Bob Dylan once said, Allen Ginsberg is both tragic and dynamic, a lyrical genius, a con-man extraordinaire and probably the single greatest influence on American poetical voice since Whitman. Helen Vendler voiced her opinion on Ginsberg, stating, Ginsberg is responsible for loosening the breath of American poetry at mid – century……. Most of all, he has demonstrated that there is nothing in American social and erotic reality which cannot find a place. His powerful mixture of Blake, Whitman, Pound, and Williams, to which he added his own volatile, grotesque, and tender humor, has assured him a memorable place in modern poetry.
Ginsbergs poems Mescaline and Lysergic Acid have several common themes that can be easily picked up from the surface. Upon further reading, the reader can find several key underlying themes. On the surface, the obvious theme that these poems share is the issue of drug use. These poems to not take a pro or con view on the issue of drug use. Instead these poems were named after the drugs that Ginsberg was using when he wrote them. Mescaline and Lysergic Acid (LSD) are both mind altering hallucinogens, that are said to open ones mind.
Both poems delve into ones psyche and make one question their own existence, death, and the afterlife. In the fifth stanza of Mescaline, Ginsberg asked the unanswerable, eternal question. I want to know I want I want ridiculous to know to know WHAT rotting ginsberg I want to know what happens after I rot because Im already rotting my hairs falling out Ive got a belly Im sick of sex my ass drags in the universe I know too much and not enough I want to know what happens after I die well Ill find out soon enough do I really need to know now? s that any use at all use use use eath death death death death god god god god god god god the Lone Ranger the rhythm of the typewriter In the above passage, Ginsberg plays the part of the mortal, wondering about the afterlife. In Lysergic Acid, he talks about wanting to be God. I allen Ginsberg a separate consciousness I who want to be God Both poems share the idea that drug experimentation can open ones mind so that they may achieve a higher consciousness, and a better understanding of ones self. It seems to me that Ginsbergs goal in his poetry is to attain a oneness with God.
By taking these drugs, I believe that Ginsberg feels an intense psychedelic reaction, in a sense he can experience a parallel dimension equivalent to the omniscient, or all knowing theological God. One hidden meaning that I found in Mescaline, was the mention of William Carlos Williams. What can Williams be thinking in Paterson,…… Williams what is death? , refers to William Carlos Williams four part poem Paterson. Paterson is about the idea that a man in himself is a city, beginning, seeking, achieving, and concluding his life in ways which the various aspects of a city may embody. When Ginsberg asks Williams, Williams what is death?
I think he is also referring to the fact that Williams was Ginsbergs doctor when he was a child. Williams encouraged Ginsbergs poetry as well as other poets such as Gary Snyder, Robert Creeley, and Robert Lowell. Paterson was also the name of the town in New Jersey that Ginsberg grew up. There are homosexual undertones in a lot of Ginsbergs poems. In Mescaline, he says cant stand boys either anymore, which I find as an underlying hint that can be taken in different ways. In Lysergic Acid, he talks of a gay Creator. The Word gay can mean happy, the bulk of Ginsbergs work has similar innuendo in it.
I believe that the poems are fascinating, but I find them hard to read. The way in which they are written is completely open form. At some points in his work when he repeats certain words there is a sense of rhythm, but overall there is no set meter or rhythm. Mescaline, I believe is about Ginsbergs aging and his self actualization. After taking these drugs, he looks into the mirror and sees someone that he does not recognize as himself. He comes to terms with the effects of aging such as balding. The repeated line of rotting Ginsberg refers to the aging process also.
He faces the issue of marriage, and the fact that he thinks he should get married before it is too late. There is even a reference to his aging in Lysergic Acid, when he states My face in the mirror, thin hair, blood congested in streaks….. I am a Ghost. Lysergic Acid is a interesting piece of work, because it almost transports you into the mind of a person who is tripping on LSD. The whole description of the monsters, and of ghosts and of these visions are the things that Ginsberg experienced while under the influence. In both poems, he refers to the typewriter or the eternal typewriter.
I believe that what he means by eternal typewriter, is that whatever he writes will be around long after he is gone, and he strives to make sure that what he writes is good. When he says What can I do to Heaven by pounding on Typewriter, I believe he is asking what he can do to have an effect on the world, or to put himself on that Godly level. When it comes to picking which one I think has more literary value or which is more satisfying poetry I can only say that it really depends on the mood. Both of these poems can take you to places that most people are to afraid to go, into ones own mind.
Ginsberg makes observations about life and how just when you think that your perception of something is right, it can change in an instant. The language used in these poems is very strong. Ginsberg often uses traditionally bad words like fuck and cocksucker. He says what he wants and puts no boundaries on himself. The images that are evoked when reading Ginsberg can be delightful and disturbing all at once, such as it floats outward like a corpse filled with music. Ginsberg uses many images that are considered scary, such as skulls, corpses, spiders, etc… This lends itself to the overall darkness of his writing.
The psychic weight can only be truly understood by someone who has actually experienced what is discussed in the poems. But readers can read into these poems and take what they want out of them. What I see when I read these poems can be entirely different from what someone else sees. That is what makes his writing so interesting to me, the idea that you can put a little of yourself into the reading. Allen Ginsberg is an innovator and an influence of many of todays writers and artists. He continues to write powerful poetry that sparks the imagination and carries its readers to a higher level.