Ginsberg, Allen.”Kaddish.” Kaddish and Other Poems; 1958-1960 San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2001. 7.
This took me forever to read. I think part of the reason was I wanted to find the absolute right moment to read it. I know that sounds odd, but consider this: “Kaddish” is said to be autobiographical. That, in and of itself, is extremely interesting to me because of how interesting and controversial Ginsberg was and still is to this day. Secondly, “Kaddish” is about mourning the passing of Ginsberg’s mother, Naomi Ginsberg. She was schizophrenic and Natalie Merchant’s line “praise a crazy mother’s son” (King of May, Ophelia – 2006) only eludes to Naomi’s troubled mind. Thirdly, there is the religious aspect of Kaddish to consider, and finally, the poem “Kaddish” is said to be Ginsberg’s finest work. Having said all that it should be obvious why I wanted to devote my complete and undivided attention to reading it.
At first read “Kaddish” seems to be all over the place with only two central themes running through it: the death of Naomi Ginsberg and the strain her mental illness put on Ginsberg as a child. After the second reading I began to see how much of an influence art and history also had on the author. He is haunted by his mother’s fears of Hitler and the inability to escape the past. Her history is his history. By the third reading I was so moved by the descriptions Naomi’s “treatments” that I couldn’t read any more.
One of these days I will research “Kaddish” to the fullest. I will find out why Naomi was afraid of Louis. I will discover the answer to the riddle of the Key in the window. Someday I will know what phrases like “Grand Canyons of asshole” and ” Lung Stew, & Stenka Razin” mean. Someday soon.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “The Beats and Their Generation” (p 17). PS ~ I should note this was not indexed in More Book Lust but since it was mentioned in the chapter I wanted to include it.