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Maybe Ginsberg

Maybe Ginsberg was the original rock star, because what is “Howl” but sex and drugs and rock ’n’ roll, what is Ginsberg but Jimi Hendrix playing the typewriter.

Maybe Ginsberg was the original nuclear activist, nostrils tilted toward heaven/hell, sniffing horror odors of Hiroshima-with-a-Russian-accent, the Red Menace, the world not mad but showing symptoms: crouch under your desks kids, pull down the window shades, put your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye, a time when F-100s and B-52s flew regularly over heartland Olean, refueling in mid-air from KC-97s, KC-135s, just hundreds of feet up, dress rehearsals for doomsday while America Drinks and Goes Home and checks the supplies in the fallout shelter, the canned food, the bottled water, as if survival were to be preferred to succumbing to the thermonuclear embrace of Overkill.

Maybe Ginsberg was the original porn star, so loaded, so drugged-out, smoking, toking, shooting, snorting that men, women, it didn’t matter, bring ’em on here, there, anywhere, anytime, got a camera? who cares, it’s all performance anyway. Ginsberg! Using naughty words, the Naughtiest of Words, in an era when the phrase “filthy French postcards” was scandalous, in an era when the only people who appeared sexually naked in photographs had black strips across their eyes, in an era where the concept of gratuitous nudity (in movies, no less! On television! At home!) (!!!!) would have been seen as a sign of the second Sodom.

Maybe Ginsberg was the original Lou Reed. (Hear that, Lou? He beat you to it! Man, compared to Ginsberg, you’re Richard Carpenter.)

Maybe Ginsberg would have hung out with Blake, or maybe Blake would have hung with Ginsberg in San Francisco, both of them “angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.” (Save me a seat at *that* table, man.) Maybe they would have left a message for Albrecht Dürer on the white courtesy telephone of eternity.

Maybe Ginsberg and Dali were just playing a match of épater le bourgeois, with a photo of Oscar Wilde sitting on the middle of the table. (Ginsberg won. Beard outpoints mustache. “Howl” outpoints “Un Chien Andalou.”)

Maybe Ginsberg would have fit right in at Studio 54. Hell, they probably would have renamed it “Studio Allen.”

Maybe Ginsberg was like America’s gardener, dressed in soiled gray coveralls, unbathed, unkempt, sweaty, reporting for work on an estate in the suburbs but, instead of edging the driveway, decides to look under the landscaping rocks and finds there snakes, pale bugs with fierce pincers and many legs, ants (“My ants!” Dali cries. “Indeed,” replies Allen.), spiders, termites, a whole other class of creatures, a whole other class of life, hidden away. We pretend it’s not there, but it only comes out at night.

Maybe Ginsberg was a prophet. Maybe he saw Us coming, we who “were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality …”

Maybe Ginsberg terrifies us with his madness. Maybe because that madness hits too close.

Maybe Ginsberg’s persona eclipses the sheer genius that roars out of “Howl.”


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 13th, 2009 01:00 am (UTC)
Maybe this is intense and marvelous.

I just now, moments ago, finished reading a book recommended by ruby apolline, titled Hallucinating Foucault, bu Patricia Duncker. Somehow, this post seems the only appropriate piece of writing to read in the immediate wake of that book. Madness, writing, and reading are prevailing themes. I loved it.
Apr. 13th, 2009 01:25 am (UTC)
Thanks. I'm going through my course files now to prepare for Wednesday's test, and I found it. It's from the 20th century American poetry course I took last fall. I wrote it in lieu of something Scholarly.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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