May 12, 2014

Allen Ginsberg's "Communism doesn't work" postcard from 1981 went up for auction.

Text of postcard (to the poet Diane di Prima:
"Hungary-Austria-Switzerland-Germany - made little money but saw a lot - Red Lands not good, Hungary pretty dreary bureaucracy - I guess communism just doesn't work. Socialist Austria seems pretty free & independent minded. Lots of yakking & snow & ice & cold & Poetry & movies... Love Allen.''
You can see an image of the postcard at the link. Also this:
Ginsberg often talked about his intimate connections with communism and his admiration for communist political figures including Fidel Castro. In his 1956 book, America, he wrote, “I used to be a communist when I was a kid I'm not sorry.” Ginsberg traveled to many communist nations to promote free speech.

13 comments:

BDNYC said...

The Ginsberg-Kerouac set are so overrated. I have no idea why anyone thought highly of them.

Henry said...

Ginsberg traveled to many communist nations to promote free speech.

There's a supply-and-demand joke in there somewhere.

Gahrie said...

The Ginsberg-Kerouac set are so overrated. I have no idea why anyone thought highly of them.

Drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.

Anonymous said...

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Communism,
mentally starving, hysterical naked,
deluding themselves through the New York Times at dawn looking for an angry
fix,
empty-headed hipsters burning for the annointed Marxist connection to the
socialist dynamo in the people's machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and lost awaited
in the supernatural darkness of Soviet housing floating across the tops of
cities contemplating Stalin.

tim maguire said...

We shouldn't be sorry for the naive idealism of our youth. That's what youth is for--enthusiastically embracing your inner dreamer. Growing up is about learning how to abandon naivete while hopefully holding on to the ideals that grew out of it.

My dreams of how society should be haven't changed, only my understanding of practical reality.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Why Betamax, you're a POET, too!
I'm telling you, man, this commenting gig, fun as it is for all of us, is never gonna win you the big prize. Go for open-mike nights at comedy clubs - I hear there's CUBIC DOLLARS in that biz.

grackle said...

The Ginsberg-Kerouac set are so overrated. I have no idea why anyone thought highly of them.

It's the modern fascination for the 'new' as opposed to the 'accomplished.' Looking at the present state of the arts we see this taken to it's logical extreme. Galleries with idiotic "installations" featuring a naked "artist" lying face up with his penis out where all can see. People walking by him taking this exhibitionistic crap seriously.

This has its counterparts in the rest of the arts – especially literature, especially poetry.

chuck said...

That's what youth is for--enthusiastically embracing your inner dreamer.

Let's raise the voting age to 32. I would have said 25, but that is on the young side for modern youth.

Blue@9 said...

Kerouac may have been overrated, but Ginsberg was the real deal. I didn't appreciate him when I was younger, but Ginsberg was a fine poet, one of the best of his generation.

grackle said...

Kerouac may have been overrated, but Ginsberg was the real deal. I didn't appreciate him when I was younger, but Ginsberg was a fine poet, one of the best of his generation.

It's difficult to debate about poetry. This goes for much of what passes for art in the modern era. How do you debate about something which has no real, observable, measurable standards? That is so much a matter of personal taste because of the lamentable lack of real standards? Most times it results in merely talking past each other.

An example: Back in what I consider the heyday of painting – say, in the Netherlands in the 1600's - it was very easy. A mere minute or two of looking at a painting would suffice.

BTW, for 2 or 3 centuries that tiny area of Europe, the Netherlands, turned out more great painters than ALL the rest of Europe put together during the same time period. There are historical reasons for that which are too complicated to get into in a comment.

I find Ginsberg to be mildly interesting. What turns me off with him is the constant undercurrent of hysteria(in the psychological sense) in his poetry. There's no maturity, it's filled with childish rant. He never seemed able to rise above his upbringing - which was dominated by his deranged mother. I consider "Howl" to be his best poem but for me that is indeed faint praise.

Kerouac's contemporaneous stream-of-consciousness counterpart(modified by present day poetic conventions): John Ashbery. Cannot read with enjoyment either one of them. For me mental diarrhea is not poetry. A poem has to make me feel something other than regret for picking up the book.

I don't mind that a poem may be difficult to read. The duty of the poet is not to make reading a poem easy for the reader. An example of a poet challenging to read who was also undeniably a great poet: James Joyce. Another: T. S. Eliot. These intellectual giants never compromised their art in any way.

Blue@9 said...

I agree with you about Ashbery-- the guy is flat out nonsensical. But I do think Ginsberg stays more grounded than that. Yeah, he piles on, but it's rich stuff. Funny, but I hate Howl; I much prefer Sunflower Sutra and Supermarket in California--these convince me that Ginsberg was no fraud.

I respect what Eliot did, but I think he and his contemporaries started us down the path of the death of poetry as popular art. I don't mind poetry that is difficult or challenging, but I don't like opaque riddles. Most people don't, but they've been fed the lie that a wholly impenetrable poem must be deep and meaningful, that there must me something there there, and that it's simply the fault of the nonsophisticated reader if he doesn't get it.

grackle said...

I respect what Eliot did, but I think he and his contemporaries started us down the path of the death of poetry as popular art.

After reading a couple books of criticism on Eliot's poetry SOME of it is accessible to me. But it's a hard row to hoe and I do not have the time to fully explore the poet. Joyce is just flat-out impossible for me. You would have to have a command of several languages and the knowledge of a Cambridge don in several areas of study. I could read some books of literary criticism on Joyce which are kind of like crib notes but here again much time and study would be needed.

My idea of a fun evening of poetry would be Richard Wilbur tempered with a bit of Robert Bly.

Mr. Forward said...

55 years to figure out Communism doesn't work?
That's an ineffectual intellectual.