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.

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.