Howling at the Sun

Challenge was to write a Beat poem, and how appropriate, since this week we are studying the Beats on ModPo (Modern & Contemporary American Poetry via UPenn on with Professor Al Filreis and friends.

Something about Ginsberg‘s ashcans struck a chord, and this riff on Ginsberg was the result. Certainly not a long rant by any means, and I did a combination of found poem and original phrasing.

Howling at the Sun

The ashcans of America rise up and rant out of their dark alleys of broken glass,
beat and battered and brilliant through the stale beer of doom
floating out of the hydrogen afternoon in Brooklyn, lost conversation
on the windowsills threatening to jump screaming
and vomiting eyeballs disgorged from subways
endlessly ridden beneath neon blinking lights fueled by benzedrine
clattering past cemeteries where bodies locked in bone-grinding dance
of ashes wander at midnight in the cosmos of Idaho
amid visionaries in limousines of winter illumined by the streetlights
and washed in rural rain, spattered in jazz riffs, hopeless and incomprehensible in the light of morning
at the bottom of a river bloated with orange crates and gibberish, coughing out the skeletons drifting down towards New Jersey in the animal soup of alchemy in a metered timeless unknown, naked and bleached, the suns of a thousand Augusts.

Carol A. Stephen
October 15, 2013


Still hanging in with the ModPo course at the end of week six. This week we read and/or listened to work from The Beats. Allen Ginsberg (Howl Part 1), a series of Jack Kerouac writings , including Essentials of Spontaneous Prose and Belief & Technique for Modern Prose. We listened to Robert Creeley‘s I Know A Man (5 versions)

Robert Creeley by Elsa Dorfman. Portrait taken...

and to a discussion of it on Poem Talk.  Although we didn’t read Anne Waldman ‘s poem, Rogue State, we did watch it on YouTube. And we read Incident by Amiri Baraka.

English: Jack Kerouac by photographer Tom Palu...

It is always interesting to watch the discussion videos with Al Filreis and his TAs, as they talk about their own interpretations. Sometimes, people on the forums agree with them, other times there are new interpretations. With more than thirty thousand students, there are a lot of different readings!

Anne Waldman and Allen Ginsberg

There was some controversy (still!) over the writings and performances of the Beats: their use of language, their seemingly unconnected lines and phrases. There were still people offended by Howl. And those who found Kerouac’s spontaneous riffs really quite difficult.

There was also some outside controversy when Minnesota announced a ban on courses being offered to Minnesota students from out-of-state. But that seems to have been resolved in favour of the courses being allowed. Thank goodness!

Next week, tomorrow actually, we begin Week seven, a look at the New York School.  I see poems by Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Ted Berrigan, Kenneth Koch and Bernadette Mayer on the syllabus. And the third of four assignments.

This has been a fantastic experience, and we are told that we will have access to the course site for a year afterward, and there is a lot of interest in forming a ModPo Alumni. I wonder what I will do with so much time on my hands, though, when the ten weeks is up?

No-Comfort Zone Week ending October 7, 2012

Today marks the last day of week 4, ModPo. This course continues to be my main focus, and a challenge too. We have now handed in two assignments and studied quite a few Proto-Modern and Modern poets. We’ve looked at Imagists, including Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, eaten plums with William Carlos Williams

English: Passport photograph of American poet ...

and visited In a Station in the Metro with Ezra Pound. We’ve gone to A Supermarket in California with Allen Ginsberg. We’ve taken a look at Marcel Duchamp‘s inverted urinal,

Fountain from Marcel Duchamp

Fountain, and puzzled over his Nude Descending a Staircase.

At the next stop, we paused to read from Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein, pondering Water Raining and Malachite, The Long Dress.

Portrait of Gertrude Stein, with American flag...


We stopped awhile to hear her as she recited If I Told Him, then continued on to a mad barroom with the Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven. We even attempted creating our own Dadaist poem following Tristan Tzara‘s instruction, before pausing to rest on a sonnet by John Peale Bishop, A Recollection. Check that one out, looking for its hidden and impolite message!

By the way, here are some  Kelly Writers House folks, shown below. Looks like it was an interesting event!

English: Participants at a Kelly Writers House...

English: Participants at a Kelly Writers House event honoring Gertrude Stein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next week, we review this week’s assignments before moving along to Ruth Lechlitner and Genevieve Taggard. Then we visit Countee Cullen, Claude McKay and Robert Frost. And quickly along to Richard Wilbur and  X.J. Kennedy. All of these poets are new to me, except of course for Robert Frost. But I am not familiar with the poem we ‘ll study, Mending Wall.  All in all, a busy week coming up!

All photos courtesy Wikipedia where not otherwise stated.