|Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovski. Image courtesy of Wiki Commons.|
--from Allen Ginsberg's America.
Greetings Garden Dwellers,
Izy here with our next installment of A Toad's Favourite. When Kerry put out the call to share our favourite poem, there was no doubt in my mind what that poem would be. Allen Ginsberg's America touches all the Izy soft spots: cold war rhetoric, a call to undress and be angelic, a guilty fascination with Time magazine, and a gushing sentimental love of workers and anarchy.
My muddy buddies, this is the poem that made me want to write poems. To this day, I still sign certain pieces of correspondence with "Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb," because that sentence captures everything I could want to say.
Written in 1956, America appeared in Howl and other poems. It is an extremely political and intensely personal love letter to a world that could be a tender, benevolent partner if only it cared a little more. Throughout the poem there are references to a 1950's USA, all of which still read as if they had been inked last night. And, dear Garden Dwellers, make no mistake about when Ginsberg writes 'America' in this poem, he's pointing directly to you...all of you, American or otherwise.
And so without further ado, I present excerpts from America. Because the piece is copyright protected, I cannot post the poem in it's entirety, but you can find it HERE.
America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I'm sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
...America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I'm not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there's going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I'm perfectly right.
I won't say the Lord's Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven't told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over
I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It's always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie
producers are serious. Everybody's serious but me.
...America you don't really want to go to war.
America it's them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia's power mad. She wants to take
our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader's Digest. her wants our
auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
That no good. Ugh. Him makes Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers.
Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?
I'd better get right down to the job.
It's true I don't want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts
factories, I'm nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.