Vague similarities

In my head there’s a bit of a connection between Allen Ginsberg and John Keats, though in order to establish this I have to ignore a whole bunch of other dissimilarities, such as that one was an American gay Jewish Buddhist and the other was not, and one died in 1821 of TB at the age of 25 and 4 months and the other did not.

Despite this, I think there are some underlying connections. Both of them have a sort of breathlessness or breathfulness that is evident especially in their letters (Keats) or journals (Ginsberg), although obviously Ginsberg’s writing was directly influenced by Keats’ letters so this isn’t surprising. Both were outsiders; Ginsberg because of his general outlook on life and his sexuality and Keats because of his class and lack of university education. In their writing, both were engaging in a Janus-faced sort of conversation with poetry – past, present and future – based on their deep reading of other poets. Ginsberg’s reading lists in his journals are ridiculous – I’ll copy some in here sometime. Keats was less widely read but arguably more deeply; he really absorbed things, transforming their influence in his poetry.

This is more or less the sum total of my evidence. It’s more of a feeling than a rational argument, but it persists. I’d like to write an essay comparing their poetry, and especially their letters/ journals, except I worry I’d end up disproving myself in the process.


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