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On a Throne Made of Vanishing Ink
November 20, 2011 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Makes very little difference what happens, the next ten years, because the main thing in the universe isn’t at all affected by these little shifts of anthills, musics, nations, marriages. Let Allen Ginsberg inform your Sunday afternoon.

"It occurs to me that I am America. I am talking to myself again." (Music by Tom Waits)
Bonus Ginsberg:
Father Death Blues.
posted by Obscure Reference (21 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Metafilter: some of us will realize that our fate is old age, sickness and death
posted by Renoroc at 9:39 AM on November 20, 2011


Lots of false dichotomies and assumptions about the motivations of others there.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:47 AM on November 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


This seems to me to be an analogy for the Tao...
posted by schmorker at 10:00 AM on November 20, 2011


Lots of false dichotomies and assumptions about the motivations of others there.

You're not that familiar with Ginsberg, are you?
posted by hippybear at 10:06 AM on November 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ginsberg reads America (without music, in front of an audience)
posted by hippybear at 10:09 AM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Beat poets, especially Ginsberg, are, to me, a lot like lentil soup. I quite like the IDEA of lentil soup, but am often disappointed by the reality of it. Nonetheless, I keep eating lentil soup, hoping each time that it will meet my expectations.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:01 AM on November 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Marvelous. I wonder if Ginsberg ever read this essay by Lewis (best read under advisement that Lewis was a bit of a universalist): " Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. ... We do not
want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We
want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the
beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become
part of it."
posted by TreeRooster at 11:06 AM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gorgeous. I'm not much for the beat poets, never read Kerouac, couldn't finish Howl, but this is beautiful without being very much up its own ass.

trying to pretend that their temporary bread and breasts are the be-all and end-all of the soul’s fate

I'm bothered by literary stylists who use their language to say very little – I can't do Updike, and I have problems reading Nabokov – but that "bread and breasts" bit is a perfect instance of a technique used not for its own sake, but to draw a smart parallel between two unlikely things, and to make it go down smoothly.

Thank you for sharing this.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:45 AM on November 20, 2011


The Beat poets, especially Ginsberg, are, to me, a lot like lentil soup. I quite like the IDEA of lentil soup, but am often disappointed by the reality of it. Nonetheless, I keep eating lentil soup, hoping each time that it will meet my expectations.

The Beat poets are so utterly various that I can only assume that whatever soup you eat you think it's lentil soup and that in fact you don't like soup in the first place. If it is possible to generalise at all about the Beat poets really the only thing you can say is that they're better at metaphors than I am.
posted by tigrefacile at 11:49 AM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The part that really resonated with me was when he said "this is a lot of nutty raving".
posted by planet at 12:05 PM on November 20, 2011


Hear, hear with regard to the metaphor! This prose is fluid and alive with slippery metaphor, like a stream so unruffled it reflects us, like an organic fun house mirror.
posted by Oyéah at 12:21 PM on November 20, 2011


The Beat poets, especially Ginsberg, are, to me, a lot like lentil soup. I quite like the IDEA of lentil soup, but am often disappointed by the reality of it. Nonetheless, I keep eating lentil soup, hoping each time that it will meet my expectations.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:01 PM on November 20


If you're ever in Chicago, try the soup at Sultan's Market at Damon and North.

I can't help you with the poetry.
posted by goethean at 3:04 PM on November 20, 2011


Nonetheless, I keep eating lentil soup, hoping each time that it will meet my expectations.

As much as I enjoy the beat poets, I have that feeling too sometimes, and I am often hesitant to speak it. Perhaps to avoid some imagined disproportionate backlash by others who may think my criticism is coming from some dark, terrible place of the listener's choosing, and so a heated argument would begin.

I think Ginsberg and the others would be completely cool with your take on it. To me, poetry is like a finger pointing at something. Most people focus on the finger, and how beautiful it is, or what makes that finger different or better than other people's fingers. One can also try to focus on what is being pointed at, which I think is more important in the end. As long as you see what they're going for, they did their job. The rest is just in the mechanics.
posted by chambers at 3:23 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who are we?
What we got?
Are we a firework show,
Growing pale like a sun that burnt out years ago?
Stranger things have been.
Stranger things have gone.
I find it hard right now to name you one.

Tell me do something true, and drop the fairy tales.

If singing birds must sing, with no question of choice,
Then living is our song, indeed our voice.
Best agree, you and me, we're only nightingales.


~Paddy McAloon, 1988.
posted by droplet at 4:14 PM on November 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Makes very little difference what happens, the next ten years, because the main thing in the universe isn’t at all affected by these little shifts of anthills, musics, nations, marriages.

Easy for him to say ... In ten years, he'll still be dead.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:27 PM on November 20, 2011


You can't know that for sure.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:25 PM on November 20, 2011


Ginsberg isn't dead as long as people are still reading his poetry and hearing his voice and finding the truth he speaks.
posted by hippybear at 7:34 PM on November 20, 2011


And killjoy buried a pencil in the promised land...
posted by Oyéah at 8:35 PM on November 20, 2011


I struggle with beat poetry and prose as well, some of it seems to be really on to something, but much like the 60's counter culture, I think it has been distorted by the lens of elapsed decades. I think if I was 20 in 1959 and in the right place I would have really dug Ginsberg. I do really get into Gary Snyder. But much of it is hard to think about without a whole lot of unintended context, you know, like how every frat boy says that On The Road "really changed their life" as they interview for their corporate finance job.

But this was a really good essay. Bookmarked for future reference. I'd like this read at my funeral, followed by my surviving bandmates' rendition of The Flaming Lips' Feeling Yourself Disintegrating.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:39 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I used to be a Communist when I was a kid, and I'm not sorry.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:25 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was hugely into Beat poetry in the early 90s. Took the psychedelics. Wrote a lot. Protested. Even did my own stint "on the road".

I marched against the first Iraq war. By the time the second one came around -- and it became clear that Bush Jr. was going to have his way and the pep-rally mentality of modern politics was going to let him get away with it -- I had become too cynical to do much other than shake my head at the whole, glossy CNN multimedia show.

I have flashes of brilliance (?) now. Glimpses of Beauty. An echo, sometimes, of the call to be more, be greater, somewhere still bounces around in my hollowed-out heart, and I rise to the occasion. Occasionally.

There's much to be said of the thing that Beat finger points at. It's just really hard to sustain the gaze for long, living in this fucked up world.

Lt. Pike should be arrested. Cheney should be arrested. The executives of Goldman Sachs and BP and Big Coal should be arrested for what they do on a regular basis. These new demons of our age hate us, even as they drain our blood to nourish their avarice and wrath and lust for power.

As Boethius said, no one is secure until he has been abandoned by fortune. Beauty and Truth and Hope and Courage is all we have.
posted by darkstar at 10:11 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


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