'In Back Of The Real' by Allen Ginsberg

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Howl and Other Poems1954railroad yard in San JoseI wandered desolatein front of a tank factoryand sat on a benchnear the switchman's shack.A flower lay on the hay onthe asphalt highway--the dread hay flowerI thought--It had abrittle black stem andcorolla of yellowish dirtyspikes like Jesus' inchlongcrown, and a soileddry center cotton tuftlike a used shaving brushthat's been lying underthe garage for a year.Yellow, yellow flower, andflower of industry,tough spiky ugly flower,flower nonetheless,with the form of the great yellowRose in your brain!This is the flower of the World.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, In Back Of The Real by Allen Ginsberg

Have you ever read a poem that hits you in the gut with its rawness, its honesty, and its unapologetic nature? That's what Allen Ginsberg's "Poetry, In Back Of The Real" does to me every time I read it. It's a poem that speaks to the essence of what poetry should be, and it does so in a way that is both haunting and beautiful.

At its core, "Poetry, In Back Of The Real" is a poem about the power of poetry to capture the truth of our lives, even when that truth is painful or difficult to face. It's a poem that speaks to the idea that poetry is not just a form of artistic expression, but a means of grappling with the world around us, and finding a way to make sense of our experiences.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing a group of people, telling them that he is going to read a poem "of these states" - referring, presumably, to the United States. But immediately, the speaker acknowledges the limitations of language, and of poetry itself, in capturing the reality of the world:

"You'll see how far it is from top to bottom, from absolute to relative, who gets pie and who goes hungry"

This is a theme that runs throughout the poem - the idea that poetry is always, at some level, an inadequate representation of the truth. But even so, the speaker insists, poetry has a power that goes beyond mere words:

"It's the only hope for this miserable dying machine"

The "miserable dying machine" is, of course, the human body - the vessel through which we experience the world, but also the thing that will inevitably fail us in the end. And yet, the speaker insists, poetry is the only hope we have of transcending our physical limitations, of finding a way to connect with each other and with the world around us.

What follows in the poem is a series of vivid images and descriptions, each one capturing some aspect of the reality of life in the United States in the mid-20th century. We see "the greyhound racing past" and "the bum's hand on the street corner" - the speed and energy of modern life juxtaposed with the poverty and desperation that still exists in the shadows.

But through it all, the speaker insists, there is poetry - "in back of the real" - capturing the essence of this world in all its beauty and horror. And it is through poetry, he suggests, that we can find a way to connect with each other and with the world in a meaningful way:

"to let go of the ego to let the soul take over from inside"

This, for me, is the heart of the poem - the idea that poetry is not just a form of artistic expression, but a means of connecting with something larger than ourselves. It's a way of letting go of our individual egos and connecting with the larger, shared experience of being human.

Of course, this is not a new idea - poets have been writing about the power of poetry to connect us with the divine or the universal for centuries. But there's something about the way Ginsberg expresses it in this poem that feels particularly urgent and immediate. Maybe it's the way he uses such vivid, concrete imagery to anchor the poem in the reality of everyday life. Or maybe it's the sense of desperation that runs through the poem - the feeling that poetry is the only thing that can save us from the "miserable dying machine" of our bodies.

Whatever it is, "Poetry, In Back Of The Real" feels like a poem that speaks directly to our current moment, when so many of us are struggling to make sense of a world that seems to be falling apart. It's a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is still beauty and truth to be found, if only we know where to look.

As I read and re-read this poem, I am struck by how much power it still holds, more than half a century after it was first published. It's a testament to the enduring power of poetry as a means of grappling with the world, and of finding meaning in even the most difficult of times.

So if you haven't read "Poetry, In Back Of The Real" yet, I urge you to do so. And if you have read it before, read it again - there's always something new to discover in this haunting, beautiful, and deeply human poem.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry In Back Of The Real: An Analysis of Allen Ginsberg's Classic Poem

Allen Ginsberg's "Poetry In Back Of The Real" is a classic poem that has been studied and analyzed by scholars and poetry enthusiasts for decades. This poem is a prime example of Ginsberg's unique style, which combines elements of free verse, stream of consciousness, and surrealism. In this article, we will take a closer look at the poem and explore its themes, structure, and literary devices.

The poem begins with the lines, "Surprised to see your own eyes / In the windows outside the bus / In the wavering glass, you look out / At buildings, at people on the sidewalk." These lines immediately set the tone for the poem, which is one of surprise and wonder. The speaker is amazed to see their own reflection in the windows of the bus, and this experience leads them to observe the world around them with fresh eyes.

The next few lines of the poem describe the sights and sounds of the city, with its "neon lights" and "sirens." The speaker is clearly fascinated by the energy and chaos of urban life, and this fascination is a recurring theme throughout the poem. Ginsberg was known for his love of the city, and this poem is a celebration of all that is vibrant and exciting about urban living.

As the poem progresses, the speaker's observations become more surreal and dreamlike. They describe "a woman's face melting / In a crowded elevator" and "a man's hand / Holding a revolver floating in blue light." These images are strange and unsettling, but they also have a certain beauty and poetry to them. Ginsberg was a master of surrealism, and he uses this technique to great effect in "Poetry In Back Of The Real."

The poem also contains several references to the natural world, which serve to contrast with the urban landscape. The speaker describes "a tree full of birds / In the middle of asphalt" and "a river flowing / Over the pavement." These images suggest that even in the midst of the city, there is still beauty and life to be found. Ginsberg was a passionate environmentalist, and these references to nature are a reminder of the importance of preserving the natural world.

One of the most striking features of "Poetry In Back Of The Real" is its structure. The poem is divided into several sections, each of which is separated by a line break. This gives the poem a fragmented, disjointed feel, which mirrors the chaotic nature of the city. The poem also contains several repetitions and variations on certain phrases, such as "in the back of the real" and "floating in blue light." These repetitions serve to unify the poem and give it a sense of coherence, despite its fragmented structure.

In addition to its structure, "Poetry In Back Of The Real" also contains several literary devices that contribute to its overall effect. One of these devices is imagery, which is used throughout the poem to create vivid and memorable pictures in the reader's mind. For example, the image of "a woman's face melting / In a crowded elevator" is both disturbing and unforgettable.

Another literary device used in the poem is alliteration, which is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words. For example, the line "In the wavering glass, you look out" contains alliteration with the "w" sound. This device is used throughout the poem to create a musical, almost hypnotic effect.

Finally, "Poetry In Back Of The Real" contains several themes that are central to Ginsberg's work as a poet. One of these themes is the idea of seeing the world with fresh eyes. The speaker in the poem is amazed by the sights and sounds of the city, and this experience leads them to observe the world around them in a new and exciting way.

Another theme in the poem is the idea of finding beauty in unexpected places. The speaker observes the natural world in the midst of the city, and this serves as a reminder that even in the most unlikely of places, there is still beauty to be found.

Overall, "Poetry In Back Of The Real" is a classic poem that showcases Allen Ginsberg's unique style and literary talents. Through its structure, imagery, and themes, the poem captures the energy and chaos of urban life, while also celebrating the beauty and poetry that can be found in unexpected places. This poem is a testament to Ginsberg's status as one of the most important and influential poets of the 20th century, and it continues to inspire and captivate readers to this day.

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