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The Use Of Vulgarity in the Works of Allen Ginsberg

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The Use Of Vulgarity in the Works of Allen Ginsberg

The beat poets were the voice of a generation. Unadulterated honesty and truth is a primary objective of the beat poets, and to them this honesty and truth is best achieved with a raw, oftentimes vulgar language that can make some readers uncomfortable. In this excerpt from his book, Allen Ginsberg, Thomas Merrill comments on the truth exhibited by the poet:

...such a commitment to internal truth not only permits but demands the uninhibited confessions that tend to make conventional readers squirm. Many beat writers, especially Ginsberg, flaunt their most intimate acts and feelings...in an aggressive street language (2).

In Ginsberg's collection of poems, Reality Sandwiches, 1953-1960 , "The reader gets a good taste of Ginsberg's mouth... which, as usual is uninhibitedly and often flamboyantly honest (Merrill 88). The unabashed honesty in this collection often concerns sex and drugs, those subjects being important for this generation of rebellion. In "The Green Automobile," a poem about a fantasy road-trip enjoyed by Ginsberg and Neal Cassady, his one time lover, Ginsberg presents images of a sexual nature. Two of the images follow:

I'd honk my horn at his manly gate,

inside his wife and three

children sprawl naked

on the living room floor.

(Ginsberg, Reality Sandwiches 11)

Neal, we'll be real heroes now

in a war between our cocks and time:

(15)

Even if some readers pay little attention to the allusions to homosexuality, one of the images, the one concerning Cassady's children, could make some readers uncomfortable. The imagery here is strong, it is this strength of imagery that ...

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...s "Howl" and "On Neal's Ashes" the vulgarities are used not merely for effect, but to truly convey the feeling he wishes to express. Although some are made to feel uncomfortable, the true nature of the poet is to convey feeling, and this is done in an extremely proficient manner.

Works Cited

Ginsberg, Allen. Reality Sandwiches 1953-1960. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1963.

- - - . "Howl". Contemporary American Poetry-5th Edition. Ed. A.Poulin Jr.. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991. 175-182.

- - - . "America". Contemporary American Poetry-5th Edition. Ed. A.Poulin Jr.. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991. 182-184.

- - - . "On Neal's Ashes". Contemporary American Poetry-5th Edition. Ed. A.Poulin Jr.. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991. 188.

Merrill, Thomas. Allen Ginsberg. Boston: Twayne, 1988.
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