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The Secret Meaning of Things: Poetry

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The Secret Meaning of Things has all the elements of his earlier poetry: lyrical intensity, wit, social concern, satirical bite, and above all a classical claritas. But it goes much further: there is a deepening of vision and a darker understanding of "our clay condition." The six long poems in The Secret Meaning of Things show a progressive continuity and clarity of perce The Secret Meaning of Things has all the elements of his earlier poetry: lyrical intensity, wit, social concern, satirical bite, and above all a classical claritas. But it goes much further: there is a deepening of vision and a darker understanding of "our clay condition." The six long poems in The Secret Meaning of Things show a progressive continuity and clarity of perception that apprehends both the hard reality and luminous irreality in everyday phenomena. In "Assassination Raga"––on the death of Robert Kennedy––the glass through which the poet sees darkly is the television screen; the poem was first read on the night of RFK’s funeral at a mass memorial in San Francisco. "Bickford’s Buddha" is a meditation on "Observation Fever" in Harvard Square, while "All Too Clearly" finds a "touch of old surrealism/at a stoplight in La Jolla." "Through the Looking Glass" begins with an actual flight aboard a commercial airliner and moves through a psychedelic vision to a final flash of the Dance of Shiva, which in turn opens out into the worldview of "After the Cries of Birds." "Moscow in the Wilderness, Segovia in the Snow" comes out of Ferlinghetti’s travels to Moscow and across the steppes in the winter of 1967.


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The Secret Meaning of Things has all the elements of his earlier poetry: lyrical intensity, wit, social concern, satirical bite, and above all a classical claritas. But it goes much further: there is a deepening of vision and a darker understanding of "our clay condition." The six long poems in The Secret Meaning of Things show a progressive continuity and clarity of perce The Secret Meaning of Things has all the elements of his earlier poetry: lyrical intensity, wit, social concern, satirical bite, and above all a classical claritas. But it goes much further: there is a deepening of vision and a darker understanding of "our clay condition." The six long poems in The Secret Meaning of Things show a progressive continuity and clarity of perception that apprehends both the hard reality and luminous irreality in everyday phenomena. In "Assassination Raga"––on the death of Robert Kennedy––the glass through which the poet sees darkly is the television screen; the poem was first read on the night of RFK’s funeral at a mass memorial in San Francisco. "Bickford’s Buddha" is a meditation on "Observation Fever" in Harvard Square, while "All Too Clearly" finds a "touch of old surrealism/at a stoplight in La Jolla." "Through the Looking Glass" begins with an actual flight aboard a commercial airliner and moves through a psychedelic vision to a final flash of the Dance of Shiva, which in turn opens out into the worldview of "After the Cries of Birds." "Moscow in the Wilderness, Segovia in the Snow" comes out of Ferlinghetti’s travels to Moscow and across the steppes in the winter of 1967.

30 review for The Secret Meaning of Things: Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    C

    Some thoughts in lieu of a real review..... -- Cliche, but possibly powerful title. -- Nice rhythyms. -- The thing with beat poetry, for me, is that I wish I was hearing it as I read it. In some cases, this destroys the reading. In Ferlinghetti's case, it is still strong enough in written form, but you can tell that there is a musical diction underneath that you need to hear to fully feel. -- A very quick read. Interesting to read in this current political climate. -- Why do I value a "quick read?" W Some thoughts in lieu of a real review..... -- Cliche, but possibly powerful title. -- Nice rhythyms. -- The thing with beat poetry, for me, is that I wish I was hearing it as I read it. In some cases, this destroys the reading. In Ferlinghetti's case, it is still strong enough in written form, but you can tell that there is a musical diction underneath that you need to hear to fully feel. -- A very quick read. Interesting to read in this current political climate. -- Why do I value a "quick read?" Why do I mention it so often in my own reviews? Though I speak of the destruction of the patience through the 'mtv generation,' I am definitely a part of it. I can only elevate myself so far before the hypocrisy shines through like a spotlight.... --My favorite lines are all on page 22: Every day the news gets more surreal and And every day a line of love's battleships is sunk -- I've been thinking lately about the forwards in every year's Best American Poetry volumes where they talk about how 90% of modern poetry is crap. The thing is, they get it right from time to time when they realize that that "good 10%" isn't realized until years and years later. But at the same time, I'm not sure that they have it right. In a way, the U.S. has been undergoing its own poetry renaissance quietly under the surface for about 40 years now. We may, as a whole, be underappreciative of the past and of other cultures' works (which is something I will freely admit that I am guilty of...), but there is a fire. Whether that will yield a generation or two of remembered poets, I do not know, but there has to be some understanding of the vibrance and depth of work being written in the u.s. today... What this has to do with this particular book may be tangential, but that's why this is no review.... -- I feel that Ferlinghetti had what very few present day American poets have... A sense of honest urgency. -- That doesn't mean that he didn't have a bit of hypocrisy himself, just that he wasn't ashamed of it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tim Weakley

    I do not pretend to understand even half of what there is to see in poetry. I really do believe that a lot of it is only perceived by the poet. I did enjoy this short book though. I think my favourite piece was Moscow in the Wilderness, Segovia in the snow. When you can get phrases like: I am your ruin unique & immortal I am your happiness unknown I am light where you are dark where you are heavy There was some great imagery in this book. I do not pretend to understand even half of what there is to see in poetry. I really do believe that a lot of it is only perceived by the poet. I did enjoy this short book though. I think my favourite piece was Moscow in the Wilderness, Segovia in the snow. When you can get phrases like: I am your ruin unique & immortal I am your happiness unknown I am light where you are dark where you are heavy There was some great imagery in this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    One of my fav beat poets!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mat

    Another strong volume of poetry from Ferlinghetti. Ferlinghetti and Jack Micheline are probably my two favourite beat poets. Gregory Corso comes a very close third. Although not as strong as the spectacular Coney Island of the Mind or the criminally underrated Pictures from the Gone World, this fourth book by Ferlinghetti, The Secret Meaning of Things, continues to offer us readers deep insights into one of the great minds of the 21st Century...and on LSD, at that! His poem 'After the cries of t Another strong volume of poetry from Ferlinghetti. Ferlinghetti and Jack Micheline are probably my two favourite beat poets. Gregory Corso comes a very close third. Although not as strong as the spectacular Coney Island of the Mind or the criminally underrated Pictures from the Gone World, this fourth book by Ferlinghetti, The Secret Meaning of Things, continues to offer us readers deep insights into one of the great minds of the 21st Century...and on LSD, at that! His poem 'After the cries of the birds' is so radiant and sparkling and reminded me of the times I set off to visit 'Uncle Syd' myself. He captures that vibrance and far-off shimmering sensation (those who have never dropped will probably not know what I'm talking about) that you feel when you are tripping. And like Ferlinghetti, every time I have done it, I have had a very spiritual and emotional experience. And learned something more about myself, which he here has managed to put onto paper. This is a very short book of poetry (can be read in a couple of hours) but deep and Ferlinghetti covers a lot of spiritual territory within these 50 odd pages. Highly recommended. What a great poet he is!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Talia

    This one is no Coney Island, but still the Ferlinghetti that I love. I love how Ferlinghetti writes as though he invented writng, adding little notes like "Writ on the back of a map of Harvard College" at the end of "Bickford's Buddha." And "Assassination Raga" is moving.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michel

    First encounter with Ferlinghetti. There is a phenomenal dryness, and absence of adjectives and descriptions. There is an urge to see "too clearly," and say "Nada" to the question of "what is important in life?" Yet the spirit of the time, wars, airplanes, and a civilization in decay insert themselves between the verses as well. Which, although sometimes gives the impression of one-dimensional political criticism, doesn't look that trite either. Also, the role of the bird, and its connection to First encounter with Ferlinghetti. There is a phenomenal dryness, and absence of adjectives and descriptions. There is an urge to see "too clearly," and say "Nada" to the question of "what is important in life?" Yet the spirit of the time, wars, airplanes, and a civilization in decay insert themselves between the verses as well. Which, although sometimes gives the impression of one-dimensional political criticism, doesn't look that trite either. Also, the role of the bird, and its connection to a "birdsong" tradition, the hope for "good news," though this time meshed with Shiva and LSDs, and a little bit of Lenin and Mao. The exasperation of hopes for a better West, the failure of mixing Jack London and Mark Twain, which relocates the hopes at a future community, etc.

  7. 5 out of 5

    James

    Several things to like in this quite slender volume of only 6 poems, but the ending of the final poem, "Moscow in the Wilderness", is for me, the most powerful of the book. Yes, there is strength here and emotion, but much of it seems written as it comes to Ferlinghetti and asides such as "writ on the back of a map" re-enforce that presumption. Nevertheless, his observations and lightly edited writing still has much to say.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tami

    There was quite a bit I liked in his style but some of the poems didn't translate for me 50 years later. I'll seek out more of his work.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    The poems in this collection are okay, but are not my favorite. 'Coney Island of the Mind' is the best collection of Ferlinghetti's work, in my opinion, followed by 'Poetry as Insurgent Art.'

  10. 5 out of 5

    Relyn

    Blech! Can I just say YUCK?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anastasia

    Ferlinghetti never disappoints, I loved this and I love his work in general. One of my favorite poets.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

  13. 5 out of 5

    Harry Dykeman

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nic

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

  17. 4 out of 5

    Maddy

  18. 5 out of 5

    Donald

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mary-Ellen Lynn

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mike Ralph

  22. 5 out of 5

    Fred King

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gerald Jr.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rhys

  25. 4 out of 5

    Peter Oresick

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Million Horowitz

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hilary Hamilton

  29. 4 out of 5

    T. Ellis

  30. 4 out of 5

    Peter King

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