“My Mind Is Made Up There’s Going to Be Trouble:” Poetry Friday

Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?

I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.

I read it every week.

Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.

I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.

It’s always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie

producers are serious. Everybody’s serious but me.

It occurs to me that I am America.

I am talking to myself again.

-from “America” by Allen Ginsberg (read the rest of the poem here, listen to Ginsburg read it here)

When I was an undergrad, a bunch of us English majors at SUNY Brockport piled in the car to drive to UB to see Allan Ginsberg read. It was a couple years before he died, and I was very young, perhaps 21 or 22. Ginsberg’s years were showing then, as well as the life he led. You could see the intellect that wrote “America” and “Howl,” but only in flashes. It was disturbing, but he was also sweet and seemed happy.

I don’t think the Ginsberg that wrote “America” would be happy now.

Ginsberg and “America” have been on my mind lately as the upcoming presidential race has more people disturbing my willful ignorance by talking about politics. I don’t mind it, particularly, although it gets me riled up sometimes. Like Ginsberg in this poem (and, I think, life), I want to like everything, but I get moody and impatient and frustrated and tired. I’m not a huge Ginsberg fan. I tend to like poems that are more compact and more crafted, but when he’s at his best, as he is here, his self-aware stream-of-consciousness speaks to me. “Why are your libraries full of tears?” indeed. (At WPL, it’s mostly because the kids hate to leave the Children’s Room, but that’s another story.)

[Looking for the roundup? Look no further than The Simple and the Ordinary.]


  1. Posted March 7, 2008 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    “disturbing my willful ignorance…” Hah! I feel ya on that. I’m in the UK!!! and I can’t escape the presidential thingy which seems like it’s already gone on for eighteen years! Gaaah!

    I don’t usually care for Ginsburg, either, but I like this one.

  2. Posted March 7, 2008 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    You’re right — Ginsberg does have his flashes of brilliance, but it’s difficult to read his stuff in its entirety. You’ve picked out some very relevant and telling lines today, to remind us that we still haven’t learned. Thanks!

  3. Posted March 7, 2008 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    You know what this reminds me of? I turned on a morning talk show / “news” show / whatever they’re called this morning. We’re supposed to get *actual* snow — as in, enough to make an *actual* snowman — and I wanted to see the weather (usually, I live in “willful ignorance” of the weather). I was reminded of why I stopped watching those shows yeeeears ago — they’re embarrassing. Dramatic. Ridiculous. The stories they choose to talk about. Is this what most of America cares about?

    That’s what this poem (“pome” if you’re my four-year-old; “ponum,” if you’re Ada) reminds me of.

  4. Posted March 7, 2008 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Ah, so sweet that the tears there come from children who are sad to leave! Kudos to you for causing that drama.

  5. Posted March 8, 2008 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    His poems are like reality TV without any editing whatsoever. Which you would think would be a bad thing. But I hate the way reality TV (and other TV, like those morning talk shows,) manipulates events to create drama at the expense of truth. So maybe his rawness is good. What we need to read sometimes.

  6. adrienne
    Posted March 9, 2008 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Sara, I love that analogy. I think it’s right, and I agree, too, Jama, that Ginsburg is easier to take in excerpts.

    TadMack, Many of us are horrified by this presidential race, but we try to remain hopeful, too. It’s unfair that they subject anyone outside the country to it.

    Jules, I find it easier to avoid any actual news when I check the weather online.

    Robin, I’d like to say it’s me they hate to leave, but what they really hate to leave are the blocks and the bridge.

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