Allen Ginsberg was an influential American poet of the Beat Generation in the 1950s. His poems were often political, expressing his strongly held beliefs against war, materialism, and sexual repression (to name a few). The writing of Ginsberg expressed a revolutionary moment in American poetry. He was angry with America, his home that had disappointed him, and was arrested on numerous occasions for protesting. In this excerpt below from the poem “America,” we see where it all started to go downhill.
When Ginsberg died in 1997, his good friend William Burroughs remembered him as “a great person with worldwide influence.” To get a larger picture of him as a poet and a person, I recommend listening to a recording of one of his readings, like this one here for “America.” You could even put it on in the background to go along with the visuals below.
Wallace Stevens was an American poet with a strong sense of imagination. He believed that reality was an activity, not a static object. Perhaps that’s why he tried to preserve things in jars? He also sold insurance…so there’s that. But really, he was a brilliant poet who lived an interesting life, until he passed on in 1955. There’s a good short article about his life here, drawing attention to the time he insulted Robert Frost and the time he picked a fight with Earnest Hemingway, as highlights.
Hafez was a 14th century Iranian poet who specialized in lyric poetry. He often wrote about devotion, faith, and exposing hypocrisy. I suppose this poem falls under the latter.
Song lyrics are not the same as poetry, it’s true. They are different art forms. But occasionally you stumble across some lyrics that are particularity poetic. They strike a visual scene update hearing them and you revel in the cacophony of the words themselves, separate from the music. In fact, I think that when Justin Vernon wrote the lyrics to the single “33 “GOD”” for Bon Iver’s new album 22, A Million, he was feeling particularly literary; drawing references to a classic novel that is in itself, rife with poetry. Here’s just a taste of those lyrics.
This Sylvia Plath poem was published in her collection Colossus and Other Poems in 1960, three years before her death. It imbues elements of fantasy (not uncommon in her work) to bring to life a mythic, rugged, and manly figure, wherein there perhaps lies a feminist commentary. Though Sylvia may not have seen herself as the faun, one can only imagine, and dream…
Shuson Kato was a haiku master who initially hated haiku. Apparently, he also hated ants (at least some of the time…but maybe he regretted it?).
There’s an interesting obituary about him here, but sadly, not a huge amount to be found about him online.
Have you ever read The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot? Well the opportunity is now upon you to dive into the long, beauty of a poem. I’ve taken some liberties with the illustration of the text. Poetry is all about interpretation, so take from it what you will.
The entire poem is 434 lines long, but you’ll only find 18 lines below. You can read the rest of the poem here.