Abstract

This article explores ways in which the poems Allen Ginsberg wrote against the Vietnam War entailed resisting what he viewed to be effects of “coldwar subjectivity” – in particular, the automation of thinking and feeling. Many of these poems are what Ginsberg called “auto poems”: lyrical flights of autobiography dictated while traveling in automated transport. I argue that in an auto poem like “Wichita Vortex Sutra,” Ginsberg develops a poetic “potentialism” whereby lyric language is made a vehicle for new possibilities and powers of individual feeling and dissent. Combating the anaesthetizing effects of war propaganda and statistics, Ginsberg’s potentialism is also aimed at short-circuiting the mass media’s role in mechanizing language. I go on to discuss how Ginsberg develops his antiwar poetics in relation to three counterculture events: the march on the Pentagon in October 1967; the demonstrations at the August 1968 Democrats’ Convention; and the demonstrations at the August 1972 Republicans’ Convention.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1751-7435
Print ISSN
1743-2197
Pages
pp. 351-373
Launched on MUSE
2016-07-06
Open Access
No
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