Saturday, October 18, 2008

Kind of a Haiku by Allen Ginsberg

And now...an exclusive, never-before-published haiku by a famous dead American poet. Really. Seriously:

Just wandered in from
the void for a poetry
reading, the next morning
I was hung over.
Allen Ginsberg

You’re probably thinking that doesn’t look much like a haiku—in fact it looks even less like one on the original page, since the line brakes above are really just where the writing hit the edge of the paper, and he certainly wasn’t even trying for 5-7-5 (though it has been argued that, given the essential differences between Japanese and English, that schema isn’t important for English-language haiku, anyway) (then, those presenting that argument might simply be lazy) (but...far be it from me to get into debates about poetic form).

It was back in the summer of 1990, I believe, though it could possibly have been '91, while I was embarrassing my parents living the life of a slacker out in Boulder, a year out of college, no prospects for or particular interest in a promising career of any kind, and, when not wandering in the mountains or otherwise sacrificing brain cells to unknown gods, attending a free Zen meditation class at the Naropa Institute, which was also attended, at least once or twice, by Ginsberg, who one Saturday (I think), as part of a benefit for something or other, along with some other poets, did this thing—basically, you stood in line, paid a few or maybe five bucks, and a famous poet would ask you a few questions, then write an instant haiku on the spot....I told Ginsberg I was just wandering, kind of a bum—apparently thinking maybe he’d be impressed and tell me I reminded him of Kerouac or something (he wasn’t, and didn’t)—I also told him I’d gone to a poetry reading the night before, and now, in the morning, was hung over...and so ended up with a piece of rag paper, with this poem, a little drawing of a flower and what looks like a snake, and Ginsberg’s signature on it. I’ve still got it, though in the midst of a long summer living in my van, something apparently got spilled on it, staining and smudging it badly, particularly the signature, though you can still read it...kinda.....

That summer or maybe the next one, I also attended a seminar Ginsberg did—once a week for I think three weeks we read Blake and Whitman, and Allen related the poems to his sex life, drug experiences, and conversations with Bob Dylan...which could be interesting, sometimes, like when he talked about this Blake poem:

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise

and applied it to how, at one time in his life, he’d kept taking acid, each time hoping this one will last until, finally, he learned to kiss it as it flies...and he drew attention to this part of a line from an obscure version of the well known I asked a thief:

‘twixt earnest & joke

arguing that it was central to his own poetry as well as that of Shakespeare and lots of other people...now that I think of it, it’s probably central to Yoga for Cynics, too...and, some years later, in grad school I used it as the basis for what became my first published scholarly article, called The Trickster Metaphysics of Thylias Moss. Thylias Moss writes stuff like this:

Somebody told me I didn’t exist even though he was looking dead at me. He said that since I defied logic, I wasn’t real for reality is one of logic’s definitions. He said I was a contradiction in terms, that one side of me cancelled out the other leaving nothing. His shaking knees were like polite maracas in the small clicking they made. His mustache seemed a misplaced smile. My compliments did not deter him from thinking he conversed with an empty space since there was no such thing as an angel who doesn’t believe in God....

but, that was another time....

20 comments:

Gauri Gharpure said...

Hello Dr.. it has always struck me with awe how even the smallest of experiences influence writing, so much so, that when these are penned down, they somehow get strangely enhanced.. I haven't read either Ginsberg or Whitman, but have heard a lot about the latter and plan to read him soon.. Thanks for dropping by my blog, do keep visiting..

Grumpus said...

That Blake bit literally made my eyes all burny with tears! What is going on?!

Seeing Eye Chick said...

Whats amazing is you didnt get too discouraged when you discovered that you were not reminiscent of Kerouac. That you didnt seem to measure your innate greatness on his reaction. Dispointed yes, but devastated?

Here you are. The blog entry makes you that much more intriguing. I dont meet many doctors like you. In fact I think maybe, I might have met one that maybe could compete on the weird-cool factor.

So for the sake of all that's holy, Dont hide your light behind a bushel Man! Especially that Weird-cool part!

svasti said...

Well that's one for the grandkids - did I ever tell you about the time Alan Ginsberg wrote an original haiku for me??? ;)

To me, that piece from Blake explains the difference between attachment to something you think will bring you happiness, and being able to generate happiness without associating it with an object. Very yogic!

I didn't know you were such an established author. I'm impressed.

Oh, and for some reason or another I felt inspired to send another blog award your way. You deserve it. Head back to my blog to pick it up ;)

Lydia said...

"His shaking knees were like polite maracas in the small clicking they made." - That line alone interests me in knowing more about Moss.

That you have a haiku written for you by Ginsberg with little embellishments and his signature, PLUS another encounter with him, is really heady stuff for me.
I bet he really did see the Kerouac in you.

Juhani Tikkanen said...

Great!

I translated that in my Finnish blog:

http://juhanitikkanen.blogspot.com/2008/10/allen-ginsberg-ennen-julkaisematon.html

Thank you!

Mama Zen said...

Amazing!

Buddha said...

Love Blake! Love substance vs form. Love your post! Keep them coming.
Be loved!

Brooks Hall said...

...just coming back from the abyss to say "Thank you"

Linda Sama said...

nice. my claim to fame is OMing with Ginsberg when he came to my community (city) college in Chicago back in 1973-1974. yes, I am that old. then we dragged him to a party at somebody's house and my last vision of him is sitting on a barstool in the kitchen surrounded by admirers....I remember him looking a bit scared....

FANCY said...

Feel warm Welcome to my Tuesday Blog-party,Take some of your friends with you... the rules are simple...I don't take NO for an answer...more about it you can find
HERE

Free Music said...

yeah whats going on indeed

jason evans said...

If the space were indeed empty, the least he could do would be look slightly off center.

FANCY said...

The party have now begin ...take your friends with you and we do the rock and roll... ;)

Echo said...

THis is one of those entries that has so much in it it has to be taken in parts, rearranged, read out loud and said again.
thanks for taking my time
Thinking has become a rareity for me, I react to stimulous. This made me slow and consider.

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

If I would get star-struck by anyone, it would be by Ginsberg, especially if he wrote me my very own haiku! That, seriously, is way cool :o)


The Trickster Metaphysics of Thylias Moss may need to be published (on its own)! I think my sister would love that, she has a similar style of writing. I would like to read more too! What about lulu or something like that? *gentle nudge*

Miladysa said...

A very interesting post!

What a life you are living :D

Wandering Jay said...

The Haiku is a keeper (don't stain it any further). It's brief, concise and piercing even if you were drunk the following night it would still make all the sense in the world. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Chandi J. said...

Hi Jay,
Thanks for visiting my site.
You mentioned you lived in Boulder once.... that's where I am currently living... where are you living now? I have always liked poetry. My grandma had me memorize a poem for her birthday every year when I was a kid...

I appreciate your comment about how to arrange my 'story' on my blog but I am not entirely sure of the best way to do it...

Chandi
http://italiandreams.wordpress.com

Lisa Allender said...

WOW! I am reading more Ginsberg stuff rightnow. An ol' pal Danny Morrison just last year gave me a gorgeous sketch of Ginsberg, which I love and am so gratefulfor!
But an original haiku from the man, himself? That amazes me. Lucky you, getting to meet him, hear his words in person!