i took a little break from writing poems this past weekend, since i went back to my undergrad to visit my boyfriend for our one year! it was a nice little visit, but it’s not to say i completely forgot about my other boy, Ginsberg.

i talked to my old professor about my thesis (again) and how it’s coming along. he suggested the movie Paterson, which he explained as a creative, hybrid biography of William Carlos Williams’ life. i guess something in my thesis was reminiscent of the film – probably a creative retelling of a poet’s life through art? i’ve put it on my list of things to watch, either way.

when i came back, i also ran into the head of Kean’s english department. he asked Marissa and I about how the thesis was coming along, and when i explained to him what i was aiming to do, he suggested to talk to a Dr. Gover. Apparently, this professor took classes with Ginsberg, so it might be a resource i look into! i don’t even know what this guy looks like, so i guess i’ll see.

i’ve written a few more poems since last update, but i need to type them out. however, i felt like i needed a regrouping of sorts – i needed to recenter myself and the plot of the poetry. i finally got my copy of Spontaneous Minds, and i got to reread Ginsberg’s interview with Clark for The Paris Review. Ginsberg goes into detail of things he was thinking, people he was interested in, and how he saw the world after the experience, which is what i needed to read in order to refresh my artistic direction.

i have fresher colors to paint with, now, so i’m excited to write some poetry tomorrow. i feel like with each poem i’m coming to a better understanding of my own Ginsberg mind and tongue.

also, i looked at his poetry from june-july of 1948. there’s only four or five poems written at that time (not very good). one of them is “Vision 1948,” a very vague retelling of his Blakeian vision… but it’s very hard to tell, with no context. “A Very Dove” is also unusual… it’s got internal and end rhyme schemes, which was not even typical of his earlier poetry. i wonder if he felt like he was in a poetic rut? or was it just himself experimenting with form? his father was a more traditional poet, so maybe he was taking cues from Louis.



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




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!)

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!

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.