With your skanky cassanovas you might as well be dead.
You strut and you wobble, don’t know the price of bread.
Stay away from my orchard.
You paint your plastic faces, botox your lips.
Worry about your bums, push out your tits.
Faced with real life your mind it just flips.
Brains of a pilchard.
All you hard muscled men, tattoos on your arms.
You’ve got the mentality that sets off fire alarms.
Your brain’s in your balls, the least of your charms.
Clever to be hard.
I fear for the future when I hear your shallow thought.
All that’s in your heads adds up to a juicy nought.
You could fill a sentence with all that you’ve been taught.
You make me tired.
Opher – 7.7.2022
Sometimes when faced with the mindlessness of so much popular culture I despair. You go out on Saturday night to see girls dressed in a handkerchief wobbling around on high heels drunk out their minds while the lads swagger about showing off their tats and biceps looking for a fight. It is all so very pointless, mindless and shallow.
Meanwhile, around them, obliviously, the universe turns and unscrupulous politicians and businessmen prey on them.
During these past twelve years of austerity the wealthy have increased their wealth enormously. Huge multi-million contracts have been handed out willy-nilly. Massive salaries have been given freely to ‘the right people’. Huge multimillion bonuses have been given to those at the top. Many Tory MPs are pocketing huge sums for lobbying, second jobs, telling secrets, or dividends. Huge sums are being deposited tax-free abroad.
Those at the bottom are systematically blamed. We have to have pay freezes in order to save the economy.
We are promised sunny uplands, Brexit dividends, levelling up.
We receive tax hikes, massive inflation, a cost of living crisis, energy bills through the roof, petrol prices rocketing and wage cuts.
Power companies and oil companies are creaming off incredible profits.
Early years in teaching, William Burroughs and censorship
When I went into teaching I was determined to approach it in a different manner to the experience that I had imposed upon me in schools. A lot of my teachers were tyrants and I hated them. I refused to have the distant hierarchy of teacher and pupil. I insisted the students called me by my first name. For me teaching was a privilege. I was not there to force-feed reluctant kids with turgid facts; I was there to enlighten and expand minds, to promote thinking, questioning and discovery and turn on kids to the awe and wonder of the universe.
It did not quite work that way.
The world was not ready for me. The teaching staff thought I was a rebellious nutter and the kids thought I was being weak and played up.
Allen Ginsberg – America – a poem addressing America
This was not so much a poem as a dialogue with a country – a country with a personality. He addresses the injustices, the shallowness and paranoia as well as his own situation and relationship.
This was a poem written in the mid-50s in the anti-Russian paranoia following the 2nd World War. There was a great fear of communism. The world was in a mess and the fear of atomic war was claustrophobic.
America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing. America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956. I can’t stand my own mind. America when will we end the human war? Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb I don’t feel good don’t bother me. I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind. America when will you be angelic? When will you take off your clothes? When will you look at yourself through the grave? When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites? America why are your libraries full of tears? America when will you send your eggs to India? I’m sick of your insane demands. When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks? America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world. Your machinery is too much for me. You made me want to be a saint. There must be some other way to settle this argument. Burroughs is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back it’s sinister. Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke? I’m trying to come to the point. I refuse to give up my obsession. America stop pushing I know what I’m doing. America the plum blossoms are falling. I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for murder. America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies. America I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I’m not sorry. I smoke marijuana every chance I get. I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet. When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid. My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble. You should have seen me reading Marx. My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right. I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer. I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations. America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over from Russia.
I’m addressing you. Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine? I’m obsessed by Time Magazine. I read it every week. Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore. I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library. It’s always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie producers are serious. Everybody’s serious but me. It occurs to me that I am America. I am talking to myself again.
Asia is rising against me. I haven’t got a china man’s chance. I’d better consider my national resources. My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable private literature that goes 1400 miles and hour and Twenty five thousand mental institutions. I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underprivileged who live in my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns. I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go. My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I’m a Catholic.
America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood? I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his automobiles more so they’re all different sexes America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe America free Tom Mooney America save the Spanish Loyalists America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die America I am the Scottsboro boys. America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother Bloor made me cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have been a spy. America you don’t really want to go to war. America it’s them bad Russians. Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians. The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take our cars from out our garages. Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest. her wants our auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our filling stations. That no good. Ugh. Him makes Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help. America this is quite serious. America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set. America is this correct? I’d better get right down to the job. It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway. America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.
When I first read those opening lines of Howl I realised that poetry was alive again and it spoke to me. Howl opened the door. All my terrible education had done was to reduce it to misery. This was vital, alive and wonderful. What with Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac and, a little later, Roy Harper, I suddenly had a new vision, new language and a new perspective on life, society and the maniacs who are running our lives. Poetry was a window into my own head.
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked.
I did too. I saw some of my friends seeking, crawling and strung out. I was looking for something to believe in, to search for and to have more meaning than the greedy, violent society we were ruled by. I wanted a life with wisdom, fun, craziness, purpose and harmony…
Back in 1977 I was teaching in Yorkshire. I had a great class of punk kids. One of them won a prize on Speech Day and asked me what book he thought he should have the school award him. I recommended a William Burroughs. The RE teacher went bonkers when he saw it among the prizes. He took it home and cut out all the ‘offensive’ parts. By the time Stephen was presented with his book there was only half of it left!
I hope he still has that book. It was a slightly different cut-up technique to the one Burroughs used. I’d have loved to have gathered all those offensive bits together!!
This is the poem that I discovered when I was seventeen that turned me back on to poetry. For once I felt that a poem had been written for my generation, a poem I could relate to.
Howl – Allen Ginsberg
For Carl Solomon
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…