January 17, 2016 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Poetry | 0 Comments |

By T.A. Steinlen

'We're with you in Rockland...' - Solomon, Smith, Ginsberg & Burroughs (photo by Marcelo Noah)

‘We’re with you in Rockland…’ – Solomon, Smith, Ginsberg & Burroughs (photo by Marcelo Noah)

It is 60 years since Allen Ginsberg wrote and recorded this remarkable poem.  It is a sort of Beat Waste Land, filled with dark allusions, written in a fresh and very personal style, reminiscent of Whitman (with touches of Ezra Pound).  Rather than striking one as factually correct (some of the hellishness may be more from peyote than memory), it impresses as a work of great subjective truth, a nightmarish daydream of depravity, longing and sorrow.  It is also probably the first explicitly gay poem, starkly and graphically so.  What impresses most, however, are the cadence, the monadic effect, and some killer lines:

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

[we particularly like the use of ‘angry’]

who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or soup,

who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons,

who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity,

with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years. 


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