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Death News -- Allen Ginsberg

       
(Poem #1133) Death News
"Visit to W.C.W. circa 1957, poets Kerouac Corso Orlovsky on sofa in living
room inquired wise words, stricken Williams pointed thru window curtained
on Main Street: "There's a lot of bastards out there!"

 Walking at night on asphalt campus
 road by the German Instructor with Glasses
 W. C. Williams is dead he said in accent
 under the trees in Benares; I stopped and asked
 Williams is Dead? Enthusiastic and wide-eyed
 under the Big Dipper. Stood on the Porch
 of the International House Annex bungalow
 insects buzzing round the electric light
 reading the Medical obituary in "Time".
 "out among the sparrows behind the shutters"
 Williams is in the Big Dipper. He isn't dead
 as the many pages of words arranged thrill
 with his intonations the mouths of meek kids
 becoming subtle even in Bengal. Thus
 there's a life moving out of his pages; Blake
 also "alive" thru his experienced machines.
 Were his last words anything Black out there
 in the carpeted bedroom of the gabled wood house
 in Rutherford? Wonder what he said,
 or was there anything left in realms of speech
 after the stroke & brain-thrill doom entered
 his thoughts? If I pray to his soul in Bardo Thodol
 he may hear the unexpected vibration of foreign mercy.
 Quietly unknown for three weeks; now I saw Passaic
 and Ganges one, consenting his devotion,
 because he walked on the steely bank & prayed
 to a Goddess in the river, that he only invented,
 another Ganga-Ma. Riding on the old
 rusty Holland submarine on the ground floor
 Paterson Museum instead of a celestial crocodile.
 Mourn O Ye Angels of the Left Wing! that the poet
 of the streets is a skeleton under the pavement now
 and there's no other old soul so kind and meek
 and feminine jawed and him-eyed can see you
 What you wanted to be among the bastards out there.

 Benares, March 20, 1963"
-- Allen Ginsberg
Call me morbid, but some of my favourite poems are poems written by one
poet about the death of another (Auden's "In Memory of W.B. Yeats"
[Poem #50] or Shelley's Adonais or Wilbur's Cottage Street, 1953
[www.sylviaplathforum.com/forum-poems/46.html] - to name but a few) - and
this one ranks right up there. Part of it, of course, is just Williams and
the way for me his persona looms over this poem, so that Ginsberg's amazed
repetition of the line "Williams is dead" becomes an echo of my own sudden
sense of loss. But I also love the way Ginsberg moves from the
conversational to the elegaic (from "walking at night on asphalt campus
road" to "Mourn O Ye Angels of the Left Wing!") taking us step by step
through the experience of William's death.

And then, of course, there is Ginsberg himself - the merciless grit-jaw
voice of the greatest of the Beat poets; the Whitmanesque flavour of the
words as they roll of your tongue, the sense of desolation so lucid, so
clear-eyed; the terrible jazz of his poetry its own willing narcotic. And
of course, the ability to throw in that one line, that single phrase that
is so right you can never forget it ("kind and meek and feminine jawed and
him-eyed" - having read him can you really picture WC Williams any other
way?). It almost makes up for all those bastards.

Aseem

65 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

rob furlong said...

do you know where i might find a recording of ginsberg reading (and singing) at the naropa institute, particularly a poem about his returning to care for his father in new jersey, and his father's death and burial. it would have been recorded in the 1970s. i had a copy i made while working at a public radio station, but somehow managed to lose it.

rob furlong
359 terrace view drive
prescott, az 86301

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