TASK: From today’s massive, subversive and powerfully creative world of the Beats and beyond, which artist and/or writer inspired you most?
The Beats Generation and New York School was an unknown topic to me before I started studying this unit. I had heard of writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg but I had only heard of them in passing; I hadn’t read nor studied any of their works. However, when I was introduced to them, I was blown away by their use of language, the messages they were conveying and, most importantly, the authenticity and freshness of their words! One writer in particular stands out: Allen Ginsberg.
Never have I ever come across a writer so genuine and direct as Ginsberg. I’ve studied literature all throughout school and university, so I’ve come across my fair share of writers, but none like Ginsberg. In “A Supermarket in California”, Ginsberg addresses Walt Whitman and, to me, he is lamenting the loss of Whitman’s vision for what the world should like and what Whitman’s own world looked like. His frankness and imagery of Charon the boatman when he says “… what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?” conveys the despair Ginsberg feels for Whitman as the vision of the ideal America has not come to fruition.
In “Footnote to Howl”, it’s incredible how free Ginsberg is with his language and it’s clear how Ginsberg became so infamous for his blunt honesty in his work. I had to seriously restrain myself from laughing out loud while reading this particular piece of work because I’ve honestly never read anything quite like it! He describes everything from skin and body parts to various people to various sounds and places and everything in-between. He leaves nothing out and describes everything as holy. This makes me inclined to believe that Ginsberg had a fair amount of spirituality to him and he believed in a higher power. I believe him to be saying that everything has a purpose and everything has a reason for existing, otherwise why would they be here at all? Why would they even exist at all?