Friday, June 3, 2016

Pride Month Profiles: Allen Ginsberg

Today is the birthday of the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. From Signature, Nathan Gelgud shows us Ginsberg going shopping with Walt Whitman:
Whenever I think of Whitman — the king of American poetry, the self-publisher, the war-time nurse, and the singer of songs of himself — I think of an English professor I had as a freshman at a Quaker school in North Carolina. He gave assignments that felt like riddles to my seventeen-year-old mind, things about Buddhists climbing mountains and writing by looking at trees. One day, in his dim office, while he sat in front of a large tattered American flag, he started telling me about the importance of Whitman. He talked about Leaves of Grass, and put so much importance on which version of the book I should read that I thought the actual title was Leaves of Grass Eighteen Fifty-Five. I was struggling in his class, and he gave me a copy of the book because he thought it would help. 
I continued to struggle in that class, and was only saved by the school’s policy of having students grade themselves. I only lasted one semester there. I heard later that the professor was arrested for having gone across the street and chucked corn dogs from the corner gas station at passing cars. I still count that semester as one of the great lost opportunities of my life — I could have learned a lot from that guy.

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