Monday, October 15, 2012

Poetry Monday: Howl

ModPo has moved on to the Beats. This is relatively familiar territory for me, but it doesn't mean that I get to slack off. Though much of the poetry we're readig this week appears spontaneous, easy to understand (compared at least to some of the experimental poets we just left), we need to do more than read, absorb, and chat about the work. This is a close, intense series of reading that looks, among other things at rhythm, syntax, the pouring forth of incantatory images, and, particularly in Allen Ginsberg's  "Howl", parataxis - that's the technique where dissimilar images are put together in a seemingly unrelated way, with the reader left to make the connection between them.  Here's but a fragment of Ginsberg's most well known poem - chaotic, and seemingly random ravings, but actually carefully constructed to follow, as ModPo's Al Filreis puts it: "the "syntax" and "measure" of the soul," or as Ginsberg said, "Ideally each line of 'Howl' is a single breath unit. My breath is long — that's the measure, one physical-mental inspiration of thought contained in the elastic of a breath."  So here's a taste, and if you want more, you can click on the YouTube clip below the fragment and hear the big G read it himself in full (no harmonium, though I heard him recite "Howl" in person at St Mark's Church many (many) years ago with his harmonium and never forgot it...).  Full text of parts I and II can be found  here:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving
  hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the 
  starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the
  supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of
  cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels
  staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkan-
  sas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,

1 comment:

  1. How magnificent that you were able to hear him live. It would indeed be unforgettable. It was awfully hard for me this week to leave the world of Howl.