Introduction to the Poet:
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet born on 3rd June 1926 in 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 poems 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 Blue Angel:
The poem “The Blue Angel” by Allen Ginsberg gives us a detailed description of the beauty and charm of an American actress Marlene Dietrich and her acting prowess. The Blue Angel was a movie itself acted by this woman and the plot is intimately related with morals, seduction, guilt and remorse.
The setting of The Blue Angel:
The poem is set at a period when the poet had witnessed the acting of Marlene Dietrich playing the role of a seductive Lola Lola, the headline of the local cabaret. The film describes the journey of a morally upright person diving into guilt and wrong deeds as a far consequence of being seduced by a woman’s charm. The charm of the woman is described in the poem in a wonderful manner. The poem is a symbolism of the power of women’s exotic appeals
Poetic devices in The Blue Angel:
Rhymic Scheme: aXbX bXaX cabb ddbX XXdd ecec
Closest metre: iambic tetrameter
Сlosest rhyme: couplets
The author used lexical repetitions to emphasize a significant image; she is repeated.
The author used the same word she at the beginnings of some neighbouring stanzas. The figure of speech is a kind of anaphora.
Summary of The Blue Angel:
The poem deals with the beauty of a woman and her power over acting skills. The poem starts with
“Marlene Dietrich is singing a lament
for mechanical love.”
The first line itself talks about actress and singer Marlene Dietrich who was an icon for appeal and exotic appearance in the 1920s. As a part of her role in the film “The Blue Angel”, she had been singing a song of lament for ‘mechanical’ love. Here, mechanical means she was acting and it was something that came out in a mechanical manner, with practice and not from the bottom of her heart. The poet further says that she leans against a mortarboard tree, on a plateau by the seashore, which might have been the setting for the shoot.
The poet goes on to describe her as:
“She’s a life-sized toy,
The doll of eternity;”
Proving that she was so marvellous and charming, that she was eternally praised: as he addresses her as ‘doll’. The hair was like an abstract that, probably referring that it was made up in such a manner that it looked like a hat and made of white still, that is having a lustre of steel or white in colour.
“Her face is powdered, whitewashed and
immobile like a robot.”
The makeup done on her face makes it look whitewashed and it was immobile ‘like a robot’, that is devoid of any heartiest emotion. Maybe, that is how the character was portrayed by her.
Next, her eyes are described as having blue pupils on the white of the eyes. Blue is a colour of romantic and exotic attachment. The eyes being blue added to the sensational appearance she possessed and added to her beauty.
She closes her eyes and the key on her temple turn by itself.
“She opens her eyes, and they’re blank
Like a statue’s in a museum”
: As she opens her eyes, her expressions blank too, that is her stare is blank and it is like a statue in a museum which seems to be looking but actually looking at nothing at all.
On the next part of the shot, the change in the expression of the eyes might have been a requirement and thus when the machines (shooting machines) begin to move the key turns and her eyes changes, and she starts singing.
The poem ends with a tone of little light mood as the poet claims that he had been occupied by the thoughts of the woman and she’d stay in his mind unless another man intervenes.
Central Idea of The Blue Angel:
The central idea of the poem deals with beauty and magnanimous acting skills possessed by a wonderful actress and singer. The poem describes analytically how the power of the woman is too strong to compel anybody in forgetting what is right or what is wrong. The beauty and seducing ability of the woman is beyond anyone’s comprehension so deep it is. Thus, with the particular use of words, the poem is magnified.
Critical Analysis of The Blue Angel:
The poem describes the beauty and prowess of a woman. Marlene Dietrich is an epitome of beauty and charm. Throughout the poem, the poet praises her beauty and her ability of acting.
As the poem progresses, we tend to notice that the poet slowly and steadily calls her a doll, a life sized toy and describes her white steel hair, the powdered, whitewashed face, blue pupils on white eyes. The poem effectively brings in a sense of sensuality occupied by charm.
The poet further talks about the expression that she plays with. The eyes gaze blankly and she closes and opens her eyes, as the shoot continues. Her gaze is blank when she opens her eyes. As the machine moves, the key turns, she becomes expressive and starts singing, This sudden change can be only obtained by practice and skill. Combined with the skill and magic of aura that she possessed, Marlene Dietrich was in the poet’s mind for a long time.
The tone of The Blue Angel:
The tone of the poem is mechanical yet monotonous. The poet states the beauty of the woman in a calm and composed manner. The woman singing a lamenting song, which is for ‘mechanical’ love itself indicates that the tone is neutral. As he goes on to describe her beauty, the tone rises to one of excitement and praise and remains so until the end of the poem when the poet says that unless some other man occupies his mind, Dietrich will be present.
Typical to the style of the Beats Generation, this poem is an ideally unconventional poem and points out to the seduction and result of temptations. The wonderful comparisons, beautiful tone and subtle skills make this poem one of the most cherished poems of Beats Generation.
Contributor: Bidisha Das
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