It was the first time maybe I was left speechless -and I mean speechless after a read. It’s not that I didn’t think anything about it; rather the opposite. I finished it yesterday. I had started it a while ago (in January I think), but here’s a thing about me: I don’t read poetry on a crowded bus or in between classes, or when I have a million things to do. Not new poetry, that is; I sometimes take time to read a poem I love when I know it will make me feel better. But when I read poems for the first time, I like to drown entirely in the poet’s universe. And I need piece and quiet. To me, reading poetry is somehow like hitchhiking. It’s accepting to be driven by someone you don’t know, and trusting them the whole time. I’ve never hitchhiked, so I’m not sure the analogy makes a lot of sense… It’s like sleeping with someone you barely know. They unveil their beauty and their intimacy and their vulnerability to you, and so do you by embracing it. And there’s a magical bond between you, you peer into a soul; but you don’t see as much as you feel. That’s what poetry is to me, and that might explain why I stood at my window last night, gazing at the stars, unable to sleep, crying.
Of course, I knew who Allen Ginsberg was and I had read ‘Howl’. I read it after I overheard a my Lit teacher talk about it in the teacher’s room. Yes, I was fifteen or sixteen and I worshiped my Lit teacher (still do) and if she said it was good, I had to read it. Only, I guess I was too young. Too young to fully understand it. Too young to completely feel and experience it. Today, I’m ten years older and it speaks to me, to parts of me that crave unbound freedom, a world with less close-mindedness, where people would be celebrated -not judge- for their nonconformity. And I try to find adjectives, to tell people about those poems I read and I can’t find any. Oh, there are plenty that comes to mind, but none that seem adequate. Brilliant, beautiful, exciting, hypnotizing, revealing, unique? All I know is that it left me staring out my window with tears of intense…of intense what? I’m not even sure why I cried at the end end of the road, I just know I loved every second of the trip.
Ginsberg is a wordsmith: his words hit, ring and beat in a way you can’t be indifferent. Mark Ford made a great job assembling the poems the way he did, and if you allow me, I’ll disclose here the last one, in hopes it makes you want to read those that precede:
It’s true I write about myselfWho else do I know so well?Where else gather blood red roses & kitchen garbageWhat else has my thick heart, hepatitis or hemorrhoids -What else lived my seventy years, my old Naomi?*and if my chance I scribe U.S. politics, Wisdommeditation, theories of artit’s because I read a newspaper lovedteachers skimmed books or visited a museumMarch 8, 1997, 12:30 A.M.