Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Allen Ginsberg is a comic genuis

I really enjoyed reading the black mountain poets. There is a real dry humor to a lot of the poets. In earlier poetry classes, I was exposed to Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery. Both poets were brilliant. One of my favorite poems of all time is Frank O'Hara's "The Day Lady Died" poem. After reading poets that were not that much of an interest, I was introduced to Allen Ginsberg. I was fascinated by two of his poems: "To Aunt Rose" and "America". Ginsberg did a wonderful job using descriptions in the poem. When he describes aunt rose, this image of an average looking white female came into mind: "with your thin face and buck tooth smile and pain of rheumatism-and a long black heavy show for your bony left leg limping down the long hall..." Ginsberg made this unbeautiful woman beautiful through poetic language. Through his comedic descriptions of objects and aunt rose he did a wonderful job in abstraction. Through out his telling of his Aunt Rose, he supplies lines that do not go well with the main subject of Aunt Rose. I am unsure that Aunt Rose is his actual aunt or a female character he looked up to. Mid way through his poem, he tells a story about how Aunt Rose helped him out: "the time I stood on the toilet seat naked and you powdered my thighs with calamine against the poison ivy- my tender and shamed first black curled hairs what were you thinking in secret heart then knowing me a man already-" I do not know how to feel about this statement. There relationship seems to inappropriate to be family. He is describing the way she is cleaning his naked body and she is checking out his pubic hair to see if he is a man. As a new reader, I was not expecting this bold of a statement so early in the poem. I am surprised by the content in the poem from when he actually wrote the poem. He wrote the poem in 1958. The sexual revolution would not start for another ten plus years. The last stanza seemed to see the end of Aunt Rose: "last time I saw you was the hospital-pale skull protruding under ashen skin blue veined unconscious girl in an oxygen tent the war in Spain has ended long ago Aunt Rose". The words Ginsberg used to describe Aunt Rose on the hospital bed are chilling. Even though he does not describe his feelings about Aunt Rose on the hospital bed, I could tell by the last line that he wanted the last time he saw her alive to be happy. When I first read "America" I enjoyed Ginsberg's witty commentary. I was surprised to hear how different the poem sounded when Ginsberg read the poem out loud. I enjoyed hearing the audiences reactions and his own reactions. He changed a lot of the printed version of "America". Through out the poem, I got a sense of Walt Whitman. Whitman's love for nature and Ginsberg's love of nature through America. Ginsberg explanation of beauty was completely different from Whitman's version of beauty. A great example of this beauty was "I smoke marijuana every chance I get. When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid". Ginsberg's love of America is trying to get laid in China town and smoking weed every chance he gets. Ginsberg had a surreal outlook on this poem. He is explaining why he loves America in a strange and unusual way. When he thinks of nature, he mentions his love for marijuana. His natural resource are two joints and male genitalia. He is honest with his audience. Instead of using metaphors for describing his love for America, he using funny banter with real statements from his own personal life. Ginsberg was a comic genius who only spoke the truth.

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