On 12th September, 1947, Allen Ginsberg shipped out as a utility man on a collier, the S.S. John Blair, for the Ponchelet Marine Corporation. He departed from Freeport, seventy-five miles south of Houston, going through Galveston, passing near Cuba and Haiti, whose mountains Allen watched pass by, and headed for Dakar, capital of the federation of French West Africa, in what is now known as Senegal. Dakar, on the western coast of Africa, had a long colonial history, although like most European colonial possessions, in 1947 this one was nearing the end of its subjugation. Once a major trading port for African slaves, Dakar had a strategic location that ensured its privileged position within the French Empire. The French West African territories were placed under the control of a single governor, who was located in Dakar, and so it had become a seat of power in the region. Indeed, by the early twentieth century, it had become a major city in the empire. As rights were slowly and inconsistently handed out to “French subjects” – ie the Africans whose homelands had been annexed by the French – the people born in Dakar were first to be given the right to vote, and it was from here that the first ever black African elected to the French government was born, Blaise Diagne. A year before Allen’s visit, the French Empire had rebranded itself the French Union to give the appearance of equality, and more limited rights were being rolled out; however, more substantial change was in the horizon, with independence just over a decade away. Continue Reading…
Archives For poetry
Tenements absorbed the sun to brick and spread the heat like a steam iron, pressing ideas flat, airless, into our street lives. Waiting for the number to come out, welfare wary, drinking cheap wine, whining about the sure memory of the south, gaining minute reputations, habitually wanting and needing things, observed nodding to nada with the “white lady.” Colored, and recently “Black” by most definition, coping & cropping personalities to a new South in Harlem… Continue Reading…
In the modern era the sustainability of both our daily lives and global systems has become an increasingly important issue. The world finds itself in sight of, and surpassing, certain “planetary boundaries” which mark the limits of a planet which will continue to be inhabitable by humans. These boundaries include ocean acidification, climate change, and biodiversity loss, and they mark a complete break from planetary sustainability. Although personal choice and advancement in resource production may take some steps towards a sustainable future many critics have noted that the blame can be placed primarily on the dominant economic system, capitalism (Foster, 18). For this reason, among others, environmental concerns have increasingly entered into the political sphere. Continue Reading…
There is a review of Eliot Katz’s new book, The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg, in the latest issue of Rain Taxi.
”Katz’s analysis is readable and enjoyable while offering a scholarly view of Ginsberg’s most influential poems, including “Howl,” which appropriately gets a full chapter here. Katz is able to explicate the originality with which Ginsberg converted his political views into poetry, making them resonate powerfully to his audiences.
Previous biographies and books about Ginsberg’s life and work have appeared, but The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg is the first that explicitly analyzes Ginsberg’s political poetry and dissects his progressive influence on our culture. Katz’s book is a lively read regarding the poet of poets who shaped the political views of a generation.”
– Rain Taxi Review of Books Continue Reading…
October 7th, 1955, was arguably one of the most important dates in American literature. On that date, in a “run down second rate experimental art gallery” (a former auto repair shop) in San Francisco, in a room crowded with a hundred young men and women, Allen Ginsberg read for the first time an early draft of his poem, “Howl.” Among the bohemian audience was the poem’s future publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who immediately recognized its potential, and requested the manuscript. “Howl” would go on to become the most important poem of the late-twentieth century and, alongside T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” perhaps the most important of the entire century. It would challenge America’s censorship laws, inspire unprecedented cultural and social change, and give the country its most recognizable and influential poet since Walt Whitman. Continue Reading…
Larry Beckett is generally best-known as a songwriter, yet probably better known to Beatdom readers as the author of Beat Poetry – the first book entirely devoted to the poetry of the Beat Generation. Yet he has devoted much of his life to writing poetry, and earlier this year he released an impressive book called Paul Bunyan through Smokestack Books in the UK.
Paul Bunyan is part of Beckett’s American Cycle series of “long poems” concerning junctures in American history. In an interview with Shindig! Magazine, he explained:
When I started reading American literature, I looked around for its great narrative epic poem, and didn’t find it. So American Cycle is a sequence of long poems out of the American past: US Rivers: Highway 1, Old California, Paul Bunyan, Chief Joseph, Wyatt Earp, PT Barnum, Amelia Earhart, Blue Ridge, US Rivers: Route 66. I’ve been working on it for 45 years; I’m now doing research for the last section, John Henry. Each section is written in a form appropriate to its subject. Its themes are love, local mythology, history, justice, memory, accomplishment, time.
“The News from Poems” the Sixth Biennial Conference of the William Carlos Williams Society at William Paterson University ended on a majestic note with a stunning video featuring the music of Frederick Adler, M.D., black-and-white images by the architect and visual artist Jonathan Sinagub, and the words of William Carlos Williams from his epic poem “Paterson,” in a combined work titled “Paterson Project.” www.patersonproject.com
The Road begins in Paterson, as in Sal Paradise’s Paterson, as in WCW’s Paterson, as in Ginsberg’s hometown P-town, New Jersey, as in George Washington’s “coat of Crow-black homespun woven in Paterson,” Alexander Hamilton, yes, that Paterson . . . Paterson of the great Peruvian restaurants and immigrant experience – yes, that Paterson.
Scholars from as far away as Melbourne and Kyoto attended the event.
“I love St. Francis of Assisi as well as anybody in the world.” Desolation Angels
Once a sybarite youth and reveler
Dreams and visions and change of heart
Lepers and beggars fevered new start
Francis set to restore his Father’s house
He threw and flung church gold away
Bernardone beat and locked he stayed
Francis turned from father’s ways
And stood there humble, pure, and bare
He wed himself to poverty and fast as fare
To gain heaven nay palace but by hut everlasting
He preached and lived non-violence and reconciliation
Mysticism, holy vows, chasten, tonsured, unshaven
A poor and meek monk and brother
Lover of creatures, creation, and creator
Sought spiritual experiences and lofty visions
Contemplation and stigmata and the Christ in crucifixion
Compassion and forgiveness
Francis was a man of action
And taught by his deeds and sanctification
“Count Basie’s swing arrangements are not blaring, but they contain more drive, more power, and more
thrill than the loudest gang of corn artists can acquire by blowing their horns apart.” i
The Kid from Red Bank
On the River Navesink
Red Bank Boogie
One O’Clock Jump
Stomp and stamp and stump the band
Give the man a mighty hand
Fats Waller knees
William Basie’s simple swing
Keep your flashy bling-bling-bling
Count will swing and swing and ring
Elegant and clean
Meet you on Mechanic Street
Lobster twitching up a leg ii
Mobsters in old Kaycee days
and Jo Jones,
Thad and Mr. Quincy Jones,
Frank (The Kid from Hoboken) once but skin and bones
i McNally, Dennis. Desolate Angel: A Biography, Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America. (New York:
Random House. 1979). p. 38.
ii Horricks, Raymond. Count Basie and His Orchestra: Its Music and Its Musicians. (New York: The Citadel Press.
1957). p. 23.