(rage) poetry dead
( a tribute to Allen Ginsberg)
James wf roberts
i saw the best minds of history
succumbed to the mundane fate of mediocrity—
torn from the shelves of the academies. shredded—
made into mulch for the eco-friendly farmer—
deleted off the data base never thought of again.
thus the poet is decaying like the interest in plato, metaphysics
blake—ginsberg; how many more can we add to that list?
all of us trapped in our own little worlds—
shooting up junk on public transport. checking your iphone
for updates on twitter—
goin to mass rallies
—protesting the west imbedded in the impaled middle east
—protesting the west imbedded in the impaled middle east
or the mountain gorilla—
every mobile phone has blood on it! who cares about the muslim or the soul of the Jew?
but since when do you protest genocide in burma?
or the mountain gorilla— who lives right next to that most precious element Coltan
every mobile phone has blood on it!
who cares about the muslim or the soul of the Jew?
all switching off the light for an hour across the globe
only for the surge to over flow—
when your phone battery’s low
the doors of perception are stained with the blood, the ink, the soul
of the artist—anything left of the body of the muse?
while the poet passes through the haze—lost in the daze
the grind, the concrete labyrinth
with no way out—the vice like grip of technology
num—num—numbing us all…
‘why should we pay taxes for you?’
‘to suck off each other’s thoughts in the inner city—masturbating
over every clever little line, or obscure
historical reference you can jam in!’
‘what’s in it for us?’
‘tell us something we can understand?’
All so obsessed with our own reflections—
do you see that crying shadow—lingering in the corner?
—yet we are all hiding—dancing naked
not a for grey bearded man in a cloud—or a naked man on a tree bludgeoned tortured. on a hill of skulls
the illiterate man sat crying in the cave as the Angel whispered
and gave him the gift to write
who do we look to now to lead us? don’t scream and shout—
just compose and pout
don’t understand my art—
it’s coz you’re dumb—
it ain’t that i got away with it
all our little toys amuse—inspire us
showing to the world who they tell us we should be
in the shadows shielding emotions from day light
what’s the worst that can happen if we are all true to ourselves?
who hears the screams of the tall timber falling?
who bleeds tears for another animal extinct?
so we stop everyone eating meat—and using leather
what else is there to use that doesn’t make more poisonous clouds?
now—all of us frozen crying
as all those philosophers who remain on the scrap heap of
economic rationales and self-lobotomizing business models
that dazzling screen—the portal into a new plane of existence—
whose reality is it when we play those violent games in outer space
or a foreign battlefield?
sovereign territories—people can explore and do what they want?
yet was it only graphic sex, violence and people who can’t do anything, real!—
that we seem to care about?
that naked child dancing in my mind—the girl with those weeping mirrored eyes
doesn’t understand the wasteland we call the intellect.
the high point of society—a seventeen year old girl!
fucking yourselves on a camera with a broom—
slitting your wrist and bleeding all over the keyboard
just so we can be seen by the world
Poets unite and fight— not blood in the streets!
turn off the phone— and read a book—
dreams ascend us all—
yet we are trapped in the descending hands of time—
Rappers are now the poets of the streets—yet
all this violence—sex and greed—is this what Poetics is now?
if i compose a verse about God am i not condemned?
so soon the gifted artist succumbs to the devil’s
light the spoon and melt that serene mist—
and walk through
the barren lands that flourish with every step i take—until
all those animals we kill suddenly see our weakness
am I now seeking jazz or acid? or ice?
or a quick blow in the men’s room
a quick fuck from a teenaged girl dressed
in a mixture of tenth grader and blood sucker!
we the young, blamed, tarred—feathered
for all this vampiric lust for our little toys—
the latest and greatest or it ain’t nothing else!
so do we now dance naked under the gaze of
another thousand pairs of electric prying eyes!
as junkies on the tram tell biting observations—
through the bottom of a brown paper bag—
the hot kiss of the tiny—
blades in the vein—
looking thru glass onion eyes
RAGE! Don’t take this shit no longer.
Stand up and be counted— RAGE!
change the path we’re heading down
what was that about the last jism of consciousness—as we snort up
all those words across the page.
In supermarkets—we are scanned and measured
we scan our groceries, swipe our cards
bag things ourselves. Look around how many jobs
are computers taking now—when it’s just a way not too pay young workers.
humming glows, disorientate me—
am I a human being or sponge to every insulting advertisement
I have to buy. I have to buy…everything on sale
never really think about if we need it or not?
Everybody knows one man’s terrorist
another man’s freedom fighter
war never really started—all just a big distraction for how shitty our lives are now.
All those salivating dogs barking, raging, cuming in their
$500 jeans in the gardens of the white house
what’s the difference tween shooting Ak 47’s in the sky
or public masturbation with the death of your enemy
where does the new enemy come from?
as the Eastern Infidel is shot—
thrown all garbage into the ocean
isn’t that going to piss off the ocean—
don’t they have enough of our waste?
shouldn’t we ever look at what breeds terrorism—
this us and them bull shit is getting way too fucking old…
don’t it remind you of the school yard he said/she said shit?
since when did cheering—rejoicing in a man’s death
news worthy? Bit Orwellian if you ask me
All of you my brothers and sisters
stand and scream, decry the death of the DEVIL
Big Brother—no matter what colour the man is
in the East White is the colour of Evil
too many straight lines in Pennsylvania Avenue
RAGE! Don’t take this shit no longer.
All those suicidal children that masturbate—over the fate of their independent life— RAGE!
RAGE! Don’t take this shit no longer.
all those fucking self-righteous hippies that proclaimed
“do what you want!” who now control the world
ordering us all to “DO AS WE SAY!”
as we laugh with scorn and pure vile hatred at any holy man—we
all fall for the indoctrination of the fifth estate—every priest
a paedophile baby boomers all decry their children for being selfish!
wher’ d’ya think we learnt it?
still counting grams—no longer cocaine—just the rubber tyres ‘round their wasteful bellies—
mushrooming over their skinny leg jeans like a soufflé that’s risin’ over the pan!
the philosophies of peace, love, understanding…all you need is love!
Now GIMME THAT IT’s MINE!
dancin’ naked to the sultans of counter-culture in muddy fields for a week!
now ruling the world with cold cruel hands—
playing the game we know so well—
welcome to the new and ever lasting HELL!
whoever has the most self—Indulgent toys—wins!
Sex! Drugs! Rock’n’ Roll!
The spectre of middle aged burn out—biting at their heels!
JUST DO IT! SHIT HAPPENS!
every academic a coke fiend and elite
every one who hates TV must be hiding something!
Do we need those drug induced insects on the couch
Beating out words that inspired the minstrels of two decades?
what do we have now? Sell out folk singers?
holier than thou Rock Bands who breed hypocrisy
and poets who are too scared of the Mob of mediocrity
Where’s Ginsberg when you need him?
Verandah Literary Journal 26. 2011
Usually, I am not a big fan of writing an introduction, let alone an afterward, or discussing what a poem is about before or after performing it or posting it online. But as this piece has been in printed form for a long time now, I figured it’s a good time to post a bit about it, why I wrote it, the process of it all, why is it so long and hopefully what new and emerging writers can learn from this published piece. And I guess in some ways looking back on a piece a few years after it has come out, and it is occasionally used by its author on stage—as it is a fairly long piece I only do it very occasionally, as it is quite dynamic. I keep thinking, what happens when this piece and the journal it was in, has faded away? All things change, everything decays. I am going to eventually turn this piece into a short-film, much like they have done with Howl in the James Franco movie, though I think the animation of the poem in Howl is far too literal. Actually, when it comes to Ginsberg and the Beats in general, everyone is far too literal with their interpretation.
The word Fuck doesn’t always mean Fuck. With Howl, with Ginsberg there are many, many things running under the current of the Voice, in between the words. I first got the idea of Rage—obviously when I first read Ginsberg when I was doing my under-graduate degree at Latrobe University Bendigo. I was a classics student, so the Beats were not really on the reading list, though I did a semester of American Literature it was more focused on Emily Dickenson, Walt Whitman, Hawthorne, Red Badge of Courage, that kind of thing. But, Ginsberg has always been essential reading for modern artists, poets and philosophers. I studied the Romantic Movement as well, so worshipping the words and art of William Blake as I do, writing a thesis on him, Ginsberg is a must for me at any time. Ginsberg was obsessed with Blake and for a time he thought he was the reincarnated Blake.
This poem came to me one night.
It hit me like a brick in the back of the head, it started coursing its way through my bloodstream, through my soul—the images I saw, the anger I felt. In the dream I saw people putting their heads out of open windows, screaming “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore”—Network.
I dreamt I was lying on a bed of ashes in Hell. But it was not the Hell we think of from Movies or Fire and Brimstone Sermons, it was a Blakean Hell. A street, a normal city street with Angels and Devils conversing arguing over duty/dogma and emotion and energy. I used to play violin as a kid and I often think of that famous story about the Devil’s Trill Violin Sonata….
“One night in 1765, I dreamed that I had made a pact with the Devil, and that he was in my service; I succeeded marvellously in everything; my every wish was foreseen and my every desire more than satisfied by my new servant. It occurred to me to give him my violin and see if he succeeded in playing me some lovely piece, but what was my astonishment when I heard him perform with the greatest bravura and intelligence, a Sonata so singular and lovely that nothing I knew could equal it! Such were my wonder, ecstasy, and delight, that I was left breathless and the violent emotion awoke me. Immediately, I took my violin, in the hope of finding again at least a part of what I had just heard, but in vain. The Sonata which I then composed is by far the best I have ever written, and I still call it the Devil’s Sonata, but it turned out so inferior to the one I had heard, that I would have liked to break my violin in pieces and forever abandon music, if it had been possible for me to do without it.” Giuseppe Tartini.
I was filled with a frenzy, with a mania to write Rage. It was a long and painful process. Usually it takes no more than a few minutes once I have the idea. But I felt like I was imbued with a force, with an energy I had never felt before. It took me a month to write, re-write, edit, destroy, create, etc…etc…it’s a prophetic vision not of the future—that is easy—but of the present. I guess it all started when my department at La Trobe University was coming to the beginning of its own end. Lecturers fired or forced to retire, post-graduate studies threatened and some taken away. Critical Inquiry, philosophy and metaphysical pursuits were in jeopardy so I wrote a poem called in defence of the academy or something like that, anonymously of course, I pinned it on one of the notice boards on my department.
Don’t know what happened to that original draft, but it as full of fire and anger, and the anger didn’t subside. It kept building, building up within me. I was so mad at the world. I was so angry with the powers that be, with the government, so angry always losing poetry competitions constantly getting rejected in City things because I was seen as being a country-bumpkin, was once told I was too, and too country based to make it as a poet—yes I was actually told that once by a fairly well-known poet who I will not name. I will not go too deeply into how I wrote it this piece, where ideas came from entirely, or what everything is literally about, because that breaks the mystic of the art-form. I loathe the idea of writing a book about one’s own craft like (Bob) Dylan or Dylan or Frost on Frost—my autobiography, my thoughts, actions they are all in my poems and my short-stories. But of course you will have to read in-between the lines a little bit, not going to make it all that easy for you. I have borrowed large portions of George Carlin, Blake and Ginsberg’s imagery and arguments.
I totally admit to that and am proud of it somewhat. I think this piece is mainly about me trying to finding my voice. Beginning the search for my truth, as an artist and as a man. I am currently working on a music and soundscape backing track for this poem to record it and have it on Youtube, eventually.
I guess you could say this is a protest poem. But, a personal rally to arms, I am not interested in leading people through the streets, what is the Burroughs line about there being something very psychologically unsound about people who have to try to save everyone…? God complex? I am trying to save myself I guess. I am trying to figure out what is going on inside my own head, and my own life, rather than anybody else, I really wouldn’t want to presume to try. To me Poetry is a special, sacred craft, a shamanic vision-quest. It shouldn’t be used for political ideologies or the rhetoric of hate—but invariably it always is. I am still trying to find my own voice and discover what my own opinion is. I am asking a question throughout this piece—is Poetry Dead? I am not Nietzsche or have any desire to be, I am not stating that poetry is dead, but I do agree that it is dying…has poetry and poets in general retreated all of their work and their egos up their own arses to hide from the mob of the unwashed masses? Or is it on the outside of the mainstream, because the mainstream doesn’t want to deal with it? Or do poets make too much noise—we always know who gets rounded up first in any dictatorship—it’s seldom the bank-manager or the economist now is it? It is usually the Poet…or the writer, the visual artist etc…
So is this a full-on attack on Poets, politicians, activists, and our society in general or am I just taking the piss? Am I just mucking around with you all?
One thing that has always surprized me was that such a big poem was published in a very famous and incredibly discerning literary journal like Verandah from Deakin University. Its size and its content I would have thought would have made people running for the hills. I have had a few poems published here and there in newspapers and higher education journals around Bendigo and Regional Victoria—but this poem I see as the beginning of my literary career—proper.
This is also an attempt at experimentation with form, structure, pacing, more than one poetic/narrative voice talking at a time. Imagine being blind and you are in an electrical retail store in their television section and all you can hear are twenty or thirty televisions at full volume all on different stations at the same time people are screaming and yelling at each other all around you. That is often how I imagine my writing—that is how I see the world, even with my eyes open.
So you have read the poem and you have read this scribbling of ideas, what is the poem about for me? What is it about for you? Please share your views, your opinions, your decisions I am curious to see what comes out in the replies. Please read Blake the Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Ginberg’s Howl, see the movie if you must. Look up Plato and metaphysics. READ. ENCOURAGE. ENTERTAIN. THINK. SHARE. These are the words I try to write by. Hope you enjoyed reading and I hope you enjoy the following discussion.
James WF Roberts
Monday,18th March 2013.