Category Archives: American Writing

Allen Ginsberg:Transcendentalist?

Warning: The videos, and some of the text may be considered obscene:

Image result for allen ginsbergAllen Ginsberg was a poet who bared his mind in the 1950’s. His poem Howl, made him famous, or infamous for it’s somewhat candid and sometimes obscene language and content.

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In Part II of Howl, Ginsberg equates capitalist society with the God Moloch, who was a God that the early Hebrews and others sacrificed their children.

“What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?” Ginsberg is saying here that cities, society has taken away any chance of those who inhabit them, of having imagination, of being able to think for themselves,

“Moloch, Moloch, Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasures! blind capitals! demonic industries!spectral nations! invincible madhouses!granite cocks! Monstorous bombs!” Everything is the same with houses, there is no imagination in design. These spaces are there not to be beautiful, but to have a purpose; to fit as many bodies in as little as space as possible. The treasures we build for ourselves and for our companies in this world of corporate greed, do not come without a cost, Many lives are lost, wasted with empty heads, empty brains unable to think for themselves. Invincible madhouses, are invincible because once someone is labelled as mad, that label follows them around, and nothing they say is taken serious from then on, People are defeated. Granite Cocks are the monolithic phallic symbols. Skyscrapers really are a phallic symbol, corporations saying, look how big and powerful am I. And Monstorous bombs refers to actual bombs, nuclear or otherwise that have the capability of destroying millions of lives in one push of a red button.

Why did Ginsberg call his poem Howl? A howl is defined as a mournful cry of perhaps a dog or other animal. Ginsberg may have thought himself a dog, but the emphasis should be placed on the sound, not what makes it. Howl is a mournful cry. Sometimes the cry is made in anger, sometimes in pain, but mostly in a sadness that eats you right to the bones. Ginsberg was expressing the sadness he feels when he think of the world that has lost it’s way. Of a world that has forgotten nature.

Ginsberg reflects on friends left behind, in particular, Carl Solomon, whom he met in a mental asylum and whom remained there as Ginsberg was released. He mentions over and again Rockland, which is a mental asylum but not the one in which Ginsberg met Solomon.

in Footnote, Ginsberg reflects on people and places and things which have influenced his life and his writing. He calls these “Holy”. To him, the people that Ginsberg met and received understanding from, and had an influence in his life, were sacred. People to be revered or idolised.

This is one work that deals with the emotions in such a diverse way. It is a spiritual moment. Once heard, one can never unhear the words in the poem. Once heard, this poem will surely affect your view on socialism, capitalism and what is important to you, and the world.

I have called Ginsberg a modern day transcendentalist. I think that is accurate. Here is a man who walks his own path, one less traveled. Here is a man who has rejected society and become the utter non-conformist. Here is a man who is self reliant, poor he may be but self reliant in terms of not accepting another’s thoughts or ideas without first discovering and telling his own.

Genius or madman? Don’t let me or anyone else sway your judgement. Make up your own mind. Its what a true transcendentalist would do.

 

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Peer Review:Mahdi, The colour line

https://mahdihussain94.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/blog-entry-5-the-color-line/

Hi Mahdi,
I don’t really understand this line “That the colour-line a long as it exists there will white people will continue to be inferior and more dominant than those of colour.” There are also some spelling and grammatical errors in this post.
I agree with the sentiment though. It is sad that throughout history, it is white man who feels he is superior to anyone else. Its Ironical that a tan was sought after by many of the white people ( me included) because the darker skin represented health and vitality. There always has been a divide between not only white and black, but wherever the dominant race or religion sees someone who is different. I am sure it is fear of the unknown. White people, and other majorities need to educate themselves about other people, and not just say that “because there are more of us, we are right, and everyone else is wrong”. After all “we all bleed red”..

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Peer Review: Mahdi

https://mahdihussain94.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/blog-entry-7-robert-frost/

The picture reminds me more of Master and Man by Leo Tolstoy than this Robert Frost poem. weird eh. the picture is of course very appropriate for the poem. The man in this poem had come out to kill himself and then decided against it. In Master and Man, Vasili killed himself by his mere stupidity. I have looked at the phenomena of deep snow… It acts as an absorber of sound…similar to soundproofing in a music studio. Much like space… in the snow, nobody can hear you scream.

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As I lay dying: Faulkner

“the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself … alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat” ?

As I lay dying, wracked in pain  upon my bed, I wonder who I can give my advise to. I have no heirs, no pupils who hang on my every word. Is wisdom, My Wisdom to die with me?

I have written. My words are not written with the graphite of a pencil, that can be erased easily or written over. My words are not written on parchment or paper, which can easily be torn, or wrinkled and thrown in the fire…to warm ones toes. My words however can be lost in the annals of time, on some hard drive, or some cloud, where who knows who will read them in the future.

I am guessing that those who catalog, those archaeologists in the future, will dig down deep into our version of the present, might not, i hope not, just record my ramblings but read what is written and say as we do of Plato, or Blake… “How Profound”.

Has my ego got the better of me in my disease of age? I think not. I think we all desire to leave a legacy. We all desire to be remembered and thought well of. We all desire that someone will use the wisdom that we have discovered, unearthed, perhaps uncovered in dusty books in a dark damp cave of a library.

Some writers, as Faulkner has said, concentrate on matters of the heart, Love is illogical. If you ask someone why they love a person, true love can give no answer, as it is illogical. “the human heart is in conflict with itself”, it knows not which way to go. it has no logic. The heart needs to work in tandem with the head. One beats while the brain thinks. Logic itself, or love itself are somewhat useless. One must use both.

The body cannot do without the brain, and the human brain cannot do without the body. The body is the vessel in which the brain must operate. Artificial intelligence is not yet possible because logic without heart is useless. What good is brains without the body, other than to be food for dogs. What good is a body without a brain, except to follow the instructions of someone with a brain.

Do what you will with my body. Although I do wish you inter and bury me quickly. I have tried not to cause offence when living. I wish to cause no offence (by my smell) when dead.  I do not wish to cause trouble to those who must dispose of my body. Throw it to the fishes. Let the sharks feast on me instead of one still living. Give my body, complete with brain and heart to science, so they may study, and see how the three are connected.

Image result for a dying man

When everything else is stripped away, these three remain… faith, hope and love. When a person is on the way to the heaven he has faith in, then there is no need of hope, as the head has made him confident of where he is going. Faith is the head and heart working in tandem. The heart loves with an illogial love, the head says that it is the only thing to do..love, and believe. So the greatest of these is love.

Here endeth the lesson.

 

 

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“White is a metaphor for power” James Baldwin

Image result for i am not your negro

I just watched the movie I am not your Negro on the suggestion of my Literature teacher.It is an amazing movie which highlights the struggle that negro people, and other have had at the hands of white people for over 400 years.

Negro people did not ask to come to America. They were brought to America to serve white people.  They were slaves to the white man until 1865, but still considered inferior to white man until very recently… well some white people still consider anyone different from themselves as inferior. Negroes were not able to go to school with white children until 1957 following the civil rights protest at Little Rock High School.Image result for negro protests

Although the 15th Amendment of the Constitution allowed black men to vote from 1896, many states discouraged negro men from voting by including clauses which stated that black men had to be literate to be allowed to vote, and some states also put a tax on voting for negro men. It wasn’t until the 24th amendment in 1965 that Lyndon B Johnson removed all barriers to allow negro men AND WOMEN, the right to vote, thereby treating them as equal citizens.

Black people were shown in advertising from the 1890’s but the images were generally shown in subservient roles, such as Rastus and Aunt Jemima. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights movement that black people appeared as equals in advertising. It seems then that the nation was starting to come around.

Progressively the nation has included many different skin tones and racial diversions in all walks of life. In 1968 Robert Kennedy announced that America could even have a black president in 40 years. That proved to be true with the inauguration of Barack Obama 40 years later.

Image result for negro protests

The movie showed the rise and fall of such civil rights leaders as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jnr and Medgar Evers. These three leaders were strong voices in the civil rights movement which dared to say that blacks were equal to whites. Malcolm X was a black Muslim leader who thought that peaceful protest was useless. Martin Luther King Jnr was a leader who was a Christian who believed in peaceful protests through negotiation. Medgar Evans was a leader who was promoting desegregation primarily in the public school system. Because these men dared to buck the system, they were all assassinated. The idea was ‘to keep the blacks in their place’.

Its not only in America where white people think they are superior to other races. We look at Apartheid in South Africa. We can look at the colonisation of various countries including Australia and India to name but 2. The treatment of native peoples at colonisation or invasion is appalling. White America does not have  a good record here either. The treatment of Native Americans, including Indian nations and Inuits still continues today.

The line that stood out for me in the movie was “White is a metaphor for power”. This is true the whole world over. James Baldwin equates it with Chase Manhattan bank. That is to say that White man considers themselves far superior to any other race on Earth,

Image result for dont you wish you were white

I saw a sign held up in a protest in the movie that said “Don’t you wish you were white?” No. I am ashamed of my skin colour and what it stands for. I don’t look at skin colour as a difference between people. However, I can see how other people, in suppressed minorities might look at me, as a white man, and be scared, even hate what I represent.

James Baldwin says in his movie that he doesn’t want to be a Christian, as he believes that in America at least, the Christians haven’t yet learnt the golden rule “Love One Another”.

All I can say is, I am sorry.

 

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Peer review Sarah

https://sarasaladino.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/blog-1/

Sarah that was a nice quick review of the two leaders in this field. I am just getting into the teachings of Thoreau. Very interesting. I am wondering about other leaders in this movement, or where the influences come from. I read about a lady in the movement last night. Also we need to remember that they were influenced by Swedenborg, whose teachings William Blake rejected.
I like Thoreau’s idea of living in the moment, which is what a lot of meditation is based around these days.
Dave

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Mark Twain: The Somber Side

list-8-things-mark-twain-family-96815927-E

In our American Literature class, we have looked at Mark Twain as a person who can write from Experience and from the heart. He is able to sympathise and identify with the common man. Mark Twain had a family, which is not often written about.

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) married Olivia Langdon in 1870. ‘Lily’ as she was known was a constant companion for her husband, accompanying him on lecture and book publishing tours. Lily often edited Twain’s work, sometimes somewhat critically.

The couple had 4 children, and while each gave them joy, they also brought heartache. None were without their troubles.hc-pictures-140-anniversary-of-twain-home-20140916

langdon_clemensLangdon Clemens was the first born of the Clemens children. He was the only son. Langdon was born premature in 1870. It was a hard pregnancy for Olivia when she contracted Typhoid fever. While Mark Twain was busy writing witty stories and columns, he spent a lot of his time nursing both Olivia and Langdon. Olivia’s father Jervis died that same year. Langdon got a cold on one of the journeys in April 1871 and died after it developed into diphtheria. He died in 1872 aged just 19 months. Twain blamed himself for his son’s death.

 

 

 

clemenssusy_headstone Second born was Olivia Susan Clemens. Suzy was born in March 1872. She was a happy playful girl who at times became very deep in thought when trying to understand aspects of life and its struggles. While the family was overseas and Suzy at college, she contracted Meningitis and died at age 24.

This is the headstone of Suzy’s grave which is in the Clemens plot in Elmira New York, Composer Dan Forrest was searching for some lyrics to go with a song which he had written for a little girl’s funeral. He found this epitaph in the graveyard close to his home. Dan wrote Good Night Dear Heart from the words of Mark Twain.

220px-Ossip_Gabrilowitsch_&_Clara_ClemensClara was the third of the Clemen’s children. She was born in 1874 and spent most of her early years being home-schooled as she travelled with her father. Clara was sent to boarding school in Berlin for later schooling. The whole family moved to Austria in 1896 so that Clara could study piano. Following her mother’s death in 1905 Clara had a nervous breakdown. in 1909, she married the Russian composer Ossip Gabrilowitsch. Her father died not long after that and Twain did not get to see his only grandchild, Nina who was born not long after. Clara was the only one of the Clemens children to live a long life, and she died aged 88 in 1962.

DSCN0175Jane (or Jean as she was nicknamed) Clemens was born in 1880. When 18 years old, she developed Epilepsy. Twain said of Jean, “There was never a kinder heart than Jean’s”. During her childhood, she gave most of her allowance to charities and had a heart for animals. Jean began two charities for the protection of animals and because of this love, her father had bought her a farm. Jean’s epilepsy was severe at times, causing her to have spells in sanatoriums for her recovery. She was never alone, and a trusted maid accompanied her on shopping trips and helped Jean with her daily needs. On Christmas Day 1909, she had a fit while in the bath and was drowned.

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Twain was heartbroken. “She was all I had left, except Clara, who married Mr. Gabrilowitsch lately, and has just arrived in Europe.” Twain said to gathered journalists on the morning of her death. “My daughter was trimming the tree yesterday and I was helping her,” he said. “She was so anxious that the lads and lassies of the neighborhood should have a tree, so we brought this one in and began to trim it for them. Tomorrow there were to have trooped in to see the tree and to get presents from it”.

 

 

A life full of sorrow and grief. Mark Twain died just 4 months later, in April 1910 of a heart attack in Redding Connecticut. He was buried alongside the others in the family who had passed before in the family plot in Elmira.the-family-plot-of-mark

Apologies with some of the typesetting. I bet Twain never had these problems.

Dave

Some of the websites visited:

http://www.design.caltech.edu/erik/Misc/Twain_eulogy.html

http://www.marktwainhouse.org/man/clemens_family_tree.php

http://www.marktwainhannibal.com/twain/biography/family.shtml

http://www.marktwainonline.com/site/577770/page/924842

http://www.marktwainonline.com/site/577770/page/924743

http://www.twainquotes.com/19091225.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Twain

 

 

 

 

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