More on Whitman and Ginsberg

I wanted to comment on Catherine O’Hare’s post but I wanted to add some audio as well.

Of course Allen Ginsberg felt a connection to the homosexual Whitman, but I think that there are other parts of Whitman as well that made Ginsberg look to Whitman as a kind of “poetry father.” When I first came across Ginsberg, I loved that he seemed to make his own religion within his poems. He describes life and the afterlife in terms that make you strangely aware that sound has some influence on his belief in the spiritual state of the world. In his poem “Europe! Europe!” Ginsberg writes of cars: “I know where they go to death but that is ok, it is that death comes before life. That no man has loved perfectly no one get bliss in time new mankind is not born!” When I listen to him read that poem, I can’t help but feel that to him, his thoughts on death were only just as equally important as the feel of it on his tongue. As Ed points out in his post, “Facing Death,” Whitman creates his own new religion within his poetry as well. I think that Ginsberg borrows this confidence when he makes bold statements such as “I want people to bow when they see me. To say he is gifted, he has seen the presence of the creator, and the creator gave me a shot of his presence so as not to cheat me of my yearning of him.” (Transcription of Organ Music).

Ginsberg does use Whitman’s cataloguing, but I think that this was also important to Ginsberg because of the sound of them. While there are great lists in “Howl,” I have always been more interested in the effect of the “Footnote to Howl.” In this poem you can see how important the sound of his poems was to Ginsberg. Though we are unsure if Whitman ever read his poems aloud to audiences much, we know that that was important to Ginsberg who described in letters revising poems into their sounds. Ginsberg takes Whitman’s list and polish the words until they clink. I have always been struck that this poem seems to ask to be sung in harmonics, or at least tap danced to.

02 Footnote to Howl

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.