Allen Ginsberg / On Prophecy

“At the moment of composition you don’t necessarily know what it means; it comes to mean something later. After a year or two, the meaning becomes clear ... which takes time like a photograph developing slowly. What prophecy actually is, is not knowing whether the bomb will fall in 1942, it’s knowing and feeling something which someone knows and feels in a hundred years, and maybe articulating it in a hint that they will pick up on in a hundred years.”
-Allen Ginsberg’s character on prophecy in composition, "Howl" (2010)

Originally Posted 4/18/2011

Update: We received this great letter; "Hello, my name is __________ and I’m an English student in my last year of sixth form. I have a huge passion for Beat literature and love that Allen Ginsberg quotation. I was wondering if you knew whether Ginsberg actually said it or if it’s just a quotation from the film? I was thinking of using the quote in my personal statement if Ginsberg actually said it himself. Thank you, __________."

We were able to locate this Ginsberg interview with The Paris Review for her.

"Wow thank you so much! His definition of prophecy renders literature itself a form of prophecy which i think it is in a very strong way; one of the most fulfilling moments as a reader is not only having your eyes opened to new, radical ways of thinking and a vast spectrum of different perspectives but also when you're able to identify exactly with a character or an emotion articulated in a text. It proves that books/plays/poems are as much a source of comfort as they are a source of provocation and entertainment. It can also tell us so much about humanity throughout history and across different cultures -- it's probably the most valuable form of communication that we have with previous generations and those to come in the future. I really appreciate you replying and searching for me, thank you again and all the best."

No, thank you!

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