"Aqui Que Paso Power is what’s happening"

this week’s writing assignment is pretty straight forward: a respone poem to allan ginsberg’s “howl

confession: this past monday was the first time i have ever read “howl” even though i read the opening section years ago at another writing workshop, i never had the desire to read the complete poem. though i wish i had read it sooner i am also glad to be reading it now where i can compare it a lot better to some other work. the specific comparison that comes to mind is pedro pietri’s “puerto rican obituary

though it uses shorter lines. pietri’s work also examines the (so called) lives of those dearest to him, his puerto rican people, and raises their (anglo viewed) ghetto lives as the stuff of true poetic mythology. he also employs a similair shift in the poem that strays to the “prayer form” evoking both the super natural and a mnemonic refrain. all this to say that i may actually base my poem more on el reverendo’s work than on ginsberg’s model.

while researching pedro today, i also came across some work from his nuyorican compadre– mikey piñero. if the nuyorican movement had a legitimate historian, i would love to ask them which came first “obituary” or the junkie christ’s “seekin’ the cause” cuz the similarities seem obvious to me.

i guess i should also note whitman’s “leaves of grass” except for one thing. i havent read it yet. and thats confession #2.

Seekin’ The Cause

he was Dead
he never Lived
died
died
he died seekin’ a Cause
seekin’ the Cause
because
he said
he never saw the cause
but he heard
the cause
heard the cryin’ of hungry ghetto children
heard the warnin’ from Malcolm
heard the tractors pave new routes to new prisons
died seekin’ the Cause
seekin’ a Cause
he was dead on arrival
he never really Lived
uptown . . . downtown . . . crosstown
body was round all over town
seekin’ the Cause
thinkin’ the Cause was 75 dollars & gator shoes
thinkin’ the Cause was sellin’ the white lady to black
children
thinkin’ the cause is to be found in gypsy rose or j. b.
or dealin’ wacky weed
and singin’ du-wops in the park after some chi-chiba
he died seekin’ the Cause
died seekin’ a Cause
and the Cause was dyin’ seekin’ him
and the Cause was dyin’ seekin’ him
and the Cause was dyin’ seekin’ him
he wanted a color t. v.
wanted a silk on silk suit
he wanted the Cause to come up like the mets & take the
world series
he wanted . . . he wanted . . . he wanted . . . he wanted
to want more wants
but
he never gave
he never gave
he never gave his love to children
he never gave his heart to old people
&
never did he ever give his soul to his people
he never gave his soul to his people
because he was busy seekin’ a cause
busy
busy perfectin’ his voice to harmonize the national anthem
with spiro t agnew
busy perfectin’ his jive talk so that his flunkiness
wouldn’t show
busy perfectin’ his viva-la-policia speech
downtown . . . uptown . . . midtown . . . crosstown
his body was found all over town
seekin’ a Cause
seekin’ the Cause
found
in the potter fields of an o. d.
found
in the bowery with the d. d. t.’s
his legs were left in viet-nam
his arms were found in sing-sing
his scalp was on Nixon’s belt
his blood painted the streets of the ghetto
his eyes were still lookin’ for jesus to come down
on some cloud & make everything ok
when jesus died in attica
his brains plastered all around the frames of the pentagon
his voice still yellin’ stars & stripes 4 ever
riddled with the police bullets his taxes bought
he died seekin’ a Cause
seekin’ the Cause
while the Cause was dyin’ seekin’ him
he died yesterday
he’s dyin’ today
he’s dead tomorrow
died seekin’ a Cause
died seekin’ the Cause
& the Cause was in front of him
& the Cause was in his skin
& the Cause was in his speech
& the Cause was in his blood
but
he died seekin’ the Cause
he died seekin’ a Cause
he died
deaf
dumb
&
blind
he died
& never found his Cause
because
you see he never never
knew that he was the
Cause.

© Miguel Piñero

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2 Comments

  1. I think “Howl” gets a lot of shine for one reason: the intro by William Carlos Williams. Read in context with Williams’ admonition to be prepared to dive into the depths of a tortured soul, the reader tends to extend some measure of empathy to the poet, and to give him kudos for having the daring to look inside himself for the scary shit. I know that’s what *I* thought.

    Upon reading more of Allen’s work, and upon hearing some of the anecdotes from people who worked with him, I’m thinking that Howl is simply Example One of where he bends too often into self-indulgence: “Hey lookit me, I got pain and it speaks to the American condition!” Eh, kinda, but by the time he gets to Carl Solomon, we’ve waded through so much verbosity, we forget what we came into the kitchen for. By contrast, Pedro’s imagery was simple enough to highlight exactly what he wanted us to see: the everyday struggles of Puerto Ricans. He also takes occasional flights of fancy, but never enough to distract us from the final analysis.

    i.e. Ginsburg was trippin’, son. Belee dat.

    Live from Bed-Stuy,
    Rich.

  2. Empathy? Hmm. Maybe sympathy…

    fegpd: A general feeling of grogginess upon hearing that one of your early influences was a member of NAMBLA.

    “I remember the malaise and fegpd that I felt once I heard that Allen got down with lil’ boys.”

    “Word?”

    “Word.”

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