Themes and Values: Allen Ginsberg

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Themes and Values of the Beat Generation As Expressed in Allen Ginsberg's Poetry Perhaps one of the most well known authors of the Beat Generation is a man we call Allen Ginsberg, who expresses the themes and values in his poetry. He was, in fact, the first Beat Writer to gain popular notice when he delivered a performance of his now famous poem, ƒ±Howlƒ°, in October of 1955. The Beat Generation is typically described as a vision, not an idea and being hard to define. It is characterized as ƒ±a cultural revolution in process, made by a post-World War II generation of disaffiliated young people...without spiritual values they could honorƒ° (Charters XX). Although first condemned and criticized, it became a national phenomenon. Allen Ginsberg expressed the intangible beliefs of this generation in his poems about his childhood, curiosity, war, freedom of thought, and other people. Through Allen Ginsbergƒ­s ideal individualism, he has been able to express the themes and values of the Beat Generation. Because of Allen Ginsbergƒ­s tormented childhood, many of his poems were about his relationship with his mother and his own mental problems. Allen Ginsberg was born in Patterson, New Jersey to Louis and Naomi Ginsberg on June 3, 1926. His mother became insane during Ginsbergƒ­s formative years. She was described as a paranoid schizophrenic, believing she was in danger from assassins and was spied on by everyone, including her own family members. For example, in the poem, ƒ±Howlƒ°, Ginsberg writes ƒ± I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked...ƒ° (Charters 62) of his mother, Naomi. This statement employs him as a witness to the destruction. Her struggle for sanity eventually led to the deterioration of her sons sound mind. Kaddish is a poem written by Ginsberg for his mother. It is 2. a relatively confessional poem and indirectly addresses the reader, or in this case, his mother. It is also seen as an autobiographical elegy that reveals many private experiences which shaped Ginsbergƒ­s life and a confession of personal necessity. Kaddish, the term, comes from a Judaic prayer and suggests the poem is in memory of his mother. Kaddish becomes a song for the dead indicated by the first six words: ƒ±Strange now to think of you.ƒ° This indicates one of the poemƒ­sƒ­s themes, his mother. For instance, it is written, ƒ±Death is that remedy all singers dream ofƒ° (Litz 319). The singer represents the poet and his own turmoil. The fourth section, ƒ±Lamentƒ°, is a list of regrets for his mother, illustrating his obsession with her. The fifth, called ƒ±Litanyƒ°, reiterates major episodes of Naomiƒ­s sickness. Finally, the fifth section of ƒ±Kaddishƒ°, ƒ±Fugueƒ°, represents his own turmoil of emotion and problems which render the poet incapable of articulating anything other than the poems ending, ƒ±Lord Lord Lord caw caw caw Lord Lord Lord caw caw cawƒ° (Charters 98). ƒ±Howlƒ° also describes Ginsbergƒ­s own mental problems shown when he locates the core of corruption as a ƒ±monster of mental consciousnessƒ° (Ginsberg 48), or Moloch, a Fire God. This part of the poem is written in chaotic chants. Ginsbergƒ­s poems about his childhood express the value that Beat writers are ƒ±very tired people-tired of living before one has started livingƒ° (Charters XXIV) forced upon Ginsberg by his mother and his own mental problems. In the same way Ginsbergƒ­s poems were stemmed from his childhood, many were stemmed from his undying curiosity. In 1943, he entered Columbia University intending to become a labor lawyer. Though, he soon fell in love with a group of wild students and non students including Lucien Carr, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Neal Cassady. Indeed, 3. he wrote of the group and himself in ƒ±Howlƒ° by saying ƒ±who passes through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating.../who were expelled from the academies for crazy and publishing obscene odes on the windows of skull...ƒ° (Litz...
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