By Graciela Limon
With Introduction by William Carlos Williams
U.S.: Totem Press in association with Corinth Books 1961
47 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
January 2011

The poems selected for this little volume are from a period when Allen Ginsberg was not a well-know poet. He was, however, significantly influenced by William Carlos Williams, so I would assume that many of the poems chosen would be ones that Williams, himself, approved, as he writes glowingly of Ginsberg in the introduction.

Ginsberg didn’t really become well-know until the publication of “Howl” in 1956. When the poems in this volume were published Ginsberg would have been been about 20 to 22 years old. Most of the poems seem to be from about 1947-49 period.

I didn’t find any of the poems to be gripping in the way Howl was, nor as insightful, but the anger is there in some, and certainly the idealization of a life outside gentle society.

Some of the poems seem like exercises in simply capturing a tiny slice of life. Others are more metaphorical and/or philosophical. A few are even autobiographical. One poem seemed to be all three at once. A Meaningless Institution is a slice of life, metaphorically autobiographical and philosophical all in one poem.


I was given my bedding, and a bunk
in an enormous ward.
surrounded by hundreds of weeping,
decaying men and women.
I sat on my bunk, three tiers up
next to the ceiling,
looking down the grey aisles.
Old, crippled, dumb people were
bent over sewing. A heavy girl
in a dirty dress
stared at me. I waited
for an official guide to come
and give me instructions.
After awhile, I wandered
off down empty corridors
in search of a toilet.

Dream 1948

I wouldn’t think of this a especially memorable poetry, nor were there too many of the sorts of “ah, oh my . . .” sort of experiences I have when reading my favorite poetry. Nonetheless, there were moments of insight and enlightenment for me, and I was happy I spent a few days with this small volume.

Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu


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Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu