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« Today's Headlines | Main | who cooks for you? [by Amy Lemmon] »

September 09, 2008


Fascinating. The concept -- "radical psychological nihilism" to the effect of the elimination of the self as a coherent and stable entity -- makes sense of what would otherwise be inexplicable, like the parts in "Chronicles I" where Dylan says he wanted to be a Little League Papa or when he salutes Archibald MacLeish in reverent tones (and if I'm not mistaken he refers to Ginsberg rarely if at all). I don't think these decisions are just "political with a small "p," or the result of "image management." And to say it is a put-on is to re-state the question: why the incessant shifting and trying on of new positions?

Two other things occur to me:
(1) Lionel Trilling's idea that it is possible to be "authentic" and
insincere" at the same time, and
(2) The fluctuations of the "I" or the self in John Ashbery's poetry.

Thanks, David. What's great about posting is the chance to experiment with ideas and read the reactions.

Although I make no pretense at all of having an even basic understanding of Buddhism, I am familiar with the idea of "anatta," which is often translated as "no-self." At first, I thought Ginsberg meant that, but I think anatta's connotation is more of a renunciation of the self. As I say, though, that's beyond my knowledge.

Trilling, of course, was Ginsberg's teacher and mentor of sorts at Columbia and that connection is intriguing.

I have to go back to John Ashbery's poetry to explore that connection as well.

Thanks for the leads.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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