A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Not With A Bang But A Whimper

Dylan and Ginsberg. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

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 war . . .  

ALLEN GINSBERG First lines of Howl

Hell, they don't write apocalyptic poems like that any more! I'm not generally a nostalgic person — I prefer the raw tangibility of the present to the illusory past — but sometimes I catch myself thinking nostalgically about the Beat Generation of the 1950s, about Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Philip Whalen and Kenneth Rexroth and Jack Kerouac.

I have a feeling the best minds of our present generation are more interested in celebrity, self-promotion and social media than 'starving hysterical naked' or 'hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy' — but which is better, I'll leave it for you to judge.  

I saw the best minds of my generation
Vanish from dreaming spires and reappear
On I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

I saw the best minds of my generation
Abandon academe and join a party
With pop stars, porn stars and the glitterati.



Nick said...

Possibly not the best minds, Robert, but certainly the ones who make most noise in public. And what an awful noise it is. Give me the beats any day, in spite of their own raucous posturing; at least there was often something of value behind it.

The Solitary Walker said...

Agree with you completely, Nick.

Anonymous said...

You've got me thinking, who are the best minds of our generation? There must be a few who slip through the net of media-fueled celebrity.

I have a vision of Will Self, bless him, in the Big Brother house (that dates my engagement or lack of it with reality TV). I can't get it out of my head.