Alice Notley on Allen Ginsberg – 2

Alice Notley on the internationalism of Allen Ginsberg continued from yesterday

AN: The second poem selected by chance (I am opening the book randomly, plonk, trying to be vaguely chronological is “Going to Chicago” – dated August 24, 1968, so this is on the way to the famous Republican convention in Chicago nominating (Richard) Nixon [editorial note – the 1968 Republican Convention was at Miami Beach; the Democratic Convention in Chicago took place a few weeks later] and characterized by violence on all sides, street demonstrations, mean cops and a later court trial of demonstrators, at which Allen sweety testified and honestly (as honest as you can be and be funny) answered all questions, remember?  Going to Chicago: “22,000 feet over Hazed stare Vegetable planet Floor” so immediately this is not just an American situation, this is the planet of hazed air. Allen continues: “Approaching Chicago to Die or flying over Earth another 40 years/ to die – indifferent, and Afraid,that the bone-shattering bullet/ be the same as the vast evaporation-of-phenomena Cancer/ Come true in an old man’s bed. Or Historic/ Fire-Heaven Descending 22,000 years End th’ Atomic Aeon”

Chicago, a dangerous place to approach this day in 1968 is a point on the globe, and the near-future a point in vast void-time, and maybe he’ll be shot, or maybe die  of cancer forty years later – it was more like thirty, wasn’t it? – or maybe there will be an atomic is it? holocaust… There are two more six-line stanzas, braiding together the strands of the Convention (pun) as politics and “Conventional police”; the color blue that’s the sky, “Our Father” and Lake Michigan; and the poet’s self identification as the “Angel King”, I think. This poem is not as immediately clear as the later Allen might have wished, but it is masterfully compressed, beautiful and pertinent: “Democratic Anger is an Illusion, Democratic Joy is God/ Our Father is baby blue, the original face you see Sees You -”

Sky Above Clouds IV – 1965 – painting by Georgia O’Keefe

This is an airplane poem, a genre that has not been remarked upon or anthologized yet. to my knowledge, but there exist a number of examples among my friends’ poems, a poem in which the speaker is temporarily above the country and globe, often recording details within the plane (Allen briefly alludes to “papers and Noses”), but being above it all, and in a spiritual expanse. Remember Georgia O’Keefe’s 1965 paintings from above the flat clouds! – this was a new kind of thing to experience. When you are above the globe, you can think about it too, and remember Allen has said “flying over Earth” the planetary, this is planetary even cosmic consciousness not the American poet-ty-boo keeps discovering America, joys and problems. Phil Whalen has a version of this where he simply leaves his body: “I soar/Face down high above the shore & sea” (“Self-Portrait Sad 22:ix:58”). There is another one I can’t find where Phil says “face down over America.” It’s a position I took permission for implicitly, from Allen, in my own poem “At Night The States

For poem number three I got landed with (in emotional storm of) “Hymmnn,” the poem after “Kaddish” (1959) that’s in fact part of it, the “caw caw” one. “Kaddish” being Allen’s saying of the ritual in his words, for his mother so far un-kaddished, though she had died a few years previously, mentally-ill, lobotomized Naomi, for whom there had been no real memorial, now one of the most famous mothers in poetry. Born in Russia she was, so the internationalism starts here and oneself is always part of a diaspora somewhere along the line, as we represent each of us global criss-crossings from over a million years and if time is one time, a compressed every time and all time, these criss-crossings are happening now, oh they are;  ” O mother/ farewell/with a long black shoe/farewell/with Communist {arty and a broken stocking/ farewell/ with six dark hairs on the wen of your breast/ farewell/ with your old dress and a long black beard around the vagina/ farewell/ with your sagging belly/ with your fear of Hitler/ with your mouth of bad short stories/ with your fingers of rotten mandolins/ with your arms of fat Paterson porches/ with your belly of strikes and smokestacks/ with your chin of Trotsky and the Spanish War/ with your voice singing for the decaying overbroken workers/ with your nose of bad lay with your nose of the smell of the pickles of Newark/ with your eyes/ with your eyes of Russia/ with your eyes of no money/ with your eyes of false China/ with your eyes of Aunt Elanor/with your eyes of starving India/ with your eyes pissing in the park/ with your eyes of America taking a fall”

Allen Ginsberg – painting by Naomi Ginsberg

I don’t have to make my point. Except I’m saying Allen often wrote out of deep trauma..But who is saying kaddish right now for the dead of Ghouta? (March 2018) in Syria, abandoned by America and all the world. Allen would. Naomi says “The key is in the sunlight”… the mote in the sunlight, Allen says, of which a word would be one. One mote. Oh Allen,”we are led to believe a lie/ when we see with not through the eye…”  ((William) Blake). And he would say maybe, you can’t see through it without seeing where you are exactly physically – though the word order is optional, as long as each word is equal to the other. Poetry is democratic on its tiniest levels, as matter is, and the spiritual or limitless holds all. Each word equal in energy, applied to the page or voice. Allen’s practical poetics, the words are equal. In his lifetime his word order becomes increasingly, whichever order best energizes each word.

to be continued – see here  

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