Bob Dylan once said, ” Allen Ginsberg is both tragic and dynamic, a lyrical genius, a con-man extraordinaire and probably the single greatest influence on American poetical voice since Whitman.” Helen Vendler voiced her opinion on Ginsberg, stating, ” Ginsberg is responsible for loosening the breath of American poetry at mid – century……. Most of all, he has demonstrated that there is nothing in American social and erotic reality which cannot find a place.
His powerful mixture of Blake, Whitman, Pound, and Williams, to which he added his own volatile, grotesque, and tender humor, has assured him a memorable place in modern poetry.” Ginsberg’s poems ” Mescaline” and ” Lysergic Acid” have several common themes that can be easily picked up from the surface. Upon further reading, the reader can find several key underlying themes. On the surface, the obvious theme that these poems share is the issue of drug use.
These poems to not take a pro or con view on the issue of drug use. Instead these poems were named after the drugs that Ginsberg was using when he wrote them. Mescaline and Lysergic Acid (LSD) are both mind altering hallucinogens, that are said to open one’s mind. Both poems delve into one’s psyche and make one question their own existence, death, and the afterlife. In the fifth stanza of “Mescaline”, Ginsberg asked the unanswerable, eternal question.
I want to know I want I want ridiculous to know to know WHAT rotting ginsberg I want to know what happens after I rot because I’m already rotting my hair’s falling out I’ve got a belly I’m sick of sex my ass drags in the universe I know too much and not enough I want to know what happens after I die well I’ll find out soon enough do I really need to know now? is that any use at all use use use death death death death death god god god god god god god the Lone Ranger the rhythm of the typewriter In the above passage, Ginsberg plays the part of the mortal, wondering about the afterlife.
In “Lysergic Acid,” he talks about wanting to be God. I allen Ginsberg a separate consciousness I who want to be God Both poems share the idea that drug experimentation can open one’s mind so that they may achieve a higher consciousness, and a better understanding of one’s self. It seems to me that Ginsberg’s goal in his poetry is to attain a “oneness” with God. By taking these drugs, I believe that Ginsberg feels an intense psychedelic reaction, in a sense he can experience a parallel dimension equivalent to the omniscient, or all knowing theological “God”.
One hidden meaning that I found in “Mescaline,” was the mention of William Carlos Williams. “What can Williams be thinking in Paterson,……Williams what is death?,” refers to William Carlos Williams’ four part poem “Paterson.” “Paterson” is about the idea that a man in himself is a city, beginning, seeking, achieving, and concluding his life in ways which the various aspects of a city may embody. When Ginsberg asks Williams, ” Williams what is death?,” I think he is also referring to the fact that Williams was Ginsberg’s doctor when he was a child. Williams encouraged Ginsberg’s poetry as well as other poets such as Gary Snyder, Robert Creeley, and Robert Lowell. Paterson was also the name of the town in New Jersey that Ginsberg grew up. There are homosexual undertones in a lot of Ginsberg’s poems. In “Mescaline,” he says “can’t stand boys either anymore,” which I find as an underlying hint that can be taken in different ways. In “Lysergic Acid,” he talks of a ” gay Creator.” The Word “gay” can mean happy, the bulk of Ginsberg’s work has similar innuendo in it. I believe that the poems are fascinating, but I find them hard to read.
The way in which they are written is completely open form. At some points in his work when he repeats certain words there is a sense of rhythm, but overall there is no set meter or rhythm. “Mescaline,” I believe is about Ginsberg’s aging and his self actualization. After taking these drugs, he looks into the mirror and sees someone that he does not recognize as himself. He comes to terms with the effects of aging such as balding. The repeated line of “rotting Ginsberg” refers to the aging process also. He faces the issue of marriage, and the fact that he thinks he should get married before it is too late.
There is even a reference to his aging in “Lysergic Acid,” when he states “My face in the mirror, thin hair, blood congested in streaks…..I am a Ghost.” “Lysergic Acid” is a interesting piece of work, because it almost transports you into the mind of a person who is “tripping” on LSD. The whole description of the monsters, and of ghosts and of these visions are the things that Ginsberg experienced while under the influence. In both poems, he refers to the typewriter or the eternal typewriter. I believe that what he means by eternal typewriter, is that whatever he writes will be around long after he is gone, and he strives to make sure that what he writes is good.
When he says “What can I do to Heaven by pounding on Typewriter,” I believe he is asking what he can do to have an effect on the world, or to put himself on that Godly level. When it comes to picking which one I think has more literary value or which is more satisfying poetry I can only say that it really depends on the mood. Both of these poems can take you to places that most people are to afraid to go, into one’s own mind. Ginsberg makes observations about life and how just when you think that your perception of something is right, it can change in an instant. The language used in these poems is very strong.
Ginsberg often uses traditionally “bad” words like fuck and cocksucker. He says what he wants and puts no boundaries on himself. The images that are evoked when reading Ginsberg can be delightful and disturbing all at once, such as “it floats outward like a corpse filled with music.” Ginsberg uses many images that are considered “scary,” such as skulls, corpses, spiders, etc… This lends itself to the overall darkness of his writing.
The psychic weight can only be truly understood by someone who has actually experienced what is discussed in the poems. But readers can read into these poems and take what they want out of them. What I see when I read these poems can be entirely different from what someone else sees. That is what makes his writing so interesting to me, the idea that you can put a little of yourself into the reading. Allen Ginsberg is an innovator and an influence of many of today’s writers and artists. He continues to write powerful poetry that sparks the imagination and carries it’s readers to a higher level.
Lysergic Acid It is a multiple million eyed monster it is hidden in all its elephants and selves it hummeth in the electric typewriter it is electricity connected to itself, if it hath wires it is a vast Spiderweb and I am on the last millionth infinite tentacle of the spiderweb, a worrier lost, separated, a worm, a thought, a self one of the millions of skeletons of China one of the particular mistakes I allen Ginsberg a separate consciousness I who want to be God I who want to hear the infinite minutest vibration of eternal harmony I who wait trembling my destruction by that aethereal music in the fire I who hat God and give him a name I who make mistakes on the eternal typewriter I who am doomed But at the far end of the universe the million eyed Spyder that hath no name spinneth of itself endlessly the monster that is no monster approaches with apples, perfume, railroads, Televisions, skulls a universe that eats and drinks itself blood from my skull Tibetan creature with hairy breast and Zodiac on my stomach this sacrificial victim unable to have a good time My face in the mirror, thin hair, blood congested in streaks down beneath My eyes, cocksucker, a decay, a talking lust a snaeap, a snarl, a tic of consciousness in infinity a creep in the eyes of all Universes trying to escape my Being, unable to pass on to the Eye I vomit, I am in a trance, my body is seized in convulsion, my stomach crawls, water from my mouth,
I am here in Inferno dry bones of myriad lifeless mummies naked on the web, the Ghosts, I am A Ghost I cry out where I am in the music, to the room, to whomever near, you, Are You God? No, do you want me to be God? Is there no answer? Must there always be an Answer? your reply, and were it up to me to say Yes or No – Thank God I am not God! Thank God I am not God! But that I long for a Yes of Harmony to penetrate to every corner of the universe, under every condition whatsoever a Yes there is… a Yes I am…a Yes You are… a We A We and that must be an It, and a They, and a Thing with No Answer
It creepeth, it waiteth, it is still, it is begun, it is the Horns of Battle it is Multiple Sclerosis it is not my hope it is not my death at Eternity it is not my word, not poetry beware my Word It is a Ghost Trap, woven by priest in Sikkim or Tibet a crossframe on which a thousand threads of different color are strung, a spiritual tennis racket in which when I look I see aethereal lightwaves radiate bright energy passing round on the threads as for billions of years the thread-bands magically changing hues one transformed to another as if the Ghost Trap were an image of the Universe in miniature conscious sentient part of the interrelated machine making waves outward in Time to the Beholder displaying its own image in miniature once for all repeated minutely downward with endless variations throughout all of itself it being all the same in every part
This image or energy which reproduces itself at the depths of space from the very Beginning in what might be an O or an Aum and trailing variations made of the same Word circles round itself in the same pattern as its original Appearence creating a larger Image of itself throughout the depths of Time outward circling thru bands of faroff Nebulae & vast Astrologies contained, to be true to itself, in a Mandala painted on an Elephant’s hide, or in a photograph of a painting on the side of an imaginary Elephant which smiles, tho how the Elephant looks is an irrelevent joke – it might be a Sign held by a Flaming Demon, or Ogre of Transcience, or in a photograph of my own belly in the void or in my eye or in the eye of the monk who made the Sign or in its own Eye that stares on Itself at least and dies and tho an eye can die and tho my eye can die the billion-eyed monster, the Nameless, the Answerless, the Hidden-From me, the endless Being one creature that gives birth to itself thrills in its minutest particular, sees out of all eyes differently at once
One and not One moves on its own ways I cannot follow And I have made an image of the monster here and I will make another it feels like Cryptozoids it creeps an undulates beneath the sea it is coming to take over the city it invades beneath every Consciousness it is delicate as the Universe it makes me vomit becaude I am afraid I will miss its appearance it appears anyway it appears anyway in the mirror it washes out of the mirror like the sea it is myriad undulations it washes out of the mirror and drowns the behodler it drowns the world when it drowns the world it drowns itself it floats outward like a corpse filled with music the noise of war in its head a babe laugh in its belly a scream og agony in the dark sea a smile on the lips of a blind statue it was there it was not mine
I wanted to use it for myself to be heroic but it is not for sale to this consciousness it goes its own way forever it will complete all creatures it will be the radio of the future it will hear itself in time it wants a rest it is tired of hearing and seeing itself it wants another form another victim it wants me it gives me good reason it gives me reason to exist it gives me endless answers a consciousness to be separate and a consciousness to see I am beckoned to be One or the other, to say I am both and be neither it can take care of itself without me it is Both Answerless ( it answers not to that name ) it hummeth on the elecric typewriter it types a fragmentary word which is a fragmentary word, MANDALA Gods dance on thier own bodies
New flowers open forgetting Death Celestial eyes beyond the heartbreak of illusion I see the gay Creator Bands rise up in anthem to the worlds Flags and banners waving in transcendence One image in the end remains myriad-eyed in Eternity This is the Work! This is the knowledge! This is the End of man! Palo Alto, June 2, 1959 Mescaline Rotting Ginsberg, I stared in the mirror naked today I noticed the old skull, I’m getting balder my pate gleams in the kitchen light under thin hair like the skull of some monk in the old catacombs lighted by a guard with flashlight followed by a mob of tourists so there is death my kitten mews, and looks into the closet Boito sings on the phonograph tonight his ancient song of angels Antinous bust in a brown photograph still gazing down from my wall a light burst from God’s delicate hand sends down a wooden dove to the calm virgin Beato Angelicos universe the cat’s gone mad and scraowls around the floor
What happens when the death gong hits rotting ginsburg on the head what universe do I enter death death death death death the cat’s at rest are we ever free of – rotting ginsburg Then let it decay, thank God I know thank you thank you Thank you, O lord, beyond my eye the path must lead somewhere the path the path thru the rotting shit dump, thru the Angelico orgies Beep, emit a burst of babe and begone perhaps that’s the answer, wouldn’t know till you had a kid I dunno, never had a kid never will at the rate I’m going Yes, I should be good, I should get married fing out what it’s all about but I can’t stand these women all over me smell of Naomi erk, I’m stuck with this familiar rotting ginsberg can’t stand boys even anymore can’t stand can’t stand and who wants to get fucked up the ass, really?
Immense seas passing over the flow of time and who wants to be famous and sign autographs like a movie star I want to know I want I want ridiculous to know to know WHAT rotting ginsberg I want to know what happens after I rot because I am already rotting my hair’s falling out I’ve got a belly I’m sick of sex my ass drags in the universe I know too much and not enough I want to know what happens after I die well I’ll find out soon enough do I really need to know now? Is that any use at all use use use death death death death death god god god god god god god the Lone Ranger the rhythm of the typewriter What can I do to Heaven by pounding on Typewriter I’m stuck change the record Gregory ah excellent he’s doing just that and I am too conscious of a million ears at present creepy ears, making commerce too many pictures in the newspapers faded yellow press clippings I’m going away from the poem to be drak contemplative trash of the mind trash of the world man is half trash all trash in the grave
What can Williams be thinking in Paterson, death so much on him so soon so soon Williams what is death? Do you face the great question now each moment or do you forget at breakfast looking at your old ugly love in the face are you prepared to be reborn to give release to this world and enter heaven or give release, give release and all be done – and see a lifetime – all eternity – gone over into naught, a trick question proposed by the moon to the answerless earth No Glory for man! No Glory for man! No glory for me! No me! No point writing when the spirit doth not lead New York, 1959