Wail (Tribute to Allen Ginsberg)

Connections

Being a haiku poet and highly interested in all things haiku, I did some research on the Beat Poets and Beat Writers of the 1950s and 1960s (also called the Beat Generation) who popularized haiku in America. Jack Kerouac’s novel, The Dharma Bums, featured a main character who wrote haiku and this influenced a whole generation of Americans and spawned a sub-cultural movement. One of the other pillars of the Beat movement was Allen Ginsberg.

Ginsberg’s poem, Howl, was influential in breaking down barriers in poetic expression. The publisher of Howl was arrested and brought to court for having published “obscenities”. The verdict was a landmark decision for artistic expression everywhere. The judge ruled that Ginsberg’s work was not obscene but a satirical artistic expression in the language of the street and therefore of merit.

Recently (couple months ago) I became more interested in Ginsberg and wanted to read some of his works, so I purchased the book Howl and Other Poems. Then, just last week, I had an opportunity to enter a poem into a contest which called for a poem in the style of Allen Ginsberg. Having been immersed in his work recently, I felt like I was ready to do this justice, to channel his voice and style, and to utilize his works as inspiration in a tribute poem to Allen Ginsberg.

Well, here it is. I trust you will enjoy this. To fully appreciate it, I recommend you read Ginsberg’s Howl Part I, which you can find HERE.

Wail

I have seen the tortured minds of my generation rise out of the ashes of insanity naked in new birth
born of one-night stands to fathers angry at street-level poverty looking for another damned fix
segregated from their heavenly connections by pulpit charlatans who mock Jesus with their lies
and foisted into a society rife with the embryonic anticipation of a litter of wide-eyed howling wolves–
they howl, wail in the pain of a toe-stubbed mind numb with the violent anguish of reverse Kaddish
corrupted thoughts that go down to dark black hell inside the earth’s churning stomach grueling
through another day of grinding fingers to stubs in stealthy hot steel mills of melting coke slag dross
or the tragic lost-in-limbo, non-racist clans that emerge from dust-filled caverns wearing black-face daily
rewarded for years of long lust labor with death by black lung just for trying to feed a frightened family:
unconscionable insanities pregnant with silent rage birthed a booming generation of undying phoenix
to sort out the mess of the death of a blitzkrieg of rotating swastikas grinding over the im-Maginot line
and the octopus strike of a rising sun’s rays dropping torpedoes out of the sky all over a pacifist ocean
anything but, revolving around one tiny island midway in the salty sea, a turning point of carrier death
delivering a scarred, walled, divided, dark cold war world (in a race against time) into our riled hands:
these are the fathers that beat the living shit out of us so that we would make something of ourselves
their thick black leather belts swishing through thin air to connect with naked ass anxiety that wailed
as mothers cowered in corners in this machismo pig-dominated world of sixties flower-child retribution  
yes, wailed for an opportunity to prove that their empty mirror looks were not just reality sandwiches
to be left at the gates of wrath over the death and fame of the unborn, but these best minds would rise,
rise from sad dust glories into bold new consciousness aware of the fall of America to entitled bastards
leaving seventies hallucinogenic mind breaths of yage letters and peyote epistles deep in Indian journals
for an eighties explosion of technology sending out a web of cosmopolitan greetings–a plutonian ode
in deliberate prose detailing the new nineties code–a cyber matrix of electronic virtual opportunity 
beyond the Y2K wherewithal of wonder-gurus poised to exploit the capital gain of worldwide attribution   
delivered by indies in iron horses to the doorsteps of the consummated–prime Amazon jungle packages,
all psychedelics notwithstanding this onslaught of otherworldly “a to z” distribution of new globalism
printed in a bound book of martyrdom and artifice pursued by terrorific faithful forgers of explosions,
nine-eleven sensibilities notwithstanding: in the twenty-tens first blues then reds separated purples
reaching beyond yellow viruses soaked in white lies with their twenty-twenty smiles hidden from view 
behind false-face shields of safety and protection for the sake of mass control litigation mitigating
the best minds silenced by the verbatim lectures and pinocchio talking points of the illuminated ones
who all know what’s best for planet earth, just read the planet news and don’t ask questions because 
politicians are the most forthright and honest people alive and would never steer us wrong, right, yeah
and here’s some land on the moon you can develop when you take your Musk journey into space to rise–
rise from the ashes of insanity naked in new birth, put on a white shroud, escape the doom of this world
to a new cosmic citizenship far away and beyond this reality into a place called eternity where lies die,
death dies, hate dies, and “evil” is reversed so we can “live” free and not die a sliced snake’s fiery death–
do you believe it–the best minds gathered to think, to reminisce, to tell tall tales of the former ways 
and days of insanity, laughing unrelentingly over some heavenly cognac to relax at the end of woes.

~~~~~~~~~~~

This poem is inspired by and is a tribute to Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg’s style in Howl includes very long lines that wrapped around to the next line. The hanging indents indicate continuation of the line above. Same with my poem, however, I was unable to add the hanging indents because it totally messed up the WordPress formatting all to hell.

So, the second shorter line in my poem is the continuation of the first longer line for each line. These shorter lines are really a continuation of the line above so that the poem is technically only 39 lines. I wish there was a better way to do it, but I think you can figure it out.

In tribute to Allen’s life and work, this poem also utilizes key words and phrases from all his book titles as a way to honor him and integrate his life’s works into the poem.

Here are the key words and phrases from the titles of his books, see if you can find them in my poem:

Howl
Kaddish
Empty Mirror
Reality Sandwiches
The Yage Letters
Planet News
Indian Journals
The Gates of Wrath
Iron Horse
The Fall of America
Verbatim Lectures
Consciousness
First Blues
Sad Dust Glories
Mind Breaths
Plutonian Ode
White Shroud
Cosmopolitan Greetings
Illuminated
Death and Fame
Deliberate Prose
The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice
The Best Minds

The Poet-Philosopher’s Passion

One aspect of an authentic poet-philosopher’s passion is to help take on the world’s problems by getting to the heart of the matters and conveying that to others.

The poet-philosopher is a visionary who takes on the challenges of the world’s problems by diving into the depth of the matters at hand, seeking the most comprehensive and exhaustive understanding of these matters and issues in all realms of thought—science, philosophy, religion, art, and spirituality—and putting themselves into the shoes of everyone on all sides.

They investigate all facets, all dimensions, all ideologies so that they are the most empathetically empowered to then comprehend and convey the heart of the maters to the world, opening the door for an honest handling of the issues that will hint at, and lead to, inspiring solutions for all creation, all things living, and for all humankind.

The poet-philosopher is also sometimes prophetic in unveiling the potential ills or harms that may befall us if the problems at hand are not addressed and the course of society is not changed—and visionary in pointing to better ways and a better future.

Poetry has been called the highest form of communication in language, and it is, but it goes beyond that as well. Poetry not only communicates, it conveys. A powerful, thought-provoking poem is more than the sum of the words present. It is an organic entity to be experienced by the reader. It communicates on other than conscious levels and impresses itself on the mind and heart of the reader through these channels. In this way it conveys more than it says.

A poem doesn’t always do this by being heady, or abstract, or dealing in philosophical concepts.

A poem is a slice of life.

It is often a small scene or event presented and explored and conveyed in poetic language that says more than the words present. Philosophic thoughts of life may be the farthest thing from the reader’s conscious mind when reading a poem, but the way the poem conveys that slice of life is what impresses its philosophic thoughts of life on the mind and heart of the reader through these other than conscious channels.

A good reader of poetry will read a poem over and over to absorb its essence and to allow the organic power of the poetry to work behind the scenes to increase their empathetic understanding and to allow it to give serendipitous moments of understanding, noticing, awareness, enlightenment, and broader comprehension to the conscious mind.

This is the long legacy of poetry in our world. And it is a sad state of affairs when many in a society do not appreciate the power of their poets and the poetry of their generation—when they view it in disdain and regard poets as strange people who need to get a life.

What an error and fallacy of an unenlightened generation.

Nevertheless, the poet-philosopher’s passion is to bear with it and continue to dive into the challenges of the world’s problems and to continue to explore at depth and then craft their work to convey the true and genuine heart and state of affairs through these slices of life called poems.

Because the poet-philosopher is a visionary who refuses to live in the systemically erected box of society as programmed through the world’s media, they are often way out of place in their society and generation. And that is why, so often, a poet is not famous or recognized until after his or her death, in retrospect, after the rest of society catches up.

Allocating Life Energy

Each day we have so many things before us that we need to do, from supplying food to our bodies to make energy, getting rest we need, doing work, healing up when sick, engaging in new adventures, whatever it is the day brings, our bodies have a limited amount of energy that needs to be properly allocated between physical survival needs, life engagement, working to supply resources and materials for our needs, and all our other activities lest we exhaust ourselves and find ourselves incapable of doing much or even worse, dying prematurely.

Years ago in the early 1970s, at the dawn of the personal computer age (the government had been using them for years and some exclusive giant corporations) I was introduced to the first PCs with black screens and green “dashed” lettering. With great excitement I played my first fantasy role playing games on computer, they were “text” or “narrative” games where you had to type in your actions, like “Go west” and “Pick up key” and then you’d find out the results of your actions. Soon, computers evolved to the whitish blue “dashed” lettering and the Apple II came out and life took off from there.

Being a teen, I could not afford my own computer, but a local businessman opened a shop full of Apple II computers and sold “rental time” on each computer to users. I’d go in, sign up, and then get on a computer for $5 an hour (not a bad deal). His shop was always full, and he had 16 computers running, so he made $800 to $1000 a day. I spent hours there playing a star fleet battles game where you could fight using ships from all the popular space war movies and shows. You could take Star Trek ships against Star Wars ships or even Battlestar Galactica ships. It was an incredible concept.

Each turn you gave commands to your ships, navigation commands, life support, shield energy, firing weapons, repairs, and more; BUT the caveat was that each ship had a limited amount of generated energy it could use each turn based on its energy generation the turn before and damage from battle. So you had to really prioritize your needs and stick to essentials and balance it all out if you wanted to win. Did you need repairs to bring ship’s engines or defenses or offenses back up to par so you could use them? Did you need to boost life support, or allocate energy to shields to withstand an attack? Did you need to allocate energy to weapons so you could fight off your foe, or energy to bank your ship in a new direction or increase speed?

YOU COULDN’T DO IT ALL.

Even at full capacity there was a harmonic balance of energy allocation that was maintained and adding extra energy to any task took it away from another. And there were ship accidents, crew situations and sicknesses, things to deal with that required energy. What an amazing lesson for life.

When I was young my energy capacity was very much higher, I hardly even thought about what I could and couldn’t do in a day, I just charged into the day and did it all, whatever I could do, and anything left undone was simply finished the next day. My body was more resilient, so I could starve for two days and not even care, and when I finally ate some food, I could eat a horse, as they say.

But as we age, our bodies begin to allocate more energy to simple maintenance, digestion, immunity, core temperature, and we find we can’t physically do as much as we used to before tiring out. That’s because our “engine capacity” is diminished by wear and tear and age, sometimes by injury or sickness or maladies. And this robs energy from our brains, our higher thinking, and limits the physical work we can do in a day. Suddenly we find that our energy allocation needs to be adjusted. Whereas we used to have 50 points to allocate to our daily bodily needs and our other life-engagement activities, we now have 35. We have to decide to do less.

In the star fleet computer game it was impossible for me to allocate more energy than I had. In other words, I couldn’t “command” or “plan” to do more activities than the energy I had to support them. But in life, we can certainly command or plan to do more than we can handle and then we run out of the energy to support all the things we need or want to do and we shut down in some way, either we become so fatigued we can’t keep working, or we get sick and have to take actions to get well, or we lose some of our mental acumen and get dull, bleary-eyed, disoriented.

Sometimes I tell my wife, “Honey, I can’t think anymore. I need to take a nap so I can think again.” That’s one of the side effects that hits me when I try to do too much and over-allocate energy I don’t have. So a great key in staying productive and energized to do all the things that we want to do in life, no matter the stage or season of life, is to be attuned to how much life energy we have to allocate to all our activities. If we burn ourselves out we will not be fulfilled and will even get ill or fatigued.

All you young folks have a lot of energy to allocate, so don’t waste it on too many leisure activities, or on idleness which can eat up energy too. And by God, don’t waste it on TV and endless hours on the constant cyber-space mind-feed. Take control of your life and wisely allocate your energy to accomplish all the things you want to accomplish in life with proper time to rest, regenerate, enjoy entertaining or amusing activities, and eat. Keep the important things important, like your marriage, your family, your job. If you allocate energy to other things you won’t have the energy or time to properly nourish your marital and family relationships, you’ll get caught up in the rush of success in the world and forget to take time for yourself, time to enjoy nature and this amazing natural world around us.

The advantage we all have as we get older is that we become seasoned, experienced, wiser, we can utilize time more efficiently, we get better at strategizing our time and delegating to others. We let people do things instead of trying to do it all ourselves. But let’s be real, we also lose a lot of our life energy capacity. So we need to adjust. If we keep going like we think we have all the energy in the world to do everything, we will ultimately hurt ourselves, get sick, miss out on important things, and get too damned tired to carry on.

I remind myself of the Vince Lombardi quote: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” He didn’t say that in the context of that we should NEVER be tired. He made that statement in the context of self-control and self-mastery, that we allocate the life energy we have to take time to condition ourselves, to train ourselves to perform, to build a capacity to dig deeper and rise to the occasion when needed, to keep the important things important so we are ready to handle life successfully, and this included taking the proper time to rest and regenerate when we need to.

So take the time to think about your allocation of your life energy. Do you use it wisely? Are you allocating to the important things and letting the unimportant things go? Are you staying focused on meeting needs rather than letting wants, and fun, and leisure steal more time than is healthy or productive? Are you keeping your body healthy and nourished properly or assaulting it with too much food (overeating) or with bad foods? None of us will ever get away with cheating on the life energy capacity that we have to allocate. Eventually our bodies, minds, or lives will suffer in some way to make up the difference.

You and I have the power to be disciplined and in control of ourselves so that we allocate the life energy we have wisely and continue to live successfully, productively, happily, and efficiently—fulfilled in all we do. So think it through and do it right. You know what to do. So just do it. Remember, life is good, let’s keep it that way.