Poems for the Nation: A Collection of Contemporary Political Poems


Throughout the last year and a half of his life, Allen Ginsberg phoned many of his poet friends to ask if they had any social verses opposing America's rightwing drift or otherwise speaking their current political minds. This volume presents the perceptive and visionary poems that Ginsberg collected (with selections based on his notes), and also includes writings from contributors to "Planet News," an historic tribute to Allen Ginsberg that was held at New York City's St. John ...

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Throughout the last year and a half of his life, Allen Ginsberg phoned many of his poet friends to ask if they had any social verses opposing America's rightwing drift or otherwise speaking their current political minds. This volume presents the perceptive and visionary poems that Ginsberg collected (with selections based on his notes), and also includes writings from contributors to "Planet News," an historic tribute to Allen Ginsberg that was held at New York City's St. John the Divine Cathedral in May 1998.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781583220122
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press
  • Publication date: 12/15/1999
  • Series: Open Media Pamphlet Series
  • Edition description: A SEVEN ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 80
  • Product dimensions: 4.31 (w) x 6.72 (h) x 0.26 (d)

Meet the Author

ALLEN GINSBERG (1926–1997) was the author of Howl, one of the most famous poems in American literature, and a major figure in the longstanding battle against censorship of the arts. A "founding member" of the Beat Generation along with Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, he spent many years as a poet, teacher, commentator, musician, practicing Buddhist, and American icon.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Follow Orders

Drag the rainbow into the interrogation room. Use thumbscrews on clouds if necessary. Arrest the wind for being shiftless. Take a lake to headquarters for loitering. Sentence aspens to 30 years hard labor for having leaves that quiver. Turn rainforests into deserts. Put deserts behind bars because poets see a world in a grain of sand. Accuse sanddunes of being drifters. Accuse snowdrifts of being drifters. Tell the birds to shut up and listen to your song. Cross-examine snowflakes till they break into tears. Accuse a leech of being a leech. Accuse a sponge of being a sponge. Accuse a yawn of being a yawn. Search milkweed-pods as suspicious characters. Hog-tie will-o-the-wisps, take them into custody. Tar-and-feather every inch of living soil that refuses to be covered with asphalt. Put Lake Michigan on the witness stand to testify against Lake Superior. Arraign the rain, indict the kite and prosecute the bandicoot. Charge lightning and thunder for practicing without a license. Charge the view from the skyscraper with making people look like ants. Warn autumn colors to stop rioting. Throw the rich odor of thawing earth in a dungeon. Frisk the shimmer of light on moonlit water. Search crotches of virgin timber for concealing drugs Straitjacket elephants for jacking off with their nose Make a bear paw the Bible to take oath. Ban the banana because it reminds you of something. Flog alpenglow with a rubber hose under a hundred-watt lightbulb. Slaughterhouse moonbeams. Summon the lemon, subpoena the peanut, impeach the peach, arraignthe terrain. Order the space between the stars and the space between molecules to change place. Order turtles to get license plates. Order sunflowers to pay their electric bills or the sun be disconnected. Order rats to join the rat race. Order orifice and artifice to be reversed. Order ripples of water, ripples of light, ripples of heat, ripples of shade to do your bidding. Order poems to close down and move to Mexico where they can get words to work for one-fifth what they're paid here. Millepedes must obey or be drawn-and-thousanded. Decapitate ecstatic tomfoolery. Give the finger to the wind for being fresh with you. Gesticulate before the bristlecone pine how you made more money than anyone. Brag to the Pleiades you played the stock market better than anyone. Tell your Death you're going to hold your breath till it grants your wish. Sentence leaf-shadows to the electric chair for seducing millions of youths. Torture the Ocean till it talks, and none of this surf-sound mumbo-jumbo. Reduce to toothpicks the oldest biggest trees Tame wildflowers and coat them with plastic and mount them on wire stems. Buy the water, buy the earth, buy the sky. Sell the water, sell the earth, sell the sky. Beat up the night 'cause it's black. Spit at the sun 'cause it's yellow. Massacre the dawn it's red. Chart how many ants you can kill. Ambush waterfalls with machetes, mutilate them beyond recognition. Assassinate the last condor in your spare time. Assign hit-men to rub out hummingbirds while paring your nails. Assign hit-men to rub out dolphins while paring your nails. Step into your mile-long limousine snort a thousand dollars and tell the chauffeur "Next Universe, please"

Barbara Barg

Temporary America Dedicated to all temporary workers

First they bust the union
Then they bust my ass
In Temporary America
Don't want no organization
In the working class
In Temporary America
Contempt for the worker
Is what you get
In Temporary America
No job security
No benefits
In Temporary America
When frustration is high
People go insane
In Temporary America
Picking up guns
Blowing folks away
In Temporary America
It's not the tv
Makes violence thrive
It's Temporary America
I lay awake in my bed
As the bullets fly
Through Temporary America
The food is fast
And the work is dumb
In Temporary America
Workers praying
For Christ to come
To Temporary America
My rent is high
My ink is red
In Temporary America
I never seem
To come out ahead
In Temporary America
I'm so tired of living
In Temporary America
In temporary, contemporary
Contempt contempt contempt
For Temporary America

William Burroughs

Remember Control

    Remember Control. Supposedly from the planet Venus, monitored by Willi Dieches and Brenda Dunks ... Not surprising that an alien or discarnate intelligence would communicate thru a computer very much more advanced than any ooiji board. But their communication will be subject to the limitations of the computer, so if it sounds without emotion well that the instrument is without emotion does not mean the programmer is similarly handicapped.

    "You gonna work me over?" says the young fag suspect enticingly unbuttoning his shirt, "you meaty blond beast ..."

    The meaty blond narc recoils in horror "Why you scum you."

    The fag caresses his crotch, "Blond beast, I am here for your pleasure." With a bestial cry the narc hits the suspect in the mouth. The super comes in.

    "Mistake?? 10th of September?? This is the 10th of July 1996."

    He throws a disapproving look at the boy on the floor with bloody mouth. "I told you Felton, keep your hands off the suspects ... it makes us look well ..."

    Boy on the floor does a pig act crawling on all fours "Oink Oink Oink."

    "Any violation on that?"

    "Not much. Traces of heroin in shirt pocket ..."

    "Get it out of here ..."

    Boy hands the narcs a broken bloody tooth on his way out.

    The virus is everywhere, no use looking for an old style witch in Lawrence Kansas. The whole ecosystem from Junkies (heroin at 28 an ounce) to street pushers, stool pigeons making buys with serial numbered bills, agents coming after them, wholesalers, narc Coast Guard, people making lots of money, the real money made by banks the launderers of drug money. But it all depends on the addict ...

    A vast cancer that keeps replicating & eliminating any threat of legalization or intelligent consideration with the strident hysteria of the threatened parasite. Worst of all Congressmen trying to pass a law making it an offense to suggest discussion of Drug Policy.

    "Any form of maintenance is immoral," Anslinger said. The La Guardia Report? "You've done a great disservice by making these facts available." Emotions roused from moderation to violent hate ... Malaysia and Singapore Death Penalty ...

    How do you neutralize it? Same old lies, the media ... Cures? Little research, some experiments in Spain with thorazine knockout sleep & opium antagonists, apomorphine, Chinese herbs, acupuncture ...

    Painless cure with effective treatment for those who want to stop is the answer. Cheap maintenance for those who cannot or will not stop because of long term addiction. Maintenance is indicated for the very people for whom doctors are now forbidden to prescribe, those with a painful chronic illness.

    "... Dr. Paul Goddard said that about 150,000 cancer patients had severe pain that was not relieved even by morphine and that an additional 700,000 people had intractable pain from conditions like shingles, a viral infection of the nerves." (N.Y. Times, pg B9 August 6, 1996)

    Yank the one essential factor, money, and the whole system will collapse like a house of cards. It didn't exist before Harrison Narcotics act, 1914. No criminal addicts, no money laundering. There was no money in it. It was a minor health problem.

    August 6, 1996

  Andy Clausen


Why order us do what you can't & won't do for yourselves? Why make us eat excrement to eat food? Why make us breathe poison in order to secure shelter?
from the Adirondacks to the Gulf of Mexico from Detroit's broken promise to someone else's private Idaho from Fort Apache to where children denizen skid row Where is there somewhere left for us to go?
Why talk to us like we're spit? Why never satisfied with what we give? Why demand we labor to destroy all we've learned? To kowtow & grovel to get a fraction of what we've already earned?
Used to say it's a free country? New motto is no new taxes More interested in anything than us Making money from Tehran to Texas Promoting more barriers twixt the sexes change worlds words health & welfare with lightening faxes I think you'd kill Indians again just for a cut in taxes
from coast of Maine to the Gulf of Mexico from Detroit's broken promise to Christian Identity's private Idaho from Bed Stuy to where children denizen skid row Is there somewhere left for us to go?

Wanda Coleman


red-faced you follow the loony white line to the blue door where the 7 a.m. wait runs fifty deep
you in your unwashed crown your snaggled teeth your aircraft-carrier hips you're snotting all over America this bad gin morning fizzle you've just run out of tissues so you use the flap of your grimy muumuu worn fax paper thin the truth you've tried to peddle did not feed or free you but has trapped yon in the dungeon of working ass poor doings
you fill out white forms in blue ink twixt curses and prayers, check the red boxes
the helpers you consult are underpaid automatons who smell of bureaucratic bugkill yet sniff down their noses at you maurauder your larcenous fingers filching their taxes you tinsel thugsta robbing them of phone time with sweethearts you pernicious promiscuous sloven spreading VD, AIDS and black males
of course you're allergic to work, would rather
sleep till noon watch the soaps the blabfests the shitcoms          (low self steam) stand on street corners swiggin' grape          or sippin' coonshine loudtalkin' gamblin' prostitutin'
blue brained under the white sheets, gasping to the throb warning code red
a cliché with a skin condition as
seen by those spaced-out heads/those probing amber eyes narrowed to amused slits denying your claim on the dream o purple mountains of prose charting your failures as you nut up under the thunder of blows your majesty that kinkknot on your psyche of course you're guilty of breaking illusion and taking up too much sun of course you're guilty of looting the nation's coffers of course you're lucky
to have survived past thirty five—you
bloodwart on the schnoz of Christ


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 11
Introduction by Eliot Katz and Bob Rosenthal 1
I. Poems for the Nation
Antler Follow Orders 7
Barbara Barg Temporary America 10
William Burroughs Remember Control 12
Andy Clausen More Same Old 14
Wanda Coleman Welfare Quean 15
Jack Collom To the tune of "Amazing
Grace" 17
David Cope Sirens & flashing lights stop 18
Jayne Cortez Cultural Operations 19
Diane di Prima Good Clean Fun 21
Eric Drooker The Ballad of Loisaida 24
Cliff Fyman Vice, Advice & Eccentricities 26
Aimée Grunberger Here In The Western World 28
Nanao Sakaki Let's Eat Stars 30
Lawrence Ferlinghetti From Work-in-Progress 31
Eliot Katz Dinosaur Love 33
Tuli Kupferberg Paint It Red (& Black) 34
Sharon Mesmer Bad Day on Avenue A 37
Daniel Moore From A Visit to the Graves of the
Bosnian Muslims 38
Eileen Myles From Mr. Twenty 41
Carl Rakosi Down to Earth Suite 43
Nanao Sakaki In Honor of the Persian Gulf War 46
Janine Pommy Vega The Draft 47
Anne Waldman BornAgain Blues 49
Peter Lamborn Wilson The Sacred and Profane History of
Money 51
Allen Ginsberg New Democracy Wish List 53
Allen Ginsberg as Poet Activist
Allen Ginsberg Television Address for 1972
Republican National Convention 59
Eugene Brooks Poem for Allen Ginsberg 61
Eileen Myles A Speech about Allen 63
Edward Sanders Remarks Written for the
Dedication of a Dogwood Tree 66
Amiri Baraka To Allen: Hail & Farewell 69
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2004

    An excellent pocket collection

    This is a great collection of political verse. It really stands out from the usual, boring academic poetry you find in most anthologies. This book proves that there is still a vital populist center to American poetry.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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