Saturday, October 24, 2009

Allen Ginsberg's influence on Bob Dylan

Allen Ginsberg is by far one of the most interesting poets that I have ever read. He dared to rise up against the norm of society and write without borders. Ginsberg and a few other men were all members of the Beat Generation; a group of youth that began to experiment with drugs, sex, and new forms of art. Ginsberg is created with writing one of the defining poems of the so called Beat Generation; Howl. Howl takes a shot at the leaders of the generation he is writing in and calls for the youth of the next generation to rise up. Howl is also responsible for inspiring the 60’s movement and great artists like Bob Dylan and we see this influence in his work.
The first major way we see the Allen Ginsberg’s influence on Bob Dylan is in the language that both artists use. Ginsberg uses a very descriptive form of writing. He uses a sometimes very confusing language to describe his points. A good example of this would be the first very famous lines of Howl. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of the night” (Ginsberg, 1956). We see this language mirrored in many of Bob Dylan’s songs. A good example of this is in the song “All Along the Watchtower”. "’There must be some way out of here,’ said the joker to the thief, ‘There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief. Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth, none of them along the line know what any of it is worth’” (Dylan). This is a very good mirror image of the strange but very descriptive language that Allen Ginsberg uses.
Another way we see Allen Ginsberg’s influence on Bob Dylan is the message that both artists are attempting to get across. Ginsberg’s Howl is very politically minded poem. The poem deals with big political themes like Islam, racism, anti-Semitism, Christianity, communism, and many others (Ginsberg, 1956). Bob Dylan, in turn, also discusses many political and social issues that were going on at the time. A good example would be his song “the Times They Are A Changin’”. “Come mothers and fathers, throughout the land and don't criticize what you can't understand. Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command. Your old road is rapidly aging'. Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand for the times they are a-changin'” (Dylan, The Times They Are A Changin' Lyrics ). The song is basically a shot at the older generation who was getting in the way of the progress of the new generation of thinkers. Ginsberg’s influence on Dylan is really quite obvious through their messages.
In conclusion, Allen Ginsberg had an incredible influence on the artists that would drive the changes that would come in the 60’s and 70’s. Bob Dylan was also by far one of the major drivers of this movement. Ginsberg’s influenced helped Dylan shape his style that would not only change the way folk music was played, but would define a generation for eternity.
Works Cited
Dylan, B. (n.d.). All Along the Watchtower Lyrics. Retrieved October 2009, from Bob Dylan:
Dylan, B. (n.d.). The Times They Are A Changin' Lyrics . Retrieved October 2009, from Bob Dylan:
Ginsberg, A. (1956). Howl and other Poems. San Francisco: City Lights Books.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hurston’s Revision of the Slave Narrative

Zora Neale Hurston began her writing career at a time where the Slave Narrative was the ruling form of African-American literature. The Harlem Renaissance gave African-American artists a great opportunity to express their thoughts through art, music, and literature. Up until this point, the Slave Narrative was the biggest outlet for African-American writers. Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God sought to change the African-American writings from the Slave Narrative to a whole new way of storytelling. While There Eyes Were Watching God does have some aspects of the Slave Narrative in it, it is mostly very different.
The Slave Narrative had a few defining characteristics involved with them. The Slave Narrative normally involves a slave being abused by their white masters in some way. Normally, a child is born from some white man in power raping a black woman under his care. Hurston’s novel does have a few of these aspects in it. Janie’s origin is a good example of this. "Den they’d tell me not to be takin’ on over ... mah looks ‘cause they mama told ‘em ‘bout de hound dawgs huntin’ mah papa all night long. ‘Bout Mr. Washburn and de sheriff puttin’ de bloodhounds on de trail tuh ketch mah papa for whut he done tuh mah mama. Dey didn’t tell about how he wuz seen tryin tuh git in touch wid mah mama later on so he could marry her. Naw, dey didn’t talk dat part of it at all. Dey made it sound real bad so as tuh crumple mah feathers” (Hurston, 2006). This quote talks about Janie’s father and mother. Janie’s father was a white man who rapes Janie’s mother and gets her pregnant. Janie’s mother is also the product of a white man taking advantage of a black woman. Janie has to overcome this and is reminded by everyone around her of her origins. This really is the theme of a Slave Narrative.
However, this quote also gives an example of how this book is not an example of a Slave Narrative. Janie’s father does not try to just up and leave after he makes her mother pregnant. Instead he tries to get in touch with her in order to marry her. The white man takes responsibility for what he has done and attempts to make what he did right. Another example of how Their Eyes Were Watching God is not really a Slave Narrative. Janie, the main character, never plays the victim in this story. She has her issues and is described by the town’s folk as being beaten down like the road (Hurston, 2006). However, she rises above these issues to become a great independent woman. “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. ... For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly (Hurston, 2006).”
It is amazing that Hurston was able to break the bonds that held African-American literature to a lone style with this one book. Although she was disliked for it by her African-American artist friends, Hurston strode on, just like Janie, in a bold attempt to break from the literature stereotypes of the Slave Narrative.

Works Cited
Hurston, Z. N. (2006). Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York, New York: HarperCollins.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Stein and Cubism

Gertrude Stein was among the elite writers of her time. She revolusionized the way people looked at poetry and writting in general. However, her ideas were not new ones. Stein was heavily influenced by the artists she surronded herself with; the so called "lost generation" of artists. Artists like Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, and Sherwood Anderson all played a role in shapeing this art movement. However it was one of Stein's close friends, Pablo Picasso, that had the most influence on her work. Stein was so in love with Picasso's Cubism works that she modled her works to be "Cubism in written form". This written Cubism, later known as Verbal Cubism, spilled over into many of Stein's works including her famous collection of poetry Tender Buttons.
One good example of Cubism in Stein's work would be the poem "Apple" in Tender Buttons. The Cubist idea of resembalence is all through this poem. Picasso and other Cubist artists used shapes and symbols to resemble objects without really showing what the object looked like. Stein also tried convay this idea in her writing. She said that she wanted to describe objects well enough to "not invent names, but mean names without naming them" (Books and Writers). Her poem "Apple" uses this idea to describe an apple. "Apple plum, carpet steak, seed clam, coloured wine, calm seen, cold cream, best shake, potato and no gold work with pet, a green seen is called bake and change sweet is bready, a little piece please" (Stein). This idea of resemblance is a direct reference to Cubism influenced by Picasso.
Another example in Tender Buttons of Cubism is her way of describing Cubism herself in the poem “A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass”. In this poem, Stein describes Verbal Cubism in detail. "All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading" (Stien). "All this and not ordinary" is the very essence of Cubism. The idea that an artist can take a normal object and turn it into somthing that is not ordinary is exactly what Picasso was trying to accomplish.
Picasso and his ideas of modern art were a great influence on Stein. It is obvious to see this in the language she uses. Her decriptions, repitition, and use of resemblance are all Cubist ideas that Picasso used in his art. Picasso must have had a heavy influence on Stien.