During our discussion on Tuesday we compared the liliac’s from Whitman’s When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d to Ginsberg’s sunflower from Sunflower Sutra. The lilacs while in the poem are a portrayal for his mourning and the loss he feels when faced with Lincoln’s death, crisis and coming to terms with it. It has become a well known Whitman trademark, and is a symbol that still frequents poems that have emerged since then.
The sunflower also holds this element of crisis, the flower is dying, covered and rooted in the filth of the industrial world. The flower is humanized with the language that is used, it’s arms are open, its eyes are covered in soot, its mouth is practically bare of teeth. It helps the reader associate the flower with the human individual, completely surrounded by the foulness and grime that they have created for themselves. However Ginsberg plants a sense of recovery in the poem by recognizing the flower for what it is instead of what it is hidden under, “Poor dead flower? when did you forget your were a flower?” The self acceptance allows him to separate himself from the great American drive, and recognize himself (and everyone else) as something much deeper then the technology we produce.
But there is one more very important literary flower that we forgot to touch on, Pablo Neruda’s great poppies. In his poem I Explain Some Things he first asks where the lilacs are (Whitman reference) but then explores it further, asking “and the metaphysics laced with poppies?” This again is a direct call of crisis, he has lost his “house of flowers”, “instead of flowers, from every dead house/burning metal flows.” The lack of the poppies represents the social unrest and violence in Spain. The absence of nature and the industrial language that replaces it in the poem also hints to struggle that is in Ginsberg’s poem.