I've begun some background work for one of the fall sessions of the 3 Poems Discussion Group, this one on Allen Ginsberg. I have been reading all manner of poems, trying to see what would connect beyond the obvious, what might emphasize aspects of Allen's work sometimes overlooked, and it has been a real joy to immerse again in the work of one of the 20th century's great poets.
I ran across the poem Back on Times Square, Dreaming of Times Square and was immediately struck by its similarity in concept and title, to Bashō's poem, "Even in Kyoto ...," my favorite Bashō haiku, perhaps my fav haiku, period. It's not really something for my purpose with the discussion group, but I thought regular readers of this blog would appreciate it. First, let's start with Allen, then Bashō :
'Back on Times Square,
Dreaming of Times Square'
Let some sad trumpeter stand
on the empty streets at dawn
and blow a silver chorus to the
the buildings of Times Square
memorial of ten years, at 5 A.M., with
the thin white moon just
above the green & grooking McGraw
a cop walks by, but he's invisible
with his music
The Globe Hotel, Garver lay in
gray beds there and hunched his
back and cleaned his needles―
where I lay many nights on the nod
from his leftover bloody cottons
and dreamed of Blake's voice talking―
I was lonely,
hotel's vanished into a parking lot
And I'm back here―sitting on the streets
The movies took our language, the
great red signs
A DOUBLE BILL OF GASSERS
Teen Age Nightmare
Hooligans of the Moon
But we were never nightmare
hooligans but seekers of
the blond nose for Truth
Some old men are still alive, but
the old Junkies are gone―
We are a legend, invisible but
legendary, as prophesied
Even in Kyoto—
hearing the cuckoo's cry—
I long for Kyoto.
translated by Robert Hass
Of course, Ginsberg's lament, way back in July of 1958, was just a first salvo of the attack which was to come on that the historic section of mid-town Manhattan. The preeminent speculative fiction and Gay Studies scholar, Samuel Delany, documented the next phase and even that account was pre the Disney-fication which would hose the whole place down and drive everyone away.
The link here is memory and Bashō somehow managed to transcend nostalgia by firmly grounding his poem in the moment. Both poets are lamenting a previous life, but neither stoops to the maudlin or the overly sentimental. Ginsberg, too, stays in the moment and there can really be no doubt that he wasn't nodding, in his inimitable way, to the classic haiku master.
This week's feature poem comes from Lilliput Review, #161, in March 2008. Peggy Heinrich is one of the poets whose contributions over the years I value very much. Her wisdom, as in this little tanka, always brings a little light to a dark corner of mystery.
as a child
what kept the moon in the sky
now that I know
I am no happier
even when cloth-pounding stops
translated by David G. Lanoue
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