HOWLING FOR BLOOD
SUBJECT CODE: 44776
SUBJECT NAME: Ginsberg, Allen
INTERVIEW MEDIUM: AUDIO TAPE
INTERVIEWER: DR. RUBY ZIMM
TRANSCRIBED: MR. JOHN SMITH
NOTE: A. GINSBERG RECOUNTING THE FORMATION OF THE POEM “HOWL”
… and they sat close to the performance. The fug barely touched their backs as it clawed at them from the bowels of the club.
‘So why are we here again?’ The girl spoke, her accent strange and unfamiliar.
The man raised a bent finger to his lips.
‘Ugh, every time.’
‘Do you not know what this means,’ he repeated the gesture. Then, with the same finger, he pointed to the chair.
I had taken the stage; I glanced at her, and then stubbed out my cigarette against my shoe. Clicking from the crowd erupted and I raised a hand to shush them. I opened my beaten note book. There it was, that nugget, plucked from my brain last night and drawing a deep breath I read:
‘If not mine; despot Moloch,
Feed on in shadow.
Ne’er must they leave?
Always they remain.’
‘Was that it? Not very impressive, I’ve seen better poetry scribbled in the toilets.’
‘No, this is wrong.’ The man bolted from his chair; a loud scrape interrupted the gracious clicking. ‘There is supposed to be more. This is the time.’
‘Do you want –‘
‘No, go back. I’ll be ready to leave in a minute.’
She shrugged and left. I watched her leave through a side door in the back that I could have sworn was a not there last week. Then the man approached me like a starving man devouring a long forgotten meal. For a moment I thought he was going to knock me down, but he placed his arm around me. Now I’m not one for the older gents but somehow it felt … comforting.
‘So what was that? Howl is supposed to be riotous. The unnerving drive of a man pushed to his limits at the frustration of human existence. Where was all the anger, the persecution? I mean no offence but what you read was garbage.’
‘Excuse me? I must disagree.’ I pushed him off. ‘Do you hear that? The crowd was pleased.’
‘All I hear is your friends being polite. It must be nice to win over those who already like you. Don’t you want to do something more?’ He snapped his fingers in the air, ‘I’ve got it! Here come with me.’
He led me to the back of the club; to the same beaten old doors that the young girl had disappeared through and, although the fug was indeed weighty, I could have sworn they were painted blue.
[TAPE DEGRADATION APPROX: FIFTEEN MINUTES]
… not like I didn’t know. It was unusually warm outside, sticky and humid. ‘Where are we?’ I asked.
‘Bon Temps, Louisiana. You, sir, need some inspiration. Look I don’t really want to get into it here; we just don’t have the time. It’ll all go a lot smoother if you just nod and accept it.’
I nodded; he seemed to emanate blind acceptance of the situation.
‘See that’s the spirit!’ he turned his head. ‘See, I told you he would understand.’
‘Just get on with it,’ the girl called back.
‘Now where was … ah yes, your poem, Howl. It is integral to the time, but in fact I think we could find something with more passion floating around the insides of a dog’s lower colon. So I brought you here. Look,’ he pointed. ‘Over there, is Merlotte’s Bar and Grill. Go inside and ask for Sookie Stackhouse.’
[TAPE DEGRADATION: APPROX EIGHT MINUTES]
… at this point she paused, like her brain had seized. I wondered if something was wrong with her.
‘Hey, you keep those thoughts to yourself,’ Sookie blurted and stormed off.
Intrigued, I followed her back to the bar. ‘I’m sorry miss, I…
‘Sookie is this man botherin you?’ The stocky black girl behind the grill pointed a spatula in my direction. ‘Maybe I could take him home and teach him some manners.’
‘No that’s alright Lafayette.’ Sookie removed her apron and tossed it over the bar, ‘Sam! I need a breather.’ She didn’t wait for a response and left, just before the door closed, she said, ‘are you comin’ or what?’
I was told to talk to her, so I followed. The doors opened onto the side of the building next to the bins. The stench was near unbearable. Sookie waited for me in the moonlight shade of a willow. She waved me over.
‘I’m sorry about before Mister Ginsberg.’
‘Y – you know who I am?’
‘Why yes silly, we all studied your work in high school. But I can’t believe you’re here! When were you bit?’
‘Oh c’mon there’s no way you’re not, you know one of them…’
‘Now it’s my turn to be offended. One of them? Really, in sixty years the attitude is still the same. I had high hopes.’
‘But it’s all fine now, being out of the coffin an’ all.’
‘Yeah, you know the “v” word.’
I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.
‘You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?’ She put her hands on her hips and huffed out. ‘You are a vampire, right?’
I laughed, so hard one of my ribs nearly broke. ‘A vampire,’ I wiped my face, ‘that is the funniest thing I have heard in a long time. I suppose I have been spending a bit too much time inside recently.’
Suddenly a pickup drove past and a man leaned out of the window. ‘Go back in the ground, fuckin’ fanger!’ He tossed a bottle out and it smashed against the car beside me.
‘What did he say?’ I asked truly perplexed.
‘Some people think vamps should go back to where they came from, and Horton there, is not shy about voicing his ignorant opinions.’
‘So vampire is slang for gays?’
‘No, silly, gays are gay and vampires are vampires, although some are gay, and some switch every hundred years or so. Bill once told me he met an old black female gay vampire, and she said she had gone from being the most persecuted to one of the most welcomed inside the vampire community. Not now, though; hell, she’s back to getting barred from clubs just because she’s a vampire. An’ Bill said she would be one of the nicest vamps you would ever meet. Why, she’d much rather cook up a steak and chips than bite you.’
‘I think I’m getting it now, you mean actual vampires, like in Dracula.’
‘Sort of, although I’ve met Drac and he wasn’t all that bad; shocking breath, but he was nice enough.’
‘I thought the world would be more progressive than this. Gay people are accepted –‘
‘You mean tolerated. Just go and ask Lafayette. I mean I don’t have any problems but for a lot of people they still hold the same prejudices. But then I have you to thank for that, your poetry spoke to so many people.’
‘So I’m not forgotten?’
‘Oh-my-god, no, some people see your work as pivotal for bringing the front of human rights and free speech. It paved the way that showed me need to be thinking more about the future and that we need to include all parts of the population, not just those that sit within the majority. It’s a part of the reason that I’m so interested in the vampire movement. If some, such as Horton, would just see the advantages that vampires could bring to society then, well, I think the better off we all would be. Sure in the past we may have been snack food for them, but if we let them I’m sure they’d apologise.’
‘My work is pivotal?’
‘Absolutely, my old teacher, Mr. Eden, said your work deserved to be canonized, whatever that meant. Why just last week he was in here and he told me that if Allen had been here he’d have some choice words to say, and now you are!’
‘Really? I mean I always thought of the canon as being exclusive of people such as myself, but then – ‘
‘Hello there. Allen, are you finished, all nice and inspired now? It’s just, you know, tick-tock.’
Sookie jumped when the man appeared from behind the shrubbery.
‘I’m sorry my dear, I’m a friend of Allen’s, and we really need to go now.’
‘Oh I see. Well, you boys have fun; I have to get back, anyways.’
We walked together back through the woodland.
‘How was it? Feeling better? Ready to write some truly awe inspiring stuff?’
‘I think I am.’
‘Well that’s just great.
‘Just one thing though, the box –‘
‘Yeah, I know it’s bigger on the inside.’
Exegesis: ‘Howling for Blood’
This exegesis has been written to explain the creative decisions and ideas of ‘Howling for Blood’ (Williams 2014). ‘Howling for Blood’ is a work of fiction that includes characters, Sookie Stackhouse and Lafayette Reynolds, created by Charlaine Harris. The character Allen Ginsberg is a fictionalized version of Allen Ginsberg.
‘Howling for Blood’ has been written as a text transcribed from audio tape. The format demonstrated suggests that Ginsberg was being treated for some form of mental illness. This is a reference to Allen’s mother, ‘whose mental health was a concern throughout the poet’s childhood’ (Academy of American Poets n.d.). Starting the story mid-sentence was used to get a feel for the format, and to draw the reader into to the action immediately. In the first scene Ginsberg, is reading a nonsense version of the poem Howl. This is to give the story purpose, in that he needs to be shown how his poem affects the world. Ginsberg is transported to the future to meet Sookie Stackhouse, who has very definitive views on the treatment of minorities.
Sookie Stackhouse exists as a muse for Ginsberg. She shares her passion for the treatment of vampires with Ginsberg. As the, ‘vampires in True Blood [Charlaine Harris’s adapted work] are often “coded” as gays’ (Mamatas 2009, p. 67) this in turn is very relatable to the situation that Ginsberg is living with, such as, the laws against homosexuality in America (Feinberg 2005). The line, ‘So vampire is slang for gays?’ (Williams 2014) is to assist the reader to make the connection. In response to this, Sookie offers the analogy, in that vampire shouldn’t be treated differently just because they are vampires. This directly relates to the messages that Allen Ginsberg was demonstrating with his poem, in that people should not be victimised for living differently to the perceived normal ideology. After Sookie’s analogy Ginsberg remarks, ‘I thought the world would be more progressive than this’ (Williams 2014), here Ginsberg starts to think the he needs to do or say something. In the next section Sookie states, ‘we need to be thinking more about the future’, (Williams 2014), this is a reference to the existing poem Howl who, as Stephenson (2009, p. 55) states, ‘has shown the effects of a society without vision’. In the final section where Ginsberg remarks, ‘My work is pivotal?’ (Williams 2014) enters a brief discussion about Howl’s relevance to the Western Canon. Sookie’s understanding of the canon is limited, so a created character in ‘Mr. Eden’ (Williams 2014) is used to give weight to the discussion and convince Ginsberg that his work is indeed important. Ginsberg talks about the limitations of the Western Canon with, ‘I always thought of the canon as being exclusive for people such as myself’ (Williams 2014), this relates to the formation of the canon and how it is an almost exclusive club for certain individuals, with Ginsberg being an outspoken homosexual, living in a time where homophobia was unusually prevalent (Feinberg 2005).
This exegesis has discussed reasons behind the creative decisions of ‘Howling for Blood’. Simply, Ginsberg needed inspiration to write Howl and this was provided by the fictional character, Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie and Ginsberg are advocates for the rights of the minority, be it homosexuals, or vampires.
Academy of American Poets n.d., Allen Ginsberg, Academy of American Poets, retrieved 4 October 2014, <http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/allen-ginsberg>.
Feinberg, L 2005, 1950’s witch hunt: Even McCarthy was gay baited, Workers World, retrieved 4 October 2014, < http://www.workers.org/2005/us/lgbtseries-0310/>.
Mamatas, N 2010, ‘Working Class Heroes’ in L Wilson (ed.), A Taste of True Blood : The Fangbanger’s Guide, e-book, retrieved 4 October 2014, <http://deakin.eblib.com.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=544669>.
Stephenson, G 2009, Daybreak Boys: Essays on the Literature of the Beat Generation, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.
Williams, R 2014, ‘Howling for Blood’, unpublished.