Conclusion of Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg is an influential poet who believes social protest has to happened in order for change to occur. He believes in equality for everyone, and not just for a selected few. Through is poetry he confesses the problems that are happening in the United States during the fifties and sixties. Although there are many useful links on Allen Ginsberg biography in my blogs, I will definitely be adding more information about him. I have not added a section on the beat poets yet, since I would like to do further reasearch on this particular part of his life. However, I did briefly mentioned the Beat Poets in my blog, but I will add further information about them later on. I hope you enjoy my blog since I feel the material is well research on Allen Ginsbergs life.

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A brief intoductory of the trials of the Scottsboro Boys

The Scottsboro boy’s are mentioned in Allen Ginsberg’s poem “America”.  The Scottsboro boys made history in America since this crime had never occurred.  However, the case “produced many trials, convictions, reversals, and retrials since there was an alleged gang rape of two white girls by nine black teenagers on the Southern Railroad freight run from Chattanooga to Memphis on March 25, 1931″(Linder, 1).

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Also, the whites that were thrown off the train by blacks went to the reporting station in Stevenson. Even know this conflict started because a white boy had stepped on the black persons hand, the blacks were arrested as a result of the whites being assaulted by the blacks.  This is another example of un fair justice or inequality since the whites did not go to jail, but the balcks did. For example, One or the other of the girls, either in response to a question or on their own initiative, told one of the posse members that they had been raped by a gang of twelve blacks with pistols and knives”(Linder, 2). One of the black males said the girls were lying, yet Clarence Norris was struck by a bayonet since the guard was taking the word of white girls.

Although the trial begins twleve days later, the boys were later sentenced to either death or to jail for many years to come. The sentence would depend on the crimes the black boys did. For example, Andy Wright ended up get ninety nine years in jail (Linder, 3). Hence, the good people of the South thought this was unjustice for the Scottsboro boys, so they fought to get them out.

America

I hope you enjoy reading Allen Ginsberg poem “America” since I think this is an important literary work that the world needs to read. Also, this poem is an excellent example of social protest since he is frustrated with the problems that were happening in the US during the late forties and fifties.          

The Poem: “America”

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January
17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I’m sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I
need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not
the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back
it’s sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical
joke?
I’m trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I’m doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday
somebody goes on trial for murder.
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid
I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses
in the closet
.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle
Max after he came over from Russia.
I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by
Time Magazine?
I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner
candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It’s always telling me about responsibility. Business-
men are serious. Movie producers are serious.
Everybody’s serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.
Asia is rising against me.
I haven’t got a chinaman’s chance.
I’d better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of
marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable
private literature that goes 1400 miles an hour
and twenty-five-thousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of
underprivileged who live in my flowerpots
under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers
is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that
I’m a Catholic.
America how can I write a holy litany in your silly
mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as
individual as his automobiles more so they’re
all different sexes.
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500
down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Com-
munist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a
handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and
sentimental about the workers it was all so sin-
cere you have no idea what a good thing the
party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand
old man a real mensch Mother Bloor made me
cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody
must have been a spy.
America you don’t really want to go to war.
America it’s them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen.
And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power
mad. She wants to take our cars from out our
garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Readers’
Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia.
Him big bureaucracy running our fillingsta-
tions.
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read.
Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us
all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in
the television set.
America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.
It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes
in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and
psychopathic anyway.
America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel. 

The poem “America” is a significant part of American history since Allen Ginsberg confesses all the issues he was having with America during the late forties and fifties.  The problems that have been plaguing the United States are associated with his attitudes towards consumerism, McCarthyism, homosexuality. In the beginning of the poem, he is complaining that the American people are very judgmental since he is being force not to speak his own mind. For example, “I’m sick of your demands”(Ginsberg, line 15) suggests to the reader that he is tired of being someone he’s not, and he will not tolerate this any longer.  He suggests that Americans were more able to expresses their opinions in the twenties and thirties than they were in the forties and fifties.  This occurs because people were fearful to express their own thoughts and feelings due to McCarthyism.  

McCarthyism derived from the actions of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s, has come to mean the use of reckless and unfair  accusations in the name of suppressing political disloyalty. The  actions of McCarthy combined with communist expansion and the Korean War aroused public fear and led to a renewed Red Scare.  McCarthy played on public fear in a bid to increase his own political standing. In the end McCarthy’s accusations were proven false and he was censured by the Senate, although this came too late for many whose lives were ruined by those unsubstantiated charges (McCarthy Webquest, 1). 

As the poem went on, he was getting bitter and emotional due to the problems that were occurring in America.  Also, he was trying to convince people that you can still be American and disagree with the problems that exist in America at that time. At that time, Ginsberg suggested “What is it to be an American”. Is American someone that reads Time Magazine, or not being a communist? In the 1930s communist was acceptable, however, people were very fearful of it in the late 1940s and into the sixties since the Cold War World was creating tension between the Americans and the Russians. This is when the term McCarthyism was introduced since their political strategy was to create fear in the minds of the American people by the 1950s. The concept McCarthyism suggested that it would be un- American for people to be involved in communism activities. Politicians use a brainwashing tactic “McCarthyism” on the Americans so that they understood what it is to be truly American. To be truly American the ideal person must be white, heterosexual, own a car, earned a decent living and have 2.5 children according to Ginsberg poem in the 1950s. McCarthyism was once used again in 2001 when Islamic fundamentalist terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre. Instead The Bush Administration replaced the word communism with terrorism causing many Americans to fear for their lives. In a way, history does repeat itself, yet humans still have not learn from the past.

 I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet (Ginsberg, line 27). This line represents how he has to keep his sexual orientation a secret because McCarthy’s chief lawyer “hated communist and homosexuals” (Social Studies Help Centre, 1). As a result, Allen Ginsberg kept his sexual orientation a secret since he knew other people would not accept him in society due to the existence of homophobia. The American Heritage Dictionary (1992 edition) defines homophobia “as aversion to gay or homosexual people or their lifestyle or culture and behavior or an act based on this aversion (Wellness Centre, 1). Other definitions identify “homophobia as an irrational fear of homosexuality (Wellness Centre,1).  In the poem America, America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel (Ginsberg, line 74). This suggests by the end of the poem that he was tired of keeping his homosexuality a secret.  Also, he wanted to tell everyone that you can hold your own values and beliefs and still be an american citizen.  Therefore, he suggests do not compromise your own beliefs for the sake of society not accepting you as an american.

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Allen Ginsberg’s Biography

      In the 17th Century a biography was defined by John Dryden as the “history of mens live” (Abrams, 22). However, now the name  “connotes a relatively full account of a particular person’s life involving the attempt to set forth character, temperament, and mileau, as well as the subjects activities and experiences”(Abrams, 22). An example of a biography is Allen Ginsberg since he was an influential poet and political activist.  In other words, he was a social protester that believed in equality for everyone, and not just a selected few.

      Irwin Allen Ginsberg was born on June 3rd 1926 in New Wark, New Jersey.  His father, Louise was a school teacher and a poet known for his word play.  For example “Is Life worth Living? It depends on the liver, and I have got no axiom to grind”(Jones, 1). His mother on the other hand was a radical communist who idolized Stalin.  Also, his mother was in and out of mental hospitals throughout her life. He has stated that his mother makes up bedtime stories that all went something like this: “The good king rode from his castle, saw the suffering workers and healed them”(Jones, 1).

     At the age of fifteen, he writes to New York Times indicated to them a variety of political issues such as WWI or workers being treated unfairly in the workplace. For example he writes “One can gather infinite consolation by speculation as to what will happen to those Congressmen when they go to Hell”(Jones, 1). As a result, he wanted to change the laws to favor working class people, so that they could be treated as an equal.

In 1943 Allen Ginsberg left Paterson, New Jersey so that he could attend the University of Columbia in hopes to save the working class. Although he had great ambition at the University of Columbia, he did remain a student on and off until 1948. One of the reason is that in 1945, Allen Ginsberg was suspended from school since he wrote on his window that the “Butler has no balls with Kerouac”(Ball, xiii). As a result, he moved with Kerouac in a communal apartment across the street. During his years at this University, he met Lucien in 1943. After meeting Lucien, he introduces Allen to his other friends such as Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassidy, Herbert Huncke, and classmate Lucien Carr (Ball, xiii).  Even Burroughs was an important person to his life since that was Allen’s mentor who introduced him to Mayan codices and the works of Spengler, Korzybski, and Celine.

     He gives up the Study of Law to pursue a career in writing. He studies literature since he knows this is what he wants out of life.  Also he was influenced by other poets such as William Blake, Walt Whitman, and William Carlos.  As well, Allen edits the Humor Magazine: The Jester, on the debate team and involved with the literary society.

     During the same year, 1945, he was training as a merchant seaman for the war. However, the US dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which ended the war and changed history forever. Therefore the training camp was closed.Allen Ginsberg did experiment with marijuana and Benzedrine in front of Time Square with Kerouac and Burroughs. According to all of them, “they were attempting to realize the live poetry of a New Vision” (Jones, 3). Later on this group of people were known as the beat poets since they were trying to come up with new visions of poetry. In other words they “were In the midst of post-war conservatism, these young writers had become disenchanted and were experimenting with new forms of communication”(American Masters, 1). Hence the beat poets started a revolution in social protest even know it was not planned, it just happened.

     Early 1947, he meets Neal Cassidy where they start to have a relationship together. They did travel to Texas to visit Burroughs and Herbert on numerous occasions. Although Kerouac was affected by Allen’s relationship with Cassidy, he was able to use him as a character model in On the Road and other novels (Ball, xiv). However; during the following summer Allen was meeting Neal Cassidy at the airport where he was greeted by Neal and his girlfriend. Hence, they still remained close friends in the end.

     Allen Ginsberg does have a criminal record since he was arrested for being in a car with stolen goods in April, of 1949. Instead of going to jail, Allen Ginsberg attended a mental hospital since he pleaded insanity.  This was the same year that Allen Ginsberg graduated from Columbia.During his years at the Mental Hospital, he met Carl Solomon. Later, Carl Solomon introduces him to French surrealist writing. In the end, they both wrote well together at the Institute. They wrote a number of rhymed poems in Ginsberg’s The Gates of Wrath (Ball, xv).

     In 1955, he begins the poem Howl which will be discussed later in the blogs. Unfortunately, his mother dies in 1956 as he is becoming popular in his own life. A letter did arrive to him two days before she died. The letter said “the key is in the window, the key is in the sunlight in the window – I have the key – get married Allen don’t take drugs… Love, your mother” (Jones, 5).

     In the 1960’s, he is using social protest to get his point across in the United States. Also, he is preaching to a psychedelics gospel, gets kicked out of Cuba, and Prague, Protesting the War at a Chicago convention in 1968 and testifying at a Chicago seven.  Although he has done many social protest, these are just a  few examples of his life experiences. He definitely has an impressive FBI file, as a result of him being a political activist. In reference to a discussion of Ginsberg’s FBI file, Herbert Mitgang writes:

 In a memorandum from J. Edgar Hoover to the Secret Service in 1965,  Ginsberg was cited as an “Internal Security– Cuba” case, and a potential  threat to the president of the United States. On the document,  stamped Secret’, Ginsberg was listed as “potentially dangerous” and a “subversive,” with “evidence of emotional instability (including unstable residence and employment record) or irrational or suicidal behavior,” as having made “expressions of strong or violent anti U.S. sentiment,” and as having “a propensity for violence and antipathy toward good order and government.” All such items were checked on a form in his file (Jones, 6).  

     The poem “America” will be discussed in a later blog because this is significant piece of work regarding social protest.  Allen Ginsberg in this poem complains to the people the problems that were happening to America society during the fifties and sixties. He dies on April 5th, 1997 as a result of liver cancer in the East Village of New York City. However before he died he wrote a variety of short poems including “On Fame and Death”. In that poem, he wrote that he wish somebody would say at his funeral that “he gave great head” (Jones, 6).  

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