Poetry: Against Allen Ginsberg by A.W. Strouse

A.W. Strouse writes poetry, drama, short stories, and criticism. He did his undergrad at the New School and holds an M.A. in Medieval Studies from Fordham University. Currently he is a Ph.D. student in English at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he studies medieval poetry. (For more of his work, see AWStrouse.com.) Strouse also manages and curates, with Maximiliano Ferro, the Ferro Strouse Gallery (ferrostrouse.com).

Against Allen Ginsberg: A Report on an Experiment

by A.W. Strouse

And Absolon hath kiss’d her nether eye;
And Nicholas is scalded in the tout.
This tale is done, and God save all the rout.
—The Miller’s Tale

You will need: paper, pen or pencil, Kaddish and Howl in City Lights paperback editions, personal lubricant. The point of this experiment is to cultivate a relationship with Allen Ginsberg. (Your feud with him, although endearing, is shrill, unfashionable, and no fun.) Already, you share many common pursuits and mutual interests. Put your queer shoulder to the wheel!

Part I: Entirely replace your erotic experience with poems by Ginsberg. For one week, abstain from intercourse, oral sex, and masturbation, as well as from all sexual fantasies and pornography. Do not even engage in academic discussions about the history of sexuality. Instead, read Ginsberg. If a co-worker strikes your fancy, recite the “Sunflower Sutra.” When you eye someone on the street, immediately begin to read Howl. To engender the sense that you are involved in something illicit, nestle the book within a highly respectable beard—for example, Erich Auerbach. If you wake in the middle of the night with a hard-on, read Kaddish until you are flaccid. Meditate on your mother’s madness, and weep. Above all, do not think about James Franco. As the week progresses, the growing intensity of your libido undoubtedly will drive you to read Ginsberg with increasing frequency. Gradually you will foster—through, ironically, repression—a deep longing for the expansive, flamboyant Ginsberg. After one week, create sex toys from and copulate with your books, which are printed, ideally for the purpose, in small paperbacks. Use lubricant, as required.

Part II: With paper and pen, write a poem about your newfound love for Ginsberg.

Part III: After completing the experiment, write a report about your experience and attach it to these instructions.

Part IV: The pen, setting textuality’s snare is pressed against the body, the corpus; parchment made of flesh—incarnatelogos. Jerome, citing Deuteronomy, said of the Old Testament that she is a captive pagan: strip her! “Thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband.” Fantasies of influence, perhaps even bris envy. With anti-Semitic sentiments having been harbored, alas, since H. left—his kippah still in my underpants drawer. The Fag Diaspora? Empire State Building a Babylonian ziggurat: vertical, vast, a desert; sandy, its chrome shimmers… a mirage—sometimes just a skyscraper; but, like Freud, in exile, in a strange land—singing; or, for that matter, a caged bird, a gaol. Wilde uses David like David, Jonathan: “Out of the depths have I cried to thee.” The Psalmist bashes back? “Taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the rocks.” No, a limp-wristed Christian, for whom the Rock is as meek as a lamb: “Suffer the little children, to come unto me.”

I tell D. my plans for a romp with Ginsberg. Shocked, he jogs off, down Amsterdam. Someone tries to sell me a carriage ride through the Park. Do I look like a fucking tourist? Was expecting a more sophisticated critique: “Épater la bourgeoisie has already been done.” D. came home to find his bags packed. “The supreme vice is shallowness. Whatever is realized is right.”

J. and I, both coincidentally checking out books at the library. Played dumb at his insinuations. But my dick—remembering our Brokeback Mountain reenactment in the Catskills that summer—spasms whenever I see him. Even with all my powers of abstraction…

Even with all interpretive faculties brought to bear, Ginsberg, despite celebrating abjection, would not fit easily, if at all, into that paradigm, by now well-worn, of the gay martyr. Of course Lorca and Wilde. And Warhol, back from the dead. And even Auden, who—the “more loving one,” indeed!—was cuckolded and blue-balled for decades; until he had come—no pun, whatsoever, intended—by the time of his lonely death in Vienna, in countenance grotesquely wrinkled, to resemble an old, ultimately unhappy, wasted scrotum. “Saint” Foucault, too, has been canonized in Halperin’s hagiography. And, speaking of which, I would I could not speak the name of what, besides killing so many, muted (almost) the otherwise motormouthed Ginsberg; who, in response to the catastrophe, could think only, as ever, of his own sphincter. He wrote of his nether eye: “Now AIDS makes it shy.”

Whoever heard of Ginsberg being shy?