thesis, and he says I’m more than welcome to pick his brain about the poet! I’m very excited, and also very nervous! I’m still a little floored, but I have a lot to ask him next week!