In October of 1955, Allen Ginsberg read a poem in San Francisco that electrified the audience. This poem was successful as soon as it came out. It is as pertinent today as anything.
by Allen Ginsberg
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz, who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated, who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war, who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull, who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall, who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York, who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls, incomparable blind; streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between, Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind, who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo, who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's floated out and sat through the stale beer after noon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox, who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge, lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon, yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars, whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the Synagogue cast on the pavement, who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall, suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grind-ings and migraines of China under junk-with-drawal in Newark's bleak furnished room, who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts, who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lonesome farms in grand-father night, who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telepathy and bop kabbalah because the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas, who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels who were visionary indian angels, who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural ecstasy, who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Oklahoma on the impulse of winter midnight street light smalltown rain, who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the brilliant Spaniard to converse about America and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship to Africa, who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving behind nothing but the shadow of dungarees and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fireplace Chicago, who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the F.B.I. in beards and shorts with big pacifist eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incomprehensible leaflets, who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism, who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square weeping and undressing while the sirens of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also wailed, who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons, who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in policecars for committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication, who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts, who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy, who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love, who balled in the morning in the evenings in rose gardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may, who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked angel came to pierce them with a sword, who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden threads of the craftsman's loom, who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a candle and fell off the bed, and continued along the floor and down the hall and ended fainting on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness, who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning but prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sun rise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake, who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver-joy to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses' rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely petticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too, who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and picked themselves up out of basements hung over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemployment offices, who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the East River to open to a room full of steamheat and opium, who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment cliff-banks of the Hudson under the wartime blue floodlight of the moon & their heads shall be crowned with laurel in oblivion, who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of Bowery, who wept at the romance of the streets with their pushcarts full of onions and bad music, who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in their lofts, who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded by orange crates of theology, who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty incantations which in the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish, who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht & tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable kingdom, who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg, who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade, who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and were forced to open antique stores where they thought they were growing old and cried, who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality, who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alley ways & firetrucks, not even one free beer, who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of the subway window, jumped in the filthy Passaic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the street, danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed phonograph records of nostalgic European 1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans in their ears and the blast of colossal steam whistles, who barreled down the highways of the past journeying to each other's hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation, who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity, who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes, who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other's salvation and light and breasts, until the soul illuminated its hair for a second, who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for impossible criminals with golden heads and the charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet blues to Alcatraz, who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the daisychain or grave, who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hyp notism & were left with their insanity & their hands & a hung jury, who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism and subsequently presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instantaneous lobotomy, and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & amnesia, who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia, returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible mad man doom of the wards of the madtowns of the East, Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon, with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book flung out of the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4. A.M. and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you're really in the total animal soup of time and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use of the ellipse the catalog the meter & the vibrating plane, who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head, the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death, and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the suffering of America's naked mind for love into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years. What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unob tainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks! Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men! Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments! Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb! Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smokestacks and antennae crown the cities! Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind! Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch! Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky! Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible mad houses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs! They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pave- ments, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us! Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river! Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit! Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years' animal screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time! Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street! Carl Solomon! I'm with you in Rockland where you're madder than I am I'm with you in Rockland where you must feel very strange I'm with you in Rockland where you imitate the shade of my mother I'm with you in Rockland where you've murdered your twelve secretaries I'm with you in Rockland where you laugh at this invisible humor I'm with you in Rockland where we are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter I'm with you in Rockland where your condition has become serious and is reported on the radio I'm with you in Rockland where the faculties of the skull no longer admit the worms of the senses I'm with you in Rockland where you drink the tea of the breasts of the spinsters of Utica I'm with you in Rockland where you pun on the bodies of your nurses the harpies of the Bronx I'm with you in Rockland where you scream in a straightjacket that you're losing the game of the actual pingpong of the abyss I'm with you in Rockland where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul is innocent and immortal it should never die ungodly in an armed madhouse I'm with you in Rockland where fifty more shocks will never return your soul to its body again from its pilgrimage to a cross in the void I'm with you in Rockland where you accuse your doctors of insanity and plot the Hebrew socialist revolution against the fascist national Golgotha I'm with you in Rockland where you will split the heavens of Long Island and resurrect your living human Jesus from the superhuman tomb I'm with you in Rockland where there are twenty-five-thousand mad com- rades all together singing the final stanzas of the Internationale I'm with you in Rockland where we hug and kiss the United States under our bedsheets the United States that coughs all night and won't let us sleep I'm with you in Rockland where we wake up electrified out of the coma by our own souls' airplanes roaring over the roof they've come to drop angelic bombs the hospital illuminates itself imaginary walls collapse O skinny legions run outside O starry spangled shock of mercy the eternal war is here O victory forget your underwear we're free I'm with you in Rockland in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea- journey on the highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night.
What I find so interesting about this poem, as a student of history rather than poetry, is the light it casts on the first counter-cultural generation, the generation whose youth and early adulthood crossed the chasms of World War II and the Holocaust.
Allen Ginsberg was born in 1926, making him about 15 years older than Bob Dylan (b. 1941) and John Lennon (b. 1940). He later became a great fan and touring companion of Dylan, and much of his style is detectable in Dylan’s “word salad” songs.
The Beat counterculture Ginsberg describes was far more subterranean and desperate than that of the 1960s generation which followed. It had jazz rather than rock as its underlying music. Living under the shadows of the stifling conventions of post-War society, it had not yet developed its own politics. It was, furthermore, a counterculture to whom only a small minority of Ginsberg’s own generation belonged, making him and his colleagues outliers among their peers.
From this subterranean source ultimately sprang much of what is most creative and worthy in the common culture of today’s America.
Moloch is the consumerism in America Ginsberg portended. A video of Ginsberg reciting part of the poem:
I just got here, and I c*nt understand what all the fuss is about. I don’t have all the f*cks yet, and since I’m not a private d*ck I may never, but even though I’m ig-n*gger-ant of all the details, it seems to me we’ve got some very strong, and defensible, positions on all sides. I would say that my personal philosophy is generally to avoid using them myself (they should be used as spice, not as seasoning) but not to be bothered too much when I hear other people using them.
I think in the case of Ginsberg, it was intended to be provocative … and it worked. 55 years later, it’s still provoking debate.
My favorite lines:
“dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare,
bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon”
There’s some powerful imagery there, and I’ve always been drawn more to Romanticism than the Beat. 😉
That being said, I have Ginsberg’s “Indian Journals” which I’ve meant to get to sometime.
I hadn’t read him since my AP High School unit on Beat writers.
So much depends upon
a heavy moon
Glazed with nightmares
Beside the dolmen realms of love.
~~Ginsberg loved William Carlos Williams and both hailed from New Jersey.
The Beats liked Whitman, a Romantic poet, and the Beats were considered neo-Romantic.
Thanks for posting this, Q.
In some ways, our society’s childish embrace of corporations and consumerism is at the root of it’s decline.
I think there will come a time, as the wealthier continue to accelerate their ownership of America and most Americans are disenfranchised from well paid jobs, college for their kids, homes, retirement…when instead of being herded by the wealthy like the mindless angry sheep of the Tea Party, people will en masse rebel against materialism and corporate domination.
The problem with the dynamic that the wealthy and corporations want is that it’s necessary conclusion would lead to 98% of a nation as serfs, with little buying power or expendable cash. Then, without a consumer base to fuel revenues, the whole structure collapses in on itself.
Yes, just as we saw with Wall Street, during and after the economic collapse, the wealthy will still be wealthy despite this. But America and most Americans will be devastated. Just like this time, it will be a war for the people to change the economic system before the wealthy re-channel the people’s anger against those who stand in the way of corporations and the wealthy retaking control.
We really missed a huge opportunity when Obama was elected. Though it would have outraged many, if Obama had begun office by championing an equitable restructuring of our economy, to reduce the power of corporations to prey on Americans and their democracy, the people were behind him at that time and would have supported it.
And the corporations out there pouring hundreds of millions into buying this election would have been hobbled from doing so.
I’m not slamming Obama, just recognizing that he had a small window at the beginning to do something radical and would have had the public’s fickle support in doing so. The dividends would have been enjoyed during this election.
However, from this point forward, we do have to take on the corporations and the Repubs can’t hide behind handcuffing the Dems if they take the House. The Repub’s corporate agenda will be making itself very clear and be a strong rallying point for Progressives.
Then, maybe without things declining too much over the next two years, Obama may have another swing at making profound changes in our economy after winning in 2012 with Dem majorities in each house.
We shall see…
I thoroughly agree with what you say, Adlib. It is really so simple isn’t it? Hobble the poor, make them construct the moats and gated communities then fire them. The global recession is just a global manifestation of what had, country by country, been happening since the Chicago school of Economics was holding sway in Latin and South America in the ’70s.
Unfortunately, I sometimes believe this country needs to be taken to the limit of financial despair by going through a corporate/tea party paranoid power dream. The short money is lasciviously sought by corporations and the burning immediate need to show the anger and resentment of what the 60’s did to the culture is shown by the tea partiers. It’s the middle class/poor who will rebel and make the change. Did you hear, btw, of the lobbyist for the American people?
Obama blew it in all the ways you mention. Yet sometimes I think he knows that the country could only handle the change of having the first black President and he needed to toe the line. Or, perhaps he is really an intellectual phlegmatic, more interested in the ideas than in their blood and guts implementation.
I agree, I think that until all the conceivable “quick fix” and simple-minded solutions are proven to be frauds, the public will desperately leap from one to another.
Until they are suffering a lot more than they are today.
As bad as things are, people aren’t out in the streets here opposing the banks and corporations that have done this to them (unlike in France)…in fact, they’re supporting many from these industries for political office. It’s insane. But these corporate tools just blabber about how quickly and easily everything can be made better and the instant gratification mentality of too many Americans makes them popular.
So, if two years of gridlock and verbal insanity is what the public needs to see to become disillousioned with Tea Party Republicans…and will bring them towards supporting much more profound change, so be it.
As to Obama, I do think that he had to be concerned at how America’s first black president would be perceived, especially by the racists and racially insecure out there, if he had declared that he’s going to work with Congress to permanently restructure the U.S. economy so that it is equitable for 100% of Americans.
And Obama isn’t a radical anyway, it’s not in his nature to want to make radical changes. No doubt, voices like Rahm’s would have put out that fire anyway if it started building.
Obama-icon was radical whereas Obama-the-man is a President for the next century who hasn’t yet lived through the tragedies of one.
He may also just be walking Prozac.
I’ve done the Prozac thingy and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes a change in meds helps.
I doubt, btw, BHO is walking Prozac, Effexor, Wellbutrin or any other anti-depressant(NP or generic)on the market. And, even if he were, it would be far better than the 8 years of enabling, alcohol, and denial of the GWB era.
Agree, Boomer. We were held captive by a very sick enabling Presidency with Bush as an alcoholic father. It was classic.
What I meant by Prozac was that he is detached, which is what Prozac can do.
With all due respect Fearless Leader,
President Obama walked into a lion’s den of shit — literal shit — most of which he, nor any coherent citizen in this country had even a clue.
Because the former administration manipulated and deceived Mr. Obama and us (you & me dear, the same way it had done for the previous 8, and I repeat, 8 years).
It is unfortunate some of those voting for Barack Obama thought he could roll in, kiss the boo boos, and (unlike the Wizard of Oz, wave a magic wand and make it all go away). Not.
Why? Very simple Sheriff, very simple. One either gets with the program or peters out. Can’t be taught, negotiated, or compromised.
Bottom line? If one can sleep at night knowing the discrepancies between the haves and have-nots in this country? So be it. However, if one can sleep, one is lacking in conscience, character, and integrity.
Obama wasn’t deceived. It would be hard to get to where he was headed and be that clueless. He made some tactical errors. Just why he made them is up for discussion.
So I read the whole thing, and found it thoroughly depressing. It could have been about any point in time after 1955, especially during the hippy protester days of the 60’s. However, apart from the greed of corporations, that which he describes is no longer present, and hasn’t been for many generations. People have lost their passion to fight for what is right, and are mostly content not to make waves. The free for all sexual encounters ended for most people, gay and straight, in the 80’s with the increasing number of diagnosed HIV cases and deaths.
Still it was depressing, and quite noteworthy, were his free use of the “N” and the “C” words, both of which detracted from my overall opinion of this work.
Thanks for posting it Q, I wouldn’t have known of it’s existence if you hadn’t.
I think the N and C words give the piece its historical feature, certainly. But you’ll have to admit having those words make the poem not PC which is what poems should be.
I went to a fancy schmancy party held by rich white people who were young and “hip”. They hired a rap poet to perform at their soiree. What was amazing was she rapped a poem about being angry and disgusted at rich white people having parties. She even physically described the actual people who were throwing the party in her rant. People pretended not to hear it, and the hosts walked around like nothing was wrong. I guess they must have been ultra-hip but masochistic.
It was the 50’s Q, and I really don’t believe that the “N” word was any more appropriate then as it would be now. Ginsberg was Jewish I believe, and must have experienced his own brand of bigotry and xenophobia during his life, therefore making him more sensitive to the connotations of this ugly word.
As for the “C” word, it has never been appropriate, not then, not now. If someone used it directly to me, I would smack them in the mouth. I don’t go around calling men pricks, even when I’m angry, and they are one. You can write angry poetry without insulting a race or a gender, I know, I’ve written a lot of very angry poetry when I was younger.
Sorry Q, I have had this word directed at me during my time in the U.K. more times than I care to remember. When I hear or read it now, my horns grow.
Your story about the rapper is funny. Of course these people wouldn’t acknowledge that the song was about them, even if they knew it was. They thought that they were perfect, living a perfect life, how could anyone NOT admire them, their prestige, their faux and mainly very boring parties. I know, I have been to many in my lifetime, and the very rich are bored out of their skulls, which mirrors their boring lives, and personalities.
Ugliness is a part of life. Poetry should not shy away from any dimension of it. Cunt was never mainstream, although it is being used more now. Negro was used in all media of the time, including mainstream movies. It was less offensive then.
Yes, I agree that ugliness is a part of life, it doesn’t mean that I have to embrace it with open arms. Knowing it’s there is enough. Thinking too much about it doesn’t help me or anyone else. Shouting about it doesn’t seem to validate it in the minds of others. I’ve had a lot of “raw” pain in my life, I’m sure we all have, I didn’t try to block the memory with either alcohol or drugs, so his world, although not exactly alien to me, is still far removed from my own life in the past. It happened to people/friends around me, not to me personally.
As for the “N” word ever being PC when used by a white person, it might have been assumed to be ok, but in my book, it never was. People had choices, they didn’t have to be a part of the “In-crowd.” Moral judgement is a personal deliberation for all of us.
Yes, Questinia, ugliness is a part of life. However, just because it is, does not give it justification or credibility.
Live and let live is one thing; knowing when it is unacceptable to cross the line is another. One either gets it or doesn’t.
Art goes beyond the types of sensibilities that can be justified. Art doesn’t have an opinion, it mirrors. Otherwise it wouldn’t be art.
OOOH, I like that, Q.
That’s so interesting. There was recently a HUGE controversy on HP over the C word. A poster called two women this word, one of them repeatedly, and I remember thinking, that takes an awful lot of rage to call a woman that word over and over and over. A lot of posters supported him, saying he was “provoked.” (I was online when he melted down, and he was NOT provoked.) A lot of posters are understandably disgusted by him and don’t want him allowed on the site anymore. My attitude is deep down inside, this was a poster with a lot of obvious rage playing bizarre mind games on HP, and IMO, shouldn’t be allowed on the site any longer for those two reasons. HP agreed. There got to be a huge rift over this incident and we finally have just kind of given up on HP because we found some of the behaviour by some of the posters supporting this person childish and vindictive.
I had a long talk with my boyfriend over this word — I personally find it the equivalent of the N word — and he told me something interesting. He said he had never called a woman that word, not once, but had called other guys that word playing hockey. So he promised me he would never use it again. 🙂
Good afternoon Haruko. Yes there was a lot of controversy at HP when I was still there. Everyone agreed that it was not a word we wanted to read, and the poster would be flagged until someone decided to remove their offensive comment.
It is a disgustingly degrading word, there is no comparison for a similar word for men. I really don’t understand women who would be ok with it, we’ve fought hard enough for the respect we are shown now as it is, why go backwards?
What’s so strange is his most ardent supporters are WOMEN! I don’t get that. I honestly don’t.
I guess if he had made ANY effort to apologize, I personally might be willing to “forgive and forget” and move on. But, he never did in any way, shape or form. So, he doesn’t get my forgiveness.
I don’t want to try to analyse these women, but what happened to self respect?
I made a habit of asking these creeps if they would call their mothers or sisters that, no one ever answered.
It’s true, men CAN be cunts. Like that guy calling women in HP “cunts”. I mean, isn’t it worse for a guy to be called a cunt? So women have the ultimate power. If a man calls a woman a “cunt”, she can call him a cunt right back. Wanna see shrinkage?
Actually Q, no I don’t think that you can call a man a c*** because it doesn’t have the same impact or meaning as I explained below, as they don’t possess one.
Yes, K, but it is meant to be emasculating. It’s the same as when a guy calls another one a pussy, or to change out of his skirt, or is told to “man up”.
Sure, it’s sexist, but that’s the intent, and it does have an effect. It’s clearly not loaded with the same sting, but then again, tell that to a boy or gay boy bullied in the locker room.
Khirad, the main difference is that it’s a guy calling a woman by that name, so I don’t see the similarity in 2 guys poking fun at each other. I have yet to be called this word by another woman.
No worries, I still get the difference; though I have heard women using this with each other.
I don’t have a point to make with that but to say that most of the time when I do hear it in some form of media, it is from one woman character to another. I can not testify as to its prevalence in real life, so, it’s just a personal observation.
Ok Khirad, I hear you, but have only heard women on clips from cheap and trashy reality shows say that to each other, enough said.
Funny, I have no recoil to cunt (sorry), the “C” word. It has a harsh sound. But so does fuck and prick.
Schmuck is a viable masculine counterpart to cunt-The C word, imo. In fact, schmuckunt may be seen as a viable non-gender discriminating way to express derision. As in
“That unruly crowd at the soccer game, man, what a bunch of schmuckunts!”
Then may I assume that you haven’t had it said to you directly as many times as I have. I’m not sure if it has the same meaning over there as it does in the U.K. where it literally is slang for women’s genitalia. It’s akin to calling a woman a vagina, instead of a woman. It might not bother you, but it certainly pisses me off.
I honestly think context does matter. Like in the Ginsberg poem, I cringed when I read it, but realized it is what he wrote. It was his craft. I don’t have to like it, but it didn’t hurt my feelings.
Say two black guys meet each other on the street and they say, “Hey, ‘N word” how is it going?” to each other. Is it offensive?
But, if a white guy in a bar or cafe says to a black man, “Hey, you ‘N words’ aren’t welcome in our place,” the context is dramatically different. That word is meant to hurt and intimidate and humiliate.
Same thing in sporting events. Men say awful things to each other in the trenches and then they go out for beers and laugh about it afterward. But, if a guy were to say the “C word” to my face, there would be no laughing about it. It would really sting and there would be real hurt and humiliation.
Interesting that you would cringe at that word, Haruuko. That may have been the same reason that the Lighthouse Bookstore was bombed (for selling it) and the poem was banned in many cities and Lenny Bruce was arrested for using it in the 50’s-60’s. Or was it the social commentary? The times they are a’changing, eh?
I think a woman can lose power if she fears a word, even if that word is the “worst” word that can be uttered. Women should fear sentences that come from men who use words, including cunt, to abuse and control them.
Also the sticks and stones thing.
I don’t feel that any man has any control over me when he uses this word, it just disgusts me that’s all, and that person becomes lower than pond scum to me.
I wouldn’t spend endless hours thinking about it, that person would no longer be a part of my life because he doesn’t respect me, who the *uck does he think he is? Simple really.
😆 To think this all started at the 7th comment here, when I said that two words offended me and detracted from my opinion about the poem. I feel as if I set off an avalanche in a Swiss mountain area somewhere after a loud yodeling session with Heidi and Peter.
It would bother me if it were part of an overall campaign of abuse by the other person.
I guess, K, you have associations with it that are painful. Those feelings are entirely valid, consequently I can understand how the word affected how you experienced the poem.
And in a way I can understand why it doesn’t bother you. The thing is, I would feel the same anger if it were directed at a friend, or even a stranger for that matter. I guess you would have had to live in England for a long time to really understand how, and how often this word is used to degrade women.
Yeah, I definitely think it’s more of a British thing, and wanker just doesn’t equal it.
No, wanker really doesn’t do it for me. 🙂
Wanker comes from wank of course, the slang for male masturbation. Sorry crazy Christine. 😯
It is a fucking word. Years ago in our “tribe” the word was used by males and females alike. Just the reply to some one of :OH you,FC”, brought laughter and ‘oohs’ from all. Just like all ‘four letter words’, one does not use it publicly.
Schmuck is used by many and it is one really nasty expression, yet one hears it on the telly. How about “sod off”? Sounds rather lame to American ears, eh?
Which way do you give the “v” sign?
But then I am not easily offended, unless you call me a Republican. 😉
Isn’t it Gaelic or something?
Poor Immanuel Kant, think of what HE must have gone through!
It comes from the same root as gonads and genitals, or gyne – as in gynecological!
(I get finicky about my Gaelic roots 😉 )
Quite frankly I get it’s offensive, but it doesn’t really have an effect except for sounding foreign. It’s not exactly used that much by my generation. In some ways it sounds oddly offensive in some archaic sort of way. And, just the phonetics of the word. It’s just an ugly word, like words that start with the letters ‘slu’ (do it, go through them and try to find a positive one).
As with all such words though, it has its place in poetry and comedy. It really depends on the context and the effect being driven at – I found it almost incidental in this, and can understand a raised eyebrow, but not the fuss – not anymore than the N-word in Twain. Is it just to be raunchy or is it supposed to unsettle you and make you think how silly it is some words can be given the power of weapons? Or is it to sound authentically raw, and honestly about degradation, etc?
I’d like to have a debate on the word in its context here, what we thought he meant, rather than just the word’s appropriateness alone.
I didn’t make it all the way to the end (I’m sure its best impact comes when being recited, rather than read in silence), but it does have some powerful imagery and most excellent turns of phrases.
Thank you, Q!
He used to live in my neighborhood.
Ginsberg’s voice reciting it would be perfecto. I didn’t read the whole thing either 🙂
Looks like it trails off the page.
now I feel better!
Honesty is the best policy. But I DO expect you to memorize it and recite it at a moment’s notice! 🙂
Can I just make stuff up?
Why, of course, isn’t that what Ginsberg did?