In curating our current exhibit of poetry written in response to the death of John F. Kennedy, we were forced to greatly limit ourselves. The exhibit featured John Hollander’s poem “November 22, 1963” from the book Of Poetry and Power. The online version of the exhibit also presents “Assassination of John F. Kennedy” by Gwendolyn Brooks, from the same anthology.
The volume includes much interesting work, reflecting the variety of poetic responses that followed the events of November 22, 1963. One example is an entry from one of the journals of poet Allen Ginsberg, dated November 22, 1963:
The black & white glare blink in the inky Air Force night
as the Helikopter rose straight up in the television frame
carrying President Johnson toward the newsphoto White House
past the tail flag of the giant United States of America super-jet
settled at rest and lonesome under the klieg light field
swarmed with cops brass photographers mikrophones blip
Long nosed Oswald suspect in Dallas of half mast pro Castro
Rather than striking an elegiac tone, Ginsberg’s entry employs a distancing technique, evoking the aftermath of the assassination as a set of media images, complete with “mikrophones blip.” Ginsberg is reminding us that November 1963 was the first time Americans “experienced” a presidential assassination via television reports.
University of Delaware Library Special Collections has a number of volumes of Ginsberg’s published journals, including a first edition of The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice, which contains the poet’s earliest journals and poems.
Special Collections also has Ginsberg’s published journals from the mid 1950s, as well as two signed copies of journals from the early 1950s and 60s.