Commentary, Non-Fiction

Death Day – A Tribute to Herman Melville

Herman-Melville

Celebrating the life of Herman Melville

Born a New Yorker in 1819 on August 1st, Herman Melville lived to the age of 72, until passing away on September 28, 1981. He spent most of his younger years working diligently to alleviate the debt that riddled his family, eventually finding himself aboard a merchant ship as a cabin boy. His life continued to be filled with sailing adventures, voyages to the South Seas and encounters with the present-day French Polynesian islands inhabited with cannibalistic civilizations. His writings were inspired mostly from his journeys, but were driven by a critical philosophy of American culture and society.

Herman Melville

I recommend all adventurous youths who abandon vessels in romantic islands during the rainy season to provide themselves with umbrellas.

Melville wed Elizabeth Shaw in 1847, continuing on to have two sons and two daughters. He had a brief but pivotal friendship with American writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and continued to publish short stories and novels throughout his life. In his later years, he worked as a customs guard on the ship harbors, writing as a habit on nights, and weekends, exploring the world of poetry too, up until the final moments of his life.

Favorite quotes:

“It is not down in any map; true places never are.”

“Nature is nobody’s ally.”

“Thou wine art the friend of the friendless, though a foe to all.”

Incomplete list of suggested reading:

  • Typee (1846)
  • Omoo (1847)
  • Redburn (1849)
  • White-Jacket (1850)
  • Moby Dick (1851)
  • Pierre (1852)
  • “Bartleby the Scrivener” (1853)
  • The Encantadas” (1854)
  • “Benito Cereno” (1855)
  • Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile (1855)
  • The Confidence-Man (1857)

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Interesting fact:

Melville’s New York publisher’s house underwent a devastating fire in 1853 that destroyed most of his books.

Share a quote or excerpt of Herman Melville today in the comments or with your online community using the tag #HappyDeathDayMelville 

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Commentary, Non-Fiction

Death Day – A Tribute to Allen Ginsberg

Celebrating the life of Allen Ginsberg – Easter Sunday

On April 5, 1997, Allen Ginsberg, esteemed American poet who spanned influence over multiple generations, died from a combination of liver cancer and hepatitis. At the eve of his death, close friends, family and old lovers spent the night with him at his apartment in the East Village in New York City. Once he passed, Buddhist chants filled the air for hours until his they believed his spirit fully left his body.

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Allen Ginsberg, a true activist, mentor and poet.

“Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private.” – Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg was paramount to the Beat movement as a voice against militarism and political oppression. He was part of the counterculture publicly speaking out for the sexually and politically oppressed.

He is most known for exercising his freedom of speech in his poem “Howl” that spoke on homosexual relationships and the times of the American generation.

He studied at Colombia University where he made friends that shared his “new vision” and embarked on the epic journey of the poetic, beatific, buddhist life that still influences generations of artists today.

Favorite Quotes:

“I really believe, or want to believe, really I am nuts, otherwise I’ll never be sane.”

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.”

Incomplete list of suggested reading:

  • Howl & Other Poems (1956)
  • Empty Mirror: Early Poems (1961)
  • The Yage Letters (1963)
  • The Fall of America: Poems of These States (1973)*
  • Illuminated Poems (1996)

*National Book Award for Poetry Winner

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“America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.” – Ginsberg

Interesting Fact:

Ginsberg and Anne Waldman helped found the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, which was started by Ginsberg’s biggest spiritual mentor, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

 

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Poetry

“Beat” – Richard Herd

Ginsberg howled in Tompkins Square Park
dogs lifted their legs and listened to Nietsche

Burroughs sat naked eating his lunch
while Corso stood on point

Kerouac danced into the end zone
his Buddha giving high fives
the Giants did not call

Ferlinghetti rode the Coney Island
merry-go-round
dogs trotted freely in the streets

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