13 thoughts on “America, Do You Know Whose Yahrzeit it is Today?

  1. ginsberg did not advocate raping little boys. he advocated that men and boys should be free to love each other without others interfering.
    traditionally speaking, when a father takes his 16 year old son to a 40 year old prostitute, she’s not considered a pedophile. rather, it’s considered a rite of “coming of age.”
    was mrs. robinson a vile and evil sex pervert? or did every boy who saw “the graduate” dream of their own mrs. robinson?
    is it so wrong then for a gay 16 year old boy of his own free will, and of the legal age of consent, to engage in a relationship with an older man?
    it doesn’t make me comfortable, personally. but neither does shitting on everything allen ginsberg ever did in his entire life because we happen to disagree as to whether or not consensual sex between a boy of legal age and a man is appropriate.
    ginsberg’s sexuality is disquieting. fine.
    have you read the man’s poetry? have you seen his films? his photography? his art?
    his cultural contributions have altered art and literature forever. his impact is profound and notable. he was an incredible influence on my own writing; i took a workshop with him once and found him to be a wonderfully sweet and kind person.
    no one ever accused nor charged him with sexually assaulting a minor. so to make him sound like some crazy pervert seems a bit extreme.

  2. from wikipeda: One of the group’s arguments is that age of consent laws unnecessarily criminalize sexual relationships between adults and minors (particularly boys). In 1980 a NAMBLA general meeting passed a resolution, which said: “(1) The North American Man/Boy Love Association calls for the abolition of age-of-consent and all other laws which prevent men and boys from freely enjoying their bodies.
    So we aren’t talking about supporting sex with a 16 year old – maybe 10? maybe 8? maybe 6?
    NAMBLA was proud to have AG as a member.
    It does raise an interesting question, at what level of moral depravity do we stop listening to the artist?

  3. a 16-year old boy is not capable of having consensual sex. at least not where I live. that’s the whole point of statutory rape laws. even the most mature under-aged person cannot legally give consent. NAMBLA wants to change this law so they can have sex with boys. what you think NAMBLA’s efforts are not solely for the benefit of the older party? like the boys deserve the right to make this decision just as the adult men do? OK, well ask yourself how many NAMBLA members are 14 yr old boys. and how many are older men. I doubt it’s like even representation at the average NAMBLA meeting. NAMBLA’s creepy. so was Ginsburg for riding with those guys. doesn’t mean his poetry isn’t good. but why try and defend the NAMBLA shit?
    and and I’m pretty sure Hoffman’s character in the Graduate was of age, given that he was a college graduate.

  4. i hadn’t realized that namblas position was to eliminate consent laws. that’s fucking depraved.
    and 16 year olds today, mind you, are way less mature than there were 40 yers ago. remember, in the 1960s, 16 was 3 years less than the average age of a soldier in viet nam.

  5. Fun story – one of my English professors was at Berkeley as an undergrad and she was set up on a blind date with Allen Ginsberg. They went to a party on campus, and she noticed that there was a young man following them around & glaring at her all night… she found out later that it was his boyfriend. Anyway.

  6. Allen Ginsberg was a complex and brilliant figure. I knew him well and attended the memorial which we recall today.
    Allen was often wrong about the world in which he lived; he lived with passion and brilliant intensity, if not always with good judgment. Like many of us, he was uneven in his accomplishments.
    Allen exalted in changing our world; but he was most of all a man with great gifts as a poet and as an artist, a photographer, a chronicler, popularizer, taste-maker and teacher whose works fulfilled every bit of the great promise of his youth and talent. In consequence, and for his contributions, he fully deserves our acclaim.
    We would err to judge Allen only by and for his own folly. He was, as I knew him, a kind and decent man with just a few foolish ideas taken too much too heart by him, and publicly pronounced by him with much ado and a little too much seriousness and vehemence.
    But, this is not the time, on the eve of his yahrzeit, to remember his faults and failures. It is rather to commemorate his contributions and his energies for good.
    Allen certainly braved a storm of criticism, censorship and abuse for his major contributions to our culture. Of course, fifty years after, he is widely and correctly admired as the single most important poetic voice writing in America in the 20th century, and he had no serious rival among contemporaries writing in the English language in his lifetime.
    That his masterpiece, which confirmed the early promise of Howl and Other Poems, was Kaddish, a long elegiac poem never equaled since by any writer in English, and one of the great poems of its kind in the language (one would need to return to Wordsworth and to Milton’s Lycidas to find its equal) and that this poem, written in 1958, opened the door wide to new poets and writers, giving them authentic voice, encouraging them, especially among them Jews, writing in the vernacular, about their experience.
    On the publication of Kaddish, its very title, then, in 1958, startled with its daring and its newness; and its acclaim thus enabling a generation, in Allen’s footsteps, to seek out on its own authentic voice and character, to be judge by its own merit and distinction, individually, as having discarded the pernicious cant of imitation modeled on other and lesser works and shaped in the experience and culture and style of others.
    Allen was also, and first and foremost, as he said always, a Jew, and unashamed. He struggled with his attachment with his family, and his greatest works are open and admit as much. He struggled with Israel, and greatly impressed no lesser figures of his own contemporary Zionism than Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem. It was Scholem, of all authors, who writes about Allen most amusingly.
    Their visit coincided with the period of Allen’s only important public silence. This followed the completion of his masterwork Kaddish, and was prior to its publication nearly three years later: its writing and the responsibility for it was incomparably more painful but also much more pregnant with powerful images and revelations than his breakthrough success with Howl. Kaddish was an affirmation of love; it was also a daring act, a daring moment in time, the publication of which would take place only as Allen absented himself for personal reasons, from the country, on a mission of self-discovery, moving east beyond Jerusalem to Benares.
    Allen’s return to New York marked him immediately a public figure of the first importance. Of American contemporaries, only James Baldwin’s presence, influence and charisma can be compared.
    Allen also popularized the works of Blake, Whitman, Passoa, and Lorca, among others and championed those great and lesser works of his closest contemporaries, like Jack Kerouac. He was a generous, sincere and gifted soul. He lived, as I am witness, on about 1/10 his annual income, distributing the rest (what do you expect?) to numerous good and zany causes.
    Allen was at the center not only of an international vernacular arts and poetry revival, very closely aligned not only to Kerouac but to Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Yevtushenko, and to countless others east and west. Having put the lie to lies and outrages east and west, he was denounced in Cuba and expelled from Czechoslovakia; and helped lead the non-violent anti-war movement. His was the living example and an inspiration at the center of the movement to bring dignity to gays,
    He was a brilliant student and an able and a subtle raconteur. He was the star in a constellation of brilliant young Jewish boys who studied at Columbia with Lionel Trilling, Mark Van Doren and Meyer Schapiro. That he erred, that he strayed, that he was wrong in many personal choices, I doubt not. To err is human …
    Yes, I am certain that among his friends whom he championed and supported there were many who were unworthy of his time and interest. I personally regret the folly and blindness of his ideas expressed in support of legal cover for pederasty, Nor do I support his sanction to drug experimentation. Nor his many extravagant claims and challenges on behalf of the counter-culture.
    But Allen went far beyond these acts to provide a great legacy of the written word and the photographic image and it is there which lend great dignity and probity to his name, and for which he will be remembered forever.

  7. No on in America cares anymore.
    Consumerism reigns supreme in the land now.
    So, what new crap did you purchase so far this year?
    Your happiness depends upon it.

  8. Pm in a lengthy (and I do mean lengthy) tribute to AG, you fail to address the most interesting question (and it’s not whether his poetry was as good as you say) – is there a level of depravity that relegates a gifted artist outside the bounds of human consideration (e.g. Mel Gibson’s anti semitism for many means they will no longer screen an otherwise enjoyable Gibson movie)? Look forward to your general and specific views on that issue (but only if you promise to keep them to 500 words or less).

  9. To the last comment:
    I seek only a basis for accepting Allen for what of importance he is and was and will remain. His poem Kaddish will outlive us all, and shine forever. I cannot be dismantled from the new canon which Allen established, or replaced. It follows, brilliantly, on the shoulders of giants. It is original, evocative, and breaks new ground, not only in poetry but through poetry, in revelation and in tolerant acceptance.
    Ars longus, vita brevis.
    It appears that the write who questions my statement refers to Mel Gibson’s anti-Semite rant. Is it great art? How may it be judged as art? I have my doubts. I would not pay to see it. Eliot’s art great? His “Rachel nee Rabinovitch?” His The Waste Land? I don’t think so.
    What of Wagner is great or esteemed great lives on. De gustibus … it is a question, in the first lace and after all, of taste. I am not myself a great fan and repudiate him.
    And yet, it is harder to repudiate, of itself, the melody of the “flight of the Walkure.” It lives on in spite of my effort or those of a thousand to reduce it. It must be seen for what it is and not as part of its composer’s mad, destructive rant.
    Were we to examine the Book of Kels or the Lindisfarne Gospels on the basis only of the attitude of the artist-monk toward Jewry, we’d probably wind up drowning the mss. And what, fundamentally, can we say of the Four Gospels which are so full of distortion and hatred? What can we say of the Church of Rome, which was built upon the model, symbolically and ideologically, of the crushing and destruct of the Temple in Jerusalem, and all Israel?
    And yet we can admire many accomplishments of the Church, and even, looking closely, the fierce power contained within the writing in Augustine, let us say, or in the opening lines of the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God.”
    No? I can.
    As for Richard Wagner, his ideas, his Bayreuth, his shrine, belong to the “dust bin of history.” But I myself cannot alter the fact that his art has wide circulation and influence — on Jewish artists, willy nilly, as well.
    Do I reject his notions? Wholly. Can I curb his influence? Partly. Can I destroy his reputation as an artist for what he contributes to art, opera and drama? No, I can mitigate his ill effect.
    Certainly, |I do not oppose Israelis or others, who do not wish his music played in the face of their suffering. But, this is another story.
    I feel greatly influenced by Baudelaire, in spite of any notion of a shocking life. Whitman found caustic critics of his lifestyle, and he remains great. He found defenders too who sanitized him as the “good grey poet,” as Shelley was sanitized under the name “Ariel.” But he was not only Ariel!
    Though I admire and accept the plays of Genet as great, masterpieces, though his life was, to my mind sordid. But there is vision here, uncompromised by madness. There is inspiration here unqualified by personal decorum and misbehavior.
    As for Allen, and to return to him, his errors were, mainly, as I saw and see it and him, a folly, a vanity, an expression of a part of his character, his lack of caution and his self-love. And, in his case, to err is human … and the great works which are not at all about will stand. His advocacy for his projects of folly are a kind of bow to and return to a conformity which in other aspects of his life he fought, and hence a blindness which I may overlook in regarding his work.

  10. Someone said that:
    “…a 16-year old boy is not capable of having consensual sex. at least not where I live. ”
    Most cultures on our planet would totally laugh at the absurdity of that statement.

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