Introduction to the Poet:
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet born on 3rd June, 1926 at Newark, New Jersey, U.S as the son of an English teacher and Russian expatriate. He was one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the counterculture that would soon follow. He vigorously opposed militarism, economic materialism and sexual repression. One of the most influential writers of his time known as Beat Generation, he exemplified various aspects of the counterculture, such as his views on drugs, hostility to bureaucracy and openness to Eastern religions.
He came into the spotlight after the publication of “Howl and Other Poems” in 1956. “Howl” was a poem in the tradition of Walt Whitman, and a protest of outburst and despair against a destructive, abusive society.The ‘Kaddish’ is one of his purest poem and he soon rose to fame. He undertook non violent protest against everything from Vietnam War to War of Drugs.
There had been controversies against his homosexual relationship with many men, specifically his lifelong partner, Peter Orlovsky.
In 1986 Ginsberg was awarded the Golden Wreath by the Struga Poetry Evenings International Festival in Macedonia, the second American poet to be so awarded since W. H. Auden.
He died surrounded by family and friends in his East Village loft in New York City, succumbing to liver cancer via complications of hepatitis, on 5th April, 1997.
The poem “Homework” by Allen Ginsberg is a metaphorical poem speaking about the socio-political background, the economy, the corruption and various issues that surrounded the nations in that period. This poem reflects much upon the poet’s thought and his continuous anti – violent movements. Through his words and the strength of his writing, this poem distinctly reflects on the serious socio-political, economical, environmental, military unrests that the nations were facing.
Setting of Homework:
The poem is set at a period when the poet had been occupied with the Vietnam War. From United Nations to Iran, Africa, Asia were facing issues of corruption, war, sociological, political, military innuendo. The dramatic changes in the international front, the troublesome and disturbing situation that the world was facing were his concern.
Though it seems that the poet was doing his laundry at his home, this poem actually concerned about the events of the nations. The poem, in it’s most wonderful form is a critical mockery with an increasingly developed willingness to bring forth goodness among various nations.
Style of Homework:
The poem is written in free verse.
Poetic devices in Homework:
“Rub a dub dub for Rocky Flats and Los Alamos.” as the author repeats the ‘ub’ sound in “Rub a Dub Dub” is an alliteration used in the poem.
“Rub a dub dub” is an onomatopoeia used.
In the first stanza, “If ….Iran” as he repeats the vowel I in “If..I..I’d..Iran” assonance is used as a poetic device.
“..squeeze out …state” as Ginsberg gives the country a personal trait of being able to tell on other states when people have done wrong.
“I’d throw in …….in the jungle” as it gives us a visual of him cleaning the country and putting back animals and birds is yet an imagery.
Hyperbole is used repeatedly for exaggeration to indicate the urgency and desperation of situations:
“Wash my dirty Iran”
“Rub ……North Pole“
“Put the planet in the drier & let it sit 20 minutes or Aeon till it came out clean”.
The whole poem acts as a metaphor to awaken our consciousness by stating that the poet wants to cleanse the world like he is doing the laundry in a washing machine.
Summary of Homework:
The poem deals with massive message about the world’s nationwide changes. On the international front, the reforms and issues in the world that had been faced by the nations was the imminent concern of the poem.
The poem starts with the poet wishing to wash Iran. The first line itself amazes us with the transformation from the domestic affairs to the national thought. Yet, when we move through the lines we realise it is not only Iran but also the United States that he wants to clean. He is concerned about the environmental hazards that the generation have been facing. Thus, he wants to regain the environmental counterpoise, the old environmental equilibrium. That is why he says :
“put all the birds and elephants back in the jungle,”
He also wants to cleanse the phenomenal water bodies that had been subject to pollution. As a matter of fact, all the air pollution, soil pollution and water pollution, he wants to clean them up.
Rocky Flats Plant was a former nuclear weapons production facility in the western United States and Los Alamos is a town in Los Alamos County, New Mexico, United States that is recognized as the birthplace of the first atomic bomb. The love canal was supposed to be a short canal between the upper and lower Niagara Rivers,to provide electricity. However, it became a dumping ground later that exploded after few years. When he mentions these he wants to get rid of these disastrous weapons and the man made events that had been harming the countries for a destruction leading to environmental tragedies taking lives of people, cause births with defects and mis balance the environmental equilibrium, disastrously.
The acid rain that destroyed Parthenon’s magnificent marble relief frieze panels, chemically transformed into soft gypsum or dissolved the marvelous structure of Sphinx at Egypt, made of limestone.
The blue sky , the white snowy clouds , the clean Mediterranean basin , Thames, Lake Erie are all the wonderful things that the poet wants to recover. The disastrous pollution and the corruption is something the poet wants to get rid of.
Agent Orange is an herbicide and defoliant chemical. It is widely known for its use by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand during the Vietnam War . The poet wants to wash out the Agent orange, too, that harmed the people of Vietnam.
The following stanzas focus on the way the poet wants to change the nations, their corruptions, the wars that are caused. He wants to put the whole planet ‘in a drier’, this means, he wants to obliterate all the hazards, socio-political issues, wars and bring back harmony and peace in the planet.
Central Idea of Homework:
The central idea of the poem deals with the conveying of a message of political, economical, and military unrest in the international realm. The poet speaks of the worldly hazard that the nations are facing, leading to destruction of nature in the hand of mankind. With the developing era, the age old destruction brought by mankind on Mother Earth is something the human species should be ashamed of. Further, the effort of him desiring to cleanse the world stands as a suitable example of what the mankind must focus on: not his domestic affair but for the betterment of the world, for future generation.
The amount of destruction we did is worth mending and not be kept for worse. This poem gives one the magnanimous ideas about the massacre caused by the human, to this remarkable creation, Nature.
Critical Analysis of Homework:
The poem describes how the poet would metaphorically cleanse many problems of the world in a metaphorical washing machine. The poem displays a good deal of humour, and its socio political points are thought provoking.
The poem emphasises on the socio-political and environmental problems that the world faces. From cleaning the Amazon or the polluted Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico to the effort for maintaining the equilibrium of environment by putting back all the birds and elephants back in the jungle of Africa: the poet is trying to wash the pollution war and violence in the world.
Throughout the poem, the various examples suggest that the poet is meaning to strike a chord in our heart making us aware of the ongoing torture that the world is confronting in the hands of mankind. He imbibes a sense in us how we, as humans, must be ashamed of our deeds that has put mother earth in such a devastating bearings.
Through his act of cleaning he wants to launder the world and the whole poem stands as a metaphor to awaken us about our misdeeds on Mother Nature.
Tone of Homework:
The tone of the poem is more sincere that it initially seems to be.
Though the first line states it is a poem that would be more of a domestic one soon we realise this poem has universal front.
The tone from the beginning to the end is light hearted mixed with satires and a great sense of humiliation to the human species for our torture on Mother Earth.
It acts as a metaphor for cleansing the world rather than being concerned about one’s domestic affair.
Typical to the style of the Beats Generation, this poem is an ideally unconventional poem pointing out to the world crisis , and stands supreme of the era.
Contributor: Bidisha Das