Sunday, 8 February 2015

Howl, Kaddish, and other poems

Howl, Kaddish, and other poems
Allen Ginsberg

Andrew McMillan is the reason for me reading Allen Ginsberg - I am just ashamed that it has taken me so long!

Reading this so soon after finishing Kerouac has slightly messed with my brain - I am starting to feel like part of the Beat Generation, like a young, disillusioned man, endlessly searching for truth and honesty and beauty. 

Even now, Ginsberg's style seems unconventional - it must have shocked and awed when first published - with it's long, winding sentences, peculiar line breaks, and complete disregard for standard meter. 

But all this adds to Ginsberg's power. He is angry and passionate and contemporary, though some of his words resonate with society today. 

The images in Ginsberg's poetry are vivid and mesmerising. I can picture him sitting in a coach station on "great wooden shelves and stanchions posts and beams assembled floor to roof jumbled with baggage"; I see Ginsberg bent over his typewriter, wondering if his audience of the future "will [...] eat my poems or read them". 

As I read 'Kaddish', I was gripped by Ginsberg's depth, his love for his mother and his battle between the guilt and the responsibility he feels. My heart broke for his strength through such adversity.

But the poem I loved most was 'Sunflower Sutra', an account of a day spent with his friend, Jack Kerouac, mulling over the beauty of the tiny details in the world around them; finishing in a loud, uplifting call to arms:
"we're all beautiful golden sunflowers inside."

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