Saturday, June 03, 2006

Allen Ginsberg's 80th Birthday Today!

Allen Ginsberg would have been 80 years old today. Nearly a decade after his death (the same day his teacher Chogyam Trungpa died), Allen continues to inspire and irritate with his signature combination of candor and wholehearted compassion through his enduring legacy. Poet, teacher, friend, Buddhist practitioner, political avatar, Ginsberg remains one of the great American minds in promoting a saner world.

Today by coincidence is also the birth of the Buddha celebrated universally as a day when one's actions and thoughts are multiplied millions of times. So, think positive thoughts, write a poem, reflect kindly on the bard who inspired so many of us.

Five A.M.

Elan that lifts me above the clouds
into pure space, timeless, yea eternal
Breath transmuted into words
Transmuted back to breath
in one hundred two hundred years
nearly Immortal, Sappho's 26 centuries
of cadenced breathing -- beyond time, clocks, empires, bodies, cars,
chariots, rocket ships skyscrapers, Nation empires
brass walls, polished marble, Inca Artwork
of the mind -- but where's it come from?
Inspiration? The muses drawing breath for you? God?
Nah, don't believe it, you'll get entangled in Heaven or Hell --
Guilt power, that makes the heart beat wake all night
flooding mind with space, echoing through future cities, Megalopolis or
Cretan village, Zeus' birth cave Lassithi Plains -- Otsego County
farmhouse, Kansas front porch?
Buddha's a help, promises ordinary mind no nirvana --
coffee, alcohol, cocaine, mushrooms, marijuana, laughing gas?
Nope, too heavy for this lightness lifts the brain into blue sky
at May dawn when birds start singing on East 12th street --
Where does it come from, where does it go forever?

Allen Ginsberg from Death and Fame

In this BBC interview, Ginsberg sings "Father Death Blues" which he says is the work he wants to be remembered for.


  1. Jacqueline,
    Thank you very much for your guidance. I’ve been trying to find some good resources on haiku for a few weeks, but had no idea where to start. These have me moving in a good direction.
    As for beat poets, I am indeed a fan (as much as I can in such a short time legitimately call myself one). In fact, this is among the only poetry that has ever made much sense to me. My intellectual upbringing managed to condition me to think poetry frivolous. It wasn’t until embarrassingly recently that I made the connection that as much as I am engaged by the written word and as much as I feel compelled to write, that this former line of reasoning about poetry was simply stupid.
    Kerouac’s Pomes All Sizes is one of my favorite books and was in part the inspiration for the haiku exercise. I first read it several years ago, and read it again (twice) in February. His work, Pomes All Sizes in particular, strike me in a visceral way. There is something subliminal, even meditative about it. It speaks in a deep language that I didn’t realize I know.
    I would also like to apologize for being an academic squatter on interspace. “Next Blog >>” dropped me there, and I was so engaged by what you wrote, that I responded before I realized it was a blog for your class. I hope I haven’t interfered.

    Thanks, ERD

  2. Dear Er --

    No problem about squatting on "Interscape". I used it as a teaching in my class on the amazing random networking that can occur and how you expressed perfect blog manners.

    Glad to hear about your connection to Kerouac. Did you read his "Mexico City Blues" --all haiku-like.

    Keep that pen flowing!