“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” — Allen Ginsberg
Do you follow Ginsberg’s advice — in your writing and/or in your everyday life?
The quote “Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” actually comes from an interview in a book containing advice for young writers called, On Being a Writer. The author asked advice from 31 famous authors, including Allen Ginsburg, so the context is his advice on self-expression. “Follow the moonlight” didn’t appear in a poem. What did he mean by that? Perhaps it’s because we have our craziest or perhaps more paranoid thoughts at night — when you look outside your window at night, it’s as if something may be hidden out there that during the daytime you wouldn’t consider.
“Don’t hide the madness…” says Ginsburg, and by golly he didn’t. I had to learn more about him and this poem before writing about it. “Howl” is credited with instigating the “beat” movement after it’s first reading in 1955 (published by another beat poet Ferlinghetti). Of the reading it is said:
At the end of the reading, listeners said, “it left us standing in wonder, or cheering and wondering, but knowing at the deepest level that a barrier had been broken, that a human voice and body had been hurled against the harsh wall of America…”
In the poem Ginsberg refers to perhaps every type of people who live on the edge of society. He felt they were underrepresented outcasts in what the poet believed to be an oppressively conformist and materialistic era as “the best minds of my generation.”
In other words, I guess he means minds wild, undisciplined, perhaps brilliant, often addled with drugs and alcohol, and living on the edge of reality (some like him intermittently institutionalized).
“It was an anguished protest, literally a howl, against the era’s soul-crushing conformism and a hymn to the holiness of everything about the human body and mind,” said one critic. With other poets in his circle, he believed, “We could not contain the urge to speak out about what was oppressing us, including the stifling conformity and fear that came out of the Cold War.”
Okay. With that background and not just the prompt question about whether or not I would howl in my writing and my life — yes, and in its own way I would. It would also be against oppression and “the stifling conformity and fear” we are experiencing in our society in the present. I would do it more coherently, because quite honestly, if I hadn’t had commentary on Ginsburg’s poem, I’m not sure I would have understood it.
This PC society we’re living in constricts freedom of speech and expression. Having to constantly monitor one’s own thoughts and speech is daunting and stifling. It’s also often unconstitutional. Laws are submerging us with various agencies vying for control. Schools are prevented in teaching what is best for their students. History is being rewritten rather than letting the truth be told with all its warts and boils. We are being lied to by the government constantly, or having the truth manipulated to serve the aims of the speaker or a particular political point of view.
A quote from Ginsburg which parallels some of my thoughts is: “Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture.”