Monday, October 4, 2010

you can't translate poetry into prose; that's why it is poetry.

It is my basic fear whenever I begin a book that I will not like it.
This fear is heightened when it's an important piece of literature, or one written by a well known writer. A number of things amount to this fear:
high expectations, my own desire to be moved by a piece of literature, and the fact that I've been let down before.
My second fear when reading a book is that the writer themself will give me reason to feel cynically about his or her writing.
There are authors whom I have loved, based solely on the fact that I was moved immensely by their writing, only to find that the authors themselves are not people it's likely I would think highly of were I to know them in real life.
In such cases as these, I have learned to separate the writing from the writer in my mind.
I read Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
this weekend in preparation to see the film Howl.
I set out to read Howl with the goal of having a very open mind. This is a piece by Ginsberg I had never read. Based on what I knew of the history of the poem and all the controversy that surrounded it, I was not sure how I would feel about it personally. I thought that maybe this time I'd have to separate the writer from the writing.
Much to my joy, I loved reading Howl, and all the 'other poems' that followed. Ginsberg was a heartfelt and imaginative writer, a man who literally painted pictures with words. He wrote of sunflowers in the way that van Gogh painted them. He saw things for what they truly were and beyond. I love how he spoke of love.
(Ginsberg with his life partner Peter)
After falling in love with the writing, I didn't get to do as much research on Ginsberg himself as I'd wanted to before seeing the movie. I think that subconsciously I was a little nervous to do so. I fell in love with the writing; would I feel the same way about the writer?
The film Howl is such a beautiful portrait of Ginsberg, and seeing it made me love him as a person even more than I could love him as a writer. He was a man who did not take himself too seriously, as so many writers do, and who wrote strictly because he loved it, and because it served him as a means of expressing his feelings. I saw no trace of artistic arrogance in him (something that bothers me so much in the creative world) as he was portrayed in the film. The ending, a brief summary of his life with real photos and video, was the deciding factor in all this for me.
And I love him. I'm so glad I read the book before the film, I'm so glad I saw the film, and, most of all, I'm so grateful to Ginsberg for giving me a writer and man whom I can appreciate in his entirety (simply because as both writer and man, he was kind, genuine, and loving).
So, I highly recommend both book and film. :)
I hope you all had a beautiful Monday!


Fritzi Marie said...

Love this.

Dan and I can't wait to see the movie.

love love love,

Andi B. Goode said...

I don't think I ever got all the way through Howl, yet (oops!) but I want to. I am dying to see the film but don't know when it will be released here. =\ So glad you enjoyed it, though!
-Andi x

madeleine said...

"He saw things for what they truly were and beyond" This. This! Your writing is pretty much perfect here. I studied Howl this term and loved it because it is everything I could want in a poem and a little bit more. If you have time, Ginsberg made hundreds of recordings of him reading the poem, and you get to hear Howl by the Howler, which is just. so. wonderful. It's like you can feel this moment when America is changing.
have a wonderful week =)

Amanda Atkins said...

Kat and Andi, the movie is great and I know you'll love it. I hope it comes to you in Adelaide soon, Andi!

Madeleineee! I blog-missed you! haha. I don't think your blog shows up in my feed anymore for some reason! I will start checking your blog intentionally again! Yes, Howl is so wonderful! I knew that it was something you probably had read and loved. I hope you get to see the film, too! I will look into the recordings, that sounds wonderful.