Sunday, 4 November 2012

Howling Together in the Darkness

    I'm with you in Rockland
    where you laugh at this invisible humor
    I'm with you in Rockland
    where we are great writers on the same dreadful
'HOWL for Carl Solomon' by Allen Ginsberg
 I finished Uni in 2008. My best friend Stacey graduated a year earlier than me because I had to resit a year due to illness. She moved back home to Birmingham after graduating but we've always managed to keep in touch, even through some pretty rough times on both our parts, and some pretty idiotic arguments (mostly on my part!). Anyway, we haven't seen each other for nearly two years. We've spoken loads, emailed and texted and stuff but there's just been so much going on for both of us that we haven't been able to make the journey to visit each other. But this weekend, she's here to visit. And it's great to see her. This is the first time she's been back in Liverpool since she finished Uni and the city centre has changed a lot since then. Liverpool One has been built and improved altered the whole landscape. So of course, we had fun exploring the new alien environment that she used to know like the back of her hand. 

We both did a Joint Honours Degree at Liverpool John Moore's. We met because we were in the same tutorial group for the American Studies section of our Degree. We bonded over our compulsive punctuality and love of American Literature and we still spend a ridiculous amount of time discussing our favourite books, the books we're currently reading and the ones we want to read at some point in the future. 

When we were in our third year at Uni we had to read an extract of Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl'. It was for a module we both loved, an exploration of the expression of the concept of "Alienation" in America. I think Ginsberg's poetry stuck with both of us over the years and when we found a copy of the 2010 film 'Howl' starring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg while browsing HMV yesterday, we couldn't resist buying it.

We sat and watched it this afternoon, and I have to say it was compelling stuff. Despite the fact that I'd read and studied parts of 'Howl', I didn't actually know anything about the obscenity trial that surrounded it's release. And I didn't know much at all about Allen Ginsberg as an individual. I knew that he was Gay, I picked that up from 'America' but I had no idea of his obsession with Jack Kerouac or his string of failed relationships and eventual life-long successful romance. I didn't know that his Mother was incarcerated for most of his life or that she died from a failed Lobotomy when he was 21, or that he, himself was admitted to an insane asylum in his 20's, only released after promising to become heterosexual (so glad I don't live in those days!)

I learnt a lot from the film and it made me think about myself and my own life and the way that writers and artists live their life. And that old thing of how nobody should live in isolation. Human beings thrive on connection. It's what we're built for. All that no man is an island crap is true when it comes down to it.

Stacey and I are more alike than I used to think. We both have demons that we're trying to battle (and I'm so, so proud of how far she's come)and we've both finally had to admit that even though our instincts tell us to hide away from the world, curl in a tight ball under the covers and hibernate until it all goes away, that's never the best thing to do. We have to fight. We have to be strong. And we have to make connections with other people who understand where we're coming from. It's not about crying your pain silently alone, it's about howling it together in the darkness, making it heard, getting it out there, communicating it with others.

I think that's what I'm trying to do with this blog.    

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