1. Part I

“[T]o recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with / shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,  / the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after / death,” (1).

In the last 23 lines or so of Part 1 of Ginsberg’s Poem, Ginsberg seems to “lose his steam” a little. The above 4 lines are included in these last lines and they portray a shift in the poem. Until this point, Ginsberg tended to follow a certain pattern, in that he would begin a new line with “who…” and that first line would be enjambed, followed by about 1-3 enjambed lines until right before the next “who…” and that line right before would be an end stop line. In my opinion, Ginsberg is purposely separating the lines into little groupings and allowing some pause in between ideas. However, towards the end Ginsberg veers from this pattern and in this instance noted above, he actually begins a line with “to recreate” instead of “who…” For me, this is kind of the point when the reader tunes back in to the poem because until this point Ginsberg seemed to be on some sort of rant, an endless stream of words from his consciousness. By Ginsberg breaking away from the pattern, he makes us pay close attention here and focus on what is being said.

So what is he saying here? I view these lines as Ginsberg’s self-disclosure. Ginsberg writes, “to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose…” and indeed, in this poem, Ginsberg breaks away from earlier forms of poetry, there is no clear meter, etc. and in essence, he recreates what prose has meant until now. Also, Ginsberg writes, the speaker is standing before the audience (the “you”) and “confessing out the soul,” and again, this is in line with what Ginsberg is indeed doing in this poem- he is confessing, he is revealing himself. In this line, “confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,” he makes it sound as if he has a certain obligation to listen to his thoughts and emotions and follow them. It’s also interesting that Ginsberg implies that he is doing all this so that what needs to be said, “what might be left to say in time come after/death,” is recorded. Again, it’s as if Ginsberg feels obligated to reveal all before it’s too late. Taking a look at these lines once more, there are some very much raw emotions here, further evidence that this is Ginsberg revealing his very self. He says he feels “shame,” “rejected,” he calls himself a “madman bum,” and lastly, there is also a sense of that which is “unknown” here.

2 Questions for the class:

  1. If you agree that these lines contain a self-disclosure form Ginsberg, what further evidence is there here to support this point (that I have not already mentioned)?
  2. If you disagree, what then is Ginsberg addressing here? What evidence do you have to support your claim?

 

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14 Responses to 1. Part I

  1. Rani says:

    Throughout Part I, Ginsberg is describing the unfortunate deterioration of the greatest minds of his generation. While he keeps a uniform structure throughout a majority of the work by beginning each line with “who”, he breaks this structure toward the end of the work. I agree that Ginsberg does so in order to draw attention to those lines. He describes himself as “speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame”. Perhaps this is meant to imply that he carries knowledge in his soul that may be able to help his comrades. However, because he is “speechless”, he is unable to share his wisdom; thus causing him to feel ashamed. Additionally, his use of the word “recreate” in reference to human language and syntax is interesting. It implies that he is merely able to mimic English and unable o convey the full meaning of its words. It serves to provide a degree of separations between him and the greatest minds of his generation.

  2. Mika Katz says:

    To a certain extent I feel that there is some sense of self-disclosure. However, it’s much more complex than just self-disclosure. There seems to be a much greater, more vastly spread, and ambiguous “You” in this poem. It is not just referring to him or the reader. It is a universal “You”. There are so much important outside information that really affects the context of the poem and deepens its meaning. After World War II, the American generation had changed dramatically. There are aspects of the poem where I feel are more personal to Ginsberg. In particular, his allusion to the nuclear war and hydrogen bomb during the war (“the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox…”). This could have definitely been a reference to his own life, and experiences when he felt lonely or poor. The homosexuality in the poem is also a reflection of Ginsberg, so it could be argued that there is a huge portion of him in the poem.

  3. I like how Deborah describes how she reacted to the last few lines of the poem, that they are the point “when the reader tunes back to the poem because until this point Ginsberg seemed to be on some sort of rant.” I felt the same way when I read the poem – I kind of skimmed the first few pages because the lines seemed so repetitive, as if Ginsberg really was just trying to vent his frustrations with society. Once I got to these last few lines, I tuned back in, because it seemed like he finally had something else to say. I don’t agree, however, that Ginsberg seems to “lose his steam.” On the contrary, I think he made one point in the first few pages, and now he’s ready to move on to the next. His rant is over, and he now wants to introduce a new idea.

  4. Rahul Roy says:

    There is, without a doubt, a grave sense of “self” in Ginsburg’s poem. Although it is hidden via the many observational flaws pointed out through the various “who”s mentioned, there is still a self. In all that he sees he also feels, and that is himself. His reactions and his descriptions become the self portrayed. The part that Deborah entails in her blog post represents with a type of recollection and presentation of everything preceding it. All of Ginsburg’s lines that begun with “who” were representative of the “shame” and sense of being “rejected” that he felt. So in all I agree with Deborah’s point that there is a sense of self disclosure, and it can be said, informally, that Ginsburg was merely throwing in his two cents out there when he took this turn with “Howl.” The line “with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years” serves as a summary as everyone and everything he has seen is that poem of life and that is parallel to those thousand years. He also ends with a period; finally this “rant” is over.

  5. One could argue that the entire poem is a reflection of Ginsberg; all art, in some form, is a projection of the artist, intentional or otherwise. There could be elements of Ginsberg in every “verse,” as well there should be. However, I’d have to side with Conor on his stance that Ginsberg, while of course reflecting on his own state, speaks more so for the masses than strictly for himself. This can be illustrated through the unconventional structure and provocative content, that which American poetry had not seen prior, which is resembles in writing the social movement of the next decade.

  6. Like most people commented I didn’t know exactly what the words mean. I do notice however that the word “Time” is uppercase, and when Ginsberg refers to “o the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head” the he is Time. In some ways Ginsberg is lamenting the fact that time exists, and while time itself is endless, Ginsberg’s time on earth is not, and neither is his howl.

  7. In this poem I’m not sure that the you is the reader but a more general audience. This audience could be people who were in the anti-gay movement or simply people who were not on board with Ginsberg’s redefining the way prose is written. In any event this section is definitely a disclosure of personal information on the part of Ginsberg and this is him standing before us in judgement speechless.

  8. Conor McGuire says:

    I agree with the idea of “self disclosure”, yet i don’t feel as though this is something that Ginsberg wanted to come across as explicit, at least relating to himself. Of course, with any poem, especially one being as intimate as this, the words on the page come from a very real place from within the writer. However, i think that with this poem Ginsberg is more so painting a portrait of his tortured contemporaries, which he too relates too. So although he is speaking on behalf of them he is also speaking for himself in a sense. Furthermore, the line “rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform/to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,” i believe points to the people he is describing. These people must “conform” to their minds, and that calls for their abuse of drugs as he had earlier described. However, the lines “the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting/down here what might be left to say in time come after/death,” speaks to just how tortured these people are. They are aware of their positions and with that they don’t want to be understood as junkies but rather be understood for what their work and lives encompass. Their work being described as Ginsberg understands it, as “the absolute heart of the poem of life”.

  9. Debra Zarny says:

    The ending of Part I is definitely confusing, although this might just be because I don’t understand a lot of the references that Ginsburg makes. While reading the poem I did notice the series of “who” that repeat at the beginning of the line, and did exactly what Deborah points out when she says, “By Ginsberg breaking away from the pattern, he makes us pay close attention here and focus on what is being said.” That being said, he is talking about different people that may or may not include himself. I think that if he includes himself in the “who,” then he is saying that he feels horrible that he “betrayed” the “regular” ways to write poetry, since we can see in this poem that this is definitely different from the usual poetic form that was written.

  10. Like Deborah pointed out, I agree about the ideal of “Self-disclosure”. I agree with her observation about how the poem “recreates what prose has meant until now.” However, I believe in starting the line off with “to” (1) that Ginsberg is hear trying to explain the reasoning behind explaining of the circumstances of all of “Whos” in the poem. Deborah observes “Ginsberg writes the speaker is standing before the audience (the “you”).” In addressing the “you” and stating the condition of the Who being “speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected;” Ginsberg shows how vulnerable the “beautiful minds” (as referred to in the first line of the first section) are and yet they are still willing to “confess out the soul” in order to say “what might be left to say in the time come after death.” In simpler terms, Ginsberg uses the descriptions of their conditions in order to warn about the future.

  11. I agree with Deborah that in these lines Ginsburg appears to be baring his soul in some sort of confession. Ginsburg seems to be confessing something to us, the audience. He tells us that he is coming to “stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul”. It is interesting that Ginsburg seems to be speaking about himself but he never speaks in the first person, rather, he uses the second person to relate this to his whole generation.

  12. Max Richter says:

    I agree with Deborah and really love the point she made with the first part of the poem consistently containing “who”, and suddenly this line starts with a different beginning, showing that we should “pay close attention here and focus on what is being said.” It does seem that Allen Ginsberg shows self disclosure when he says he feels “rejected”, which could connect to his homosexuality or his unusual way of writing. The word “shame”, seems to be telling that perhaps he’s a bit ashamed with him being so off track with how society is run in his time. Also, the word “naked” is a way of saying that nothing is hidden and that Ginsberg is showing who he truly is.

  13. I’m not sure I can bring clear, textual evidence, but we had discussed in class that this poem was revolutionary in terms of bringing the issue of homosexuality out in the open in an otherwise conservative, conformist society. Perhaps the lack of recognizable meter and breaking away from previously used forms that Deborah mentioned is indicative of Ginsburg’s larger breaks with society at large. Agree that these final lines are self disclosure, but the “you” is not the reader, but a much greater entity.

  14. Bella Rubin says:

    I agree with Deborah that these lines contain a self disclosure from Ginsburg. I liked her view especially that “Ginsberg writes, the speaker is standing before the audience (the “you”) and “confessing out the soul,” …this is in line with what Ginsberg is indeed doing in this poem- he is confessing, he is revealing himself.” I think Ginsburg is letting us in on a secret that is why he was “shaking with shame” because of his embarrassment maybe he is about to tell us something he did and regrets.

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