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!

allen goes digital, hailey goes on a rant

After last week’s Thesis Tank, you can say I was… inspired, so to say. Maybe a bit challenged, too. If I’m being honest, I feel like I got less out of it the experience than everyone else, and that’s okay – the panel was not a good fit for dispensing constructive criticism and guidance for my project. Besides Alan and Dr. Zamora, the only helpful response I got was from Kate Bowles, who suggested Peter Carey’s Ned Kelly, which I am yet to look into. But, even if I just got that, like I said, that’s okay! If anything, I did get something out of it – a fire to start the digital space of my project.

Additionally, since my project revolves around authenticity in personal poetics, such as Allen’s die-hard belief that the line between what you tell your friends and what you tell your audience should be blurred, I was not pleased after my part of the Tank. I appreciate guidance. I appreciate constructive criticism. I just felt like I was very greatly underestimated by some people on that panel, since all I felt like I was hearing was “don’t overwhelm yourself,” which I completely understand! I never want to take on a project that’s way too big – and this project is, in my opinion, a Master’s level project, and as such, I want to take on and produce a Master’s level work ethic and project. I’m not going to half-ass it, and I’m not going to leave it unfinished – this piece of electronic literature will be, at the end of spring semester, completed and ready to be explored and experienced by whoever stumbles across it. That’s the standard I hold myself to, and I never once thought of doing anything less.

Suffice to say, by the end of last week’s session, I felt motivated. Maybe motivated by the “wrong” reasons, but alas – I thought of the things that someone might have thought would “overwhelm” me. The only idea I had for my project that I wasn’t “sure” about was if I could implement HTML code alongside of Wix. I know a lot of Wix is drag and drop (it’s what I made my last piece of elit with, so I feel like I’m pretty skilled with the website creator), and I know it’s “limited” with those features that aren’t explicit coding. Specifically, one project idea I had came from Alan, in having some texts change upon viewing them; basically, if you click on an image of a typewriter, perhaps a rough draft comes up of a poem. Next time you click on the same image, something else is there in its place. I know Wix can’t do that on its own, so I found the code. Amazingly, it wasn’t an “overwhelming” task. Go figure.

I had to rewrite the code because I couldn’t change the font size and style, so I changed it around to fit my own purposes to test it out. It took a few tries, but I got my desired result (and I apologize right now for my… Jersey language. I just used a string of dirtier words to generate because I’m a simple girl with a simple mind.)


Alas! The only thing I was most worried about! I’m excited to tackle the rest of the digital space. As of now, here’s the site so far – nothing impressive. I just put a picture of Allen there for now to take up space (and, if you look at the upper right hand corner, my code is still in actions. Don’t worry, that’ll get taken down). I tried looking for higher quality pictures of Allen’s actual apartment, but my searches did not yield promising results. Thus, I might just take generic 1940s apartment photos, maybe photoshop some typewriters in, so on so forth, in order to make it look like Allen’s space.

That’s all for now, unless another man underestimates me!

a step toward clarity

 For my thesis, I plan to do a digital poetry project centered around Allen Ginsberg and his emerging status as a writer in the Beat Generation. A lot of what I want to do is inherently inspired by Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, in that Ondaatje utilizes unique and interesting multimodal techniques to build up the character of Billy. It plays with perspective, truth, and voice, as well as other postmodern themes and concepts. The collection of poems all focus on Billy and his world, and fleshes out the realm in a way that seems very intimate for the reader. With that being said, Allen’s world is also like that – his poetry is rooted in being very honest and personal with his audience, and is all about throwing in the people and places in his life without giving any context whatsoever. His poetry does not care and does not ask for the reader to know who Peter is – it just wants the reader to accept that Peter is there.

With that being said, I make a collection of poetry that does the same for Allen. I want to build up the Beat world, with no prior knowledge needing to be known – I want the reader to be engaged, regardless of the context. Additionally, I want it to be done in a digital space. I think having the thesis as a digital poetry project is important in the storytelling aspect of it, because digital spaces allow for interdisciplinary elements and techniques. I want to incorporate audio, visual, transitions, hypertext navigation, and an overall cyclical feel to the world, as opposed to any traditional linear storytelling methods. I will use primary letters, poems, drafts, text, and photos to build the authenticity of the world, and have them present throughout the piece of digital poetry.

The significance, ultimately, is going to be one that is personal to me, as well as other writers. I want to focus particularly on Ginsberg from the 1940s-1950s, and his emergence as a writer. Unlike many people, Ginsberg seemed to have a lot of self-confidence – at least on the outside, anyways. I want to explore his psyche, explore his insecurities, as he launches himself to be the figurehead of such a distinct literary movement. I want to illustrate his frustrations and worries with faux rough drafts, which in themselves become apart of the poetry collection. I also want to write “fake” poems from his voice, as well as voices from others, to add to what was happening in his world, and what was happening with his writing. Maybe it was his jealousy over Kerouac’s success, or depressed writer’s block because of his failed love affair with Neal. Ultimately, I want to tell Ginsberg’s story, maybe taking some fictional liberty with his character, to explore the journey of becoming a writer, and maybe how that also parallels to my own journey, too.

ride the reel

I’ve been thinking about films lately as a resource – I think partially after Alan emailed me about finding little glimpses of the Beats, even in movie credits (sorry I never replied! I did read it, though!), and also partially because of our fangirling over things like Moana. There’s been a few movies about the Beat Generation, especially over the past ten years. Most notably, there has been Howl (2010), where Ginsberg is portrayed by James Franco, who surprisingly does a great job at acting and sounding him. A live adaptation of Kerouac’s On the Road was made in 2012, too. Most recently, though, was a movie made from the novel Kerouac and Burroughs collaborated together on about their experiences getting away with murdering Lucien Carr’s ex-lover and professor. The novel, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, turned into more of a toxic love story between Carr and Ginsberg called Kill Your Darlings (2014). Another fun fact: Daniel Radcliffe, our beloved Harry Potter, plays Ginsberg in this movie, which I think was very generous of the producers. Don’t get me wrong – I love Ginsberg, but he was not a very handsome dude.

All of this has a point, though, instead of just naming off some good movie suggestions! I know I want to explore Ginsberg’s psyche, toying with the accuracy of the character, but there have people who have already done that for creative purposes – actors. I’m wondering if there are some interviews with actors like Franco and Radcliffe, where they talk about their experience in becoming Allen. After all, it’s more than just putting on a pair of dark-framed glasses and running around naked. Franco, too, is an English professor at Columbia, so he has a pretty analytical and interesting perspective:

I think their information is very valuable, and can definitely be used as a reference – maybe even, when I get to the digital part, I can even rip and embed audio soundbytes from Franco or Radcliffe talking about “being Allen.”

poet? writer? gunslinger extraordinaire?


Last week, I had more of an epiphany toward what I wanted my project to be about – I can feel myself closing in more on the idea I want my thesis to be. I think there are many elements presence, but slowly, they’re starting to manifest themselves and become a more solid concept. I knew I wanted to write about Ginsberg, and I knew I wanted the project to be a digital poetry one, but I kept struggling with the significance of the work in relation to myself. Why do I want to write this, and what can other people, hopefully, gain from it?

With that being said, I  think the answer itself lies in the question. At this age (any age, really), we struggle for validation. We struggle because we want what we do and contribute to this world to hold some importance, and for people to say, “Ah, yes! That’s not complete bullshit – there’s something there.” I’m struggling with accepting calling myself a “writer,” a “poet” – it feels wrong to identify as that without being a published artist. On top of it, I feel like I’ll never be a true “writer” – I feel like whatever I do is subpar, has been done before, or it’s just generally not good enough to be seen in my field as valid literary work. Objectively, I’m sure this is just a normal human experience – I’m sure even Ginsberg, no matter how convinced of a “prophet” he was, struggled with his identity as a writer. I’m sure, during his twenties, he didn’t know if what he was doing was good enough. I’m sure all artists have had these experiences, and it’s apart of the process – and that’s something I want to highlight in my project, the insecurity of putting yourself out there when creating art.

I already knew I wanted to possibly create “fan” drafts of earlier poems he wrote, and this would fit in perfectly with the theme. Additionally, this past week, I’ve started reading his journals from the mid-fifties, collected by Gordon Ball. I’ve been highlighting and creating a timeline, feeling out more of the historical accuracy of where he was and what he was doing and thinking. I know it’s been suggested to maybe play around with his psyche and add a little bit of color and leniency in his character, but first I want to document for what it is.

I’ve also been revisiting Ondaatje and making notes of specific interdisciplinary techniques he used in BtK. I want to highlight the multimodal elements that I’ve found have given the collection its sense of timelessness in its surreal and postmodern, fragmented world.

Basically, things are coming along. I still need a concrete idea I can put into a sentence that completely envelopes my thesis, but I think it’s almost there (at least, I hope!) But who knows? It can change the more I delve into Allen’s world, and that’s okay too – it’s just personally comforting to know that I’m mapping out a general direction.

billy’s brother

Guess who got to return to Erie? I did! And it was not all for fun, but for business – thesis business, if you can believe it! I wanted to go back to the source for my exposure to Ondaatje’s work in order to ask questions. So, I got to grace my old adviser and poetry-guru, Dr. Jeffrey Roessner, with my presence (that’s right, y’all haven’t seen the last of me!).

I used to go to Hogwarts for my undergrad, no biggie.
I explained the basis for what I wanted to do, and told him I was planning on a digital beat poetry project that could use the same multimodality and character-building of Ondaatje’s Billy the Kid. I then asked him if there were any other books of poetry in the same vein of Billy the Kid – after Ondaatje had written that collection of poetry, he wrote another book with a completely different form, and so on. He suggested a poem we had read in our Contemporary Poetry class (the same where we read BtK), “Ellen West” by Frank Bidart. It’s also a longer poem written in the point of view of this “historical character,” and experiments with form, although not to the same extend as BtK. Bidart takes an account of an institutionalized anorexic woman, and writes poems from her point of view, as well as implements actual medical records and the doctor’s own accounts of how the woman is doing – a very moving piece that starts to build those same multimodal experiences as how Ondaatje and other pieces of e-lit would.

We also took a look at the Northon Anthology of the American Hybrid. Honestly, we didn’t find a lot there, but I made a note to take a look at Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely – I think it might do a bit of the same experimentation of form and different elements of media, but it isn’t a character poem, so much a personal poem.

(From there, we got on a discussion about Slyvia Plath and how she [unintentionally] ruined poetry. While she and Ginsberg both were authentic and personal with their audiences, as well as self-obsessed, the content of what they were sharing were both different – my observation is that Plath was going on and on about her emotions and suicidal thoughts, while Ginsberg was talking about peoples’ assholes… and let’s face it. Assholes are way more interesting than any more of that “deep, dark” confessional stuff, but I digress.)

Additionally, as we were talking a little bit more of what I was planning on doing, and how it related to my undergrad thesis that Dr. Roessner had overseen, I had an idea of potentially how I wanted it to be digitally set up. I know I wanted to scan pictures and implement them on a website of sorts, but I think I might have the basis of the project be Ginsberg’s apartment studio from the 1950s. It will work like how you take virtual reality tours, but it’s clickable – kind of like those old PC story games in the late 90s and early 2000s.


For example, you can click on a typewriter or piece of paper, and a poem will pop up – or click on a record player, and maybe an early recording of “Father Death Blues” or jazz will play. Part of this reminds me of an e-lit piece we explored last year, too – it was one about this woman’s life and her relationships, and you could go through the rooms and hit different objects to make different noises and to see some writing. I’ll have to go back to the Electronic Literature collection and find it when I get more into the creation of the digital space, but I’m excited.

Basically, the recap of the weekend was that I still can’t find any works that do what Billy does (on paper, anyways). It’s a mixture of persona poems, hybrid narrative, historical fiction, and interdisciplinary elements, which make it a unique work. While BtK might not have a twin, I’m certain there’s maybe a distant relative or second, second cousin that I can add to my references.

first thoughts


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I love Allen Ginsberg. I want to say I don’t know where this unending fascination with this man comes from, but I guess that would be a lie. He showed me the capability of how raw, how blatantly honest, and how personal poetry can be, and not in any of that confessional crap sense. There was something about Ginsberg talking about his numerous fucks and peoples’ assholes that captivated me – there was some humor, some truth, and a lot of literature. He made blowjobs poetic – who does that, even? There’s something in the way his poetic anecdotes of his own personal life that reminded me of my own friends, and the adolescent adventures and late night talks we would have. I loved it.

With that being said, those personal details, the chronicles of the Beat generation, and the relationships between front members like Ginsberg, Kerouac, Cassidy, Burroughs, Corso, Carr, and Huncke, and so on and so forth, are what I want to explore and illustrate. I want to create a poetry project that incorporates multimodal, primary sources from the Beats, a collection of poetry that feels authentic, engaging, and a little dirty, something that embodies the spirit of the literary movement. Additionally, I want to draw inspiration from one of my favorite books of poetry, Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. In that book, Ondaatje captures this myth that the Wild West has built of Billy the Kid and his world, whether he was a real sharpshooter or not. Ondaatje uses letters, comic strips, pictures, and newspaper clippings to add layers to the character. In the same vein, I want to do that with Ginsberg and his world – however, what better way to add dimension to poetry than by making it digital poetry?

By making this project digital, the multimodality is greater. The incorporation of audio, moving visuals, transitions, backgrounds, hypertext, and so forth, can add to what I want to accomplish in this collection of poetry.


My biggest concern on what I’m doing is always this: is what I’m doing worth it? Is it adding to the literary conversation, the discourse of the Beats? Is it interesting enough? Who wants to read this shit besides other Beat-obsessed freaks like myself?

I want this poetry to connect with people who don’t even know what the Beat generation is. But, what is it I’m trying to say with the poems? Am I trying to say something more about the significance of the self-prophecy and legend Ginsberg had built himself to be? Or is it something else? I guess, in the end, I’m concerned about having the poetry speak out to something, as opposed to just nothing.

As of right now, though, I feel a little stuck. Mostly, it’s because I’m still waiting on important books regarding the Beat generation. But then again, my hands might feel a little tied because I’m just a bit afraid. This project, without a doubt, will be near and dear to my heart, if/when I start doing it – I just want it to be something that is more relevant than to myself, is all.