Happy Birthday, Allen Ginsberg

Today would have been the 96th birthday of the poet who saw the best minds of his generation destroyed by madness.

I have a great affinity for Allen Ginsberg. Although we are polar opposites in terms of personality and poetic ability, we at least share a complicated love of both New Jersey and New York.

Ginsberg was born in Newark and grew up in Paterson. His father was a local New Jersey poet and high school teacher, and Ginsberg went to Columbia University. He intended to study law until he met up with Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassaday and William S. Burroughs in New York.

His words and legacy still have vitality in the Garden State, especially at The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson. Yearly, this great organization sponsors the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, and yearly I enter poems for this competition every January only to learn that nothing I’ve submitted merits even honorable mention in May.

The 2022 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award Winners were announced last week and, sigh, I’ll try again in January 2023. Meanwhile, on what would have been Allen Ginsberg’s 96th birthday in June 2022, I can easily publish some of these entries without anyone’s permission.

As Ginsberg once observed, “Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture.” He also urged others to follow their “inner moonlight” and “not hide the madness.”

With that in mind, following are four examples of a few of my previous submissions, illustrated with my photos.

Scenic Overlook (revised)

This is a dangerous place to stand:

Cliffside in Paterson, in the descending dusk.

Past the highway below,

in the horizon of the city skyline at my feet,

I see a house fly alight on your thigh.

It’s 40 years ago, and you are languidly napping in our room.

The road signs pointing here didn’t warn me of this.

I find it a dizzying view.

The fly rubs its hands, obsessed, plotting its next move,

until shooed in a flash by a dismissive twitch of your flesh.

Decades disappear, just as fast, as cars on Route 80 flee to the west.

I look to the east.

Facing this vanished breast of a new world,

I hold my breath on the precipice… these wounds, dark and deep.

40 years later,

I still watch you while you sleep.

My Last Words to Vincent

In a cornfield in the middle of a dream,

I recognize the countryside.

This must be Arles.

I’ve never been to France in real life,

but I know what I know.

Cue the murder of crows.

In the distance, a man reimagines the scene on canvas.

It’s a matter of hours before he shoots himself

and takes three days to die.

He works as if possessed.

I want to run to him, tell him his work will endure,

but the crows won’t let me near.

I shout, “It’s not too late!”

He turns his head; I take his photo.

It captures the long view of both of us:

Imaginary proof of all our useless dreams.

100 Words (Exactly) About Writing

On a blank page,

I can do I anything.

I am bold.

The way you always wanted me to be.

And I can make you love me.

And you would never leave.

You would never leave,

And I would never wonder.

Because I create new worlds,

And conjure you at will.

Here we are at dusk in New York:

We are ghosts,

Playing chess in a vest-pocket park.

Phantom dogs roam at our feet.

Occasional cars form shooting stars

Along the FDR.

On a blank page,

I wait forever for your next move.

On a blank page,

I never lose.

How I Imagine Santa’s Workshop

I can drive there,

our old car warning of a baby on board.

The valets are penguins, of course.

And, once inside,

I am surrounded by pets

who have died:

the dogs, just as gullible;

all the ageless hamsters

I replaced on the sly.

The one and only Spy Cat,

hero of our made-up stories,

eyes me coldly, inscrutable to the last.

I tell them all,

“I have come to take you home.”

Ted, the talking bear, awaits our return.

In your bedroom, alone.

See you (I hope) at the 2022 Ginsberg Award Winners’ Reading, February 4, 2023. It will be at The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in The Hamilton Club Building, 32 Church Street, 2nd Floor, Paterson, NJ.

PS (in December 2022, when I reposted a revised version of “Scenic Overlook”) — I didn’t win. 🙂

Originally published at http://varettoni.blogspot.com.

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